Thursday, November 3, 2016

Alas, Such Fates ep04 : 7th Sea

10/15/2016
Alas, Such Fates


"The Red Door and the White Eyes"
Episode Four - 7th Sea

Astrid Ivardatter and Hans Glick sneak out one early morning to investigate the southern tower with the red door, the very tower the Duchess Sybil implored on them all not to ever visit.  Especially at night.   There are faint sounds of rumbling and clicking within.  Hans presses his hand against the door and sees the lock.  Astrid draws her hair pin out and begins to work on the lock, asking Hans if they should be doing this.  Hans admits he wants to get to the bottom of this mystery.  With the last few days that have passed spent recuperating from their injuries, Hans cannot help but feel compelled to uncover why the Duchess insists this place not be opened.  Hans remembers there were nights he awoke to hear children giggling nearby, but when he opened the door, there was no sign of anyone there save for a pair of children's shoes left at his doorstep.  The servants claimed it was theirs, but Hans feels it is a likely story.  Astrid on the other hand has had moments where she was certain she saw the painting of a farm house at the top of a hill in her room had no open windows, but just last night the painting showed an open window.  She awoke that morning to see Hans standing before her, which nearly made her gasp.  The servants followed a strict schedule, which allowed them to be more predictable to sneak past them and get to the tower.

With the lock picked, Hans quickly slips into the room and investigates.  The inside is dark, however, forcing Hans to move slowly inside.  Astrid heads back to the Manor, hoping to find a candlestick or lantern to use, but while there, she encounters a servant maid who asks her why she is there.  Astrid distracts the maid, and thankfully, Hans closes the door to the tower to look less noticeable.

*

On the road, Lady Cassandra encounters a bandit on the road, threatening her and the other travelers on the road.  She tells the people to get behind them, but the bandit turns out to not be alone.  When she confronts them and declares who she is, a bandit trains his blade against her throat, warning her not to try anything.   When she tries to ask the bandits to reconsider, they laugh at her and demand for their coin.  While distracted by her fumbling for the coins, she moves, yanking the dagger from the bandit's hand.  Unfortunately, the bandit is not alone, and he threatens to injure another traveler and forces Cassandra to drop her weapons.  Seeing the others are unarmed, Cassandra drops her weapon, not wanting the other travelers to get hurt.  One bandit punches Cassandra, bruising her face, and takes her sword from her side.  "Alright, you have what you want!  Let them go."  The bandits, however, have other ideas.    They ask her what she would do so they wouldn't harm the people.  She tells them she would do anything.  They demand her to walk with them to the bridge to tell the guard to let them pass.  Cassandra agrees, hoping to find a way to save the other travelers being held hostage.

Closer to the bridge, the bandits tell Cassandra to head to the man sitting by the bridge to check if he is the guard.  She is reminded the lives of the others are in her hands.  Cassandra walks up to the man dressed in black, who seems busy eating from a can filled with mushrooms. To her surprise, the man - without looking at her - mutters he can see they are in need of help and offers to do so because he has a can of mushrooms which reminds him of an old bardic story regarding magical mushrooms that compel a man to admit unwanted truth.  She notices he wears a domino mask.  He tells them to go across, and that he will move once they have flanked the bandits.  Cassandra heads back and tells the bandits it is all clear.  They begin to cross.  

The plan goes awry, however, when Cassandra makes the mistake of letting the bandits go ahead of her.  The man in black with the domino mask gasps in exasperation given she allowed the bandits to run ahead, instead of staying in front of them to flank them.  She leaps for the bandit with her sword and tackles him to the ground.  Another bandit fires his pistol at her, however, hoping to Injure her and by them time.  She rolls for cover, off the bridge and grabs the edge to dodge the bullet.  The bandits run off.

Pulling herself back up, the bandits are gone.  Thankfully, her sword was left there.  The man in black helps her to her feet, admits she seems to be new to this, and at least the others only lost wealth and not their lives.  "Flynn," he tells her and she introduces herself.  "Is there more to just Flynn? Or is it just Flynn." He admits there used to be more, but he realized in the end being a knight was not for him.  He claims he is now a highway man.  She asks him if he can teach her how to fight.  She admits she's not that well versed at that yet.  Flynn agrees to accompany her for now since they're walking in the same direction, "On one condition. If anyone asks, we are traveling together."  When she agrees, he unclasps a few pins and his black clothes flip down to reverse into a white robe.  Now, he looks like a priest.  They talk about the canned food, a new attempt to sell food by the Vesten it seems, and they walk while trading stories.

*

Maurice leBlanc and the Duchess Sybil are at the dining table. Maurice finds himself remembering the wedding, which was the most unwedding event he ever was part of.  A man sat infront of them, pointing at places to sign, which turned out to be the ceremony itself.  He learned the marriage was supposedly already one that had been performed so long ago, and they are merely formally reinstating his return from a long journey and asserting a hold on the property.  Asking how he could have been married without being here, Sybil reminds her all that matters is his signature. Inspecting the document, there have been four previous names that have been crossed out.  His is the fifth. He is bothered by the details of this and signs it just to get it done.  Sybil wishes he could speak to her with less aggression.  Maurice admits he is merely being frank.  Sybil claims to not know anyone named Frank and reminds him they have been married for the last fifteen years.  Maurice is confused why he had only been called to Avalon today.    The judge confirms all is in order, and proclaims the home to be back in his possession.  Part of the rules stipulate neither of them are to do anything to the Southern Tower.  The judge excuses himself to deliver the papers to the Queen and wishes them congratulations.

Sybil and Maurice discuss the history behind the marriage. How she was married to a Montaigne husband fifteen years ago, and that it was that marriage they were to maintain through the years.  As they eat fruit, with the servants passing to each one a plate.  The marriage was established for the Montaigne to have the land, and to ensure it remains in Montaigne hands.  "A Proxy.  I am a proxy to some aspect of politics I don't quite grasp.  In Montaigne, we actually get married even if it is a wink-wink, nudge-nudge sort of marrying for money."  Sybil explains the original husband got lost at sea, and as tradition dictates, none were to speak of him as having vanished as it would be ill fortune if he returns.  So they have continued the tradition since then, but each one who replaced the first one would later then vanish at sea.  Maurice's uncle is the fourth.  When Maurice explains he saw his uncle, however, Sybil is confused how he could have when she knows the uncle had died.  Sybil stands up and excuses herself, "

*

Inside the tower, Hans sees a strange collection of things.  A large shelf houses glass containers, but the darkness is too much to allow reading.  He sees a massive oak desk and on the foor a great sigil of some sort.  He cannot find any windows.  Sliding the door open once more for more light.  He finds the lantern to have wick, but no oil. He draws some of the jars in the shelf and tries to find oil, ignoring for now the boots, heavy thick gloves and robes hanging from the shelf's side.  The other jars have powders inside of them, or rattling things inside of them.   Soon, he does find oil and lights the lantern, just as the tower suddenly goes dark.  The door has been closed.  He sees the leather robes, and sees glass with straps to cover the face.  The other jars are filled with powders and other chemicals and minerals.   The pattern on the ground is clearer now.  It is the mark of the Invisible College.

