After the Rain
"Of Letters, Love and Longships"
Houses of the Blooded
Nia finds a guest at her Province. Her second sister, Calaeno Steiner, a Q'val of the Holy Mother. She is the wisest of her sisters, save for matters of the heart. She used to be married, however no one knows how it ended. Now, she devotes her life to Manna Renay. Pale and covered in snow and frost, she and her entourage stand at the gates and ask for Hospitality. Nia asks why she is so cold and learns they had gotten lost in their journey. "Shanri is more cruel now than usual." Calaeno admits she is confused at the volcano being part of Nia's Province. She talks about it being proof of Nia not being ready to own land. But this statement does not gain as much anger and righteous fury as when Calaeno questions Janine's validity as Nia's spouse. It becomes apparent the House has yet to accept Nia's choice and the two argue over the matter. Calaeno is deeply bothered however at how there are tremendously few temples left. In the four years of their journeys, they had only seen two.
Calaeno then questions Nia on whether or not she owns a Blood Sword. She becomes more reproachful when Nia says she has none, but does at least have an artifact. When Nia shows Calaeno the artifact, she identifies it as "A Sinjin" and mentions it was an item created "Before the Rain." The initials on the mirror spell out "Dano and Obus," two ven who are remembered for having built bridges and temple defenses with steel that had been crafted to be as sturdy as a Blood Sword's steel. Calaeno hopes to stay for a week before setting off again to continue her pilgrimage. There are whispers that there have been people who have prayed to Manna Renay, but she has not responded. It may be the suaven's whimsy, however. Nia asks about the white star and what it means to the Q'val. She does not believe it means a suaven is dead, but it may herald bad things to come. The Horse constellation is incomplete. Calaeno admits she is searching for senior and more experienced Q'val to petition Manna Renay for answers. Nia offers to build a temple herself, to save Calaeno from dying in the wild. But without a relic, the suaven would have to be courted with incense.
|Calaeno Steiner, Q'val of the Holy Mother|
Three true things about Calaeno Steiner
She is Wisest among her sisters.
She fails to understand matters of the heart.
She used to be married, but it ended.
Nia tells Janine that Calaeno has come to visit. Janine holds the ring which Nia had been given by Dranna Ru. Janine admits that there was no affair nor Romance. They did have a bond stronger than anything Nia knows - but not stronger than what they have. Dranna Ru and Janine were of a single region, the same one where Ru and her brother were from. When Nia asks how to best kill Dranna Ru, Janine reiterates that there was no Romance between them. "She was a witch. My bother, a thief. We were all once an Adventuring Company. I was the group's Druid." They once took adventures together, and had promised never to stop. The ring was a symbol of that promise. Janine admits she has to leave. She will return when spring has come. Nia feels upset. Not even knowing Dranna Ru was once dirt helps her feel better.
|Althea Thorne, Countess of Kalien|
Althea Thorne, Blooded of the Falcon, Countess of Kalien
Three true things about Althea Thorne
The Foremost adventuress among the Ven.
All of the oldest Provinces now were places she found for the ven.
When she gave birth to Seran, it was Spring. She was in the Wilderness.
A thing of fur, antlers and odd motions walks towards them as the gates to Castle Kalien open. It takes Seran a moment to realize it turns out to be her mother in what she calls her winter garb, mask and all. As the two greet each other, Althea excitedly informs her daughter that she had found him a husband! They share stories of Althea's adventures and of the underground ruin and Althea asks if the Althua went well, given the spies she had sent there had only shared a partial account of the events that transpired that night. Althea is shocked, however, when Seran announces who Lukas is. "Now we have to find a way to kill him," Althea suddenly shifts in tone and sighs at Seran. She explains she had signed off her lands to the fiancee as dowry. Lukas offers to kill the man, explaining that as he is not yet Blooded, he can get away with Murder.
They enter the Castle Kalien and find the guest waiting in the Grand Hall. The man is handsome, young, and charming. Althea introduces Seran and he takes her hand as he introduces himself as Haroun Q'n.
|Haroun Q'n, Duke of Tamal|
Three true things about Haroun Q'n
He is young, curious and outspoken.
He is courageous, save for Orks.
He remembers the lost art of creating althenta.
As Seran finds herself drawn to the man (especially his prominent dimple), Gaelo arrives. As it so happens, Galeo was invited by Seran's mother to stand as a witness to the union. Seran takes Haroun's hand and he invites her to see "his carriage." To Seran's surprise, they head up the flight to stairs instead of out to the courtyard. Galeo and Althea quietly talk about the predicament, given Lukas and Haroun, and Galeo offers suggestions as well.
The airship. The ship was a majestic sight. Haroun shares that his grandfather was a great builder and explains the ship was an inheritance. One of two ships he owns. He invites her for a ride. She readily accepts.
