Echoes of Invasion: Whirlwind Tour of Weldyn | Scene 4

The inside of the Elvish Retreat is a riot of green. Potted plants wind their vines around the rafters, creating a canopy effect. Tables are draped with green cloth in varying shades. Leaf motifs cover the walls, but they are not haphazard. They are depictions of actual leaves—oak, cherry, willow, and so on—rather than just someone’s idea of what a leaf sort of looks like. “It feels kind of forested in here,” Heppa says appreciatively.

“Maybe this is how the Great Forest elves decorate,” Tric murmurs. He himself has certainly never been there or to Wesmere. He only vaguely knows where the Aethenwood is. But the people here will not know that. Tric’s act begins even before he reaches the stage when the man behind the bar enthusiastically acknowledges their entrance.

“Welcome, visitors from afar!” Then the man does a double take. “Oh! From very far afar! Meg!” he shouts over his shoulder. “Meg, get out here quick! Bring our finest—” The bartender turns back to Tric and Heppa, asking, “What vintage would you care to taste?”

“Surprise us,” Heppa says.

“Ah, yes. We love surprises,” Tric agrees.

“Bring out our finest elvish wine!” he calls as he hurries out from behind the counter to greet the elves in person. “I am Seimon. Welcome to my establishment. Would you like to sit in your own forest? The Aethenwood? The Great Forest? Wesmere? Where are you from?”

The large common room is divided into three sections, each with its own variation of the leafy green aesthetic and each with a set of ribbons. Tric does not see any with the blue and gold butterfly design of Estbryn Forest, but he does recognize some other ribbons from his recent time spent in the home of High Lord Volas. The most prominent ribbon in each collection is one of these, and it is surrounded by others which Tric presumes belong to human settlements near the respective elvish forests. The deep blue and gold of Weldyn is absent from any of these displays—though postings behind the bar do indicate a liquor license and up-to-date tax payments—as is the bright red triangle of South Tower. Perhaps the proprietor does not consider there to be any local elves.

“We’re from the Estbryn Forest,” Heppa answers.

There are bows and arrows hung on the wall, as well as a Kalenz display between the Great Forest and Wesmere sections. A stage has a variety of instruments mounted behind it, lyres and pipes and such, but Tric has never seen such things played in his village. Maybe Estbryn Forest is a more pragmatic place than the other forests, he thinks. Or maybe we’re a backwater. But what he says aloud is, “You don’t seem to have quite all the main elvish forests.” Tric pulls out one of the scouting ribbons that Baeowin gave him and shows it to the man. “As Lady Hepalonia of House Thrandolil—”

“Oh, please, I’m not on the council or anything,” Heppa demurs. She looks around with great interest at elvish culture viewed through a human lens. So far, she finds she is liking this place. And it is nice to be welcomed so warmly. A lot of people in South Tower were not so happy to see elves.

“—has said, we’re from the Estbryn Forest. You haven’t heard of it?”

“N-no,” the innkeeper replies, clearly embarrassed.

“Earl Gweddry of South Tower passed through just a mere thirty-odd years ago,” Tric adds casually.

“Would you be willing to spend a little time helping us get a few tables set up dedicated to your forest?” Seimon asks.

Tric likes a good show and appreciates that this man is performing one for a primarily human audience. So far it looks like he is putting in a reasonably good effort, so Tric takes no offense at the elf theme. However, he is not ready to give his endorsement. “Hmm… not just yet. I have to evaluate your establishment first and make sure you earn this ribbon.” Tric tucks it back away for now. “But maybe tomorrow or the day after, if you have space to accommodate us.”

“Certainly, certainly. It’s a rare treat for us to have actual elves stay here.”

“When was your last fae visitor?” Tric asks.

“Are there many in the city?” Heppa tacks on. She has never had much interaction with elves from other forests.

“The most recent elvish—er, fae?” Seimon corrects his wording to better model the elf’s. “The most recent fae visitor to stay here was about a week ago.”

Tric’s eyebrows shoot up. “That recently? Did they stay long? Did they say where they were heading?” He steps up to the counter. “We could book a room ourselves, right?” he asks Heppa, hoping this will encourage the proprietor to be more forthcoming with information.

“Yes. This place is fun!” she happily agrees. Every inn and bar will forever be judged against the Parting Glass in Heppa’s mind, and while this one is clearly lacking Alric, it has a lot going for it otherwise. And she certainly would not want to judge it too hastily.

