Friday, March 20, 2015

After the Rain ep25 : Houses of the Blooded

12/07/2015
After the Rain

Episode Twenty Five
"The Blood Opera"

Houses of the Blooded

A dead body.  As the threads wrap around Galeo Silja's body, she stares into the eyes of James Adrente, Jaric's son.  She begins to hear James' prayers as he desperately calls out to Thalia Yvarai.  She can hear how terrified he is and thinks he is dying.  She can hear him wish family was stronger than distance and that Manna Renay will carry his messages to his father.  But Galeo knows, thanks to her wish, no one else is hearing him except for her.  Having no devotion to Manna Renay, Galeo tries to reach out to her.   Unable to, the prayer will be left unanswered.  But then again, Galeo admits to herself, she doesn't care.  None of this matters.  She has her revenge on the Suaven who never truly helped her.  On the Wolves who never really respected her.  On everyone.

In the end, Galeo only truly cared about herself.

Elsewhere, Hero drafts a letter which he hopes to send to Galeo someday to let her know where they are.  He does not see the red-haired woman in the room with him, visiting the child.  Cassalanter stares at the red-haired woman and hears her whisper that it is up to the child to give the mother company.  She offers the child a relic of her mother.  And even at her young age, she has learned to speak without words similar to the Blessing of Thalia Yvarai.  Galeo hears in the distance her own daughter's prayer... despite never having have heard her daughter speak. She hears Cassalanter's request for the ability to speak without words.  Galeo responds to the child's call and promises she will answer it.  Cassalanter realizes she can hear her mother's voice in her head!  She can't seem to find a way to grant the blessing for her though, and admittedly, Galeo has no idea how to act as a Suaven.  She sends instead an image to her child of the pearl shard and of Haroun.  

The demon kisses the baby on the forehead and tells her she is truly her mothers, as she is of her's.  Cassalanter stares at the red-haired woman and knows the face is one she will never forget.   "You must remember your mother.  You alone will know and remember her.  This is my gift to you.  If you do not claim it, you will not know," she tells the child.  The demon offers the blood of Galeo, staining her hand.  The child touches the blood, and the connection to the Suaven is formed, and the demon vanishes.

Back at Shanri, Nia Jalan sees the coming of Autumn with a Senate Hearing.  Now in her dual title role, plus the ability to vote for a Duke, she attends to play a part in the hearing.  Jaric is not present, busy with the coming Althua.  The Wolf hosts the Opening Ceremonies of the proceedings, granting the Aspect of "Defend to the Last Breath" to the whole session.  The hearing begins and dozens come to speak of many things.  Recognitions, complaints, concerns and the like are raised.  One catches Nia's attention the most: a complaint on the "Lack of Trouble" given there has been three seasons of no Trouble.  They demand to know what the Orks are up to, that the Senate authorize and give the freedom for the ven to enter the lands beneath and search for the Duchess of House Ork.  They want answers.  Nia is bothered that they feel they have to ask for permission to do so.  The Senate allows it for sanctioned individuals who are granted permission to do so, not from House Ork whose absence relieves it of such rights.  Nia then brings up Recognition of Duke Jaric Thayl who is then to command the lands once owned by his son, James Adrente.  No one contests the claim.  Nia notices in the crowd, Madelyn Yvarai, and is surprised to find her silent on the matter.  

The Senate then recognizes Haroun Q'n, who is recognized by the others as well as Cherno, whom people only see as a hand raised to recognize him.  No longer a title bearer, he admits he is a vassal but comes to raise the topic of Seran Thorne, whom he declares to still be alive.  Though reportedly executed, if not exiled, he raises proof that she still lives and has come forward to ask for Revenge, on those who had released the false information about her death and exile.  He calls for Revenge on those who pronounced her demise, and calls for True Pain in hearing the mistaken word of her death and her exile.  As proof, he presents the wife of Sorio Rusu, Nia's sister, Maya, who brings out a box containing a globe shaped object onto the dais.  Before he can present things, however, a figure stands up and tells him that will be all.  The figure states the Dukes recognize his claim and will deliberate on the matter with a decision to be given by the end of the Season.  Haroun implies that he would rather not pray to certain others for vengeance and that he is aware of who made these decisions.   Nia realizes there is another figure in the chamber, moving through the crowd unnoticed by the other Senators.  His white skin, perfect grin, stands in stark contrast to the colors of the Senate.  No one seems to sense his presence or see him.  The man in black seems to relish all the discussions of fear and uncertainty.  At times, he seems to inhale sharply, feeding on something in the air.  

When Nia tries asking the closest one to her if they see the Grinning Man, the other tells her it is no joke to tease about seeing the very Fashuva after Haroun threatened to call upon them for Vengeance.  Talking about it, the very thing turns to face Nia and now walks towards them.   Only one other seems to notice the Grinning Man, and Nia realizes it is Madelyn Yvarai.   The Grinning Man stops.  It turns to face the man floor.

"The Senate recognizes Miralia Yvarai."  A cough, someone makes a point that it is heard.  "I... I beg the Senator's forgiveness.  She is merely Miralia.  She is not of the House of the Fox."  Still, with the required three recognitions, she has the right to speak.

She comes forward, addressing them all to call their attention towards Galeo Silja, Seran Thorne, Jaric Thayl, Haroun Q'n and Nia Jalan and asks for the said names to leave.  Haroun rises, raising his hand to ask what this is supposed to be about.  He raises that as a vassal he must ask for his master may need him present.  Nia stands, saying nothing, but allows them to see her as well.  Miralia begs them to leave the chamber if they hold anything of the past to be true.  When asked why by Nia, Miralia explains she swore friendship for them to remain unharmed.  "You must excuse the question, but who are you?" Nia demands, having never truly met her.  A Wolf, however, realizes and announces that Miralia has made veiled threats to the remainder persent.

"I am the Banner," Miralia declares, "You have been given the chance."

