After the Rain
Part I of II
"There Is No Calm Before"
Houses of the Blooded
All of them stare back at the Szaz from across the bars as she informs them that the next Senate hearing is not until a month from today. She explains how the senate hearings are held on the first new moon and this brings them to their dilemma: the former Countess of Kether has stepped down from her position. No longer the Countess, her four sons are now the Counts of Kether. Having forced the Senate to finalize if her husband has truly died, she has maneuvered herself forward and through marriage has gained a new title. Szaz attempts to reassure them all that their allies are doing what they can to help. She tells Nia she understands that when the attack happened, Nia was not in her right mind. Szaz signals them that others may be listening as they continue the conversation. She mentions dinner will be server earlier than usual and reminds them to have their things packed well. She reminds them they are all being held for murder of one of the Vasha, and that the punishment won't happen until the time of his service as Vashna ends. Nia admits aloud she does not understand why everyone else are prisoners given the events. Jaric suggests all trust in the wisdom of the Senate, in the same way that Sorcery is forbidden. Galeo, frustrated by the imprisonment, begins spitting on the dirt on the floor and starts making paintings to try to better her prison.
Evening arrives. Galeo has created an illustration of leaves and dancing ven using the dust of the prison. Tge clang of metal announces the arrival of a cloaked figure with a food bowl. The figure opens his cloak to reveal his identity, Nyassa, the Red Spider. He asks if they have all packed and opens the door as four people step in as well. The guard unlocks each cell and exits without a word. Cloaks are handed to them, woven to entrap what they call Prayers in the cloth. The cloth have the Blessings of the Cloak Deceiveous to be used by whoever dons it. The servants that bring the food then don their own Cloaks to wear their faces, while they slip away from the prison as servants. "Not a word," the escort reminds them, "For a lie shall unravel the Prayer." The food is splattered on their faces to suggest the ven had called for the servants to leave. The guards may them no heed.
The plan was for them to have a chance to sneak out every night, for the group to have the freedom to do whatever preparations they need to prepare their defense. Red Spider reminds them that the ones who will take their place are risking their lives to allow them this chance to act outside their prisons.
On the way out, however, Jaric is drawn away by what he realizes is a Library within the building where the prison stands. He separates from the others and searches the tomes for any archives or records of the past. The others are concerned about the separation of the group but realize there is precious little to control Jaric's desire for knowledge.
As Jaric steps inside, he finds a familiar face inside the room. The figure is dressed in yellow and white. The one who identified himself as Kyocera Yvarai. He addresses Jaric as a servant and reminds him he is Ven while Jaric is a servant. Kyocera babbles about a word he is searching for... starting with the letter D. He then addresses Jaric, asking if he had served him before. And if that is food on his clothing. Kyocera tastes it and even comments it is spicy. "Well, hurry on. Do not bother me. I am Ven," he tells Jaric and struggles to recall the name once more. Jaric notices most of the books are records of the previous years, but there are also books of fiction. He peeks at some and realizes it contains the name of complaints, accusers, the date of the crimes, etc.
As they continue to find the way out, it is Galeo this time who notices something worth checking out. The signage points to a shrine in the building, and the idea of one here in the City intrigued her.
They arrive at the door to find a carriage waiting for them. The carriage is to bring them to a specified place, and then before sunrise, return them here. Szaz in inside and tells them they each have five hours to do what they must. She reassures them that their vassals are in the Residences and warns them returning to those places is tricky given the greater chance of someone recognizing them there.
Seran opts to see the Duke Pyotr Sinjin. She tells Szaz they have "plans for the Storm" and how there are things he might want that she can give him which may have him ally with them. Szaz admits his participation may be tricky and adds she rather not explain why. Seran believes she will learn in time. Nia requests that Seran find something the Duke has owned for a long time and bring it back with her.
Galeo wants to meet with Miralia Yvarai, former Countess of Kether. She wishes she could don a new disguise using the cloak, but Nia admits it is not going to happen. Galeo worries if she would be welcome and thus asks to be picked up within three hours rather than five.
Nia wishes to be dropped off last. She tells the others she requires the carriage and promises to come back for Galeo within three hours.
Seran arrives at the Duke's place and no one answers when she knocks. The windows above suddenly open as a woman emerges holding a pair of trousers outwards. Pyotr can be heard arguing playfully with a woman whom he calls, "Mother." She notices Seran below and tells Pyotr that there is a hunchback at the door. From Seran's vantage point, they both look naked. Seran digs into her pocket and pulls out the token Pyotr had given her before. Pyotr leaps out of the window, rappelling down using whatever ropes are nearby. In nothing but a pair of trousers, he stares at Seran with a smile. "You. How is it that you are outside? Are the rumors false?"
