Friday, December 26, 2014

After the Rain ep20 : Houses of the Blooded

10/06/2014
After the Rain

Episode Twenty
"Downpour"

Houses of the Blooded

Lighting flashes. Rain pours.  In some hidden chamber, an oak table stands at the center of the room.  Roses are scattered around the table.  Seated around it are five individuals who regard each other quietly and stare at the roses on the table.  One turns to look at the doors and calls for the Vashna, telling them they are under attack.  None of the Vashna emerge.  "We are ready," the silhouette tells the others.  The Earls nod, now ready for their private discussion and discuss the coming Spring.

*

Elsewhere, a voice reaches the mind of Galeo Silja as her hands work on the marble and pound it into submission.  The voice is Quan Wei, whom Galeo for so long assumed it was Thalia.  They talk of the actions they did which they felt were necessary and of the need to find Thalia.  Galeo admits she does not know where to look.   Quan Wei shares of how Thalia was left behind when they all fled the other Shan'ri while Galeo talks of the individuals whom she met while there, including Madelyn Yvarai.  Quan Wei is puzzled that some of them still live, given it has been of so much time so long ago.  Galeo asks if she must bring allies with her, but Quan Wei insists she come alone.  No one much know of where Quan Wei hides, lest the red-haired Demon find her.  Galeo hopes that Quan Wei can explain things to her, like about the Quill.   Before she could leave however, Hero confronts her wanting to talk about Errol.  He has suspicions on who Errol is but they are off the mark.  He asks if Errol was a child Galeo had before meeting Hero.  Galeo stresses that Errol represents a variety of vested interests but is no rival for him.  Hero however admits he is certain that Galeo is keeping some truth from him.  Galeo mentions that she has changed since the other Shan'ri, having seen the Dragon.  Errol represents that Dragon.    He hands Galeo an envelope which turns out to be a letter.  Hero reveals a second one, addressed to him.  "The Elks are calling. I will be back, but I have to leave. Yours seems to be a House affair as well."

The Earl of the Foxes has declared for a gathering.  There is to be an emergency meeting before the Senate.  After a few more reassuring exchanges with Hero, Galeo considers if she will have time to visit Quan Wei.


*

Nia Jalan stares at the Earl of the Serpent House.   He has come to visit her at her very Castle.  Janine realizes she is not part of the conversation, being Unblooded, and leaves Nia to handle the discussion.  The Earl awaits her at the gate to the Castle.  A line of carriages, roadmen and other vassals await outside.  A carpet has even been laid out all the way to the carriage.  The area outside the gates have been prepped as "his area."  The Earl wears an Owl mask.  The four children, bald with black stripe painted across ear to ear, seated around the Earl speak for him.   Nia proclaims her loyalties to the House and asks what matter is to be discussed.  House Serpent is to be unanimous in the vote coming the Spring Serpent.  "One of our House has been Murdered.  The Serpent, Havar Mwrr, must be avenged."  Ultimately, there is fear that the Ork Ven might know secrets the Serpents want to keep sacred.   The murderer is Seran Thorne and the Elk, "Understands you are not friends.  Then there will be no problem with the vote.  Will I have it?"  Nia admits she cannot stand against her house.  The Earl asks if he will have to reassure herself of Nia's loyalty and he shows a glass chest filled with papers, each one holding three names; Oaths forcibly collected for the vote.  "The Victim is a Serpent, and if we do not protect our own, other serpents will sell their secrets for protection.  All Serpents are Serpents.  The House protects its own."  Nia sees no reason to dissent.  The Earl then calls for Nia to call her wife.  She is to be Blooded, for the votes.  The Earl goes as far as even asking if Nia's child is Blooded.   Nia claims the child is currently visiting her sister.  He even asks for Janine's brother, Justinian, who is Nia's Master of the Road.

"I will wait.  Bring them."

