Wednesday, February 4, 2015

After the Rain ep23 : Houses of the Blooded

11/02/2014
After the Rain

Episode Twenty Three
"Oaths, Curses and Promises"

Houses of the Blooded

Pieces of the puzzle seem to slowly come into light with Seran's conversations with Liliandra, the muse, in other Shanri.  She attempts to retrieve the pieces of her mask back at the opera house, asking Liliandra to bring her back up.    Jaric is not done with his Opera, reworking parts to add another Character to the Opera.   Nia is now certain the Orks mistook Tyan Bran as the Suaven they left behind, and it is actually Thalia Yvarai.  She spoke with Dalvinosh about going back to the ruins and he saw no point in doing so.   Nia pens a flattering letter for Maja Thayl, then asks for the whereabouts of Madelyn Yvarai for an important mission back to the ruins of Shanri.   Maja responds back that she only takes Obsidian jewelry.  Nia preps Madelyn Yvarai, Seran's former Personal Guards, the Staff, the Maid, Errol of the Forgiving Hands, and Bowen are gathered  to sail on an Airship to Old Shanri and rescue Seran. She visits her father at the fringes to know what the Bears have in mind as well.   Galeo learns the Ritual of The Puppet, an advantage she hopes to utilize given her access to the Quill's Secret Names.   She also realizes there will be the need to gather recognition in order to have her adopted son to be presented in the Senate.  She plans to present him as already being Blooded into House Bear when she saw him.She also sends her Spy Network to watch her daughter Cassalanter.

Galeo enters the lands of Infinitum to visit Jaric.  Jaric receives her at his Opera House.  Jaric shares he believes he's found the final Character he needs to complete his opera.  Galeo is happy art is spreading by people other than Cherno.  Focusing on business, Galeo asks Jaric to recognize her for the coming Senate hearing.  She tells him of her adoptive son. Jaric of course shifts the discussion to the latest Cherno work which Nia had witnessed.  He asks why the child is important.  Galeo tries to simply state its a chance for her to celebrate her family.  Jaric asks Galeo to prepare a sculpture to celebrate his coming Opera in a future Althua.  He tells her she has two seasons. This is the price for his recognition.

At the Fringes of known Shanri, Nia arrives at her father's Province to see ships all prepared to sail, stocked with supplies.  Further off shore, a fleet of Bear ships waits for his arrival.    Nia has Madelyn and the rest on the air ship to go ahead to Old Shanri, while she disembarks to talk to her father.  She already knows going home with be a task for her to fulfill on her own. She discovers her father has no plans to exodus with the Bears. Instead, he is planning to secretly become a Q'val in service to his wife who is in solace.  But the rest of Shanri will believe that Orion Steiner was lost at sea, but in truth he will never leave Neaera's side.  The Bears believe there is a place beyond the seas they can start anew.  Merop remains in charge of the Temple.  Maya Adrente, however, might take over the land. Nia introduces him to Janine for the first time. Nia learns from her father that her mother insisted before that she be Blooded as a Bear, but that didn't come to pass.  They muse on how dangerous the wrath of the Suaven can get, calling it world changing.  Good thing, therefore, that the father would opt to watch over her.  The Bears will always understand there is strength in unity. Nia hands her father the map to Old Shanri, suggesting the Bears might want to have a destination in mind.  The map was penned by Seran Thorne of places beyond Shanri.  "It is possible they will find what they are looking for over there."

Janine asks what if Maya to focus on the land, while Nia took her father's land.  Given Janine is a Serpent, Nia considers the situation and how Janine Mwrr would manage things alone.  It would mean leaving the shadow of James Adrente.  When asked to give her opinion, Janine wisely admits wisdom dictates she best remain silent in such matters.

In the other Shanri, Seran emerges with Liliandra from the place beneath the Opera House.  The actors are at odds, with Cheska and Oandur debating over who Seran Thorne should be and why she'd be falling down any hole.  Seran announces that is her name and questions how can she play her if she doesn't even know how to use a sword.  Seran begins to pick up the pieces of the mask, but Cheska demands she leave it behind.  She calls Oandur to help her out.  He tells her to leave it on the ground given its part of the set.  Seran argues that it is hers and questions what they would even use it for.  She insists it is hers and that she is leaving.  Oandur warns her there is no way out.  Seran pockets the pieces.  Cheska hisses that if she is Seran Thorne, the Ork Ven they welcomed into the city, then why would she look ven?  She admits they thought they only looked ven because the Senate covered them in some glamour to look ven rather than monsters.  Seran explains she is leaving the opera house to look for a way out and perhaps a way out of the island they are in.

