Echoes of Invasion: Kachen Up | Scene 11

Tric leaves his cousin to her medical work, accompanying Fenowin to the glade where she lives in order to get materials to undo the attack. He also wants to understand better the extent of her armory. Tric has been to this area of the forest; it is where she hit him in the face with her pollen. This time, though, he sees a new part of it. A group of identical flowers are all growing together in a large yellow clump by a waterfall of vines. The flowers strike Tric as cultivated, as there are no other types mixed in with them. At that point, Fenowin pulls back the curtain of vines, revealing a small cave. It is just a hollow under a large boulder, not an entrance to the dwarvish tunnels. Fenowin has a workbench set up here, and bunches of dried herbs and flowers are suspended from the overhanging rock. There are some cloying scents here, though the smells are not as powerful as in Damal’s shop since no walls hold them in. 

Fenowin begins taking some of the dried plants down and filling Tric’s arms with them as she rattles off their names. She also includes some of the yellow flowers, as they are the main component of her pollen blend. The other materials she is loading Tric down with include stabilizers, as well as other active ingredients.

Tric’s eyes grow wide at the scope of the production. Sure, Fenowin does not have racks and racks of fully formulated powder, but she definitely has more pollen packets on hand. He lets out a long breath, looking down at all the materials in his arms. Individual ingredients might be helpful to Heppa for counteracting the attack, but the rest of it…. Tric thinks of them as things to destroy or possibly to use as evidence. “There’s way more of this than I thought. It wasn’t just an experiment. Did the council ask you to work on this?” Tric asks.

“I’m sure the council will be grateful for my work to defend the forest,” Fenowin replies breezily.

“Provided our visitor is still alive. How can we get this out of his system?”

“Clearly it’s effective as a technique—Oh. Get it out of his system?”

“Yes. Environmental cleanup, if you will.”

“Maybe clear out his lungs? The unconsciousness was caused by what was inhaled following the reaction between the smuggled dapper inkcap and the deployed pollen. Of course if there has been a metaphysical reaction, then just dealing with the lungs will not be enough….”

Tric imagines using bellows to work Kachen’s lungs. He doubts that will be effective, since Kachen has been ingesting the mushroom somehow, not just carrying it around. “He’s probably got dapper inkcap in his blood. He takes it as medicine.”

“Ah, well, that’s not something I had anticipated an attacker doing,” Fenowin admits.

“Well, now you know. Humans use it as medicine sometimes.”

“I was more expecting them to have it in a form they could expose elves to, because that is what would cut off the elves’ connection to the fae.”

Fenowin is being so matter-of-fact about this, that Tric cannot resist yanking her vine a bit. “Some humans believe that elves are cannibals. They fill their blood with dapper inkcap, so that the carnivorous elves who feast upon them will then die. It’s like fairies and consuming iron.”

“Iron is not a joking matter,” Fenowin swiftly cautions him. “But do they really think that?”

“No, of course not! You really don’t understand humans,” Tric chides her. They discuss the matter further, and Tric helps her understand just how out of line with reality her defensive plans are. Fenowin was operating under the assumption that if a human were to develop a dapper inkcap weapon, then certainly a whole bunch of humans would attack Estbryn Forest with it. But the closest major human settlement, South Tower, is days away. People there do not remember their forest’s name—or sometimes that it even exists! They certainly do not view it as an area to conquer. “This mushroom being weaponized is not the threat we need to worry about,” Tric insists to Fenowin.

“Then what is?”

“People chopping down trees, that’s a threat. People accidentally poisoning our water, that’s also a threat.”

“You brought in this human. You have said it was to help us with threats. What threat is this human supposed to help us with?”

“He’s working with Uncle Thrandolil to help develop defenses against the undead because he’s a mage. Uncle Thran believes that humans have—” Tric cuts himself off, choosing a different way to word this, one that will not cast aspersions on Kachen’s character. “Unfortunately, necromancy exists in some places among human settlements. It’s generally not tolerated, but the capability can be there. So that’s what we’re trying to deal with. That’s why he’s not just a visitor but a potential ally. We’re not the Great Forest, you know. We don’t have that many of us here. My understanding is that we pulled back to our forest thirty years ago and it worked out for us. But if the undead had turned into the forest instead of chasing after the refugees from Hisanham, things could have gone very differently.”

“Well, some of them did turn into the forest,” Fenowin points out. “It did turn out poorly.”

“Yes,” Tric agrees with a frown. “I am actually aware of just how poorly it turned out for some.” He is quiet for a moment, thinking of Uncle Thran and the now less-mysterious Anador. “But imagine being overrun. If an undead army shows up at our forest, there are not enough of us to deal with that.”

“That is why hiding in the forest and using its strengths,” Fenowin says, gesturing at all the plants in Tric’s arms, “is our first line of defense. But it doesn’t need to be our only line of defense,” she allows.

Needing to lighten the mood for his own sake, Tric tells Fenowin about the dwarvish interest in “defense in depth” and how this relates to their love of digging. After a diversion into a discussion of dwarvish accounting, Tric returns to the most pressing matter. “How can we get this out of Kachen’s system? What will neutralize this pollen? What counteracts all these plants? Are there lizards or birds that eat these things and are not as strongly affected by them?” Woodland creatures are what Tric understands, not alchemy. “Or is there a different kind of fungus that will feast upon them?”

Fenowin comes up with a list of specific plants that could be useful to Heppa in counteracting the pollen attack, but they are not ones that the druid keeps on hand. They head out into the woods together to forage for them. There are quite a few components to gather, so Tric enlists some extra help. When he drops off the pollen attack ingredients with Heppa in the scout area, he gets Endathalas to join him. The rider is only too happy to have a “scout responsibility” to get him out of training with Renwick on their down days. And of course Mate helps out, locating needed plants from above and then alerting Tric to their locations. 

It is a long day out in the forest and a frustrating one. They are able to find some of the plants, but not everything that Fenowin thought could help Heppa. A few of the plants are simply out-of-season, and no one seems to have stockpiled any of them from the winter and spring. It is possible that his cousin’s alchemy kit will contain equivalents. Heppa has shown that she is capable of whipping up cures from kitchen spices, so perhaps that will be enough.