Echoes of Invasion: Still Waters Run Deep | Scene 1

To the east, beyond the River Weldyn, in the lower regions of the Estmark Hills, stands a small forest of even smaller renown. On maps of the continent produced in the human kingdom of Wesnoth, it is marked, if at all, with but a handful of trees, and no name is attached to it. The elves that live there know it is but a copse when compared to the Great Forest. Small though it may be, it gives them everything they need for shelter, food, entertainment, and the connection to nature necessary to work their magics. To these elves, it is known as Estbryn Forest.

Although the forest provides much, the existence of the elves is not one of pure leisure. The surrounding lands are peopled with humans and even some orcs. The elves of Estbryn have had periodic conflicts with some along the edges of the forest. Unlike these other species, though, the elves do not overreach. They know their small forest intimately, and they withdraw to its core whenever trouble brews, as it seems to every few generations.

In addition to those elves who defend the borders, many practice trades to support and nurture the group of villages that form their small society. These foothills have a drier climate than the rolling plains north of them that lay between the River Weldyn and the Great River. Thus, one of the valuable crafts is water dowsing, which the elf Nasir has done his best to pass on to the next generation. Tric Manu, the recipient of many of those lessons, has not absorbed them at all.

“Kalenz was originally from the Great Forest,” Tric tells a child hanging on his words. “It used to be called the Greatest Forest, but when Kalenz left, they had to drop it to just great.” His young audience nods, and Tric is primed to continue talking about how Kalenz is really from—and of—all the forests. However, his storytelling is brought to halt by the arrival of Nasir. “H-h-how’s it going, Pop?” Tric stutters out.

Nasir puts a paternal arm around Tric’s shoulder and pulls him aside for a private conversation. “Now, my boy, the last time we sent you out, you once again reported that there was no water in that region.”

Tric pulls out a crumpled piece of parchment festooned with triangles and squiggles, a rough suggestion of a map. It is covered with X’s, which Tric points out. “It turns out the top of this mountain does not have water. Confirmed, no water here.” Another X. “I went over there; there was no water over there. Maybe we can call it Tric’s Dryhole. Two miles in that direction? Yup, I confirmed no water in that location.” His father is frowning at him. “Sorry, was I supposed to look for water?”

Nasir sighs. “It is traditional in the water dowsing profession for people to report where water is,” he offers as a patient reminder.

“I figure there’s a lot of people reporting where water is. Where the water isn’t, that’s what we don’t know, right?”

“My boy… I always thought that water dowsing was in your blood, but—”

“I’m pretty sure blood is made of water, at least a little bit,” Tric interjects.

“—I think maybe it is time for you to consider what you are going to do with your life.”

That’s a very diplomatic way of saying I’m a terrible water dowser… but I don’t want to be one anyway, so that’s fine with me! “Well, I’ve been…. Uh, some people have been saying I should take up hunting!” Nasir seizes on the practical suggestion and inquires how much Tric has been practicing. Tric equivocates, “Well, I don’t know how much time I would have been able to devote to that while I was so busy dowsing for water—or dowsing for no water, as the case may be. But, there’s a certain natural talent that, you know, maybe you’re right, that I should develop.”

“So should I try to find someone who is willing to take you on as an apprentice?”

“Uh… I don’t know if we want to waste someone’s time like that. There are a lot of other elves that need a lot of guidance. I mean, I go out there and it comes naturally to me! I figure it out on my own.”

“So maybe a scout sort of role, perhaps? My boy?” A tone of desperation seeps into Nasir’s words.

“That might be good. I mean, what was Kalenz’s job?”

“Well, Kalenz was a great noble, a leader of our people.”

“Sure,” Tric nods, upbeat. “He was a leader. And he was noble. And he was a person.”

“So you’ve got one of those,” his father observes.

“Right… but I’m pretty sure that I can reach that mark. I may not have as long as he did, though, so I’m going to have to pick up the pace.” Tric currently lacks whatever magical advantages Kalenz had, and on top of that, there is Tric’s inheritance from his human mother. He is not sure how many centuries he has to work with compared to a full-blooded elf.

“Those were tumultuous times, my boy,” Nasir points out. “If you’re looking for adventures, you’re not going to find them here. This is—very rightly so—a forest of peace and quiet and focus.”

“So where would you go looking for an adventure?” Tric asks his father, continuing under his breath, “That didn’t involve water dowsing.”

“I wouldn’t! I definitely wouldn’t! I had my fill of war.”

Tric pulls back, not wanting to upset his father. “I… I know, Dad. Let me ask you this then: where’s the last place you would go then? Where would you go farthest from? Maybe I should go to the desert… since I’m good at finding not-water…”

Nasir lets out a long breath. “My boy, I think you don’t grasp the point of water dowsing. A desert is where it is essential. That’s why it’s such an important craft for us, because our forest does get close to the Sandy Wastes on the south. People think that just because all the leaves are green around here that we have plenty of water. The water is deep underground, and we need to coax it up to help these plants. And that’s why water dowsing is an honorable—not noble, of course—but honorable profession…”

Tric has heard this speech before. Many, many times. He waits it out.

“Where would I go if I wanted to find adventure?” his father finally concludes. “I’d probably go to Breda. Or to your Uncle Thrandolil.” 

Tric perks up at that. He listens to Breda’s tales fairly often, but it has been a while since he has seen his uncle. Nasir’s older sister Penna married a noble, and that side of the family moves in different circles. “Uncle Thran likes to tell stories. They don’t always end up anywhere, though. But he has a nice library. He let me borrow that scroll on Kalenz. I think I gave it back…”

“Just, whatever you choose, my boy, there is a place for you in this forest,” Nasir assures him. “You just have to find it.”

“Yeah,” Tric nods. “So far I’ve been finding not that place.” He waves his map at his father. “But as you can see from this map, I’ve marked off a large number of not the right place. Was it the right time? Maybe. But definitely not the right place.” With his father’s encouragement, he heads to his uncle’s home.