Across the room, the scene is rather different. Mate has managed to tie both of Tric’s hands together. “How did you do this?” he demands. “Where did you learn this knot? Has Nasir been showing you things?”
“My bird, my bird,” the magpie replies in acknowledgement.
Tric mutters in playful disgruntlement but then stops when he sees Heledd enter the tavern. He waves her over with his bound hands, and she slides into the bench across from him, dropping the curtains closed as she enters. “Can I borrow your knife for a second?” he asks her.
“I wouldn’t think you would want a knife from me,” she replies in a slightly menacing tone. She does draw one, though, and holds it point up in the middle of the table. Tric loops his hands over it and pulls toward himself, cutting through the ribbon. Heledd keeps the knife out, tending her fingernails while they talk and not letting Tric forget that she can be dangerous.
“First, uh, I thought you’d like to know that, yes, Kachen is doing very well,” he begins.
“So what do you mean when you say that? Just not in chains?” the surly waitress asks.
“No, he actually looks healthier than I’ve ever seen him. I think he may even have half-smiled once.”
“So whatever Damal was able to cook up worked?”
“Damal’s consultation was very useful, but Heppa really cooked up the right brew for Kachen. It’s been a better balance for him,” Tric says. “Before it was just like he was a sad drunk who couldn’t get through it. But now he’s… Well, he’s still a little measured. He is, as you can imagine, a guarded fellow. But I thought you would want to know.”
“I appreciate that,” Heledd says cautiously.
“Yes, he’s doing much better, and he looks like he has a mission.” Heledd nods, but she does not comment on that, which is itself interesting to Tric. Sometimes lack of information is still information. He eyes her closely, but she remains a closed book. Speaking of which… “You had told me how you were able to give Kachen access to the Book of Rhys. It’s not there anymore is what you said, though?” Heledd just smirks. “I’m a little surprised that Ulf hired you, that he wouldn’t do it himself,” Tric adds, seeding his comment with insider information, hoping to prompt a more enlightening response.
“I don’t ask why when people seek out talent,” Heledd says. “I just need their money to be good, and Ulf had a lot of it.”
“That surprises me because he was digging around for extra cash,” Tric says.
“I can’t fault a person for wanting to get more money out of a job,” Heledd replies. After all, she was hired to steal an emerald ring from Lady Sabine and took a ruby one too, as Tric knows quite well.
“Can’t you, though? It almost cost him his life.” A flicker of confusion crosses Heledd’s features, so Tric elaborates, “He was attacked by skeletons at the same time we were. The three of us, Ulf, Heppa, and I, were all attacked by skeletons, skeletons under your city!” Heledd shrugs, not riled by Tric’s alarm. He settles down, returning to his topic of interest. “Did Ulf leave any way to contact him again? Or say where he was headed?”
“It was a one-time job, so I don’t expect to hear from him again. He was bound for Carcyn, though. I know that much.” Tric already suspected as much, since Ulf said the Society of Shadow is based out of there. It is still good to have secondary confirmation. “What’s your interest in the matter?”
“I thought you didn’t ask why?” Tric swiftly counters.
Heledd frowns at him and then rewords her question. “Is it that you want the book itself? Or would you be willing to pay for just some of the information in it?”
Tric thinks this over. “Probably the book itself because I don’t know what’s important in there versus what is not. And I just saw Kachen not that long ago, so in a roundabout way I had access to whatever was in his head or what he copied.” Tric does not feel he is revealing any new information, since Heledd already knows Kachen was in their forest and she definitely knows Kachen studied the book.
Heledd, though, infers something from Tric’s comments. “So Kachen doesn’t need the book, you want it?”
“Well not me personally,” Tric says. “Our forest was attacked by undead. We managed to fight them off, but not without loss. So we’re looking for ways to better defend against them, including just putting them down in a permanent way. As far as you know, is there anything in that book that would be helpful? What Kachen told you, or what you read yourself over his shoulder?”
“So now it sounds like you do want information. I know things, but they’re not free.”
Tric negotiates with Heledd to gain access to her knowledge. He does not want to hand over a large sum of money for information they already know, so he asks to evaluate what she has, with an offer to pay if it turns out to be of value. When she asks if he knows “the verses,” the look on his face clearly indicates he does not but is intrigued. This weakens his bargaining position a little.
Heledd does not know what this elf is up to. Kachen already extracted a chunk of information from that book. If all of that is known to Tric, then she can be of no use to him. But if Kachen did not share everything he learned, then she does have something worth selling. Tric agrees to pay an access fee of fifty gold to flip through the information Heledd has, with a promise of more if it turns out it is valuable enough to copy. She tells Tric that he and Heppa can meet up with her at three in the morning, a couple hours after her shift has ended.