Echoes of Invasion: Staff Infection | Scene 9

Tric and Heppa head over to the scouting station, stopping at Endathalas’s quarters for Tric to grab the scout’s pillow. At the stables, Heppa introduces Tric to Butterbell and Petunia. “Butterbell is my pony,” Heppa says happily, patting her nose. “Petunia is Lala’s.”

“Is it all right if I ride?” Tric asks. It will be easier to keep up with Milquetoast, Endathalas’s pony, if they are mounted.

“Yes! But I always ride Butterbell,” Heppa insists.

“That’s fine,” Tric says, taking Petunia’s reins. “I’m sure she’s a very nice pony.”

“She’s like a butterbell flower! White, with black spots.”

“Look, if you want some butterbell flowers, I can let Alric know,” Tric jokes, enjoying a moment of levity as his cousin giggles and blushes. Tric holds the pillow up to Milquetoast’s nostrils for a snuff and encourages him to find his rider. Heppa keeps up just fine on Butterbell, but Petunia is reluctant to cooperate with a stranger. Tric ends up following on foot, consoling himself that he is really more of a ranger than a scout, and that Mate is better than a pony any day.

Shamans are busy moving undergrowth with their brambles spells, and some quadrants have already been searched on foot by scouts with heightened vision. This has narrowed down the space for Milquetoast to explore, and the pony finds Endathalas in a beautiful little clover patch. The scout is unconscious on the ground with the necromancer’s staff lying nearby but not in physical contact with him. Tric is alarmed when he sees the elf’s state but also relieved to have found the artifact. He is extra wary of it now, which is why he has brought along the tongs that Heppa unearthed in Hisanham to pick the staff up without touching it himself.

Heppa dismounts from Butterbell to tend to Endathalas. She sees no visible injuries on him and is able to rouse him with some pungent herbs. His eyes blink open, confusion in them. “I must have hit my head; I tripped over something,” he tells her. 

“Do you remember feeling a cold shudder inside?” Tric asks.

“That… that sounds familiar,” Endathalas agrees.

Heppa runs through the standard questions of does he know who she is, who he is, how many fingers she is showing, and so forth. He answers satisfactorily, but he seems exhausted to her. He is not just worn out from running the scout training course; Heppa is confident that he has suffered a magical attack from tripping over the staff and inadvertently triggering it.

Endathalas pushes himself to sitting, swaying a bit. “Good news,” Tric tells him, “you don’t have to walk back.” Milquetoast nuzzles Endathalas, and he pulls himself to standing with the pony’s help. “I do apologize for all this,” Tric adds, encouraging him to take the rest of the day off to get rest. 

Heppa gives that recommendation a medical endorsement, worried that he might not be up to riding. Endathalas has had more advanced scout training than she has, though, including working with his pony to ride when incapacitated. He assures her Milquetoast will take care of him.

Tric holds the staff as far away from him as possible with the rusty old fire tongs. “All right… let’s keep a close eye on it. And please keep a close eye on me,” he tells Heppa. “There’s something about carrying this thing. It feels heavy, but you just don’t want to drop it.”

“You’re lucky it didn’t go off when you did,” Heppa tells him. “It would’ve knocked you out right here.”

“Yes, let’s get this to Uncle Thran, the professional in this.” Tric passes word to nearby scouts that they can call off the search.

“It was a good drill, I guess,” Heppa says as they head back.

“It wasn’t a drill!” Tric is relieved that it is all over. He introduced the problem, but at least he dealt with it.

As they head back, Heppa marvels over Endathalas’s bad luck. There is a whole forest, and he just happened to run through the area where the staff fell. Tric points out that they were doing the same training course, so it was not as random as it seems. He is surprised she did not recognize the course herself. Heppa has only had about as much formal scout training as shaman training, though. They did not cover the obstacle course in that first semester.