After the Rain
Episode Twenty Nine
Houses of the Blooded
The Althua continues. The vassals of Cassalanter have inherited the lands of Jaric Thayl. Cassalanter has gained the Title of Countess, while Ash, Gilian and Rio have become Barons. The gathering of cats and hints of shadows remain fresh in their minds. Artemesia and Lukas, and the terrible fear that Cassalanter might have been talking to some demonic force instead in her head all these years. And the young Lady M whose feature resemble the infamous Madelyn Yvarai.
Cassalanter stands at the center of a raised stone platform. All watch as she is questioned about the events that transpired in the Puzzle House. The matter is the death of Jaric Thayl, a death which may have been a Murder. The Murder Weapon is a Bloodsword. Rio stands to speak and is asked to identify the names of those present in the murder. She states Cassalanter Steele, Gilian Burghe, Rio Burghe, Lyra Drew and her company whose names are not important right now. Also present were Uvanla Yvarai, Zhivali Ru and someone named Lady M. They were all gathered at the puzzle house, a fake one, to receive awards. Jaric Thayl was present as a surprise to the winner and was to give the award. A vassal is called to be present, the man who was the personal chef who prepared his food and wine. Under the threat of death for all under his line, the vassal is asked to explain if the deceased Jaric Thayl... the Senator pauses, glances at the gathered member of House Serpent, and suddenly changes his tone, admitting an error in having the vassal speak "as he has nothing noteworthy to say, nor knowledge if Jaric was indeed poisoned." As the veth hurries off, Gilian stops him by the arm and he begs not to be killed. Gilian asks if the food ever left his eyes even for the moment, but the veth admits the man never ate that day. The day before, he had "stone soup" and refuses anything else, most especially anything of the color red. The senators ask Gilian if there is a matter they need to be aware of, and Gilian admits she merely had questions. She does learn that Jaric had a bottle of wine which he presses himself.
Gilian however realizes Jaric did not plant the grapes himself. All the names declared by Rio are asked to come to the platform. Rio notes that Lady M is not present. Gilian gives her name and the illuminated platform declares her name to be true. She was present in the moments after his demise, and she shares how Jaric showed the bright red eyes showing signs of Arsenic poisoning. How the Bloodsword cleanly cut the stone but was stuck to the ground. She suspects however the grape plants were tainted with the arsenic, allowing the wine to have small traces of the poison - too small to be deadly until enough of it was consumed. As the others are questioned, most admit to not even knowing Jaric Thayl personally.
As the questioning continues, the charming Lady M reemerges beside Ash. She tells Ash how a wise man once told her, "Failure does not always mean defeat. I wonder, would they hold it against me if I chose not to go down?" Ash asks if she was present at the murder, and she admits openly she was. She counters, however, that they didn't ask for her by name. As Uvanla explains that he did not have a reason to want to kill Jaric, he admits his father, the late Count Kether, would have wanted him dead. When asked about his father, he admits his father is dead.
But in response, the lit platform ripples. In the new age since the reign of the Demon, the Senate had embraced the use of Sorcery to properly identify when falsehood was being stated in the Senate. Uvanla's statement on his father's death, it seems, was just revealed to be a lie. "Does this mean my father is alive?" The light goes on. Uvanla is sent off the platform, despite his desire to ask more about his father. Zhivali Ru is called to speak and his sharing reveals he was with Ash Jalan, discussing matters of interest in the archives. He claims they were talking about cats, but the light flickers as well. Supposedly the cats speak a hidden language only Foxes understand, and that they see a hidden world. Before could elaborate, however, the Senate commands him to stop before he says more about the superstitions of what these animals can see. Under the Senate's protection, Zhivali names five people who would have wanted Jaric killed: Count Keter, Dranna Ru, Dalvinosh Steele himself, the count of Margrove Tavlim Steele and the last being Lyra Drew.
Lyra's testimony has her admit she attempted to strike Jaric with the Bloodsword. She did not, however, have intentions to murder him. She claims Sorcery was used to take control of her. She had hid in a hidden chamber in the puzzle house. Cassalanter was inside and saw a trail of bloody footprints on the ground, which turned out to be a false trail Lyra set for her. She dodged in the last second, guided by a voice in her head, and Lyra's eyes changed color as the strike missed. She admits she had used a Sorcerous spell to prepare her for the puzzle house, anticipating danger. In anger, Lyra tried to strike a second time, but that's when Gilian disarmed her with her bow. The arrow struck her at the side, enough to distract her. She stumbled on her own Bloodsword and lost her balance. Rio swoops in to catch her from falling backwards. "I had been... caught," Lyra sighs. The Senator even reminds her to watch her step as she heads down from the platform, a jibe at her ineptitude as she steps down. She admits to Rio that she did not kill him, and Rio realizes the Bloodsword must have been seiged by Doom when she tried. Someone else was behind the murder.
They call for the Lady M. She raises her hand to announce her presence. Cass hears the voice in her head shocked to see Madelyn is alive. The voice directs Cass to pluck a strand of hair from Lady M as she walks by. Cass walks up to Lady M, acting like they were old friends, hoping to disarm others from noticing her true goal - an attempt to take some of her hair. But Lady M reads her motives like a book and tells her to stay away.
