Friday, September 26, 2014

After the Rain ep15 : Houses of the Blooded

After the Rain

Episode Fifteen

Word of Lukas' death now reaches Nia Jalan and Jaric Thayl as the reunions lead to sharing of updates and stories.  Of greater concern for the Senate is the sudden influx of more than a hundred ven mouths that need to be fed given they have no land.  Letters are sent to and fro.  Haroun Q'n behooves that all of them attend the coming winter session of the Senate.  As it stands, the new ven that have arrived will need someone to speak on their behalf.   Given the way ven politics works, while anyone can speak before the Senate, the speaker must first be recognized by at least three other ven.  And of course, the strength of the rank of those who recognize the speaker matters.   While the Earls stand high on matters of House, in the Senate only the Dukes are recognized to speak freely.  Earls (which are pretty much seen as Dukes as well by the Senate) stand no higher than other Dukes during the sessions.   And once a matter is set, whoever claims for the Verdict to be called first can have some level of advantage to the final resolution - but calling for such too soon can just be as disastrous.  And once decisions are made, the matter is considered closed and it is considered bad form to contest the decisions. If anyone wants to reconsider the verdict will have to wait for the next Season.

Both Jaric Thayl and Seran Throne wonder about the Spiders and hope to maintain some degree of connection to them.  Seran does not know, however, of Jaric's agreements with Szaz Ashken during their long journey home.  Nia Jalan takes the opportunity to practice the Sorcery she had learned by creating a Tulpa of Dalvinosh Steele, whom she keeps "safely in residence" in her castle.  She opts to bring the Tulpa to the coming Winter Althua.  Galeo Silja wonders if Miralia Yvarai would be present in the Althua, and wonders if any of the children had survived and will be present in the events.

Prior to the coming of the Senate hearing, many receive invitations to Sorio Rusu's Winter Althua.  The weather was harsh, with the cold making visibility difficult.  But most opt to attend, given it is a perfect opportunity to discuss the matters soon to be formally discussed in the Senate hall.  Merida, the maid who had made the wish to return home, stands near Seran Thorne, waiting for any commands.  Seran considers using the Glider to go to the Althua, and even stresses that Merida will come with her.  With her desire to visit her parents, she writes a letter to her mother to let her know of her plans to visit.  Given the Season and a half that she had been wearing mourning clothes, Seran decides it is time to start wearing something more... herself.

Hero watches as Galeo gathers blue gowns to bring to the Althua.  Hero suggests that blue would have Galeo vanish into the background given it is Winter.  Galeo realizes she should have capitalized on her "stage-is-the-dress" he wore before since it seems like what Cherno is doing now to stand out.  Hero warns Galeo that her insecurities regarding Cherno are too visible.  "Must Shan'ri be so small that only one person crafts Art?  Was I that insignificant that you are now only challenged by that stranger?"  Hero even asks her if it is time for her to take Seasons to craft a true work of Art.  He even suggests that instead of shooting down other artists, perhaps Galeo should have opted to become their Mentor instead.  If anything, however, the two have rediscovered powerful passions between them, including the urge to have children.

Nia Jalan dresses the Tulpa of Dalvinosh Steele for the party.  The real one wonders what she hopes to achieve with this.  Nia tells Dalvinosh she wants to learn the knowledge that they had in regards to controlling the weather and the reasons behind her abduction and her own replacement.  Dalvinosh claims to not have knowledge of her being replaced during their time in the City.  Nia asks about the ritual used to control Orks, and suggests it doesn't have to be the Tulpa that will come to the party.  Dalvinosh however remains firm that the Orks simply did as they were told, something the Serpents had accomplished with the help of one they do not speak of - one of the Fashuva, a Fallen Suaven.  In the end, Nia still brings the Tulpa with her.  He even tries to use the ring to attempt to call the other Earls as they used to do so in the old Shan'ri.  He hands Nia the ring, asking her to keep it in remembrance of their friendship.  "Dalvinosh" does get stunned at the truths of how huge Shan'ri is for them, seeing the Volcano, the vast tracks of land and the animals nearby. Dalvinosh offers a bracelet as a gift to the Althua.  The bracelet has animal tokens which can be separated from the chain then transform into actual living animals.

Maja Thayl finally shares with Jaric Thayl the truth that she had his father had never been married.  As it turns out, the two have been engaging in prolonged Romances and even bore a number of children in their unions.  Neither, however, opted to lose their lands and so they never truly married.  He learns that in the many occasions he had proposed to Maja, she had turned him down because she realized they were the more exciting answer to give.  The father, however, had been Romancing another younger woman.  What bothers her more, however, was Cherno's Art which interrupted a party she was in.  Everyone's attention was drawn to Cherno for three straight hours.  "It changes you know.  It is like seeing the Dragon."  She even shares how those who performed do not even recall the rehearsals and the celebration.  She does remember that all the performers recall a "clack" like something being closed.  Once he spent enough time with his mother, Jaric then speaks with Jalani about the spy they had captured.  She updates him on the information they have gathered about him, including the fact that they children are handling the interrogations.  The prisoner is not ven.  She also shares that James has been learning about poisons while Jessie has been studying sorcery.   The son shows up and eagerly shares the new knowledge he had uncovered: the spy was sent by Count Kether.

The Storm seems to be brewing in the distance.  More disturbingly, more of the ven-body-orks are present, in strange formations along the way.  There are two Ruins clearly visible in the Province as well.  Sorio Rusu's land is clearly distinctive of the way Bears nurture their land.

On route to the Althua, a blizzard nearly gets Galeo, Hero, and Carrow get lost.  They thankfully see a figure in a red cloak along the way.  The figure asks if they are lost and they realize it is Errol.  Galeo asks him to show them the way.  Hero is curious to who Errol is, given Galeo has been generously kind to the man.  Hero actually assumes that the man is Cherno and Galeo has been secretly training him.  Casselanter even calls out the name, "Cherno" and Galeo panics if that is her first word.  Hero prods more, asking for information on Errol and Galeo tries to convince him that he is not Cherno.    

Nia and Dalvinosh are also enroute, and note the bodies in the ice and snow of embracing figures.  Nia realizes the bodies are not sculptures.  They are the orks, the ones that gather and clasp one another as they did for Dranna Ru's clothes.  Or the massive orb that nearly crushed them all in Isolde's castle.  They also chance upon a traveler on the road who turns out to be the Q'val Celaeno Steiner, Nia's sister, who is devoted to Manna Renay.   She admits she left a carriage earlier of some man who is still devoted to an old flame.

Maja and Jaric arrive at the Castle to see Ammon Tammel, his father, already there.  Maja pulls away and avoids his notice.  Ammon judges the lack of proper vassals as well as the lack of amenities along the road.  To Jaric's surprise, the father was not even worried of his own son's absence.  He seems well informed of his journey even as Jaric tries to bring back the conversation to his parents having never been married.  He explains that what he has with Maja is something Jaric would find difficult to grasp.  Ammon's attentions, however, are now focused on finding the Q'val he is having a Romance with.  Jaric realize's he is talking about Nia's sister.  The father mistakes Jaric as a Serpent, and soon admits he was absent in his Blooding.  It was a Tulpa present during the Blooding.
Madeyln Yvarai, former Master of the Ruk
Court Scholar of Maja Thayl

Most of the actual Althua is spent talking about Winter, discussions with various new faces such as Fenir Dyr who spoke of the lost ven with no culture, of Lukas' sacrifice and using his name to stop the Storm, of Madelyn Yvarai who happens to have survived the events of the other Shan'ri and now stands among them.  She has a petition to become a Baroness and her desire to find more to recognize her in the coming Senate meeting.  Madelyn invites everyone to enjoy the wine since she claims to have brought it but Jaric insists that she remember she is still a Ruk, stressing even it was not clear if she was ven among her own ork ven.      Madelyn still blames the group for taking her family (of Tulpas) away.  Jaric is deeply bothered by Madelyn Yvarai's attempts to rise back into power.  He starts telling a lot of those present in the Althua about how one cannot trust Madelyn Yvarai, or worse muttering that somehow Madelyn Yvarai is alive! Ironically, most reply "Who?" which gives Jaric an excuse to ramble on about the Riddle of Bood.  Szaz Askhen is present in the Althua as well, and receives a cold welcome from many of those present that she is not ven.  Jaric declares that the spider is with him, which surprises Seran, who had hoped to come to her aid.  Dalvinosh Steele's Tulpa has a few confused moments upon seeing Szaz Askhen given he fails to recall having traveled via the airship.  Nia keeps the former Earl close by, however, especially when Madelyn Yvarai notes their presence as well.

On the road, Hero reconsiders attending the party and taking Casselanter back home with him when they all see the Orks along the road.  But the blizzard is strong and the snow is too strong to risk a trip home alone.  When they arrive, Galeo is surprised to hear from Sorio Rusu's Seneschal that many of them are admirers of her work, and that some even attempt to recreate her stories and works as theater pieces for the Veth.  The Seneschal even mentioned his daughter chanced upon Galeo's work in the past, but upon asking more about the daughter, Galeo learns the daughter served under the Lady Isolde and had perished when the castle fell.   He shares that Galeo painted in front of her and it was a touching final gift before her demise.  Nia and Jaric are both bothered how Madelyn Yvarai has not only survived the fall of the other Shan'ri, as well as had found a way to their Shan'ri immediately.   Galeo realizes that Madelyn Yvarai is being all friendly and introducing herself to everyone clearly for someone who is in the Althua.  Her eyes narrow as she come to realize it is... Maja Thayl.