When Seran asks why they would stay in the opera house given they don't even know when they will be fed again, Oandur accuses her of not knowing what it would be like to suffer for something one considered to be important. Seran takes offense and the two have a stand-off with Oandur warning her he knows every inch of the stage.  Seran admits she would rather die than give the shards back.  Oandur however warns her if she leaves the stage with the shards in her pocket, it will be an act of war.  Seran runs for the hole, hoping to jump inside.  Oandur call out a Curse upon Seran, that from now on any pain that seeks her skin shall find its mark.  Seran leaps through the hole again.

The Curse seems to take hold as Seran misses the hand hold she hoped to snag in her fall.  She slams against the wall and painfully bounces backwards towards another surface.  She tumbles into more debris and crashes into the rocks below.  Grievously injured, Seran finds the water at the bottom a welcoming close to her descent.  But the water forces her through the tunnels, and into a second drop!  The second tumble through debris and rocks leads to her getting wedged against two objects that have locked against the wreck.   She realizes she is pushed against stacks of spears, perhaps the tools of the Vashna, now blocking the doorway which the water surges against.   Seran breaks the tips of two off, to use as tools, and pries the doorway open.  Water pours out, emptying into the sheer droop.  Seran hangs on the edge of a gate and realizes she is miles from the ground, at the entrance of the Senate Hall's ruin.  But thankfully, now beneath open sky and having better sense of her bearings.  She realizes the areas where she was once with the others are now beneath the waves.  The water level has risen that much.  Orks are feasting on the dead bodies.  But signs of campfires can be seen as well.. other survivors.  Even the airships in the air continue their patterned routes.  Seran tries to see if the ship has anyone onboard, and she notices the glint of what would have likely been a spyglass trained on her.

True enough, in response, giant wasp orks descend towards her.  Seran pulls onto a secure platform where the gate was and readies herself for a fight.  But she then senses it isn't hostile!  Drawing upon her Courage, Seran reaches out and grabs hold of the spikey mane of the wasp.  She mounts the ork, using her belt to hang onto the thing and it flies off, carrying her to the sky.  It carries her to the ship where a man calling himself Count Kether welcomes her.  He tells her of how the Storm came suddenly and that they try to help those they can but they can only do so until sunset.  Seran asks who makes them and he reassures her the answers will come in time, but their attempts to retrieve the others below have failed given they always attack the wasps when they come close.  When asked where the ship returns to each night, Count Kether realizes Seran is probably one of the ork ven.  He asks her if Galeo is well and hopes she was able to bring word of him to his wife.  Seran admits she has met Miralia but admits she is not sure if she survived the storm.  Count Kether shows her he communicates with his master via an artifact pearl. Count Kether admits he wishes he will see her tomorrow, but the sun rises and he is gone.  Seran searches the ship for anyone else but finds only a room with lounge chairs, goblets, and wine.  The ship continues its journey flying its automated path, and begins to fly an upwards angle.

Clouds now envelope the ship, towards a warm glow in the distance.  A small tower rising in the sky, with three other ships approaching from the other cardinal points.  The tower shows signs of life.  When the ship docks, vashna emerge to clean the vessel.  A woman comes forward, Tigriss, and guides Seran inside.  She welcomes Seran to Ivanisk and as she walks Seran notes the woman has no tattoo on her back.  She seems to be a different one from the one Seran has met before.   The Earl of Ivanisk welcomes Seran to his chambers. Seran stares at Dalvinosh Steele.

"I know you, Seran Throne.  Nia says a lot about you."  He rebuffs Seran's attempts to show good graces and tells him he is well aware she respects nothing of titles and offers her food and drink.  Somehow, this man who is here in the other Shanri, is aware of things that Dalvinosh perceived in his time with Nia Jalan.  How were they sharing memories?!

Rio informs Jaric Thayl that the Adventuring Party is about to set off for the Ruins.  Jaric asks if she is certain she gathered the best party for the venture.  Rio admits the short Q'val's other group seemed promising but they seemed too divided to be relied upon.  The other group Rio gathered seems more suitable. They are lead by a man who traveled the seas in the past.  The man has a single eye and introduces himself as a procurer of things lost and things that desire to be found.  Jaric asks Rio to come close for a word.  Rio defends them of having the proper credentials and being respected by the Merchant Houses.  Jaric admits he won't be joining them as he is busy writing an Opera.  Jaric reminds Rio to find evidence of the Crimson Throne, a Throne made of Glass that was entirely crimson in color.  The procurer, Kurt, asks if the Throne is to be returned and if they are to expect any trouble in the journey, avoid it or handle it?  Jaric insists they avoid any encounters, not wanting to have any quarrel with the Ork House.  If the entire throne can be recovered, they are to have an additional reward.  He sends them away before they reek of sorcery and expose him more to such things.

A visitor arrives.  Jaric learns that the Duchess of the Ruins Beneath has come to see him.  He agrees to see her at the parlor, the most warded location of his castle.

