Monday, January 12, 2015

After the Rain ep22 : Houses of the Blooded

10/20/2014
After the Rain

Episode Twenty Two
"Holes"

Houses of the Blooded

Seran reawakens in the ruins of what used to be a majestic opera house.  In last few days, Seran has been investigating the place.  She recalls the stories from the survivors of the ceiling transforming into mist and a delicate rope descending with food tied upon it.  She finds something that might be an exit to the opera house, a sheer drop at the lower of the place.  No one else has tried going down it.  Seran tried tossing a torch down the hole and it died out even before she could see any hint of the bottom.  Of the survivors, there were six - including the red-haired woman who resembled the Demon but was not even Blooded.  She, however, had a Blessing from Thalia, and at one point Seran witnessed Liliandra whispering to the debris and asking it to awaken.  "Awaken. You slumber but I know you are still there, Shanri.  We need the heat."  The debris erupted into flames.  She was Talashan, a speaker to Shanri.  The survivors seem to be hoping to survive long enough for the "Patrons" to send more food.  Seran remembers the tiny Opera device which they had seen before.

She learns that the Patrons have not been speaking to them.  They have not been performing either.  They believe however they have been made to believe the City had fallen, and are being observed to see how they will react.  She talks to one of the survivors, Oandur and asks her about the massive hole.  He thinks it was where the props and stages typically are discarded.  She learns they were preparing for After the Rain, a masterpiece written by Gauis Mwrr which was to be followed by Love is Crimson - a story of an Elk inhabited by the spirit of a Serpent, Brother Snake.  In the story, Galeo Silja is Jarik's lover, Nia Jalan is the wife, while Seran Thorne is the mother of Jarik Thayl.  The story revolved around the greater threat that Jarik alone can see, the Spectre known only as Madelyn.  She learns that there were other versions of the tales, some including Haroun as a man seduced by the swashbuckling pirate Seran.  But they are broken apart by Nia and her servants three, including Lukas and others.  In the last act, the very wedding causes Haroun's death and gives up the land in a final bid to be close to the woman he loves, but she murders him.  Seran sighs that none of the Dreadfuls ever ended happily.  Oandur shares there was a Final Dreadful.  In that one, they discover that being Unblooded made them related to one another and the lack of true names made them confused to whom they were related to.  In that one, Galeo thinks she was Suaven, but in truth she was merely made to believe she was.  They were making love against a statue and the child among them was a spymaster among them.  The poison used lulled her into a sleep, making them all think she slipped in Solace.  It was only then she realized she could speak to them because someone anticipated it would happen.  Liliandra supposedly chanced upon the story.

Seran learns Liliandra was the muse of Vyktor Krev, the star of the Opera.  No one really knew where he came from.  When the Storm hit, he had vanished.  Seran brings up that they can't stay here forever, but as far as Oandur is concerned, all the world is just a stage.  Amaras joins them, and Oandur shares that Seran may be one of their patrons given she knows of the magic box that allows them to contact the Actors.  Seran starts gathering debris and places them on the ground to form a message that reads: CALL FOR NIA, hoping the next person to feed them sees it.

*

Back in Shanri, Bowen is staring at the opera, amused at the events inside.  Hearing noises, he covers it again and places it aside.  Merea stands before Nia, a guest of the Castle.  She apologizes for her presence the previous day and humbly begs for Nia's kindness.  Merea proposes to Nia that she is in need of a vassal, even as Nia admits she has a surplus of them.  "Galeo was the Artist," Merea explains, "Consider what happens to siblings born in the presence of such greatness.  Althea, our youngest embraces mastery of the blade.  Japeth, our eldest brother stands as the scholar of many things.  I can be your unassuming master spy."  Given the importance of the position, Nia questions if Merea qualifies just because she tends to be unnoticed.   

Dalvinosh arrives and serves wine.  He fetches a glass for Merea.  Nia asks if the letter she had sent to the Marquese left the castle. Dalvinosh confirms so.  Merea continues to try and sell her capacity to mislead, explaining even her Secret Army was actually just a troupe of actors she had gathered.  Merea even tries to present herself as knowing about Orks and being capable of serving as her Ork Talker.  Nia plays along, even if she has no interest to have Merea work for her.  Dalvinosh returns, waits by the door with a bottle of wine.  He pours it into a glass.  Nia brings up their first meeting once more and how far away the land is from Nia's own Castle.  Nia suggests Merea can help keep an eye on the land as an unassuming Master Spy, but to manage it as Seneschal as well.  Nia sweetens the pot as if Merea was to hold two positions, as well as Wine.  Merea offers to throw the Ork Talking for free. But during the whole discussion, Merea talks about a scandal of some ven cavorting with orks, dancing with them and all, the whole time blind to Janine who walks around in their presence in tribal ork fashion.  Nia easily surmises that Merea has no Cunning whatsoever.  Merea even shares how back in her younger days she had her troupe all dress up as orks, assault a castle, and terrorize the people there.  The gates were left unlocked and they freaked everyone out during that child presentation.  Nia even allows Merea to call it Merea -land, rather than Meridian.     She leaves Nia a written Contract with her names, including a snipped of her hair and bows.  Then leaves.