She tells him there are matters they need to speak of and they head upstairs to discuss the matters. The "Mother" turns out to be some Ven named Mother. "Does it bother you I have a woman in my room?" Seran admits it doesn't. She tries to negotiate with Pyotr to give them support to leave and in return a chance to fly with the Storm. He agrees to discuss things further if she "fights with Mother". Seran leaps through the window, stands with a hand on hip, and confronts them. Pyotr "attempts to explain" and Seran slaps him in the face. The moment the slap hits, thunder rumbles. Mother flees the room.
"Is she even Blooded?"
"Of course she is. She's a Marquis!"
Pyotr pops out the tooth Seran's slap had dislodged and places it in a jar on the side with a lot of other teeth. Seran gets called a dirt-eater by Pyotr, as she reveals that her husband is not Ven. They talk about the Storms, about dirt, and decided to have a game of answering absolute truth. Pyotr shares how he was born on the night of the Senate Hall's fall. Seran then admits the one thing that makes her love her husband the most and she admits it is his Courage. She does learn that none of the Ven here have ever experienced the Storm, giving credence to the stories Jaric had gathered. When he asks what she hates the most about Lukas, she talks about him doing strange things like leaving flowers on the bed for her and the like. Pyotr is amused that Seran is learning fast to play the game. Seran asks then if he wants to see the Storm, and he admits he is willing to go as far as letting go of his Title to leave with her and see it. She tells him that would not be necessary as, "Finding you land would be easy."
In front of the estate, Galeo realizes that the whole structure looks like it is owned by a single person. She remembers it probably is because Miralia Yvarai has four sons. Szaz warns Galeo that she detests Sorcery. Nia gives Galeo a task as well. She asks Galeo to get something of the Countess. Galeo asks if it will be used to ensorcell her, and Nia promises it will not change her. Szaz then leaves with Nia to bring her to where Sorcery is most.. evident. Forearmed, Galeo goes to the door and tells the Staff to let the Fox know that one of her "most recent friends" is at the door. There are multiple portraits of the children on the walls. The portrait of Count Kether matches the face of the Tulpa who handed Galeo the book. Miralia arrives and tells the Guardsmen to allow no other guests. Galeo congratulates her for twisting the Senate to give her a seat.
They discuss the missing Count Kether, and Galeo shares more how the Senate can be pushed in the direction they desire if Miralia finds a way to get Galeo in the Senate as well. Miralia admits she is no longer of Kether. She is accepting the marriage of Giacomo Silja to gain a measure of power. In exchange, her children are recognized for their titles. Galeo attempts to offer to her the option of gaining titles in her Shanri, rather than to have dealings with Silja. Miralia is confused with what Galeo seems to be talking about and Galeo clarifies that Miralia is making a deal with the very man who tried to poison them, and will likely block the votes her children are to make. Miralia reaches for Galeo's hand, pats it, and understands that things are different in their Shanri. She tells her how common it is for them to poison each other and the like. They were all... expected and normal among the Ven. "In this Shanri, what does not kill you shows you are truly Ven."
She will accept the proposal, so in the Senate's eyes she is moving forward, and the matter concerning Zsanos is over, but clearly for them it will not be. Miralia asks Galeo to share her any information on what they were using to create his tulpa. She insists, however, that Galeo not consult with any sorcerers. "We will not sink down to that level. We rose from the ashes of slavery beneath the heels of the Sorcerer-Kings. We will not use the same tools they have. That is an insult to what we have achieved as a race."
She is thankful there are artifacts that can be used to protect them from Sorcery. She shares that she has a Ring, a present from her husband. The Ring she wears allows her to remember the faces of those she has "framed." She admits the ring even captures the way a person stands or moves, and that was why the Spiders loathed her. She could see past their disguises. Miralia hands Galeo the ring to help her for whatever Nia plans. Miralia knows that a Tulpa can only be created of someone who is not dead. This means, the Senate has lied to her. This means, the Quill, which is supposed to ensure that no lies are told in the Senate Hall is a lie. It does not truly function to enforce the truth. Miralia fears the fact they have all given their names.
All except Nia Jalan.