"The Countess of Verge is no more."  Galeo stares a bit shocked at the news.  She had come seeking for a chance to discuss matters with Nia.  But then she is suddenly told the Countess is now ready to receive her.  The banners outside seem different from what she anticipates.  The Ork that descends to meet with the group at first confuses Galeo into thinking Bowen has arrived.  But she realizes it isn't him.  Instead, she meets Maya Adrente, who tells her that Nia Jalan was now a Marquess and was at another land.  When Galeo admits she had hoped to see Nia, Maya explains her sister is now located at the lands owned once by their late father, Orion Steiner.  She offers to give Galeo a ride to that Province, although it would take two Seasons to build an Airship.    Maya eventually admits she doesn't really know what is going on.  Her presence in the land was merely to fulfill the task given to her by Nia which was communicated via letter.  "No one really knows what she is doing," Galeo admits. The father suggests Nia stays til summer.  They even discuss how Maya hates holding land and asks if she will stay to "appear to be mourning" her father's "demise."  They visit the temple and Nia remembers the fight with the Spectre many Seasons ago in that very temple.  She remembers the relic her mother gave her.

Maya does share that a few weeks ago, the Countess-now-Marquess left with Madelyn Yvarai, Bowen and Errol on an airship to head for their father's Province.  Galeo wonders if Maya is now to be her Countess.  Galeo does remind her to watch over the Volcano.  Maya does share that she read the letter to "her" requesting Recognition for the second son.  Maya offers to give the Recognition and in exchange she asks Galeo if she can craft a Bloodsword. Galeo admits she cannot, and reminds that Sorcery is forbidden by the Senate.  Maya admits she knows how to craft Orichalcum but does not know how to craft a blade.  Galeo suggests she find a smith but Maya admits no ven seems to want to create swords, considering it a useless task.  Maya agrees to Recognize Galeo in the Senate and in exchange, when she has a son, Galeo can Recognize him too.

Seran tries to decline the wine Dalvinosh Steele offers her, but she realizes it has been too long since she had something healthy to drink.   She tries to thank her for his hospitality but he reminds her it is too soon to assume he is being hospitable given he still holds they are ork ven.  Seran tries asking how he knows things, but he instead questions if all questions he asks will be answered with questions as well.  He takes two objects that he lights up to bring colors into the sky.  He calls it giving the people hope.  When Seran asks why they haven't helped the others down below, he admits they may have trained them too well to fear the Orks.  Dalvinosh seems to have a full shelf of food and wine.  He sends some of it down with the wasps, admitting that while none of them would want to get help from the Ork, he will at least drop food for others to find.  He questions Seran's claim that she did not come back willingly to old Shanri, a claim he feels is a lie given the same reason was raised in the past.  Seran asks if she is a prisoner and Dalvinosh is insulted by her question given his offer to help and feed her.  Seran admits she is not good at conversing.  Dalvinosh agrees and states City destruction seems to be her specialty.. if not Castle destruction.  Seran asks how she would know these things and he responds, "Are you really asking how the Earl of the Elks happens to be Cunning?"

Talk shifts to the red-haired woman and he mumbles how they all seem to be lost the way Jenno Mwrr was.  Seran doesn't catch the name of Galeo's father.  She insists they had nothing to do with the demoness and her destruction of the city, but Dalvinosh muses if the Mistweir would have fallen on its own.  They talk of how the red-haired woman torments others.  Dalvinosh noticed back then how the storm would shift in relation to the woman's presence.  He shares how during the Storm, he noticed the specific places where the storm struck the worst, including the port area where Seran and Galeo were.   Seran admits she cannot offer him the safety her Shanri given the Senate's decisions, but she offers to help them for a brief period.  Dalvinosh finds it unacceptable, however.  All the ruin below is what remains of what he had once had to bring back from the ashes.  Dalvinosh mentions the many ways he could punish or Curse Seran if he wanted to, but admits that would have been pointless given he had saved her from a fatal fall.  "Don't mistake me for a Wolf," he reminds her.

Jaric receives the unexpected visitor who stands in white, black and blue.  Dranna Ru's carriage stands in the distance, one made of wood and steel.  "You do not come with your regular retinue," Jaric observes and Dranna Ru admits she sought to come and maintain a low profile.  They talk of how things have changed significantly since the last encounter.  He bids her welcome and she offers to explain how she survived the fall, how she returned with mastery over the Orks, and more.  Jaric, however, admits Nia would probably be more interested.  He feels more interesting things have happened in his family.  "Tales of underneath for tales of other Shanri."     Dranna Ru then plainly mutters Mahl, and reveals that the mother of monsters is now conquered.

