Friday, September 26, 2014

After the Rain ep15 : Houses of the Blooded

08/10/2014
After the Rain

Episode Fifteen
"Sorio"

Word of Lukas' death now reaches Nia Jalan and Jaric Thayl as the reunions lead to sharing of updates and stories.  Of greater concern for the Senate is the sudden influx of more than a hundred ven mouths that need to be fed given they have no land.  Letters are sent to and fro.  Haroun Q'n behooves that all of them attend the coming winter session of the Senate.  As it stands, the new ven that have arrived will need someone to speak on their behalf.   Given the way ven politics works, while anyone can speak before the Senate, the speaker must first be recognized by at least three other ven.  And of course, the strength of the rank of those who recognize the speaker matters.   While the Earls stand high on matters of House, in the Senate only the Dukes are recognized to speak freely.  Earls (which are pretty much seen as Dukes as well by the Senate) stand no higher than other Dukes during the sessions.   And once a matter is set, whoever claims for the Verdict to be called first can have some level of advantage to the final resolution - but calling for such too soon can just be as disastrous.  And once decisions are made, the matter is considered closed and it is considered bad form to contest the decisions. If anyone wants to reconsider the verdict will have to wait for the next Season.

Both Jaric Thayl and Seran Throne wonder about the Spiders and hope to maintain some degree of connection to them.  Seran does not know, however, of Jaric's agreements with Szaz Ashken during their long journey home.  Nia Jalan takes the opportunity to practice the Sorcery she had learned by creating a Tulpa of Dalvinosh Steele, whom she keeps "safely in residence" in her castle.  She opts to bring the Tulpa to the coming Winter Althua.  Galeo Silja wonders if Miralia Yvarai would be present in the Althua, and wonders if any of the children had survived and will be present in the events.

Prior to the coming of the Senate hearing, many receive invitations to Sorio Rusu's Winter Althua.  The weather was harsh, with the cold making visibility difficult.  But most opt to attend, given it is a perfect opportunity to discuss the matters soon to be formally discussed in the Senate hall.  Merida, the maid who had made the wish to return home, stands near Seran Thorne, waiting for any commands.  Seran considers using the Glider to go to the Althua, and even stresses that Merida will come with her.  With her desire to visit her parents, she writes a letter to her mother to let her know of her plans to visit.  Given the Season and a half that she had been wearing mourning clothes, Seran decides it is time to start wearing something more... herself.

Hero watches as Galeo gathers blue gowns to bring to the Althua.  Hero suggests that blue would have Galeo vanish into the background given it is Winter.  Galeo realizes she should have capitalized on her "stage-is-the-dress" he wore before since it seems like what Cherno is doing now to stand out.  Hero warns Galeo that her insecurities regarding Cherno are too visible.  "Must Shan'ri be so small that only one person crafts Art?  Was I that insignificant that you are now only challenged by that stranger?"  Hero even asks her if it is time for her to take Seasons to craft a true work of Art.  He even suggests that instead of shooting down other artists, perhaps Galeo should have opted to become their Mentor instead.  If anything, however, the two have rediscovered powerful passions between them, including the urge to have children.

Nia Jalan dresses the Tulpa of Dalvinosh Steele for the party.  The real one wonders what she hopes to achieve with this.  Nia tells Dalvinosh she wants to learn the knowledge that they had in regards to controlling the weather and the reasons behind her abduction and her own replacement.  Dalvinosh claims to not have knowledge of her being replaced during their time in the City.  Nia asks about the ritual used to control Orks, and suggests it doesn't have to be the Tulpa that will come to the party.  Dalvinosh however remains firm that the Orks simply did as they were told, something the Serpents had accomplished with the help of one they do not speak of - one of the Fashuva, a Fallen Suaven.  In the end, Nia still brings the Tulpa with her.  He even tries to use the ring to attempt to call the other Earls as they used to do so in the old Shan'ri.  He hands Nia the ring, asking her to keep it in remembrance of their friendship.  "Dalvinosh" does get stunned at the truths of how huge Shan'ri is for them, seeing the Volcano, the vast tracks of land and the animals nearby. Dalvinosh offers a bracelet as a gift to the Althua.  The bracelet has animal tokens which can be separated from the chain then transform into actual living animals.