Galeo suggests that maybe Seran should promise the Duke her first born. Galeo asks Althea as well if she had found shrines and temples in her many explorations. The Herald calls out and announces the arrival of Jaric Thayl. Lukas greets Jaric as his "Brother-in-law" which surprises the others. As it turns out, Lukas is the brother of Jalani. Althea takes Jaric aside and the two quickly discuss Jaric's recent findings that they are actually in The Wilderness. That the ruins of Quan Wei are the Ruins surrounding the home of the Matron Mother Elesa Yvarai. Althea shows Jaric a journal she found in a ruin, but is not willing to let it be touched. She explains that it is the journal of someone who lived before the Rain, speaking of the destruction of the Senate and choosing to live among the Orks. She tells him also of having seen evidence of Orks keeping ven traditions, and even calling themselves a House. "Fenris," Althea whispers. According to myth, a ven from the Blooded of the Wolf adopted Orks and gave them a ring. Jaric shares the stories of Quan Wei. Quan Wei's teaching was that once an era, a woman will be chosen to be a Dara. Jaric is excited at the idea of finding the old Senate house, the center of the first ven city.
Galeo says that Countess Isolde won her duel, and informs them that she has taken over Elesa's land. Jaric shares more history of the infamous Crimson Inquisitor of the time before the Rain.
Seran stands on the airship. In most ways, the ship seems nothing different from a normal typical ship. Only it floats above the very ground. Haroun shows her how to steer the vessel, and she discovers that the ship can actually be handled alone. Watching her celebrating the ship, Haroun finds himself passionately overwhelmed and that moment he drops to one knee and proposes.
"Althea Thorne, will you marry me... I mean Seran Thorne..."
Seran catches that. And hounds him immediately about his interest in Althea. But then, a flying Ork swoops down on them. White as snow, with a bulging furry back, the winged monstrosity lands upon the deck and prepares to strike. With a graceful strike, Seran strikes at the furry mound only to find it unfurling to reveal a rider underneath. The rider radiates a Terror that neither Seran nor Haroun have ever faced before. And even worse, Haroun seems to be greatly disabled by the fear.
Althea turns her attentions on Lukas. She asks him to convince Seran to let Haroun court her. The Herald announces the arrival of Nia Jalan. They update her quickly on the events so far.
The figure steps down from the Ork's back, a wicked Blood Sword dragged behind him. With eyes as black as pitch, Seran easily realizes the man speaks the veth's Vulgar tongue. He tells them to leave and as she tries to knock the wheel over to disable the ship, the man's face contorts into some terrifying shape that hits Seran with an even greater Terror. Seran, however, finds enough Courage to still move, and she pulls Haroun with her into a basket on the side of the vessel which detaches and safely descends towards the ground. The Duke first tells Seran not to worry about the ship and claims he has a second one. He even convinces her at first that the vessel will return to his port on its own.
Althea and company are talking about their plans. Althea is resigned to losing her land and moving in with Seran and Lukas. Nia sees out the window the basket the Duke and Seran are in gently reach the ground. Seran and Haroun find an excited Nia who rushes to them. Jaric follows and the two start throwing them questions. They pull Seran aside and tell her of the plan to have her let Haroun court her, but Seran protests. Galeo and Nia have plans and conspire.
Meanwhile, Althea and Jaric try to convince Haroun to allow them an expedition with his airship. They also slide in the suggestion to Haroun that he consider courting Seran a bit longer. Jaric asks Haroun what his desire is and Haroun admits he wants Althea... to be proud of him. Both Jaric and Galeo read more than the Duke is saying, however. Jaric senses that Haroun is romantically interested in Althea. Galeo senses that Haroun will continue courting Seran if Althea will be happy if he did so. Althea is not exactly uninterested. Haroun is attracted to Courage he does not have. Haroun likes lost causes and things that are hard to get. But ultimately, Haroun lacks the teeth of one who is Cunning.
Haroun is convinced to do it. He admits that the first airship won't be coming back, but they have a second and Haroun offers to let the group use it to chase after the first. There is some discussion on whether or not Althea will accompany them, however she reminds Seran that this is her opportunity to prove herself. Haroun shares with them that his libraries and Province will be watched over and cared for by her dear friend, Isolde Valar, Blooded of the Serpent, Countess of Khattam-Shud. If the stories are to be believed, the Senate was destroyed by an Ork cataclysm. Haroun draws out a small silvery white shard from his pocket and uses it to reach out and contact Isolde. Jaric demands to know where it was taken from and learns that he was given the shard by Isolde; she has been giving them to those she deems her Friends.
The ven are decided. An expedition to hunt for the stolen airship.
And they are all to meet again come the green of Spring.
Lukas takes the ring he had given Seran, the sign of their love and marriage. Both realize the ring shouldn't be around her finger if she is to entertain Haroun's advances. Seran reminds Lukas that he will give it back to her in time. He simply tells her, "Only if you ask for it back."