Echoes of Invasion: Plains Problems | Scene 7

Dinner that night is with the full household. The meal is prepared by Bayar and his mother Regina, the wife of Terwaen’s father Sir Rugg. Midge and Sir Inyc also attend. Tric presents a gift to their hosts, the sampler pack of incense that he purchased at Zhafa’s shop in Dan’Tonk. With so much horse-smell about the homestead, he figures they will appreciate some variety. Heppa will present them with her gift at the end of their stay; she needs time to produce an annotated map for them.

Rugg and Inyc were out on their horses most of the day and return shortly before dinner time. When they come in, they are clad in shiny plate with elaborate helms. Unlike other warriors of the horse clans that Tric and Heppa have seen, these two have creamy white capes attached to their armor. They have just enough time to change out of their plate into more comfortable tunics before the meal. When introduced to the guests, Sir Rugg is reserved and evaluative. He seems a bit on his guard, and Tric is not sure if it is because Tric is Mhaev’s child or because he and Heppa are elves. Sir Inyc is also reserved and very quiet, especially when compared to Midge.

The dinner is steaks with root crops from the garden. Regina was not sure what elves eat, but Terwaen assured her that cow meat was fine based on the dinner they shared at the Parting Glass in South Tower. Over the meal, everyone engages in casual conversation. When asked what the news around the land is, Tric cautions them that winter seems to be coming early in the Heart Mountains this year. Casually, he throws in that necromancers are always a problem up there. That catches Rugg’s attention, and he presses Tric for details. “We rooted out one necromancer who specialized in necrophages and ghasts,” Tric shares. “But he spoke of others as well before we put him down.” 

Inyc’s follow-up questions are very tactical in nature, reminding Tric of Ash. Having fresh practice dealing with that mindset, Tric easily supplies very specific answers, including how one of the necrophages consumed the remains of the others and expanded into a ghast. “There are probably less than ten other necromancers active in the Heart Mountains, based on what our prisoner said. But they did not seem to be organizing. On the contrary, they seem to be squabbling. The rangers and avengers of Wesmere regularly patrol the area. They move very swiftly through the region, and their protection extends to many of the new human settlements in the foothills.”

“We haven’t heard any rumors of any threats that would be local, but I do have a map I can show you after dinner on which I’ve taken notes,” Heppa volunteers. Once it becomes clear that her map is not just of elvish forests but also of Wesnoth, Inyc encourages her to set it out on the table for study and discussion right then.

When Rugg sees all the places Heppa has annotated with notes on undead, he asks what elves were doing going to such places as the Grey Woods. “Oh, the Grey Woods!” Tric says with dramatic weariness. “Shadow mages… They think they’re not necromancers, but it turns out, they’re necromancers. The woses of the Grey Woods requested our assistance in rooting out the shadow mages.” That explanation leads to a bunch of questions from Bayar, who has never heard the term wose. 

“It is not a tree,” Tric says, “but it is a creature that looks very much like a tree. It has eyes and speaks and guards trees.”

“Oh, like that creature you brought in that’s not a horse but looks kind of like a horse?” Bayar asks. 

Tric grins broadly. This is a wonderful opening for his Master Edward stories. “No, you’re thinking of the horsefolk…”

“That is not a polite way to speak of somebody’s horse,” Terwaen scolds Bayar. “You too are still a colt.”

“Oh, do you mean Butterbell?” Heppa asks. “No, that is her size as an adult,” she explains to the human child.

“She’s never going to be a horse?” Bayar asks.

“No, we use ponies because they travel through the forest more easily,” Heppa says.

“Imagine if you were on one of your father’s warhorses,” Tric tells Bayar. “But if you were galloping through the forest, so many branches would knock you off. On a pony you can be much lower down and ride much faster through the trees.”

“But I wouldn’t take Butterbell into battle,” Heppa adds. “That’s for sure.”

Rugg speaks up. “Think about the horses that lancers ride. Those horses are not nearly as big and strong as the horses that knights ride. Lancers’ horses are chosen for speed over power.”

Tric picks up that line of argument. “Or there are the horses that you see pulling carts, chosen for their endurance. But now, let me tell you of Master Edward of the horsefolk…” The table splits at this point. Rugg and Inyc return their attention to Heppa’s map, asking her more questions about it as everyone else listens to Tric’s latest tale.

Though he knows little of orcs, Tric chooses them for this story. “Master Edward fought off a band of orcs, not through his impressive charges—though they were mighty. No, rather, he infiltrated their group with his guile and stealth.” Tric is not sure how well such underhanded approaches will play to the honor-centric horse clan crowd. He is in luck, though, as Bayar asks many questions that help him flesh out the story. Bayar does not think a horsefolk could disguise themself as an orc but rather would go as a wolf. Terwaen agrees since wolves are used as steeds in orcish warbands, and she mentions that their version of cavalry uses nets and torches. Tric soaks in all the details. All in all, it is a good exchange, with Tric learning about orcs and his audience enjoying his story.