Another guest arrives at Maya Adrente's castle.  Galeo watches from the balcony as Maya's roadmen welcome inside Maja Thayl into the castle.  Maya does not see the wordless communication Maja Thayl and Galeo share, when the mother mentions she sensed Galeo was troubled.  Galeo shares that Maya Adrente has shared that the Wolves desire the Quill and the Secret Names it holds.  Maja felt the emotional shift in Galeo's feelings when she was in danger.  So she quickly made her journey here.   Maja makes a show of having the need to talk to Maya Adrente about something in particular.  She asks Galeo to step out and Galeo leaves the room.

Galeo and her Swordsman step outside and see the vehicle that Maja Thayl utilized to arrive here sooner.  She has a horseless carriage that reminds them of the airships of the old Shanri.

Nia and her father hear the gong in the temple begin to beat in their presence as they stay in the temple.  Orion Steiner admits to Nia he is not quite ready to become suaven yet.  He admits with Haroun no longer holding his title, Sorio Rusu and Maya Adrente's case shifted to have them held accountable for the deaths of the ven when the airship struck the castle.  Maya however was pardoned, a pattern which matched all the wolves that had cases raised in the Senate.  Something has changed in the Senate... as well as in Maya Adrente. The only constant is how much she has cared for Nia above all others.

Dalvinosh tells Seran that he wouldn't poison her.  He would probably instead serve her.  Give her his rings and artifacts.  His secrets.  Seran wonders if that is what is happening between him and Nia.  He talks about having Rituals transcribed and inscribed in his skin.  Until at some point in time when she believes she is placing him where she can handle him best, he would make his move.  He would reach out to the other Elks still loyal in his service.  They would be gently prodding the necessary individuals to move all the Pawns in the same direction.  In the end, he would stop.  He talks about coming that close to avenging all he wants to, but stop, and offer the other a final chance at redemption to save the person from utter doom.  Welcome them with wine, cheese and food.  He will spend the time watching if there is any hint of regret or hint of guilt for all the deaths that had happened.  "Now what do you think I should do if I see nothing?"

Seran tries to explain she offered to trade herself for the people who were in danger.  She explains how she does wish she could have saved more.

Dalvinosh asks Seran to explain how Madelyn Yvarai is alive.  He demands to know why they all knew of her even before she was presented to the Senate.  He accuses her of having known all about Madelyn Yvarai and demands she explain how she lives.  Dalvinosh practically admits they placed her in the position of Master of the Ruk to punish her.  Seran admits only Jaric knew of Madelyn Yvarai. She denies his accusation that they are her tools.  "Damn the damned Blessing.. you are not lying!  None of us know why or how she lives then!" he spits out in anger.   They talk about how Madelyn Yvarai gave her name to the Storm.  Dalvinosh slips and mutters he was there. He saw her do that.  And admits he needs the Quill back.  "Do you understand how hard it was to recover the Red Orichalcum?  The core I used to craft the Quill...."  Seran cannot believe he made it.  She begins to realize he's revealing to her so many things, he probably has no plans of letting her leave.

Seran however does impress upon him that she is not Madelyn Yvarai's pawn.  She shares how the woman has killed her Court Scholar, tried to take away her land... but he believes it is nothing compared to what she has done in the past.   Once again, Seran stresses Jaric would know best about Madelyn Yvarai and the stories of their Shanri.  Dalvinosh finds it amusing that Jaric Thayl, the same name of the Dreadful authors, seems to obsess over this Shanri and Madelyn Yvarai's existence.  He admits that the Dreadfuls were not coincidentally "written" by Jaric, because he had intentionally chosen to use that name when he wrote them. He wrote the tales to prepare himself in meeting each of them.  They were his attempts to study their possible personalities even before he met them.  He needed to know who Madelyn's child had associated herself with. Seran asks if the child was Pyotr.  Dalvinosh however corrects her to know Madelyn had a daughter who was banished to Shanri to punish her for her sins.  He suspects the daughter was the one who has come back to bring the storm and strike at them.  He does confirm that Seran is NOT Madelyn's daughter.

"If her daughter was banished from here, would she not be alive in our Shanri?"

"She is being watched," Dalvinosh admits.  "After all, when it comes to the point I will need an advantage over Madelyn, that will be the very advantage I shall use."

She learns from Dalvinosh that in a Season, an airship should arrive carrying Madelyn Yvarai.  It is an opportunity to prove herself to her people.  Seran wonders if she should just fling herself out the window to free herself from all the bonds that hold her.  Dalvinosh admits he has wished he could do the same thing, but he does not have that luxury.  Seran offers to help the ven below in the meantime and try to get them to trust the ork wasps, or perhaps help deliver the Food to help them survive.  Seran is allowed to choose to stay up in the tower or down below.  She chooses to stay below to help those she can.

