Echoes of Invasion: Wesmere Welcome | Scene 6

As amusing as it is to ponder his own fame—or infamy—Tric returns the conversation to more practical topics, asking Ash for more details about the undead he has tracked through the Heart Mountains. Ash expands that he eliminated a few pockets as the opportunities presented themselves. Heppa requests a list of specific types, which turn out to be skeletons and various kinds of walking corpses. “There was one unfortunate glade that had a number of bears that had been afflicted,” Ash adds. Tric shares that they have seen the same thing happen to wolves.

“Wait, all by yourself?” Heppa suddenly asks.

“Yes,” Ash replies simply, not seeing this as anything of note.

“Well, with a quiver full of arrows and a sharp blade,” Tric adds.

Heppa begins pressing Ash with questions again, this time on the topic of how he made sure that the undead were really, truly dead. “Did you have to burn them? Break all their bones?” Ash is confused, as he simply fought the things until they stopped moving. Whether some other necromancer would be able to reanimate them is beyond his knowledge. This, of course, leads to the question of whether he has run into any such humans.

“I have not yet successfully tracked the source of the various bands of undead I have encountered,” Ash tells her. “When it is a small enough group, I have deemed it better to just wipe them out. Some ambush opportunities are too good to pass up, rather than pursue the long game. I do report back on what I see when I return to Wesmere. If the Ka’lian wants to collate my information with that from other avengers, that is their purview.”

Heppa imagines all that information and how it might be organized. The dwarves used a large slate and chalk; maybe the Ka’lian have everything pinned up on a tree. It sounds fantastic to her. “I could compare notes if they let me!” she says excitedly. Tric jokes that the mastermind would go on the main trunk, and Heppa responds seriously, “I don’t think there is a mastermind. I think it’s just a lot of leftovers. I don’t think people are doing so well with burying their dead, but I do wonder what happened with the bears.”

“I don’t know if it was deliberate, if someone sought to create undead bears. It’s possible the bears tussled with undead and got infected that way,” Ash says.

“Or maybe they ate some walking corpses. I believe they are contagious, like a disease.”

Ash nods. That fits with what he has observed. “Yes, the bears could have fought some and caught it the same way that, unfortunately, elves could.” Given all the questions coming at him, Ash tries to point Hepalonia at better resources. “If you wish to discuss the topic of corruption, the most senior authority in Wesmere is Soliana. She would be present, should you gain access to the Ka’lian.”

“Is that your mother?” Heppa asks.

“No, Soliana is a very advanced sage, an elvish star.”

“Oh, fancy,” Tric murmurs. That is a level of druidic awareness attained by only a handful of elves ever.

“Because she is so learned and revered, you may not be able to gain her attention. If you cannot get anybody on the Ka’lian to listen to you, I can introduce you to my mother Ruthiel, who is a shyde. She may be able to help you hone your ability to sense corruption.”

“That would be wonderful!” Heppa says. “I’ll admit, I didn’t completely finish my schooling, so I’m not really sure at what level you learn about this.”

As it is getting later in the afternoon, and Neia is expected soon, Tric says, “I’m guessing you’re not coming to the full moon dance tonight?”

“No,” Ash replies, that one word holding a combination of distaste and discomfort.

Tric does not give up. “Well, if you want to be moss on a log, hanging out on the edge, I’d be happy to chat more.”

“Oh, did you want to talk to us?” Heppa asks. She has been pummeling Ash with so many questions, and she has just now realized he might have some of his own.

Ash looks at her, confused. “Have I not just done so?”

“No, I mean, is that why you were following us? Did you wish to speak with us?” Heppa clarifies.


“Did we answer whatever you wanted to talk about?” Heppa tries again.

“Do you have any questions for us?” Tric asks more directly. “We’ve been taking up a lot of your time.”

“I… do not have a list of questions.”

Tric can sense that Ash has already expended a lot of effort just to engage socially with them, so he suggests a physical activity to ease the pressure. “Perhaps a quick archery contest? You wanted to take my measure. You have taken it in some regards but not in others.”

