At the station with the red awning on the northwest corner of the parade grounds, Heppa of House Thrandolil presents her sword, as it seems like that is what she is supposed to do. This game warden takes note of it. “So you fight with a sword?” she asks. Heppa equivocates. She has a sword, but she does not really fight with it. She did study it for a season with the scouts. She learned how to hold it and parry some, but she is not so great on the attack. At that, the older woman demands Heppa ready the weapon and then runs her through a few quick drills. This lands Heppa in the beginner pool, which is where the elf figured she would be, anyway.
When Heppa returns after the archery competition, she finds herself paired up with a young human, younger than the apprentices she has seen in the city so far. At best, this girl is thirteen or fourteen years old. Heppa thinks that might be borderline adult by human standards. Before their blades clash, she observes the girl work through a simple box of strikes and parries: left, right, up, down. It is not so different from the basics she learned, and she feels confident she can match those, even if she cannot do much more. Maybe I should have practiced yesterday, she thinks. This competition will be all about her sword skill, though. No brambles. Not with the mixed messages she has been getting about magic in this human town. Regardless, when all is said and done, neither magic nor practice are necessary; Heppa defeats the youth.
In the second round, there is no question that Heppa’s opponent is an adult. He is taller and stronger than the previous fighter was. Heppa is feeling more confident now that she has been through one bout and understands what this dueling is all about. “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” she cordially tells her opponent. “I’m Hepalonia. I hope I do well!”
Ulf is thrown by this opening and stammers out his name. Usually at events such as these people are trash-talking their opponents. The elf, though, smiles at him and says what fun she is having. They exchange blows, shuffling back and forth in their ring of hay bales. Ulf circles his sword off of a parry from the elf and brings the flat of his blade snapping back against her arm, jarring her weapon out of her hand and knocking her over. He is almost more startled by this than she is and gasps out an apology. As he helps her up, he offers to take her over to the House of Light’s tent. “I’m friends with Rhaessa,” he assures the elf. “I can get you seen right away, I’m sure.” She was so polite earlier, he feels it is the least he can do.
“Oh, that would be wonderful. Thank you!” Heppa says excitedly. She has her own healing magic and her arm does not feel that bad, but she really wants to check that place out.
Ulf exchanges quick words with the game warden, promising to return in time for his next match, and then escorts Hepalonia off the field and through a crowd of tents, heading towards a large, pristine white one nearby.
Along the way, Heppa asks if he is a swordsman by trade. “No, no,” Ulf says, “it’s just a hobby for me. It is good to have some knowledge of how to defend yourself if you get into tricky situations. Are you a swordsman… elf?”
“No, I haven’t chosen a career yet. I just wanted to try the tournament,” Heppa explains. “I had never seen one before.”
Ulf tells her that he is an archaeologist, an explorer of ruins. He knows Rhaessa because he met her during her wandering year, but he is not from around South Tower himself. He passes through town every now and then because there is some interesting stuff on this side of the River Weldyn. Since he happened to be here right when the Full Bloom Festival was going on, he figured he would enter whatever competitions it seemed he might have some appropriate skill in. And since he is in town, he figured he would check in with his old buddy Rhaessa and see how she is doing now that she is all highfalutin with her own House of Light.
“So where are you from then?” Heppa asks. He tells her that he is from Halstead, or rather, the greater Halstead area. He grew up in a tiny village. “I’m not familiar with Halstead,” she tells Ulf, and he assures her it is a pretty rundown place, not much to speak of. He has been to many places in Wesnoth, and he proceeds to tell her about them. Heppa is not sure where to draw all of these locales on her map, but she will certainly make a list of the place names and investigate them as time permits.
“If you haven’t been to Weldyn, why, it’s such a beautiful city. This place is new,” Ulf says, gesturing around them, “but Weldyn’s been around for ages and ages. I myself just came down through the Northern Outpost and Soradoc before that…” He sounds quite well-traveled to Heppa, and she asks him questions about his favorite things to see in these places. However, the walk to the House of Light’s tent is not very far, and soon their conversation is cut short.
The tent’s interior has some benches set up, with a few curtained-off areas. They are not on a battlefield, so there are not rows upon rows of cots. Rather, there is sufficient space to treat whatever injuries happen during the competitions and in the hubbub of the festival. A few other duelists are already present nursing bandaged limbs. Another patient is recovering from heat exhaustion, though how they managed to suffer that in such pleasant spring weather, Heppa does not know.
Ulf flags down an acolyte. “You need to tell Rhaessa that she needs to see to this woman’s injured wrist right away. Just tell her Ulf sent her,” he says, passing a coin to the youth. The acolyte pockets the coin and rushes off through some curtains. Turning to Heppa, Ulf apologizes that he must dash, but he has another duel to fight, since defeating her did move him to the next round.
“Good luck!” she calls after him.