She addresses the Senate, and under the Sorcerous light, her statements of truth are unleashed upon an unexpected gathering of Ven. She rather not give her name but admits she allowed others to call her Lady M. She openly admits she poisoned him, and shares how she watered the vines for arsenic for three Seasons. When they ask if she truly has admitted to murdering one of the ven, the light flickers at her feet. She reminds them to ask the right questions. Dalvinosh Steele stares in silence. "Does anyone have the right questions?" Lady M calls out. Finally, Jessie Jalan asks about her father and Lady M admits Jaric is safe at the Other Shanri from the Earl. The Senate is at an uproar wondering which Earl Lady M claims to be the threat. Rio walks up to the Serpent and asks him to ask what she killed. Lady M was about to respond, but the Lyra Drew rushes forward with blood-red eyes. She tackles Lady M off the platform of truth to the ground. Rio tells the Serpent to ask Lady M who is using Sorcery on the Wolf. Cass hurries to help Lady M up from the ground, cunningly pulling some of her hair in the process.
"It is too late. He won't let them-" Lady M tries to say, but the Vashna rushes forward and stab her with spears. The Earl declares that the verdict for Murder, confessed, is death. Lyra Drew crawls to Gilian, terrified, realizing she had been usurped again. "Someone knows my name!"
Jessie quickly warns the group to not ask questions, to go home and remember they do not know which side they are on. Many return to the Quarterhouses. Rio sneaks back inside and meets with the Serpent and the two use the Illuminated Platform to test one more truth. Rio speaks out, "Madelyn Yvarai is alive." The light does not flicker. Lady M was Madelyn Yvarai, and they have killed her tulpa. They decide to go quickly, knowing the Senate is never truly empty. Rio slips back on her Vashna clothing, leaving the Senate incognito.
Ash prepares a Blood Mirror, using the splatter of Lady M's blood he had gathered. Cass tries to hold more conversation with her mother, but she hears no responses from Galeo in her head. Uvanla asks Cass what to do with her dress drenched in more of Lady M's blood. Cass has him cut the dress in half, to give half to the Court Scholar and half to keep it til she needs it. Gilian rides alongside the carriage on horseback, and though she knocks to ask how things are, she receives no response til after a few tries. The group makes their way back to Cassalanter's Province, realizing there is a definite need for a Maid. Gilian notices the Roadmen watch her with caution. She ignores them, not caring that she rides through the City atop an Ork.
With conversations leading to discuss the stories of Jaric Thayl, Ash wonders why he feels uncomfortable talking about it. Cass, however, prods and likes the discomfort the topic seems to generate upon him.
Gilian and Uvanla discuss how they will start making the Castle look better. Uvanla even talks about painting the whole castle white, including having everyone dress in white. Gilian scoffs at the changes to be adjusted, and admits they do not even have a Financier - they do not make deals with the Merchants. Gilian muses how he finally remember things now. Uvanla seems shocked to realize, yes, he does remember things better now. He even wonders why there are no roses every fifty feet. Uvanla and Gilian talk about how Merea has stacks of things and books all over her castle. Mirrors all over the castle as well, on the walls, floors and ceiling. How it almost looks like a puzzle house.
Artemesia and Lukas appear at Cass' castle door, asking to be of service as vassals. Lukas claims to be from the Forgiving Hands, but admits he didn't know why he said that. Uvanla and Gilian note, however, that neither identifies themselves by their Houses, despite being ven. The two claim to have been travelling companions for years, which Gilian finds amusing since it means they left their lands for years. They admit they enjoy traveling far more than others realize. Gilian directly asks what House they are. Artemesia and Lukas smile. Ash arrives, curious of the two, and Uvanla tells him of the plans for all to wear white. Ash protests. The two seem to have slips in their show of station, however, with Artemesia bowing like a man and Lukas claiming to have the skills of a Spymaster simply because he looks like he wouldn't know anything. They admit they travel around frequently through the Merchants, using the High Way they have created.
The presence of cats in the castle, leads to Ash throwing an orichalcum dagger at the cat and pinning it against the wall. Cass is horrified at the shattered mirror on the floor. It was one of her mother's keepsakes. Cass calls for the cat to be tortured, and Ash kicks it against the wall. "There are moments when things are just cats, and things are more than that." Ash yanks it off the wall and dangles it by the blade, "Now it is just a cat."
Rio begins mapping in her head the servant passages through-out the castle as she accompanies Lukas and Artemesia in touring the castle they will soon serve in. Ash uses Sorcery and places Curses upon Lukas and Artemesia to never speak to each other in private, as a means to secure their trust-worthiness.
With the coming of Summer, each of the ven take their duties to watch over their newly gained Provinces. None, however, anticipated the visit of the Earl of the Blooded of the Elk. Dalvinosh Steele arrives with fifty Swordsmen escorting him. He arrives at Cassalanter's gate, and turns down Cass' invitation to step inside for wine. He admits he does not feel safe as there have been four attempts in his life since the Senate hearing. He informs them that in the Summer Hearing, there will be a vote and he requires the support of all those loyal to him.
Cass admits she is an Elk. He admits he is starting to believe that Shanri has had enough of the Senate nonsense. The vote is to be for the protection of Shanri. "The Elks must rise." He talks of the threat now being revealed and the need to prepare for what is to come.
The Earl asks if Cassalanter is showing hospitality as he is currently bored and wishes to entertain himself with violence upon a non-Elk. Cass asks Rio to sheath her sword, and she places it on the ground. Artemesia is looking at Lukas. Lukas' hand clamps around the space beside his waist, as if there was something that cannot be seen there. Gilian grabs Lukas' hand by the wrist. He lets go and Gilian can see his sweat making slightly visible the hilt of a blade. The Earl thankfully changes his mind and opts to stay instead for the next few days. The Swordsmen are commanded to sheath their blades and gather his things. "Prepare your accommodations. Perhaps we can ride together to the Senate hearing."
The Senate Hearing is two weeks away.