“You do have an interesting bow,” Ash comments.

“I got it from my mother. She has a different style of shooting arrows, so I shoot with a bow—one not quite as nice as yours—with my right hand and her bow with my left hand.” He holds up his hand to display the bone thumb ring used to help the draw. “It keeps things from getting confusing.”

“Not at the same time,” Heppa clarifies.

“I’m working on it,” Tric says.

Ash points out a target clear across the open space around the small house, and Tric accepts the hard shot as a reasonable choice. He keeps quiet; there is no need to psychologically mess with his opponent for this match. Suggesting this was an attempt to be nice, after all. Heppa watches as Tric and Ash take turns firing. Ash’s style is definitely smoother, but when they examine the target afterwards, they find that Tric’s bow packs more of a punch. Ash is impressed and finds the Dunefolk draw style quite interesting. Tric explains that his mother learned to shoot this way riding a horse, as it makes for a more steady draw—though he of course feels that elvish scouts and riders are perfectly competent shooting in the elvish style upon their ponies. “Shooting on horseback is not for me though,” Tric says. “Personally, I prefer to be on my feet, to feel the grass and the moss beneath my boots.”

“Or the branches,” Ash adds.

“Or the branches,” Tric agrees. “Though you never can tell when it is actually a wose.”

“I have never met a wose,” Ash says.

“I bet woses have met you,” Tric counters.

“You were probably just gone by the time they were ready to talk,” Heppa adds.

Ash finds rather appealing the idea that there are fae creatures out there more taciturn than he is himself. Hepalonia takes advantage of his quiet reflection and fills the space with talking again, filling him in on details she feels he needs.

“If you’re interested in us, I have an older sister, Quaemilya, named after Grandmother…”

“I am aware that I have an uncle named Thrandolil, cousins named Hepalonia and Quaemilya, and a half-brother named Tric Manu,” Ash shares. “I am aware of these things because when the grandparents arrived in Wesmere a couple decades ago they specifically sought me out. I had no relationship with Anador, but our grandparents were aware of my existence. They wanted to make sure that I would stay away from Estbryn Forest.”

“And you know why?” Heppa asks.

“I know that Anador did something and because of it, something happened with Thrandolil, such that the topic of Anador is forbidden there. I was told that I resemble Anador, so I should stay away.” Ash shrugs. “I don’t even spend that much time in Wesmere itself. It is not that much of an inconvenience for me to agree not to go to some other forest across the continent. Naturally, I have a bit of curiosity, but I don’t feel like I’m missing any piece of my life. I’m perfectly content with my occupation and my parents. I feel like maybe they wanted more from me than I was interested in giving them, these grandparents. Maybe they were hoping there would be some sort of spontaneous relationship, but…”

“Not quite your style,” Tric suggests.

Heppa is not surprised by Ash’s final statements. A grandchild that they had had no contact with, the child of their dead son—of course they would want to get to know him. Heppa herself is terribly curious about this new relation, and her grandparents, too! But she can sympathize with how he feels. It is rough when others have plans for you and do not actually take your own feelings into account.

This may be a bit awkward, but given what Ash has said so far, Tric feels it needs to be explicitly stated. “Anador died about thirty years ago. That is what he did. He died defending his people.”

“Ah. I suppose that is a good legacy to have.”

“He died fighting off undead who were attacking the forest,” Tric says. “His close brother, Uncle Thran, became upset.” Heppa encourages Tric to share more details than just that, feeling that Ash has a right to know why things have been done. “It upsets Uncle Thran to be reminded of Anador,” Tric adds. 

