Echoes of Invasion: Still Waters Run Deep | Scene 5

“Well, well, well, do I hear the dulcet tones of Tric Manu?” the bicentenarian asks rhetorically as she looks up from the hedge she is shaping. The youngster introduces Breda to his cousin. “Yes, I remember Hepalonia!” she says. “You used to come and sit around the fire circle and listen to stories when you were just a tiny tot!”

Politeness has been ground into Heppa by her mother over the years. “Hello, Breda. How are you this fine day?”

After she acknowledges the greeting, the storyteller inquires about what she can do for her visitors. Tric takes the lead. “Uncle Thrandolil asked Heppa and me to go look for some things for him in the Estmark Hills. And I thought, well, you were talking about that place recently, so, I just wanted to double check some things about it…”

“Have you been there?” Heppa asks. Sources of new information are always welcome, in Heppa’s view.

“Yes, yes, in my young days I did get around quite a lot. It is a bit of an unruly place. Not quite enough trees to be comfortable for very long. And those hills, they can be quite tiring to walk through, I’ll tell you that much.”

Curious and a bit alarmed, Heppa asks, “What happened to the trees? Is that from the battle?”

Breda chuckles. “No, no, it’s just an elevation sort of thing, really. The higher up you get—”

“Are you sure it’s not that the orcs cut down all the trees?” Tric cuts in.

“It is a sad truth that many trees are lost to orcs,” Breda acknowledges with a sigh.

Oh, sweet! That was just a guess! Tric inwardly cheers. I’ve got this storytelling thing down pat. “Uncle Thrandolil wanted us to look for signs of the battlefield,” he tells Breda.

“Which battle?”

The battle… The one from thirty or so years ago,” Tric says.

“In the north,” Heppa chimes in, pointing that way.

“No, the south,” counters Tric, with an opposing gesture. 

The cousins look at each other in confusion, and Breda attempts to clarify the history of fighting in the region. In her very long life, there have been many battles, not just one. Even limiting it to a battle in the south against undead is not enough to narrow it down to a specific incident. Her audience is unconcerned about this, though, since that just gives them more chances to find what they are seeking. After all, Thrandolil indicated that the rods might be found with any fallen necromancer. They consider going for the nearest battleground or maybe the biggest battle that Breda can recall.

“I can only provide a really detailed accounting of the battles that were closest, but the Estmark Hills are riddled with battle sites. People can never quite get along, and some believe there is a source where this unrest comes from even farther beyond the hills. The Bitter Swamp lies that way, but I’ve personally never been that far east. The hills are sprinkled, too, with small settlements of people scratching out a life there, even some larger ones as well. And Wesnoth is pushing ever farther into them, so there could even be towns in there now. But that comes and goes, you know; they claim the hills now, but the day will come when they retreat from whatever they have messed up or awoken. Or they will fail to keep watch, and some new horror will come rolling through. These lands never remain settled for long…”

The geography lesson over, Breda moves back to events. “But you were asking about battles. It is true we had some skirmishes with some groups of humans who were getting too close to our forests, claiming some of them and cutting down our trees… I don’t know that I would call it a war, but there were definitely a few battles. A number of our folks were stationed down at the southern edge of our forest for a length of time. We tried to have a peaceful arrangement with that group of humans. It worked for a while, but tensions heated up and there was some fighting back and forth, it’s true. It did come to blows. But that was about the same time that Mal-Ravanal was picking up his necromantic activity. When the threat of the undead approached, the disputes that existed between us and the humans south of us paled in comparison. I don’t know what became of those humans because we drew back more tightly into our forests to secure our own lands. But along the way, as we headed to the thicker core of the forest, the band was attacked by undead, and not everyone made it out.” She directs these final comments at Tric Manu.

“So there is what you might term a battlefield on the southern edge of our forest. And there are certainly battlefields scattered throughout the Estmark Hills. If what you are looking for happens not to be in the battlefield to the south, you could try asking the various denizens of the Estmark Hills if they have historical memory of where important battles took place. Getting back to your earlier confusion, there was also fighting at the time on the northern side of our forest when… what was his name… Gweddry! Gweddry was the leader of the humans. When Gweddry brought their party through here. He’s earl these days of the Estmark branch of Wesnoth. We’ll see how long that tree remains…” Breda’s speech draws to a close and she realizes it was lacking the customary embellishments usually provided by the lad before her. “You’re awfully quiet, Tric Manu.”

“Yeah… just… just taking a lot in. I’m surprised I haven’t heard about these skirmishes before.”

“Well, why would we talk about them? Those humans don’t bother us anymore. Mal-Ravanal’s forces are in the ground where they belong. Wouldn’t you like to hear another story about Kalenz? Perhaps one of Cleodil?” That is the real past, from before Breda’s lifetime. What she has been telling them so far today is just barely beyond the present, practically current events.

“I really would,” Tric replies, “but I promised Heppa we’d get an early start.”

“Yes! It was a pleasure spending time with you,” Hepalonia chimes in, remembering her manners.

“Well, good luck on your exciting adventure! Maybe you will bring back a tale for storytellers three hundred years from now to relate.”

“Definitely, I think,” Tric tells her with a smile.