He looks up at the winding stairs and decides to check the desk for now.  There, he finds a small tray atop the surface with a small metal strip with holes and lines cut all the way through the metal.   Hans ducks under the staircase when he hears the sounds at the door. 

Astrid however learns from the maid that the Duchess lost two of her first born, which is why she does not like to have children, nor will there be children in the manor nor the grounds.  She walks the maid out to the tower, and seeing the door once more wide open, she pretends to slip on the ice and drags the maid down with her to distract her.  The maid leaves to find a physician since Astrid acted like she injured herself. This buys Astrid time to head back to the manor, grab a candelabra, and hurry back.  But as she reaches for the door, the maid has returned calling for her.  Astrid claims to be seeing hallucinations of children and drops to her knees, fumbling with the lock as she tries to sneak it back on the door before the maid sees her.  She fails to snap the lock shut at the door as the maid helps her back to her feet.  With the maid, a doctor comes emerges from the manor however and the two worry upon seeing the open lock.  They talk about her possibly being possessed, "like before", and carry her back into the manor (after the maid dutifully locks the door) and talk about not telling the Duchess until they are certain. "We just have to relieve it from being inside of you when we can."  The Physician vows that he will not fail her, not like before. Astrid's attempts to misdirect the two may have landed her in hotter water.  

With the sounds gone, Hans returns to the desk and finds two slots for tomes. Only one tome remains, however.   He opens it and finds it to be a journal of sorts, with lots of hand-written text and illustrations.  There are diagrams and drawings that attempt to illustrate or dissect shapes.  Some of the art, however, seem wrongly done with lines in the wrong places.  Perspectives twisting.   The writing seems to be coded.  A small note in Old Thean however inserted at one point reads, "They know.  I must find another way.  The old system did not work."

Astrid is secreted to the servant's quarters and locked in a room.  The Physician asks her many things, mostly in relation to the tower, but she insists she only heard the children and fell on her head.  The maid returns soon enough with a bag and the Physician draws out an old metal device meant to drill a hole into one's head to relieve it of internal pressure!  Astrid demands they stop, insisting she had nothing to do with the tower.  She tells them to explain what they think has happened, but the servants seem very worried.  One offers Astrid a cup of tea, but she refuses to drink it.  "This should work this time... she should survive." Astrid tells them she is a Close Friend Of Maurice and tells them to stop!  The physician however tells her that if "it" is within her, then they have to get it out.  They have to stop it from devouring her from within.  They insist they cannot risk her bringing it to the Duchess.   The hallucinations are a symptom that something has been feeding on them.

When Astrid demands to know what they are talking about, the man simply explains, "The maus." Astrid is told to sit on a chair and they scatter flour all around her, telling her that they will explain if she is willing to stay seated for as long as possible.  They explain their encounters with a black mouse that has been sighted in the place.  A monster that appears like a mouse hiding in the cabinet that feeds on prey from within. When she asks why the tower then, the man explains that was where they had trapped the colony of them.  The Duchess however has refused to allow any monster hunter to help them given the third husband was from Eisen.

Hans leaves the book for now, tucking the metal bar instead under his belt to take with him.  He heads for the stairs and sees a small pan at the base of the steps, with a spongy material on the pan.  The material, however, crumbles when prodded with his knife.  He fails to see the words on the cabinet, marking a warning: Do Not Ascend Without Protection.  Hans heads upstairs.  He fails to realize the dark tiny things following him up the steps.

*

Cassandra watches as Flynn, seen as a priest by the people they encounter, pretends to give out blessings and receives donations from the people.  Cassandra questions how he can pretend to be a priest, but he counters how Cassandra is certain she is a knight.  He talks about how truth is relative, as robbers can be desperate souls, and murderers might be protecting their young.  Cassandra offers to pay for the bread which is being donated to the priest, rather than let him give it away to the false priest for free.   Flynn talks about how deception and lies can be seen in many ways.  Maybe he's an assassin sent to kill the Queen, or just a wandering philosopher, or worse, a knight who has lost his way.  "Maybe that's why we met.  Something sensed the turmoil within you and sent me to show you not everything is over after denying lending someone a hand."    Cassandra stares at him, wondering if he dabbles in Sorcery.  When some guardsmen confront them, demanding Flynn stop pretending to be a priest, he claims he is one and even points to Cassandra as proof he is truly one.  After all, why would a Knight of Elaine walk with a charlatan?  As the guardsman leaves, Cassandra wonders why he is lying to everyone, Flynn however questions who defines who we are.  When Cassandra says people are who others define you to be, he raises how a larger majority of people would not know she is a knight.  "Does that mean you are not a knight?"

Their discussion reaches talk about importance of labels and naming.  How land and homelands are greatly different.  How houses are just places, compared to homes.   Cassandra teases Flynn can remain Flynn, but realizes his name does mean something else to her now.  They reach another bridge soon enough, and seeing a group counting coins in the shadow, Cassandra wonders if those are the thieves and heads down to investigate.   She discovers however the men had lost their horse after all three of them tried to ride it at the same time. The three start arguing once more, and the coins turn out to be from a dropped money box.  Cassandra suggests that they walk with him instead, but when their arguments preoccupy them, she heads back up instead.  She finds Flynn with a horse and asks her if they are stealing the horse, or liberating it.  Cassandra thinks about how the men don't seem to be capable of caring for the horse properly, but not wanting to steal the horse, she hands them a shilling to pay for the horse.  Flynn teases her however that she paid with a shilling they collected from their donations to the "priest" and does this mean they are serial thieves then?

Cassandra asks if Flynn is trying to twist her words against her, but Flynn claims he is merely showing her she needs to see that events can have many perspectives and ways to be seen.  Flynn switches his clothes to a tan outfit, and steps down from the horse as they arrive at a junction on the road.  He tells Cassandra he has done enough for the journey and that is it time for him to continue on.  She reminds him that he promised to teach her to wield the word better, but he confesses that most likely is a lesson she will learn from someone else.  He tells him Dueling Schools might be a better way to grasp new lessons.  Flynn however claims he does not believe in war or violence and thus has no dueling schools to recommend.  He wishes her well, admitting she has learned enough from her time with him and tosses her a can of mushrooms when she asks for one.  She hopes they will meet again, someday in better circumstances, and she admits he confused her a lot.  He tells her she was always confused and just didn't realize until now how much.    Flynn departs, walking straight into the woods, ignoring either path.

Cassandra watches Flynn vanish into the woods, takes the path to the Castle but upon arriving finds the gates shut.  She is then ushered inside, and told to stay in a room with the other Elaine Knights.  The disparity of the kinds of people there bother her, with some clearly acting more like mercenaries and drunkards than knights, so she keeps to herself.   They are told to wait as there was an attempt to attack the Queen and the Queen wishes to address them all.  Cassandra feels something is happening, and the fact everyone else in the room does not seem to be discussing the supposed attack.  Most just arrived and don't really know why they're being kept in the room.  All of them seemingly have been summoned, magically or otherwise, to visit the Queen.

A door opens as guards declare the Queen shall see them all now.  They are lead to a larger courtyard.