She unfurls a rope locked around her throat and it drops, revealing her body is painted with marks of different animals, and of a falling tower.  She cries out, "We claim what we will hold!"  Glass suddenly shatters and scream emit.  Steel is drawn.

Revolution.

*

Jalani admits everything is pretty much ready, though she feels it was unwise that neither she nor Jaric Thayl attended the Senate.  She suspects Jaric has plans for this coming Althua given Jaric has worked on the Opera for months and yet has not revealed a single thing about it.   Galeo was even commissioned for a minor art piece for the Opera. Jalani asks what Jaric is hiding from her.  Jalani asks where he has placed the Bloodsword that he supposedly gained from an adventure, and Jaric admits he has never gone on such an adventure.

Flashback, Jessie meets with Jaric regarding the Taltos, the Bloodsword retrieved from the ruins.   "Study the sword," he tells her, despite her wondering if her brother James should hold it.  He shares the historical relevance of the sword, how it was wielded by Kithranus Yvarai, the Crimson Inquisitor, and it is said to be a demon slayer.  He tells her she is to participate in the Althua this Winter to help "with the decorations."  She realizes he means adding more runes of protection to the Castle.

The Bloodsword is no longer where it used to be hung.  Jalani suspects Jaric is planning something with the children involved, but Jaric does counter she has done the same.  He has always been his mother's son.  For an Althua this simple, Jalani has prepared a simple Buffet, a few creations by Galeo, to be followed by the unveiling of the Opera Jaric has prepared.    "Afterwards, we deal with the Earl," Jalani reminds Jaric.  "The one who could not speak."  They agree it would be an interesting way to end the night.  He decides to show Jalani the Opera.   She reads it, realizing what it is meant to do, and fears for the fact they have not heard from James.  They consider the Dukes are probably having another council on their own.

Outside the window, they see ten Vashna on horseback, followed by Personal Guard. A banner is displayed above them and it matches that of their daughter.  They do not have their daughter's carriage among them, however.

*

Jalani returns minutes later.  Jessie emerges from the doorway, covered in blood.  Her hands still hold the Bloodsword, Taltos. She tells him of what happened in the Senate hall.  Of how the ork ven emerged from the windows.  How they had no choice but to flee, to fight or to die. The ork ven had just attempted to take over the Senate.  She tells them of what happened.

*
Nia uses the horn to blast terror upon those who come too close.  Those who are loyal to her or the Senate keep their backs together with her and fight in unison to make their way to safety.  Blood spills and bodies fall.  Challenges are declared for duels, but the ork ven ignore them.  The Vashna break away from loyalties as some turn out to be ork ven disguised as them.  Mass Murder all around.  Nia sees some calling up on the Circle of Protection to protect them, but the Blessings failing in the battle.  More and more blessings failing as they try to protect themselves.  Flight becomes more favorable than fighting.

The walls shake a second time.  The Senate hall is again trembling.  Some begin to fear the ork ven have allied with the orks.  But Nia realizes there are no orks in the battle.  There is no truth to that fear.  As they finally make the fight to the door, Nia looks back and sees Haroun still in the battle with the ork ven.  One armed with a Bloodsword closes on him. All Haroun has is a broken chair in his arms.

And she can see the Man in Black relishing the deaths.  Seemingly growing bigger.   The only Blessings coming in are those to Thalia Yvarai, Talten Steele, Tyan Bran and Neaera Thetis, if she can reach them.  Szaz emerges from the crowd with a blade marked with while fluid.  She tells Nia she did not come for her, and that she can escape using the path behind her.  Szaz promises to save Haroun Q'n as well, and Nia says goodbye.    Nia understands she did "not" see him.

*

In the other Shanri, Seran Thorne and Lukas Q'n are finally reunited.  The Bears now recognize Seran as the foremost adventurer of Shanri.  She has convinced the Bears to stop their violence against the ork ven.    They have also learned to trust Lukas greatly, seeing him as one who understands what they have gone through.  When they finally ask how she got here, she explains she was exiled and this was the only place she knew was not Shanri.   She is told that the temple of her mother has ceased to allow visitors since the incident involving her.  There is concern that her mother's temple, due to its size, stands as an insult to the Greater Suaven whose temples are far smaller.  

Seran learns of the Wolves hunting the ork ven, and that they might be part of some grand scheme of the sorcerer-kings.  The Bears still see the ork vens as non-ven since they are not recognized by the Senate.  They do, however, accept in time they too shall no longer be seen as ven since they have left the recognition of the Senate.  Lukas pulls Seran to one side to talk and he admits he thinks she's not telling the whole truth.  As she explains things, Lukas finds himself bothered at how different Seran sounds given her mentions of the Senate politics, of Sorcery and of freeing demons and the like.  He talks about how she used to be an explorer that sought to know the world.  She admits she feels things have been thrown into her life and now she feels that things are beyond her control.  Lukas finds it hard to believe her discovery that one of the strongest Suaven has become a walking entity calling itself a demon.  He is tired of being involved in all this, and wonders if this is all because of her associations with Jaric, Nia and Galeo.  He misses the old her.  She kisses him.  "You have me."

Lukas admits they have to stop this demon.  They cannot just pretend it no longer exists.  Seran admits she cannot lose him again, not after losing him before.  He confesses that if she feels they can run away from this, and leave the demon to be dealt with by someone else, "I don't think I have found you yet."  The words sting but Seran declares how much he does not know what she has gone through.   She tells him there's something else.  She has been exiled and she no longer has a Secret Name.  Lukas tells her they don't have to care about the Senate.  They can find a new land, build a new City and fill it with their own babies.  He tries mentioning it, but she feels nothing.  "Perhaps that instead means, you are free.   Maybe that's what we should do.  But after we deal with it."

She asks how.  She claims she even learned Sorcery in the past year to fight it.  They know if they try to run now, they will see each other every night and just regret doing so.  He admits not having a plan yet, but he states he knows that if she is Thalia, awoken, then her Temple is a way to hurt her.  It has only been her home for the longest time, after all.