*

In the dark castle of Seran Thorne, Haroun opens the gates to have Seran come home.  The Vashna remain outside, waiting and watching.  The Staff quickly prepare food.  Errol watches from the distance in silence.  Seran dismisses everyone save for Haroun and Errol, wanting a chance to talk to them.  Seran grabs some roses on the way to the chamber to speak with the two and casts the Ritual of the Rose.  Errol's eyes widen in fascination, given this is the first time he has seen Seran cast any Ritual.  Seran talks about having murdered someone, and Errol shares that the Earl of the Wolves have called for the Wolves to speak on the vote.  They believe the Ork Ven are a Sorcerer-King's ploy: a trick of the old ones.  They are calling for the deaths of all the Ork Ven, and all Wolves are to receive a Bloodsword dedicated to cleansing Shanri of the Ork Ven.  Haroun share that the Foxes, on the other hand, are planning to speak and have the Ork Ven to be recognized as Ven.  Haroun plans to vote against it for to support it is to have Seran held accountable for Murder.

Seran considers making preparations to protect her land, and Errol offers to take it from her.  When Haroun questions if Errol is being opportunistic, Errol offers to give Seran his secret name as a keepsafe.  They end up wondering about Errol's identity once more and Haroun wonders if Errol is Galeo's child, a suggestion he directly denies.  When Haroun challenges Errol to explain how he gained Galeo's trust, Errol however tells Seran he trusts her to know if she can trust him only by looking into his eyes.  Haroun leaves the table, which incenses Seran since it breaks the ritual, and forces him to sit as she recasts it once more.  Errol is asked to make an Oath that he would hold the lands only until the true owner, Seran, is able to claim it back.  The Oath is made.  They do discuss that the letter might have been meant for a different Errol, given Errol is a Fox, not a Wolf.  And Errol then remembers there was a Spy he had captured and is currently in the dungeons below.

*

Jaric Thayl finds himself sharing a moment with his mother, Maja Thayl, who wonders if her son hates her... because her Court Scholar is Madelyn Yvarai.  Jaric stresses that her property is her own.  They discuss the matter of the Merchant Houses and the plan to build a road of ports for the airships - a Highway - in order to allow anyone who seeks to journey between Provinces.  Jaric refuses to participate, however, finding the whole thing irregular and non-traditional.  Jaric however recognizes that his mother does not just seek support of the Highway, but also to be recognition and be allowed to speak before the Senate.  The Merchants would then have a voice in the Senate, one Senator.. Maja herself. Jaric refuses to participate however.

The two shift the discussion to the Senate, about the actions of the Wolves, the Foxes and the Serpents.  Maja adds however the call for the Elks to absorb all Elk Ork Ven into their numbers.  And how the Bears have declared no confidence on the matter.  She then adds that Nia and Janine are possibly both pregnant.  She is surprised on who the parents are but is not in any liberty to say.  She does mention that Gaius Mwrr has suddenly become more vocal in the temple.  Maja shares that James Adrente, Jaric's son, wrote a letter to her as well, worrying over the coming Senate and the weight of the decisions he will have to make.  Jaric and Jalani are planning to assist James in the matter to come.  She also asks how Galeo is and Jaric counters he has been quite busy.  Jaric does admit he has been following Cherno sightings.

She asks if he has heard about the rumors of the Senate, given they are talking about Cherno.  Supposedly, Cherno was releasing a work in the coming Senate this Spring.  Maja Moves The Pawn, suggesting Jaric should bring Galeo to see Cherno's work.  They discuss how Cherno was once believed to be Galeo given the earlier work were very... Galean.  And how it took some time before his own work began to become much more pronounced as his own.  And the last rumor being the Storm is supposedly coming.  She is anxious to head on home given the weather, and the Court Scholar is currently waiting for her in her carriage.  This freaks Jaric out, however, given he does not want Madelyn Yvarai to be anywhere close to where he is.  Maja reassures him though that she is definitely in charge, despite history showing that Madelyn Yvarai had once outsmarted Ti'Ann Burghe.  "Foxes never outsmart Elks.  This is a chance for the Elks to finally get back at her or any of her descendants for what they've done before."

Jaric warns Maja that Madelyn only had eyes for herself and her family.    "I worry for Shanri."

"So Shanri ranks over your own mother now," Maja teases.

"Always."

She shares that Galeo has also asked for her help to make everyone else forget about her true name.  But she tells her she will have everything under control.