Maja Thayl finally shares with Jaric Thayl the truth that she had his father had never been married.  As it turns out, the two have been engaging in prolonged Romances and even bore a number of children in their unions.  Neither, however, opted to lose their lands and so they never truly married.  He learns that in the many occasions he had proposed to Maja, she had turned him down because she realized they were the more exciting answer to give.  The father, however, had been Romancing another younger woman.  What bothers her more, however, was Cherno's Art which interrupted a party she was in.  Everyone's attention was drawn to Cherno for three straight hours.  "It changes you know.  It is like seeing the Dragon."  She even shares how those who performed do not even recall the rehearsals and the celebration.  She does remember that all the performers recall a "clack" like something being closed.  Once he spent enough time with his mother, Jaric then speaks with Jalani about the spy they had captured.  She updates him on the information they have gathered about him, including the fact that they children are handling the interrogations.  The prisoner is not ven.  She also shares that James has been learning about poisons while Jessie has been studying sorcery.   The son shows up and eagerly shares the new knowledge he had uncovered: the spy was sent by Count Kether.

The Storm seems to be brewing in the distance.  More disturbingly, more of the ven-body-orks are present, in strange formations along the way.  There are two Ruins clearly visible in the Province as well.  Sorio Rusu's land is clearly distinctive of the way Bears nurture their land.

On route to the Althua, a blizzard nearly gets Galeo, Hero, and Carrow get lost.  They thankfully see a figure in a red cloak along the way.  The figure asks if they are lost and they realize it is Errol.  Galeo asks him to show them the way.  Hero is curious to who Errol is, given Galeo has been generously kind to the man.  Hero actually assumes that the man is Cherno and Galeo has been secretly training him.  Casselanter even calls out the name, "Cherno" and Galeo panics if that is her first word.  Hero prods more, asking for information on Errol and Galeo tries to convince him that he is not Cherno.    

Nia and Dalvinosh are also enroute, and note the bodies in the ice and snow of embracing figures.  Nia realizes the bodies are not sculptures.  They are the orks, the ones that gather and clasp one another as they did for Dranna Ru's clothes.  Or the massive orb that nearly crushed them all in Isolde's castle.  They also chance upon a traveler on the road who turns out to be the Q'val Celaeno Steiner, Nia's sister, who is devoted to Manna Renay.   She admits she left a carriage earlier of some man who is still devoted to an old flame.

Maja and Jaric arrive at the Castle to see Ammon Tammel, his father, already there.  Maja pulls away and avoids his notice.  Ammon judges the lack of proper vassals as well as the lack of amenities along the road.  To Jaric's surprise, the father was not even worried of his own son's absence.  He seems well informed of his journey even as Jaric tries to bring back the conversation to his parents having never been married.  He explains that what he has with Maja is something Jaric would find difficult to grasp.  Ammon's attentions, however, are now focused on finding the Q'val he is having a Romance with.  Jaric realize's he is talking about Nia's sister.  The father mistakes Jaric as a Serpent, and soon admits he was absent in his Blooding.  It was a Tulpa present during the Blooding.
Madeyln Yvarai, former Master of the Ruk
Court Scholar of Maja Thayl

Most of the actual Althua is spent talking about Winter, discussions with various new faces such as Fenir Dyr who spoke of the lost ven with no culture, of Lukas' sacrifice and using his name to stop the Storm, of Madelyn Yvarai who happens to have survived the events of the other Shan'ri and now stands among them.  She has a petition to become a Baroness and her desire to find more to recognize her in the coming Senate meeting.  Madelyn invites everyone to enjoy the wine since she claims to have brought it but Jaric insists that she remember she is still a Ruk, stressing even it was not clear if she was ven among her own ork ven.      Madelyn still blames the group for taking her family (of Tulpas) away.  Jaric is deeply bothered by Madelyn Yvarai's attempts to rise back into power.  He starts telling a lot of those present in the Althua about how one cannot trust Madelyn Yvarai, or worse muttering that somehow Madelyn Yvarai is alive! Ironically, most reply "Who?" which gives Jaric an excuse to ramble on about the Riddle of Bood.  Szaz Askhen is present in the Althua as well, and receives a cold welcome from many of those present that she is not ven.  Jaric declares that the spider is with him, which surprises Seran, who had hoped to come to her aid.  Dalvinosh Steele's Tulpa has a few confused moments upon seeing Szaz Askhen given he fails to recall having traveled via the airship.  Nia keeps the former Earl close by, however, especially when Madelyn Yvarai notes their presence as well.