They book one night in a private room for the two of them, though Tric adds that they will probably stay an additional night. After handling the transaction—slightly more pricey than accommodations at the Parting Glass—Seimon tells them the sad story of an elvish lady in town for the funeral of one of the local lords. “The man passed away from old age, so it was no surprise, really. Sir Deoran lived a long and good life of great service to Wesnoth. It was kind of touching that an elf should travel so far to see a man of such prominence in his final days. Where is Estbryn again? Is that anywhere near the Aethenwood?”

Heppa nods agreeably, but Tric corrects the human. “Near South Tower. Perhaps you are familiar with that?”

“Oh, the Southern Outpost?” the bartender asks.

“That’s the old name,” Tric says. “It’s gotten a little bigger since then. I believe the people of Wesnoth call it an earldom now. Perhaps you have heard of their Spring Bloom Festival?”

“Right, right. Some performers and merchants make the difficult journey up that way, traveling through the wilderness for the Spring Bloom Festival. It’s apparently rather quaint. But it’s good to bring culture to our outlying settlements.”

That digression aside, the innkeeper tells them the tragic tale of Lady Ethiliel over a bottle of fine elvish wine. “She had such a sad and worn bearing about her. It really pulls the heartstrings to see normally joyful elves crushed by the weight of the world,” he says. 

“Indeed, it is not nearly so often that we are confronted with mortality,” Tric comments portentously.

“Maybe they were good friends,” Heppa suggests.

“Sure, just good friends,” Tric agrees, though he suspects perhaps in the way that Heppa and Alric are.

“Sir Deoran had spent a good amount of his career down in Kerlath province near the Aethenwood,” Seimon continues. “He did some really significant work for Wesnoth down there. It is certainly possible that they had become friends.” Tric and Heppa know from the veteran mercenaries they recently met that there was some tension between elves and humans down there. If Seimon knows of it, though, he is downplaying it for the sake of his elf-friendly establishment.

“Did she say if she was heading back home or if she was sticking around in Weldyn for a while?” Tric asks.

“No, it’s very sad. She said she has no home. I don’t know whether she was leaving the city completely when she checked out of here or was just finding other quarters. She stayed here a couple nights and hosted Sir Deoran for dinner the night before he died. I like to think it is because my Aethenwood section is so authentic. Anyway, maybe it was too painful for her to come back here since he died the next day. I don’t fault her for seeking accommodations elsewhere, given the difficult circumstances.”

Heppa mulls over the new information coming in. This Lady Ethiliel was already sad even before her friend died. Perhaps that was because she knew he was unwell or because she did not have a home. This might be the sort of sadness it could be worth attempting to mend with magic. Ethiliel certainly could not benefit from the dapper inkcap potion that Sir Marthynec is taking, no elf could. But does such sadness really warrant being called an affliction? Heppa wonders. What is the difference between sadness and deep depression? Between trauma and just being afraid? These are the sorts of questions she must consider if she intends to treat injured minds.

Following Seimon’s tale, Tric looks around the room at the ribbons again. There is not an Untdunben one, which should not surprise him. That is even farther away than Estbryn Forest and South Tower. Kachen told him and Heppa that the eastern side of the River Weldyn, though part of Wesnoth now, was lawless territory for a long time. It still is, as far as Connie, Marvin, and Mari-Elin are concerned, Tric reflects.

With their bottle of wine, Heppa and Tric enjoy a meal that is named after elvish forests, even if it does not consist of food that is really eaten there. Heppa asks Seimon questions about the meal, and he tells her he had an elvish chef help him choose the menu. 

Tric’s questions are focused more on the venue. “I noticed you have a stage here and you’ve got a bunch of instruments, but have you ever hosted a storyteller with some authentic elvish tales?”

“Elvish lore?” the innkeeper asks excitedly.

“Well, now, you must understand that certain things are held to be only known by elves,” Tric says self-importantly. “But there are certainly other stories that one might share.” Heppa chuckles quietly at Tric’s fibs, but she remains silent otherwise.

“Certainly anything that you can share would, I’m sure, fascinate our clientele!”

“Well, I suppose I can share just one or two secrets,” Tric grants magnanimously. They settle on a performance after dinner, which will give the innkeeper time to send out runners announcing the news on street corners. “You can let them know that Tric Manu will be sharing some elvish stories.”

“Lord Tricmanu?” Seimon asks, since the other elf was introduced as Lady Hepalonia.

“Oh no, let’s not be so formal,” Tric protests. He is not entirely certain whether he has any actual claim to that title through Anador. “Just say storyteller, elvish storyteller.” A half-elf telling half-truths, Tric reflects, though that is no way to market himself here.