*

Maurice learns that neither Hans nor Astrid are at the room.  Maurice asks if any servant was authorized to clean the area by the Southern tower, asks for the servant to be summoned as he suspects that is where the two are.  "It was the only place they were not authorized to go."  They talk about the dangers that can come in the night, such as wolves, ghosts, and wisps, which is why it should be easy enough to find his friends while the sun is out.  Maurice insists he will eat his breakfast as slowly as possible, and if the two are not found by the time he finishes his last grape...

*

The servants now explain the monstrosity they call the Schrankenmaus. The monster supposedly that can slip through human flesh and feast on its victims from the inside.  Their nibbling causes the body to accumulate toxins, which then lead to horrific hallucinations.  The physician believes the monster hides in the hollow behind the brain but admits to Astrid that they have yet to prove the theory.  The third husband of the wife, the Eisen, had hurt the Duchess' heart so much that she locked herself in her own chambers for a month.  Since then, no Eisen have been welcomed to ever step upon the lands again.  Worse, he had hurt the Duchess physically, though she insists this never happened.    They argue on the possibilities that the mouse might be still in her.  Or it might be hiding in the house now.  These things breed quickly and feed very discreetly.  Astrid asks if they ever killed any of them.  The physician admits they were only able to herd them into the tower to lock them inside.  She asks why they never told the Duchess about the beasts, and they admit they have never told her about it to spare her of worrying over it. 


*

Maurice admits he stays as a duty to his King. He suspects there is more to this duchy than meets the eye, however.  The Seneschal explains that the four previous husbands chose to leave - including his uncle whom the Duchess thinks is dead.  Despite being told he can leave like the other men did, Maurice insists he won't be leaving because unlike the others, he is a Hero.

*

Upstairs, Hans begins to find more of the cages hanging in the center of the tower.  Each one, however, is inlaid with mirrors.  He begins to discern the mirrors are a network to project the light through the tower.  Skittering sounds can be heard around him, however.  Hans dismisses the sounds, thinking they're probably just mice.

Around this time, Astrid begins asking them why the Southern Tower.  Why they felt herding the beasts into the tower was the best thing to do.  They painted the door red since that incident years ago to lock the beasts inside.  In the past, the tower was used by one of the guests of the Duchess, an inventor by the name of Nisab Guissola.  Astrid finds herself wondering where she had heard the name before.  Astrid asks them to inform the Seneschal that she is down here, but they insist they focus on the floor.  The two begin to discuss things in a lighter mood, as Astrid tells the physician that the women in the world are stronger than most realize.  Astrid protests that she probably just hit her head and did not really have any halluciantions from some monster.  The Physician wonders why it doesn't seem to make sense.  Wonders if there's a way to lure it out.  Astrid teases about using cheese, and the physician thinks of a possible lure and hurries off.

A servant arrives at the dining hall and informs the Seneschal that something is happening down below.  The Seneschal suggests that Maurice retire to his office to review the documents regarding the estate.  The seneschal has maids escort Maurice to the office, where shelves upon shelves stand.  A massive chandelier and heavy oak desk are dwarfed by the height of the book shelves.  He finds numerous envelopes, still sealed, on the table.  All are addressed to the Duke and the Duchess of the land.  All the letters seem to be sent by His Highness, the King of Montaigne. Maurice begins reading through them and learns of the land being repurposed as a peace offering between Montaigne and Avalon.  The Southern Tower, on the other hand, was intended for a different purposes, in association with one of the Societies, but its placement in the estate was vital to ensure the tower was kept safe.  The earliest letters are within the months of the marriage.  The secrecy of the tower must be maintained no matter what.  Servants are even to be taken from three different families, and are to live on the land and never be allowed to leave - to ensure secrecy.  The doctor Guissola is permitted to use the Southern Tower at all times.  That letter was written almost seven years ago.  Maurice realizes the letters span ten years, yet Sybil does not look that old.  A logbook marks down deliveries and the last one was almost three years ago.  The husband then was the third, the Eisen one, and it lists a crate of twenty mice.  The signatory of the deliveries is the Seneschal.   Maurice asks for a servant to bring him to his wife immediately.

Hans reaches the higher landings and finds more of the mirror systems on the hanging cages.  There is a few cage like containers, but they are empty of anything, not even dust.  He looks around but cannot find a device that matches the size of the hole, however, which makes him wonder what used to be here.   Sliding open the door at the landing, and it opens to an upper balcony.  The sunlight, pouring in, bounces upon the mirrors and illuminates the whole tower.    He sees the black mice, who rush to hide behind the shadows as the light stretches through the chambers.  Looking down, to the ground level, Hans sees the sigil on the floor, the marking of the Invisible College.  He finds a map on the wall of Theah.  There are holes on the map, suggesting pegs were used to keep track of things on it.  He studies the holes to see if there are any patterns he can discern. He hears more skittering sounds and realizes the mice don't seem to be afraid of him.  They are displaying pack tactics to lull him into a state of relaxation.  He doesn't like this feeling.  Hans tries to swat the closest one, starting at him at eye level from a piece of furniture, but the thing runs off the moment he draws his dagger.   He studies the map more, noticing the bigger holes and sees one of the holes is where they are now at Avalon.  He looks at the pegs that fit and it seems to be the green ones.  There are other colored pegs however that are in jars nearby.  A shattering sound breaks above.  Hans hurries to check what they are.  Upstairs, he finds the room to be somewhat like an alchemist's chamber.  Glass tubes, vials and the like are everywhere on the tables.  A sketch diagram on the wall shows a dissected mouse.  A skeleton hangs on one side.  A second shattering sound is heard and Hans directs the light towards it, to see the broken debris on the floor.  He stares at the shadows to see if something is moving and he finds a few.  The mice again?  He sees the black shapes and realizes they are the mice.  He notices at the corners of his vision, a few more are closing in.  Hans moves, trying to draw more of them out to the middle of the room.

The Seneschal arrives, visiting Astrid, warning her that they cannot risk the beasts to leave from the tower.  He asks what the doctor has said and Astrid freely gives answers.  The Seneschal is infuriated, however, that Astrid has broken the rules despite being told not to visit the Southern Tower.  "If that Eisen monster begins to breed outside..."  Astrid however remains calm, asking why she had seen hallucinations of children despite arriving on the first day before even visiting the Tower.  Astrid insists however that she is certain there are children here, at night.  She asks why they won't just tell the Duchess the truth.  The Seneschal explains if the infestation ever reaches others, and if the Duchess were to ever know about it, the first thing she'd do is try to visit the best physicians she knows, which would then just further "deliver" the beast out to other Nations.  Exasperated, the Seneschal makes a decision to have Astrid locked up at the basement, for at least a month, and he will claim to the others that she had left the land for her own purposes.  Astrid, however, knows they will fail.  She warns them the others will not believe their lies.  Astrid hears the door being locked and she waits for them to leave.  She looks for a way out, while overhearing the servants arguing about the things they had to do to control the situation.  "Why do you think I keep having to do the thing at the mill," the Seneschal barks.   Picking the lock, Astrid then tries to sneak her way back to the dining hall where she believes Maurice would be by now.  Not finding him, she moves to the office but as she gets there, she hears movement approaching.   She slides behind a curtain to hide when she finds the room empty of Maurice, but notices the window lock turning open!  A figure slides into the room from outside, secretly looking around.  The figure has a scar that goes down one eye.