On the road, Hero reconsiders attending the party and taking Casselanter back home with him when they all see the Orks along the road.  But the blizzard is strong and the snow is too strong to risk a trip home alone.  When they arrive, Galeo is surprised to hear from Sorio Rusu's Seneschal that many of them are admirers of her work, and that some even attempt to recreate her stories and works as theater pieces for the Veth.  The Seneschal even mentioned his daughter chanced upon Galeo's work in the past, but upon asking more about the daughter, Galeo learns the daughter served under the Lady Isolde and had perished when the castle fell.   He shares that Galeo painted in front of her and it was a touching final gift before her demise.  Nia and Jaric are both bothered how Madelyn Yvarai has not only survived the fall of the other Shan'ri, as well as had found a way to their Shan'ri immediately.   Galeo realizes that Madelyn Yvarai is being all friendly and introducing herself to everyone clearly for someone who is in the Althua.  Her eyes narrow as she come to realize it is... Maja Thayl.

Nia throws some lines at Madelyn, and from reading between the lines, it almost sounds like she is aware that Nia had murdered an Earl to create an Airship.  "I'd like to say a little bird told me, but no one believes birds can talk."  Seran tells the others to not drink the wine either, given it was a gift from Madelyn Yvarai. Madelyn asks Nia if she does know the truth, about how Madelyn was the victim in all this.  Nia recalls meeting the Tulpa son, Kithranus, who had melted away when the sun set.

Galeo glides away from the others to talk to Maja, but she does not get there in time.  Count Kether intercepts her approach, and the two exchange pleasantries.  Kether invites Galeo to dance, and she motions to Hero that they will dance.  Hero gives her his full support.  While the rest of the Althua see the two dancing so intimately, most are unaware of the two sharing a cunning conversation about why there is another ven named Count Kether in the room.  He worries the other is an usurper, but Galeo explains it simply is another who has the same title from the other Shan'ri.  And at the end of the day, the other remains landless.   Turns out the questions are to check if the Count is under Galeo's shadow, because Kether wonders if he will cause any trouble if he chooses to murder him.  After leaving her with that question, Kether spins Galeo away and ends the dance.  She tells him thought that she doesn't really mind, but he reminds her that if she changes her mind, may she be able to act in time.

In an attempt to draw Maja into the spotlight, Galeo announces the presence of Madelyn Yvarai in the room.  The focus draws attention to Madelyn as Galeo hoped, and Maja steps forward now to introduce everyone Madelyn Yvarai as her Court Scholar.  Galeo gets more curious given Maja has no land!  Maja talks about how the others have been finding their way into the provinces, and how many are still seeking to have someone shadow over them.  Jaric counters the words though, declaring how Madelyn was Mistress of the Ruk, and was not even ven among their kind.  Madelyn asks Maja for permission, then steps forwards to ask Jaric if he is since with his accusations.  Jaric reminds her he need not be sincere to Ruk.   Madelyn asks, "By tradition, who and who alone has the power to do what the Sorcerer-Kings have done? Is it not a fact that while illegal, Sorcery can only be done by the ven?"  Jaric agrees.  Madelyn offers to show proof of her being ven.  Maja explains that Madelyn is asking permission to meet Jaric's challenge.  Jaric reminds them that she has no "challenge to face" but only the Senate to make a decision of the matter.   Galeo, unable to hold back, and reminds others to be calmer given it is Winter and the like.  Her hands however sign messages to Jaric and her friends that this is the same Senate that permitted Dranna Ru to be recognized as a House!  She reminds them that they want a Senate that is the least bias.  This needs to be manipulated properly to get what they want.  Though Jaric feels troubled with the breach of tradition given the House Ruk and House Ork talk, he cannot help but admit that the Senate is always right.

Galeo sort of tries to ask everyone to "be calm and wait for the Senate" but the crowd of Foxes, Bears and Wolves, most still feel more swayed to see Madelyn Yvarai prove herself.  And some even wonder if a duel would be better.  Galeo turns the focus to the highest ranking ven in the chamber, to properly handle this.  Haroun Q'n decides that the matter can be considered settled til the Senate hearing with a Tribunal.  He considers the matter on who will be the Tribunal.  Maja approaches Jaric and discusses how this is a personal matter, and not one they should involve themselves in, but Jaric stresses that Madelyn was a principal player in the stories.   For Maja, however, Madelyn simply put is landless, and she is the voice of the Uv'shanadir.  Jaric however still fears that Madelyn might be an Ork, or something he rather not say.  Maja finds it preposterous that Jaric is afraid Madelyn might be a demon.  Jaric starts whispering to Maja how the Riddle of Blood was not just a story, but Maja still remembers it being a childhood story she read him.

