Echoes of Invasion: Wesmere Welcome | Scene 4

When the cousins get back to their assigned house, Heppa sets to work annotating her map with all the new information. Although she and Tric will certainly welcome Neia’s company to get them to the party tonight, they will not be reliant upon her to get back to their quarters. While Heppa scribbles away, Tric pulls his mirror back out and uses it for its intended purpose, to look at himself. Specifically, he examines the scarring from Gaenyn’s lightning strikes to see just how bad it is. “It kind of looks like a tree,” he mutters. “But it’s like a tree in winter. I need a tree in spring.”

“You could get leaves tattooed onto it,” Heppa suggests.

“Yes. I wonder if there’s anyone here who does that,” Tric muses. “Because I don’t think anyone in our village does. And I’d rather do that here than in some human city.”

“I could probably draw some on there, but that’s not really a tattoo,” Heppa murmurs, beginning to look through her different inks. “We could probably figure it out.”

Tric is no longer listening to her, though. With his mirror, he has noticed something out through the window, and it looks like a drawn bow. Needing any advantage he can get against this wily foe, Tric snatches up the shadow ring. He slips it on a finger as he ducks out the front door with his own bow to get a jump on the person who has been following them and, it now seems, means them harm. 

Heppa, still voicing thoughts on how to make her ink more permanent, does not even notice Tric leave. It seems to her that applying the ink would not be that much different from stitching. The notes on the piece of paper in front of her drift in content from markers for how to identify the Northern Shallows to speculation about inking under the skin.

Tric slips around the building, approaching the watcher from the opposite direction. He goes unnoticed and slips in close from the side in order to get a good look. Tric is reassured that he feels nothing weighty about the opal and onyx ring he is now wearing, nothing like what that dreadful staff caused. Perhaps Heppa was right, and it really is safe to use, he muses.

The watcher, now visible to Tric, is blended superbly well into his surroundings. He has a hand on a bow, which is resting on the ground in front of him like a staff. Tric now sees the errant branch that he mistook for a nocked arrow earlier. The fellow is clad in dark greens and browns, including a raised cowl that conceals most of his pale blond hair. Although his skin is very white, what little of it Tric sees is dappled with leaf shapes. These go up his neck and across his cheeks. Wow, Tric thinks, that is real dedication to one’s craft. One hand has a fingerless leather glove on, and the exposed fingers there are also tattooed with leaves. Tric cannot see the ears, but he can tell from the carriage that this is an elf, not some errant shadow mage who tracked them here with magic. The fellow’s attention is focused entirely on the house, his gaze directed at the window opening through which Heppa’s muttering about ink and skin color can be heard. Those eyes, Tric notes with some surprise, are purple, like his own. Tric does not know any elves with eyes that hue, and it suddenly occurs to him that he also does not know anything about what Anador looked like.

It is really tempting to just tap the fellow on the shoulder, but Tric decides to let Mate in on the fun. With painfully slow care, he eases the snack pouch off his belt and extracts one of the last pieces of ham. His silent gestures catch the bird’s attention. Mate zooms through, surprising the watcher, as Tric intended. With startling deftness, the fellow leaps out of the way, but rather than move to the side, he jumps up into the nearby tree, catching a branch with his right hand, while retaining a grasp on his bow with the left. Mate is focused on his own goal and swipes the entire bag of snacks from Tric, who is left holding just the one piece he had intended for the bird. With his other hand, he waves a greeting at the elf crouched above him who is now looking straight down at Tric. “I thought you might want a closer look at the bird,” Tric says cheekily. Magpies are not native to forests, after all.

The other seems at a loss for words. Perhaps these are not the conditions under which he thought their first conversation would happen. “Do you want me to come up, or do you want to come down?” Tric continues. “Do you want me to go back in the house?”

“This would be the vaunted Tric Manu?” the fellow says.

“Vaunted!” Tric is not entirely sure what that means, but it certainly sounds impressive. “I saw someone was watching, so I thought I’d go out and say hello. I’m guessing you’re just keeping an eye on us?”

“I wished to take your measure.”

“How do you find us? Or me? Are you only watching me, or are you trying to also watch Heppa, too?” Tric asks. “You seem to have been watching her quite closely just now.”

“She is of a certain interest as well.” 

Tric chuckles at the stilted responses. He is not sure if the slight language differences are Wesmere dialect or just this one elf’s peculiarities. “I suppose we’ve been around a little bit. I didn’t realize our stories had spread as far as Wesmere already.”

The other elf drops down softly next to Tric, making almost no sound. “You should not expect for too many others here to be aware of you,” he advises.

“Now I’m curious! Were you aware of Heppa and myself before we came to Wesmere Forest?”

“Of your existence?”

“Of the existence of some beings approximately similar to us, if not our names,” Tric clarifies. He and Heppa have both had little magical explosions in the past few weeks, and there is no telling how far those ripples reached.

“I have no strong desire to go to the Estbryn Forest, but it is because of you that I cannot.”

That response might have been cryptic six months ago, but Tric has a better understanding of recent history now. “Are you related to Anador?” he asks.


“Me too. I didn’t really have a part in all that,” Tric says of his Aunt Penna’s work, “but I see what you’re saying.”

“It is not that much of an inconvenience. It is a curiosity.”

“I hear you. Did you want to come inside?” Tric asks. Seeing the other’s brow furrow in displeasure, he instead offers to call Heppa outside. “Or if you want to just have a private conversation, we can do that, too. So you’ve taken my measure. How do you find it? Beyond a sapling?”

“You were able to sneak up on me.”

Tric gestures up at the camouflage on the fellow’s face. “That’s some real dedication. But what do you do in winter? Or autumn, for that matter?”

Rather than explain with words, the elf shifts nearer to the house, passing beyond the edge of this group of trees and allowing the sun to fall more directly on his skin. In the direct light, Tric can now see that the tattoos are not actually green, as his mind was leading him to believe. They are leaf outlines in various shades of gray, intended to help the bearer blend in with shadows rather than specific leaf colors. “If you wish, you may invite our cousin out to talk.”

“Of course… brother?”

“You may call me Ash.”