The Riddle of Blood
"Love is Crimson"
The seventh session opened two Seasons after the last game. With the journey to Talida Mountain taking a season each way, I decided to call for the session to open two Seasons later, with the players attending Quan Wei Yvarai's Winter Althua.
Quan Wei and Victor Krev are insistent on visiting the shrine to Jessice Sinjin, Victor's ex wife. They send both Yao Lin (Quan Wei's husband) and Ti' Ann Burghe (Victor's growing romance) back to the castles to watch over the Provinces in their absence.
Kithranus Yvarai receives a visit from his grandmother-in-law, Madelyn Yvarai, who calmly informs him that she was visited by Scarlet and has been moved by her words. She believes that her daughter was maligned by events and now requires her support. The grandmother-in-law however threatens him with a question, "Are you willing to do what it takes to take her back and leave the affair he is involved in?" She leaves Kithranus to ponder on the question.
Reidon Yvarai receives a visit from Dano and Obus Sinjin, the two Ven whom were gifted Food by Kithranus during the last Althua. They remembered Reidon's kindness and had come to visit, but their perceptions were twisted by the demon Liliandra, who made them see instead a wonderful vibrant Castle, rather than the roads that were paved with bones, nor the castle forged with black glass and gold. She asks him what he is wearing, and he asks for a vibrant cloak that is decorated with gemstones in exchange for his nightmares. She then grants him a second request, and creates a wonderful jewelry necklace as a gift, and trades a single second of his life in return. Finally, she asks him if he wants something else, but this time opts to decline. The four ride a carriage and make the journey to the Althua.
Gaius Mwrr is enroute to the party when he chances upon his mother, Bethesda Ashken's carriage. Having it alongside hers, the two trade wine and stories of the upcoming party. Bethesda tells Gaius to befriend Kithranus Yvarai, and to get him to reconsider his judgment upon Zhul, Gaius' brother who now wears the black for allegedly using Sorcery. She offers him a piece of information to trade with: That Scarlet has been selected by the senate to become the new Magus of the Senate (instead of Kithranus' wife, Sapphire) because of her knowledge of Sorcery, as well as her.
Autumn Season Actions:
Autumn was a mixed back. While Trouble barely surfaced in the Regions, there was some concern from the Senate given the last session's events. All players had a part of their Provinces explored as the Senate required the Vashha to explore their lands for any Ork presence. While none of the players were discovered to have such threats in their domains, all however learned of certain regions that they've never considered exploring before.
While most of the Ven focused on developing their regions and building new Holdings, Kithranus Yvarai opted to attempt another Espionage Action to determine the activities of his ex-wife Scarlet. He uncovers that his ex-wife has been wandering about Victor Krev's domain and does not wish to hurt Kithranus as her passions for him continue to grow further.
But Quan Wei's invitations begin arriving, and her attempt at a Banquet are successfully established.
Winter Season Actions:
Winter was a terrible ordeal, however, with players discovering some of their holdings collapsed into Ruins. Trouble was much more intense, as it tends to be during Winter, and many put their final finishing touches on the Gift they planned to bring to the Althua. Many also marked down their Food supplies, knowing to be ready for the end of the Year.
Flashbacks would be useful in reflecting the events that transpired during the trip of the Ven to Talida Mountain. Thankfully, the others were able to just focus on their usual tasks during the journey.
The Party Truths:
1) Entire senate is present
2) Everybody knows this is a party to celebrate peace
3) Secret council sympathetic to plight.
4) All ven present are lacking of food.
5) A majority of the senate recognize sapphire as the wife.
6) Ti'Ann Burge's influence is higher than what it was in the Senate.
Given the violence in the previous parties, the general feel of the party was one of hope. Winter oppressively forced all the Ven to consider their Food stocks, given the need to ensure all their Vassals were well fed.
Baron Kithranus Yvaria arrived to see Baron Gaius Mwrr at the front of the castle. While Baron Vance Vashna spoke with Sapphire to discuss what new gossip they had to share, Baronness Quan Wei Yvarai kept a welcoming front and hoped the party would flow smoothly. None foresaw the arrival of Duchess Madelyn Yvarai, who was accompanied by her long presumed dead daughter, and Kithranus' wife, Scarlet, Countess of the Crimson Throne. Given the presence of the Senate in the party, it was clear to Kithranus that his ex-wife was forcing him to either acknowledge they are married, to retain his ties to the House of the Fox, or stick with Sapphire and probably be forced to beg the Houses of his own parents to take him back.
None seemed to notice the arrival of the Baron Reidon Yvarai, who was accompanied by the demon Liliandra, whom all seemed to recognize as the Baron Reidon's wife. The two had Baron Dano and Obus Sinjin ride with them, and talked much about the many events that have happened so far. Liliandra senses Reidon's having second thoughts of their deal, but she reminds him he willingly entered this arrangement. If he really wants her to leave him alone, all he need to do is ask.
Clearly, that was not destined to last the night.