Nia throws some lines at Madelyn, and from reading between the lines, it almost sounds like she is aware that Nia had murdered an Earl to create an Airship.  "I'd like to say a little bird told me, but no one believes birds can talk."  Seran tells the others to not drink the wine either, given it was a gift from Madelyn Yvarai. Madelyn asks Nia if she does know the truth, about how Madelyn was the victim in all this.  Nia recalls meeting the Tulpa son, Kithranus, who had melted away when the sun set.

Galeo glides away from the others to talk to Maja, but she does not get there in time.  Count Kether intercepts her approach, and the two exchange pleasantries.  Kether invites Galeo to dance, and she motions to Hero that they will dance.  Hero gives her his full support.  While the rest of the Althua see the two dancing so intimately, most are unaware of the two sharing a cunning conversation about why there is another ven named Count Kether in the room.  He worries the other is an usurper, but Galeo explains it simply is another who has the same title from the other Shan'ri.  And at the end of the day, the other remains landless.   Turns out the questions are to check if the Count is under Galeo's shadow, because Kether wonders if he will cause any trouble if he chooses to murder him.  After leaving her with that question, Kether spins Galeo away and ends the dance.  She tells him thought that she doesn't really mind, but he reminds her that if she changes her mind, may she be able to act in time.

In an attempt to draw Maja into the spotlight, Galeo announces the presence of Madelyn Yvarai in the room.  The focus draws attention to Madelyn as Galeo hoped, and Maja steps forward now to introduce everyone Madelyn Yvarai as her Court Scholar.  Galeo gets more curious given Maja has no land!  Maja talks about how the others have been finding their way into the provinces, and how many are still seeking to have someone shadow over them.  Jaric counters the words though, declaring how Madelyn was Mistress of the Ruk, and was not even ven among their kind.  Madelyn asks Maja for permission, then steps forwards to ask Jaric if he is since with his accusations.  Jaric reminds her he need not be sincere to Ruk.   Madelyn asks, "By tradition, who and who alone has the power to do what the Sorcerer-Kings have done? Is it not a fact that while illegal, Sorcery can only be done by the ven?"  Jaric agrees.  Madelyn offers to show proof of her being ven.  Maja explains that Madelyn is asking permission to meet Jaric's challenge.  Jaric reminds them that she has no "challenge to face" but only the Senate to make a decision of the matter.   Galeo, unable to hold back, and reminds others to be calmer given it is Winter and the like.  Her hands however sign messages to Jaric and her friends that this is the same Senate that permitted Dranna Ru to be recognized as a House!  She reminds them that they want a Senate that is the least bias.  This needs to be manipulated properly to get what they want.  Though Jaric feels troubled with the breach of tradition given the House Ruk and House Ork talk, he cannot help but admit that the Senate is always right.

Galeo sort of tries to ask everyone to "be calm and wait for the Senate" but the crowd of Foxes, Bears and Wolves, most still feel more swayed to see Madelyn Yvarai prove herself.  And some even wonder if a duel would be better.  Galeo turns the focus to the highest ranking ven in the chamber, to properly handle this.  Haroun Q'n decides that the matter can be considered settled til the Senate hearing with a Tribunal.  He considers the matter on who will be the Tribunal.  Maja approaches Jaric and discusses how this is a personal matter, and not one they should involve themselves in, but Jaric stresses that Madelyn was a principal player in the stories.   For Maja, however, Madelyn simply put is landless, and she is the voice of the Uv'shanadir.  Jaric however still fears that Madelyn might be an Ork, or something he rather not say.  Maja finds it preposterous that Jaric is afraid Madelyn might be a demon.  Jaric starts whispering to Maja how the Riddle of Blood was not just a story, but Maja still remembers it being a childhood story she read him.

Galeo talks to Madelyn again and stresses that she simply wants a matter of fairness in the concerns.  She would rather the matter be brought to the Senate.  That statement, however, gives Madelyn the push to ask Galeo to recognize her to speak.  Galeo admits she can be a voice if that is what she needs but she requires that if things happen, Galeo's lands and family will not be harmed.  Madelyn is not willing, however, to swear "an Oath" in exchange just for a promise to speak.  Galeo admits she is willing to simply make it simple and have Madelyn promise that she owes her commensurately.  Seran walks straight up to Madelyn and offers to recognize her in exchange for one thing: Tell me about the demoness.   Madelyn, however, seems to not know about any Demonness. She knows only of the Storm.  Seran admits that will be all she needs.  With that, Seran walks straight back out. Madelyn does admit she fails to grasp by Jaric holds so much anger towards her and Galeo simply shares he is protective of his legends.  She warns Galeo to tell Jaric that she might feel compelled to make his words come to truth if he keeps making those accusations.

Outside, Seran finds Ammon Tammel and share discussions on the Ork Ven and anticipates the Earls will just see these Ork Ven as Ruk, given they are not of any House.   Ammon expects that the Senate simply wants to see who will watch over these ven.  Seran admits she never had to be a vassal for others.  Ammon seems antagonistic, however, and sees Seran as someone who was one of the privileged ones.  He asks how Jaric is, and she explains he rambles more often these days.  She admits she stepped out because she was tired of him accosting every single guest about Madelyn Yvarai.  Ammon sees them as close, but Seran admits they are not friends.  Ammon admits many wanted him to be a Serpent, even the Earl of the Serpent, and see him as a Serpent who died but was brought back, but he finds it to be a stupid thing given no Ven ever returns from Solace or death.   "Unless you are like Madelyn Yvarai," Seran laughs.  When she asks why Ammon is waiting outside, he admits that he wants to marry Maja and that is why he is currently outside the Castle: he is waiting for the Poison to kill the other woman.   Seran is aghast this is how a Romance unfolds.  She asks again if she already has the poison, and he admits he had given her the poison already.  "So she was already here?"  Ammon admits she did, and talks about how parties used to be much more peaceful.

Jaric is not too keen on hearing how the others have agreed to recognize Madelyn Yvarai in the Senate.  He feels that already is too much, knowing she is a Fox.  "One of the most Cunning Foxes to have ever walked Shan'ri."  He questions however if he should be in the same Senate hall as Madelyn given they tend to "collapse around her."   Galeo muses that it could be worse if she were to be allied with Dranna Ru.  Galeo simply feels it would be more dangerous to allow her to stay silent.  Jaric wonders if Jessie can do something (and he feels the Oleander in his pocket).  He does admit he has not had anything to eat or drink given the instances of the cookies before and the possibilities of poison.

Sorio Rusu finally addresses everyone, apologizing for his lateness.  He explains the real reason for the invitation and that is to raise the matter of the Winter Gathering of the Senate in regards to the Ork Ven.  He explains this matter is regards the Others.  He asks from those present recognition and he has a proposal he wishes to raise to the Senate.  He asks the candles to be killed, and as darkness fills the room most instinctively reach for the handles of their swords.  He uses an artifact to project light upon the walls, showing words and images for all to see.  He declares the question of the Others being Ven is irrelevant.  The matter more important is, "Will they Survive the Winter?"   and for Sorio the matter is will they live through winter given the famine of the last two Seasons.  The group is surprised to hear that famine had struck the Provinces in their absence.  The greatest stores of food are with the Merchant Houses right now.  Seran Thorne is pointed out when an outburst from her catches attention.  Sorio intones all to pray that Althea Thorne bless them in this gathering.  None realized that Althea Thorne had already slipped into Solace!    Sorio admits they all worship the Suaven.  Galeo calls out to Althea in her head and true enough, she responds.  Althea is shocked to learn it is true that Galeo can hear them, adding that Seran mentioned this once and Althea thought Seran was making fun of her.  Sorio also notes Galeo Silja and has them applaud her presence.  Seran cannot take the truth that Althea has passed into Solace.  "It is said that she was grievously injured in a battle against the Storm.  She had crafted personal wings but she did not recover from her injuries.  But thankfully, instead of death, she slipped into Solace."  Galeo searches for Haroun but realizes he is not around.  They have built a temple for Althea Thorne in her own land.  Her Province is to be a Temple.  But Seran realizes the Province is promised to someone else!

