Early the next morning, Hepalonia and Tric Manu leave their settlement intending to visit the southern battlefield. Even for its inhabitants, Estbryn Forest can be rather dense at times, so they decide to avoid the thick patches by heading east to the forest’s edge and then following it southward until they find evidence of previous elvish activity. As they hike, Heppa asks her cousin whether he has any other magical tools-of-the-trade. Tric Manu pats himself down, making a show of checking, then holds up his waterskin. “This is how you find water; you bring it with you.”
“Is that how you determine your baseline?” she asks.
Oh, that’s probably right, Tric realizes. “Well, that’s certainly one use for it,” he says matter-of-factly.
“Just like taring a scale,” Heppa suggests.
“Yeah,” Tric agrees. “But you don’t want to tear your waterskin. Oh! But I brought you something!” He fishes around in his bag and produces one of his father’s dowsing rods. “You seemed really interested, and my dad has so many, so…” he shrugs and hands it over.
Having already tried it once, Heppa is not as curious as she was yesterday. Although, I didn’t get it to work right… She accepts it and thanks him graciously, as she has been raised.
“It ain’t much, but it’s honest work. That’s what Dad always says,” Tric quotes.
“‘The only thing between you and knowledge is experience,’ Daddy always says!” his cousin replies.
Then she asks if the rod from his father’s collection works the same way that his own does, and Tric has to hastily pull together another answer. “I think so… That might be made from a different type of tree…” There is no way he is going to admit that he has never used the one he just gave her.
Over the next few days, the trees thin out a good deal, but there are still trees, so neither cousin feels it is time to turn south yet. Camping is certainly rougher than village life, and so much walking wears them out. The terrain seems to just be going up and up. Along their way, Tric points out a variety of inedible mosses and continues to find not-water. “You didn’t even use your rod,” Heppa finally observes.
“Well, I’ve had a lot of practice,” Tric counters.
Yeah, a lot of practice not finding water. Heppa may not have much experience, but she is pretty smart. Given how difficult she found using Tric Manu’s dowsing rod, she wonders if maybe her cousin is just not very good at it. Thinking that he may not realize that himself, she decides not to call him out on it. That night they have another dinner of treats from the pantry, which may not have been the healthiest selection for their current activity level. They also brought oats and beans, as well as other foods to prepare, but somehow, neither of them grabbed a pot, so those items are rather useless right now. Heppa is starting to gain an appreciation for what goes on behind the scenes in her home to provide the fancy meals her mother insists on.
“This is perfect!” Tric announces from his bumpy bedroll, a bag of useless—and heavy—flour for a pillow.
“What this means is that we’re going to have an excellent journey. It’s going to start terrible,” he says excitedly. “Then it’s going to get worse. Then it’s going to get awesome. That’s how all of Breda’s stories go.”
“My tummy hurts,” Heppa observes. “Do the stories mention that?”
“That means we’re just in the first part!”
“I wish we had a magic pot,” Heppa reflects.