Galeo talks to Madelyn again and stresses that she simply wants a matter of fairness in the concerns.  She would rather the matter be brought to the Senate.  That statement, however, gives Madelyn the push to ask Galeo to recognize her to speak.  Galeo admits she can be a voice if that is what she needs but she requires that if things happen, Galeo's lands and family will not be harmed.  Madelyn is not willing, however, to swear "an Oath" in exchange just for a promise to speak.  Galeo admits she is willing to simply make it simple and have Madelyn promise that she owes her commensurately.  Seran walks straight up to Madelyn and offers to recognize her in exchange for one thing: Tell me about the demoness.   Madelyn, however, seems to not know about any Demonness. She knows only of the Storm.  Seran admits that will be all she needs.  With that, Seran walks straight back out. Madelyn does admit she fails to grasp by Jaric holds so much anger towards her and Galeo simply shares he is protective of his legends.  She warns Galeo to tell Jaric that she might feel compelled to make his words come to truth if he keeps making those accusations.

Outside, Seran finds Ammon Tammel and share discussions on the Ork Ven and anticipates the Earls will just see these Ork Ven as Ruk, given they are not of any House.   Ammon expects that the Senate simply wants to see who will watch over these ven.  Seran admits she never had to be a vassal for others.  Ammon seems antagonistic, however, and sees Seran as someone who was one of the privileged ones.  He asks how Jaric is, and she explains he rambles more often these days.  She admits she stepped out because she was tired of him accosting every single guest about Madelyn Yvarai.  Ammon sees them as close, but Seran admits they are not friends.  Ammon admits many wanted him to be a Serpent, even the Earl of the Serpent, and see him as a Serpent who died but was brought back, but he finds it to be a stupid thing given no Ven ever returns from Solace or death.   "Unless you are like Madelyn Yvarai," Seran laughs.  When she asks why Ammon is waiting outside, he admits that he wants to marry Maja and that is why he is currently outside the Castle: he is waiting for the Poison to kill the other woman.   Seran is aghast this is how a Romance unfolds.  She asks again if she already has the poison, and he admits he had given her the poison already.  "So she was already here?"  Ammon admits she did, and talks about how parties used to be much more peaceful.

Jaric is not too keen on hearing how the others have agreed to recognize Madelyn Yvarai in the Senate.  He feels that already is too much, knowing she is a Fox.  "One of the most Cunning Foxes to have ever walked Shan'ri."  He questions however if he should be in the same Senate hall as Madelyn given they tend to "collapse around her."   Galeo muses that it could be worse if she were to be allied with Dranna Ru.  Galeo simply feels it would be more dangerous to allow her to stay silent.  Jaric wonders if Jessie can do something (and he feels the Oleander in his pocket).  He does admit he has not had anything to eat or drink given the instances of the cookies before and the possibilities of poison.

Sorio Rusu finally addresses everyone, apologizing for his lateness.  He explains the real reason for the invitation and that is to raise the matter of the Winter Gathering of the Senate in regards to the Ork Ven.  He explains this matter is regards the Others.  He asks from those present recognition and he has a proposal he wishes to raise to the Senate.  He asks the candles to be killed, and as darkness fills the room most instinctively reach for the handles of their swords.  He uses an artifact to project light upon the walls, showing words and images for all to see.  He declares the question of the Others being Ven is irrelevant.  The matter more important is, "Will they Survive the Winter?"   and for Sorio the matter is will they live through winter given the famine of the last two Seasons.  The group is surprised to hear that famine had struck the Provinces in their absence.  The greatest stores of food are with the Merchant Houses right now.  Seran Thorne is pointed out when an outburst from her catches attention.  Sorio intones all to pray that Althea Thorne bless them in this gathering.  None realized that Althea Thorne had already slipped into Solace!    Sorio admits they all worship the Suaven.  Galeo calls out to Althea in her head and true enough, she responds.  Althea is shocked to learn it is true that Galeo can hear them, adding that Seran mentioned this once and Althea thought Seran was making fun of her.  Sorio also notes Galeo Silja and has them applaud her presence.  Seran cannot take the truth that Althea has passed into Solace.  "It is said that she was grievously injured in a battle against the Storm.  She had crafted personal wings but she did not recover from her injuries.  But thankfully, instead of death, she slipped into Solace."  Galeo searches for Haroun but realizes he is not around.  They have built a temple for Althea Thorne in her own land.  Her Province is to be a Temple.  But Seran realizes the Province is promised to someone else!

