When Tric reaches his home, Nasir is finishing up sanding a pair of items he spent yesterday working on. Each is composed of a crosspiece with four hollow circles. “Oh! Are those the oak knuckles I talked with you about?” Tric asks eagerly.
“Yes, these are your knuckle dusters, but this isn’t oak,” Nasir says patiently, not surprised that Tric has failed to recognize the wood.
“Isn’t oak nice and hard, though?”
“Well, my boy, oak breaks, but willow bends. From what you told me about what you are interested in this item for, your own hands need to be protected in the process. It does you no good to knock the other fellow in the jaw and break two of your own fingers while you’re at it.” Tric sees the wisdom of that. “This is made of willow, which I’m sure you recall from your time out dowsing is particularly soothing and just an all-around fine wood. It really talks to the water, and the water really talks back to it. You know, it’s such a pleasure to work with willow. Both to carve it and to use it.”
The newer necromancer staff, the one Tric performed with in the gully battle, was made of willow, so Tric does have recent experience using an implement made from that wood. Magical equipment such as that can be very potent; Kachen certainly looked happy to have a staff again when he left the forest. Tric fiddles with the knuckle dusters, twirling them in his hands and wondering if they might be imbued with some sort of primal essence. This might be a conduit for power, but Tric is not sure what that would actually mean for him and the magic it seems he can wield.
Tric has never really thought of dowsing rods as special; it was Heppa who exclaimed about them being artifacts of some kind. Now, though, Tric wonders. Nasir is a master water dowser and a master carver. His dowsing rods may actually be magical implements themselves, though of very tightly-focused utility. Nasir has now crafted this weapon with the same care and attention—and intention—with which he makes dowsing rods. If Dad made it, it’s got to be the best, Tric thinks. Maybe that’s not just because he is so good with his hands. There’s some processing of fae power going on here. It occurs to Tric that maybe he has been so poor at dowsing in the past because he never really understood that magical undercurrent. With this realization and knowledge of his own peculiar magical affinity, he now wonders if talking to water might actually work. I’ll have to try that sometime. Just ask the water where it is.
“This is amazing, Dad,” Tric tells Nasir sincerely. “As you probably know, Heppa and I had to talk to High Lord Volas this morning. He’s a really nice, uh, nice fellow. He wants us to do some fieldwork for him, so we will be heading out tomorrow morning. We’re going to talk to Uncle Thran and see if he has something specific for us to do… But is there anything I can do for you while I’m out there? Are there any qualities of water in Wesnoth that would be interesting to hear about? Or they’re downriver from us so it’s really not a major concern?”
“They’re an entirely different water table, depending on where you’re going this time. Are you going farther afield than South Tower? If you cross the River Weldyn, that’s definitely a different water table.”
“So that definitely doesn’t affect us? Or that makes it more interesting to know about? Or both?”
“It’s not really of practical importance to the forest here,” Nasir says. “But I encourage you to take the opportunity to see if you can learn anything about the human traditions associated with water dowsing.”
Tric lets out a long breath, remembering Damal’s chastisements. “From what I’ve seen in South Tower, it’s not good.”
“I’ve heard you talking about your interest in crossing the Sandy Wastes,” Nasir says. “I’m not sure what I’ve tried to teach you would be sufficient there. If you have access to some water dowsing capabilities by virtue of your human inheritance, those might serve you better in an environment in which elvish practices haven’t been tested. I’ve never heard of any elvish communities that live in the Sandy Wastes.”
“Now, there’s an idea…” Tric murmurs. Elves living across the desert would be just familiar enough yet still mysterious for most crowds.
“Most of the elvish water dowsing practices are highly tuned to forestland,” Nasir concludes.
“What do you do during a drought year?” Tric asks.
Clearly Tric has been talking with human farmers on his travels. “When humans are having drought years, elves are not. We use our water more efficiently, we plan its use carefully, and we’re not as settled as they are. Humans are very crop-oriented, and that causes them to concentrate their resources in a way that elves don’t. Yes, it’s true most of us live in this cluster of homes right here around the village, but don’t you remember that one summer we spent in a tent, my boy? You would’ve only been maybe ten, maybe fifteen then. We camped in the northeast corner of the forest for the season.”
“Oh, was that the time I fought off a bear with my bare hands?”
“You might remember it that way. I’m pretty sure it was a raccoon, and it got the better end of the deal. But that relocation was related to water access,” Nasir says. Tric has always thought of that summer as a fun series of mini-adventures. He had no idea water had anything to do with it. “We may have constructed homes, but we also move around a fair bit in the forest, and the purpose of that is to not deplete any one area. There is no regulated schedule for this, like humans blindly following their calendars. It’s far more nuanced; we read the signs so that problems like droughts never become an issue for us. Now, to be fair to humans, we can play a longer game than they can. But, also, we have to play the long game because we live so long. We cannot push off environmental problems onto the next generation the way humans can.”
“Right. These things would become problems in our own lifetime,” Tric reasons.
“Exactly, my boy. So, you ask what you can do for me? Come home safely. I know you want to visit the driest place there is, and I’m not going to try to dissuade you from doing that. But I encourage you to prepare for it as much as possible, so that you can get safely there and back.”
Tric smiles broadly and gives his dad a hug. “If we get up early enough tomorrow—which is when the best fish are—I think you and I can do some fishing before Heppa and I head out.”
“All right, then. I’ll put together a package of some trailfood for you.”
“Awww, thank you so much.”