When Terwaen strides into the Parting Glass, it is with all the confidence in the world but none of the plate armor. She wears a blue tabard the shade of Owaec’s flags, and her sword hangs on her hip. Her kinky light brown hair is pulled back into a ponytail. Tric sees her head straight to the bar, where she hails Alric. “Barkeep! I’m here to meet Tric Manu.” Alric tips his head towards the elves and asks if he can get her anything while she is down here. She takes the stout once he pours it and then heads down the bar.
“Glad you could make it,” Tric greets her.
“It is good to see you again, Tric,” she says in reply. Accepting his compliments on her performance in the joust, she adds confidently, “I made it through the first round, and next year I will make it further.”
“I think so,” Tric agrees. “I don’t think Gweddry and Owaec are going to put up a tougher challenge next year.” Terwaen tells him that the Horse Clan does not always come to this festival; it depends what is going on in the Horse Plains. “I’m glad things are sufficiently settled that you could come this year, then,” Tric says.
Terwaen looks at the woman next to him who has been watching the conversation with interest. “You appear to have a companion here?” she prompts.
“This is my cousin Hepalonia.” Tric gestures at the other elf.
“Ah! Then we are kin as well!” Terwaen says pleasantly, offering her hand in greeting, which Heppa takes.
“And this is my cousin—of sorts—Dame Terwaen,” Tric completes the introduction. She asks that he just call her Terwaen, and then she and Heppa exchange niceties. Oh, yeah, these two people are the same social class, Tric thinks, watching all the well-crafted politeness.
“Will you be participating in the grand melee tomorrow?” Terwaen then asks Heppa.
“Oh, no, I’m not very good with a sword,” Heppa replies.
“Perhaps we may have occasion to spar sometime while I am in town.”
“Oh! That would be wonderful. Hopefully I can give you enough of a challenge. It would be good practice and a good learning experience.”
As the women talk, Tric zones out, thinking of all the boring practice routines sword fighters must go through, all the dreadfully repetitive positions, plus all the types of hilts and blades they use. He remembers the assorted blades that the dwarvish smith Garbor showed them in Untdunben. Any collection of slightly different versions of the same thing is dreadful to Tric.
Meanwhile, Terwaen has carefully drawn her sword and is holding it out across her palms to show to Heppa, who is remarking on the differences between it and her own elvish blade. This sword is less ornate than hers, which is currently stashed upstairs since, despite its beautiful swirl patterns, she considers it more for defense while traveling than as a fashion accessory. Terwaen’s blade is no show piece. It is taken care of, but there are nicks and other small signs that it has seen real use. This is no surprise to Heppa, who saw Terwaen riding full-speed at someone with a giant pointy stick. No, this woman would not be afraid to wield a sword, Heppa thinks.
The grand melee does not begin until mid-morning, so Terwaen proposes that they meet at sunrise on the fairground to compare fighting styles. Heppa is pleased and excited by this learning opportunity. “That would be wonderful! I’m looking forward to it! So you are fighting in the grand melee… Forgive my ignorance, but are you a warrior by trade or class?”
“Certainly,” Terwaen declares. “I am a knight.”
This confirms Hepalonia’s impression of the woman, that she is a professional, a member of the military class with status. Heppa considers this to be something like the scouts, professional fighters on horses.
With Terwaen’s sword put away and the topic with it, Tric tells her, “We’re waiting on one more person. Have you met Mhaev, captain of the guard for Earl Gweddry?”
“Of course,” she replies.
“She should be coming tonight as well. She’s also a close relative.”
“Oh! Well that makes sense; we are kin,” Terwaen comments.
“Yeah,” Tric mutters.
“Do the Manu usually know each other?” Heppa asks Terwaen. “Is the clan a tight enough group? Or is it often that you meet people who you don’t know who are of the clan? I know that’s how it is for Tric Manu. But do you already know everybody?”
Terwaen only knows members of the Manu who have had association with the Horse Clans. For example, Serces the blacksmith spent time among them. There is some jesting about horseshoes and horse plains, but Tric does not seem inclined to take over the conversation, so Heppa presents her questions about this mounted society. Terwaen explains that their leaders are called horse lords because, to put it bluntly, “We are the best at any sort of horsecraft that exists.”