Kithranus quickly spoke with Casius, a member of the Secret Council of Foxes that seeks to dominate the Senate. Though they were good friends, Casius warned Kithranus that with MadelynYvarai backing her daughter, no one will "care" to demand facts if her claims of having been a victim of sorcery are true in making her affiliated with the Orks. Though Kithranus clearly wants to maintain his ties (and marriage) to Sapphire, Casius asks him bluntly, "Is she really worth it? This woman?"
Quan Wei thankfully collects various Gifts and is a bit amused at Kithranus' predicament. She is fascinated also by a new guest, a man named Ogio, House of the Boar, whom has been living in the frontier for quite some time. The man offers his Gift, a song which some realize is using Ork Speech. Quan Wei thanks him and promises to get in touch again.
But eventually, one of the guests, the Earl of Aeldrena, Vishashael Yvarai calls out for everyone to gather and offers to host an event that night in Quan Wei's stead. "A Wager," the Earl explains. As he calls Scarlet, Sapphire and a third woman (Lady S) to simply come forward, he declares the wager to be a sword fight among the three. The first to draw blood will win Kithranus for the evening. Kithranus wishes to complain but wisely holds his tongue. Scarlet smiles, sensing victory. But Sapphire does not plan to lose. Lady S clearly wants to back out, but not wanting to look like a loser, she requests to concede. Tower Azure's Sword Industry comes into play as Viktor Krev offers some swords for the women to use. The battle is short-lived, with Sapphire swinging the blade and scarring Scarlet on the cheek permanently.
"I win," Sapphire tells Scarlet.
"But I..." Scarlet grins, "Get to bring him home afterwards."
Publicly, in a bid to retain his hard earned title and position, Kithranus publically recognizes Scarlet as his wife. This act wounds Sapphire emotionally, forcing her to withdraw from the party for the nonce.
The night could have ended there. With the Althua to enjoy a second night. But no, the fates would be crueler. The demoness visits Quan Wei, offering a gift. A promise not to harm her. But Quan Wei refuses the gift repeatedly, a decision borne from the memories she had learned of while at Talida Mountain. Gaius attempts to befriend Reidon, but both he and Vance back away when Reidon seems to speak to unseen people, and the reemergence of Yves, his "knight" unnerves them further.
And finally, tragedy.
As Quan Wei and the guests enjoyed the banquet, none saw the discussions between Kithranus and Scarlet. As she began to realize how Kithranus had only used her all these years, his claims to love her fell upon deaf ears. And when Kithranus opted to walk away, Scarlet's rage blinded her as she drew out her Blood Sword and attempted to kill him. Kithranus, being the far more skilled one between them, casually kept parrying her blows. He could not imagine, however, how to disable her without hurting her.
And that's when Sapphire, in a bid to save the man she loved, ran to shield him from Scarlet's blade. Kithranus dropped his weapon, an unwise decision, as he grabbed Sapphire with both hands, and used his own body to protect her. But a Blood Sword cleaves through skin, bone and glass without effort. Only another Blood Sword can parry such a deadly blow. And as the two fell down, dying, with Kithranus whispering his final words. Scarlet was far too overcome by grief that she stabs herself in the stomach to join them.
All were silent, watching as their blood spread upon the ground, marring the large moon design that adorned the floor. Quan Wei remembered a warning told to her, of death coming at a bleeding moon. And she threw an accusatory glance at the demoness Liliandra, believing her to be behind this.
But she wasn't. Outside, Gaius Mwrr sees Ti'Ann Burghe, who confides with him the joys of a long drawn out Revenge. He overhears how she suggests spending Seasons to gain Kithranus', Scarlet's, and Sapphire's trust, but admits she had long sought to have them killed for the atrocities and betrayal she has felt. Gaius tries to stay calm as he realizes Ti'Ann Burghe was behind it all. How she whispered to Scarlet to be aware of whether or not Kithranus truly loves her. And how she gently touched Sapphire's neck as she Moved The Pawn to have Sapphire save Kithranus at the cost of her own life. Revenge. Sweet long delayed Revenge.
And as the Althua si concluded, Quan Wei and Viktor remember how the Temple of his former wife, Jessica Sinjin, happens to contain the Pearl. Back during the Autumn, the two found the temple with Josephine Yvarai, whom knew Jessica and Viktor during their younger years. They learn the Pearl is empowered by the blood of others and with enough sacrifices, can be used to find the Demon and directly go to it.
A Dark Figure growls in frustration. His favorite pawn has been eliminated and he will have to rethink his plans. He still believes it is only a matter of time before he, Jaymen Steele, regains a hold over the world.
Somewhere in the Frontier, a young Ven learns of his brother's demise. He decides he may have to step in to assist in this.
"You Own What You Hold". Unfortunately with the deaths of Kithranus and Scarlet, SOMEONE has taken the Provinces. And since that person is able to "hold it," the Ven who snatched the locations, legally owes then.