After the Rain
Episode Twenty Eight
Houses of the Blooded
The Althua continues with the first day focusing on the Galeo exhibit and the second day featuring the Ork Hunt. In the moments between scenes, Cassalanter learns of the established trails used in hunting in the region. Rio keeps an eye out for the murderous Zhivali Ru but finds no sign of the son of Dranna Ru. Perhaps his actions the previous night have lead to unexpected ramifications. Gilian finds him, but finds him preoccupied with one of the servants in the Castle. She talks to him about the upcoming Ork Hunt, and he admits not being a hunter. Rumors spread of the Senate considering moving the location of the hearing. Perhaps to this very Althua, even? The Blooded of the Wolf are impressed by Cassalanter's handling of the duel with her Aunt Nerea. How Cass takes advantage of this newfound respect remains to be seen. And the Blooded of the Fox begin setting their plans to motion.
With the 45 seats in the Senate House, there are discussions of replacing the Blooded of the Bear with a different House. The Veiled House of the Horse is brought up and 19 have publicly proclaimed their support of such a move. Only six more votes are needed.
The day is to have two events, an Ork Hunt and a Puzzle House. The group discusses the two as to who will do which. Maja Thayl, hosting the events, calls for all to come as the first event begins. The hunt, as it turns out, involves an Ork that has wing! Most had not anticipated a hunt for a flying beast. Gilian, however, had joined the event with her bow in hand and unlike the others is ready to use it to bring the monstrosity down. Ash realizes the Ork cannot use its wings to sustain flight for long. At most it can glide.
At the platform where the audience awaits, the others watch the hunt from safety. From there, there is a glimpse of the Puzzle House in the distance. Rio slips away from the rest, hoping to investigate the Puzzle House without the others noticing. Ash and Cass joke about grafting a wing on one of them to serve the other better. When Gilian finds the Ork, she realizes the thing is headed straight towards her. Behind it, the ven take chase with swords and horses.
Gilian takes aim and wings the beast, forcing the Ork to the ground. She quickly uses Sorcery to transform it into her Familiar, taking claim of the beast before any of the others can try to hurt it. Gilian has won the contest.
During all this, however, Jessie Jalan pulls Cass aside to inform her that she will now have a second Province. The land had been divided for each of her Vassals will claim hold of it. The land used to be the lands of Jaric Thayl, her father, but she seems to be determined to ensure someone else claims hold of it at once.
By the Puzzle House, Rio finds a young woman, identifying herself as Lady M near there. The woman seems amused to realize who Rio is, and as Rio puzzles over who the woman is - she realizes the woman is a much younger infamous woman. This woman has the striking resemblance of Madelyn Yvarai... but at the height of Summer. They discuss her mother, and how she had changed since the Opera of Jaric Thayl. They discuss how the Puzzle House is "shallow" and more theatrics than true content. When Lady M approaches Rio, however, and tells her she must go. "Go where? Where does a Spectre travel?" Rio hisses. "Anywhere where one is not warded, I must say." When Lady M reaches to touch Rio, she grabs Lady M's hand and is surprised it is warm. She asks Rio to tell the children of Jaric Thayl that Lady M has returned and that she wings with her news she can deliver when she is welcome."Every wise Fox knows you leave them waiting." Before they can separate ways, she asks if the "thing in the shadows" is with her. Rio strikes with her Bloodsword but cleaves only wood. Lady M snarls at Rio for the "attack" but her body language instead tells Rio that they shall speak of things in the future in secret. She had invoked the Secret Tongue through her bracelet which cast the Prayer when they touched. She suspects the Shadows are from the Senate, observing her. Rio spits on the ground.
