In the morning, Tric and Heppa head back to the warehouse district to book themselves as guards on the next leg of Rhodri’s caravan route. Along the way, Heppa talks happily about traveling further with friends. For his part, Tric rehearses his arguments for requesting more money, setting a rhythm to his words and trying to psych himself up with the form of magic he has at his disposal. “Rhodri, I understand that previously you gave us your new-hire rate, but now that you’ve seen us work, surely you can see that we deserve more.” Tric slaps his palm with a knuckle duster for emphasis. “One! We demonstrated our capability.”
“I wonder if I’ll have more chances for medical examinations along the way,” Heppa muses.
“Oh, yes, good point,” Tric acknowledges, folding that into his list. “Two!” he announces, with another slap of his palm. “Heppa healed Tomos and we didn’t charge anything for that service. So we went above and beyond already. Three! We know the Beard and Knots are being paid more. Four! We’ve got magical talent on our side that we did not charge extra for. Five! There will be additional prisoners. That is the full accounting I will present to Rhodri.” He realizes that he has just himself produced a list of things, something that he finds dreadfully boring from other people. Rather than working him up, this undermines his confidence a bit.
When they locate the caravan manager, Tric strides up to them. “Rhodri! I understand that previously…” He runs through his entire argument.
Rhodri allows the speech to proceed uninterrupted and then agrees, “All right. You’ve shown yourself useful, and I appreciate that you took the time to put together your case. A lot of people just insist they should get paid as much as the next without any attention to detail. That was well-reasoned. Good planning shows professionalism. Twelve coins a day for each of you on the next leg. And yes, we will be saddled with taking prisoners along with us.”
“Is it just the prisoners we had before? Or is Weldyn adding even more?”
Rhodri grumbles that some prisoners from other locations have amassed in Weldyn, and those will be sent with their caravan. Henrick has already taken leave of the city with his small force. The king’s guard will be sending some mounted troops along, but Rhodri does not place much confidence in them. “We roll out tomorrow morning,” Rhodri advises Tric, and then they go back to their work.
At this point, Tric and Heppa make their way back to the papermaking shop. It is still morning, and Tric hopes to run into the other elf they saw leaving there yesterday. His luck holds, and when he and Heppa set off the door bells, they find Osian dealing with that customer. Lonfar is nowhere to be seen; she is probably upstairs with the falcons.
“Don’t mind us; we’ll wait,” Tric says innocently. Heppa drifts off to look at the framed paper samples decorating the walls, but Tric stays closer to the counter, mildly curious about what this elf’s business might be. He stands casually nearby, but she catches on to what he is doing, so all he manages to learn is that this is indeed Lady Ethiliel and she is purchasing paper. Tric nervously fiddles with his hairband, wondering if he is about to get a tongue lashing, but she does not call him out for eavesdropping. She lowers her voice and swiftly completes her transaction, taking her packages of paper from Osian and then turning to Tric.
“Step out into the street with me,” Ethiliel tells him. Then she looks pointedly across the room at Heppa. “And bring your sorceress with you.”
Should have seen that coming, Tric thinks, wondering just how much of a splash Heppa’s casting yesterday morning made. “Hey, Heppa, do you have a moment?”
Heppa looks up from the parchment she has been working on. While waiting, she had taken out some of her own to start a letter to Alric. A few locks of her hair are still faintly green, and she has been telling him about trying to do it up like how Knots wears his. When Tric calls her, she is in the process of sketching the veteran fighter’s hairstyle. “Oh, yes!” she replies, polite but also a bit confused.
“We’ll come back later,” Tric assures Osian. Then he heads outside, reasonably confident that Ethiliel does not intend to mug both him and his cousin.
“What is your business here?” Ethiliel asks, ignoring Heppa’s genteel greetings.
“We’re actually just passing through town on our way to Dan’Tonk,” Tric says. “But we like to keep an ear out for things. You never know who you’re going to run into.”
“Making impressive displays,” the lady replies critically, her eyes sliding over to Heppa.
When Hepalonia does not offer her own explanation—perhaps not realizing how far afield her magic reverberated—Tric volunteers, “We came in with a caravan most recently. There was some trouble along the way, but everyone is all right, thankfully.”
“You were traveling with a human caravan?”
“It is a convenient form of travel. How do you travel?” Tric asks.
“Swiftly and discreetly.”
“There are many forms of discretion,” Tric counters. “You can put up a hood, or you can put on a face.”
Heppa watches the exchange, a friendly expression fixed on her face to hide her continued confusion. Why would she have to be discreet? she wonders, but she is too polite to ask.
“Are the humans around your forest so cooperative that you can just join their caravans?” Ethiliel inquires.
“They can be convinced,” Tric replies. “Most people, if you ask the right way, can be convinced.”
Heppa speaks up now, seizing an appropriate opening. “This isn’t true where you’re from?” The humans she has met do not always like elves, but she did not think it was a widespread problem.
Ethiliel snorts in derision at Heppa’s question. At this point, Tric suggests they move the conversation somewhere more private, and Ethiliel nods. “We’ll go to the King’s Park,” she declares. Without waiting for agreement, she begins moving down the street, away from Osian and Lonfar’s house. Tric and Heppa rush to follow her.