The Artifact
Szaz reminds Sorio to focus on the Others.  Sorio continues talking about Waste and how not feeding the Others will be a waste of life, of vassals, of opportunity.  Sorio asks for nine to recognize them to speak before the Senate to call for all the Others to be fed half by the Merchant Houses and half by those who wear the Black.    Sorio shares there will be two events: a Ruin to be freely explored and the second is a Challenge Course, a Region that they may attempt to survive.  Nia asks what the prize of the Challenge Course will be and Sorio applauds Nia Jalan's presence as the Countess.  Nia is surprised given she knows she is only a Baroness.  Maja Thayl explains that Nia has been promoted in position by the Senate.  There was no clear statement of who petitioned for it, after someone questioned if her lands were Fair Game.    The Prize is revealed to be a Ruin found from the lands that fell from the heavens.  A cart is brought in, and when the cloth is removed, they see orichalcum on the cart.  The artifact is the same artifact which the group had seen used to show an Opera within it.  Sorio operates the device and they all bear witness to see the Opera actors still there! They are camped in the ruins of a broken Opera House, and they call out to the viewers begging to be helped.  "Are you seeing us?  We are still here! Can you hear us?  Speak to us!"  The group realizes the actors are survivors of the fallen City.  Galeo steps forward and insists Sorio shut the device down.  Sorio however demonstrates how the people can be made to do things.  He hangs a thread with pieces of meat into the device and the people within rush to receive it!   Galeo asks again that they shut it down.  The actors within begin to stomp their feet and call out prayers.  Sorio finally shuts the device.  Galeo hears a clack sound beside her.  She turns and sees a hooded figure holding a Compact just like the one the others found in the Ruin.    Galeo blinks, and there is an empty space beside her.  Was there someone there?

The Althua stretches on.  Jaric searches for the former Earl and finds him at a balcony outside.  Dalvinosh soon displays an uncanny ability to direct lightning to strike a distant target in the landscape.  They both share their uneasiness to see Madelyn Yvarai alive.  Dalvinosh does admit they regret that she is Blooded, given they have no true power to Unblood one of the Blooded.  She was stripped of all recognition as Ven, but in truth they still all knew her to be Ven.  Jaric asks why keep her alive given all that had happened, and Dalvinosh admits it is because she is Ven and the Ven are never killed.  Dalvinosh asks if it is just him or did the wine taste differently.  Jaric wonders how she can even have wine given she has no land.    Dalvinosh realizes that Jaric hosts animosity towards Madelyn Yvarai given how "he" always painted her as villains in the stories he wrote.  Dalvinosh starts to comment about feeling heavy and how the day seems to draw away his strength.  He admits he feels the urge to lie down and there will still be a second day.   He sits down, and as Jaric breathes in the wine, he notices the hint of poison in it: Hemlock.  The poison is called Fox's Revenge, and it causes the body to slow down and shut down, leaving a beautiful corpse.   Dalvinosh tells Jaric he has the antidote, a tattoo in his right shoulder - with each tattoo representing a poison it can neutralize.  But when Jaric checks, he finds nothing.   Dalvinosh realizes if the tattoo is not there, then he is not himself.  He is a Tulpa!

Nia comes up to Sorio and asks for more information.  When Nia admits she already has promised her voice, Sorio suggests she can ask the Baron under her to recognize them.  The petition was sent by parcel and was approved.  Nia was granted the shift of position since she no longer serves their former Count, but now she stands under the shadow of the Duke Haroun Q'n.  The Lord Protector between them turns out to be the Marquis Lukas.  Nia however knows that Lukas (or now, Lukas Q'n) is dead with no future in Solace.

