Echoes of Invasion: There’ll Be Heledd to Pay | Scene 22

Hepalonia has been quiet while Tric Manu and his mother worked through some of their issues. She was only paying partial attention to what they were talking about, something ambush-related, she thinks. Mostly, she has been preoccupied with various pieces of information. She feels like she has most of the pieces, and that some understanding is just beyond her grasp. Something about Sir Marthynec is niggling at her, but she cannot quite put her finger on it. 

Mhaev has taken them up another flight and pointed out a few more items, but what Heppa is most interested in has not even been mentioned yet. “I heard there’s a library,” Heppa states into a conversational lull, “and your lady is a scholar.” Mhaev pauses them where they are and sends a guard off to find out whether Lady Sabine is available for an audience. While he is gone, they remain in place so that Mhaev can keep her eye on the man’s post.

“You’re really in charge here,” Tric marvels at his mother.

“All the guard staff is under my command,” she acknowledges. “I am captain of the guard.

“I didn’t fully understand what that meant,” he admits.

While they wait, and Mhaev guards, she tells them some about Lady Sabine’s library. There are various items on display there. “If we’re lucky enough that she grants you an audience, you can maybe see Gweddry’s amulet there.” Heppa asks what its story is, and Mhaev recounts how after the fall of the Southern Outpost, Gweddry’s army fled Mal-Ravanal’s minions through the caverns below. Tric is surprised she does not restructure the retreat as some sort of redeployment, but just baldly admits that they fled. Given how much flak Estbryn elves have been taking for retreating into their own forest, he would have expected different. But then, he supposes she would argue that at least they stood and fought first, just like at Hisanham.

“In the underground cave system, Gweddry found an amulet. No one knows its provenance, but Dacyn, the great mage who was Gweddry’s advisor, recognized it as being imbued with the Light. Gweddry wore it for the rest of the campaign, and it empowered his strikes with the force of magic. That was one of the few ways that someone who wields a sword could actually be effective against some of these unnatural horrors that Mal-Ravanal commanded.” Mhaev lays out the events as they were lived, not dressing them up as a story the way Tric would—the way he will, when he gets the opportunity. Regardless of how she phrased it, Tric heard an amazing story, one he will enjoy relaying himself.

Heppa is excited by the chance to see yet another artifact. Soon enough, the guard returns and reports that Lady Sabine is in her library and willing to entertain a brief interruption of her work. Mhaev chuckles a little at that and assures the elves that compared to the festival, they will be merely a slight deviation from her research.

As they mount the next flight of stairs, Tric mutters, “Oh, if only she knew,” certain that his cousin will pepper the lady with questions.

* * *

Lady Sabine’s library is a much larger room than Thrandolil’s study and has far more desks as well. There are many bookshelves, and each has a chair and desk by it so that one can just pull a book and begin work without the inconvenience of crossing the room. There are far more writing stations in here than are necessary for a single person, but there is no evidence of an apprentice. Several shadow boxes are on display, their lace screens pulled back so that their contents are visible. Jewelry sparkles against dark velvet backgrounds. One such display case holds a single necklace.

When they enter, Mhaev performs the introductions. “These are visitors from the Estbryn Forest, my lady. This is Hepalonia of House Thrandolil. And this is… this is my son, Tric Manu, also of the Estbryn Forest.” Tric makes a little bow and says what a pleasure it is to meet Lady Sabine, demonstrating to his mother that he can behave—even though he has a bird on him.

“Thank you for granting us an audience,” Hepalonia says, unsure of whether this means they can just flip through books or if the woman will be willing to converse.

The lady herself is seated at the central desk. She is wearing a gray gown similar in color to this morning’s dress, but this one has red piping and white frills at the neck collar. She has olive skin and looks to be middle-aged, but her hair is a deep black with no sign of gray. When she speaks, Hepalonia sees all teeth seem to be present. “Ah, yes, was there… was there something you wanted?” she asks, a bit distractedly. “Or just to look around? I can spare a few moments, certainly.” She closes the book that was occupying her attention.

“I think Heppa just wanted to converse with a fellow scholar,” Tric says. That is his final contribution to the discussion for a while. His mother has assumed a guard position just inside the door, and he falls back to join her there, his head full of story material. He recasts the library as an academic war zone with parchments scattered across every flat surface.

“Yes! If you don’t mind. I understand that you are a mage?” Heppa asks.

“Yes, yes, I am. I am an arch mage,” Lady Sabine corrects her. 

Heppa apologizes for not knowing the appropriate human terms and then barrels ahead with her questions. “I was wondering if I could ask if you know anything about different magics, like the difference between elvish magic and human magic. I think they tap into different sources—that’s my current theory—but I wanted to ask a proper mage to see what they thought.”