Nia ponders on the events that transpired during her lack of control. She recalls the Senate proceedings, the invitation to sit alongside the Earl, and of not being told to sign and instead being asked to wear a spiked bracelet to share the images of her narration with everyone. She recalls talking about the Ork Talker to the Earl and discussions about Ork Farms. And then the touch. The touch that felled her, and how they were spirited away while the Senate gathering continued. "You are my friend and I am yours. And someday you will forgive me for what I will do. But there are things in motion that require you to be the Tool you do not know yourself to be," she whispered to Nia, "This is a Vow I shared with you. A Vow you shall share in return."
The two traded their Secret Names.
Nia opens her eyes and stares at the Spider in the carriage. The Spider starts to panic. Nia's sight fades and all grows dark. The Spider gasps in horror at the pile of clothing on the floor.
"She was a Tulpa!"
Nia awoke in a chamber. J'sae Mwnn, Earl of Heenag tells her that night has fallen and she owes her an explanation. She needed Nia to act as a Tool, but as Friends she needed to keep her safe. So a Tulpa of Nia was created. The task, it is revealed, was to use Nia as a Puppet to injury Szaz Ashken of the Veiled House of the Spider. "You have shared my Secret Name with your friends," J'sae admits, "But it was the best way to make things come to pass." However, they now are in a predicament given the Tulpa was supposed to be killed. Nia was instead arrested. The events in the Guildhall were also of the Tulpa, as well as the meetings with the Spider and the Lady Thorne. J'sae admits she was not able to observe everything given the Ritual of the Rose.
She explains that Szaz Ashken is not who they think she is. She is neither ally nor friend. She is a Spider - a Patient manipulator. She has snared them all in her web and calculating their every move. They are all puppets to her strings and none of them can see it. She breached the Mistweir and lured them all back here and the one to gain the most of the new lands are the City Ven who would definitely seek out the larger lands that Nia and the others have come from. J'sae hopes to rid the Senate of the Spider, but the Senate see her as an underdog and celebrates her small victories almost like a folk hero among the Ven. "And frighteningly, she has won your friends over." She questions that if the Spiders truly had their well-being in mind, then they would have snuck them out on the very first day of their imprisonment. The sky rumbles. Nia tells her that she has places to go to before she "returns" to imprisonment. J'sae finds it auspicious that there is a storm brewing.
"One of your storms," Nia mutters, "It can't be much."
A knock. Guests. The Ork Talker and Haroun are brought into the room. Both shows signs of having been beaten up. The Ork Talker has lost an eye. J'sae Mwrr gives them a moment alone. "You are not without allies in the Senate. Some of us understand the last thing you want to do is cause trouble," and she even suggests that many would support them leaving before the Season ends. Haroun is confused and asks Nia what has been going on. She unties Haroun and learns that the Ork Talker now has a name. "How proud I am of you," Nia tells him.
"It is Bowen," Haroun grins, "Your Q'val killed a Bear."
"I know you," Kyocera confronts Jaric in the archive room. He accuses Jaric of being one of his visions in the room. Someone who is not truly present. He calls Jaric "Gaius Mwrr" and points to an empty spot in the room "Circe Yvarai." Jaric sees Kyocera begin to hold fragmented conversations with himself and an empty spot in the room. Kyocera Jalan talks about this being the perfect moment to meet a Serpent given he now understands they created the Mistweir themselves. It was them using their names to force the Storm back. The barrier that forces the Storm back is the thing that gave the appearance of the Mistweir. And how even the Storm lost its own name. The woman gave the Secret Name of the unborn child in her womb to the Storm. He mutters about having trouble finding the child's name since it does not seem to be in the records. Jaric suggests it would probably be because the Senate was not even reformed back then. He suggests that Kithranus' brother, a Serpent, might know better about these things, but Kyocera has trouble understanding who he is... or what is supposed to be right. "It is like whoever has made this all happen was picking up the pieces and trying to make things go back together" and Jaric wonders aloud if it is anything like the Dreadfuls: attempts to try to understand who played what role. Jaric realizes that idea is rather brilliant. Frighteningly brilliant.
"The wall," Kyocera mutters, "I know it is the Bear's gift. But the Circle of Protection can only be cast if Ven blood is drawn along the perimeter." He gasps, realizing that is why the first generation is missing. One whole generation of Ven was sacrificed to create the bloody circle. A blood outline beneath the sea. Jaric tries to steer the madman's thoughts and asks what the Master of the Ruk's role is in all this. Kyocera however gets distracted again as he realizes he is not Kyocera. He realizes he is someone else.