Heppa asks if she learned to ride really young, and Terwaen says it was before she could walk. “Ah! I suspected as much!” Heppa comments with satisfaction. Terwaen goes on to explain that not everyone in the Horse Clans learns so young, though, as it depends on their parents’ means, on their ability to provide a horse. Some retired war horses are used for this purpose, and she learned on such a one.
Sensing fodder for more outlandish stories, Tric asks whether one can do any skill learned on foot also on a horse. Terwaen initially gives the question serious consideration, pointing out that she can certainly fight by sword on a horse, though she prefers the lance. However, she knows Tric well enough by this point that she then takes a lighter approach, mulling over what cooking on a horse would be like. Dining would not be a problem, as the knights eat in the saddle when riding long and hard. Regarding drinking, that would depend on whether the fluid was in a skin or a tankard. All three of them get into the discussion, considering carrying buckets of water by horseback without spilling and whether the use of a lid for that purpose would be cheating or not. Heppa thinks a lid is fair, but Tric thinks that having stirrups would make up for no lid. Finally, Terwaen concludes, “I feel that there are many things that one could do while standing on the ground that would be inconvenienced by being in the saddle. But that does not mean that horse riding is inferior to walking.”
Since she is facing the door to the Parting Glass, Heppa sees it open as another customer comes in. It is Mhaev, dressed fitting her standing but not clad in the chainmail of earlier in the day. Behind her, though, out in the street, Heppa sees other people who are. Some of the town guards that Mhaev commands have taken up positions outside. Mhaev gives a sharp nod to them and then turns her attention into the bar. Heppa wonders now whether she and Tric have brought more problems to Alric’s doorstep than they realized. She glances around the room again with new eyes and ponders just how many illegal deals are happening at and under the tables. And here the captain of the guard is coming right in! Heppa hopes no one gets in trouble.
Tric and Terwaen have not yet noticed the newcomer, but as Heppa watches, Mhaev looks at each of them in turn and falters a bit. She half-turns, and for a moment, it seems that she might leave. But then Mhaev shakes her head at herself, squares her shoulders, and starts to approach the group.
“So anyway, I’m working on this story about Master Ed—”
“M-m-mother!” Heppa stutters out. “Tric Manu!” It takes a second for Tric’s brain to derail from his current silly topic and catch up to the reality of the situation. “Mhaev’s here,” Heppa adds sotto voce.
“Oh!” He turns and sees her striding toward him, but not with the upbeat, almost jovial comportment Terwaen demonstrated. No, his mom’s expression is perfectly level. Like Terwaen, she has left her armor behind but is wearing her sidearm. As she reaches them, Tric jumps up, speaking before anyone else can. “Ah! You made it. Great! I got us all a private room upstairs. We don’t need to hang out down here; we can go right there.” He starts to try ushering them that way, but his mother turns to Terwaen.
“You two have already met?” Mhaev asks.
“Why, yes,” Terwaen replies. “We met this afternoon. What of it?”
“We met at the festival,” Tric adds. “She helped me out at the archery competition; I waved around her favor at the joust,” he says pleasantly. Mhaev directs her attention back at him, gaze intent. He feels like she is trying to get a read on him, but contrary to his usual tendencies, he is being completely genuine. He is not trying to pull anything over on her, and he wonders what she thinks he might be hiding. She seems uncomfortable. What’s the problem? Maybe it is something to do with Terwaen. Does she think there will be an ambush? “Anyway, let’s all head upstairs. The meal should be ready.”
Heppa folds up her map and begins to walk towards the staircase. Mhaev pauses, looking at her. “Oh! You two haven’t met.” Tric rushes to make introductions. “This is my cousin Hepalonia. I apologize!”
“Pleasure to meet you,” Heppa says politely.
“Of House Thrandolil,” Tric adds. “I don’t know if you knew him?” he asks his mom.
Mhaev evaluates Heppa. “You’re a relative of Anador’s?”
“No,” Heppa replies. “Nasir is my uncle.”
“Ah.” Mhaev says, swallowing a laugh. Me and Nasir? Ugh! “Right.”
Heppa was feeling a little intimidated by Mhaev up until this point, but suddenly she does not seem so much like Mother after all. Hepalonia relaxes a bit, and then her mind starts whirring. This is the second time she has heard someone mention Anador today, and she wonders again who he is and why the name seems vaguely familiar. Does it have something to do with me being Tric Manu’s cousin?