"Let's do it," Seran admits, "As long as we are together."   Lukas then realizes he needs to explain to Seran about how Galeo knew about him being Errol all that time.   "Come on, four volcanoes in your land?"

*

Autumn ends.
News of the attack on the Senate spreads.  The attack ended with the deaths of four Earls, and a lot of other deaths.  Dukes begin to vie for the title of Earl, with only one Earl surviving the Mass Murder, a Serpent.

"The Althua must still be held," Jalani tells Jaric.  Jaric is confused why she even thought it would be cancelled.   They receive a guest: Hero and Cassalanter, who brings news of Galeo's disappearance which includes the Quill.  They ask if he has seen James and he admits he has not.  They invite him to the Althua come Winter and learn from him he plans to claim Consortia.  Jaric is amused he remembers more than Jalani that it is Nia whose shadow is over Consortia.  They discuss the events in the Senate transpired and the many deaths it has claimed.  They also share the growing fear of the Suaven having abandoned them.  The Blessing kicks in and Cassalanter communicates with Jalani.  She tells her that her mother is sleeping, which Jalani quickly asks if she knows where.  Cassalanter does explain the door just appears.

Jeeves arrives and tells them that Cherno wishes them to know the piece is almost done. Jaric is shocked given he has never asked for a piece to be prepared.  Jaric asks for it to be placed on the courtyard, but Jeeves explains Cherno has set it at the very center of the Althua's grounds.   There is some discussion of Galeo not having created as many trends as Cherno had.  Remembering Hero "dabbles" in the arts, Jaric tries to ask him to do something about Galeo's unfinished work.  Jalani asks Cassalanter if she has the same mark as her daughter, and if she can communicate with her own mother.  She then reveals to the baby that she and her mother were actually from the Other Shanri, who were exiled by their Senate.  "You are of her blood.  You are of Madelyn Yvarai's blood."

"The name is familiar to me. But I associate it with screaming."

"It will be useful," Jalani reminds her.  She has her Maid draft a letter for Jessie, to tell her she has found the component they hoped to use.  Cassalanter warns that she will not be used.  Jalani however reminds the child she has no choice.

Jaric asks Hero to accompany him to analyze the work of Cherno in his Castle.  Jeeves asks if he should send Cherno away, but both choose to meet him.  Jeeves whispers, "The Master Cherno appeared earlier before daybreak. But he had with him written consent from your Mother.  And from you."  He also warns that the staff are terrified of him.  "He is... different."  They are escorted to meet the mysterious artist.  

*

Nia Jalan soon learns of the other survivors of the attack.  She keeps her Secret Army closer, in her Province.  Janine arrives with both babies, Thea (Haroun's child) and Gillian (Dalvinosh's child), in her arms.  She smiles as she looks at Nia and asks if she has heard from Rio.  Given the events in Jaric's home, Rio has opted to stay close feeling her sword is needed there.  Janine asks if its better that their daughter is far away, given the recent events.   "I already have an Army. I do not need another sword. I am sure she is fine where she is."

A servant arrives to inform them of a guest.  The woman waits at the gates.  Nia remembers the last time there was a guest at the gates, it was the Earl of the Serpent.  The guest happens to be Madelyn Yvarai.  Nia has Janine bring the children to the tunnels for safety.  

Nia goes to the gate with her Roadmen.  An airship actually remains above waiting for Madelyn, knowing she is not welcome.  Her visit is one of business, and she admits she has come to ask Nia for help.  She mentions trying Jaric, but was sent away.  Nia opts to hear her out.  She brings up the change upon the Blessings and fears the Suaven have gone silent.  This feels different for her.  She fears many Blessings are being undone.  Nia feels she needs more proof.  Madelyn has come to confess and needs Nia's Recognition but clarifies this is not for a Senate event. This is for something to be revealed during Jaric's Althua.  Nia realizes she wants to go but was not invited and hopes Nia will declare her as her guest. In exchange, Madelyn is willing to tell everything about the red-haired woman to Nia.  Nia admits that woman has claimed two of her barons but she wonders if she is bartering for pebbles.  She even offers to leave Nia her airship.  "Will this one also try to crash into my castle?"

Madelyn admits the ship contains something of great import.  The very thing that allowed her to have an edge over all of them.  If she is welcomed as Nia's guest, Madelyn knows it will at least have Jaric listen to Madelyn.  To their surprise, a rider arrives to deliver Nia's formal invitation. To their surprise, Madelyn has one too.  "Now I would be more cautious.  A formal invitation from Jaric means something."  Madelyn then admits she made the wrong enemies.  But before she can go, Nia tells her she knows she saw the Grinning Man.  Madelyn admits they do not address nor entertain his existence.  She asks Nia how long she has noticed him.  Nia admits just that one time.  Madelyn confesses he stalked the City before, listening to their debates and his presence always forebode no good thing to come.  Nia admits she recalls an old Ritual devoted to him that was meant to allow her to grow her missing hair back.  Madelyn asks if Nia wanted to discuss things or if she was expected to leave.  Nia welcomes her if she wishes to speak, so long as she planned no ill will towards her and hers.  Nia asks if that on board is from the Senate.  Madelyn admits it is from much older.

She invites Madelyn inside.

*

The Bears accompany Seran and Lukas into the ruined opera house beneath the ruined city.  They talk about the other survivors and soon separate from the Bears for Seran to tell Lukas about the tomb below.  Nia warns that if the red-haired woman prepares to take them apart again, she will do whatever it takes to stop it from happening.  As they look around, they find the red-haired woman standing nearby.  They consider their course of action to descend below.