He realizes he is not really seeing Circe.
He is only seeing Jaric in the room.
"I'm really Gaius Mwrr... ain't I?"
The door opens. A servant arrives with red hair. She tells Kyocera it is time to leave the room. She guides him to the door. Jaric finds the Courage to yell and tell her to stop and they do. The woman turns to Jaric, grinning, and Jaric cannot look away from her vibrant green eyes. He has never seen her before, but he feels the hint of Terror in her gaze. He demands she give her name but she responds that names are dangerous. As is meddling. "This whole city is kept together by lies." But she responds that most of the time lies are the best thing to mend broken things back together.
"Stay away from this, little one. This does not concern you."
Jaric however stands his ground, talking about how his quest has brought him here. And if the man is truly Gaius Mwrr, then his purpose was to find him. She tells him he hungers for truth, for secrets of the first generation, the true History of the Fall of the Senate. She offers to allow him to be present to witness those very events if in exchange he is to neither speak nor act against her from this moment on.
Jaric says no. He tells her she has lived through those events time and time again by reading about them just like any scholar. He will have Gaius Mwrr.
"Gaius... am I really him?"
The woman warns him not to get involved. But Jaric does not back down, even as the woman says she punishes generations. Gaius then admits he smelted his ring into an amulet - given how heavy it felt to carry. Jaric draws the amulet out and uses it upon the demon. The demon feels Terror.
Seran and Pyotr talk about the coming Storm. Undeniably, it is coming. Pyotr considers the thought of going to their Shanri to meet her husband and even to test him. He suggests they take the Glider right now and go, but Seran insists she will not leave the others behind right now. As Seran explains the importance of the others, Pyotr realizes she had some sort of past with Haroun as well. She really appears as a minx in his eyes now. Pyotr reveals he has a device to monitor the prison, similar to Miralia's Opera House device, but then he realizes that it is empty. He depresses an engraving of a face and light shimmers, allowing him to speak to the guards below as a projected figure of light. Seran takes that moment to steal one of the teeth in the jar. Pyotr learns the prisoner guests are missing. He realizes they have all been planning an escape. He thinks she was sent to distract him, but she sincerely admits she came to ask him for help.
"There are many others," Miralia tells Galeo when she asks if there were others who had gone missing as well. They talk of how Count Kether believed things can be far better than they really are. He asked them one last time a few years back if they were unwilling to leap into uncertainty with him. Miralia chose the family to come first. "I chose our children over him and it was a decision I regretted ever since." She shares with Galeo a secret place that Count Kether used to escape to. A place that allowed them to see another world.
Szaz is outside and Galeo learns of Nia's disappearance. Szaz exclaims about Nia being a Tulpa. They consider whom Nia would have been willing to share her name. When Galeo suggests a Suaven, Szaz admits there are no Suaven here. Family Suaven yes, but none of the Great Suaven. "They are distant and faint. There is only one that still holds strong. Talia Yvarai." Galeo attempts to reach out using her... powers.. to speak to Talia Yvarai. An old and tired voice responds.
The voice with very measured words responds, "What manner of Ven are you to speak in waking dreams to the Sacred Harlot?"
Galeo's eyes widen as she realizes all her conversations with Talia before... are NOT with this Suaven she is speaking with now. Galeo explains who she is, and explains she is a Ven from After the Rain. She asks if Talia does not recognize her. Talia however admits she has heard her prayers in the past, but has only touched her voice today. Galeo promises to correct any and all blasphemies she finds in her name.
Miralia and Szaz have gathered things. Miralia tells her how they have been forced to rely on smaller Prayers since the Suaven had left and have not been giving them Blessings. "They have not been granted."
Nia explains to Haroun everything she could muster of what has transpired in the last few days. She admits that Haroun is the one with the least protection right now, given unlike them, he does not even have land to have a title. Nia suggests he play dead with a Tulpa so the rest of the city does not search for him.
They weigh the possibility of attempts to cross back through the waters, assuming they cannot take an Airship back. Nia admits she will have to play ignorant to things to conceal further the time she was a Tulpa. And when Haroun asks about who they can trust, Nia admits there are none.
The woman screams, crumpling as she pulled away from Jaric. Jaric grabs Kyocera/Gaius and he stares at him in shock. His hand clamps into nothing but air. Kyocera/Gaius stares at Jaric in horror, "What if I am the one in your mind?"
And he is gone.