"Did this really happen?" Dalvinosh shares amusedly.  Nia has Dalvinosh send word to the Marquess of Paradigm to know of these changes.  The hair is even enough material to create a Tulpa of her.  He wonders if Merea is the greatest double bluff of betray or truly just someone that... blind to Cunning.  Nia reminds Dalvinosh they will treat her with care, given this suspicion.  Errol, on the other hand, will have to watch over Merea as well as Senescha- Nia realizes Haroun is supposed to be the Senescahl.  He asks about him and Dalvinosh reports Haroun took the Glider, testing how far it could fly.  She realizes Haroun is up to something.

*

"So the rumors are true.  The bears have begun an exodus."  Galeo is curious to know why this is happening and suspects it has to do with the refugees that have been coming to their doors.  The Wolves have been hunting down the Ork ven.  Galeo reminds her vassals to raise the Security in their Province.  She definitely feels things are not as good as they seem.  "The audacity to do that... it is very Silja."  Hero is curious if Galeo feels threatened by Merea.  Galeo stresses unlike others, her line is of Pure Blood.  "We are more Ven than ven.  We are convinced to be able to the impossible, and sometimes we actually do."  Hero asks for the truth then, about Errol.  He wonders if she tired of him, and she stresses again he was never hers.  He mentions there have been less Cherno sightings.  He alludes she has something to do with that, as well as how their second son might have just "coincidentally" brought to them as well.  Galeo gets caught lying by Hero when she tries to claim she has no plans in relation to Cherno, but he can see she hopes to use him to unify Shanri.  

"Why don't you tell me honestly now, who is Errol?  Why do you watch over him? Would he die for you?" Hero throws the questions and Galeo answers them succinctly.  He even asks if Errol is someone she would trust to care for Casselanter.  That question brings her to silence.  "Do you think hiding this truth from me is more important than me being able to trust you?" is his last question.  She admits the secret is the price of keeping him safe.  He admits he has been keeping something from her too, but says there will be a right time to say it too.  Galeo goes frantic, accusing Hero of being Cherno.   He then announces he is leaving and will be back come Summer and that he is taking Casselanter with him.  And yes, he admits he cannot explain why.  Galeo asks what if she disagrees.  Hero replies that she will have to trust him.  He gives Galeo a kiss on her forehead and tells her, "Maja says hi," then leaves.

Hours later, as Galeo works on the statue to forget her frustrations, the other son she had adopted comes in to watch her work.  Galeo was musing over naming the young child Kithranus, just to drive Madelyn crazy.  "I brought you something to drink," the boy smiles.  Galeo notes the boy is being persistent in the offer for wine.  

The boy, however, actually loves Galeo for what he has done for him and his family.  He seeks where he stands in Galeo's eyes and this uncertainty is what halts him from fulfilling the plans he has with the wine.

"Alright, be honest, what do you want?" Galeo asks.  The boy admits he wanted her to drink the wine but now admits it might be better that she does not drink it.    She admits she has plans to have him recognized before the Senate, but for now she wants to know what is going on in his head.  He admits he is worried about his real parents and how there has been a lot of talk of Wolves hunting others.  Galeo assures him they are accounted for.  Furthermore, she tells him the Court Scholar that serves her has declared them all to be under Galeo's shadow.  "Your safety depends on my safety."  The boy admits he is scared.  Galeo reassures him there is nothing to be afraid of, but reminds him she does not like it when others are not direct with her.  He finally admits he was supposed to poison and kill her, so his parents can take over the land and be safe.  He, however, sees he is truly a caring mistress and no longer wants to do it.  She reminds him that they live in the home of a Fox, and there is nothing more dangerous than trying to go against a Fox in her very own home... in the presence of her kids.

When pressing who told him to do this, however, the boy claims it was Casselanter, who told him to do this with a glance.  Galeo realizes her child is able to use the Blessing as well at such a young age.

