Over the course of the next few weeks, Tric and Heppa relax with their families and get caught up with other elves in the village. Tric participates in more training with the scouts, feeling more a part of that community now. Although he was responsible for a scare in the village that the scouts had to mobilize to deal with, Baeowin does not blame Tric for anything. She tells him it was a good exercise, one that demonstrated the value of constant vigilance. She is pleased with the work everyone did, including how the scouts and shamans worked together.
Renwick is lauded for promptly sounding the alarm, and Tric does not mind someone else getting credit in this case. He and Renwick are getting along better now that they have developed a working relationship. As the spring wears on, Tric approaches the warrior one day to ask a favor. “A friend of ours is going to be visiting, a human fellow. He’s a little… off. I wanted to give you and the border patrol a heads up. He doesn’t connect well with people. It’s hard for you to imagine, I can understand.” Renwick nods; he is a popular elf. “He’s a bit of a hermit,” Tric explains, not wanting to bring up necromancy. “If you’re out on patrol and you see a thin, haggard young human, just keep a close eye around him… Sometimes trouble just catches up with him. I don’t know why it is. I don’t think he wants it to.”
“No problem, Tric Manu,” Renwick assures him with a slap to the shoulder.
Since they parted ways in the Foul Fen, Tric has grown more concerned about Kachen, but he thinks that maybe Uncle Thran can help him. A first step for that is getting Kachen to their village without being arrested or murdered. Having experienced what he has with the staff, Tric wonders whether Kachen really is cursed. Maybe the story Tric spun for Heledd is actually true for real.
Outside the work of scouting, Tric enjoys many hours fishing alongside his dad. They work on the piece of mulga wood together, as well. It is an unusual wood for Nasir, but one with rich colors and a nice feel. He provides a lot of advice and guidance, including access to his well-maintained tools, but he has Tric do the physical work himself. Although Tric had originally intended it to be a dowsing rod for him to carry, once it is fully whittled and sanded down, it is too small for field use. However, the activity is a great father-son bonding experience, a gift for both of them. Tric commemorates it by mounting the beautiful mulga wood model dowsing rod in the common room as an artistic piece.
Helping Mate with his roost is a mixed experience. It is quality time for Tric and the magpie, but every material Tric offers gets rejected. Magpies are not forest birds, after all, nor does Tric have city trash like would be available in South Tower. Mate appreciates the attention, but he constructs his own little comfortable spot in a side pocket of Tric’s backpack, complete with a tie-down flap. Tric does not fault him; he decorated his own room himself when he was younger.
Interested in learning a bit about what Anador was like, Tric asks his dad questions now and then. The one about how Nasir and Anador knew each other leads to an illuminating conversation. “Did you work for Anador?” Tric asks. “Or were you just part of the same military unit on patrol along the border? Mhaev said you were sent to pick me up. So thanks for saving my life and, you know, being my life,” he adds, making sure Nasir understands that Tric is not seeking to replace him in any way.
Nasir is not surprised that Mhaev did not know anything further about him. “No, I did not work for Anador. I did teach him how to water dowse.” Tric is surprised to hear that. “Anador took an interest in a wide variety of things and tried his hand at many. He was one of the best natural water dowsers I ever met.”
“Oh, that’s interesting,” Tric says, playing it cool. He did not inherit that skill! “It must run in that side of the family. Heppa seemed to pick it up really quickly, too. I wonder if Aunt Penna can… She’s probably a good dowser too, isn’t she?”
“She went straight to shaman school,” Nasir tells him with a shrug. His sister probably considers water dowsing beneath her. “But getting back to Anador… He was pretty good at whatever he tried. He was very adaptable. But no, no, I didn’t work for him.” At this point, Tric learns the true relationship between Nasir and Anador: they were a couple. However, as Nasir has previously indicated, Anador was a little flighty. They were together for a while, but there were incompatibilities in their personalities. Although those differences were partly what drew them together initially, they also led to the relationship not working out long term. However, the breakup did not really change the way Nasir felt about Anador. He still loved him, and they remained close friends. “It was a little awkward to be asked to go pick you up,” Nasir admits. “It would have been more awkward if Mhaev had known of the former relationship, that is for sure. But Anador trusted me to go get you. I want you to understand that. Anador did not just pawn you off onto some random person. You are the child of someone who was very important to me. Yes, if Thrandolil hadn’t had a mental breakdown, you would have been raised in his household. But given the situation… I was the closest thing to a relative that it was safest—for all parties—for you to be with.”
“So, when it didn’t work out between Anador and Mhaev, it was because of the overall societal discord between the elves and humans at that point?” Tric asks. “Or was it more personal? That it was interesting to both of them for a time, but not something that they were… Sorry, this is super-awkward, isn’t it? But surely that’s the least dark thing about the dark times!”
“There were certainly cultural differences,” Nasir agrees, “and the relationship was rocky. But definitely the fact that we were withdrawing instead of staying out there to fight, that was the straw that broke the pony’s back.”
“That makes sense,” Tric mutters.
“Mhaev did not approve of elvish military forces withdrawing from the front, but she did think that you should be in a safer place,” Nasir emphasizes, wanting Tric to know that it was concern for his own well-being that made his mother send him away; she was not rejecting him.
“Yes, she was right on that front. She was joining an army. They did the things they had to do.”
Nasir is silent for a moment, thinking over things from long ago. He gives a little shake of the head. “No, it would not have worked out long term between them.” He is not the most unbiased judge, but he did know Anador well. “Things only held Anador’s attention for so long.”
Tric hears more anecdotes about his birth father as the weeks go on, though only when he is alone with his dad. Nasir tells him some of the ways Tric reminds him of Anador—not that Nasir thinks Tric is flighty! But Tric’s congeniality, his ability to get along with all types, that very much is what Anador was like. He was an elvish noble—he was on the council for a period, until it got too boring—but he tried his hand at everything, even the non-glorious trade of water dowsing.
“Did he travel much? Would he have been known outside of this forest?” Tric asks, wondering how his own growing legend will compare with Anador’s someday… or if anyone even knows of Anador at all, given how hushed everyone around here has been.
“In his younger days he went further afield. He most certainly visited the Great Forest, though I do not know if he ever went as far west as Wesmere.”
“Hmm…” This is definitely something worth thinking about for Tric. “Say, did Anador introduce Aunt Penna to Uncle Thran? Or the other way around?”
Nasir chuckles. “It’s funny… Penna is actually how I met Anador. She was making a play for his attention, and he was not into her, but we met and hit it off. And then Penna settled on Thrandolil.”
Tric laughs at the word-choice. “Settled on?!”
“As if Thrandolil had any choice in the matter! You’ve met your Aunt Penna,” Nasir says, uncharacteristically jocular, embracing the lighter topic. “But Anador was more than a match for her. He had a mind of his own.”
“So I gathered.”
“Not to imply that Thrandolil doesn’t, but…”
Tric shrugs. “He’s got his interests, and they don’t get in the way of Aunt Penna’s interests, so he continues with them.”
“So, that’s the story then,” Nasir concludes. “Elves live a long time, and relationships come and go. That’s not to say that they can’t last longer. Hopefully someday you’ll meet a nice person and settle down—or not settle down.”
“We’ll see,” Tric says. “I think it’s unlikely that I’m going to settle down. And we’ll see how much time I have,” he jokes about his mixed ancestry. “I’d better get a move on!”