Echoes of Invasion: Westward Bound | Scene 15

Heledd lives a life shifted by about eight hours from that of most South Tower inhabitants. Her workday ends after midnight, and then she has her free time for other hobbies and side gigs. She is quite alert when she meets the tired elves outside the Parting Glass. She leads them down to a secure place in the tunnels and then shows them a sheaf of papers. It has far fewer pages than the Book of Rhys, but each is covered with Kachen’s recognizable handwriting. Between the widely spaced lines are the same words copied by a different hand. The lettering is quite sloppy on the first few but grows neater and neater as the stack continues. 

She was learning to read and write, Tric realizes. Maybe so that they wouldn’t have to go through Damal. “I see you were paid well indeed for your efforts on Kachen’s behalf.”

“Well, it was a contract of several months. That doesn’t come cheap.”

“No, it does not,” Tric agrees. “I hope it proves useful to you in your work. In fact, it already has! You’re fifty coins richer.” He and Heppa split up the stack and begin flipping through the excerpts from the Book of Rhys. Tric initially plays with his sheaf while he psychs himself up for the task. He thumbs through them quickly, mesmerized by the handwriting swiftly improving as the pages rapidly flip by. “This is way better than dwarvish script, as Kachen would know. Have you ever seen that?” he asks Heledd, though he does not wait for a response. “It’s a horrible, blocky mess. This? This isn’t so bad. I think I can figure this out.” A papercut pulls him up short, though, and the actual content of the Book of Rhys is too dense for him to extract meaning from.

Heppa has more success with her selection. It contains what is either an epic poem or a ballad, entitled the Lay of Gritta. It details Gritta’s adventures in a seemingly mundane manner, one which could be proclaimed in any small tavern without raising eyebrows. However, Heppa discerns that there is a lot of coded information embedded in it. To the right audience, this piece relays a wealth of useful knowledge. What exactly it means will take time to work out, but it is exactly the sort of thing Daddy would excel at.

“Gritta… where have we heard that name?” Tric mutters when Heppa tells him what she has found.

“That was the ring, Kachen’s emerald ring,” she says. “We’ll need this word-for-word to properly decipher it,” she adds.

All they need to copy is one page, so Tric offers information rather than coin as the final payment, which Heledd accepts. “Certain members of the Tower guard are going to be out of town in a few days,” Tric tells her. “The Tower will be less guarded than usual. Whatever you want to do, is whatever you want to do with that information.”

Heledd accepts the report with a healthy skepticism. She knows Tric is no master criminal, despite the airs he puts on. It is probably not worth her while to act on this.

“And since this caravan is supposed to be hauling some prisoners to places, is there anybody in that group you care about?” Tric asks. “That if they happen to get away, you can find them?”

“Oh, that? All those Rats can drown as far as I’m concerned.”

“It’s all Rats? Hmm… well, maybe I’ll spring them. I don’t know. We’ll see,” Tric says cheerfully. “I’ve got no vendetta against Efa.”

Heledd frowns. Yeah, this elf is not to be trusted.

Tric and Heppa thank Heledd and make their way back to the Parting Glass to catch some sleep. The next day, they arrange to join the caravan as supplemental guards.

“I suppose we look like we could be mercenaries,” Heppa reflects as they head back to the tavern.

“We are mercenaries,” Tric insists.

“I wonder what Mother would say!”

“She’d probably just be happy you have a job.”