The Artifact
Szaz reminds Sorio to focus on the Others.  Sorio continues talking about Waste and how not feeding the Others will be a waste of life, of vassals, of opportunity.  Sorio asks for nine to recognize them to speak before the Senate to call for all the Others to be fed half by the Merchant Houses and half by those who wear the Black.    Sorio shares there will be two events: a Ruin to be freely explored and the second is a Challenge Course, a Region that they may attempt to survive.  Nia asks what the prize of the Challenge Course will be and Sorio applauds Nia Jalan's presence as the Countess.  Nia is surprised given she knows she is only a Baroness.  Maja Thayl explains that Nia has been promoted in position by the Senate.  There was no clear statement of who petitioned for it, after someone questioned if her lands were Fair Game.    The Prize is revealed to be a Ruin found from the lands that fell from the heavens.  A cart is brought in, and when the cloth is removed, they see orichalcum on the cart.  The artifact is the same artifact which the group had seen used to show an Opera within it.  Sorio operates the device and they all bear witness to see the Opera actors still there! They are camped in the ruins of a broken Opera House, and they call out to the viewers begging to be helped.  "Are you seeing us?  We are still here! Can you hear us?  Speak to us!"  The group realizes the actors are survivors of the fallen City.  Galeo steps forward and insists Sorio shut the device down.  Sorio however demonstrates how the people can be made to do things.  He hangs a thread with pieces of meat into the device and the people within rush to receive it!   Galeo asks again that they shut it down.  The actors within begin to stomp their feet and call out prayers.  Sorio finally shuts the device.  Galeo hears a clack sound beside her.  She turns and sees a hooded figure holding a Compact just like the one the others found in the Ruin.    Galeo blinks, and there is an empty space beside her.  Was there someone there?

The Althua stretches on.  Jaric searches for the former Earl and finds him at a balcony outside.  Dalvinosh soon displays an uncanny ability to direct lightning to strike a distant target in the landscape.  They both share their uneasiness to see Madelyn Yvarai alive.  Dalvinosh does admit they regret that she is Blooded, given they have no true power to Unblood one of the Blooded.  She was stripped of all recognition as Ven, but in truth they still all knew her to be Ven.  Jaric asks why keep her alive given all that had happened, and Dalvinosh admits it is because she is Ven and the Ven are never killed.  Dalvinosh asks if it is just him or did the wine taste differently.  Jaric wonders how she can even have wine given she has no land.    Dalvinosh realizes that Jaric hosts animosity towards Madelyn Yvarai given how "he" always painted her as villains in the stories he wrote.  Dalvinosh starts to comment about feeling heavy and how the day seems to draw away his strength.  He admits he feels the urge to lie down and there will still be a second day.   He sits down, and as Jaric breathes in the wine, he notices the hint of poison in it: Hemlock.  The poison is called Fox's Revenge, and it causes the body to slow down and shut down, leaving a beautiful corpse.   Dalvinosh tells Jaric he has the antidote, a tattoo in his right shoulder - with each tattoo representing a poison it can neutralize.  But when Jaric checks, he finds nothing.   Dalvinosh realizes if the tattoo is not there, then he is not himself.  He is a Tulpa!

Nia comes up to Sorio and asks for more information.  When Nia admits she already has promised her voice, Sorio suggests she can ask the Baron under her to recognize them.  The petition was sent by parcel and was approved.  Nia was granted the shift of position since she no longer serves their former Count, but now she stands under the shadow of the Duke Haroun Q'n.  The Lord Protector between them turns out to be the Marquis Lukas.  Nia however knows that Lukas (or now, Lukas Q'n) is dead with no future in Solace.

Galeo finds Hero who has had four glasses of wine.  Galeo is wondering why Hero keeps drinking given all the times he gets poisoned.  Hero refuses to answer how many times he has gone without getting poisoned and it turns out it is because he was going to other parties in secret. He admits he did it to see if people would recognize him. That was when he saw Cherno's work.  Hero's words slip when he admits he feels sometimes he may have been under Galeo's shadow for too long.  Hero admits the wine reminds him of Jaric's wine.  In the distance, a glass falls and breaks.  When Galeo asks if Hero has an antidote, Hero whispers that the Herbs were given to the Court Scholar instead.  Hero reminds Galeo that they have no Apothecarist.

As all begin to realize the poisoning happening all around, many start to wonder where Haroun is in all this.  Only Seran knows the answer as she finds Haroun Q'n at a tower who confesses to her that he is behind the poisoning going on in the castle.  Haroun is trying to poison and slay all the Ork Ven and Sorio Rusu has agreed to admit he was the one who committed the act.  Haroun has promised to watch over Sorio's family in return.  He then confesses more, admitting to Seran what happened earlier before she arrived.  He tells her about his prayer to Althea and his wish that she tell them that he did it.  And how he turned to see Madelyn Yvarai having overheard him.  She admits she noticed how the guests had different wine glasses, and admits she will keep his secret safe given she knows the taste of Hemlock.  She admitted she made sure those she liked did not drink it.  "I have your recognition?"

People are dropping to the ground, as more and more are weakened by the Poison.  Jaric calls out to everyone that it is Hemlock!  Galeo leans close to Hero and smells no hemlock in his breath.  His wine is not poisoned!  Nia searches for Dalvinosh and finds him on the ground.  She finds her sister, Celaeno Steiner staring at Nia in panic as they see the other dead bodies around them.  Galeo pulls the family to one side.  Caleano admits she does not think they are the target.  A man offers Jaric the antidote for the Hemlock in exchange for a promise to help rid the man's lands of Orks in the coming season if needed.  The man is Lura Drew.  Jaric asks too many questions, however, and Lura heads off to find someone else to help.  Dalvinosh pulls Jaric close and asks him to take his belt.  As the Tulpa dies, Jaric strips the belt off and is told that, "If my any chance, this is what you need to do... if this is the past.. tell the me what happened. I hope I am just a Tulpa."

Seran tells Haroun Q'n that she won't stop him in his act of vengeance, but reminds him he is the reason that she lost Lukas.  Seran asks if he needs her to serve under his Shadow as his Swordsman, but he tells her he has already made arrangements to have them all under his Shadow.  The land shall remain untouched.  But with Lukas' disappearance, there may be an issue on succession.  Seran considers taking the land of Lukas to become the Marquess herself.  "You will need a husband."  Seran lays down one condition: that Haroun is never under any circumstances to make a request from a demoness.   She does not want to lose anyone else.  "Seran," Haroun clarifies, "We will find you that husband.  If there is anything I swore your mother, it is that you will be forever under my protection."

Errol arrives, grabs Seran out of worry if she is well.  Seran reassures him they are fine.  Haroun drops to one knee and admits he needs the antidote.  "Whoever is behind this has poisoned me.." Seran asks Errol for the antidote and he draws out a strap with five vials.  He hands her the vial marked Hemlock and Seran pours it into his mouth.  Errol asks how he identified it to be hemlock and Seran lies and claims she smelled it on him.  Errol realizes for the first time Seran is lying to him.

As the situation is brought to the fore, Haroun Q'n demands for the person behind the poisons to admit their guilt.  To his surprise, Sorio Quin takes a while before he finally voices out his role in the events.  It, instead, is Maja Thayl who speaks aloud at first, confessing to have taken wine from Jaric's stores and offered it to the Althua.  She, however, does admit to not have any knowledge of the Poison.  Seran finds a nearby Bloodsword and picks it up from one of the dead bodies and keeping it.  Errol raises his hand then in response and admits he has nothing to do with the poison, but suspects the staff was involved.  Without that, the person involved might have had to slip the poison into each dead body's cup.  With over fifteen bodies, Errol thinks the Staff are involved.  And perhaps they should be questioned. Haroun asks Galeo to explain who the vassal is, and Galeo identifies him as Errol.  Seran admits he likes how resourceful he is.  Erroll admits he is Blooded of the Fox, but Haroun questions him that he would recognize him if he was truly Blooded of the Fox.  Galeo claims he is from a distant relation.  Haroun still feels though he should know who Errol is if he truly is a Fox.  He motions Errol to move aside and has the staff gather in the center of the room.  Haroun offers to the staff the chance to be a Knight under his domain if they speak the truth.  One rushes forward and accuses Sorio Rusu of instructing them to place the poison in the wine.  Nia questions if that statement is true given she doubts it would be possible.  Haroun questions Sorio on the matter, but Nia still pushes that Sorio clearly is not the type who would do such a thing.  "Let us make this simple, none of us want the Vasha," Haroun petitions everyone.

Sorio finally gives his confessions, but the group still feels it sounds wrong.  Why would the man who wants to feed the Ork Ven now poison the very people he tried to gain recognition to save?  Jaric asks if any Serpent can verify the truth of his words.  Nia begs Sorio to stop speaking such "Yellow words."  Sorio confesses to have poisoned them as an act of mercy to spare them death from cold and hunger.

The Jury are asked to make their decisions:  Nia Jalan is one assigned and she asks for one final exchange with the confessor.  Nia asks Sorio then kicks him.  He drops to one knee in pain.  Nia starts screaming at him, "What of your wife? What of your sister? What of your children? You take the Black and you know what happens!"  Sorio still in full conviction responds, "This IS for them!"  Nia mouths to Sorio: Who? But he refuses to say anything else.  Nia stomps back to her place and gives the verdict of Guilty.

Seran Thorne does not hesitate and gives a Guilty verdict as well.