"It always comes back to the damn Riddle," Jaric sighs.  He thinks about how Circe was devoted to her and how it leads to the many tragedies.  He asks why Dranna Ru visited him and she admits she contemplated on vengeance for Seasons, but now she does realize all face a common threat.. the one with the Crimson hair.  Jaric asks if she has caused trouble even in the Beneath.  Dranna Ru starts from the beginning and tells how even before they met, Isolde Valar held the castle and her brother, Haroun Q'n, and her were friends.  They both wondered how Isolde had gained control of the castle so easily, despite its ork inhabitants.  Dranna Ru found beneath the castle a temple to the Mother of Monsters herself.  She rushed back to tell her brother about it, but instead she found Seran.  She seemed elusive, as if she was hiding something from her.  It made Dranna Ru think she was loyal to Isolde.  When she fell, she shattered so many bones and yet did not die.  The Grinning Man stood over her, smiling the whole time.  Rather than give up, she fought to survive.  She pushed her broken body to move, despite the pain and anguish, suffering for days and feeding from whatever was close enough to her lips.  At times she would awaken in pain, at times, thinking she was already dead.  But in the end, she learned the Temple of Mahl had been ensnared.  The marks around the Temple were not cracks but inscriptions.  The fissures on the ground were sigils.  Someone, or some group had found the Grand Temple of Mahl and locked it away.  It was then she realized that someone was her.  The marking and sigils were prepared to lock Mahl were readied but were not cast, not until her broken body provided the blood to empower them.  Above, she suspected there was quiet.  "A Toubleless Winter," Jaric muses, remembering that season.  Dranna Ru reveals that the monsters are within her.  The Temple of Mahl had been locked away, and she perhaps has become the Mother of Monsters.  "Or," Jaric considers, "You are the Prison now."

Jaric asks why she would tell him all this.  Dranna Ru explains the red-haired one visited and upon seeing the wards on the Temple, she cursed Jaric's name.  It seems she thinks Jaric is behind the Temple being locked.  She mentioned Jaric's son and daughter having been trained well.   And Jaric finds it exasperating that all his attempts to avoid Sorcery have not distanced him from being associated to it.  But they do realize the red-haired woman would have not come to Mahl's tomb unless she sought her help or something to that effect.  "Would a Demon seek the help from a suaven, even a fallen one?  Or would a suaven seek help from one of her own time?"  Dranna Ru is confused by Jaric's statement, but he is starting to see hints that train of thought might actually be accurate. He asks if Dranna Ru still has the earring, and she admits she does but the artifacts do not seem to function for her anymore.  She offers it to Jaric and he takes it.  He wonders if she is no longer ven, given the artifacts no longer functioning for her.   Jaric tells her he sent an adventuring party beneath Meridian to seek the throne of Kithranus.  He tells her he found Quan Wei's castle under Isolde's castle, and now he wonders if there's any truth in the tales of her becoming the Dara.  He shares that they were ordered not to kill any Orks.  Dranna Ru admits the House Ork thing was just her protecting herself after choosing to stop the Senate from falling.  Jaric swears that if an Althua was to be held in the Senate, things can only get worse given their track record. Dranna Ru reassures him it won't given the only time that happens is when a child is presented to be recognized.

Galeo is amazed the carriage truly has no wheels.  She asks the driver what manner of conveyance it is, but the vassal admits he was commanded and told not to speak to anyone and to remind anyone that any threats or claim on the property would be dealt with with the full extend of her shadow.  Galeo decides it would be best to go and get the Marquess.  Galeo realizes through the Oath, she can sense Maja is tense, worries yet confident.  She heads back and from the distance, she can see the Personal Guards waiting outside the door; all of them are armed with swords.  The door suddenly slams open and the two steps out laughing. They talk of seeing Nia in the Senate meeting and that they will be going.   Maja greets Galeo and suggests it is time to go.  Galeo nods her goodbyes and the two walk down the corridor.  Maya calls out, asking about settling the matter of Recognition.  Galeo suggests it need not be done immediately, but Maya suggests it should given the number of wolves hunting for... others.  Maya thanks her for the delightful time and whispers to Galeo that her timing is impeccable.  "Almost too perfect."  Maja admits the carriage was something she and her husband found in the Ruins and works well for quick journeys.  They discuss how the Wolves want the Quill and the names that come with it.  Galeo realizes carrying the Quill with her was not a smart plan, worse to be inside a Wolf's castle.  Maja reminds Galeo to always remember the Oath and how it has bonded them in more ways than they realize.  Sadly, the pulse of the people is that of support towards the Wolves and their hunt.  It allows them to keep their hands clean.

Maja then explains that she used espionage to stealth herself into Galeo's castle, snuck up to Hero while he slept and told him, "Had I been an Assassin, you would have been dead" giving Hero the push he needed to run off with Casselanter to keep her safe.   She cannot even tell Galeo where Hero has gone because she made herself forget.  Galeo sighs and admits that they can do the Cherno then.  She even laments how exhausting it is to keep publicly hating him.  But they will do the task necessary to make everyone forget Galeo's Secret Name.  They consider asking the Mwrr Sisters but the best one to speak to her would be Nia, not one of them.  Maja worries Nia might be too ambitious to be invited into the Sisterhood of Gaius Mwrr.  They drop of Galeo along the road of one Province  and head on.  Galeo calls out to Quan Wei and tells her they must speak of the Quill.