Madelyn and Nia start talking about the red-haired woman and the secrets she knows of it.  She rememebers the Senate falling, walls tearing apart, a column falling on her.  Then she remembers bowing in service to Dalvinosh Steele, being a Ruk, falling in love, bearing a child.  Twins.  Nia declares it sounds like the life of a Tulpa, and that she knows Dalvinosh can play tricks with Storms.  Madelyn shared her name with Dalvinosh, allowing him to steer the Storm.  She admits they are better of with his death.  Nia suggests he may still be alive, like her.   She asks what else Nia needs from her, and Nia responds her help.

She asks Madelyn if she is under threat of the thing stalking her companions.  Madelyn admits they all are, and it is why she wishes to speak to Jaric.  She is willing to help him defeat her in exchange for one thing.  Nia admits she senses Jaric would never accept it, and asks what it is so she may prepare.  She needs his help to reach out to Gaius Mwrr, an old friend, and she has recently learned that Devotion to him exists.  She needs him to call for a Blessing to find if her children still exist.  And in return, on her ship, she will give him the body of the demon.  Nia admits the knowledge should make things easier.  Nia offers to walk her to the gate, but Madelyn admits there's no need as she should be gone by sundown.  "If you wish to kill me, this is your chance to experience it for free."

The guards declare that the airship is now leaving the dock.  Nia offers to show her something for free.  Nia admits she knew she was a Tulpa and escorts her down below to the basement and there presents to her Dalvinosh Steele.

*

At the ship, Madelyn wakes in panic.  "The bastard is alive!  This changes everything!"  She rushes through her ship and comes up a woman with a hole in her throat.  "Amaras!  Dalvinosh is alive.  You have a chance at Revenge.  Will you trade me the body for a chance to kill him?"  Amaras agrees.

*

Seran and Lukas reach the tomb and consider what they can do to affect its former inhabitant.  They wonder if there are any relics left behind, though Lukas wonders if there would be any given she "walked out."  Liliandra, the Muse, informs them of other tombs where other Suaven still sleep.  Seran finds it disturbing, especially given she has not mentioned it before.  She doubts these are the other Greater Suaven.  Lukas finds a depression in the ground where the body might have been laid.  Niether notices the Grinning Man watching them, save for Liliandra who sees it but pretends not to see it.  Lukas draws out the remnants of a rope. It doesn't resemble the web strands of a Suaven, but it does resemble that of a rigging.  Lukas points to the square shaped marks on the floor, and realizes these are other graves.  A clan possibly? Perhaps Thalia's closest kin buried within her tomb?  They realize this may be a LOT of wrath to fall down upon them.  "But we are not Devoted to her," Lukas admits.

Lukas wonders where the Bloodsword is, and Seran is shocked he doesn't have it.  He admits he doesn't because he was holding her.  Liliandra seems distracted, and Seran asks her to come in to see what they have found.  Lukas now feels more certain this is family.  He is thinking to bury the blade into each tomb.  Seran asks Liliandra if she can open one for them, if not they will use the sword.  She whispers to the stone and it opens to reveal the webbing of a sleeping Suaven.  Seran admits she doesn't feel this is the right course of action.  Lukas admits he feels the hesitation too, but feels they have to do something.  Seran draws out the makeshift tool she build before, then plunges the broken spear into the Suaven.  The webbing blocks it.  So she starts digging into the web until the Suaven is revealed.  The three hurry back up to get the Bloodsword.

At the surface, a fight has been unfolding.  The Bears are being assaulted by the other survivors, with Oandur leading the assault.

*

Hero claims back the land once under Galeo, has a gift prepared in order to be able to attend the party, then makes Contacts with Maja Thayl, Hannah Silja and one of the ork ven who now has gained title thanks to Galeo's support.

*
Winter comes.  The Althua begins.


Everything is draped in red.  Intricate tapestries hang all over, prepared by Jessie.  Jalani and Jaric discuss that something definitely must have happened to James.  His Castle remains uncared for and his absence noted in the last two Senate hearings.  She shares that the Adrentes visited him.  Galeo is missing as well.  They wonder if there are ties to the retaliation given the threat that was posed towards Jessie.    Jalani wonders if Madelyn may be involved, but Jaric doesn't think so.  And the Ritual is almost done, given Jalani had drawn enough blood from Cassalanter, which was a moment most fortuitous.  "This is for James."

Visitors arrive.  The two head down to play their parts.

On the road, Nias' carriage sees the woman with red-hair walking to the Castle. After direct introductions of not being friends, she gives her name (Liliandra) and asks to ride with her to the Castle.  She tells Nia, as payment for the kindness, that Seran and Lukas have been reunited in the Other Shanri and has no plans to return.  Nia admits she doubts they will nor does she think she should.  Liliandra is impressed she does not question her information, and Nia admits she takes information and verifies it later.  She chooses to keep it for any usefulness.  Liliandra admits she is attending the Althua hoping to see something unexpected.  She had been informed the Opera is unlike any other.  Nia admits she wouldn't give Jaric that much credit, given its his first opera and such tend to be very derivative.  Liliandra then casually shares he most likely will write a new one for the death of his son.  Nia is surprised given that has not been confirmed nor announced.  The demon admits she would love to offer a chance to verify it but she worries Nia would take it as a threat.  The demon then asks if Nia has children, which she admits having some, and Liliandra admits noticing the smell of it on Nia.

Cassalanter is crying, but Hero does not grasp that she is trying to tell her father not to leave.   Hero sees it more as a sign the child needs obedience.  Carrow informs Hero that Galeo was wondering when he would return, and that she took the loss badly.  Given Jalani has taken a liking of Cassalanter, Hero thinks she may take care of the child.  As a gift, they bring the last of the last Season's wine.  Roadmen begin knocking on the door to inform Hero that Galeo's sister has come to contest his claim.  Merea has arrived with fifty men.  Hero invites her and her alone to see him.  A scream.  They discover that one of the Rooks has just been stabbed.  Merea stomps into the area, with a Bloodsword in hand, and she declares the land as hers as her blood is closer to Galeo's.  She demands that any contest of claim is to be settled by a duel.  Hero asks if she will duel him, who will be the champions.  She insists she comes to claim it as this was her sister's land.  He asks however, "Even if your mother claims it is mine?"  Merea goes to the gate, apologizes for the man who got stabbed by the gate.   Hero pries the false Bloodsword from the ground and realizes it is another act.  Merea claims she was having dreams of Galeo and that she was telling her to claim the land.

