The cousins spend several days hiking west. The campsites are not always as good as Tric would like, as they have moved beyond the parts of Baeowin’s map that he studied. Heppa is a little disappointed that they do not find any interesting things along the way. She had hoped for at least a skeleton part like a femur as further evidence that the undead army came this way. As they travel, Tric does eventually spot the fresh tracks of an animal-drawn cart. The elves are not yet close enough to South Tower for this to be goods moved through the dwarvish tunnels. But it is a sign that they are definitely moving into human-settled territory. Tric figures there are outlying farms around here and that people bring their weekly load of goods to sell into town by this path. “We can probably follow these cart tracks into town,” he tells Heppa. “But we might not see as many interesting things compared to if we cut across open country.”
“Do you know anything about South Tower, Tric Manu?” Hepalonia asks.
“There was a battle there, one of the earlier ones in Mal-Ravanal’s reign of terror. I’m pretty sure Gweddry was soundly defeated and had to escape via those tunnels. So on the outskirts of town is probably not a bad place to check for artifacts. Though, I don’t know if people would get upset if we just start digging around. But in the middle of a field where no one is farming, they might not care.”
They stand there at the track, looking west along it but also looking south, the direction it seems to come from. They are torn about which way to go. Tric is eager to get to South Tower and start asking around, and Heppa points out they know of at least one person there to ask questions to. Kachen mentioned Alric of the Parting Glass in his letter. Tric hems and haws though, wondering if it might be good to first talk to some people around here first. “Outside of town they’d be more likely to have—”
“Heard about battles?” Heppa asks eagerly.
“Well, I don’t know about that. I was more thinking, to have treated with elves before. Maybe someone outside of town even has an elf ribbon, and that way we know we can trust them.”
“And any battles that are farther from South Tower might be less likely to have already been combed over, too.”
Having talked themselves into seeking out the local residents, Tric and Heppa follow the cart track away from South Tower and hopefully towards a farmstead. Before too long, they reach an area with simple wooden fencing constructed from crossed branches. In the distance, they see a person in a broad-brimmed sun hat and homespun clothes working with a two-pronged pitchfork. The field itself looks to contain primarily one type of grass, perhaps hay or wheat. Heppa nods her cousin forward.
“Greetings from the Estbryn Forest!” Tric calls, waving his arm.
The person looks up. “What’s that?”
“Not so far from here, dear friend,” Tric assures him. “We are elves from the Estbryn Forest, come to your area to look for some things. We are curious if you might be able to help us find them.”
The person motions for the elves to come closer. Tric and Heppa step over the fencing and cross the field. There they find that they have been talking to a middle-aged human man, white of skin but well-tanned by the sun.
“Forgive me for bringing up dark times,” Tric begins, “but we know that in this area, Mal-Ravanal was quite active many decades ago.”
“Oh, yeah, yeah. Me da told me a bunch of stories about that,” the farmer agrees.
“We were hoping to investigate some of the sites of those battles.”
The human lets out a long breath. “Whew! Well, you could march straight across Wesnoth! I hear the center got torn up pretty bad.”
“Right, but this is a little closer to home,” Tric replies, fishing for more local answers. “Maybe one day we’ll go to Weldyn and dig around in the king’s—queen’s?—throne room.”
“Yes, anyway… we wanted to start close to home. Did your dad ever point out an area saying that he definitely fought in that place? Or that he knew people who fought somewhere?”
“Oh, yeah. Me da fought a lot. He was part of Gweddry’s retreat from the old Southern Outpost,” the farmer tells them.
“Right, fancy South Tower these days?” Tric asks.
“Yeah! Quite a settlement’s built up around there. You would hardly know that the place had been overrun. Gweddry made it his seat.”
This human looks somewhat worn, but his hair is hidden beneath his hat, so Hepalonia cannot tell if it is gray. The brim casts sufficient shadow that she cannot get a good look at his teeth, either. Heppa thinks he is probably older than Kachen or Connie and Marvin. His father would have to be even older! She cannot imagine what that would look like, but she is very curious to find out. “Is your father here to tell us stories?” she asks eagerly.
Tric cringes, thinking that the father is dead and Heppa has just brought up an uncomfortable topic. But the farmer takes it in stride, offering to go see if his father is awake.
“Oh! If it’s not too much trouble, of course,” Heppa adds, remembering her manners.
“Yes, you’re probably quite busy in the fields,” Tric observes. “It’s spring; you’re probably planting a lot of crops.”
Tilyn, as the farmer introduces himself, assures the elves that he can certainly afford the time to escort them to the house. He is a little weirded out by them, particularly by the female who keeps staring at him somewhat strangely.
Tric senses the man’s unease and initially attributes it to the dark topic that they have brought up, the war with Mal-Ravanal. But then he realizes that his cousin is watching the man like a hawk. Not as if she is about to pounce, but as though he is the subject of a study. Tric attempts to soothe the human by drawing his attention away from Heppa. “Hey, I’m just curious, have you ever seen an elvish bow?” he asks, taking his out. “Excellent manufacture.” He plucks the bowstring. Twang. “Note the curve of the wood.” Twang. “It pulls strong.” Twang. “So that your arrow flies true.” Twang.
Tilyn has had positive dealings with elves in the past, but these two… Although they are clad in traveling leathers like elvish scouts, they are… something else. He supposes elfkind is a bit of a mixed bag, much like humankind.