*

Jaric has returned home to Jalani and shared with her everything he has learned so far.  Jalani feels Maja is playing a far too dangerous game.  She also feels that Jaric rambles unexpectedly even when they are alone, when the rambling was originally intended to just present a vulnerable stance for others to think they can exploit. They also discuss the incident at Meridian and how there are stronger personalities than Galeo.  Jalani, however, is more concerned about the events surrounding Haroun and Errol.  And how Errol supposedly had seen Seran Throne.  Jaric only then realizes that was what happened.  Jalani does seem thankful that their children have been handling things well so far, with Jessie even continuing her studies.  James reported he has not seen any sightings of "her" again.   Come to think of it, none of them have.  Jaric admits she might not actually be a Demon, given Maja and Galeo's views on the matter.  Jalani however realizes that Galeo is no speaker to the Dara.  She is more like the Talashan, Unblooded Sorcerers, who can speak to Shanri.  Galeo might be one of the Witches.  She speaks with the spirits of the ancestors, and specters.  An ally of the Sorcerer-Kings. Jaric is bothered he has been consorting in public with one of the undesirables.  

Jalani wonders if Jaric is truly slipping more and more into his Solace than he realizes.

*

The discussions go around Opera, around sponsors, and around the need to survive back in Shanri.  Seran brings back the discussions on needing to get out.  The two begin to realize something about each other: Seran is no longer trying to kill her.  Liliandra on the other hand has no real reason to lie.  And why she has not shown them that she can show them out.  Liliandra realizes Seran was one of the Ork Ven and asks if she was the reason the Storm came.  She cannot show them out because the lands are filled with massive Wolven things that stalk the land for any ven.  As she tries to ask Seran about why she is here, Seran eventually admits that there no longer is their Shanri.  That the Storm has destroyed most of the City now.  Liliandra fears leading Seran out might have her lead others to the safe place they have hidden in.  They are imprisoned in the place, but at the same time safe from the things outside.  The others call out to them for not paying attention to the rehearsals, forcing them both to make up excuses for not paying attention to the rehearsals earlier.

At one point, Liliandra suddenly pulls Seran to hide in an alcove.  The ceiling transforms into mist as the Patrons peer from above. Liliandra tells Seran they are not to be seen for they are not of the troupe.

Dalvinosh and Nia peer into the Opera house and see the actors preparing for another rehearsal.  Bowen hurriedly leaves the room, guilty for having taken the device.  Dalvinosh admits they are a theatre troupe - and only are called an Opera when they perform well.  He identifies the woman bowed in one area as Amaras Q'n.  "Her performances were matched only by Cheska Valar.  She was good in stealing the spotlight."  The actors call out that they are ready to serve the Patrons.  Nia wonders how potent the treasure is, such as if they can touch the individuals.  Dalvinosh admits they can only deliver things, but not actually interact with them.  The two notice the rocks on the ground that spell out, "Call for Nia."

At that point, the two begin to hear a voice calling out about the need to talk to the patrons.  About needing to get out.  The actors are horrified someone is yelling in the opera house.  Liliandra panics and mutters to the ground, "Fall."  The two fall.

Nia's eyes widen in realization.  The voice.  It was Seran Throne!  As Nia asks if there is any truth that the Demon might have send Seran to Old Shanri, Dalvinosh shuts the device back closed fearing the actors might have heard of Nia's statement.   Nia asks Dalvinosh if such things are possible, and he admits he thought Demons were just myths.  She thought Seran being thrown to the other Shanri was a feat beyond any Ritual she knew of.  They consider bringing this up to the Marquess.

Beneath the stage, Seran falls and at the last second grabs hold of an outcropping among the debris to stop her fall.  Above, Liliandra speaks with the others about how the patrons seem interested in something about Seran Thorne and of the Demon.  They consider one of the Dreadfuls that presented both as what they should present next.  She lies and tells the others Seran has probably left them for good.

*

Galeo retires to a private area in her Castle to study the Quill.  She remembers how it took Blood from those who held it.  How it reacted when the truth was spoken, making others know it was the truth.  She wonders how to access the information it has gleaned.  Galeo attempts to use it again, writing her name with it and watches as the letters rearrange itself into the Secret Name.  The Quill finds all the truths of the person whose blood it tastes.  Galeo attempts writing Madelyn Yvarai and sees the words transform into a blank space.   This seems to support the story that she had given away her Secret Name to stop the Storm.  Galeo tries writing down the other names but realizes she cannot recall the full names of others she has met.  Galeo writes letters to Jaric Thayl, that they must meet immediately.  And to Nia, stating that if they are to save the other ven, they are to meet immediately as well.  

