“Guess who’s here!” Tric Manu announces cheerfully as he opens the door to his uncle’s library. “I’ve got someone with me, but they’re not an elf.” It is an odd sort of introduction, from Kachen’s perspective. Tric ushers him into a study, where Hepalonia is holding an elaborate skull out before her.
Another elf, just as pale white of skin and blond of hair as she is, exclaims, “Oh! Is that the other staff? Excellent!” He comes around from out behind the desk, hands outstretched.
“And Kachen,” Tric adds, “the current owner of said staff.”
Kachen puts the staff forward warily, not entirely sure of his footing here just yet. He does not think he is in danger here, per se, but just how open he can be remains to be seen.
Tric notes Kachen’s demeanor and reads it as uncertainty rather than possessiveness. That is a relief. Maybe the necromantic staffs do not have the same effect when they are broken into pieces. Still, they could all use something to ease the tension of meeting strangers. Snacks should do the trick. He whistles for Mate, and the magpie flies up. Clutched in his talons is a cloth napkin tied up into a swag. He drops it, and Tric catches the package. He opens it to reveal a pile of pemmican, far more than the bird could have transported just in his claws. Tric does note that Mate’s beak is rather greasy. He probably enjoyed a snack himself before packing the rest for them.
After handing over the staff, Kachen nods to Heppa in greeting. “Daddy, this is Kachen!” she says happily. “Kachen, this is my father, Lord Thrandolil.” She hesitates a moment, wanting to perform the full polite introduction, but unsure of what title to give Kachen. Mage? Hermit? Scholar? He never said anything other than that his name is Kachen. She settles on describing him as a mage, since she did see him summon those fire missiles. With propriety satisfied, she leaps into her questions. “What did you find out?” she asks Kachen eagerly. The skull remains in her hand, forgotten for now. “Did you do any experiments with the staff?” She does not even pause to let him answer though, diving instead into a summary of her recent findings.
And so the magic talk begins. Tric insists that people eat while doing it, since it looks like Heppa and Uncle Thran worked straight through dinner. Tric shakes some scrolls off a stool and slides it over near Kachen so the weak human can perch on it. Sure enough, Kachen sits down, idly nibbling on a snack while listening to Heppa describe what she and Uncle Thran have learned so far. Tric himself stays out of the way. He is relieved to see Kachen is eating; Tric did nothing to give him a sense of taste, though he is still partly concentrating on the thread of wonder he managed to awaken in the human. Tric has no magical education other than a conversation here or there with Glammur about something quite different from necromancy, so a lot of Heppa’s presentation is, well, boring. It would probably behoove Tric to learn a thing or two about magical theory, though, so he remains. Any knowledge gained will enable him to flesh out details in his tales but also help with the very real problems they are facing.
Tric keeps a close eye on everyone, paying more attention to their behavior than their words. There are two staffs here now, in the very same place. Is that worse? he wonders. He is relieved to see that neither Heppa nor Uncle Thran display any unnatural possessiveness toward the staff that plagued him. Perhaps it is because it is in pieces, and the artifact as a whole is more potent. Or maybe it is because they only ever pick a piece up momentarily to examine it or make a point. They have not borne the item for a week upon their back like Tric did.
Tric watches Uncle Thran for other reasons, too. Nasir and Heppa have told him that Thrandolil’s head was treated in some medical/magical way to deal with the trauma of losing his brother, and Tric is curious whether he can pick up any signs of that now that he knows. Nothing jumps out at him in that regard, but one thing Tric does notice is the way Uncle Thran grows particularly attentive, even excited, whenever Heppa makes a move to hand something over to Kachen. Invariably, she pulls the item back to make another observation, and Thrandolil wilts a little. He must be keen to have a human try out these objects, since Tric has already demonstrated his half-human heritage is insufficient.
