When Heledd states the need to go after the mysterious criminal Sleidr, Tric cannot resist getting involved in what will certainly be a great story. “Where would he go to fence these things?” Tric asks Heledd. “Or… where does he hang out?” His gaze slides over to Alric, who he is pretty sure knows the answer to that question.
Heledd laughs. “And what are you elves going to do about it?” She does little to hide her contempt.
Heppa is curious about what Tric Manu has in mind as well. She is not sure what the extent of their involvement is in this matter, other than treating the injuries of someone they know. “Were you thinking to pose as a buyer?” she asks her cousin.
“That’s a good idea, actually,” Tric acknowledges. “We get them to come to us.”
“Yeah, but what do you want out of it?” Heledd demands. Nothing comes for free in her experience, not ever. She knows how Alric is involved, but these two elves have nothing to do with the situation. They cannot be here just out of the goodness of their heart.
Tric is taken aback by the question. “What do I want?” The thought had not occurred to him. “I don’t know. A good story, I suppose. Show us how you pulled it off. Except for the last part; we don’t need the getting attacked by the Rats part.”
The more Tric Manu keeps her talking, the less Heledd is trying to get up, so Heppa is all in favor of more conversation. Particularly if it means she will learn not only how Heledd did… something, but also what that something was.
“You should not take the risk of trying to pull something like this off on your own,” Heledd tells the poseur criminal. “Let me do you a favor and not set you up for failure. How about this instead… I don’t have a buyer for the second ring yet. If you had it, you could tell people you stole it. You could fence it yourself,” she offers. “You could have the stolen good without having to do the crime you’re incapable of doing yourself.”
“It’s not about the money,” Tric insists. “It’s not even about the ring.” For him, it is about the story, though maybe for Heledd, it really is about the ring. “But what is the deal with this ring? Is it anything in particular, or is it just fancy? I don’t want to negotiate over a piece of jewelry I know nothing about.” He has no idea what he would do with it, but it could be interesting. Maybe he could just give it back to his mom.
“It’s a ruby in a silver setting.”
“No, what’s the origin of the ring? Where’s it from? Who had it? Every ring sparkles and looks pretty.”
“It’s from Lady Sabine’s collection,” Heledd adds.
“And she’s what? Earl-ess? Earl’s wife? I don’t know, some kind of scholar?” These things are not that important to Tric. Heledd rolls her eyes at his ignorance and confirms that Sabine is Earl Gweddry’s wife.
As she takes in this additional information, Heppa finds that she new-found respect for Mhaev. If all it took was her absence from the Tower for this theft to be carried out, she must be doing a lot while she is there. Does she spend her nights holding off hordes of thieves all by herself? she wonders.
“If you recover both the rings, I can give you the ruby,” Heledd offers.
“All right, but then… You don’t have to show me, but tell me how you did it,” Tric insists. “C’mon, they’re going to notice the ring is missing. They’re going to be asking around. You can’t go back there anyway, so you’re not giving up future opportunities by telling me.”
Heledd scoffs at him again. “No, they’re not going to notice it’s missing, not for a long time.”
“How many jewels do these people have?!” Tric marvels. “If a dowsing rod goes missing, it’s noticed right away.”
“Would it be noticed if somebody stuck a different stick there?” Heledd counters.
“Yes,” Tric responds quickly. “I mean, I might not notice, but Dad would notice immediately. It would smell wrong. Oh! You put a fake in.”
Heledd smirks. He is slow on the uptake, but he is learning. “Yes. Recover the rings, and you can keep the ruby. I just need you to pay the cost of the decoy. I had to have it made, and that was quite an upfront investment for me. And I did the work to get it in place. A hundred fifty, that’s the cost.”
“That’s a lot of money,” Tric murmurs.
“Yeah, that’s a lot of money for me to be out. I’m getting no income from this.”
“I don’t know if this ring is worth it…”
Heledd emphasizes that it is from Lady Sabine’s collection, but that is meaningless to Tric Manu. It is not to Hepalonia. Lady Sabine is a researcher; the library books are hers. Sure, Heppa is a little surprised to learn that Heledd has stolen a ring, but a tantalizing thought occurs to the elf. It could be an artifact. “Deal!” she announces. Everyone turns to look at her, surprised that she has suddenly spoken up. “I have a hundred and fifty coins.” If it is an artifact, she will give it to Daddy to study. If not… who knows. Maybe sell it? Maybe return it?
Heledd describes the rings they will need to recover. The elves can keep the ruby in the silver band. The second ring, an emerald in a palladium band, that one already has a buyer. They will get the tale of how the job was done—and she will get her money—when they return with the jewelry.
Tric is eager for the story. How did Heledd know there was a specific ring there? And know it well enough that she could get a decoy made? Then he reflects for a moment on the strange nature of this deal. He and Heppa are going to go get some rings, and then they are going to give a ring and some money to Heledd. It is actually kind of similar to his first deal with Hezzis. “You’re a shrewd negotiator,” he tells the injured woman on the bed. “Now get some rest.” Tric turns to his cousin, who has a grin on her face that looks simultaneously nervous and eager. “We can definitely do this. I’m sure we can figure it out. Damal’s here, so—”
Alric stands up from Heledd’s side and regards the two woodland elves, brow crinkled in concern. “Are you… Do you know what you’re doing?”
“Relax,” Tric assures him. “We’re very… Well, we’re elvish scouts,” he declares, as if that explains everything. His cousin undermines his position with her next words.
“What are we doing?” Heppa asks. “What is going on?”
“We’re going to track down where this Sleidr person went,” Tric says confidently. “I’m torn between setting up an ambush, acting as a buyer, sneaking up on him, or demanding it back.”
Alric’s discomfort with this is written clearly across his face. “This is your first time even in a city, and you’re proposing to go up against a gang?”
“Well, would it make you feel better if we had someone knowledgeable with us?” Tric asks invitingly. There are so many reasons Alric might want to be involved. The health and safety of one of his employees. His own reputation. His oath of justice? Tric’s mind drifts back to the idea that Alric is really a crime-fighting vigilante. But then it occurs to Tric that maybe there are also reasons for Alric to stay clear of this whole matter. It might be better for the elves to get aid from another source. The poacher
Yrogin seems too independently minded to be a member of a gang, but he does know the tunnels quite well, based on Tric’s previous conversation with him. “Do you know a fellow by the name of Yrogin?” Tric asks Alric. “Kind of scraggly, getting up there in years?”
“I know Yrogin,” Alric acknowledges.
“Do you have any advice?” Heppa asks Alric, oblivious to most of the subtext here. “Do you have any ideas? Do you know what we’re doing?”
Tric, with far more knowledge—or at least inferences—about Alric than his cousin has, gets more to the point. “Do you know where we can find Sleidr?”
“Yes,” Alric says, almost reluctantly. “So does Yrogin.” This situation is difficult for Alric, but it is not a topic he wants to discuss in front of Heledd, whose actions have precipitated the whole matter. He tells her to just rest and ushers the others out of his room, closing the door behind them as they enter the kitchen.