Galeo Silja is the last to vote.  She declares she finds the decision too quick.  She explains that he argues that he does it matter out of mercy, and supposedly used Hemlock for a beautiful death, however in doing so he also contravenes an important thing: If truly acting in the best interests of all at heart, then why disprove and create no need for a Senate Hearing?  Anyone knows that if you can be affected by Hemlock, that means you must be Ven.  And here he is making examples of them.  He was not just giving them a peaceful death, he was making the majority be seen as Ven.  It would mean we would have to accept all that survive to be equal to us.  She will not support a decision that contravenes the Senate decision to come.

Sorio Rusu
"We have all seen agents of Chaos before," Galeo hisses at Seran.

"That is because Sorio is a DOLT!" Nia growls.

"And Dolts can be used by Agents of Chaos," Galeo concludes.

Haroun asks if Galeo is therefore suggesting conspiracy?  Galeo says yes, that is it too pat.  Haroun closes the matter as unsettled.  The Vashna are to be called and all are to remain until the Senate hears the Vashna investigations.  They are to prepare letters for their loved ones and provinces as none are to leave until the matter is done.  Seran takes Haroun away.

Madelyn Yvarai stands near Jaric during all this.  Jaric pulls away. "You realize in the end we face a common foe."  Jaric admits he cannot prove anything to her connection to this things, but he promises to keep an eye open at her.  Madelyn wonders if he would ever be willing to ally with the only one who has defeated such a foe before.  He questions if she really defeated it before, or played right into her hands.  "So far, she is winning.  A City and a Senate House gone."

"Yes, but I know something no one else does."

"And what would that me?" Jaric asks

"My Name.  It is her name now, right?" Madelyn grins.

"But you have always been Madelyn Yvarai?"

She simply smiles.


Hero and Galeo talk about how he is not sure if they should have protected the Ork Ven. For Galeo, however, for good or ill, they share the Blood.  But what matters is what the Senate has to do.  It rests on them to get to the bottom of things, the truth.  Galeo admits she won't let an agent of Chaos win again.  Especially not with her daughter.

Hero however worries that they are trapped now with all of them.  Galeo is simply certain that while one keeps friends close, one should keep others closer.


And finally, Seran and Haroun realize the events did not function as planned.  Seran insists they need to forget this to avoid the investigation.  She draws out the Compact, places their hair inside, and locks away that memory.



Nia kneels closely to Sorio and tells him Galeo is a Baron under her now.  And while publically against her, she admits she will find who is behind this.  To her surprise, Sorio insists Nia should push Galeo to accept his words as fact.  Nia reminds Sorio however that Galeo acts according to her desires.

"I do everything for my family."

"The same goes for me."


The morning comes.

The Vashna arrive.  The gates are swung open.  A shriek calls them all to the main chamber.  The source, a maid.  The cause?  Sorio Rusu is dead.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Century Club ep05 : Spirit of the Century


The Century Club
Spirit of the Century

Episode Five
"The Final Transmission"

Whilemina Wheeler awakens to find herself still held prisoner by the Century Club.  She remains in one of the rooms that formerly belonged to the late Aleister Crowley.  It has been a week since the events on the Silver Line.  The first three days were spent interrogating Lady Shi.  Walter Le'Frogge and the assassin banter back and forth at worst, with one talking about the Brotherhood and the other about the Sisterhood. She reveals to him that the Sisterhood has in many ways the Brotherhood to thank for their existence.  They were founded more or less after the Brotherhood's inception. She claims the Sisterhood had taught the Brotherhood many of the more stealthier techniques and even demonstrates this by slipping free of her bonds using a technique the Brotherhood teaches.  She admits her mission was simply to delay the others so their leader could escape with "the chosen."  She also confesses being curious about Victor given Wheeler, like Victor, had lost an eyeball even if no one had touched the other.  She wonders if Victor's powers were spoils from the White Circle.  She shares that the Brotherhood and the Sisterhood were both formed to eliminate the White Circle and when it was defeated, in its ashed rose the Circle of Crowley and the Scions of Glorianna Sheeda and the Invisible Circle of Rasputin.    Most of the details shoots past Le'Frogge, however, given he never really meddled with such details. She even reminds him that the bombs that struck the Invisible Fortress that allowed Walter and the other survivors of the Seven Warlords of Japan's human experimentation was done by the Sisterhood. They were all test subjects of the Noah Project, an attempt to fuse human and animal DNA.  Lady Shi reveals she herself is simply wearing "a skin."

Victor is in the hospital, recovering from his wounds.  He still is missing an eye, but the pain is not as bad given the painkillers in his system.  The curtains separating his bed from the rest of the beds easily reveals to him he is in a hospital.  On the dextrose bottle nearby, Victor can see his reflection shaking his head at him.  The curtains part all of a sudden and it takes Victor a moment to realize the curtain of the hospital never moved.  Instead, a gossamer curtain supernatural in nature flutters open and Gloriana Sheeda walks in.  Victor tries to coax the Demon to make an offer, but ice frosts over its surface, blocking him.  She sits on the bed beside him, but only after he gives her permission to do so, and offers him a bright red apple which she claims is extremely rejuvenating.  Victor asks if there is a price and she insists it is a freely offered gift.  He quickly suspects he is no longer in the Hospital.  Gloriana is probably trying to trick her into accepting a freely offered gift.  Victor feigns ignorance.  She tells him she was wondering what he thought of her offer, and reminds him that she can only ask three times before she can no longer ask him the question.  They talk about Percy, about the White Circle, and about Kenji Katana - if he really is a ghost.  Victor starts to muse if Kenji is a ghost from the future.  She tempts him to be remembered in history as having founded the Order of Glorianna Sheeda.  She even tempts him with three gifts: Immortality, Sight Unbound, and to be free of his promises to the Demon.   If he ever wanted to call her again, he merely had to do widdershins.  Svetlana arrives, pulling him from the bed to ask about Kenji.  Victor is now certain he is back in the world, and tries to calm Svetlana down to explain what just happened.  She accuses him of being jealous of his leadership, but then raises her ire again about the "invented" Cosmo the Talking Dog. Victor swears he can prove Cosmo is real and stresses he is the enemy now.  Svetlana threatens that if she discovers he is lying, she will cut off his -

Kenji's eyes open.  He is in a strange vista.  Sand is beneath his chair.   The distant sky is filled with starlight and faint hints of clouds.  To his surprise, he looks down and sees human legs.  He reaches up to touch his face, but as he holds his hands up he sees skin.  Human hands.  Arms.  He.. is human again?  Not far, he turns his head and sees Sputnik staring back at him.  Sputnik demands for answers to know who this "Cosmo" is, given he is at the forefront of Kenji's thoughts.  Kenji asks if he knows who Cosmo is and even prods further to ask if Sputnik does not see Cosmo within himself.  The Count Baron von Duke comes into view and seems happy to see Kenji now aware of his human body.  Like Kenji, the Count is wearing clothing fit for the beach.  Cloth covers his face, save for the painted finger and hand.  Kenji tells him he looks like a Normalist, but the Count claims he is meant to look like no one in particular.  Kenji asks whose body he is inhabiting and the Count insists they are friends and the body he wears was not taken from someone else.  The Count tells Kenji that they have known each other for a long, long time.  And that they both want the same thing.   The Count motions Kenji to follow him and the two walk down the beach.  Sputnik warns Kenji that if he tries anything, he will pull down the moon at him.

Kenji learns of Sputnik's story, of how the Count saved Sputnik on the day he was supposed to die from the flames.  The Count simply wants everyone to respect the life and existence of everyone else.  The Count before believed the Century Club was the clearest diving group that would stop the unification he wanted.  But all changed when he was witness to the world suffering from the unraveling of time.  Kenji finds himself wonders why would the Count remember that incident.  The three stop at the beach side near a fire and there are meats on skewers above it.  Among the meats, Kenji's sword is there.  When the Count asks him what an ordinary man would choose, Kenji retorts that there should not be any ordinary man.  The Count now talks about how he realizes the world needs more than a Count.  The world needs an Emperor Duke.  He tells Kenji to draw the sword and that he will show him how the world will be unified.   Kenji takes the blade and once again feels the odd-yet-familiar sensation of feeling the cold metal of the weapon.  Holding the blade up, Kenji sees his reflection on the blade and he sees his own face.  The body, somehow, is his body.

"Strike then, Samurai.  Unmask the Count.  Unmask and see the Truth.   Reveal the Emperor.  Or strike and end it."

The Count holds his arms wide, leaving him open for Kenji to unmask or to be killed.

Back at the Century Club manor, Svetlana and Victor Knightfellow head down to meet with Walter Le'Frogge.  Victor declares he is tired of the charades.  Svetlana talks to Walter, asking him to tell her the truth if there is a Cosmo and he admits there is.  He tries to explain there were strange events that happened that day and he admits even he cannot remember them all.  Svetlana is so urinated about all the crazy talk and admits she misses the day when only Victor did crazy talk, and even remembers that day back when she was left on the tower that day with the bomb.  Walter fails to realize that day wasn't changed even with Cosmo's disappearance.  Svetlana even retells how the Normalists attacked that day, how Walter fells when he tried to reveal himself, and Victor using his magic to link their brains and communicate as a group.  Walter realizes some events have shifted somewhat to have Svetlana remember Victor doing what Cosmo did that day.  They head down and find Victor already confronting Wheeler.