*

Dalvinosh stares at Nia and the two clarify what they know of Seran's likely sudden journey back to Old Shanri.  The two hear a slamming sound of steel and wood and the personal guards fall to the ground.  Haroun Q'n stomps into the chamber and demands for a ship, explaining the Glider can only go so far.  He insists he knows where she is.  Dalvinosh tries to slink away, but Haroun grabs him by the neck.  "Is this a Tulpa?" he snarls at Nia and she admits it is very possible.  He threatens to snap his neck and demands she give him a ship.   Nia admits to Dalvinosh she is doing something that may endanger his life, and admits to Haroun he is the real one.  Haroun wants an Airship and demands they make one.  Nia reminds him it will take two Seasons.  Haroun claims he can make a smaller vessel faster but would rather commit the act of Sorcery with her permission and reminds her he only know of one Secret Name to use right now: Artemisia.  Nia tells her of the Opera Box, and Dalvinosh is made to explain how it works.  Haroun clearly is emotionally distraught about things and is more aggressive than he usually is.  The actors present themselves as Seran Thorne, and as being in the roles the patrons  want.  Haroun demands for the Airship.  "Give me the permission or you will be the only one who knows where Galeo has gone."  He suspects the Oath failed not because Seran is dead, but because she is too far away.  

Nia tries to convince Haroun that Seran can take care of herself.  She tells Haroun to try and calm down.  Haroun then forces Dalvinosh to give a name.  He calls out Cassiopeia.  Haroun lets go of Dalvinosh and asks Nia if she will stand against him.  "I am titleless but you know me."  Nia admits she is right now extremely cross with the Senate with what they have done with Seran, so she is meeting with the Marquess who will then speak with their Duke.  The Bear wish to leave the Senate and Shanri.  The other Dukes will see this as an opportunity.  The Serpent Earl has been intemperate as well.  Nia hopes to secure the dukedom because if she doesn't she endangers all of them.  The same caution is required of Haroun.  "You may go but know full well what will happen to the rest of us if you do."

Haroun leaves to consider things.  Dalvinosh admits he gave the Secret Name of his wife, but he does not know if she still lives.  Nia has Dalvinosh to send the Thousand, her Orks, to Haroun.  They are to show Haroun, if he does continue to try to leave, that Nia does own what she holds.  Dalvinosh asks to clarify what she means, and Nia plainly states, "Stop him."

*

Back at Catan, Jaric reviews the potential candidates for the Adventuring Party that he needs to explore the ruins for him.  Szaz joins him in perusing the candidates and there is some hesitation in hiring one group that presents itself.  One, lead by a female Tavala, has a Swordsman, a short Q'val and a Tashalan.  Szaz admits she is not too comfortable with the sorcerer.  There have been no candidates from the ven.  The two see a boot suddenly planted on the table.  Looking up, they see a woman who addresses them and explains the boot she wears was a Backbiter, a 32 foot Ork that had serrated teeth and an armored hide.  After explaining how she killed it, she brings down her boot and slams up the other one.  The second boot is of a different material.  She describes it as a Strider, a different Ork and explains how she killed it.  Finally, she presents her jacket, hide of a mantacore - a three-headed sea creature that spits small wrigglers that creep into eyeballs.  She explains she is willing to work for them if they will have her, but she will not give any names.  Jaric asks how business fares in House Ork and she spits on the ground in response.  She would wiped that House away from the histories of the ven if it were her choice.  Jaric feels she is too much.  Szaz wonders who that man was, and Jaric is confused given it was a woman in front of him.  In the distance, Jaric sees the woman in the ork clothes suddenly change, and it becomes the man in the yellow clothes.  Szaz wonders why he sounds familiar. Jaric is more curious to see he has gotten out again.

When Jaric questions if Szaz' network has been established, she admits it has been busy helping others from the old Shanri find places to hide from the Wolves.    Jaric of course stresses that the Senate is always right.  Szaz wonders what will happen if the Senate truly makes a mistake.  Jaric reminds her by the very definition, the Senate is always right.  Galeo's letter arrives and Szaz suspects its contents will be complicated.  Galeo asks if Jaric is willing to meet regarding certain matters.  Jaric does remind Szaz to find a way to keep track of the man in yellow more, and considers when he will present to the Senate Szaz as his chosen Mayor.

The last interview brings up the question of how the Adventuring party plans to deal with any encountered Orks, given they are now under House Ork.  All the members present their own ways of dealing with the problem, which makes Jaric wonder if they are actually a group.  He asks for the leader of the group, and they do not have any clear answer either.  Jaric feels they can employ them, but they will need someone ven to lead them.

They find one in a woman who has both Academic education, and training with the blade.  When complimented for her traits, the woman simply replies in curt responses, explaining later that she was raised by her mothers never to underestimate herself.  When asked who the mothers are, she hesitates at first to state their names - fearing that it may sway Jaric's decision.  She tells him the name is Nia Jalan.  She is Rio and she is then tasked to search the Ruins of Meridian for a specific artifact.  Anything else they find is theirs to keep.  Jaric shares his gathered speculation of what the Ruins may contain and Rio looks at the papers and learns it is all about the historical Red Throne.  The adventure is both a test and a request.  Whoever finds the artifact shall be given Vassalage under Jaric's shadow.