*

The suaven remains suspended in the chamber.  Quan Wei asks Galeo if she would prefer to see her as she used to.  When Galeo agrees, the image of Quan Wei as the robed woman return to her sight.  They discuss the other Shanri, with Galeo telling the stories of the Count Kether in the other side, of Madelyn Yvarai, and the appearance of the city and its Senate.  Quan Wei finds the stories familiar admitting that the descriptions match the Shanri she remembers.  Galeo also shares how there are the Dreadfuls, many tomes and stories that supposedly were penned by Jaric Thayl, even if he had never written such.  The talk of Shanri falling and a red-haired demon being their opponent brings Quan Wei to name her as Liliandra.  She shares it was once her name and thus it is safer now to say that name.

Quan Wei finds it impossible that the Demon is the same one, given they had in the past imprisoned her in an orichalcum cage thrown into the sea.  Quan Wei suggests to Galeo to try speaking to Gauis Mwrr, although he does remain silent to hide from others.  Quan Wei offers Gaius' Secret Name as a means to reach him.  Galeo does so, and Gaius responds.   She tells him Quan Wei gave his name to her, and admits others claim she bears the mark of the Dara.  Gauis admits they did defeat the demon and being able to say her name is proof she remains imprisoned.  Quan Wei suggests perhaps something else claims to be the Demon.  Gaius asks if she fears Obsidian, or burn at its touch, and even raises that Liliandra has no physical form.  She can seduce, but she cannot touch.  Gaius then admits Liliandra's gifts are all illusions, desires, and lies.  He shares how was given a Province but in truth was relaxing beneath a tree and the flat rocks.  When Galeo challenges this, given she was sent back to Shan'ri through a Wish, Gaius admits this means the Demon they face is NOT Liliandra.  Perhaps not even a Demon.  

They then discuss about the mark on Galeo's forehead, and she admits she is not certain if she is the one they call the "Dara."  Gaius does wonder how is it that he can hear her, given he only hears the prayers of those Devoted.  When Galeo muses that for a time, she was the only one who had child.  Gaius shares that in his time they too had a moment when there was a lack of children, but this passed when they began to live with Volcanoes nearby.  The Sorcery in their blood is awakened by the fires of the land.  Gaius does mention how the Dara could heal, as well as repel the very presence of Shanri about her... because Shanri itself rejected her.  Galeo, the Serpent finds, is closer to the ways of the Ruk... the Talashan.  As a final discussion, however, Gaius asks Galeo to use her ability to speak to Suaven to look for Ti'Ann Burghe.  Gaius admits he remembers her dying, but wonders if she somehow beneath the waters, dreaming and waiting.  Galeo deflects that she has to focus on other more important matters for now, but will do so when an opportunity presents.

*

Janine and Nia consider the matter of the Earl outside their gates.  While Janine admits she was expecting more to be Blooded as a Bear or perhaps a Boar, Nia admits it might be safer to just accept it.  They decide to wait for Janine's brother to see what he would decide.    

The two meet with the Earl, who offers Janine a drink of fine wine.  She takes a sip.  The Earl smiles. "This is Hemlock," he tells them calmly, "And it is one of the Poisons that would have slain you had you been one of us.  You will feel slightly sick tonight, but it will pass."  Nia reminds him that the wife is with child, but the Earl admits it is not dangerous in any form among the Ruk.  "I have done this to illustrate to her what world she is getting into."  The Earl then tells them he is in need of a Marquese. Nia asks which Duke Janine would be under, and the Earl admits she would be directly under him.  The lands to be claimed are those formerly owned by Isolde Valar.  When both Nia and Janine hesitate on the matter, the Earl subtly threatens them by talking aloud about getting rid of distractions and non-Ven things in their vicinity.  He gives both until the end of the week to decide.

The two see one of the Earl's Roadmen standing at wait at the gate.

*

At the dungeon, Errol presents the man he had captured to Haroun and Seran.  The spy does turn out to be an Errol, Errol Tal to be precise.  When prodded further, he admits he was supposed to be under the black but was given the duty as an alternative.  Seran reminds him the Vashna are outside while Errol introduces pain to loosen his tongue.  The man dares them to submit him to the Vashna.  Errol admits all they would do is extend his sentence.  As being non-Ven, Seran does admit Errol has the freedom to punish him as he desires.  Errol lops off the man's arm... and as he screams in pain, he lops off another arm.  The man breaks, admitting to be in the service of Count Kether himself.     Seran stops Errol from lopping off more limbs and asks the spy what Kether has in mind.  The man confesses that Count Kether held his wife's life under threat and thus forced him to act.  Errol asks why the letter addressed to him was sent here, and the spy admits he was to be a gift from Kether to be in her Spy Network.  Haroun mutters it sounds like an overly complicated plan, given he would have just seduced the spy.  Seran has the man patched up and sent back to Count Kether with a message that the post has already been taken and to send a letter in the future rather than a spy.  Errol tells him he's keeping the arms.

