“There is a message for Hepalonia,” Damal announces as he enters the kitchen. He regards the elf for a moment. “Can you read?”
“Yes, of course,” Heppa replies. The scribe hands her a small crinkled piece of parchment that must have been crammed into Aderyn’s carrying tube. It is not a long thin sheet with fine, tiny writing like the message she sent. Heppa will study it more closely later, but for now she takes a quick glance. I will come at the start of summer. K. The handwriting is smaller than in the letter Kachen left them at the keep, and the ink is somewhat smudged. Presumably there was no scribing service at the other end of the communication, and Kachen did the best he could.
“There’s a message for Heledd as well,” Damal tells Alric, “but I don’t think she should be dealing with these things in her current state.”
Alric pointedly replies, “I think she would appreciate knowing what that says in her current state.” The quiet stare-off between them is tense but short. Damal cracks first and steps into Alric’s bedroom, pulling the door shut behind him.
Whatever Heledd’s allies are going to do, they need to move quickly to prepare. Sleidr will certainly want to find a buyer, and Tric insists that they need to act today. “Sleidr probably knows he didn’t kill Heledd,” he says. “Heledd is not going to go to the town watch, but he might not know what other resources she has available. Additionally, given the blood and the tracks, he may also be injured from Heledd stabbing him back.”
“Maybe that is why they did not kill her,” Heppa suggests.
“The consequences of killing Heledd would be different from mugging her,” Alric points out.
“Right,” Tric says. “Because then it is a murder, and, well, it wouldn’t matter if you went to the guard then.” It occurs to him that Alric might also have acted differently if his waitress and friend had been killed. The Falcon does not let murder happen on his streets.
Heppa slips Kachen’s note into a pocket and returns to the matter at hand, inquiring of Alric whether he has ideas regarding defense against these throwing knives.
“It would certainly benefit you to have some of the antivenom on hand if it is possible to make more or if Damal is willing to part with some of his. He might even have something you could take ahead of time,” Alric advises. “Regarding the knives themselves…” he thinks a moment and then looks Heppa up and down. “Actually… you are about the same build as Heledd. If you borrowed her cloak, that would make it harder for a knife to hit its mark on you. The way they swing about the body obscures the target.” Alric offers his own cloak to Tric, who is similar in build to himself. It is of no distinct appearance that would associate it with the Parting Glass. Tric is a little disappointed, as he had hoped it might have a falcon stitched across it.
At this point, Tric realizes he had misunderstood Alric’s reason for bringing Heledd’s clothes into this. “I thought you meant for Heppa to impersonate Heledd to get their attention.”
Alric’s eyes go wide. “No!” That sounds like a terribly dangerous idea to him.
“You bring up a good point, though, Tric Manu,” Heppa says. “We are sort of recognizable. If we don’t want this getting back to the Parting Glass…”
“You’re right,” her cousin agrees. “It’s not exactly a secret that Tric Manu can be found at the Parting Glass in the evening for a raucous, good tale.”
“And how many elves are in this city?” Heppa points out.
“One and a half,” Tric answers. “All right, so we’ll need some disguises if we’re going to be buyers.”
Heppa asks Alric, “Do you know anything about disguises?” It is Tric Manu who answers in the affirmative. He spends time hiding his ears, and some people they meet are uncertain as to whether he is a human or an elf. “But you’re half-and-half; I’m not!” Heppa observes. Her cousin suggests a bigger headband, but she is not sure that will be sufficient. Covering her ears with her hands, she asks her companions, “Can you tell I’m an elf?” Tric Manu nods. “Alric, can you tell?”
“Yes…” he draws the word out, trying to find a way to articulate why. “You have a certain otherworldly grace about you…” Hepalonia blushes, and Alric does too when he realizes how his response sounds. His eyes search for somewhere else in the room to look, and they settle on the cleaning rags near the washing basin. He snags one with his right hand while Tric recommends Heppa slouch more. Alric knows that will not be sufficient. “If you want to attempt to impersonate a human, you’re going to need more than just a cloak. Your clothes are cut of the forest, both of you. You’ll need to re-outfit.” He presses the rag against his sluggishly bleeding left forearm.