Galeo finds Hero who has had four glasses of wine.  Galeo is wondering why Hero keeps drinking given all the times he gets poisoned.  Hero refuses to answer how many times he has gone without getting poisoned and it turns out it is because he was going to other parties in secret. He admits he did it to see if people would recognize him. That was when he saw Cherno's work.  Hero's words slip when he admits he feels sometimes he may have been under Galeo's shadow for too long.  Hero admits the wine reminds him of Jaric's wine.  In the distance, a glass falls and breaks.  When Galeo asks if Hero has an antidote, Hero whispers that the Herbs were given to the Court Scholar instead.  Hero reminds Galeo that they have no Apothecarist.

As all begin to realize the poisoning happening all around, many start to wonder where Haroun is in all this.  Only Seran knows the answer as she finds Haroun Q'n at a tower who confesses to her that he is behind the poisoning going on in the castle.  Haroun is trying to poison and slay all the Ork Ven and Sorio Rusu has agreed to admit he was the one who committed the act.  Haroun has promised to watch over Sorio's family in return.  He then confesses more, admitting to Seran what happened earlier before she arrived.  He tells her about his prayer to Althea and his wish that she tell them that he did it.  And how he turned to see Madelyn Yvarai having overheard him.  She admits she noticed how the guests had different wine glasses, and admits she will keep his secret safe given she knows the taste of Hemlock.  She admitted she made sure those she liked did not drink it.  "I have your recognition?"

People are dropping to the ground, as more and more are weakened by the Poison.  Jaric calls out to everyone that it is Hemlock!  Galeo leans close to Hero and smells no hemlock in his breath.  His wine is not poisoned!  Nia searches for Dalvinosh and finds him on the ground.  She finds her sister, Celaeno Steiner staring at Nia in panic as they see the other dead bodies around them.  Galeo pulls the family to one side.  Caleano admits she does not think they are the target.  A man offers Jaric the antidote for the Hemlock in exchange for a promise to help rid the man's lands of Orks in the coming season if needed.  The man is Lura Drew.  Jaric asks too many questions, however, and Lura heads off to find someone else to help.  Dalvinosh pulls Jaric close and asks him to take his belt.  As the Tulpa dies, Jaric strips the belt off and is told that, "If my any chance, this is what you need to do... if this is the past.. tell the me what happened. I hope I am just a Tulpa."

Seran tells Haroun Q'n that she won't stop him in his act of vengeance, but reminds him he is the reason that she lost Lukas.  Seran asks if he needs her to serve under his Shadow as his Swordsman, but he tells her he has already made arrangements to have them all under his Shadow.  The land shall remain untouched.  But with Lukas' disappearance, there may be an issue on succession.  Seran considers taking the land of Lukas to become the Marquess herself.  "You will need a husband."  Seran lays down one condition: that Haroun is never under any circumstances to make a request from a demoness.   She does not want to lose anyone else.  "Seran," Haroun clarifies, "We will find you that husband.  If there is anything I swore your mother, it is that you will be forever under my protection."

Errol arrives, grabs Seran out of worry if she is well.  Seran reassures him they are fine.  Haroun drops to one knee and admits he needs the antidote.  "Whoever is behind this has poisoned me.." Seran asks Errol for the antidote and he draws out a strap with five vials.  He hands her the vial marked Hemlock and Seran pours it into his mouth.  Errol asks how he identified it to be hemlock and Seran lies and claims she smelled it on him.  Errol realizes for the first time Seran is lying to him.

As the situation is brought to the fore, Haroun Q'n demands for the person behind the poisons to admit their guilt.  To his surprise, Sorio Quin takes a while before he finally voices out his role in the events.  It, instead, is Maja Thayl who speaks aloud at first, confessing to have taken wine from Jaric's stores and offered it to the Althua.  She, however, does admit to not have any knowledge of the Poison.  Seran finds a nearby Bloodsword and picks it up from one of the dead bodies and keeping it.  Errol raises his hand then in response and admits he has nothing to do with the poison, but suspects the staff was involved.  Without that, the person involved might have had to slip the poison into each dead body's cup.  With over fifteen bodies, Errol thinks the Staff are involved.  And perhaps they should be questioned. Haroun asks Galeo to explain who the vassal is, and Galeo identifies him as Errol.  Seran admits he likes how resourceful he is.  Erroll admits he is Blooded of the Fox, but Haroun questions him that he would recognize him if he was truly Blooded of the Fox.  Galeo claims he is from a distant relation.  Haroun still feels though he should know who Errol is if he truly is a Fox.  He motions Errol to move aside and has the staff gather in the center of the room.  Haroun offers to the staff the chance to be a Knight under his domain if they speak the truth.  One rushes forward and accuses Sorio Rusu of instructing them to place the poison in the wine.  Nia questions if that statement is true given she doubts it would be possible.  Haroun questions Sorio on the matter, but Nia still pushes that Sorio clearly is not the type who would do such a thing.  "Let us make this simple, none of us want the Vasha," Haroun petitions everyone.

