While waiting for Tric to show up, Hepalonia stops by her sister Quaemilya’s room to let her know she will be heading out of the forest soon, back into human lands. Lala sacrificed a piece of her jewelry for Heppa to repair Kachen’s ring, and at the time, she said she would come up with a suitable request in exchange. When Heppa inquires about that now, Quaemilya replies, “I would like a piece of human artwork. Possibly some sort of pottery or a small carved chest. Something useful that I could store herbs or other materials in. But do not bring me the work of just some apprentice. I would like to see what humans consider art. What does artwork mean in the human context? What do they think is beautiful? Something that provides evidence of human creativity, not something just slapped together.”
“So a jar or a pot or a chest or a bag? A container of some sort. Maybe something metal?” Heppa asks, making sure she understands.
“A bag is not acceptable, but any of those others would be. A container that is art.”
With that commission added to the list of things she must accomplish in human lands, Hepalonia next goes to see what her father wants them to do. Tric has arrived, and together they head up to the library. As usual, the desk is strewn with parchment and scroll cases. Thrandolil looks up from his work as the cousins enter. “Well, good to see you both!”
“Daddy!” Heppa cries out, circling the desk. He stands to catch her hug.
“Good to see you, too,” Tric says. “Glad you were able to talk to Kachen at least for a little bit.”
“Yes, we had a delightful discussion on the eve of his departure,” Thrandolil acknowledges.
“That’s good,” Tric says. “He seemed to be in high spirits upon his departure, which is rare for him.”
“Did you trade him for a staff?” Heppa asks.
“It did turn out that I had something that was suitable for him. And it will see far more use in his hands than sitting on my shelf. I’ve fully analyzed that piece and have no further need for it. And it is always good for tools to be out and being used instead of collecting dust, if there is a function for them to serve.” Thrandolil looks around his own cluttered shelves as he speaks, clearly aware of all the materials that fill them. “Ah, I haven’t finished looking at that one yet,” he mutters, as some item catches his eye.
Heppa understands. Her closet is full of equipment from hobbies she has dabbled in over the years. She has not given up on any of those activities; it is just that there are always new things to discover.
“That’s super great,” Tric says. “We are going to be heading out of the forest tomorrow, and we were wondering if there were any specific things we can help you out with. High Lord Volas has directed us to put our ears to the wind to gather more information about this undead threat outside the forest.” Thrandolil steps over to a wall and begins pulling down scrolls, opening them up and shuffling through them. Tric hears him muttering about how he thought he would have more time to make up his mind about the leads for them to follow on their next outing. “Well, what about this?” Tric suggests. “I’ve heard of this Society of Shadow among humans. Supposedly they’re not necromancers, but they study forbidden magic. They’re somewhere west. Perhaps somewhere around Dan’Tonk. Is there anything there you need?” Tric and Heppa wish to go to that human city regardless, and if Thrandolil has an errand there, so much the better.
“I’ve never heard of this Society of Shadow,” Thrandolil openly admits. “It sounds interesting, though. Could have potential. What do you know about it, though, that you bring it up? Clearly it is related to my current project. Tell me what more you know of it.”
“Well, we heard about it from a human fellow we met who was doing some treasure hunting,” Tric replies, putting his own spin on Ulf the archaeologist. “He mentioned this society as a group that may have produced interesting artifacts.” Tric leaves out that Ulf was actually hired by them to recover the Book of Rhys.
“Now, Tric,” Thrandolil says, “there’s more to that that you can share, I’m sure, or you wouldn’t have brought it up. There must be more details that will help us in developing these techniques here. You shouldn’t be shy. I know you’ve done many great things and many more great things are on the way,” he adds, playing into Tric’s weaknesses. Heppa also encourages her cousin to share more, curious what he may have picked up that she missed.
“You know, you’re right. This treasure hunter, he was commissioned by this society to look for some book, the Book of Rhys, which was supposedly written a long time ago by whoever this Rhys fellow was. The treasure hunter didn’t know what it contained, though.”
“But it was in the House of Light in South Tower,” Heppa chimes in. “I think there must be contention between the two groups.” Kachen had indicated that knowledge pertaining to stopping undead touched on forbidden topics, but Damal was against all magic. It is hard for Heppa to tell what exactly humans consider forbidden. It could run the whole gamut. She knows better than to ask directly, though.
“Contention, yes,” Tric agrees, “given that one of them is illegal and the other is the state-sponsored religion.”
“The book might pass back and forth,” Heppa theorizes.
“I imagine whenever someone has a chance to steal it or reclaim it, that’s what happens,” Tric agrees. Thrandolil takes notes as the cousins talk and mutters about having to research who this Rhys person was. “And Kachen has read I don’t know how much of this book. A significant amount, I suspect,” Tric adds. Heledd said she spent weeks sneaking Kachen into the House of Light to study a few pages at a time.
“Do you know what was in the book at all?” Heppa asks Tric.
“No. Stuff about the society, presumably? I don’t know. Spells?” Tric looks at the cluttered wall behind his uncle. “What’s in all those scrolls?” he asks, a rhetorical question to make a point. His cousin, though, takes him literally and starts to tell him about the mushroom section.
“Is Kachen actually part of this society?” Thrandolil asks.
“No, he said he didn’t…” Tric trails off, trying to remember what Kachen’s answers were to his questions yesterday. The cagey human never directly addressed that question, simply talked around the topic by theorizing on their relation to the historical shadow mages during the reign of some queen named Ashievere. “It seemed like Kachen didn’t know that much about them. He posited a connection between some shadow mages of long ago and this Society of Shadow.”
“Kachen does not seem like he’d be part of a group,” Heppa opines. She wonders whether her father knows Kachen’s secret. Maybe Kachen revealed that in their private conversation. “What did Kachen talk to you about?” she asks Thrandolil.
“Well, we were sharing information on the research topic. That’s why you suggested he come to our settlement, after all. You know, working out some ways he could further the research, given his… uniquely suited positions and abilities and so on and so forth…”
A little wary given how fascinated Thrandolil has seemed around Kachen, Tric pays close attention to his uncle’s response. It seems rather vague on the topic of what uniquely suits the human mage to whatever unspecified task Thrandolil wants him to do. Uncle Thran must know more things about Kachen than he thinks Tric and Heppa do. Maybe Kachen has shared some of the same secrets with Thrandolil. In addition to their talk last night, they must have also met a few days ago because Kachen had a necromancer staff with the skull attached when he held the skeletons at bay. He could only have gotten that from Thrandolil. “So did you and Kachen talk about some of his unique abilities and health issues? Do they run in his family or something?” Tric asks, trying to suss out whether Thrandolil knows Kachen is related to Mal-Ravanal and that undead are drawn to him.
Hearing Tric’s question, Heppa wonders whether he thinks that Kachen might grow into a lich, the way that a caterpillar does a butterfly. That leads her to wonder about the rest of Kachen’s family. He said he was the only living descendant of Mal-Ravanal, so she had assumed his parents were dead. Maybe they are actually undead.
“Oh, we didn’t really talk about his family or anything like that,” Thrandolil says. “We were very focused on our work.” Tric accepts the answer without any further prodding, content that he has at least some handle on who has shared what information with who. If nothing else, Tric feels informed himself. It is true that people are hiding information, and that is all right. As long as Tric is aware of that, he feels secure. No one is fooling him at least.