Hero questions if Merea would have truly been selected by Galeo, given he knows Galeo chooses her contacts well.  Merea tries to insist Galeo reached out to her in her dreams,  She claims she was told to hold it.... then realizes the rest of the message says, "...Until Hero's return."  Merea apologizes, claiming to have gotten confused after being under the sun for so long.  She talks about the Nightmares that keep coming, and that Galeo's trapped and no one can hear her or something.  Hero wonders how that sounds like Galeo is in Solace.  With more wine, Hero hears from Merea the nightmares she has been having of Galeo seemingly in Solace.  He tells her to try to talk to Galeo in the later dreams, and to let her know that she has done what she can.  When Merea asks where she might be, Hero mumbles about Galeo possibly going back to the Other Shanri.   Merea then admits that as children, they used to tease Galeo that she was from some other place, given she was not actually born of their parents.  Merea asks for the Sword back and admits she was worried about handling the war given all she has are actors from theater.  She thanks Hero and admits she will try what he says.   Once she leaves, Hero nearly drops to the floor as the fear overwhelms him.  He never had Courage, after all.

Maja arrives and meets Jaric and they discuss how the Althua has been prepared and she offers to help in any way to make it better.  The Castle is warded against demons but the Opera House is not.  When Nia arrives, she asks if she can leave before the last act of the Opera concludes and that it may not end the way Althuas have in the past.  Jaric admits he has a riveting finale in mind.  Nia brought Jaric a window as a gift.  It depicts the Senate burning.  Nia has also brought Lumber.  They discuss about how neither have heard from Galeo, and how Jaric now has the title.  Nia felt the realm needed to be held whole.  Jaric feels those things do not matter.  They discuss the other invitee, Madelyn Yvarai, and Nia admits she witnessed her getting the invitation.  Nia does share she feels Jaric might want to hear her out.  "But so much needs to happen.  So much," Jaric smiles.  Nia reassures him that they might not be friends, but she is always nearby to help.

Mruxia Adrente, Earl of the Wolf arrives, and the ten Vashna surround him.  Jaric admits he was not sure he would make it.  The Earl agrees to have some wine, but still no words come out.  The Vashna translates that the Earl wishes them to know he is a man of his word.  Szaz serves the Earl more wine. Jaric welcomes him to enjoy the simple Althua as he tends to other guests.  Mruxia lets known that his family will never forget this.

*

In the Other Shanri, Lukas and Seran bring the Bloodsword to the tomb.  They both admit they do not want to do this, but they feel they have to.  Lukas shares the story of the airship, of him having to steer it, and of Madelyn Yvarai vanishing.  They discuss leaving and not going back to either Shanri.  Neither of them are certain if this act will stop her, or them, but they feel the need to do something.  He admits he is not the smartest man and that they feel like bumbling fools trying to make sense of these things.  Seran admits she knows she can live with it so long as he is there beside her.  She then asks about the airship.

*

Haroun and Maya discuss things, talking about their promises and actions.  He admits he wishes he could find out the truth about what happened to Maya's husband, but he does not remember things.   Count Kether is carrying the baby Cassalanter dressed in a butterfly motif.  He asks if Galeo is attending tonight and learns they do not know.  Kether asks to take the baby for a dance.  Jaric cites that Nia has not been drinking the wine and reminds him it is customary to drink it.  They discuss in hushed voices why Count Kether is present, and those present in the Althua.  Kether however speaks to Cassalanter as they talk, and he tries kissing the child's hand.  He suspects there is more behind the child's eyes.  He returns the child to Hero and admits he was a more conversational partner.  Maja is not happy to see Maya whom she refers to as the one who took her name.  She asks Nia if she knows what Jaric is planning, but she realizes he often delegates.  She reminds Nia he will need her help.  She admits she will miss Nia, but at that point Maja does the unthinkable: she admits this is not her party and walks away.

*

Bloodsword on the wall.  Lukas and Seran stare at the distance.  They discuss just leaving, whether by Wasp or by Airship.  Seran asks him what happened to Haroun and the Oath, but he admits he was never able to speak with Haroun much.  He admitted Haroun believed she was dead, which was during the time she was the Inquisitor.  She muses that he must have thought she was dead when the Oath was broken.  She hopes Nia will care for him.  They wonder if the Bears will stop them if they try to leave. They both are never going to be used to possession, politics, drama and the ven way of thinking.  Lukas admits besides his sister, there was no real reason to stay.

*
The banquet is simple.  Wine flows, meats are served.  Maja is quiet in one corner.  Haroun remains quiet as well.  Jaric taps the glass to call for their attention and thanks everyone for coming to the debut of his first opera. He talks of Galeo being unable to prepare an art piece (and Cassalanter begins to weep louder and louder until Hero shushes the child) and Cherno has prepared a piece related to the theme of tonight's opera.   The crimson curtain is pulled away.   Everyone stares.

Five figures. The first stand with a Bloodsword in his hand.  The second is a young boy, with his throat pushed against the bloodsword, with arms outstretched and red ribbons extend beyond the elbows.  A third figure is a woman, on the ground, crawling.  She is covered with white ribbons.  A fourth figure near the woman has red ribbons from the stomach and chest, reaching out to the world.  And the last one is in all black with a white grin.

All stare, uncertain what it is meant to be. Gasps are elicited as the figures move.   Nia slides her chair back, ready to run if need be.  Cassalanter suddenly yells out her first word, "Mama!" The grinning man turns to face them, then bows.  Some wonder if he is Cherno.