A door emerges out of light from the body of a nearby tree.  Galeo steps through.

Back at the outskirts of Shanri, Nia contemplates on her mother's Temple and the gongs.  "Ask Mother something," Nia tells her father and they consider if the gongs portend ill things.  Merop arrives and is surprised to see Nia present.  She shares with Nia that they've developed a "language" based on the number of gongs they hear.  Two sounds refer to sensing the presence of others. Three to show gratitude.  One to tell the speaker to cease. Nia then shares with Merop and her father the tales of what happened in the other Shanri.  Orion wonders about this Madelyn Yvarai and whether or not she may be behind the crashing of the airship.  The discussion quickly shifts to include information regarding the red-haired demon, and her having gained the servitude of Dalvinosh Steele.  Nia learns that Orion has had gained the votes of the Duke above him as an agreement in the Senate halls for quite some time.  She asks her sister to try and ask their mother for a relic, in hopes that it will help remind their sister Maya  of who she is, while she retires to the guest room to rest.   Nia tells Merop that so many of them have changed.  Merop feels even their mother has.

Back in the other Shanri, Seran asks for something she can show the ven to prove the orks can be trusted.  Dalvinosh admits, however, there is nothing that can be given to accomplish that.  She asks what he plans to do when Madelyn Yvarai arrives and he tells her he has not decided yet.  She asks why Madelyn is coming and Dalvinosh admits it was Nia's plan.  She brings all the food she can carry with her as well as a bottle of win and is allowed to return down below.

Beneath the ground, Dranna Ru offers to show Jaric what she means a lot.  In response, Jaric admits to Dranna Ru that he has always considered her a friend, while she admits seeing him as a rival.  Jaric opts to return to Jalani first and inform her of the plans.  Jalani and Jaric discuss the recent events and make plans for the Winter Althua.   Jaric admits there is no need for anything too grand.  Invitations are to be sent out in the Autumn.  Jalani opts to remain with the children to ensure their safety even in Jaric's absence.  Maja is not to know.

Dranna Ru and Jaric return to the ruins of Isolde's former Province.  They go beneath the castle and see  the entrance to the ruins far below.  Dranna Ru leads the way, dismissing any orks that come close.  Jaric reflects they are in the ruins of what was once the castle of Quan Wei.  Soon, they reach a blank wall which Dranna Ru explains is the entrance.  There is a smooth stone slab on the floor which she explains is the keystone to enter.  But it only responds to Ork blood.  She draws out a baby crab-like ork from beneath her skin, then whispers an apology to it before crushing it against the rock.  The purple blood causes the rock to illuminate, and a staircase leading below yawns open.  Dranna Ru cuts her skin open and orks like fireflies emerge to illuminate the area.  They visit the temple beneath the earth; a vast structure that looks like an inverted pyramid with a gate open and welcoming.   Stepping on the illuminated slab, gravity shifts to hold them upside down as they now align with the temple.  Jaric admits the whole experience bothers him.  He remembers the massive scratches all over the walls inside the temple.  Old ven sigils and incantations had been etched upon the surface of the rock.  At the heart of the temple was where Dranna Ru had bled in her dying throes.  Dranna Ru admits she fell through the "floor" of the ceiling when she fell and her blood dripped "upwards" and awakened the temple.  She shares she suspects ven created the temple, but used ork blood to keep it sealed shut.  Jaric realizes it would have been a better lock as most ven would have used their own blood to unlock it.  At the center, a darkened slab.

But suddenly from within, an angered knocking!

Jaric has nightmares of the visit in the nights that follow.  He dreams of the slamming sound echoing all over, and the rock breaking open to release the Mother of Monsters from her prison.  Jalani thanks Dranna Ru, however, for keeping to her word and returning her husband.  Dranna hopes their differences can be put aside, and if she can rely on Jaric's help when the time comes for her to deal with Madelyn Yvarai.  She senses deep in her blood that Madelyn Yvarai is the real threat.

*

Summer comes along sooner than most expect.


Maja Thayl's plans come to fruition.  Artemisia fades from the memory of the ven.  None now recall Galeo's Secret name.  It happens without warning.  A summer morning comes with none realizing what has changed. It is almost a full week before Galeo is the first to notice that none have been speaking of her Secret name.  From so many reports, the lands of Galeo Silja are crawling with Wolves searching for the Quill.  The number of Wolf visitors is a polite way of saying "We are all around you."

