Echoes of Invasion: The Inquest | Scene 1

It has been several days since the Battle for Estbryn. Those who were wounded have been mostly healed, though the forest itself will take longer to recover and nothing (other than a necromancer) can bring back the two elves who died. Kachen has spent the time since the defeat of the undead in his small hut under house arrest, often in conference with Hepalonia and Tric Manu. Now, though, he finds himself in High Lord Volas’s manor, where the council is fully gathered. In addition to the high lord, six other elvish nobles, including Heppa’s mother Lady Penna, are seated on intricately carved wooden chairs at the front of the hall. The building is more natural-looking than an equivalent human structure would be, but it is still an interior space with walls and a ceiling. On Kachen’s way in, he was led through the brambly palisade behind which elvish civilians hid during the undead attack. Some of those civilians are here now as an audience, having taken up High Lord Volas on his invitation that anyone who wants to observe the deliberation process and everything that goes into Volas ultimately making his decision is welcome to be present.

Kachen sits quietly, arms folded and hands tucked inside the long sleeves of his dark gray robes. Although the elvish setting is new, this general production is something he has been through before. For his part, Kachen remains silent, unwilling to say anything to the unknown elves here that could potentially be used against him. He has already discussed his situation with Tric and Heppa, and they have assured him that they will handle this elvish process on his behalf. He has trusted them with relevant information, though he hopes they will not have to reveal it all.

The high lord opens the session by announcing that he is in no hurry to make a decision. “We will sit here, and we will talk, and we will see how it all goes,” he says calmly. “I want everyone to have a chance to air this all out.” Arguments against Kachen are being made by the forest’s storyteller and keeper of cultural lore, an older elf named Breda. Her assistant is a young shaman, Dicllon, who was involved in the recent fighting. Kachen has heard that one of the two elvish casualties was another shaman. Bitterness about that is likely what fuels the piercing glares that Dicllon keeps throwing across the room. 

“This human here, Kachen, is the cause of the undead that came,” Breda begins. “Undead that killed two of our fellow elves and burnt a swath of our forest. This is not the first time that such things have happened. According to the respected dwarvish bard Glammur, a similar occurrence took place in Untdunben. This Kachen was there visiting and undead showed up. They attacked dwarves there and did nothing to him.” Breda is practiced at telling gripping stories but has less experience with this particular trial-type format. She addresses Volas and the council, but part of her is performing for the crowd, as well.

“The dwarves, they already went through this whole entire process,” Breda continues, gesturing at the tables of parchment spread out before her and the opposition. “They already expelled Kachen and told him never to come back to Untdunben again. There is no reason for us to doubt Glammur, who was recently with us for a stay and graciously helped us with our introduction to and negotiations with the dwarves of Untdunben. We have now established a relationship with those dwarves. Surely none of us are going to question Lord Knutan’s decision on this matter when we’ve seen evidence of the same thing in our own forest.”

Breda spent a lot of time with Glammur during their visit, so Tric and Heppa are not surprised that she knows this story. Still, as she relates this hearsay for consideration, Tric snorts and mutters, “I suppose we gave the dwarves some mining advice, so we should take legal advice from them…” He makes sure he is loud enough for his voice to carry, though quiet enough for it not to be viewed as an interruption. Then he takes a deep breath, steadying himself. Breda is a tough act to follow. He nods to Heppa, and she unfurls her map. 

“We, Heppa and I, were at Untdunben,” Tric announces. “We literally camped with Kachen in the Foul Fen above it. No undead attacked our camp there until long after he was gone.”

“I’d like to point out, if I may, how much undead activity there has been all over the place these past few months. We found some in the tunnels under here,” Heppa says, indicating the area around South Tower. “Kachen was nowhere near that.” At least, not when they were. Kachen has told Heppa he has been through that area before, but that was months before Ulf helped her and Tric find a necromancer’s staff there. “Gweddry ran from undead through the tunnels that lead to Untdunben. There’s probably undead littering those routes from the battles long ago.”

Heppa draws in more air and continues, “We also found some in the swamp here.” She shows off the region of the Estmark Hills that Tric has dubbed the Foul Fen. “They were not moving until we,” she indicates herself and Tric, “did anything.” Finally, Heppa points out a few other locations where they have heard reports of undead. “They’re all over the place!” she concludes. “I think we have an undead problem, actually. You can’t trip over a stick without it being an undead arm.”

As Heppa talks, Dicllon leaves Breda’s table to go summon a witness. Tric notices her looking his way and glances over his shoulder to see what might have caught her attention. Hunh, that is a weird root over there, he thinks, regarding the grown section of wall. No matter, though. Tric smoothly takes over speaking when his cousin is done with the geographical side of their argument. “We camped with Kachen at the outskirts of the swamp above Untdunben that Heppa has shown you. It was not until long after he departed that we were attacked by undead in that ruined fortress. Yes, we encountered a ghost, which I put down. Not once, but twice!” Tric cannot resist relating one of his classic tales. “Kachen was nowhere near there by that point. So you see, he is not the cause of this. He was literally not there.

Volas and the council are perhaps not as enamored of Tric’s ghost-slayer story as he himself is. The high lord is cool and considerate, not agitated like some of the audience. He is willing to hear both sides out, but he is here for an inquest, not for a show. He nods in acknowledgement of the cousins’ contributions, but then turns his attention back to Breda. Dicllon has led Renwick in for the storyteller to question.

“Heppa has shown us on a map many places where undead have been,” Breda opens. “But Kachen has been to some of those places, too. Tric has told us a ghost showed up at a keep where Kachen had been staying with them, a ghost that showed up days after Kachen. This is all quite circumstantial, and I do not find it very convincing, myself. Kachen showed up here, in our village, and four days later, an undead army did. It is simply a matter of sprouting time. The ghost still could have been related to Kachen, just as our attackers were. Where else have you encountered undead?” Breda turns to Tric and Heppa as though she is asking them, but she swiftly provides the answer herself. “In the tunnels. Tunnels that Kachen traveled through to reach Untdunben. Explanations exist. What Tric and Heppa observed could circumstantially support their position, but it can just as easily support others.”

Finally now, Breda addresses Renwick, who has been standing at attention, respectfully still and silent. “Renwick, help me paint a picture of what things were like on the first day of summer when Kachen arrived. Let’s walk through your conversation with Tric Manu regarding who was coming and what to be on the lookout for.” The scout provides a simple recounting of Tric’s request that he be on the alert for any danger. “What’s that you say? Trouble follows him?” Breda turns away from her witness and addresses the council. “Tric specifically told Renwick about this. It seems that Tric had some inkling already that something of this nature could happen.”

There is definitely some murmuring among the council members at this point. One of them suggests that the resolution of the matter is pretty clear. As he listens, Tric cringes internally. This is not good! He catches Aunt Penna’s eye, silently pleading with her to intervene anyway she can.

Penna speaks up, perhaps only to protect her family’s reputation. It was her daughter who invited Kachen into the forest, after all. “We must continue. The Accords decree that we hear out both sides. And there are other important witnesses, such as Lord Thrandolil and Lead Dowser Nasir. They have eyewitness testimony to offer, and we have not even heard from them yet. We mustn’t be too hasty in reaching our decision.”

Volas nods. To the council members who seem to have made up their minds already, he says, “Let’s give the young elves some time to talk. We’re not in a rush. The forest is not currently in jeopardy, and our lives are long. We can afford some time to make a proper decision.” Then, turning back to the participants, he announces, “Renwick, you are dismissed.”