Heppa describes all the things she has tried with the purple crystal and the skull. She occasionally looks over to her father, to see if he wants to interject, but he is happy to let her lead this information exchange. Only when she specifically asks him for a comment or a document does he participate more actively. If he has a specific agenda, he is not bringing it up right now. At one point, when Heppa pauses for a breath, Kachen asks where his ring is. Heppa fishes around in her pouch and produces it, handing it over cheerfully. She makes no mention of the damage it suffered or how she fixed it. Kachen does not inspect it but simply slips it on a finger right away. Once it is in place, he thanks her for delivering it on Heledd’s behalf, and then asks her a question about the new staff so she can resume sharing her artifact research.
Heppa hesitates to answer for a moment, concerned that maybe he might be getting too tired. He did ask for the ring seemingly out of nowhere, and she knows firsthand the sense of ease it promotes in the wearer. Kachen did not show any excitement over receiving the ring; maybe he felt like he needed it. At any rate, he appears more attentive now, looking at Heppa expectantly for the answer to his question.
Tric steps in, providing his perspective on what the new staff’s power felt like. A sort of chilly wave washed over him, and the human with them viewed the staff with extreme abhorrence afterwards. Tric was initially surprised by that, but he has since come to understand it better.
“May I see it? This new staff?” Kachen asks.
Heppa throws a questioning glance at her father, but he offers no objections. She takes the staff down off the branch rack where it was resting and hands it to Kachen, explaining that it originally had a purple crystal attached. Then she picks that up to show off and tells him what she knows of the rune on it. Heppa has been holding its skull this whole time, and now she reports on her attempts to apply runic magic to it. She has not gotten around to trying primal magic. Kachen studies the top of the staff to see how everything all fits together. Meanwhile, Thrandolil watches Kachen, eager to see what the human will be able to do.
“And there’s resonance!” Heppa says, looking at the skull again. “I wonder if the head just magnifies it… I don’t know why it would be crafted magically if it wasn’t for some magical purpose.” Kachen suggests they reassemble the whole item. Heppa starts to place the purple crystal back in the skull and then pauses. “I wonder if we can mix and match them!” She looks over to where the older staff is lying on her father’s desk, which then prompts another question. “Oh! What did you find out with your staff?” she asks Kachen.
“It wasn’t aspected the way I initially thought it might be,” he tells her. “Of course, it has all the basic abilities that a staff would have, but—”
“Such as?” Heppa asks.
“Walking?” Tric suggests. “Parrying. Bopping people. Reaching really high-up things.”
“That you can channel more energy through it than you could just through your own hands…” Kachen says, as though this should be obvious. Hepalonia, though, is still looking at him with curiosity. “So it makes spells more powerful than they would be otherwise. Is this not a practice among elves?”
Heppa looks at her father. “Well, of course, yes,” he says.
“Oh! I didn’t finish my schooling,” she explains to Kachen.
Thrandolil continues, “Yes, elvish druids and sorceress use branches as staffs. That lets them focus more energy than they could on their own.”
“So what do you mean by aspected?” Heppa asks Kachen. Maybe this has something to do with all the different streams of magic.
That is going to be one long boring response, Tric is sure. Before Kachen slips fully into lecture mode, he suggests, “It is getting rather late. Do we want to be launching into this right now? Or would this be better handled in the morning after we’ve had a chance to refresh?” It does seem to Tric that nighttime is not the best time to be playing around with necromantic equipment. And if Kachen really is cursed… “Kachen was traveling all day,” is what Tric says aloud, though. “While I know we’re all excited to do this, it would be best to come at it fully refreshed.”
“Oh, of course! You’re right, you’re right,” Heppa tells her cousin. “You must be tired from all your travels, Kachen.”
That is sufficient for Thrandolil. He bids Kachen good night and asks Tric to escort him to the guest lodging in the scout area, the same place that Glammur stayed. Heppa says she will be along shortly and runs off to get her poultice pouch, just in case it turns out Kachen does need medical treatment.