Sorio finally gives his confessions, but the group still feels it sounds wrong.  Why would the man who wants to feed the Ork Ven now poison the very people he tried to gain recognition to save?  Jaric asks if any Serpent can verify the truth of his words.  Nia begs Sorio to stop speaking such "Yellow words."  Sorio confesses to have poisoned them as an act of mercy to spare them death from cold and hunger.

The Jury are asked to make their decisions:  Nia Jalan is one assigned and she asks for one final exchange with the confessor.  Nia asks Sorio then kicks him.  He drops to one knee in pain.  Nia starts screaming at him, "What of your wife? What of your sister? What of your children? You take the Black and you know what happens!"  Sorio still in full conviction responds, "This IS for them!"  Nia mouths to Sorio: Who? But he refuses to say anything else.  Nia stomps back to her place and gives the verdict of Guilty.

Seran Thorne does not hesitate and gives a Guilty verdict as well.

Galeo Silja is the last to vote.  She declares she finds the decision too quick.  She explains that he argues that he does it matter out of mercy, and supposedly used Hemlock for a beautiful death, however in doing so he also contravenes an important thing: If truly acting in the best interests of all at heart, then why disprove and create no need for a Senate Hearing?  Anyone knows that if you can be affected by Hemlock, that means you must be Ven.  And here he is making examples of them.  He was not just giving them a peaceful death, he was making the majority be seen as Ven.  It would mean we would have to accept all that survive to be equal to us.  She will not support a decision that contravenes the Senate decision to come.

Sorio Rusu
"We have all seen agents of Chaos before," Galeo hisses at Seran.

"That is because Sorio is a DOLT!" Nia growls.

"And Dolts can be used by Agents of Chaos," Galeo concludes.

Haroun asks if Galeo is therefore suggesting conspiracy?  Galeo says yes, that is it too pat.  Haroun closes the matter as unsettled.  The Vashna are to be called and all are to remain until the Senate hears the Vashna investigations.  They are to prepare letters for their loved ones and provinces as none are to leave until the matter is done.  Seran takes Haroun away.

Madelyn Yvarai stands near Jaric during all this.  Jaric pulls away. "You realize in the end we face a common foe."  Jaric admits he cannot prove anything to her connection to this things, but he promises to keep an eye open at her.  Madelyn wonders if he would ever be willing to ally with the only one who has defeated such a foe before.  He questions if she really defeated it before, or played right into her hands.  "So far, she is winning.  A City and a Senate House gone."

"Yes, but I know something no one else does."

"And what would that me?" Jaric asks

"My Name.  It is her name now, right?" Madelyn grins.

"But you have always been Madelyn Yvarai?"

She simply smiles.

*

Hero and Galeo talk about how he is not sure if they should have protected the Ork Ven. For Galeo, however, for good or ill, they share the Blood.  But what matters is what the Senate has to do.  It rests on them to get to the bottom of things, the truth.  Galeo admits she won't let an agent of Chaos win again.  Especially not with her daughter.

Hero however worries that they are trapped now with all of them.  Galeo is simply certain that while one keeps friends close, one should keep others closer.

*

And finally, Seran and Haroun realize the events did not function as planned.  Seran insists they need to forget this to avoid the investigation.  She draws out the Compact, places their hair inside, and locks away that memory.

Clack.

*

Nia kneels closely to Sorio and tells him Galeo is a Baron under her now.  And while publically against her, she admits she will find who is behind this.  To her surprise, Sorio insists Nia should push Galeo to accept his words as fact.  Nia reminds Sorio however that Galeo acts according to her desires.

"I do everything for my family."

"The same goes for me."

*

The morning comes.

The Vashna arrive.  The gates are swung open.  A shriek calls them all to the main chamber.  The source, a maid.  The cause?  Sorio Rusu is dead.
















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