Jaric Thayl arranges for Dranna Ru to meet Galeo Silja in secret to discuss the chances to meet Quan Wei.  Through a lot of effort and bribes, Seran Thorne manages to get a small contingent of the survivors to ride the ork and head up to Dalvinosh Steele's tower and hopefully that leads to more following in the time to come.


Despite people's best efforts, no one can find where Galeo Silja has hidden the Quill.  This, however, makes the Wolves try harder and switch to even less savory means.  Violence erupts in Galeo's lands. With the Wolves pushing their attempts to reveal the Quill to more unsavory means, Galeo's to-be-recognized child dies by their hands.  In anger, Galeo then uses the Quill to unearth the Secret name of Tyan Bran.  

A voice screams into Galeo's head demanding her to answer if she can hear it.  She responds, and the lords and ladies present with Galeo are bothered at her antics.  The voice tells Galeo to warn the others that the woman beside them is the Mother of Monsters.  The voice admits he is Gaius Mwrr.  Galeo is forced to juggle conversations with Gaius and the present lords and ladies of the neighboring provinces on whether or not they will complain to the Senate or not.  "She is the one who once possessed Circe.  She cannot be trusted!"  Galeo addresses the gathered that the Wolves have done violence already, and the others agree to join their voices for the Senate to hear.  She then dismisses the nobility and asks Gaius Mwrr, "Who are these they that you speak of?"  The suaven speaks of Jaric Thayl and Maja Thayl.  Gaius asks Galeo to returns to his temple.  She hisses on Karo to guard the Castle better.


Subsequent meeting between Jaric and Galeo have Dranna Ru to meet with Maja Thayl and hopefully, Gaius Mwrr.  This is attained as Dranna Ru has sworn to go against Madelyn Yvarai.   Maja tells Jaric that he must share the Oath with Dranna Ru, as per Gaius Mwrr's instructions.  They attempt the ritual but it fails.  Dranna Ru is truly no longer ven.  She indeed is the Mother of Monsters.  She uses the name of Mahl and the Oath works.  Jaric realizes he is sworn to the Mother of Monsters.    They share what they know of the red-haired woman, and that Madelyn Yvarai might be someone else given her ashes supposedly should be in the urn.  Jaric is more curious why these figures have come back into the limelight.  Even the Dreadfuls make no sense to him given he has never written them.  But why their names?  Dranna Ru considers a witch might help.  A witch can talk to Shanri.  Perhaps it can draw out the spirit of the ashes, and ask Madelyn herself who the imposter could be.  Maja Thayl misunderstands Jaric's question that he knew she was once a Witch herself.  She lost the talent after being Blooded.  This makes Jaric realize he was both while she was still Veth and unmarried.  She will check with the merchants if any of them know of a Talashan.  Maja consider the other way, the ven way.  She tells Jaric they can use the Ritual of the Corpse to awaken the remains.  Jaric turns that option down.  He will have nothing to do with Sorcery. Jaric's Adventuring Party however returns not with the Crimson Throne, but instead with a Blood Sword, the blade formerly owned by Kithranus Yvarai, Taltos.

An airship is visible in the horizon.  Seran can see it approach, as well as the large contingent of ships.  Seran does not recognize the banners, sadly, as they had been ripped off by the storm.    The Bears that have taken a journey away from Shanri find their way to other Shanri, guided by the airship Nia sent captained by Madelyn Yvarai.    The Bears were glad to reach old Shanri given they were struck by the Storm in their journey.  This, however, means they are stranded in other Shanri as well.  As the wasps descend to investigate, the Bears see instead orks coming to attack.  Seran realizes she cannot stop this carnage that follows.  Seran finds the theater group in the area, having been guided out by Liliandra.  It seems they have chosen to trust her for their survival.  The storm rages.  Liliandra comes up to her and admits she told them what Seran had confessed to her.  She asks if her loyalties are still to Madelyn Yvarai.  Liliandra asks why she would have loyalties to her.  Seran asks that because Madelyn Yvarai, and the Bears, should not see her.  When she left, the Wolves were not safe for their people.  Liliandra feels more fear for the Storm being back.  "Thalia will guide us through.  Though her tomb is empty, my devotion remains strong."  Seran wishes she could feel the same.

Nia gains the undeserved reputation as Ambition as she gains both the titles as Marquess of Bastion and Countess of Verge.  James Adrente approves the titles, and admits that the wolves have much against Galeo Silja.  He feels they may plan something upon Galeo in the coming hearing.  Possibly a political ambush of some sort.  James warns that he might have to vote on something against the rest of them.  Nia reassures him they will vote for themselves.

