The next morning, as Tric is heading over to Kachen’s hut, a magpie comes screaming into the village, a falcon hot on his heels. Tric catches Mate and wraps a protective arm over the panting bird. “You’ve got to land on a branch, Aderyn!” he snaps at the following raptor. “Good job convincing Aderyn to fly faster,” Tric tells Mate, stroking his feathers a bit. The magpie is not carrying anything; Aderyn is laden with the delivery.
The falcon is wearing some sort of harness made from leather straps and metal buckles. It is similar in purpose to what Heppa devised when sending a packet last month but looks far more professionally crafted. Tric wonders if Serces had a hand in this, perhaps forging the metal components. The getup does not interfere with wing movement, allowing Aderyn to fly quickly while transporting flat packages against the front of her body. Manu craftwork is very impressive, Tric reflects. Some of it was on display at the Parting Glass, which had an elaborate system of mirrors and ropes along the ceiling for directing light at the stage. Tric supposes that a society which eschews magic has more impulse to develop technical works such as these.
Once Mate has caught his breath, he hops into the safety of his backpack roost. He sticks his head out and gives a stupid, stupid call up at the falcon, then ducks back down and pulls the flap closed. Aderyn tilts her head and snaps her beak in response, as close to licking lips as a bird can come. Tric pulls out a field mouse from the stash he keeps on hand for Mate and tosses it up to Aderyn. She snatches it from the air and lands on a lower branch, since Tric has not extended an arm to her. There she enjoys her payment, waiting until the person is ready to accept delivery.
With the falcon looking at him expectantly, Tric binds his arm with his empty waterskin again. The movement disturbs Mate, who pokes his head out. When he sees what Tric is doing, the magpie emerges, flying a short distance away. From there, he issues the descending whistle to call the falcon down. When Aderyn lands on Tric’s outstretched arm, she begins pecking at the buckles. She is not as deft as Mate. Also not as daft, Tric thinks. He takes the hint and unlatches the harness, glad to have the power of opposable thumbs. Once free, Aderyn flies back up to perch in a tree and spends a while preening to get all her feathers back in order.
The package contains a letter addressed to Tric of the Manu and signed Damal of the Manu, subtly encouraging the recipient to be more attentive to his Dunefolk roots. The message starts by saying that Alric is carrying Tric’s debts. At first, Tric takes this to mean that there have been some repercussions in South Tower for Tric’s messing with the underworld there. However, when he reads on and sees that Damal accepted what he sent as a down payment, he realizes Damal just means that Alric paid on his behalf for the apothecary’s work. From what else it says regarding the enclosed reports, Heppa also has a tab at the Parting Glass. Looks like the Bank of Alric is working for us now, Tric reflects. He is sure Heppa will not mind another excuse for going back there.
Tric heads over to Kachen’s hut to deliver the pollen analysis and the enclosed treatise on the four elements: fire, water, air, and earth. It is, of course, more elaborate than that, but the details matter far more to Heppa than they do to Tric. He dutifully reads the letter to his cousin as she works on her experiments with the new herbal ingredients that Damal also sent.
Hepalonia hears with great interest Damal’s description of how each elemental force suffuses the environment, seeping into it from its particular source: the Sun, the Seas, the Winds, and the Deeps. He also discusses the four humours—blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm—and ties them to the working of various organs and the effects of certain herb combinations. He includes a list of reasons why certain of the theories she wrote to him about are wrong. Some of them have been debunked for centuries! Decidedly lacking in any of his writing, though, is how magic might play a role in these matters. Damal’s lens for viewing alchemy is clouded by his negative views of magic. Heppa is not surprised, of course, but it would be a more complete approach. She wonders whether anything Damal does is actually magic and if she watched it with her senses attuned, she might observe it in action.
Still, she is happy to have his report on the pollen and pleased to learn he conducted some of the same tests that she did yesterday. Of course, he ran other tests as well and probably did everything much more efficiently than she did. With this new information, and the components he sent, Heppa begins coming up with a plan to neutralize the effect on Kachen. She works on pieces of it at a time, testing small samples and talking her ideas over with her cousin. Damal has refuted some of the theories Heppa sent him previously, so of course she has new questions. For his part, Tric spends the day being a scribe, jotting those down and drafting a return letter.
“Whatever the struggle is between the dapper inkcap and Fenowin’s pollen, it must be going on throughout Kachen’s whole body, and it is, in particular, suppressing his brain functioning,” Heppa muses out loud.
“So he needs more dapper inkcap?” Tric asks hesitantly.
Heppa thinks it over. It is a legitimate approach, giving one side of the battle a leg up. But is swamping out the effect of the pollen the wisest approach? She is not sure. Her current approach, if they cannot wake him up soon, will actually be the opposite. She has not been giving him any dapper inkcap with his food, so the levels of it in his system should be dropping off. In that way, she might starve the pollen out. However, she does not know how long it will take and what sort of side effects there might be.
The only uses Heppa knows for dapper inkcap as far as humans go is treating psychological conditions, but she does not specifically know what Kachen is relying on it for. She tells Tric this is really the same argument she had with herself over whether to keep giving it to him with his food. She concluded then that withdrawal was preferable to overdose. If Kachen is depressed or upset when he wakes up, that is still way better than accidentally killing him.
Heppa reads through Damal’s letter again. Because of Tric’s questions, the apothecary did further work on dapper inkcap, producing a list of the active agents in the mushroom, as well as the other materials in it that have negative side effects. Heppa could try to just extract the more useful components, those that went into Sir Marthynec’s elixir. Or she could add some materials to counteract the negative binders in dapper inkcap. That was the problem with Rhaessa’s elixir, not enough of those were neutralized. If Kachen has just been straight-up snacking on dapper inkcap, he would be experiencing those side effects in droves. It certainly explains his glossed over state (when conscious) and poor appetite. At least, she presumes that Kachen is not taking it to completely numb his emotions, but she cannot really be sure. She is assuming there was some past trauma, but without asking Kachen, she feels she does not have enough information. Answers might be hidden in his squiggle writing, but deciphering that would be a project in and of itself. Such time is better spent trying to wake him up.
It takes the entire day for Heppa and Tric to go through Damal’s message and try to understand it well enough to come up with a plan, but as the light fades, one is indeed in place. It will mean another day of grinding, stirring, and bubbling, that is for sure. And maybe when that is all taken care of, and Kachen is awake again, Heppa can even mix up a medicine for his ailment that will be better for him than pure dapper inkcap. She goes to bed encouraged that night, hopeful that things will turn out well soon enough.