Echoes of Invasion: Plains Problems | Scene 11

When the rooster crows the next morning, Heppa is both rundown from lack of sleep and energized by her recent breakthrough. She is excited and happy, filled with good cheer. Tric is also in a good mood, well-rested from a full night’s sleep. Sure, they were still on bedrolls up in the loft space of Rugg’s house, but having a roof overhead made a nice change. Tric is eager to start his day of scheming, hopeful that Sir Anyc can help them acquire evidence against Dame Merriver under the guise of looking for material to support her loyalty to Wesnoth.

Heppa is happy to tag along with Tric on this little adventure. She has no other plans for the day except for talking with someone about what sort of magic paladins do. And one other thing… “Would Mate be willing to take a letter over to South Tower?” she asks Tric with an eager expression after breakfast when the bird joins them in the yard. “What do you think of that?”

Tric considers for a moment. Probably that would take Mate about a day to accomplish, based on when he carried correspondence there from Estbryn Forest after Fenowin attacked Kachen. The plains are Mate’s native environment, and he lived around South Tower for years before latching onto Tric, so the magpie is unlikely to be in any danger along the route. And he might get too fat if he hangs out too long here with Bayar giving him all those treats. “I think Mate would be all right with that… if you can convince him,” Tric tells Heppa. “You just want him to take a little letter?”

“Yes, that’s all I was thinking. I don’t know how much he can carry. Do you have anything you need to send?”

Tric shakes his head. They have not finished gathering information yet on this Merriver issue, and Mate certainly cannot deliver the large ruby to Alric to pay off their debts. Even if the bird could lift it, he would not want to give up such a shiny object. “We can trade him your paper for the onyx ring. It’s probably better for him not to fly too far with that.”

“No, not with it around his leg like that,” Heppa agrees. She starts spinning ideas for making a more balanced way for Mate to wear the ring, such as some sort of neck strap, but Tric assures her that is unnecessary. “I could put colors on the paper, if you think that would appeal to him,” Heppa offers instead. Tric agrees that is a good idea, so she uses her brightest and shiniest inks to decorate the back of her letter. It is not a lengthy correspondence, just a few simple lines telling Alric that she misses him. She lets him know they will see him within the week once they have finished their visit with Tric’s family in the Horse Plains. She cannot help but throw in a few interesting tidbits about her recent experiences. I have an interesting story about a skull I can tell you, and did you know that paladins…

“You could make a reservation for our room and tell Alric we have his money. Oh, and make sure you tell him to pay the messenger one peanut,” Tric tells her.

“He works with birds. I’m sure he knows how to treat him,” Heppa replies. “Thank you so much!”

Before he launches Mate with the colorful tiny scroll, Tric makes sure the magpie understands this current location, Dolydd, where Terwaen lives. Given that Bayar has so many peanuts, Mate is sure to want to return here in the future. With postage promised on delivery, the magpie takes flight.

With that taken care of, Tric and Heppa head over to Sir Anyc’s home. He greets them appropriately, if not pleasantly, being of a somewhat gruff demeanor. “How are you doing on this slightly chill morning, here at the end of summer in the Horse Plains?” Tric floridly greets him, further cementing in the knight’s mind that Tric is a herald.

“I’m moving quite well this morning,” Anyc assures Heppa. “Your treatments were very effective.”

“Oh, excellent! I’m happy to hear that,” she replies cheerfully.

“Would it be possible that we might speak with your liege, Dame Merriver?” Tric asks. He presents Volas’s seal. “As you see, we are actually emissaries of Estbryn Forest. It would be good for us to meet with her. In fact, it would be impolite for us not to, I think.”

“I would be happy to introduce official representatives of Estbryn Forest to my liege. Might you tell me where this forest is? It is not one of the main elvish forests I am familiar with.”

“I’m surprised you haven’t heard of it,” Tric says with mock amazement. “Heppa…?” His cousin is already pulling out her packet of maps.

“Over here, by this drawing of a mushroom,” she says, showing a sheet cluttered with recipes, family trees, and sketches. Anyc looks it over with her.

“You’ve been to South Tower?” Tric asks. Anyc confirms that, having competed in the Full Bloom Festival several times over the years. “If you travel east from there a day or two, you’ll reach it.”

“Oh, actually I was near that location recently. A month or so ago we had a sortie a little north of there.”

“Really?” Heppa says, pulling out a quill and ink so she can add notes. “What was there?”

“We were dealing with an orcish incursion,” he replies matter-of-factly.

“That is rather close!” Tric says, alarmed. Anyc is no cartographer, and Heppa’s map is not drawn to scale, but his description of fighting on the northern outskirts of the Estmark Hills casts Terwaen’s stories from yesterday in a new light.

“I didn’t realize it was so close to our forest,” Heppa murmurs as she starts annotating.

“We assume the orcs came from across the Great River,” Anyc elaborates. “They’ve been menacing some of the farmland around the Northern Outpost. That’s part of Wesnoth, and those farmers deserve our protection.” Tric thanks him for sharing the news, and the knight suggests, “Perhaps you’d like to hear more from Dame Merriver about the battle she oversaw in that area.”

“Maybe we can even get you a new sword,” Tric says, trying to be helpful. She just bought a whole bunch of weapons, after all.

This is a sore topic for Sir Anyc, though. His pride still stinging from yesterday, he frowns at the reminder that he has lost his sword. “Of course my liege has plenty of armaments, though I would not ask her for one, not after how I lost mine.”

“Oh, so much weaponry? Is she involved in training young fighters? Perhaps brought in from elsewhere?” Tric prompts. He doubts Merriver has left any incriminating documents around, but he hopes Sir Anyc can provide some leads. It is reasonable to think the knight might have access to where all the weapons are stored or knowledge of them moving through the region.

“The defense of Wesnoth is a matter she takes very seriously. And it’s not just orcs. The bandits—the people stirring up trouble there—they are also subjects of Wesnoth. There is not a lot of commerce and development in that region. A lot of people might reasonably feel like they don’t have much opportunity. They need to be put on the right path to contribute to our society, and Dame Merriver is making that happen.” As he speaks, Anyc’s firm belief in Merriver and her cause is clear. He is sharply focused on protecting the rights of all Wesnothians.

On a certain level, Tric can relate to what Anyc is saying. He too has arranged new work for some people he has met on his travels, like hooking Mari-Elin up with a more favorable carting job. Sure, some of those troublemakers are bandits because they do not have any other options. But others are just bandits. And others are necromancers.

“We’ll beat them back, we’ll recover the goods they took, of course,” Anyc continues. “But if we just get them out of that environment, like into a trade somewhere, they can turn their lives around. Dame Merriver has been hiring all kinds of people usually labeled as ruffians and setting them on the right path.”

“Oh, really?” Tric says, thinking of all the weapons in Mari-Elin’s crates.

“I can take you to see her armory before you meet with her,” Anyc offers. That sounds perfect to Tric.