*

Galeo goes through the responses.  Nia's reply is that she plans to meet Jalani, the Marquess who casts a shadow over her, and that Galeo may wish to join her and present her matters as well.  Galeo writes a reply that she agrees to do so.  She does wonder however the Foxes feel of having been removed from such a ground-breaking decision.

*
Seran takes a leap and finds water at the bottom waiting for her.  She feels the current pulling her and to conserve strength, she allows the current to take her.  The water does not smell clean, but nor does it resemble sewage.

*

In Paradigm, Nia says hello as she sees Galeo arrive.  Galeo inquires how Nia feels of the Ork ven decision the Senate made.  Nia feels the decision was, in a word, inconsistent.  Jalani arrives and when the two try to show proper formalities, she cuts them off and tells them there is no need for such formalities given Jaric is not present.  She asks them to explain why they are present.  When Nia admits she has misgiving towards the Senate, Jalani inquires if she plans to overthrow it.  "In as much as misgiving with the Senate exist, they allow us to maintain our unity."  Nia admits she senses the Senate is soon to fail, not by any actions of her won.  Galeo shares she is here to ask about the well-being of certain inconsistencies with the Senate's decision in arbitrarily defining as some Ork ven as ven and others as ork.  Jalani wonders why the two did not represent the Ork ven even early on - an accusation Galeo counters by reminding her of her very... memorable... debate against Havar Mwrr.  Jalani however reminds Galeo she had the opportunity to speak of the Ork ven as ven back an Althua, but she publicly declared, "The Senate will decide, not me."  If that statement were true, then the Senate's decision now should be what Galeo supports.  Galeo admits that at that moment, she believed the Senate would be diversely represented.   Jalani however reminds Galeo, "You got what you wanted.  The Senate made the decision. You had the opportunity to speak without recognition and made your choice."  Nia raises that the question is not about the altruism of the decision... but Jalani cuts her off and reminds her the Senate has no altruism in its decision.  It exists to maintain the order even if that means a smaller group needs to get trampled on to maintain that order.   The sad thing is that the Senate generally is controlled by the whim of the Dukes, and they have no control over the Dukes.  Jalani admits she is only a Marquess now, a position she gained after a long series of requests and favors.  Her ties to the Senate only exist because she was actually a Duchess long before she met Jaric.

When Nia asks what Jalani feels about the Bears' exodus, Jalani admits she things it is foolishness.  The longer the Bears remain distant, the sooner the Boars will rise to take their place.  The Bears eventually will realize they cannot allow that to come to pass.  "All our Houses stand more to lose if we leave the Senate."  Without the Senate, the land would be dotted by vast Kingdoms as all will seek to calls themselves Kings, and then there would be conquerors.  The Senate is not a political entity.  It is a control mechanism.  Nia admits she will stay away from the Senate as much as she can.  Jalani however admits she will prod and guide it as needed.  Remove the Senate and the ven would be on the path of the Mad Emperor: private armies, mass murder and warfare.  Nia, however, feels that is already what is happening.

"There's so much information to share, but I am not sure where to begin," Nia sighs.  She thanks Jalani for her insight into the Senate, and admits it is invaluable information.  Jalani admits she trusts them the most, despite the fact they are not friends. She cares for them the most, but also understands they are in the best position to ruin her plans, hence she watches them carefully.   Seran, while dear to her, is unable to affect her plans.  "So the Wolves are out for a slaughter.  How long do you think will that last before their own kind start to fear being slaughtered as well?  Do you think the Wolves will be able to push through with this hunt for more than a single season? Do you not think the other Houses will see the Wolves as a threat, and the Wolves themselves would pull back to remove that fear.  The Senate allows us all to pretend we are Friends. Without it, it would be wars, unexpected demands and worse."

Nia asks what Jalani proposes they do.  She returns the question and asks what do they hope to achieve. Jalani admits she was securing her children to make sure they were ready when they came of age, they were intimately close and understanding of the ways of the Senate.  Just as she was thrust into understanding Dukedom when she was young, James now takes that same path in life.  She asks Galeo if Cassalanter is secure.  Galeo feels she is secure and will fair well even if they were to die.  Jalani asks of the other, the unrecognized one.    She admits they all know of him after Count Kether's report.