Heppa gasps, suddenly realizing that he is hurt; more than just Heledd’s blood is on his sleeve. “I can see to that, Alric,” she tells him. “What happened to you out there?!” Alric is growing more mysterious and fascinating by the moment.
“Oh, that was just from catching Aderyn without my guard on,” he reassures her.
Tric pulls his bow off his shoulder and looks it over, worried that it is also too distinctly elvish and should be left behind when they dress up so that no one knows that they are elves.
“If you could disguise us that well, you could disguise Alric,” Heppa tells her cousin.
“The stakes are a little higher for Alric,” Tric counters. “If things go badly for us with the Rats, maybe we just don’t come around South Tower so much. No, we don’t need to involve Alric directly.” The barkeep continues to spin ideas with them, though. A fancy, floppy hat would both conceal Heppa’s attenuated ears as well as cast much of her face in shadow. Tric suggests Gwaffalyn might be able to lend one, and Heppa considers just donning a veil. She has not been paying much attention to human fashion, though, so those might not be common enough around here to go unremarked. Generally speaking, Gwaffalyn seems a good source for advice on stylishly replacing their leathers.
Although humans do come in the same skin color as Heppa, she is on the absolute extreme end of paleness. If the whole idea is to make sure they are not recognized, they should try to obscure that. Alric thinks Damal would have something that could darken her skin tone up a bit, like henna or coffee, while Tric is confident dirt and long sleeves will work just fine.
They decide to have Heppa pose as a wealthy noblewoman from somewhere far away, and Alric suggests Elensefar. “Sure!” Tric does not admit that he has not heard of it. “That’s probably better than Alduin. There are only mages there, right? Oh, wait, Heppa does magic. Yes, perfect. She’s a wealthy mage!” Tric nods to himself, liking this approach.
“Does that change how you see me?” Heppa asks Alric. His uncle’s opinion of magic seemed more than just personal, like maybe a product of the culture he was raised in. Alric is also a Manu, though so far he has seemed very easygoing, much like Terwaen.
“I do not have any special opinions of mages,” Alric tells her with a smile. “I know a few.”
“Yes, yes, this could work…” Tric continues hashing out the plan. “And I could be your negotiator, your functionary, so you wouldn’t have to talk a lot.” He himself will try to avoid typical elvish sayings like, “Moss below!” but he will not be claiming to be a local guide, so it is all right if his accent is a little strange.
Since they are trying not to appear as elves, Alric tells Tric, “You might want to just ditch the headband completely and floof your hair all the way out.”
Tric lets out a long breath. “There’s a lot of hair,” he warns. But he pulls off the red bandana, and his dark brown corkscrews spring out in all directions, unrestrained at last. His mildly pointed ears are lost in the curls.
Alric laughs, “Yes, I know; my hair would do that too if I didn’t keep it cut short.”
“Won’t it be suspicious for us to just bump into Sleidr and say we heard he had rings to sell?” Heppa brings up.
A proper plan is coming together in Tric’s mind, and he lays it out for his cousin. They will circulate among the merchant carts at the festival, talking quite openly about the type of ring she wants, but finding flaws with whatever those sellers have on hand. “You’ll have some very exacting and arbitrary requirements because you’re a mage,” he tells her. “Sleidr will probably be hanging around there because he is looking for a buyer. That’s where the people interested in jewels are, people who won’t be in town long. I’m sure Yrogin can help with setting up the con, getting Sleidr to overhear us. He owes me, and he’s not the kind of man who wants to have debts hanging around. Anyway, once we have our deal made with Sleidr, we tell him we don’t have the money with us. We invite him to a ‘secure’ location, and bam! Yes… Yes, I think we’ve got the makings of a plan here!” Tric concludes, pleased.
“You’re really good at this, Tric Manu,” Heppa compliments him.
“Thank you. You know, I try to pay attention, pick things up,” he replies with false humility.