Galeo travels to visit Maja Thayl but comes across a massacre.  Six decapitated heads placed on pikes along the road.  She instructs Karo to stop and soon they come across a second horrific sight: a burning pile of dead bodies.  Galeo can tell the cuts on the dead bodies are from Bloodswords.  The cleanliness of the cuts are unmistakable.  Further down the road, she comes across Wolves on the road, bloodied and laughing.  They ride on, bypassing the two one throws a greeting after seeing the crest of the Fox.  Galeo acknowledges it, though remains safely inside her carriage.  The two soon reach a bridge and find it blocked midway.  The ven blocking the path wear clothes suggesting hard times.  Karo warns even the rear has been blocked.  Only one carries a sword.  The rest carry tools.  They call out, asking her to give them what they need and they will let her pass unharmed.  Galeo states they will not find what they need with her. They ask her to open the locks so they can search.  She states they will not take her weapon.  They threaten her, but Galeo and Karo consider the options.  Only one Bloodsword.  Three with farm implements.  Two with sticks.    Galeo says no. She explains they cannot get what they need from her, and she learns the man is Janoth Silja, from the other Shanri.  They realize she was the ork ven in their lands.  Galeo offers to give them food in one condition: every Wolf's head presented to her will be traded with Food.   "I am merely giving you what a Wolf's head is worth."  Karo warns she is playing a dangerous game since the Senate would not have doubts on what she is saying.  Karo is given permission to give out the wine and food she is carrying.   The Silja gives her a salute with his blade.  Galeo takes that show of respect graciously, then directs her carriage to drive forward and trample any others along the path.  She throws the man a stare that says, "Only for you."

"Wolves," is all he mutters.

Nia wakes up and steps down from her carriage to see Maya Adrente, her sister.  Maya returns to Nia her lands and she is given a token for caring for them.   Maya is given the bone fragment, a relic, from their mother.  She tells Maya their mother asked her to give it to her and apologizes for not realizing sooner what happened to Maya.  The loss of her family was an intense blow.  "You all know who forced him to confess for my family."  Nia claims she can only suspect.  Maya admits she has no thoughts on where to go next, given the Wolves being on the prowl.  She hopes to complete everything by Winter.  Nia admits if she does complete her hunt by Winter, she has a place to return to.  "We thank you.  Without your help, the Wolves would not have had a bastion in this Province."  Nia admits so long as their swords are aimed where she believes they are, they have a common purpose.  No pawn of the Sorcerer Kings shall ever have a foothold in Shanri.  Nia asks however what Maya plans to do if that pawn is discovered to be the Senate?

"That would be a terrible price."

"One like all, paid in blood."

Nia learns there were nights the Wolves would drag back others, and force them to talk and reveal their companions.  None of the vassals are brave enough to share what they witnessed in Nia's absence.  Nia asks for Dalvinosh, and he is found safe and hidden in her chambers.  He explains that when the Wolves took over, he stayed in the shadows.  He admits he was worried of being found.  Nia admits she was worried he was dead.  Dalvinosh shares the fifteen names of those he knew personally who met their slow deaths in this castle.   Nia admits she is not pleased to know this.  She shares the Bears were sent to his Shanri, knowing they will rescue all others they find as well.  Terrible death happen here, but at least better things happen to their kinsmen back in Shanri.  "If anyone will show others how to survive in a ruined Wilderness, it would be the Bears."


Seran sees the airship land along the port.  The ships remain a safe distance from the port, and smaller boats ferry people to the shore.   She does not see Madelyn Yvarai.  For weeks back, on the ship, the Madelyn Yvarai sailing the ship away from Shanri dissolves with the coming of nightfall.  Errol learns in panic that she was just a Tulpa, but thankfully, he successfully keeps the ship aloft and moving.  He was given a quick course of lessons from Madelyn before nightfall, and has picked up enough on how to manage a ship from all his time with Seran.  But as it turns out, Madelyn Yvarai had lever left Shanri.  As he disembarks from the ship, he looks at the distance.  Seran finds her eyes locking with his.  Somehow, they can sense each one is near.   Bowen, however, leaves Errol's side, with his own task to fulfill under Nia's orders.

But a physical pain stabs into Seran's chest.  She drops to the ground to see Oandur walking up to him.  "Told you I would make you pay," he mutters and she remembers his curse.  "We are even," he tells her and the group binds her and ties her up.  The pain is like a knife is being twisted inside her chest.  Liliandra calls out wishing for someone to come and help.    But the actors ignore her pleas.

Madelyn Yvarai looks out from the bow of her airship, knowing by now the others must have realized her Tulpa was on the ship by now.  She stares at the cocooned body on her vessel and decides it is time.  She calls out, "Dalvinosh.  I am ready to make a deal.  I am praying to you, Dalvinosh Steele.  Answer my prayer."  In the tower, the Suaven drops the glamour hiding his sleeping form.  The vassal possesed by Dalvinosh responds, "Let's make the deal."  Dalvinosh Steele, Suaven of Tulpas.


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