Echoes of Invasion: Staff Infection | Scene 8

Tric Manu bursts through the door into Heppa’s room. “I lost the staff.”

“It… the… the staff?” Heppa stammers out, startled. Truth be told, there is no creepy skull sticking out over her cousin’s shoulder. There is a magpie, though, and he is doing his stupid, stupid call at Tric. “How?!”

“I was out for a run, and it fell off my back. I didn’t notice right away.”

“You… you went running with it?!”

“Renwick and I were training,” he quickly explains. That is not what is important here. “Can Uncle Thran help us find it again? It’s got to be in the forest, and I’m worried Endathalas might have stumbled upon it and hurt himself. I think Uncle Thran would want to know, even if he can’t help find it.”

“We could go ask. I don’t know if he can. I would think scouts would be best…” Heppa says haltingly, her brain still trying to shift gears from rare sister-sister time to lost necromantic staff emergency.

“Renwick is already mobilizing Baeowin and a search party,” Tric tells her. “But maybe Uncle Thran has some ability or some way to detect it.”

“Oh! Magically?” Heppa looks to her sister. “Is that possible?”

Quaemilya has been listening to this whole conversation, but she has no idea what they are talking about. “Some staff is lost? Why would Father care?”

“It’s a magical staff the like of which your dad wanted us to find,” Tric explains. Heppa throws in that it is an artifact. “Has he ever shown you that he’s got this spooky-looking wand in his study?” Tric continues. “Imagine that, but four times longer and three times creepier.” That description is meaningless to Quaemilya, but Tric asks her to help anyway since she also has magical training.

“Yes, I can help you search for it,” she agrees.

“How?” Heppa asks, not dubious, but curious. “You can find magical things?” 

“Or can you talk to the forest animals and maybe they know where it went? Is that a thing?” Tric asks.

“I can help the scouts’ ability to search. Temporary, we can give ourselves Falcon Sight…” Quaemilya notices Heppa’s eyes widen a bit and her cheeks blush. Right, she mentioned that Alric Manu kept falcons. This is not the time to worry about that, though. “And… and we can use brambles to help clear the thickets.”

“That’s a good idea,” Tric says. “And we should do this before it gets dark. One, because it will be harder to find. And, two, because it might not be good to have that thing out there in the dark.”

“Mind you, these are shamanistic approaches to take. Father would not be able to do them. But if you feel Father might have some insight, by all means, go talk to him. I will go to Baeowin.”

“Thank you!” Tric says as his older cousin leaves.

“It was nice talking with you today, Lala!” Heppa calls after her.

* * *

Heppa takes Tric up to her father’s study. Along the way, she cautions Tric not to mention the name, and he assures her he will not. Anador is the farthest thing from his mind right now. Once in the library, Tric starts with, “Uncle Thran, good news, bad news. Heppa might have told you that we found a staff—”

“Ah, yes! Have you brought it?” Thrandolil asks eagerly.

“I was out for a run today and dropped it,” Tric admits upfront. “I have Renwick and Baeowin and others out looking for it right now. I wanted to let you know in case you have any other ability to help us find it. Otherwise, I’m going to go immediately back out and continue searching for it. I am so sorry.” Tric braces himself for the worst, unsure of what to expect, given what Heppa told him yesterday. And this is the second staff they have failed to deliver! His uncle could crack.

“Well, it can’t have gone far if you were just out jogging around the village,” Thrandolil says encouragingly. “Let’s not get worked up over insignificant things.”

Tric is not prepared to relax just yet. Uncle Thran has not seen what it can do. “Do you have any suggestions on how to look for it other than with one’s eyes or hands?” Tric asks, still urgent.

“I wish there was a dowsing rod for artifacts,” Heppa mutters, thinking out loud.

“Ah!” Thrandolil smiles at the suggestion. Encouraged, Heppa asks whether such a thing is possible. “Perhaps!” He goes over to a messy stack and starts shuffling through things, finally producing the half-rod he has previously shown them. He hands the broken necromantic artifact to Tric. “Perhaps you could try focusing your dowsing skill to seek out something that resonates with this.”

Tric is not thrilled about it, but he accepts the item since this problem is his responsibility. He is pretty sure he has nothing that qualifies as “dowsing skill” and is unsure on how to proceed. “It would be hard to convince him to do it, but my dad is the best dowser there is…”

Thrandolil shakes his head. “You are half-human. Aside from the fact that you’ve had the most recent contact with the staff we’re looking for, you’re the only one here who could possibly make this work. Elves cannot do necromancy.”

Heppa looks on, curious. She has meddled with that rod in the past and felt a cold drain from it. She wonders what her cousin will be able to do with it, since she is pretty sure he cannot use a dowsing rod properly. She has successfully used one herself, so she offers some advice on what to sense into.

Tric has no idea what he is doing, but he tries anyway. He holds the broken artifact loosely with just the tips of his fingers, as one should wield a dowsing rod in order to sense the subtle vibrations that water produces in it. He mutters to himself the whole time, hoping the words will help, though he has no real belief that they will. “I’ll try to see if I can get the same feeling…” The broken rod does not feel oppressive to the same degree as he now recognizes the staff was, but there is definitely some discomfort associated with it. “If I can just feel the way the incredibly cold wind felt when it was rippling through me, and the heaviness when the staff was touching me…” He cringes away from the memories. The internal shudder that this artifact produces, while not as pronounced, feels similar. It is unsettling and unnatural. “I just feel a cold weight from that,” he admits. “It’s like you’re caught out in the snow, and you’re trying to get inside. But you’re just knocking at the door, and you can’t get in, and it’s just too late! I’m… I’m sorry Uncle Thran. I’m going to put this down.” Tric sets the broken rod on his uncle’s desk, accepting failure at this task. Tric lets out a long breath. “Maybe I shouldn’t try to magic myself out of this situation.”

Thrandolil has no other suggestions for how to proceed, but Tric comes up with a new approach: looking for Endathalas instead. “If he stumbled upon the staff and knocked himself out with it—which I guarantee you could happen—then it might just be where he is. Also, we should find him, in general, because he’s missing, just to verify that he is all right.”

“Ah, well maybe Endathalas’s pony can help you, then,” Thrandolil suggests. “He is a scout, after all.”