Echoes of Invasion: Plains Problems | Scene 4

Rugg’s homestead is on the other side of Dolydd where a stream marks the edge of the village. The small creek meanders through the enclosed yard, as well. Chickens and pigs wander around, and several horses roam about in a paddock off on the side. Tric closes the main gate behind them after Heppa leads Butterbell through. He studies the buildings before them and decides to try the shorter one, which looks to only have one floor. He assumes the taller building has loft space for storing bales of hay and such. The doors to all the buildings are quite large, just like the ones at Sir Anyc’s home. A horse could easily fit through such an opening. As Tric steps up to knock on the door, Mate swoops down and settles on his shoulder. In the breeze, two flags flap overhead, the gold-edged midnight blue of Wesnoth higher than the sapphire blue triangle of the horse clans.

The door is thrown open by a short human who only comes up to about mid-chest on the elves. The young boy has tan skin and brown hair that is just barely long enough for the ponytail he wears it pulled back in. He blinks his eyes a few times in surprise at who stands before him.

“Excuse me, are you the master of the house?” Tric quickly interjects, hoping to boost the lad’s confidence.

The boy’s eyes dart around, taking in the dress and features of the visitors. “Perhaps in the lands that you are from small children run households, but here I must work my way up to that honor.” His gaze settles on the small horse laden with packs. “Are you selling something?”

Tric assures him they are not. “Actually, we’re here to see Dame Terwaen. Is she on the grounds?”

“What business do you have with Dame Terwaen?” the boy asks protectively.

“Forgive me. My name is Tric Manu. This is my cousin, Hepalonia of House Thrandolil. Terwaen is my sister.”

“Ah! You are Tric Manu!” the boy cries in recognition. “We are not brothers,” he observes. Perhaps Terwaen has reviewed the whole elaborate family tree with him.

“Well, that is all right. We can still be friends,” Tric says amiably.

Having recently reviewed the family tree herself, Heppa thinks she knows who this is. “You are Bayar?” she asks. The boy’s small chest swells with pride at the wide recognition his name has throughout the land.

“Ah, yes, Terwaen mentioned some of your deeds. But we will not speak of them!” Tric teases.

Heppa is more formal. “It is a pleasure to meet you,” she says politely.

Now that he understands who they are, Bayar invites them in. Heppa is unsure what to do with Butterbell. “You are welcome to turn your small horse loose in the paddock for grazing,” Bayar tells her. “None of the other horses will trouble her.”

“Is it all right if this fellow is on my shoulder?” Tric asks, pointing at the magpie riding there.

“Will it do tricks for me?”

“That depends. Do you have any peanuts? Or other snacks of an appropriate size?”

The young boy abandons his posturing and becomes just a kid. He turns around and runs farther into the house shouting, “Terwaen! Terwaen! I need peanuts!”

Tric and Heppa look around the space in which they find themselves. It is quite different from the lodgings they had in the human cities they have visited. Although the room is large and spacious, there is not very much furniture cluttering it. There are cushions on the ground rather than chairs, and it makes them think a bit of how Lonfar kept her home. Maybe a long time ago the Horse Clans were nomadic, and even though they have settled down in permanent structures, they still retain some of those old ways. 

Soon Terwaen appears. She is in clothing of a more casual style than they have seen her wear before. And indeed, pieces of straw are stuck here and there about her, including in her frizzy ponytail. Clearly she has been working in the stables, not off fighting duels. A surprised but delighted smile spreads across her face when she sees the visitors. Tric gives her a big hug, and then Terwaen offers her hand to Heppa to shake. “I did not expect to see you here! It is a very pleasant surprise.”

“I’m glad we could make it by,” Tric says. “We were passing through the Heart Mountains on our way back south,” he adds casually. “Traveling a ways away.”

“The Heart Mountains are nowhere near here!”

“We’re on our way back to South Tower,” Heppa adds.

“You’ve had many adventures since we last met?” Terwaen asks.

“On one hand, not as many as I would have liked,” Tric says. “On the other hand, I gained some new scars.” He tilts his head to the left, showing off the right side of his neck where Gaenyn’s lightning struck him.

“And some new artwork as well,” Terwaen comments, admiring the tree tattoo.

“Indeed. It turns out I have another sibling, a brother.”

“Mhaev has more children?”

“No, my elvish…” Tric pauses, trying to find the right word. Nasir is Dad. “My elvish father had a child in the Wesmere Forest. That’s north of the Grey Woods.” Terwaen nods in recognition. She is well-versed in the geography in and around the land she defends. “My brother is an avenger. If you’ve ever seen an elvish ranger, he teaches rangers. When he’s forced to.”

“Yes, I don’t think he’d want to do a lot of teaching,” Heppa murmurs.

“He’s protecting all the people who live in the Heart Mountains these days.”

“It sounds like an honorable profession,” Terwaen observes.

“He’s doing a lot of good work. Ah, but yes, we dealt with some shadow mages, necromancers, spiders…” Tric boasts. Terwaen’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise. “Have you ever seen a necrophage or a ghoul? That was in another of the many places we visited,” he says off-handedly, as though these are not interesting stories.

“And the nagas,” Heppa adds. “That was at the beginning of our travels.”

“We sometimes have problems with them on the edges of our territory,” Terwaen shares. “They are wily creatures, slipping back into the water so that we cannot pursue them.”

“They are wily people,” Tric corrects. “Do not underestimate them. If you track down a bear, that is a beast; a naga is not a beast. A naga is a person. They talk, they have thumbs, and they were mercenaries. Most animals you cannot bribe, but these took payment in coin.”

“But we didn’t really talk to them,” Heppa says sadly. She had very little opportunity to study and learn about them during the ambush on the way to Weldyn. “They were in league with some humans.”

“Oh, right, I had nearly forgotten. They wanted the Rats freed.”

“Indeed, you have had some strange adventures,” Terwaen observes.

Heppa tells her about how they traveled with a caravan from South Tower to Weldyn to Dan’Tonk before finally ending up in Carcyn. Terwaen recognizes these great cities and has been to some of them herself. 

“Oh, have you stopped by the Dune School in Dan’Tonk?” Tric asks excitedly. Terwaen has never heard of this. “There’s a lot of people of Dunefolk heritage in Dan’Tonk, and they run a school for people to connect with that. They teach children how to read. Which, sure, every elf learns how to read, but I understand that is not true for humans. It was very interesting.”

“That is indeed interesting. I wonder what use all those people would have for reading.”

“It makes it easier to keep track of things. You don’t just have to remember. What do you use reading for?” Given her collaboration in writing down their family tree, Tric knows she is literate. 

“Military histories, battle maps…”

“Writing letters?” Heppa suggests. “Making lists?” She flips open her folio of annotated maps. “Like here are all the things we’re supposed to be doing.”

“Are you just passing through? You are tired from the road and you wish refreshment and welcome?” She offers them the hospitality of the household for as long as they wish to stay and pulls out a tray of preserved meat slices for them to enjoy.

Tric wonders whether he is supposed to put up a show of polite refusal, but the thumping of feet renders that unnecessary. Bayar has returned with a small sack of peanuts. It looks like there are refreshments for everyone now.