"What of Dranna Ru?" Nia asks, questioning how if the Senate speaks of balance, a House Ork and House Merchant clearly upsets that.  Jalani admits it was a decision to not have the Senate hall fall and have panic over what she was capable of.  Nia wonders if things would change if they did know what she was capable of.  "A wise man makes decisions on information.  A wise woman waits," Jalani shares.  The Senate believes Dranna Ru is a threat, but they seek to learn why Dranna Ru is able to control these Orks.  Why they listen to her is one of the biggest question the Senate is debating.   Jalani shares how her husband is sending an Adventuring Party into the Ruins to investigate on things, and that she invited Galeo and Nia over because she has a proposal; however she admits they probably won't like what it is.  NIa admits very little of what has been said is of what she would like.

Jalani admits she wishes a Vassal from both of them, to join her daughter, Rio, in the expedition.  The two are to remain secret and hidden while they follow Rio.  Nia is surprised to hear Rio is involved.  Szaz will be leading the expedition with Rio.  Both Nia and Galeo feel they have the perfect vassal to send.   Jaric arrives that moment, and the three take on a friendly tone as they greet each other.   They talk about the upcoming adventuring party, and Nia shares her wife and his brother used to be part of an adventuring party. Jaric realizes he has never met either, and Nia invites them to visit - sharing she even has a volcano in her land, as well as a building a Castle as huge as those of the old.  Jaric wonders if the size of the Castle will rival that of the Senate hall.  Nia is unsure that the Senate Hall would be so small.   Jaric asks Jalani to prepare them refreshments - given it is the traditional role of the wife, despite her being the one of greater title.  Nia admits it is her first time here.  Jaric admits he is still managing things, freeing his wife to do the duties of the Marquess.  Jaric shares the plans of sending an Adventuring Party and when Galeo wonders how he is keeping Szaz safe, he reminds them she is his Mayor, a vassal under his shadow.  Nia wishes if only the rest of Shanri can focus on things in that manner as well. Jaric questions if any of the Wolves would have the Courage to threaten those under their shadow.  Nia admit she feels less safe given the Wolves and their violent motions and the Bears on their exit.  Galeo and Jaric start rambling over things, and Nia struggles to understand either of them.  Galeo raises a legal question though of the Wolves moving about as a large armed force from one place to another, "Is that an Army?"  Jaric reminds them that the Senate will still only step in if this theoretical group kills one of the ven.  If they destroyed property, then that will be handled in the proper manner, given the complaint being raised to the Senate.  Nia however feels that only resolves the topic of killing ven and destroying property, but ignores the Sixth Law of not making war.    The idea of large groups of ven attacking property of other ven, however, just sounds disrespectful for Jaric.  He wonders if wine was involved.    Jaric asks where they are going with the questions.  Nia tries to explain that Galeo is speaking out of concern that if such a thing should happen, the realm would benefit from the actions of the Lord Protector, the Duke, which is Jaric.   Jaric admits the Senate would surely rule on the matter if it is an Army or not.  And if it is, then naturally it would be the duty of the Dukes to deal with it.  But until it is determined to be one, then there's nothing that should be done.  "A complaint may be filed with the Senate, if you wish to accuse one of harboring an army."

Nia shifts the discussion back to the Expedition.  Jaric shares they are exploring the Ruins of Meridian.  Nia informs Jaric that regarding the island, she had installed an overseer and the expedition may want to be apprised of the situation: Merea Silja is the temporary head of the island.  Nia warns that the vassal, for attention, might make herself known.  Jaric understands. "Oh these Silja..."   Nia is happy that Jaric is free, given there is something she needs of the Marquis to handle, given what she has learned from her Orks.  She mention the stories of the Orks carrying away the survivor ven and the suaven from the old Senate house when it fell and admits there was something she had been keeping from Jaric for a very long time.   The Orks told Nia that when they brought the Suaven out, they lost one.  Jaric laughs, claiming one cannot "lose" a Suaven, given the Blessings still work.  "Was it Thalia?"  They all break into laughter.  Nervous laughter.  Nia summons the Q'val Bowen, and remember him from the airship.  They ask Bowen if Thalia Yvarai was one of the Suaven they escorted out of the ruins, but Bowen hesitates in answering.  He stares at Galeo and worries that she might take offense.  Bowen admits that when they fled the city, Thalia Yvarai was one of those they could not get to.  The tomb was far too deep beneath the Senate Hall.

Galeo wonders if its possible given the Blessings still work.  But they do wonder if it is possible that she is missing.  None know of where the Grand Temple of Thalia Yvarai stands.   Nia admits Tyan Bran however might be missing as well, given Bowen's stories.  Jalani asks Bowen which tales are more certain.  Bowen admits the names may be wrong, since their tales are shared solely through oral means.  As Jaric starts telling them of the old stories of the Riddle of Blood, a presence joins them in the room.

A red-haired woman.