The Man of Mystery has focused his gaze into her eyes and enthralled her to tell them the whole story.  He is tired to trying to gently gain information.  He twists her mind to believe that she was actually a quadruple agent who worked for Victor.  She starts telling them what he knows.  She admits the plan was to get Kenji Katana.  He was the focus of the train heist.  The Princess Anastasia was not even relevant to his plans.  "It was always about Kenji.  Always about making sure that no one would be able to stop his plan.  Kenji was the only one who could stop it."

The bandages fall.

Kenji stares at his own face.  The Count Baron von Duke has the same exact face.  But covered in scars, with threads that show he had been sewn up together so many times.

"What is a body supposed to do without a soul?"

Kenji Katana realizes that the Count Baron von Duke is actually his body.  The body he had left behind after he had escaped into a metal body.  Wheeler explains to Victor and the others that the body had become sentient and somehow crawled and sewed his body back together again.  Walter wonders aloud how could Wheeler know all these things, but no one hears his question.  Wheeler merely continues to talk about how the body is not just an animated corpse.  How she infiltrated the group deeper to understand more and learned that the body remains alive because somehow, the Count has the power to command and control every cell in his body.

"It was a matter of Science.  The Seven Warlords of Japan desired the ultimate weapon against the West.  Kenji Katana was chose to carry the greatest gift of Nippon.  And that gift was not the sword.   It was the blood."

Svetlana asks if Wheeler means he is like a Super Soldier.  She asks if Kenji Katana was also given the serum that was created to be given to the super soldier candidates.  Svetlana is confused why Wheeler is sharing the information as well and Victor tries to help.  Walter asks Wheeler where the Count had taken Kenji and she tells him that would be the Final Invisible Fortress.

"Victor, what is the Final Transmission?" Walter asks Victor but to everyone's surprise Wheeler retorts, "Exactly.  The vector is the final transmission."  Wheeler's body suddenly twists and distorts and within seconds, the group stares at an exact duplicate of Kenji Katana (or at least they would have recognized the face had they seen him before).

He refers to Kenji Katana as the ID held in control while the Count is the EGO.  Kenji asks about the body he is using and the Count admits it is his body, recreated cell by cell by his own will.  He claims the physical limitations of form are but a desire away.  "We are the new Adam."

The starry sky is now showing a new display in the sky.  The planet Earth.

Wheeler/Kenji is telling the group of how all the final Invisible Fortresses are releasing the final transmission.    He addresses them all proudly, telling them of his masterful plan: a virus has been released and is now airborne, and in a matter of time everyone in the entire planet will become transformed... into Kenji Katana as well.  It will become an entire world remade in a single image.  A world of disciplined warrior-poets.  A world of peace.

"Message delivered.  Unification begins."

Victor remembers Percy's words of a world with a single face.  They thought Percy meant the Normalists.  Now they realize Percy meant Kenji's face.   The group learn the Final Invisible Fortress is supposedly in the moon, and the group consider options on how to get there.  Svetlana tells them she just received emergency broadcasts from Russia as well.  Reports that there are reports of other people transforming into a single face.  Victor calls his contacts in London among the CIA about the virus as well, and tells them they have some kind of disease-related problem.  They inform Victor that they are receiving reports from their own Intelligence communities of a strange affliction of people gaining the same face.  They refer to the incident to be similar to a plague.  The CIA lament that the Professor Noble is dead but realize that means it is time to do it.  They tell the group to head to London immediately.  They hurry to a plane in hopes to meet with the government agents and map out a plan.  While flying in the air, Glorianna Sheeda visits Victor a second time, and amused with the incidents asks Victor a second time if he would help her form the Order.  Victor however tells Glorianna Sheeda that a world of Kenji might be a problem she would have to deal with alone.  And when Glorianna muses that seducing a single lonely Asian man would be easy, Victor counters that Kenji probably wouldn't have human urges by then.   However things turn for the worst when while midflight, Walter notices the plane is dipping lower towards the water.   Balancing on the plane, he maneuvers to the front of the plane and discovers that Svetlana seems to have been affected by the virus!  She begins to transforms before their very eyes into Kenji.  She, unfortunately, was the person who was piloting the plane.  

Victor turns down Glorianna Sheeda a second time.  And the plane strikes the water.

Kenji tells the Count he cannot allow this to happen.  The Count tells Sputnik to use his telekinesis to tear away the body he had given Kenji.  He reassures Sputnik that Kenji will survive, given he is merely an intelligence trapped in a stone.  Sputnik hesitates.  Sputnik asks Kenji if he would have stopped people from allowing his love, Laika to die.  The Count, it seemed, claimed to Kenji that if the world is all Kenji, Laika would never be sent to space.  Kenji asks Sputnik to trust himself.   He allows Sputnik to tap into his thoughts and begins to find more and more images of Kenji's memories with Cosmo.

But as the Count realizes what Kenji is doing, upon seeing the telepathic glow of Sputnik flickering between Gold and Red, he suddenly draws out a pistol to shoot at the dog.  Kenji sees this and flings his blade in hopes of stopping the Count.  The blade flies but if leaves Kenji's hand a second too late, hitting through the gun and into the Count's hand.  The bullet flies and it meets a mark.  It hits as the light is golden. To Kenji's surprise, however, the Count begins screaming and crying about how Kenji had made him do this.  How he had made him kill Cosmo, when what he wanted to do was kill Sputnik.  Had he killed Sputnik, Cosmo would then be able to exist since the Sputnik line would have ended.

Kenji however wonders if this also suggests that the Count shares his emotional attachments in more ways than he realizes.  Perhaps they are more a single person than they realize!

"You don't deserve your body," the Count growls and Kenji begins to feel his body rebel against him.

Monday, September 22, 2014

After the Rain ep14 : Houses of the Blooded

After the Rain

Episode Fourteen
"Wine and Cookies"

In the Wilderness.
The Airship created by Haroun sails over the vast landscape. Nia Jalan and Jaric Thayl whisper in private about how many had fallen from the airship during the journey back before the others were finally permitted to climb onboard.   Those who had been allowed on board hide any signs or hints of ill will towards the ones formerly called the Ork Ven. By the end of the first Season of traveling, the Airship reaches familiar land:  the home estate of Nia Jalan's parents.    The ven scream in panic upon seeing the orks in the sky, unaccustomed to the presence of orks in the vicinity.  Jaric is surprised to overhear Haroun Q'n muttering about how the City ven had been raised in the city for too long that they panic at the first sight of orks.  Nia is stunned to realize how much Haroun has changed.  They discuss on what they are to tell the Senate about the newcomers and of how to inform Althea  Thorne of Seran and Galeo's disappearance.  Jaric recalls the visions the red-haired demon had shown him, and he has shared them with Nia, but he does not believe he can trust them.  Haron talks about how he pledged to keep Seran safe, and that he will have to report to the Senate to report that he had broken his word.  Jaric tries to stress the need to deal with the lost ven, as well as the Demon that is now free.  Nia supports the need to prioritize the matter, however Haroun admits he does not grasp the concept of demons.  Haroun admits he knew of a group that was fascinated with demons: Colora Mwrr, a man who slipped into Solace a few years ago whom obsessed over demons.  The Senate deemed the tomes Colora wrote as Sorcery and had them destroyed.   His daughters, however, might be willing to share information.  The daughters however stand in opposing poles on how demons should be dealt with.  Isla believes that Demonology is a lore best left buried.  Viverra thinks demons are just tools.  Zruda laughs at both for having such fascinations with what she considers to be fiction.  Zsanos Yvarai had Romances with each of them, it seems.  The three sisters have the same face, and all of them are Serpents.  Haroun discusses more about his concern regarding "his word" and he may need to revoke his request to have the husband Blooded.  Having failed to keep Seran safe, he may have to attempt damage control to allow the others to keep their own lands as well.  Haroun considers reclaiming the land of Seran's, to hold under his shadow until Althea Thorne bears another child.