Maurice finds Sybil sitting at the library, with a book in her hands.  He notices it is one of the dreadfuls by Tassine Bullet.  She asks if he's finally decided to play his part in all this, given its a mundane role to play in exchange for wealth and happiness.   Maurice raises how Sybil has been married to five different men for the last few years.  Sybil admits she used to be a Jenny and was paid well by the inventor, Nisab, to play her role as the Duchess.  Sybil doesn't matter about the things being done.  As far as she  is concerned, she was getting well paid to just play the role and maintain the estate and ignore the tower.   Maurice, however, feels there's more to this than just fulfilling their roles.   Sybil finds them all stratifying, finding them all similar to the characters in Tassine's last dreadful, of the man who is the son of the King and the loves who are stuck having to work together despite their passionate history.

*

Lady Cassandra tries to not judge the other knights around her, but seeing them now she feels it looks hard to believe they are all fellow knights. The Queen arrives, and as they are addressed, she learns that there has been an attempt on her life and that the assailant is "no more."  The Assailant, however, was a Knight of Elaine just like the rest of them.  Effective immediately, all the knights are to remain in Avalon for an indefinite period.  Cassandra opts to speak up, and when she tries to ask for the reason behind the "imprisonment," the Queen asks if her questioning the decision seems to be proof of her fears - that the Knights of Elaine are no longer living up to the examples and virtues that the Knights were originally based upon.  Cassandra herself, a Knight of Wilfrith, seems to have lost any show of resolve and will.  The Queen cannot accept the fact that her assassin was one of her own knights.  She has required all the Knights to remain at Avalon to prove their roles and loyalty, and that those who try to leave will be seen as Traitors to the Graal.   They are them dismissed.   Cassandra however decides to try and sneak after the Queen to talk to her. She finds her standing at the front of a window, lost in her thoughts.  Cassandra reveals herself and drops to her knees to show she has not come to threaten her.   Cassandra explains she wants to give her reports in order to arm the Queen with knowledge of what she has encountered in her journeys.   She even shares her encounters with Gasparo Angelo and of how she may have faked her own death, as well as the encounter with Tassine Bullet, but not having any proof that these people would have the means to twist her own knights against her means all she has to offer are speculation.  "But I've seen so much. Of children being turned into monsters and teeth.  I feel she may be behind all these."

The Queen realizes Cassandra's loyalty is undeniable.  She gives her a task unlike any other, knowing her loyalty is such that it would survive even falling.  The Queen is to strip Cassandra of her knighthood and disavow her, but only to stage her as a likely candidate for recruitment by whoever has attempted to have her murdered by one of her own Knights.  Cassandra reluctantly agrees to this, fearing if she is truly ready to be stripped for the honor of being a Knight of Elaine.    "This is no small thing I ask you.  This is the risk of rejection and hatred of all others whom have been your friends in the past.  Will you take this duty?"  She reminds Cassandra it is not vengeance but justice that they seek to accomplish.  Cassandra admits being a Knight is all she ever wanted to be, but refuses to accept that her desires are more important than her duty.   She agrees to the Queen's plan and knows very soon she will be denounced and stripped of her knighthood.  The Queen however tells her she cannot be denounced until Cassandra comes up with an unforgivable act, one which isn't too subtle that the true antagonists do not hear about it.    They think of what kind of personal matter it can be that would "push" Cassandra to hating the Queen.  The topic becomes Gallifrey, Cassandra's home town.   The Queen tells Cassandra she will claim the lands of Gallifrey to become farm lands to be used by the Queendom.  Cassandra realizes her own family will be thrown out of their own lands to perpetrate this ruse.  The people cannot be cared for, so this act will become one Cassandra will avenge.

With that, Cassandra leaves and she heads back to Gallifrey to try to at least visit it one last time.  She finds the place still celebrating her accomplishment.  The young girls in the town are dressed in paper armor costumes, wanting to be like her someday.  The people celebrate their arrival, seeing her as a hero who as arisen from their ranks.   At the tavern, Cassandra is introduced to a man of the cloth who was looking for her.  He turns out to be Flynn, dressed now as a deacon of the Objectionist Church.   During their discussions, however, Cassandra starts telling him about the events that happened to the Queen.  Being too trusting, she nearly spills the plans to Flynn and stops herself from telling him everything.    She ends up starting the rumor that the Queen was attacked, and that Gallifrey will be stripped of land as punishment because she had forced her way into the Queen's quarters.  Flynn hands the bartender a bag of coins, "For the damages" he claims, and then he draws a blade and formally challenges Cassandra on behalf of the Graal and the Queen Elaine.   She claims she might have someone in mind to help her.   They are to meet at dawn, and duel to first blood.  If he succeeds, Cassandra is to be arrested and presented to the Queen as a traitor to the Graal and the crown.  If she succeeds, however, he must admit to her the truth about himself and teach her how to fight.

"I am Flynn, Knight of Elaine, embodying Edgar the Wealthy.  In the Queen's name and upon the Graal, I challenge you."

Cassandra accepts.  As Flynn leaves, she sees everyone look at her with shock on their faces.  Cassandra realizes she seems to have overstayed her welcome and bids the place farewell.

*

Astrid tried to commit to her memory the face of the scarred man, noting he is armed with throwing knives.  But as the man seems to be searching for something, he too seems to overhear someone coming, and like her, he quickly slides to hide in the room.  The door opens and the Seneschal arrives, and like the man earlier, he begins to search around the room for something, checking the drawers, the shelves, and before he checks the bed, the other guy slides away and ducks behind the table.  The Seneschal checks under the bed, and finding nothing, finally leaves.  The man then emerges, and follows the Seneschal.  Astrid considers following them too but by the time she gets to the corridor, she has lost sight of where the two had gone. She decides to return back to the tower for now.

Maurice talks to Sybil about the many marriages she has had.  He suggests something has been driving the husbands away.  She admits most were tempted to investigate the second tower and were forced to leave due to mysterious circumstances.  Maurice admits he suspects his own companions are probably inside the tower this very moment.  He asks if Nisab left any instructions of what should be done in case of any incidents.  Sybil admits Nisab kept to herself alone, never interacted with any of them.  The only person she intereacted with ever in the past was the Seneschal.  The fact he always stays at the Mill intrigues Maurice given its location is just as far as the Tower would be.  "It's always the butler," he smirks, relating it to the dreadfuls Sybil likes to read.  The Seneschal might be loyal to someone else.  "Never trust a man who never eats a full grape," he remarks, but he then realizes he has never seen Sybil eat anything since he had arrived.  This mystery begins to excite Sybil.