“My understanding is that Daddy became somewhat unhinged,” Heppa elaborates. “Mother did something magical to take care of that, but she is very concerned about anything that might remind him of Anador. We don’t even speak the word in our household. I did once, and I found out that we don’t. So probably it would be Mother concerned about all this. I don’t know for sure, though. All this happened when I was very, very young. We don’t know a lot of details about Anador because of that, but I’m happy to share what little we know. We know about his death in that battle, and that he was very close to Nasir and to Mhaev…”

Tric chuckles. “I don’t know how close he was to Mhaev anymore,” he observes. From what both she and Nasir have told him, it sounded like things had fallen apart between Mhaev and Anador by the time of the elvish retreat from Hisanham.

“Maybe,” Heppa says with a shrug. “I think Nasir was the love of his life.” Good old dependable Uncle Nasir, what’s not to love about him? Mhaev, on the other hand…

“Who can tell?” Tric says. “Anyway, we just wanted to let you know. Better to know than to not, I suppose.”

Ash does not feel any need for this knowledge himself, but it seems to him that these two young elves are still searching for something. “I do not know if you will be able to learn anything about Anador here, other than from the grandparents. It was a hundred years ago that he was here.”

“Does your mom know where Anador was from originally?” Tric asks.

“And what about Grandmother and Grandfather? Were they from here?” Heppa adds. “Do people usually know this about their family?” Ash looks at her blankly, and she murmurs, “Maybe you don’t know.”

“The grandparents moved here from Estbryn Forest,” Ash shares when the questions have died down. “As far as I understand, that is where Anador was from.”

“That tracks,” Tric mutters under his breath. Once, when Nasir was sharing some about Anador, Tric asked how widely traveled he was, wondering how his own legacy would compare. Nasir told him Anador had been to the Great Forest, but he did not know if he had ever been as far as Wesmere. Perhaps Ash is the reason that Nasir did not know, as Anador chose not to share the little detail that he had a child there.

“Other than the grandparents, the people here who would know Anador would have met him when he was here a hundred years ago. I suppose some might know him from more recently, depending on where they have wandered. My own wanderings are primarily through unpopulated spaces or areas of the Northern Alliance.” Tric logs the name of that alliance for future use in a story some time. “I mainly stay north of the Great River and do not know much of people in the Wesnoth area.”

“So, you know nothing of Anador?” Heppa asks.

“My two mothers have different explanations for why my name is Ash. One of them told me that I am named after a tree. And the other suggested that when a fire burns out quickly, all that it leaves behind is ash. So maybe you should not talk with my mother Essa about Anador unless you are interested in her perspectives on someone a hundred years ago.”

“That’s fair,” Tric agrees. “And it doesn’t really affect us right now, anyway.”

“From what we’ve heard, he was very charming and well-liked,” Heppa adds politely. “Very easy-going.”

“Well-liked for a while,” Tric agrees. Though sometimes a jerk, from the sound of it.

“Maybe a little bit prone to mischief,” Heppa allows, “but it seems like he might have had a flair for romance.”

“Yes, I’m seeing that now… Anyway, let us not speak further of unfortunate topics. Can you add some leaves to this?” Tric asks, indicating his lightning scar and moving the conversation to tattoos. Ash did the ones on his hands himself, but he had someone else do his face. Tric suggests that if Ash had had a mirror, he would have been able to, and shows off the small reflective surface. Ash finds it rather novel, as he does not often encounter his own reflection in anything other than moving water. He agrees to tattoo leaves onto Tric’s neck later that night, on the sidelines of the full moon dance. Tric would like his leaves to be more evocative of spring than Ash’s are. Heppa offers some of her green ink and other alchemical supplies, and Ash says he will take those under consideration once he has gathered what he needs.

“The party is an hour or two away from here, so we’ll need to bring all the materials with us if you’re meeting back up with Ash there,” Heppa observes. Ash disagrees with that assessment of how far away Dancer’s Green is. 

Tric explains that they are going with Neia on a social visit, not hurrying to get there. “It is the journey, not the destination, that matters,” Tri says grandly. 

There is a clatter of wood on wood from over at the house, as Neia arrives. Ash simply says, “I will see you there,” and steps back into the tree cover, melting into the shadows.