Jaric is in an empty room. There is no one present. He stares at the books on the middle table and finds it is the registry of the names of the first born. The names he was looking for. Jaric shoves them all to the floor and with the frustration, the doors slam open. Dalvinosh Steele, the Earl of the Elk steps into the room.
"Spiders?" Jaric mutters. "Do I know you sir?" He fumbles for his spectacles. Jaric stays his ground, "You should. We are of the same House."
"One of those... Aren't you supposed to be in prison?"
"Clearly I am not," Jaric admits. Dalvinosh decides to keep it brief: Is he escaping or preparing a defense. Jaric admits he is coming to an understanding. Dalvinosh asks if he is swearing to return to his cell. If not, he will call for the guards.
Jaric asks if the day the Ven bandied together to fight against the Storm... created the Mistweir. "The Misteir does not trap you, it keeps everything out." Dalvinosh asks how he knows this. Jaric motions to the books on the floor. The two stand ready at each other: Dalvinosh with a ring as he mutters, "Senator..", and Jaric with an amulet.
The windows slam open from the winds. Seran and Pyotr stare at the darkening sky. She admits she will depart if he will not choose to help her. The winds have begun to howl. Seran touches the arrowhead, the relic of Avendi, and petitions for guidance.
"Is this your doing?" Pyotr asks, confused.
Wind strikes again. They all feel the air shove them backwards.
The winds rush around and slam windows. Galeo realizes it seems to be far stronger than anything she has felt before. She hears the Bloodsword whispering. Galeo rushes to take it from the wall as the others struggle to close the windows.
"Leave," the Bloodsword tells Galeo.
"Leave to where, "Galeo asks in her head.
"Show me," Galeo replies. The winds howl louder. An image of the Senate House, the halls, and her vision ends with a door in the Senate Hall. Galeo draws the blade. Szaz and Miralia stare at Galeo as she holds the blade held low. "Do not be afraid. This sword will not bite your flesh. But it seems we have bigger business."
"Can I leave tonight?" Galeo asks in her head.
Galeo asks if the carriage is still there. When Szaz affirms, Galeo sheaths the blade and asks Szaz if she was part of the deception Miralia was trapped in. When Szaz admits she does not know what she means, Galeo smiles. She tells them they are leaving. She tells Miralia she will find her husband from beyond the wall if need be. Szaz agrees to go. When Miralia asks where they are going, Galeo admits she was told to go to the Senate House.
Miralia reminds Galeo to keep her word, because if she fails to, she swears Galeo's child shall suffer.
Nia, Haroun and Bowen consider how they are leaving, and he tells Nia how the Vashna actually escorted them here. He actually thought they were going to be executed. Nia admits the Earl is playing her own game, hence now she is their temporary ally. She shares how it has to do with Nia's ability to speak to Orks. The Senate wants a monopoly over that skill, it seems.
Haroun asks Nia why they won't just leave. Even the vassals can be replaced. "If we gather our friends, why don't we just leave?"
Nia looks out of the window and realizes, yes, there is a Storm. Haroun admits he is sick of the whole place and all its inhabitants. Nia admits to leave would be good but given there's a chance they would take chase, then they have to consider finding a way to repel the eventual pursuers.
Nia admits gathering everyone would be very easy to arrange: We go back to Prison. But since Haroun and Bowen were not in prison, Nia thinks it might be better to find another way. As the Earl's Friend, Nia realizes it may be better to keep her from the political harm of aiding them. They walk up to the Earl and see her eating some biscuits. She asks if there is nothing else they need from her, and Nia admits she believes half the Senate will get what they want. Nia mentions there was something she was hoping to get while she was here.
A flicker. The Earl lifts her ring to her face. Six faces glimmer into view. "Senators-" a voice speaks but gets cut. "Dalvinosh Steele," J'sae calls out but he no longer responds. The other faces begin speaking at the same time, confused. Q'll Adrente, Earl of Gashva, then addresses them all. He tells them that one of their numbers is under attack. J'sae looks at Nia and tells the Senators she will handle the investigations. The others are to be prepared. Many ask about the worsening weather. "Have our old enemies returned?" one asks J'sae. J'sae admits she will talk to the others later and closes the connection.
"I have a feeling no matter what it is, the tumult we are waiting for has arrived," Nia beams.
J'sae sees something has happened in the Archive room and she prepares to ride there. Nia asks for food supplies, salves for Bowen, and they opt to head for the Prison as well. The Earl asks if they will need an escort back to the cell, and Nia says no. The Earl tells them to take what they must and rides off.