At the tower, Hans sees the black mice close in.   He brings his lantern lower, hoping to terrify the things or at least force them back.  But they things leap instead at him and lands THROUGH him!  Hans sees a bulge beneath the skin, moving towards his body.  Quickly, he stabs himself with his own blade, timing it to block the forward movement of the horror.  The thing hits the blade, then leaps back out of his flesh to skitter away.  Hans hightails it out of the room, running down the chamber and nearly screaming upon seeing what looked like a person in an alcove.  He realizes it is a full-body suit that looks almost like skin.. chopped off at the throat, the wrists and the ankles.  The whole thing is made of different kinds of animal hide, all stitched together to look more like human flesh. Another mouse hits Hans' boot, but it scurries away when it realizes it cannot slide through.  Hans leaves the suit and hurriedly makes his way down.

Astrid continues to the rear of the castle, but stops upon seeing the figure she saw earlier with the scar.  The figure has one of the maids held in his hands and he drags her under a table to hide her unconscious body.   She shadows his movements, carefully and quietly follows him as he makes his way to the rear of the manor.  He even uses a smoke bomb at one point to knock another maid unconscious.  The man notices the candelabra by the door, touches it, then seems to realizes something about it.  Astrid observes him and notes that he checked the metal's temperature, noting it was cold and realizing someone tried to head to the tower.  He brings the candelabra with him, leans against the wall of the tower, and as he does this, he ties a rope to the metal candelabra, spins it, and hurls it up towards the first balcony.   Astrid, watching from the door, hesitates approaching for now.

Maurice returns quickly to his quarters, with plans to arm himself, and is oblivious to the fact just seconds ago there were three people in here searching for something.  Now armed, he walks back to Sybil but before he arrives, he overhears her talking to someone about not trusting her husband.  Maurice knocks, then steps in to check who Sybil is talking to.  At the door, Maurice releases the Mark he left on the ship and pricks his finger to create a new one on Sybil.    He promises to always be but a step from her at all times.  He decides to ride out, to head to the Mill where the Seneschal always stays.    Enroute, Maurice stares at the plants in the vicinity, which includes plants that should not be growing in this climate.  He wonders what sorcery this is.

*

Hans hears the clatter at the balcony outside and he stops to check what made the sound. He sees a candelabra on the ground, that drags against the ground as someone tugs on the rope tied to it.  Following it, he sees more of the dark things skittering all around him!  One of the mice hurls itself to try to hit his head!  He lifts the lantern to block its leap, and then stomps on it once it hits the ground.  A gooey splatter erupts in all directions from beneath Hans' booth.  The terrible shriek of the monster reminds Hans of a young child's scream of pain.

Outside, Astrid and the scarred man hear the shriek!  The man climbs.  Astrid hurries to the tower's door and tries to pick the lock once more.  Astrid slides the door open, and calls out for Hans to come to her.  He yells back to be wary of the mice, but realizes the second level door is closer than Astrid's location.   When he decides to step out of the balcony, another pair of the mice leap at him to dive into his skin!  Hans rolls out of the door as he leaps out, then tries to slam the door closed at the two mice.  Astrid hears the slam above and she shuts the door again to lock it closed.  She turns to see the Seneschal at the manor's exit with a rifle.  He warns her to back away from the door and trains the musket at her, accusing her of hoping to steal the monsters away to use them as weapons.  At gunpoint, he directs her to head back towards the manor.  Astrid smiles, using her disarming smile to temporarily win him over and bring the gun down.  She motions at the rope leading up, and the Seneschal panics as he realizes someone has indeed gone up.

At the balcony, Hans looks up to see the man in white asking him for the "key."  He promises to let Hans live if he surrenders the key.  Hans promises the man he will let him live if he explains why he has shown up.  In response, the man has a flat blade extend from his hand.  With a swift move, Hans attempts to disarm the man of his deadly weapon.

Down below, Astrid cannot see the ongoing battle above.  But she tells the Seneschal they should be helping each other.  The Seneschal however admits there is a reason Nisab assigned him to handle these things, and that is because he is an inventor just like she was. He understands how the technology works.  He demands Astrid head back into the house.   She asks if they "invented" the mice.  The Seneschal admits Nisab has been creating a lot of her inventions that have the potential to reshape the seven seas.  "The world needs its heroes."  He claims people like her will always try to stop them from changing the world for the better, and hisses he would not expect a Jenny like her to understand. She feigns a trip, then when he moves in, shifts to train a knife at his throat. The musket discharges at the ground as she presses him against the wall with the blade against his throat.  "I'm no ordinary Jenny."

"Do what you will, but I promise you the Invisible College will never be destroyed," he spits in her direction. Realizing the man most likely has been so obsessed with his studies to have a social life, Astrid kisses him to catch him off-guard, then pushes him back as she slips the musket from the seneschal's hands and backs away to try to get a better vantage point of what is going on upstairs.

Hans hears the musket sound below, and uses the momentary distraction to catch the knife of the attacker with his own blade, forcing him to drop it to the floor.  Standing close, Hans hears the man demand for the key and promise to leave without further acts of violence.  Hans twists the man's arm, forcing him to talk and admit who he is. He claims to have been sent by the Invisible College, which Hans claims to also be a member of the group.  The two exchange the passwords and confirm their membership to the college.   He quickly ceases his violent actions, explaining he had been sent by the College to retrieve the key in order to secure the Nisab inventions that are being taken by agents of unknown groups.  The Intruder, however, does not know anything about the mice that penetrate skin.  He only knows that a key needs to be retrieved since it can unlock a box that has been retrieved from her wake.  Hans asks where the box is and he assures him it is far and safe from here.

The intruder explains only a handful is aware of the secrets regarding Nisab's inventions.  Hans explains that is why he will keep the key safe for now.   Astrid sees the two talking, and trains the musket at the Seneschal to keep him from doing anything undesirable, and demands answers.  The Seneschal admits they are trying to study where the mice came from, and that they are not natural. Astrid feels however they are endangering the duchy by keeping them here.  The place is a small price to pay to protect the rest of the world from further threats like this, as the world will only be safe through knowledge.  "You're coming with me," Astrid motions with the musket for the man to head inside.

"We're going to Maurice," Astrid tells the man.  Hans, however, tells his collegiate to leave and inform the college he will keep the key safe until they send further instructions.  The man tells Hans he will have to ask the college for permission to know more about Nisab's work.


Arriving at the Mill, Maurice leaps off the horse and knocks at the door but no one answers.  He hears sounds inside.  He draws his foil then tries a window but finds it barred from the inside.  Slipping his foil between the window panes, he undoes the lock and he sees the unexpected sight within.  The strange device seems to have been cobbled together from various objects and machinery.  It has created a shimmering glow at the center of the room which reminds Maurice of Porte Sorcery.  Sliding into the room, Maurice looks around and sees the false wall that concealed this machine from people in the room where the door stood.  Maurice tears down the hidden chamber's false wall and after destroying the classic foolish attempt at deception, almost like an old magician's trick, he walks around the machine to study it.  He triggers the Mill to function, in hopes of understanding what this is all about.

Maurice studies how the thing functions, and seeing where a lot of parts seemingly connect to one thing, he pries it free from the machine to break it down.  The thing is built to the very floor.  And a nearby journal marks down different locations and dates.  The thing seems to be a record of objects that were sent through to test the device.  Maurice grabs the oil lantern and drops it to shatter on the floor. "Alas."