*

Seran tumbles in the darkness, and eventually is ejected into a dark chamber beneath the ruins.  She stares at the stone and metal archways and realizes the place looks like it was not just a hole in the much.   Seran finds herself in front of a massive entrance.  There is a glow emanating from inside the tomb.  She recognizes the construction and realizes the tomb shows the religious significance in its design.  Seran applies her strength upon the rock, forcing the door open.

Warm air blows out from inside.  Cautiously, Seran peers inside and finds a chamber filled with nothing but empty walls that once were covered with crawling vines and blooming roses.  Everything is dried up and cleared out.  There is a massive gap at the center of the chamber, with small traces of strips and white strands.  There is no body.  If there was a Suaven inside, it is gone.  And the symbol above the where the tomb should be shows the symbol of the Rose.

*

Galeo moves to interpose herself between Jaric and the figure, but remaining as calm as she could.  Nia notices the woman as well, but thinks its just another new person who works or lives in the Castle.  Jaric's castle seems to always have new faces come in.  Jaric stops sharing the story.    Taking a flower from the centerpiece, a rose, Jaric turns to Jalani and tells her the flowers are quite beautiful today.  He asks Bowen to take the wine away, then motions for everyone to take a seat.  Nia, unaware of who the red-haired woman is, offers her a kind smile.  Jalani makes up a story about having a small game to play with the rose, and sees who will be the one to start- Jaric pretends to have a migraine.  The petals are scattered to the table and Jalani casts the Ritual.  Jaric opens his eyes, happy to have ignored the use of Sorcery.   They tell Nia the red-haired one is the Demon, the one responsible for the destruction of Old Shanri.  The Demon manifests whenever she wants, but they do admit they have heard conflicting reports on its nature.  The Demon stops, now more aware that she cannot perceive them clearly at the table.  She stops directly behind Jaric, eyeing them all like a hungry shark.

*

Seran investigates the tomb, searching for any clues to what had happened here.  She realizes no one has been here since the tomb was sealed up.  However, someone had walked out.  It is then she realizes she is not alone.

The rocks rise up to clam down on her feet!  Seran turns and sees the red-haired woman at the door.  Liliandra uses her Talashan voice to also command Seran's clothing to fall, forcing the ven to cover herself.  She then asks the Fire to grow and it flares up, threatening to burn Seran.  Seran tries to talk to her, explaining there is something walking around with her face.  She asks Liliandra if this is her tomb.  The fire flutters away. "That is the tomb of Thalia Yvarai.  Why would I be her?"

Seran explains that there is a Demon with her very face out there.  She then asks Liliandra if she is the Storm that ravaged and destroyed the city.  Liliandra commands the rocks to loosen and walks to the far side of the room.  She directs the fire to linger instead on a candle, and explains she is not the Storm as the Storm is water.  Water is not of Shanri.  Seran asks who she is really and she insists her name is Liliandra, and she is a Speaker of Shanri, hunted by the ven and forced into hiding.  The term Talashan translates to "Servant of the Enemy" but Seran realizes its meant to really just mean "Servant of Shanri." She has been watching over and protecting Thalia Yvarai's tomb for many years.  She knew the waters would bring Seran here.  Seran shows the marks of something that had crawled out and Liliandra asks the ground to tell them what happened in the area.

*

Galeo tells them how the Demon grants wishes, but always with a strange twist.  Jalani shares how they thought she was the Storm back in Old Shanri.  Nia wonders how the Storm can take a human shape.  But Galeo is more curious to why she is here.  "She knows you are the ones who know of her existence, " Jalani surmises.  She does sigh that with the children no longer here, the wards are no longer in place.    On cue, she has everyone laugh, giving the Demon outside a blurred view of them having fun, rather than conversing about a dangerous and delicate affair.   Jaric shares the tales of Kithranus Yvarai and the Riddle of Blood, and how they too were stalked by this supernatural threat.
The woman in red is starting to look unhappy, knowing the discussion is more serious than not.  Nia admits she feels less safe right now, but Jaric reminds them a Secret Army would not be the solution.  Nia wants someone to safeguard her lands while she looks for Seran Thorne.  Jalani asks why Seran is important against the Demon.  Nia admits she just wants to rescue their missing companion and she believes she saw Seran in the Opera Box, suggesting she has somehow been thrown back into the other Shanri.  Jalani however feels they should focus on defeating the demon instead. Galeo feels they got her attention someone despite not saying her name.  Maybe there is a way to use that in their advantage, like how they were discussed in Jaric's books.  Jaric reminds her he never wrote those books.

The red haired woman stomps out of the room.  Jalani fears it might a trick to get them to stand.  Galeo feels she's hunting for someone with a wish.  Jaric feels that's an interesting thing, the fact she cannot just do things on her own.  She needs someone to make a wish.  It was his greatest fear when Seran and Galeo got back here... they clearly must have paid a price.  Jalani reminds them the Seductress was a Demon that dealt only with illusions.  Galeo wonders what her name was, and Jaric admits it might not be safe to say it.