*

Jalani and Jaric receive the letter from Seran asking for their support regarding Errol's claim on the land.  They ask Jeeves if he knows of this Errol, but the Seneschal admits he knows only of a Wolf.  Seran begs them in the letter to say yes and she will owe them in the future.   Jaric shifts the discussion at times to discuss her mother showing up to talk about things, but Jalani is more focused on Seran's letter.  The concern of the land possibly being lost if she is deemed to take the black is clearly Seran's concern.

Jalani writes a response, given she is now the holder of the land and Jaric is merely a vassal under her.  The letter does state they will offer the support if possible.   Jalani, however, does state they will vote following the Duke, James Adrente, given the Duke casts his shadow over them.  She quickly pens a letter to James however regarding the matter, knowing James is an obedient son.

*

Seran and Errol even visits Nia to ask her personally, and finds a fence having been built around the Roadman of the Earl currently standing outside the gates.  Seran asks Nia to sit, pulls out daggers, roses, and the like and begins casting the Ritual of the Rose to speak in private.  But Nia pushes to have the discussion elsewhere.

With the Sorcery cast, Seran explains that she might take the black - and Nia teases given the amount of cuts on Seran's arm, suggesting the amount of sorcery she's taking, yes.  Nia finds Seran is moving through the events like a boar in a thicket.  Seran cuts through the chase and wants to secure Meridian, given its the last thing she has from her mother, and needs Nia's support to have Errol take it under his care.

Nia however just responds, "It is my land now."

Seran is shocked. She is unsure if it works that way.  Nia smiles. Errol reminds Seran, "You own what you hold."  Seran chooses not to contest it.   Nia then shares with Seran that the Earl of the Serpent is most likely interested in having what she fears to happen.  When Seran asks what the Earl wants, Nia however admits the Earl would not remain Earl for long.   Seran does ask if Nia will give it back, reminding Nia that she killed someone for threatening to defile her mother's temple.  Nia however does cite that she foresees a need for a Baron in the future.  When Seran shifts the topic to Rio, Nia simply tells her that she is elsewhere and she may become a Baron soon as well.  Errol does ask what happens to them, understanding that Nia, being the one casting a shadow over them, has already stripped the land from them.  Both agree however to send Madelyn Yvarai back to Maja Thayl.

Seran is now Nia's Master Swordsman.

Nia then meets with Dalvinosh Steele, and asks if he would prefer to handle an incomprehensible murder involving a man who threatened to kill their entire kin, or a very hasty Serpent going around making many enemies.  When she asks him what would happen if others were to vie for his contributions, Dalvinosh admits he prefers to remain in the service of Nia.  Nia admits she is never sure if she is talking to them or his many Tulpas, and has thought of 38 ways to kill him, unless he has 39 Tulpas.  Dalvinosh admits he is more than willing to have Nia kill him if she ever feels he has outlived his usefulness.  Nia offers the man in the fence outside for Dalvinosh to use as a disguise.

*

After Maja, Jaric opts to visit Galeo.  At the workroom, Galeo is still considering a fifth child to add to the work when she overhears Jaric say, "It could be more Cherno.  It looks too static."  They discuss Maja and Galeo admits as a mother it can be sometimes hard not to see one's children.  Jaric however finds it odder that he has been seeing her often.  And adds that Galeo shouldn't get a port.   Galeo however is bothered that Jaric would be a fan of Cherno given his work of living art isn't traditional.  Jaric feels however that art should be every changing.

Galeo asks Jaric if he's happy with the way things are run in Shanri, and Jaric admits he isn't.  Even stresses that he's never happy.  He does however, at least, create Operas. The topic shifts to the coming Spring Hearing and Galeo admits he's heard Cherno is making a performance.  Galeo asks how Jaric feels about the lands and the Senate, but he and Jalani has yet to decide on matters.  Galeo wonders why Jaric wouldn't be more focused on Madelyn Yvarai, given she might speak in the Senate one day.  With the call for the recognition of the ven from the other Shanri, Galeo does suggest that Madelyn might be a powerful voice in that favor.  Lightning flashes outside.

