Echoes of Invasion: Staff Infection | Scene 12

Heppa has research to do and alchemical ingredients to experiment with, plenty to keep her busy for a couple months. She also spends time copying over relevant sections of her map onto a parchment to leave in her father’s library. Many of her notes do not need to be included in this public copy, particularly not that she finds Alric handsome. Although her map is many things to her—notebook, idea web, sketchpad—the one staying behind in the village really should be focused on geography. She devotes a lot of time and effort to making it nice, using her new inks and practicing writing small and neat.

She also pays her own visit to Fenowin to learn more about the druid’s project. As Heppa suspected, she is working on how to counteract weaponized dapper inkcap. Currently, Fenowin is focused on air-based delivery of a substance that would interact with dapper inkcap in the environment. This would cause a reaction that would incapacitate the attacker. When Heppa asks Fenowin what she was attempting on Tric, the druid explains that if he had had any dapper inkcap hidden upon his person, its reaction to her pollen would have knocked him out. Although this itself sounds like weaponizing dapper inkcap, the idea is that it would turn it back on the bearer before they can get close enough to use it on an elf. All Fenowin’s work, though, is highly theoretical, as she has none of the offending fungus on hand for trials, nor would she want it, considering how dangerous she believes it to be. She also shows Heppa her initial ideas regarding slinging pouches of pollen, to keep the elves even further away from the radius of danger. 

Heppa also helps her father some with his new artifacts. In addition to those, though, there is also Kachen’s ring, which she damaged when fighting the skeletons. Repairing it requires transmutation of fine materials, but Heppa has no precious jewelry of her own. She seeks out her sister; they have been developing some rapport over shared interests lately, and Lala has some fancy pieces. Unlike Hepalonia, Quaemilya embraces the roles their mother expects them too, which includes the appropriate garb and ornamentation. Heppa is not sure what she can offer in return. Lala did not seem interested in learning more about runes, and they do not really have chores that Heppa could volunteer to cover for her. Heppa wonders whether she might brew a potion for her sister, and then another idea comes to mind. She invites her sister to share with her a different sort of brew.

Heppa and Quaemilya sit down together, and Heppa presents the bottle of blaand. “My friend Alric gave this to me. He is a tavern keeper.” She pours some out into two small glasses.

Quaemilya raises an eyebrow. “Your friend Alric.”

“Yes!” Heppa goes on to describe how the milk-based beverage is made. It is fascinating to her that it comes from cast-off produced when making another dairy product. Somehow that whey turns into something so delicious when fermented. She holds her glass up so the light plays through it. “Look at what a nice, clear, goldenish color it is. Speaking of gold…” Heppa asks if Lala has some jewelry she can borrow (and likely not return). She is willing to do a favor in exchange. That is not too much of a commitment to agree to.

Quaemilya has an extra golden mesh net for draping over her hair. It is not as practical as a snood, but it compliments some of her formal gowns. She is willing to part with the redundant piece, but she tells Heppa she will have to mull over what favor she wants in return. “Make sure you check in with me before you leave on your next expedition beyond the forest.”

Heppa thanks her profusely, then asks. “What do you think of the blaand?”

“I do not particularly like the taste,” Quaemilya admits. “Dairy is a strange thing.”

Heppa nods in agreement; that is one of the reasons she likes it. She and her sister chat together a while longer, and then Heppa is free to work on Kachen’s ring. It is an emerald in a palladium setting, with no golden components, but the hair lace does not need to be materially incorporated. Rather, it is magically consumed, and Heppa massages the power released by that process to smooth the warped rune back into proper alignment.

* * *

A month after they get home, Heppa is out in the village talking with Tric when Mate suddenly comes barrelling in at them. The magpie startles them with his speedy approach and then, just as quickly, he vanishes from sight, slipping into his side pouch on Tric’s backpack. The cousins look up and around to see what has spooked the bird, and Heppa gasps in delight. There is a falcon! The new arrival swoops down, having enjoyed harassing the magpie, and lands on a branch above. It is Aderyn.