Jaric recalls the visit with Hero to see Cherno earlier in the day.

The figure who met them was a young boy who looks at them and bows.  Jaric asks if he is Cherno and the boy bowed. "Speak please." The boy shakes his head.  When questioned if he cannot or will not, the boy retreats beneath the cloth and reemerges to show a taller man with hair brushed back.  The clothes are identical however.  He begs forgiveness as he was "in rehearsals".   Cherno admits to hold Galeo and Hero in high regard.  He tries to touch Hero's face, but Hero does not let him.  Cherno recoils after Hero shakes his hand, as if he had seen something else.  Jaric asks to what honor do they have this piece, and he talks about it being sublime, a channel that transcends space, time and death.  He admits it is meant for only one person, and the rest will understand it is not meant for them.  Jaric learns the piece is meant for him.  But it is not ready, yet to be seen.  "The Actors have yet to play their parts."   Hero figures it was a new form of sculpture.  A guard gasps upon seeing them, surprised to know the man they are talking to.  He claims the man is a cobbler in the city.  Jaric does muse how Cherno never appears the same way twice.  Chero steps out of view, apologizing, and seconds later, a woman emerges from beneath the cloth to greet them.  She mistakes Hero as the Artist, and expresses her desire to immortalize Hero's looks in a piece.  She claims Hero is The Artist as Galeo is The Art.  She does apologize that the assistant spoke in her behalf while she was working.  She reassures them the piece will be done by the Althua.  And that it will be well received save by the one it is intended to be for.  She excuses herself, but as she goes back under the cloth barrier, they can hear an old man directing people to assume their positions.

The women cease to move, dying beside each other.  The boy convulses.  His lips move but no words come out.  Everyone watching however, begins to mumble aloud.  "Please... my father.. he does not know... Please tell him..."  Everyone save Jaric.  Blood sprays.  The boy's arms fall to the ground.  He then drops.

"James!" Jalani suddenly screams, unable to contain herself.

The figure with the sword has intricate markings on his clothes that resemble.. a wolf.   The women are marked with subtle designs that suggest... foxes.  There is a delicate line at the back of the nape of one of the women.  Hero recognizes the birthmark on the woman.  He realizes she is representing Galeo.

The audience watches in rapt attention.  They are uncertain of the events.

Jaric feels a single tear drop down.  He tells Jeeves to take Jalani upstairs. A large sound breaks the moment, of a door accidentally closing too loudly.   People turn and see the newcomer, Madelyn Yvarai.

"Madelyn, we were waiting for you," Jaric calls out.



A pillar of smoke emerges.  A woman with red-hair comes into view.  Dangerously beautiful, she stares at the gathered then opens her mouth to speak aloud.  "Is this some kind of joke?"  Jaric is amazed seeing how the woman does resemble the demon.  He recalls the whole castle is warded.  She steps on the woman on the floor, and then walks up to the boy who is bleeding on the ground.  "Is this some kind of message?  Some kind of final goodbye?"  She turns to the figure with the sword.  "And who are you then?  Is that not what we all are wondering?"  The man with the wolf mask points the blade towards the audience.  It points at the Earl.

"What it is... is what it is.." a voice says, then a clack.  The stage is empty.  No one is there.  Hero feels in the depths of his heart that the woman on stage, that was Galeo.  And she is dead.  James realizes he has just seen the answer to the question he has never asked aloud to others save his wife, Where is James.  And Jalani realizes she now knows who slew her child.

Jaric wipes the single tear away and speaks aloud, "Such is the genius of Cherno, I see.  I believe it is time for the Opera."   The room remains silent.  Not a single sound save for the rising of people from seats.  Nia admits to Haroun that if this night ends the way she suspects it will, there will be those who will not survive.  Hero approaches Nia then to formally claim the lands.  She tells him he is working under a misconception; she does not hold Galeo's lands.  They discuss matters on the land ownership while the others make their way to the Opera House.


*

Jalani pulls Jaric to the side to ask if he saw the same thing she did; the atrocities of the Wolf upon their son.  Jaric stresses now is not the time.  Jaric tells Jalani that while this is not their plan, this is all for Jessie now. The Opera is soon to begin, with the finest players in the realm and one of Jaric's staff.  She asks where she shall find him when this is over, and he simply states, "On stage."

Nia finds her seat, with a clear view to the exit.  But Jaric transfers her to the box which has been prepared for her.  They move to the balcony box as directed.  She does not hide the worry of their being at an Althua, given they have never gone well for them in the past.  Haroun and Nia take their seats.

Hero and Cassalanter take their seats.  He recalls the performance and the image that he sensed was Galeo.  Then he remembers Maja could be a person to contact regarding Cherno in the future.  Jaric guides him, although he raises he did not expect him to bring Cassalanter to the event.  He mentions he does not believe the Opera is for children.  Hero opts to take her out, and stresses he wishes he could bring her to a permanent home.  Having been displaced, Hero considers his next action.  Jaric comes up to Madelyn and she tells him to wait for a moment, then walks to Hero and hands him a broken pearl.  She returns to Jaric and admits she always wondered why he hated and loathed her with the same vengeance and hatred as that which Gaius Mwrr having.  He counters he never read of any documents stating Gaius had ever such feelings towards her.

Nia and Haroun see the doors open and Madelyn Yvarai joins them.  Jaric tells them if they need anything, the stewards will handle it.  "I see Jaric has finally decided to get rid of all of us," Nia jokes.  Madelyn admits she always thought it would be only her, but Haroun wonders aloud why he's part of this!  There is an empty chair.   Nia suggests that Haroun get Maya to have her sit with them.  The Stewards block them and explain the seating arrangement was very carefully planned.  "We would not want to trouble you, if you need anything we will get it for you."  Madelyn asks for the best wine ever.  "If this is my last night, then I will enjoy it."