*

The rocks whisper about how a woman awoke and tore herself free from the white bindings.  She heard no prayers and saw a city asunder.  She awoke and her heart broke.  Seran wonders where she has gone, but Liliandra admits she is not sure where Thalia Yvarai has gone.  She knows only how to speak of Fire and Rock.  She wishes one of her sisterkind was around to speak to the Air and find her.  Liliandra admits she was here when the rock shifted and the bright light blinded her.  A gentle touch upon her brow.  Then she fell asleep.

Seran wonders if the Demon might actually BE Thalia Yvarai.

*

Nia realizes there is someone she knows who might utter a wish in his desperation as an Ork army closes in around him.  She says, "Haroun.  She might be hunting for a wish from Haroun."  She explains she denied him his wish to go after Seran.  Jalani realizes she will have to buy them time, but Jaric admits he can do it better.  "No one can out ramble me," he smiles.  Jalani stands up, breaking the Rose, and declares she has no belief Demons exist and wishes she had a chance to meet it.  Nothing happens.  Jalani calls out for the servants, checking if all are accounted for.  Jaric runs out after her.  Nia tells Galeo to inform Jalani that she will write if Haroun is missing.  If he is, she will need her help in the Senate.  Nia hurries back to her Province.

Now alone, Galeo draws out the Quill and wonders if she can use it to write the name, Thalia Yvarai.  To her surprise, the ink moves and the letters do rearrange to show a new name.  Thalia Yvarai's Secret Name.  Galeo now knows it.

She wipes the table clear immediately.

*

Jalani is frustrated, uncertain how to deal with what they are facing. Jaric admits it would be the worst time to act.  They need to find out more and stay safe.  Jalani mentions the three sisters might be able to help, given they know about Demonology.  Jaric decides he will go with her once the adventuring party is set off.  He will leave it to her to secure the Castle.  Jalani admits she is not sure if there is time to do that, but she will see what she can do.

*

Nia returns home to find Haroun still there.   Her fears that Haroun made a deal with the Demon had not happened.  Haroun admits she cannot go to rescue Seran without endangering the rest of them.  Nia is grateful to hear that, and apologizes for not supporting him.  He begs her to send someone to help Seran. He suggests she send her Spymaster, Errol (Lukas) though he is not sure if Errol knows how to set sail.  Someone will have to pilot the vessel.  Haroun asks if Nia is willing to trust her one other vassal who can fly an airship.  "How much do you trust your vassal, Madelyn Yvarai?"

They plan the journey to happen come the beginning of Summer.  Haroun will find a different name to use, given Dalvinosh gave the Secret Name too easily.  He suspects he wants the owner of that name to die.  Nia wonders if that means Dalvinosh Steele's wife is still alive, and he probably has a reason to want her dead.  She believes she can find out what that reason would be.

*

"She took my face," Liliandra admits, "But she did not destroy Shanri. It was the Storm that destroyed Shanri."  Liliandra shares she was in the Senate Hall the night the Storm came.  The Airships were circling around the Senate hall like hungry orks, trapped in a whirlpool of the Storm's rage.  They had to stop it.

The woman who cast her shadow upon Liliandra, Madelyn Yvarai, sacrified her Secret Name and gave it to the Storm that they may command and control it.  It was only with her name that the winds were forced back.  But it required a massive sacrifice to create the Circle that would protect them from it forever.  Madelyn did not realize however the survivors would pin the blame of the city's near complete destruction on her.  She then commanded Liliandra to feel, to hide and watch over her beloved Suaven.  It was Madelyn Yvarai who had Liliandra keep Thalia's tomb safe.    She watched over the tomb until it opened, and until it was abandoned.  Now, Thalia merely awaits Thalia's return.

Seran shares Madelyn Yvarai does live back in her Shanri.  She also shares that there is someone that has her face.  Someone who grants wishes.  Seran is not certain though if that means they face a Suaven... a Demon... or worse, a Fashuva?  She knows she is not equipped to grasp this.  She asks Liliandra if she can leave the place.  Seran hopes to help them find a way across the sea back to the others.  Oandur can help with his building skills.   Seran knows she will find a way home.

*

The red haired woman manifests in a room. Madelyn Yvarai turns to face her.  The chamber is cluttered with maps, clothes and supplies.  "I thought our partnership was over," Madelyn asks, "Or do you have a new deal?"

"I need you to move my body again," the red-haired woman asks.

"And in return," Madelyn smiles.

"Name it," the Demon simply states.








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