*

Cassandra revisits the Queen, sneaking past her guards once more to tell her no one seems to know about the attack upon her.  The Queen, however, is aghast.  Cassandra has made the mistake of telling the people about the attack, despite the Queen hoping to contain the news about the attack.  The Queen explains that her actions have pushed the time table for the events to move forward since now the people know of the event.  Cassandra apologizes for having failed her again.  The Queen however simply tells Cassandra her eagerness to act has pushed the events forward sooner than expected.   Cassandra mumbles about her uncertainties and about her confusion in accomplishing the plans.  She feels bothered that there is a need to harm others in this plan.  The Queen however questions that she can fulfill this plan.  She questions the capacity of Cassandra to accomplish the task, despite Cassandra insisting she has convinced a Knight that she is against the Queen and has been challenged to a duel.  She however admits she went to see the Queen again because she has some doubts and she just wants Justice for everyone.

Queen Elaine however admits Justice does not work that way.  There will always be someone who will suffer for the needs of others.  Cassandra just so desperately wishes the innocents need not suffer. "I just want to know that what I will do is all worth it.  But you're telling me the people of Gallifrey... and now the whole of Avalon... they will all be affected by this plan.  I am just one person..."

The Queen however has no kind words to share with Cassandra.  Lady Cassandra urges they push through with the plan regardless, since her actions may have in some ways planted the seeds for it to work in the end.  When the Queen reminds her all their actions are for the Graal, Cassandra, however, admits that she doesn't even know if the Graal exists.  This statement, unfortunately, is one the Queen cannot accept.  Queen Elaine screams and yells for Lady Cassandra to leave.   Cassandra tearfully admits she doesn't know if the Queen is lying at times.  To that Elaine admits Lady Cassandra is now perfect for the duty.  The Queen calls for the guards, claiming the assassin is in her chambers.  Lady Cassandra hears the footfalls of the coming guards and the Queen tells her she has no loyalty towards the Graal at all.  Cassandra rushes to the window, flings the curtains open, and looks down to find a way out.  The Queen stares at Cassandra with rage and fury, so much that she ignores her own guards knocking upon the door to be allowed in.  "Of all the things that hold our land safe and united.  Of all that empower you to do your duties.  Of all the things that we hold sacred, you question the very existence of the Graal."

"Then show it to me," Cassandra demands.

"You are no LONGER one of my Knights," the Queen growls, "Begone for we will hunt you to the ends of Theah."

Cassandra secures the curtain around her waist, and arm, then she rappels down to avoid the moat as she descends down the wall.  The doors burst open as the guards finally break through.  Queen Elaine points towards the open window and screams for Lady Cassandra's head.  Cassandra's mind races back to the Gesa she embraced when she accepted her duty as an Elaine Knight.


Never shall you raise your sword against a countryman.
Never shall you abandon a fight before it is through.
Never break your word or help another break theirs.
Never be idle when there is work to be done.


Never let your passions rule you.
Never take something for yourself that belongs to another.


And as she lands on the ground, releasing the curtain to land safely.

Always serve the Graal.
Lady Cassandra runs, dodging the flying arrows and vanishes into the woods.  One knight with wings on his helm takes careful aim, staring at Cassandra then closes his eyes before launching the blow.  "Let the Glamour bless the arrow. Let this strike be true."  Light shimmers around the arrow and like a lightning bolt it streaks the distance, closing in on Cassandra.  The arrow hits perfectly, striking her at the knee.   To Cassandra's surprise, her Glamour of Resolve protects her still - reducing the deadly strike to just a momentary inconvenience.

She runs, deeper and into the woods, hoping to break the trail the guards are sure to follow.  She crosses a thin river, and weaves through fallen trees, hoping to find escape.  But then the sound of drawn steel catches her attention and she turns to see the Knight of Elaine, Flynn, holding his sword trained at her.  He jokes that he senses he will not be having his duel today, and motions to Cassandra's knee.  When he tells her to draw, and salutes with his blade to show the dueling salute, she jokes if she should draw the arrow to fight him.  She draws her blade, cuts off the end of the arrow, and holds the blade up.  She asks if it is dawn yet, since the agreement was at dawn at the front of the tavern.  Flynn however tells her they will fight here and now because he suspects she plans to flee instead.  Cassandra admits today has been a very interesting day.   "Let's get it on.  I am ready.  Sort of."  With her blade, she draws a circle on the ground around her as she attempts to invoke the Endless Vigil around her.  Flynn sees this and smiles.  "Your smile is scaring me... but I can do this..." Cassandra sighs.

"For someone who believes she is not a knight, you sure still have the Glamour."

Cassandra stops. She looks down and asks if they are getting on with this or not.  Flynn tells her it depends on who she is.  Cassandra admits she is just Cassandra now.  Flynn asks if she's the Fool?  The Magician?  The Lover?  Cassandra weakly claims she is Cassandra the Knight.   He asks her what her quest is and she tells him it shall always be for Justice.   "I shall track down..." she stops, realizing she almost did it again.  She almost blurted it all out again.  Is this the moment she should just fulfill the mission she has been given.  "...you.  I am tracking you for a Duel. With an arrow in my knee. Before dawn.  In the woods."

Flynn nods and sheaths his blade.  Cassandra sighs and sheaths her blade too.  Flynn admits he is not sure whose camp she is on, but for now he believes there is no need for the duel.  He will, however, be watching her.   Cassandra admits he will be watching out for him too.   Flynn leaves her unharmed.  "I thought you were going to teach me how to fight, Flynn."

"I only duel with enemies of the Graal," Flynn tells her knowingly. "Because minutes have passed and you have not stated a single reason to hate her.  You are acting."  Cassandra admits she is just Cassandra know, since the Queen has stripped her of her family, of her knighthood, and of her role.  She has only herself to rely on.  Cassandra insists she does not believe in the Graal.  Flynn questions however why she still relies on the Glamours it has bequeathed her if she truly does not believe in its existence.  She hesitantly claims maybe it is to test if they are still there.  "Who knows if it is really the Graal that makes this work. Maybe it is the Sidhe who give us the powers?"

"If these are all true statements, then why is it when I look at you all I see is a heart yearning to be rid of a touch of Corruption that it has gained?" Flynn calmly asks back.  Cassandra mutters that maybe the justice she seeks are for herself and her people.  "That's all that matters to me. I don't care about the Queen anymore."  Flynn tells her of the story of Eadburg the Wealthy and how he gave up all his worldly goods to fulfill his duties.  He admits to her he understand what it feels to give up on everything in order to accomplish the necessary task.    Cassandra admits she does not know if she can loyal to the Queen.  Flynn however tells her, "It was always the Graal I was loyal to.  The Queen simply wields it."  He heads into the woods and tells her to follow unless she plans to stay there until the dogs find her.  He reminds her there were Kings before the Queen and yet the Knights have always been there.  "We are the Knights of Avalon.  We are only called Elaine Knights because she is ruling."