Hero arrives with Cassalanter and finds the others in the box.  Madelyn greets him, admitting she has never met him before.  Small discussions abound on who are guests, on current events, and the like.   The Opera begins.  Isolde approaches Hero and asks if he is leaving.  She seems insistent to find a ride to leave the Province.  Hero apologizes as he is focused on tucking his daughter to bed.  She tries asking others but none seem to be willing to give her a ride.  Hero does notice Maja busy speaking with an older man.  Hero slides closer, hoping to overhear what is going on.    Isolde manages to leave and goes home with the sister of Nia, Maya.  Nia stares down the Steward, that she will not leave the room, but that he must step aside.  She cuts her hand and casts Hearthward on the door to keep anyone from entering without her knowing.

*

On the port side, Seran and Lukas move to the ships and search for the Airship Lukas took.  None of the staff or seamen are on it.  There is, however, a wasp waiting on the deck of the ship. Seran takes the wheel.  She decides to just go and takes the ship to the sky.  Seran tries addressing the wasp to give it a message to Dalvinosh Steele, but the wasp merely flies away.  Down below, the Boars have begun a battle once more.

An Althua is the scene.  Kirthanus Yvarai (the Swordsman) stands between Madelyn Yvarai, the Rake and the Wise Man.  Nia is tempted to find inspiration from the Wiseman but she fears for her life.  She begins to suggest that Haroun draw inspiration from the Swordsman.   The opera continues.  "Sorcery is forbidden!"  "Then I shall STAB YOU IN THE FACE!"  "She is dead!  The Bronze Inquisitor is dead!" They see the tale leading to the Mass Murder in the Castle with the end of Act I. Haroun admits he feels he can relate with the Rake though he does not know why.  Nia glances at Madelyn Yvarai and she seems to be taking the play with much focus.  She seems lost deep in her thoughts.  With the coming of Act II, the narrative unfolds before their very eyes.  Kithranus is walking with Circe, his wife.  The player is not an actress and she seems to have been chosen exactly for that reason.  The two scheme away, seeking ambitious plans to gain Dukedom.  "My mother would be proud."  "Your mother cares NOTHING for you.  My mother would be proud."  Madelyn, in the booth, mumbles, "That was true... it was me who cared about him, not that wretched woman who bore him."  The Act ends with Circe alone, as she summons her Monsters.   She draws a wicked blade and centipedes fall out of the wound.  Madelyn stares at the wound.  Haroun feels disgusted.  Nia realizes the centipedes are not props!  She realizes they are actual orks.  She realizes the actress is someone else.  It is actually Dranna Ru!  Nia searches for Jaric but is unable to find him.  Nia realizes she is starting to identify with Dranna Ru.

Jalani pulls Jaric aside, asking why Dranna Ru is on stage.  He admits it was not part of his plan.  They find the maid who was to play Circe's role, asleep in the dressing room.  This might not be part of his plan, Jaric realizes this is Jessie's show.   The spiral of the story is moving faster and faster to the inevitable conclusion.

Coming to terms with what may have happened to Galeo, Hero is now thinking of what items might be usable to try to reach out to her if it were something that may be considered a relic.  He sees the fragment of the pearl and feels frustrated there are no roses in the room.  Hero picks up Cassalanter and heads out of the guest room to return to the Opera House.

*

Lukas still has the pearl.  He stares at it, then looks up at Seran.  The two begin to take sail, with Seran mapping their journey in case their children would ever want to explore back.  Lukas wonders if he should call Haroun with it.  "We have one sword between us and a ship of supplies," Seran smiles, believing they have enough to survive off the land and sea in time.  The ship takes to the air.  The two smile.  Seran prays to Ashalem Avendi and wonders if they're too far away when no response comes.

*

The stories of the Opera move quickly.  The Bronze Inquisitor rises into power.  Circe as the Mother of Monsters seducing Kithranus Yvarai. Of Madelyn Yvarai chiding Kithranus for not doing better.  And the big moment, when Circe and Sapphire confront each other.  Where Kithranus tries to stop them.  Where he chooses to trust on the love they shared to stop the blade.  The blade shows the audience otherwise. The blades find meat.  The three feel death coming to claim them as their blood paints the chamber.   Madelyn drops, tears in her eyes, as the theater one screams, "What have you done!?!"  And the red-haired woman emerges into the scene, standing among the audience and moving towards the stage.  The woman Nia saw in the carriage is crying in the audience.  Was it not the demon herself?  Jaric quietly notes that Jessie is in position, playing the part of Sapphire.  Jaric has noticed the woman in red.  So has his daughter. They wait for that final moment when Jessie is to act.  Gaius' on stage begins to speak of Circe's corrupted nature, a carefully written piece that Jaric prepared believing it would draw the red-haired woman to speak up in her defense.  But instead, the demon begins to clap her hands.

The people in the audience clap along, thinking it is what they should do.

Madelyn mutters to herself about that one life, that last attempt of life, of her children taken from her.  "So now I live this.. shell of an existence.  What is the meaning of this Opera? Was this an attempt to show me you understand? Or was this to unsettle me?"  Nia realizes the questions are posed towards her.  She explains that this may be Jaric's attempt at compassion.  But as Madelyn attempts to walk out, Jessie stands up and breaks the vial of blood that her mother had collected from Cassalanter.  She makes a wish.

"I wish this play would live on forever."

Jaric knows things have not gone quite as planned.  But its all up to his daughter now.

The demon admits she cannot grant the wish and that all she has granted is falling apart.  The audience stares uncertain what parts are still the play.  

*

Outside, Hero feels the cold swirl past him.  Cassalanter starts screaming, understanding things more than Hero.

In the other side of Shanri, a low booming sound erupts.  Seran and Lukas see the City below begin to crumble.  Water begins to our in from the distance.

"All the wishes that have been asked for are falling apart," the red-haired woman mutters.