With Gilian winning the match, there is some complaint about a "Bear" winning the match. Rio and Cass come forward, however, to defend her triumph. Around them, Ash can hear the other nobles admitting defeat, having wagered their vassals. Dalvinosh Steele observes the proceedings as they ask if it was a Bear that won the match indeed. Lyra Drew contests the win given it was a Ruk that won the hunt. Even Jessie is shocked that Gilian turns out to be a Bear! When Cass counters the Bears were never unveiled, Lyra asks if they have an Earl, or is Gilian the Earl? Cass remembers the Bears did leave Shanri. They took an exodus to the Other Shanri. Maja tries to help, claiming Gilian is an Elk claiming the name out of novelty. Rio calls for Lyra to explain the nature of her complaint, and she states it is an Insult to the Althua for a Ruk to have been sent to the Challenge. Rio tries turning it around, claiming it is bad form to complain before the Host does. Lyra calls to Maja and asks if she was aware - a moot question given Maja already admitted she "believed" she was an Elk. She asks Cass to clarify things for everyone. Cass claims that no less than a personage such as Nia Jalan attested to her Blooding. "She is Blooded. Now what her House is is not mine to question." Rio identifies herself of the Elk House and reminds them that Gilian is her sister. Lyra smiles, believing she has gained advantage and asks Rio, then, to formally introduce her sister to the Senate. "And I would be glad to recognize her." Rio walks up to Dalvinosh Steele, finding the Courage to do so, and kneels before him to be the second sponsor. She calls Lyra's bluff and attempts to shame the Wolf.
The Avirex declares he understands and he addresses Gilian, asking if she accepts his recognition of her to be now known as Gilian Burghe Steele. Without any Courage, Gilian could not deny the request despite not wanting to be seen as an Elk. "Then I am your second," Dalvinosh Steele himself concludes. Maja Thayl apologizes for not recognizing the Elk by being the third. The contest of Gilian's House is closed. "The Elk has won."
The Althua continues. The ven amuse themselves. Ash pulls away from them all and finds himself an empty room (save for a cat) and after shoving the cat away, he draws the curtains and pulls out the cloth package he had received from a Horse and opens it. It looks old and fragile, and the contents seem written in the Old Tongue. The documents are called The Mystery of Artemesia and it seems to be a long epic poem of a lovely and innocent woman sought to make the world better, but in her attempts she had to transform from waif to artist, and from artist to... Her words became teeth, her songs became barbs and her paints were blood. Closing it, Ash secures it under his clothes. Something clatters to the floor, and he picks it up. It is a sliced shard of orichalcum. He finds a second cat, a brown one this time and he starts to feel suspicious of all these cats in the area.
Gilian stumbles into a guard, who causes a chain reaction of commotion leading to one accidentally striking Dalvinosh Steele's shoulder. The Avirex shooes the guards away and talks to Gilian, admitting he had not been able to stay in touch and watch them grow. He confesses he had known her mother, Nia Jalan, and is sad to have failed to raise them as his own. He understands there is Blood and there is Blooding. "This... this is wrong," he mutters. Gilian hears a clacking sound and suddenly, she is alone in the room, in a daze.
It is later in the evening, with the ven resting for the night, when another secret is uncovered in the grounds of the castle. Ash sees more cats and investigates. He finds he is not alone in following the trail. He cannot see who, but he senses the shadow in the room is sentient. He asks to see the mask, but the voice says no. "But you are not beyond notice." Ash asks if that was a threat and receives no response.
|Duchess Jessie Jalan|
The man in the room opens his eyes. "That was close." The woman nods, "Those were Inquisitors. Dalvinosh suspects. We will have to stop for now."
Dinner. Mostly a quiet night until Cass notices a man in the crowd which seems familar. The voice in her head begins to gasp, claiming the man is the other Count Kether and that she had last spoken with Miralia but failed to send him word of it. Cass approaches him and learns he is currently called Snotnose, having failed some wager to stab a knife between his fingers twenty times. The voice is frantic, claiming he has to be some kind of Tulpa, but the Blood is impossible if he were one. Cass entertains him with wordplay, and eventually succeeds in having him give clues to who he is. He claims he is searching for any sign of his family, including his wife Miralia, and that he hopes to find them. He admits he had heard of news that his sons are dead. She asks him if he knows Galeo Silja, and claims her mother knew her. The man claims she is the sole reason he returned, because he is the Count Kether of the Other Shanri. He offers to dance with Cassalanter, and he asks her to tell him more about her mother for she had somehow made a tulpa come to life.
In the kitchen, a man and a woman watch as they dance. They argue about needing to do what they must to stop the Demon from regaining power. The woman is Artemesia. The man is Lukas. And they admit had Lukas not messed things up, they wouldn't still be here.