Down below, the roadmen stare nervously at the airship.  The group lands the airship with Nia Jalan taking lead to introduce their presence to his family. The land below, after all, is familial grounds.  Orion Steiner is happy to see Nia return, and curious to notice the many accompanying her.  She introduces them as Ork Ven of another Shan'ri from far away.  He asks if they are of the House Ork, and this question bothers the gathered.  Nia quickly whispers an explanation of how they were addressed as Orks in the season prior, but the father merely finalizes then that the visitors are not of House Ork.   Haroun addresses the Lord Protector and asks for an explanation.  Orion narrates how the Senate House was struck by a tremor, and what spared it from destruction was the rising of a massive hand built of deceased ven bodies.  The hand rose to support the Senate House from falling. He mentions they are lead by the Duchess of the Ruins Beneath: Dranna Ru.  Haroun is happy to learn his sister is alive.  Nia, less so, to the point she calls Dranna Ru a harlot!   Haroun reminds Nia Dranna Ru is his sister and Nia is aghast to realize that makes them cousins!  Orion shares the House Ork was recognized as of a Season ago, and Jaric relates the timetable to match when the other Shan'ri fell.  Jaric asks what did happen to Dranna Ru and Nia just reminds him that she fell into a hole and died.  Haroun asks to speak with Orion and tells the rest that they leave in the morrow.  Dalvinosh Steele, the former Earl of the Elk, asks to see Nia and Jaric and discusses with them the coming future given they are now all landless ven.  Nia considers having him meet her father, thinking it would be interesting for her father to meet an outsider.  Dalvinosh also asks about the nearby temple and Nia shares that it is the temple of her mother who had achieved Suavenhood.  Another ven asks if the two control the Orks in the air.  When Dalvinosh tries to shush her, she reminds him that he is no Earl anymore.  Nia tells them the Orks do what they want.  Another asks if there is danger and Jaric affirms there is some element of danger, hence the roadmen standing ready to protect them.  The concept boggles the mind of many of the Ork ven.  One even asks what a Roadman is, and the two remember how limited the scope of understanding the Ork ven have of living beyond a city.  Szaz Ashken calls for Jaric and pushes through the crowd to get to him.  She understands more how huge the lands are for the two, and how the City ven truly were living in such a tiny place.  When the voices arise with all the questions, Jaric reminds them to mind their manners and wait their turn to speak.
Dalvinosh Steele, Former Earl of the Elk

At the Althua.
Dranna Ru and Seran Thorne share a moment in the party.  Seran speaks of her joy to see Dranna Ru alive, a statement Dranna Ru asks if it is sincere.  The Duchess still feels slighted that her "friend" had abandoned her to her death.  Seran asks how she lived and Dranna Ru simply says it was an event beyond reason.  Seran tries to rekindle ties but Dranna Ru seems to be defensive in her statements.  When Seran mentions she is leaving soon to search for the others, Dranna Ru takes that moment to say, "Searching for the others?  Another group you abandoned."  Thankfully, Seran ignores the insult and merely admits it was not an act of choice.  Dranna Ru does eventually admit she is grateful to see Seran, because they had a moment in the winding passageways that were pleasant times.  The clothes (made of living Orks) seem to reflect an anger held within.  Seran shares only she and Galeo Silja have returned, but that it is still possible that the others are alive.  Dranna Ru shares she spent a year trying to regain her strength, and most of that time was also spent wondering if those she considered dear to her were coming to her rescue.  She asks about Lukas and Seran firmly asks her not to ask about him.  "He is dead."  Dranna Ru admits that changes her plans, and insists that will have to wait for another day.  Seran directly asks if Dranna Ru is planning a Revenge, and Dranna Ru simply answers, "We are Ven."  She asks to see Galeo and Seran at another Althua, to be held in the Castle of Sorio Ruso.  It will be a larger event than the one they were attending, but she assures them there will not be a need to bring Gifts.

Count Kether converses with Galeo Silja in the other side of the room.  He asks Galeo if the other man in the room is Lukas, and Galeo tries to deflect answering his questions.  She tries to use her Sardonic Wit to her advantage.  The truth of the discussion would not, after all, forward any of his plans.  Kether tells Galeo that he has been in touch with Hero, and he referred to himself as the Painter.  The last time Hero did so, people were not certain if Galeo was a woman.  Kether admits he already knows that Galeo is a woman, but has no idea on the sex of their child.  "Male, female, it doesn't matter to me now.  What matters to me more now is the Art."  Kether admits those are wise words, almost sounding like something Cherno has spoken of.  When Galeo looks confused, Kether tells her about an elusive figure who has been causing waves in the Art field.  The artist rose into prominence in Galeo's absence.  "Cherno is Art. And all have relished the chance to bear witness to his work."  Galeo finds it unthinkable that someone has achieved this in two seasons.  She was once the benchmark, and now in barely three Seasons, she has become passe.  "True, he does good work, but the reason he is popular is because his first works reminded people of my work.  Derivative."   Galeo, however, sensed deep inside this Cherno was a True Competitor.

"But then he transformed himself by the Second Season.  He created Living Opera."  Kether admits he cannot explain it further... how it is Opera yet not.  How the stories keep changing.  Galeo questions if he has abandoned form.  Kether, however admits it is not about abandoning form, but instead was finding a way to tell more than one at the same time.   "He has met the Challenge against the Ridicule.. well assuming he is a man.  We are not certain if he is a man, or what House he is from.  He just appears.  No Gallery.  No Opera House.  And when it appears, word spreads about it and everyone rushes to see it."

"He makes Art into a snack?" Galeo gasps.

"Many see it more as he makes Art into a Moment.  Like when a Comet passes over the sky.  It is like you see it, or you do not."  He tells her how many have been selling their Art because they never change.  And the Merchants have been celebrating it.  Kether admits to have seen one of Cherno's work.  It was like making love.  "It was the most intimate experience I had ever had."  Others overhear the conversation and start to join the conversation, speaking about other works that they had seen.  One mentions a work by the waterfall.  How the most recent one had five veth, or perhaps Ruk.  The performers know nothing of Cherno, or of the next work.   Kether admits laughing about it at first, but things totally changed for him upon witnessing it.   He even confesses that he doesn't think he will ever love again.

Seran tells Galeo about her talk with Dranna Ru.  Galeo, however is lost in her thoughts on the matter regarding Cherno.  What holds her tongue is seeing Seran dressed in mourning clothes.  When Seran overhears and asks about Cherno's work, they see how the speakers all talk of his work as if it were... a Romance.  Seran actually asks Galeo if she is Cherno and Galeo cannot help but find that a borderline insult.

Maja Thayl, Jaric's mother, discusses with Galeo the matter of Cherno but quickly diverts the discussion to whether or not Galeo is willing to be a voice for the Uv'shanadir.  Galeo is uncertain if she should be involved in politics, especially given she has friends to mourn.  Maja reminds Galeo they are in an Althua, and they should NOT speak of mourning unless they were dressed in such.  Galeo shows her dress is meant to show mourning.  But Maja questions why she would wear such a thing given Hero still lives.  Not even Galeo's explanation of having witnessed so much death fazes her. Galeo admits she was thinking of having Cassalanter become Maja's ward, and she admits she has need for a Court Scholar.  Galeo finds it interesting considering Jaric's connection to the past.  Maja then shares that was because Jaric had Blessings when he was young.   He had an Uncle who was a Serpent who promised him that he would grow up to resemble him in many ways.  "Funny, I can't quite remember his name. I normally never forget a face.  All I could remember was that he was a Serpent in his Winter years.  He had a ring that he left with Jaric..."  When asked if that was Ato, Maja admits it wasn't him.  If not a Court Scholar, Maja offers to have the Cassalanter be a Mason.  Galeo does request that Cassalanter is to be unknown while in her service.  Maja however cautiously tells Galeo that many are starting to find that more like a "cliche" now than a true mystery.

Kether asks Seran about her colors and she tells him she mourns her husband. He asks if he suffered, and she simply tells him the point is he is gone.  Kether shares his condolences and hopes he did not suffer.  "I am not known for my Kindness.  I am known for my Honesty and my Ruthlessness.  But I also realize now that one must learn to feel."  When Seran asks if this is from Cherno's art, he admits he is.  He questions if she will rise to his challenge.  Seran believes she will in time.

"I truly believe he did not suffer," Kether adds, "In fact, if he was by some chance here right now, the only true suffering he feels is seeing you unhappy."

Seran tries to ask of his wife and Kether shares that she had grown tired of him and committed suicide.  Her last act of defiance was not to leave her. Instead it was to show she could not change even as he did.   Seran wonders how great Cherno's work is to have changed people so much, and wonders more how to get a chance to see the work.  Kether leans close and whispers to her that there is a group that shares word of any sighting of Cherno's work.  He invites her to join but warns that Galeo would probably not be welcome.

Back at the fringes.
Down from the ship, Nia makes her way straight to the castle and smells the roasting meats and hears the laughter.  Haroun and Orion are enjoying a meal.  Nia shares that there is a group that wishes to see mother's temple and Orion thinks it would be good to allow them in that she would gain more followers.  An extra table is set up by the staff.  Nia proudly shares that Haroun is no longer afraid of Orks, and he admits she helped him learn to handle the fear.  Orion finds the Ork Ven fascinating, given their claim to have a Senate within a single City and more.  Nia joins them.

Szaz and Jaric are still on the ship and feel the others may have forgotten they are still on the vessel.  They muse this is Haroun "forgetting" intentionally as another act of reminding people what they did to him.  They discuss how vast Shan'ri truly is  and Szaz questions how one can even control such large expanses of territory.  Jaric talks about the roles vassals play and suggests to Szaz that perhaps the Spiders would like to.. work for him in some form.  Szaz admits they helped not out of altruism, but it was of Cunning and Patience.  Jaric Blesses Szaz with Moving the Pawn to "Spread your Shadow across the lands, and in that way, mine as well." Having agreed to trust one another, the spiders begin to disembark from the ship.
Orion Steiner, Marquis

Back in the castle.
The former Earl arrives, and Orion turns to Nia to follow her lead on approaching the man.  Nia identifies him as the former Earl and does note that he is landless.  Haroun just shrugs that the man is Ruk.  The guests are welcomed, and Dalvinosh Steele is presented as "the former Earl".  Haroun however still raises a question if that is how a Ruk is supposed to be addressed.  Nia defers to his wisdom as Duke.  Orion calls is a matter of entertainment, and addresses the Ruk as having been "once an Earl."  Dalvinosh drops to one knee and declares they have come as having been summoned.  Haroun laughs, tells them to join them at the table, and tells them they are all guests of Orion Steiner.  Haroun pulls a chair for Dalvinosh and insists he sits and even offers to go get the wine for the former Earl himself.  Orion throws Nia a glance and asks what is going on, not wanting to be involved in these things.  "There is a reason your father picked a Province far from everyone else!"