Cassandra admits she does not believe she is ever going back to Elaine either.  Flynn however believes she is wrong.  He bumped into a messenger named Felix who was instructed to find Maurice le Blanc, Hans Glick and Astrid Ivardatter and if they found them to inform them she could be found at Gallifrey. She decides it would be best to talk to them when she can.  He invites her inside a cave to rest in for the night.  Moonlight shines down on Cassandra through a hole in the ceiling.   

*

In the days that follow, there are no news of Gallifray being attacked.  Knights do visit the town often, asking for any sightings of Lady Cassandra.  By the third day, Flynn wakes Cassandra up to let her know that he's found the location of where her friends have gone.  He tells her of the Duchy that is now in Maurice le Blanc's name and confirms that Gallifrey remains standing. He escorts her to the duchy and admits they will most likely see each other again in the future.  Although probably not in the way she would hope they will.

*

Seeing smoke, Lady Cassandra hurries up the path and sees the burning mill.  She finds Maurice standing there, and yet neither offer clear information on the recent events.   Maurice insists there's no reason to obsess over the burning mill and welcomes her to follow him back to the manor.   Astrid and the Seneschal head back to the manor, with Astrid keeping the man at gunpoint. He leads the man to the main hall and tells the others servants that he is the one behind the monsters at the tower.  Hans tells the man in white to tell him about Nisab and her death.  He informs him she was last on the Isle of Rambaldi and her death came quite suddenly, a small wake was held with specific guests, yet more than the guests showed up.  He mentions that in the evening, however, the home of the woman who hosted the wake was burned down by assailants and the guests were forced to flee.  Her death was said to be suicide, having leapt from the cliffs. Hans however feels that members of the Invisible College are not prone to suicide, being rational people.  The Seneschal tries to warn Maurice that a beast resides inside Astrid, but she informs them that it is he who has been lying to them all.  Maurice calmly reports that the mill is now on fire.  "Alas..."  The Seneschal is frantic, wondering if they are all mad.   Maurice asks the Seneschal what flammable thing he keeps in his mill given the sudden fire, an attempt to make him admit things.  

Hans asks if the Seneschal had anything to do with her death.  He denies having done anything of the sort.  He believes she was forced to kill herself by the Inquisition or some other forces.  The Seneschal admits he is a member of the Invisible College and that he was here to try to contain her creations.   They were hoping to find her grandest works, which are part of her Grand Strategema to change the world to a new era.  Hans questions how he can trust those who sent him here without being certain they are not part of the very conspiracy against her work.  The seneschal however refuses to believe the ones who sent him are the traitors seeking to destroy her work.  Hans remembers telling the other he will send word to the College in secret.  The Duchess arrives.  

She tells Astrid to bring the musket down, and asks for an explanation to what is happening.  The group explains the tower and the discovery of something strange in the mill.  The Seneschal growls that science will never be hindered by any Prophet or man.  Maurice insists he has no interest in theological debates.  Astrid warns the Seneschal admitted to being willing to sacrifice the duchy for their experiments.  Maurice however tells Astrid she has every right to be wary given she is the friend of the Duke.  The Seneschal hisses at them, calling them servants of the Inquisition and followers of the Vaticine Church.  Maurice wonders if the disappearance of Nisab is the handiwork of the Invisible College, especially since neither land is held by either the Montaigne or Avalon now.  Neither Astrid nor Cassandra know what this Invisible College is.  Maurice lists out the different portal locations that were in the notes and tells the Seneschal it would be best to just admit what he knows.  The man confesses that the Invisible College has been tracking the existence of numerous blessures in different parts of Theah, accompanied with creatures bearing strange deformities and other monsters.  When Maurice questions why Montaigne is not warned of this, the man accuses the Nation of being in the dipping pot of the Vaticine Church.  He claims l'Empereur has now feared for his soul and sold his loyalties to the Church.   Cassandra speaks up though, admitting she has no idea what is going on.

The physician is called and her plans to drill into Astrid's brain are brought up.  The man is agitated, fearful that the monstrosity might find a way to escape.  Unlike the Seneschal, however, the physician does not know anything of the Invisible College. The physician relates once more the story of the monsters' first emergence and the number of things that died during those events.   The physician only inspected Nisab once when she injured herself in the past.  The symptoms are stated once more, but Astrid finally admits she lied about certain details but never claimed to have entered the tower nor encountered these rats.  The physician however is frantic, terrified at the possibility of a plague being unleashed.  The Duchess however admits not knowing a lot of things happening in her land.  The Seneschal however lays the blame on all of them for doing things they were told not to do.  He tries to pinpoint Astrid as the cause of all the trouble.  Astrid however insists the hallucinations, if they are hallucinations, started even before the tower.    In the end, they all realize they are all guessing.  While they are all talking, Hans, slips off to one side.

Maurice calmly tells his wife that if she truly wants to have trouble, then that would be by having a conspiracy theorist handling the household.   When the physician continues to aggressively explain his attempts to treat the possibly infected, Maurice tells him to simply calm down and explain the tremors he is having on his own hands.  The physician tries to calm down and sits down. Maurice checks the physician for any of the symptoms he alone has described. 

The Duchess wonders if this Hans should be questioned as well.  Astrid reiterates he was the one who woke her up that morning to go to the tower.  The physician finally admits he cannot diagnose himself.  They soon learn two of the casualties from the mice in the past were the physician's doctors, explaining his intense fervor to stop the plague.

*

Hans slips back into the tower, hoping to salvage it of what he can without getting infested by the mice.  Astrid arrives, seeing him pondering on what to do.  She tells him the Duchess wants to speak to him, but he insists he has things to do for now. Astrid wonders aloud why he is always dragging her into more trouble.  Hans thinks of the book at the ground level, and decides that is the thing he best try to retrieve.  "Two flights of stairs at most.."

As he shoves the door open, the light shines inside, reflecting on the mirrors.  With a lantern in hand, Hans hurries down the steps, hoping to avoid all the mice.

*

Astrid returns, telling the others that Hans is still busy and that he will be back shortly.  Astrid stresses she is very hungry.  Servants move to prepare food.  Maurice reminds them as disruptive as the morning has been, they can all be happy to remember Hans is a beast hunter.   The Duchess asks what makes the Seneschal the villain being part of the Invisible College.  Maurice admits he's not necessarily a Villain, but definitely is duplicitous given his activities which he has kept from all of them.  He shares the tower was supposed to be control of both Avalon and Montaigne through Nisab, but with her absence, the Seneschal is now nothing more than a glorified grave robber. Astrid reminds them the duchy was something he was willing to sacrifice for the success of the experiments he was undertaking.  Not just the rats, but including the device at the mill, some abomination resembling Montaigne Porte magic.  "They are trying to find a scientific way of duplicating what we do with Sorcery.  Only a true Sorcier should be handling matters such as these, especially when it concerns the Blessures."    In addition, he was keeping people from going to the tower, not just to avoid the mice, but to possible conceal what has already been taken from there as well since Nisab's disappearance.  The uncle it seems had everything cataloged before leaving with half of the wealth of the land. The Duchess leaves to find the list.