“I don’t know anything personally about elvish magic. It’s not anything that humans find of interest. But certainly there are different sources of power that humans tap into—the arcane versus the light. I myself do not waste my time on the day-to-day drudgery, not when there are so many fascinating crafted items that tap into untold powers.”

“So your interest is in artifacts?”

Lady Sabine brightens up enormously. She stands and gestures around the room. “This is my collection.” Then she escorts Heppa to the display case with the solitary necklace, a chain with a single gem on it. “This is what my husband has contributed to it. This is Gweddry’s amulet, famed in story and song. But of course what is most interesting about it is not whatever battles it was in but what it is capable of channeling.” Her interest is clearly in the power that the amulet is able to focus and not the uses to which such power could be put.

“It has a gem—is the gem the rune?” Heppa asks. “Are all artifacts based on rune magic?” That is not something Lady Sabine has ever heard of. “I know the dwarves have runemasters who craft magical items. Usually if it’s a runestone, if you look closely at the gem you can see the rune marking what it is for.”

“That is very interesting,” Lady Sabine murmurs. “There are a number of artifacts—amulets and things like that, as well as some of the great pieces, like the Ruby Scepter, the Hammer of Thursagan, and so forth—that dwarves have played a role in forging over the ages. But nobody has yet put forth this theory that the dwarves are applying some unique magic to them. That’s an interesting idea…” The excitement fades from her voice, and she continues, tinged with regret, “You would have to dismantle this to see whether there was any sort of runic carving on it, but of course we can’t ruin this piece of art.”

“I don’t know if only dwarvish runemasters can create those,” Heppa shares, “but my understanding is that there is usually a mark.” Heppa requests to simply look closely at Gweddry’s amulet, and Lady Sabine consents. The arch mage lifts it out of its display case and holds it up at eye level for Heppa to examine. She is allowed to run her finger gently along it, but Lady Sabine does not let the elf take it from her. “Have you tried to activate it?” Heppa asks.

Lady Sabine laughs, scandalized. “I’ve never struck anything with a sword while wearing it!”

“I will try not to activate it,” Heppa assures her as she lightly touches the gemstone. “Don’t know what it would do! I had an ice one once, and it made a lot of ice.” She concentrates, focusing on the crystal and trying to sense the energies flowing through it. It does not feel like the ice shard or the stolen rings, though. It might be a conduit of power, but it does not have the runic level like those pieces did. She announces her finding that Gweddry’s amulet does not have a rune.

“That fits what I have always found in my studies, that these amulets and rings are similar to a mage’s staff or an apprentice’s rod. They are magical implements with some ability.”

“Some of the other pieces may have runes if you look closely,” Heppa suggests. She then shares that she has seen a staff that had a rune attached to it, and the two components were usable separately. “But my father actually studies this a lot more than I do.”

“Interesting. Does he have a wide collection?” Lady Sabine asks, with a sweep of her arm. Aside from the books, there are necklaces, rings, bracelets, anklets…

“No, his library is much smaller than this. This is very impressive,” Heppa tells her. Lady Sabine asks if Heppa would be willing to facilitate correspondence between her and Thrandolil, and she happily agrees, certain her father would love the opportunity.

“How long will you be staying in our city?”

Unsure, Heppa does not answer the lady immediately, and into the silence, Tric injects, “We’re probably leaving after the festival tomorrow.” Lady Sabine trifolds a piece of parchment and then takes down on it where they are lodging so that she can have the letter for Thrandolil delivered there in the morning care of Hepalonia. She adds that she will include an elvish item that she would like Thrandolil’s professional opinion on, and Heppa assures her she will deliver it with great care.

Heppa looks at the artifacts for a while longer. Some of them appear to be rather minor pieces, and she suggests one that might be of little enough value that Lady Sabine would consider disassembling it to see if the stone has a rune. The idea is met with dismay. “They’re all valuable,” Lady Sabine insists, and her manner grows a little frostier. Heppa now realizes that the jewelry’s aesthetic value is on par with its magical value in Lady Sabine’s eyes. She presents an alternate approach: a gemsmith might be able to look closely enough to tell if there is a rune on any of the pieces. Lady Sabine takes this under advisement. 

Tric cringes internally; a gemsmith might also identify the two fakes. Or Lady Sabine might, if she starts poking around at all her jewelry. It really is not their problem, though, as he and Heppa will be long gone by then, and they can just blame the Rats.

“It has been a pleasure speaking with you,” Hepalonia tells the arch mage, feeling like she has used up enough of this important person’s time. “Thank you for showing me your collection.”