In the morning, Tric drags himself out of bed, still feeling a bit rundown. He debates talking with Heppa to convince her that they should not give the staff to Uncle Thran at all. Heppa is a knowledgeable person; she should have some insight into this. However, she does not come knocking in the morning. Rather than seek her out, Tric decides it is time to go show Renwick up. He brings the staff with him; it would not be safe just to leave it lying around at home. He does leave behind his bow, though, choosing to instead bring the one his mother gave him. He also puts the mead in his backpack; it might come in handy.
Following the instructions he has from Baeowin, Tric finds Renwick in a small field with scout training equipment. The warrior is running through a series of stretches, limbering his muscles for the activities ahead. Endathalas is also there, less enthusiastically going through the same routine. Renwick rolls his shoulders one last time and reties his red headband to keep his long blond hair back. “Ah! Tric Manu!” he calls. “Come on over and start the warm-up. We’re going to be—”
“Yeah, that’s great. Baeowin said you could use a few tips, and since I’ve been around a bit—”
“Wait a minute!” Renwick straightens up. “That’s not what Baeowin told me.”
Tric feigns confusion. “Wait, but Baeowin told—This is a trick by Baeowin to get us to work together! She tricked us both. She’s crafty!” Tric spins a narrative they can both accept. “Look, we’re training together. It doesn’t really matter who’s training who.”
“So can I just leave, then?” Endathalas asks. Renwick orders him to go run a lap around the training course. Endathalas rolls his eyes, but he obeys, jogging off into the treeline.
Tric proposes he and Renwick start with some archery. Renwick is an accomplished swordfighter, but like most elves, he is comfortable with the bow. Tric pits his Dunefolk bow up against the traditional elvish one. Without offering any explanation, Tric takes out his strange bow and fires a shot with the new technique Mhaev showed him. He so far has not had much chance to practice with it, but he manages not to embarrass himself. The staff wedged between his jerkin and backpack, with its creepy skull sticking over one shoulder, does not interfere with the draw too much. Renwick, for his part, is not fazed by the strangeness of the bow or the staff. He coolly takes his shots, landing just as many arrows on-target as Tric does.
“Not bad,” Tric congratulates him. “You’ve been practicing, haven’t you?”
“It’s not practice; it’s work,” Renwick shoots back. “It’s my job. I’ve been defending the border. Do you have any idea how many humans we’ve had coming around the edges lately? At least—”
“Three?” Tric guesses. If Connie and Marvin have been down to talk about sourcing elderberries and Mari-Elin has switched her carting work, that would add up. Renwick nods. “But what about the things that run beneath the forest?” Tric asks. Renwick has no idea what Tric is getting at, so Tric tells him there are tunnels below their feet.
“What are you on about? There are no caves around here.”
“That you know of.”
“If you know something about the insecurity of our borders, take me there right now! If there are secret entrances to our forest, we need to know about that.”
A devious plan occurs to Tric. He wonders if he can make Renwick see such caves, even if they do not exist. Time to put this “gift of the gab” to the test! He takes the warrior into a rocky section of the forest where the stones are flecked mica and embedded with pyrite. “You can tell where the entrance is not just because there is a copse of rocks… You have to look for the right kind of minerals. Because I spent some time with dwarves, I know these things. Those of us who only spend time in the forest never get to learn about the rocks beneath. But trees need dirt, trees need air, trees need rocks. All these things make up a forest.” Tric rubs the sparkling rocks to punctuate his comments, trying to lull Renwick’s mind with the distracting glitters.
“This is just a bunch of rocks,” Renwick says. “I know dwarves are shorter than elves, but there is no way anyone other than gophers could fit through these holes here.”
Seeing that he has perhaps overreached himself, Tric admits that he was trying to pull a fast one on Renwick. “You saw through it, that’s good!” Tric congratulates him.
“So now it’s my turn,” Renwick rejoins.
“The obstacle course.”
“Pfff! Not a problem,” Tric says smoothly. “I’ll go first.” As soon as he disappears into the treeline, Tric tells Mate that if he helps him find a shortcut now, Tric will help the magpie gather roosting materials later. Tric does the first leg to the course, vaulting fallen logs and swinging across a stream. Then he diverts from the muddy section with thick thorns, cutting instead across the forest to the fourth section of the course that Mate has scouted out.
When Tric gets back to the open glade, he is a little winded, but he feels pretty good. “You know what,” he tells Renwick, “that was actually a good run. I do feel better. So thanks! That was a good idea.” Tric is surprised, himself, but pleased. He does a few cool down stretches, and in the process, notices that the staff is gone. “Oh, dropped my staff, didn’t I?” Renwick offers to go back along the course with him to look for it. “We need to carefully retrace it, though,” Tric cautions. “We can’t be running; we need to check carefully. It’ll be a good test of our eyes,” he adds lightly. He hopes he did not drop it during his shortcut or it will be more difficult to locate.
As they slowly retread the course, Tric tells Renwick about how they fought some skeletons to get the staff. Renwick double checks that this did not happen anywhere near Estbryn. “No, it was several days from the edge of the forest. Also, on my travels, I learned that a forest is more than a single tree,” Tric shares. Renwick looks at Tric, incredulous, not at the truth of his statement, but that it was something he had to learn. They continue looking for the staff, and Tric tells him about the woses, Roombledoombledeur, and the fungal network.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, things underground? Right…” Renwick says dismissively. “That Tric Manu!”
But as they search around, Tric and Renwick do build up a bit of rapport. They do not manage to find the staff, though. Tric grows more concerned as time goes on. He describes the feeling of the purple blast that came from the staff. To Renwick, it sounds like this is a dangerous item on the loose. He recommends sounding the alarm with Baeowin to get the scouts out in force canvassing the area. “It’s dangerous if somebody misuses it, but I feel like Uncle Thran is the best person to secure it,” Tric counters. “So he can study it for defensive purposes. He sent us out to get something just like that.”
“But it needs to be found,” Renwick argues.
“Yes, you’re right. I just don’t want to make a big stink about us dropping a stick,” Tric says. He does not want to alarm people unnecessarily and make them fearful of the object. He also would prefer for everyone not to know that he messed up by losing it. He thinks out loud, going back and forth with himself over what they should do. “But it’s not just a stick; it does need to be found… If somebody accidentally came across it without knowing… Of course, it does have a pretty big, clear ‘don’t touch’ sign on it, what with the creepy skull.”
“It’s dangerous. That’s what we’re trained to deal with. These things happen, Tric,” Renwick says, not giving him any hassle over it. “It’s what the alarm protocol is for. Baeowin can rally search crews to find this thing.”
“Uncle Thran might have a way of detecting it,” Tric suggests.
“Great. You go to your uncle, and I’ll talk with Baeowin,” Renwick agrees.
“Perfect. You’ve seen it, so you know what it—Wait, where’s Endathalas?” Tric asks. “He should have been back by now. He started the course before I did. Granted, I ran it pretty fast, but… If he stumbled across it, he might have just picked it up. He could have accidentally activated it and hurt himself.”
“All right, let’s do this, then!” Renwick runs off to where the scouts lodge, leaving Tric to go get his uncle.