"There is also a reason your Daughter picked a Province from the other side."

"You realize that made you furthest away from me!"

A moment as the two realize what they both have just come to realize.    The two however are worried that Haroun might be planning a Revenge and they wonder if they should send word on the matter to the Senate.  There is even concern that Althea Thorne would rain down upon them acts of cruelty.  Orion shares that Haroun did mention he laments the deaths of Seran Thorne and Galeo Silja.   He also realizes he may have triggered this as the Ruk are not covered by the Unblooded laws that the Senate now respects, at least not until they are formally registered in the Senate.  Nia realizes this may be the reason Haroun is on a warpath.

At the kitchen, Jaric wanders into the chamber to find Haroun currently looking at a few bottles of wine. Haroun rises with a bottle of wine in his hands and he recorks it.  Jaric asks about the wine and Haroun tells him flatly, "Not for you.  The Lord's Protector has many other fine vintages available, but this bottle is not for you."  They open another bottle and take a drink.  Jaric asks if he has told Haroun about the Demoness and he shares the visions he had seen in the forest.  The demoness was supposedly a wish-giver and she could only do so and her wishes were delivered with unforeseen consequences or terrible prices to pay.  He shares how the demoness was offering to bring him home, but he refused.  Jaric wonders if the visions had any truth in them, but they seemed to suggest that Seran and Galeo and the veth were possibly tempted with such wishes as well to escape the storm.    At the thought that they may have survived, Haroun uncorks the bottle he held back and suddenly drinks a third of it.  He offers it to Jaric as well and as he tastes it, the flavors catch him off-guard.  "It was supposed to be a wedding present.  A wedding which I thought would never happen. I was planning to serve it as a reminder that it would never happen."  Haroun feels a surge of hope. Galeo would likely agitate the demoness enough to make the bargain.  Seran would find a way to keep the others safe.  "The probably are already home!"   Haroun is too excited at the thought the others are possibly alive, that he totally ignores Jaric's warnings that the demoness is the biggest threat they may be facing.
Maja Thayl,
Voice of the U'vshanadir

Back in the Althua.
A servant comes up to Seran.   She was lost in her thoughts of the previous days.  Seran had attempted a few flights in the Glider but clearly the vehicle is unable to take long journeys.  She begins preparing supplies for a new expedition.    The servant hands her a bottle of wine and motions to the far table.  The man is dark-skinned with wavy hair.  He wears green and lavender with a touch of white, clearly here to enjoy the Althua.   The man is Rajid Reinhold, and Galeo shares with Seran that the man is shrewd dealer of airships.   Maja clinks the glass to call for everyone's attention and tells them there is only time for one event: either an Opera or a journey into a Puzzle House for everyone to explore.  While the ven first applauded at the mention of an Opera, the silence that follows the moment a Puzzle House is mentioned is unmistakable.  Galeo tells Hero she feels musical, while Hero admits he does not feel too well.  When Galeo asks since when did ven get sick, he admits it might be something  to do with cookies he had.  Galeo recognizes the cookies and throws a glance at Dranna Ru.  Galeo whispers to Hero that he probably is poisoned and stands and rushes off to try to purge it out of his system, especially given they have no apothecary to have provided them an antidote.  Galeo holds Casselanter closer.  The ribbons are held up for voting.

Maja announces that the Opera wins as the chosen activity.  A servant comes up to her and whispers something to her ear.  Maja suddenly heads off the stage without a word.  Many start to throw glances at each other.  Some begin to stand up look around.  Count Kether suddenly stands up and throws Seran and Galeo a glance, then hurries off towards a door.  As Galeo stands and carries Casselanter in her arms, a servant comes up to Seran and places a plate of cookies down to the table in front of her.  Galeo uses her Blessing to speak without words to warn her to leave.  Seran feels a man grab her arm and she looks up to see Rajid.  The man tells her that he has heard news that she had been attempting to breach his lands via air, and she realizes Rajid was merely the Ven who cast a shadow on the neighboring Province.  He offers to loan her an airship and she asks him to discuss things come Spring instead.   Galeo and Casselanter hurries to the exit, and keeps an eye out for Maja, Kether and Seran.  Seeing the two leave the same door, Galeo motions at Seran to hurry out that same door.

They find Hero outside, telling them that a woman came up to him and handed him an antidote.  He feels better now.  They see the woman he is speaking of and discover is a Ork woman.. one of the Ork's Dranna Ru wore.  The three hurry out of the corridor to leave. They exit and find Maja and Kether gasping for air outside in the courtyard.    Kether looks up and notices their numbers.  "He...  is still.."

Galeo realizes she had left Lukas inside.

Kether knocks on the door, demanding it be opened to get "his vassal" inside.  Galeo is starting to wonder, however, why Kether seems so concerned for Lukas, given everyone else supposedly knows him to be Errol, Landless Lord of the Forgiving Hands.  Seran is asking for an explanation to what is going on.  Seran is starting to think that the man Kether is worried about is the Cherno guy.  Maja thanks the Suaven that the others are outside and asks them who else was permitted to leave.  The word permitted makes Galeo wonder.  Kether mentions it was the Cookies that was the sign.   Maja tells Galeo the poisoned cookies was meant to deliver a message that they should get out.  Galeo asked what does Dranna Ru want and Maja tells them she wanted the Province.  She is claiming it.

"It is over," Maja turns to the door, "It is too quiet.  My Althuas are never this quiet."

Kether is worried.  He couldn't get the door open. And blood is now oozing out from under the door.  Galeo shakes her head.  This can't be how it ends.  The Demoness could not have let Lukas die.

The door opens.
Dranna Ru emerges.  She tells them she is happy they all saw and understood the message.  She knows some ate them rather than understood it, so she hopes they received the antidote as well.  She tells them she now has lands, and all she asks in return is that they respect that.  She tells them they were invited to see her, still forever one of the Ven.  The others?  She is a Serpent who has conquered the Orks.  She asks them to stand by her as she conquers the rest.

Galeo speaks up, stating she still has a Vassal left inside.  Dranna Ru is surprised, and turns to Seran, to ask, "And you consent to this?"  Kether speaks up telling Dranna Ru that it is a matter best not discussed in detail.  Seran barks at Kether that the question was directed to her, not him.  She asks what is the question about.  Errol is brought out by the Orks.  There are arrows that have pierced all through his clothes but not his skin.  Seran recognizes him instantly as Galeo's vassal.  Galeo steps forward and tells Dranna Ru that is she would like to discuss this matter further, they can meet to discuss things in a future date.  Galeo, however, realizes that Dranna Ru no longer has the Earring.  Dranna Ru bids them a safe journey but does tell them if any of them wish to ally with her, she would be grateful.  She reminds them that she still remembers Isolde.

Kether pulls Seran away as she tries to talk to Errol and Galeo about how he was able to avoid all the arrows.  Galeo pulls Errol away, and he mumbles to her about how the arrows somehow just all happened to miss her.  Maja comes up to Seran and asks if she had been to the Citadel.  Seran admits she has yet to see Jaric's wife.  Maja admits she had heard about their return already and given the Season that had passed without his return, she had assumed the worst.  Maja admits she should.  She tells him that Jaric's wife has pushed forward her place, reminding her that Jalani is the most protective mother she knows - and she has friends among the Senate.

Back at the Frontier.
The door opens to reveal Jaric with a bottle of wine.  All the others sigh in relief that it isn't Haroun.  They ask if Haroun has a sword, or something, but Jaric tells them he saw the Duke recorking the bottle of wine he is now drinking, how they talked about demons.  Orion suggests to Nia that she head off with Jaric to somewhere else safe, so when Haroun returns, they need not worry about a possible act of Murder.   Nia suggests Jaric see the library, but Jaric reminds her he has already seen it before.  Nia suggests he might want to read about her grandfather who created airships.  Orion presses and asks where the Duke is and Jaric finally remembers to tell them that they need alternate arrangements to get home.  Nia breaks into a run to try to catch him.

Nia gets to the airship which is already moving.  Many of the Ven are rappelling down as quickly as possible.  Yelling, Nia tells Haroun not to dare leave.  He explains he has to go to her, and she tells him she knows his sister is alive but there is no need to run to her.  Haroun stares at her, confused, and throws an anchor down.  He leaps down to talk to her and tells her he was talking about Seran and Galeo.  Nia however is wondering if he had too much wine.  Haroun explains that Dranna Ru, the awful woman, is alive and he doesn't seem to recall this despite being what they discussed just minutes ago.  Haroun suddenly begins to break down, choking on his own tears as he mumbles about how Seran and Galeo have to be alive or he would have really failed them, about how Dranna Ru was someone he had failed, and now she is alive and she will never forgive him, and now he fears Seran and Galeo are really alive and fears they will never forgive him.  Nia simply states this is all the more reason not to rush off alone and that he best wait for Jaric and her to join him.  She tells him to stop crying and calm down.  Szaz watches from the ship and realizes that this is a chapter in the book she read... leading to the last time the Duke will be seen as far as the story goes.