When asked of her visit to the queen, Cassandra claims it was a very brief visit in the past few days.  She claims to have just gone home to Gallifrey to stay a while.  When asked about the arrow to the knee, she claims it was a hunting accident.  Maurice shakes his head and reminds her that she is such a darling but lying is so not her.  Cassandra insists she shot herself in the knee.

The Duchess returns with the list and it contains even supposedly the contents of the tower. It seems he had taken something listed as Nisab Invention Cage #4.  The uncle knew about this place before going here.  And the tower was already compromised before then. Maurice suspects his uncle made a deal with someone, or worse, owed someone and this was payment.  Maurice even questions the abomination of fruits outside the window, of apples and bananas and other fruit all growing despite the season.  Distracted with their discussions, the others fail to notice the Seneschal as he makes a bid to escape. He kicks off the ground to try and run off.  Astrid reacts quickly, side stepping to avoid the Seneschal's attempt to headbutt Astrid as he runs.  She kicks his knee, forcing him to the ground, then leaping atop him to pin him to the ground, using her legs to shove him against the floor.  Maurice flips the list to look for anything on the contents of the Mill.  The Duchess reaches for the musket and trains it at the Seneschal.  Cassandra rushes to Astrid, but she gives her a sign she's in control.

The page at the mill shows things are scratched off.  Maurice notices his uncle has scribbled, "All yours."  When questioned about Maurice's uncle, the Seneschal was not aware he had snuck into the tower, nor made an accurate list.  The tower was locked, however, so how did he get in?

Montaigne.

They remember he is Montaigne.  And he remembers his uncle's obsession with parlor magic and playing cards.  That's how he may have slipped in, and escaped from the mice.  "This is two separate plots," Maurice now realizes, "The Seneschal was hoping to use Nisab's Experiments in his quest while my Uncle wanted that particular cage for some reason.  And he was quite eager to leave.  So much so that the Duchess thought he was head."

*

The black mice chase after Hans as he reaches the ground level, and he quickly heads to the table to grab the book.  The chittering sound of the mice close in from behind.  The whites of their eyes reflect the lantern light.  With the book now in hand, Hans kicks the shelf with the oils to the ground, and casts the lantern down to it.  Fire erupts!  He quickly hightails up the steps to leap over the fire and evade the mice.  

The fire clips Hans' leg, but he kicks away the closest mice before they get near.  But as he nears the top of the steps, he sees an unexpected sight.  A shadow stands at the doorway, with a pistol in hand.  The gun is fired and the bullet clips Hans in the shoulder, forcing him down to one knee.  With the book still in his hand, Hans sees the man train the pistol at him as he warns, "The book. Or I fire."

Hans grits his teeth and snarls, "If you want the book so bad," and tosses it back down towards the fire.  The man in the suit yells out a "No!" and leaps after it, diving down towards the flames.  Hans sees the man vanish into the flames and he hurries out the door.  The man was dressed like a magician, with coattails and the top hat and white gloves.  Hans waits, trying to see if the man grabbed it or not.  The book hits the fire.  The man unleashes a snapping sound, and one of the cages is suddenly falling.  The man grabs the nearest chain to pull himself back up as the weight of the cage drops.  Hans hurls a knife to snag the pulley system.  The man growls at Hans as the monster hunter grabs the pistol. "Who are you?"

The man claims this was supposed to be a simple pick up job but his hired man didn't show up. Hans demands for a name and the man admits he is Gasparo Angelo.  "How many Gasparo Angelos are there?" Hans snarls.

And the man admits that is the true riddle here.  He has no quarrel with the Glick family and insists he only wants to get the book.  "That tome contained countless secrets that neither side will ever have their hands on it."  Hans admits that is probably for the best.  The tome burns.  Hans backs out, shuts the doors and locks it.
Hans slides down the rope and watches as the tower burns down.

*

The others see Hans arrive, and note the smell of smoke.  Hans sits down with a coffee in one hand and a sandwich at the other.  He calmly tells them of the fire and chooses to keep from them the bigger "rat", Gasparo Angelo, who he trapped in the fire.  With the tower burning, everything in it are quite possibly gone.  Including the mice.

"To be fair," Maurice adds, "We did not own the tower."

The Duchess asks what to do with the man from the Invisible College, and Hans for a moment worries they mean him.  He realizes they mean the Seneschal, and there is talk of surrendering him to Avalon for imprisonment.  Maurice reminds the Duchess it might be best she handle the estate from now on.  He turns to Lady Cassandra, asking her if she is no longer a knight.  She claims the other people in the room might not best hear the answer.  Maurice directly asks her the question again but thankfully, a visitor arriving distracts him from getting the answer.

The guest is made to wait at the receiving room.  Maurice smells the perfumed envelope.  He changes his mind and has the guest come in immediately.  The letter, indeed, is from Ll'Empereur who thanks him for being reliable.  The bearer of the message is to collect some items from the tower.  The man reveals the list and Maurice looks at it.  The handwriting does not match those he has seen in the notes however of the Invisible College.  Maurice reports that the Invisible College has infiltrated the household before he could arrive, and their plot has been brought to fruition before he could stop them.  He motions at the burning tower.    The Montaigne nods and tells Maurice he will inform the King of the change in plans. "You are not as reliable as I was lead to believe.  He will know, however, of your loyalty."

Maurice however adds that his uncle may have secured one of the items for the King, so he may want to use all the resources he has at hand to recover it for the King.  The man stares at Astrid for a moment, recognizing her.   He asks if she is the Guild Mistress of the Scarlet Stockings and he pulls out a notebook to ask for her signature.  It seems Astrid has gained some level of reputation as the women rose up against a Bishop and fought back by stripping their tops to intimidate the Cardinal's men to leave the property.  The Cardinal fled.  "It was a Vesten Victory unlike any other. A true Bloodless Revolution. Many are beginning to stay when one does not wear the appropriate attire above, once is Scarlet Stocking."  She welcomes him to visit in the future.

The messenger kisses her hand, accepts her autograph, then bids the Duke and Duchess farewell.  The Seneschal is taken away on grounds of Conspiracy against the Queen.  The Duchess asks Lady Cassandra if she will back this up as a Knight.  

*

Night closes in.  Dinner is served.  The physician finally apologizes for his actions.  Amends are made and food is served.  The Duchess admits there will be a need for a new seneschal.  He asks if Maurice is staying, and he admits he will for time to time. But that he suspects they have overstayed their welcome for now.  All the servants serve food and wine a bit harsher than they should.

The two admit agree to spend one night however, before they leave.  The contract at least has to be fulfilled.  Maurice declares he is quite full.  The Duchess smiles and says she is too.  The two stand up and leave.

*

The Seneschal is at the prison. His records are marked and yet the man claims to be loyal to the Invisible College.  The knights shake their heads and leave.  One knight stays behind.  When the Seneschal tries to ask him if he believes in his innocence, the knight draws forth a gloved hand and trains it at the Seneschal.  The Seneschal grabs through the bars, grabbing the knight's face... and it begins to peel off.  The shot fires and the man hits the ground dead.

"Gasparo Angelo, it is such a good name," the false knight with the fake face mutters.  He fixes his face, then draws a playing card from his clothes and tosses it to the floor beside the dead body.









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