Jessie's Ritual has been cast, and Taltos, the blade that kills demons is unmade.  With the Yvarai blood dripping over it, she draws out a hammer and shatters the Bloodsword.  Madelyn stands at the sound of the shattering. "It is all happening now!  All happening back to the beginning!"  Rio rushes out of the wings to grab hold of Jessie and pull her off the stage.

The water rushes in.  The tides smash into the Other Shanri.  Ships crash into each other, and the ven scream as the tidal waves drown them.  The mistweir has now completely fallen.  It had held back the waves as well as the storm.  And above, they see the tower of Dalvinosh Steele falling from the sky.  "If this is not him," Seran gasps, "I do not know what else this could be!" More booming sounds and parts of the city are unmade with each one.   Each sound and another aspect of the City is gone.

"I am no longer hearing any of them," the red-haired demon sighs.

As parts of the Bloodsword strike the ground, Jessie casts the next Ritual which she had prepared.  Jaric does his part, pouring the contents of another container upon the original manuscript of the Opera, Jessie begins calling out the roles of the Opera.  The woman in red screams as she feels the Ritual draw her into the pages as well.  Terrifyingly, other people in the audience begins to be drawn into the manuscript as well.

In many parts of Shanri, more and more wishes are undone.  A whole Province vanishes.  An airship shakes and fades away.  Madelyn herself begins to fade.  She turns to Nia and tells her, "Everything is being undone!  Why am I also being-" Nia watches as Madelyn's arm turn translucent!  Rio rushes on stage and clutches Jessie tight, feeling the winds pick up in the room.  She calls out for Jaric to bring the manuscript!  Jaric runs out with it in his hands.  The people are being "sucked" into the pages.  Jaric tells Jessie to complete the Ritual.

"Nia!"

Nia turns and sees Haroun so far away!  Somehow, she too is being drawn into the manuscript.   Madelyn laughs aloud saying all who could so relate have been drawn in as well!  All who resonated with the Actors and gained their Aspects are being trapped into the manuscript as well!  Jessie reads the last few lines of the Ritual.  Rio sees Nia being pulled in as well and realizes her mother is being sucked into the pages!  But her duty is clear in her mind.  Her mother will have to do something to save herself.

A cut deep into Nia's arm is the beginning of Nia's incantations as she casts the Ritual of the Tulpa.  "If it wants something of me, then it shall have me."

Airships falls away.  The great City of Shanri is fading into the waters.  Seran and Lukas feel something happening to them as well!

The red-haired woman transforms.  Beautiful, blonde and weeping, the woman is sucked into the pages as ribbons swirl around her.  The Transformations of Thalia Yvarai.  The different personalities she had gone through on her journey to become Suaven.  She screams as the manuscript swallows every single one.

Fingers. Nia sees herself crawl out of her own wound.  She sees the Nia being drawn out and the tulpa scratches at her in an attempt to claw the other's eyes out. "Dalvinosh taught you this didn't he? I know because I am you!" she hisses.    But then Nia snaps out!  One is thrown into the manuscript!  The other falls to the ground, held down by Haroun.  

Lukas calls out, "Should we go back?  Should we-" and he's gone.  Seran screams realizing he's been taken away. But then she's gone.  She finds herself in the shoreline.  Then she's gone again.  She's in the Senate hall.  She looks around, hoping to make sense of where she was when she's gone again.  A wall with a bloody feather painted on it.  And she's gone again.  Backtracking through the journey, Seran feels the wishes unmade.

The Ritual is done.
The manuscript is closed.  The clasps on the cover are locked.
Jaric looks around at the empty seats in the room. He looks up and finds Haroun with Nia.  There is no sign of Madelyn with them.  Haroun feels an old fear has returned.

A body slams onto the property of Jaric Thayl once carried by a no-longer existing airship.
And a silence fills the land.

*


The events of the Opera and the nights that follow will be events that have repercussions for the generation to come.  All over Shanri, sudden transformations occur.  Certain provinces lose major holdings.  Families lose their children.  Homes are swamped with orks.  Water reclaims the land.  In the panic that ensures, with Houses lacking Earls, a fracturing of ven society occurs.  Many of the ven hold on to the Senate, but without the Earls, some begin to think the time of the Senate has passed. Many begin to watch their own borders with violence.

Sorcery is explicitly forbidden save for House Serpent.  Those using it without the Houses' explicit permission will be hunted as Sorcerer-King allies.    The Serpents, however miscalculated their move.  Their actions lead to the Wolves gaining the sole right to bear Bloodswords.   The Elks take the roles of leadership in the Senate.  Foxes embrace the right over all contracts. None are deemed acceptable without a Fox witness.  The Falcons handle the expansion of land and the peace of the land.  The veiled houses seek to gain hold of a seat in the Senate.

In the next few years, this fractured state breaks under its own weight.  While some practices remain, the Senate regains strength as most see the need to have a greater "voice" above the Houses.  The House of the Bear is deemed lost.  Study of demons are now explicitly banned.  And based on the shared information on what the threat was, a Suaven's wrath, temples are prohibited and shrines are struck down.  Many Devotions continue merely in secret.



*

A woman screams as she sits up.  She is alone on an outcropping of rock surrounded by waves.  Once there was a vast city around her.  But now she is alone.  She holds her wrinkled hands in front of her face as she screams.

Madeliene Yvarai stands in the ruins and wonders what will happen next.

*

Somewhere, a man laughs.  Everything has come to the way he wants it.  Dalvinosh Steele steps to the window and gazes out, seeing Madelien in the distance.  He gazes inward and sees the Senate hall making the new decrees.  His hand pulls out a bracelet with figurines, each shaped like Rio, Jaric, and the others.  He holds it and plucks out one and mutters, "She is dead."  He smiles knowing the Suaven is no longer there.  

He is free. The Grinning Man rests its hand on his shoulder.  


"Thank you Afhil.  I knew I could count on you, my first borne son. The Rain has fallen.  Time to say hello."

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