Orion shares the Ork House is a Ven House with a small number of members, with ven who claim to have mastered the Orks.  The house only has four members, with Dranna Ru being one and the remaining three being Serpent sisters.  Jaric finds it fascinating and admits he is uncertain if there is anything he can do to help.  He admits Dalvinosh Steele's treatment of them back in the City was absolutely neutral, as Cunning a move as it was.  Dalvinosh admits those who are still loyal who have been permitted to stay on the ship are hoping to offer a proposition: one which only the one interested be permitted to hear.  Jaric jokes that he does not suppose there are only four of them.

Back in Shan'ri,
Seran is on the Glider, on her way to the Citadel to visit Jalani, Jaric's wife.  Her thoughts race back to a conversation with Galeo before they parted ways.  Galeo tells Seran to prepare for the arrival of the others.  Seran is confused how Galeo would know this.  Galeo suggests that she suspects the Demoness would relish the suffering brought about by small moments of hope.  All Galeo is certain is that they should know that they are all alive.  Seran wonders if there is a chance even Lukas is alive, but Galeo does not respond to that.

Jalani Ballan, Baroness of the Citadel
A trebuchet flies at her!  Seran dodges it skillfully and allows her pennant to unfurl.  The Baroness of the Citadel calls for the roadmen to hold their fire and allows them to land.  She then directs Level 7, her spy network, to come up to her and confirm her identity.  Finally, she walks up to them and asks Jeeves to identify them.  Jeeves admits she is as he recalls him.  The Baroness Jalani then calls for one who hands her a small place cube of black glass.  Jalani stares through the Obsidian and asks Seran to state her name.  It is only after all that when she steps to Seran, takes her hand, and tells her,"I know of the Demon.  And I know her name."  They head indoors as Jalani admits the Demon may be watching.

As they talk about a dress for mourning, Jalani leads them to a sealed room where James and Jessie are waiting.  Seran is guided to the center of the room where a small square table with two chairs awaits.  As they sit, the two kids head off to leave them at the table.  Jalani sprinkles rose petals on the surface.  "First things first, my husband is never to know of this."  Seran is shocked that she is already Blooded.  Jalani admits she was even before Jaric married him. She offered to Blood Lukas but he refused and wanted Seran to be the one to Blood him.  Seran shares her plan to attempt to return in Spring to search for them.  Jalani admits she knows he is alive because she has met someone and shows her a broken pearl she has in possession.  She admits she knows better than to wait for her husband to make decisions.   Seran shares that Jaric was acting like a Serpent in the entire time they were out there.  Jalani tells her about Demons, about how there are only six demons in Shan'ri, and how five of them have been imprisoned if not destroyed.  Jalani identifies the Demon as the Seductress.  A deceiver.  She knows that in Demonology the best way to dismiss a Demon is to find whoever made the End Pact, the original deal that brought the Demon out.  She asks Seran to bear in mind that when a Demon chooses a target, they tend to stick to it until they've destroyed it enough to move on.  Seran thinks the target was the other Shan'ri.  Jalani is afraid Seran is the new target and this is but the beginning of what she has planned.

"You could try," the red-haired woman has appeared in the room.  "You could try to keep things from me.  And I might not hear what you two are discussing, but not all of you are always safe, are you?"

Jalani tells Seran quickly to avert her gaze.  To ignore the Demon.  To give it attention allows her to try to sink in her lies to make you act in her desired way.  She forces you to make deals.  Jalani admits she thinks Seran's servants gave in where her children will not.   Jalani reminds Seran that while the Demon cannot hear a single thing they are staying, it can still see what they are doing.  "Look worried," Jalani tells Seran as she explains that Sorcery is the same power that the Demons respect.  The Demon will attempt to convince them she knows what they are discussing.  She can only read minds of those who give her permission to do so.  Jalani even admits that the Demons probably used to be Ven.  Seran wonders if the process can be reversed.

"Children, your mother is not paying me any attention.  Would you like to go out and play?"

Jalani ignores the taunt.  Seran feels worried.  But Jalani tells Seran, "Watch."  The children turn to face the Demon with a smile.  They excitedly say they can play and reveal the black glass cubes in their hands!   The Demon recoils in fear.  She vanishes.

"Obsidian, isn't it?" Seran realizes.  She draws out the Compact in her things and shows it to Jalani, asking if it would help.  Jalani offers to demonstrate.  She takes the Compact, pricks Seran's finger, then clasps it closed with an audible click.  Seran stares blankly, not remembering.  Jalani smiles, and explains the Compact can steal away a moment of memory.  But it requires something of the target.  She admits a friend of her's used that kind of an artifact once to forget his own plans.  They will discuss more in the time to come.

Quan Wei, Former Dara
Galeo, on the other hand, finds another archway waiting for her at her home.  She steps through and finds herself back in the distant temple - the temple she always thought to be the temple of Thalia Yvarai.  Galeo walks past the white stone horse, and quietly goes to the woman she always thought was Thalia.  They lock gazes.  Thalia looks away and admits she wishes she had not lied to the Artist.  Thalia admits she had hoped to escape the tragedy.  Galeo asks her to confess what role she intended Galeo to play.  Thalia admits she wanted Galeo to find the real Thalia Yvarai.

"Then who am I speaking to?"

"A memory.  One formerly called Quan Wei."

Galeo begins to realize Quan Wei sent her in her place: One Dara after the other.  Quan Wei admits she had hoped that by staying away from them all, the old balance would be retained.  Quan Wei promises to tell no more lies.  She tells Galeo that she will lift away the veil.  Galeo's eyes shimmer with light.  Quan Wei is suspended in white silken threads at the center of the temple.

"Do you still hear me even in my sleep?  You see now how I truly am."

A Suaven.  She shares how when the Senate fell, all save Thalia Yvarai were brought away. Galeo asks what the Dara is and Quan Wei admits the Dara was meant to be the balance of the Demon: All the Dara had, the demon had.  Galeo shares the Demon has become the Storm.  And that its name is with Madelyn Yvarai.   Quan Wei shares when they last fought, the Storm was upon them but the Storm was on neither side.   Galeo asks if the Red-Haired Demon is not the Storm.  Quan Wei admits she is not, even if she laid waste to a part of Shan'ri as one.  Quan Wei now admits that Galeo is not the Dara.  She was only someone she had hoped would complete was Quan Wei failed to do.

She warns Galeo that he has been with her:  The Grinning Man is with the Woman with Red Hair.  She asks Galeo to forgive her for not being the Thalia she wished for.

At the Fringes,
Haroun tells Orion everything he has learned in his discussions with Jaric and Nia.  Dalvinosh is happy to leave the meal with his life.  Haroun tells them he wants to still leave tonight, to know the truth.  Nia agrees to accompany him.  Jaric agrees to go as well as asks to be dropped off first.  Jaric does tell them that Szaz and the Spiders will take residence in his City.  Nia asks if Haroun has plans as she has claimed some.  Haroun shares the remainder he will bring to the Senate.  Nia admits (hesitantly) that sounds fair.  Haroun asks about Dranna Ru and Orion admits she has no land.  The Senate has, however, agreed that she "owns" all the Ruins beneath the Ruins and Regions.    Orion admits the Senate is probably buying itself time to decide how to deal with the Ork House.  As Jaric babbles about the historical events showcasing the Senate using delaying tactics before, the group begin to pack up what they can.

Haroun teases Orion that he didn't really think the Duke would Murder someone in his own room.  Jaric feels sad that he may have "missed" a Revenge.  Haroun admits that if anything that can be said of the House, it would be that Foxes don't easily vote.

The airship soon takes to the air.  It is time to head home.

And at Seran's land,
she catches sight of four men tied together with clothes in their mouths.  There are a lot of wood around her feet.  The man who tied them up is now emptying a wineskin on the food at their feet.  She calls out, asking what they are doing but they don't seem to hear her voice.  She flies past them and lands at Galeo's castle.  She quickly tells them of what she had seen and Galeo still cannot grasp the concept of Living Opera.  Hero admits to have seen one, and tries to reassure Galeo that she is better than Cherno.   Hero and Galeo engage in another artistic moment of passion, with Hero whispering that if he had a wish, he would have wished for their child to have survived.

But if anything, the groups - separate as they are - realize they feel hope.

The reunions come as each one finally finds their way home.  Some are sweet, some are painful, some are calm and some.. revelatory.  On Jalani's finger, a wolf ring adorns it.  On Janine face, tears as she tells Nia that she saw it all happen, somehow she did.  On Haroun, a joy of knowing Seran is alive.  And as Hero and Galeo kiss deeply, Lukas sits in the other room, wishing somehow he can return back to Seran's arms.

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