“Aw, the falcons missed you, buddy,” Tric calls over his shoulder to Mate. Lacking a proper armguard, Tric wraps his empty waterskin around his arm and secures it. He cues Mate to whistle, since neither Tric nor Heppa were able to get the hang of the call. The magpie sounds the descending note while Tric purses his own lips. The ventriloquist act proves sufficient; Aderyn comes down from the tree to Tric’s arm. He fishes around in a pouch for an old field mouse Mate gave him and offers it to the falcon as payment for her services. Tric removes the message tube, and she takes her snack back up to the perch she found in the tree above.

As Aderyn enjoys her meal, the elves look over the two letters she carried. They are addressed to both Hepalonia and Tric Manu and are on small scrolls in Damal’s fine handwriting. One letter is from Lady Glynnis. She reports that her husband Sir Marthynec is doing better with his new medicines and his new old dog. Damal followed up with them after his consultation with Heppa and was able to provide an improved concoction that works better for Marthynec. Tric had suggested some animal therapy, which has helped, too. Marthynec has even been able to get out on his horse more, and they are looking to restable it at their own house instead of leaving it at the livery. The elves are pleased to learn this news.

The second letter is Manu business. It reports that the last known Manu to start an expedition across the Sandy Wastes were based out of Dan’Tonk. The Manu who settled in Hisanham were originally from the other side of the enormous desert, but a huge storm changed the landscape, erasing their ability to rejoin the rest of the Dunefolk. Tric believes crossing back would be an impressive thing to accomplish, but only if no one else has already done it. Alric had offered to ask around about whether anyone ever had, and this lead is all he is able to provide. For further information about that expedition, such as the route they planned, the elves will need to go to Dan’Tonk themselves and pick up the trail there. 

The Hisanham survivors in Dan’Tonk include the lenscrafter who would be able to make an eyepiece for Heppa. Her options are either to go to that city and purchase from that Manu directly or to request one be shipped to South Tower, which would be a far greater expense. The shipping could take a long time and risks damaging the delicate equipment. A trip to Dan’Tonk might be worthwhile, but not until after Kachen’s visit, certainly.

Aderyn seems in no hurry to leave, giving them time to craft replies if they wish. Heppa certainly wishes to send something back, but Tric just asks her to include a thank you from him to Alric for the lead on the expedition. He looks forward to following up on that at some point. For her part, Heppa has a list of questions for Damal that she has been amassing as she has experimented with her alchemy supplies. She would like to send him some of Fenowin’s pollen, too, for his ideas on a dissemination technique or even just other ways to neutralize the dapper inkcap’s active agent. Initially, Heppa intends to get two tiny letters of her own and a sample to fit into the tube Aderyn carries. However, there is just too much to communicate, and her writing is not quite fine enough yet. Eventually she abandons that idea and accepts that she will be sending a full-blown envelope back with the bird. Once she embraces that approach, it frees her up to include both a larger sample and more wordy messages. She includes a large enough packet of pollen for Damal to run some experiments, explaining that the danger to the elves is too great for them to do so themselves. She invites Damal to try if he is interested and provides the observations she has been able to make.

Heppa also writes a letter to Alric, thanking him for the leads on crossing the Sandy Waste. She is unsure of how personal to get in the letter, but Aderyn does deliver directly to Alric, so only she and he will ever see it. With that realization, she allows herself to write comfortably, telling him about how she enjoyed the blaand with her sister, who did not care for it as much. She rambles on about how dairy is not a significant part of the elvish diet, and that is probably what turned Lala off from the taste, even though Heppa really likes it. She includes various other anecdotes from the village and asks how Alric is doing. She ends the letter by saying that she misses him and she hopes to see him again soon. She includes a pressed sunpetal flower, a reminder of the chamomile tea they shared. If there is one thing she learned at the Full Bloom Festival, it is that humans are fascinated by flowers.

When all is said and done, the packet is definitely bulkier than a tiny message tube, but flat enough and short enough to still work. “Sorry about the envelope!” Heppa scrawls across the outside. She hopes Damal is not too disappointed in her when he sees the size of her handwriting. She has applied sealant to the whole thing, just in case Aderyn gets caught in the rain. When Tric holds her on his arm, the falcon consents to the indignity of having the packet secured against her chest. Heppa manages it in a way that will not interfere with her ability to fly, though it may slow her down by creating some drag. Once everything is in place, Aderyn takes off, doing a few turns above the elvish village to get used to the weight. Then she peels off toward the west, leaving the cousins to another month of peaceful village time before Kachen’s visit.