Galeo considers what is the best way, given Gaius Mwrr is the Suaven of Secrets, to convince Jaric to go to the Senate with her.  Jaric feels the Ork Ven needs to be recognized, and he cannot expect them to affect true justice until they are seen as Ven.  Jaric doesn't even want Madelyn to walk around as one of the Vashna.

Windows slam open.  The rain pounds.  Galeo invites Jaric to stay to shelter himself from the Storm... after all, what are friends for?  Galeo casts the Blessing to seal the deal.  Through out Shanri, unstored Wood is ruined by the coming rain that falls for four days.  Six days... and the roads remain impassable.  A full week, and the rains finally stop.

Reports on the damage quickly reach the ears of the various nobles.  Maja reports to Galeo that the Senate continued despite the weather.  They've made decisions.  She is surprised to see Jaric in the same room.  The decision was made in the absence of numbers, the Earls decided to vote on the Dukes present, with 5 Wolves, 3 Serpents, and 2 Elks, and a few Falcons.  Neither Foxes nor Bears were present for the voting.  The petitions for the Serpents and Elks are recognized.  The remaining Ork Ven are considered orks.

They then discuss recognition of Madelyn Yvarai and how Jaric needs to do so.  Maja stresses that it is time to speak opnely of their plans, with her starting about her plans to make everyone forget Galeo's Secret Name, and that Madelyn Yvarai is the biggest threat Shanri faces and Jaric's whining about her is making everyone else think she's harmless.   Maja doesn't hold back her thorns.

*

Haroun is wearing Nia's colors.  Seran stands as the Vashna arrive.  The unfamiliar man outside calls out for Seran Thorne to surrender herself to the will of the Senate.  He asks her if she confesses to the murder of Havar Mwrr.

"He was not Ven when we had our duel.  But yes."

She turns to tell Haroun to take care of himself.  But Haroun tells her he made a promise.  She reminds him he is not harmed.  Haroun demands an hour to prepare her and pulls Seran into a room.  "An Oath," he tells her, "We swear an Oath so I will know your state.  We swear one now to each other so I will know how you are no matter where they take you."

"You want this so badly?" Seran asks.

"You rather I assume?" Haroun counters.

They swear the Ritual. The Oath is sealed.  They bid their goodbyes.  The Vashna receive Seran.  Errol runs out of the castle, calling out and asking to be permitted to go with her.  She asks for a moment, and before she could ask him what he's doing, he presses his lips against hers in a kiss.  Seran's eyes widen as she realizes she recognizes the kiss.  The guards pull Seran away.  Haroun pulls Errol away.  And a hood is pulled over Seran's head, darkness overwhelms her sight, but she knows no one ever kissed that way before.

Haroun was about to yell at Errol, however he realizes he can feel what Seran feels as well.   He realizes she feels it was familiar.  And somehow, perhaps thanks to the power of love or something greater, Errol realizes he knows feel a connection forge with Seran.

*

A visitor.  Janine and Nia hear that a visitor has arrived.
Cherno.   They receive the guest and find a messenger who tells them Cherno awaits in the City by the waterfall.  The two rush to the city and there, a bright orange glow shoots into the sky.  The surge of heat reaches them.  Then.. a clack.

Nia recovers.  Her eyes open and she realizes her throat is raw.  She somehow is on the ground, with bits of her own hair on her hands.  She stands up realizing she is already at the fountain.  Janine is in the fountain, waking up as well and just as dazed.  


They begin to realize perhaps their works are no longer as important as they used to be.  Perhaps taking time to do things is no longer right.  Perhaps being young is no longer an advantage.  Perhaps it is time to be more forceful.  More direct.   Nia realizes she has seen the Dragon.  She feels changed.  And the Senate is the wrong way to go.

Nia recalls seeing the Senate hall crumbling.  She sees a horn in her hand, and the last pillar of the Senate falling away.   But Nia recalls the figure of Cherno in the fire.  She finds the Softest Spot, and the clack brings her to recall the Compact, and Madelyn's picture within it.

Clack.

The art shows her the world.   Then something takes it away.

Clack.

She recalls the silhouette too well.  
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