|OUR HEROES:||Tira Wolfsdaughter||Hank Woodman||Haiku Odsdottir||Gilead||Persia|
It turns out that Gilead was kept from accompanying them on their thieves' guild raid by his grandfather. Elias has been approached by the Archon himself about a farm construction project. Ningan would like to make a self-sufficient farm where the city's Riven population could live in peace. There are simillar riven colonies in the city of Haven, and he thinks it high time to build one in Tallon. Gilead is doubtful about segregating the population, but agrees that it is better than the persecution and concealment they presently live in. Elias keeps him up all night going over plans, budgets and maps. The project is an ambitious one.
As promised, the Archon arranges for Russpelt to be safely taken into custody. Two paladins arrive at Persia's doorstep. They are met by Hank, to whom they give a small quantity of a sleep-inducing drug. They instruct the manikin to put it into his food or drink and they will collect him once he is unconscious.
Hank does as told and soon the weasel is totally insensible. The two paladins of Ningan return for him, wrapping him up in the damaged carpet taken from the thieves' lair. With characteristic superhuman ability, they easily leap to and from Persia's loft bearing the unconscious form between them. The next day they come back, bearing a gift from the Archon. In return for the carpet, which was bloody and damaged, they give her a carpet from the Archon's palace. Hank decides that they will need to lay a true floor, as it would be criminal to lay it on dirt.
Several days later, many of the prominent people around the town receive invitations from Grand Mistress Novya. They read:
You are cordially invited to a
Elias, grandfather of Gilead and a devout Novyist manages to extend his invitation to cover his grandson.
Grand Mistress Dakota also receives an invitation. She never attends parties, but gives the letter to Hank. She would like for him to go in her place. She has been giving much thought to the Raven, her bird-golem, and would like to demonstrate it peaceful applications in order to get the General off her back. He would certainly want to use it for the military and Dakota would rather not design killing machines. During this discussion, Hank is surprised to learn just how much Dakota understands about military strategy, a subject he figured she thought little on.
Dakota wants Hank to speak to Elias the Developer, who coordinates many of the guilds of Tallon. If Hank is to pilot the Raven, he will need special permission from Elias or he risks incurring the wrath of the guilds.
Surprisingly, Tira also receives an invitation. This is unheard of for a first-year student. She is curious enough to go. When Hank tells her and Farralon about his own invitation, the elder adept points out that all animates of the city have a standing invitation to Novya's parties. He confers with Tira and they decide that Tira will take Haiku, and Hank will give his invitation to Persia and Char. The heroes are very curious to learn what the response will be to beasts at a party in the Old Circle. How will the potential future Archon act?
Tira is concerned about what to wear, as are Char and Persia. Gilead offers to buy party clothing for all, and Marketday is spent trying on various outfits until all are properly attired. Char is satisfied, however, with getting his tribal gear repaired and repainted.
Gilead is concerned about what his grandparents will think of Tira. He is very intrigued with the young wild adept, but is concerned about how they will receive her. He decides to introduce her before the party, so that they might be as favorably impressed as he is. He invites her to Marketday dinner with his family. Tira is extremely nervous and very confused by all of the table and etiquette rule Gilead is teaching her. Nevertheless, she resolves to mimic his behavior at the table.
That evening, she is welcomed into Elias' home. The old man seems to like her, as does grandmother Hannah. If Tira exhibits any odd behavior, it is easily overlooked. She is after all an adept. If she should prove particularly powerful, she would be a fine match for Gilead, no matter her economic position.
he night of the party comes and it seems all the notables of the city are in attendance. The party is held outside in the beautifully desgined gardens of Novya's estate. There is a large pavilion and buffet, along with a band and dance floor. Lumina lanterns are hunge in the trees and even the flowers seem to exude compelling perfumes.
Gilead arrives early with his grandparents, and is quickly drawn into conversation with Captain Denver, a high-ranking subordinate of General Hannon. The General himself is there, to much surprise. He has brought his wife Eglantine and several Paladins. Jerrick is one of these and exchanges brief words with Gilead.
The rest of the heroes arrive simultaneously. They are greeted by Kanda, a Paladin of Novya, and the first female paladin they have spoken to. If there is any difficulty with Persia and Char, there is not even a flicker of distress on Kanda's face. As a matter of fact, she seems briefed on the beasts and directs them to the buffet, where Ungavan caribou is available for Char and fresh salmon is recommended to Persia.
Hank is admitted without invitation, as expected. He soon finds Elias, who is talking to Master Architect Yale. Yale introduces him and Hank quickly intrigues the developer with his proposal. Elias is very interested in the golem bird and calls his grandson over. He is slightly suspicious when it turns out that Hank and Gilead already know one another. His suspicion is overruled by his desire to use the golem bird for surveying, however.
Eglantine approaches Tira. The General's wife expresses her gratitude for Tira's support during the recent unpleasantness. She seems to be startled and embarrassed by something though and quickly excuses herself. Tira perceives anger as well, though she cannot discern the cause. Following Englantine's gaze towards a group of people across the garden, she does see a fairly attractive exotic young woman, but nothing else out of the ordinary.
Gilead is heading over to say hello to Tira and also notices Eglantine's reaction. He is intercepted by his grandmother, however, who wishes to point out that Pasha is here. Pasha was one of the girls who teased Tira unmercifully when she first arrived at the Hall of Art. Grandmother wishes to impress upon Gilead that Pasha's family is very rich and influential. She is less aggressive in pushing Pasha's hand than she might otherwise be, now that Tira is in the picture.
By this time, Hank is chatting with Parsee the museum curator. He is delighted to have been invited and is certain it is only because of the recent problem with the sword Annihilator. Hank tells the old man how he and his friends recovered the sword. Parsee is impressed, admitting that he is actually glad to have the dangerous thing out of his care.
Tira is now met by the hostess, Novya. The Grand Mistress is very charming and gracious. She seems to know much about the young adept and compliments her on her academic performance. Tira speaks frankly but carefully. Novya also appears to be speaking frankly, but she is aware by now how subtle a Grand Master of Spirit can be. Novya says she is surprised that no one has told Tira how amazing her aptitude is. She says that she may be overstepping her bounds, but tells her that she has the potential for grand mastery herself. Tira is surprised and nearly overwhelmed by this news, but it does explain the notice she has received from some of the powerful people of the city.
Novya goes on to tell Tira that she is also surprised that no one has offered to help ease the financial burden of her education. She knows how expensive that can be. She tells the young girl that she would gladly contribute to her schooling, if she would be Novya's supporter to the Archon. Apparently, she does not have the access to Ningan that the General, or even Tira has. She would like to be kept informed of doings at court and to have her name mentioned favorably to the Archon upon occasion. Tira is noncommittal, but Novya does not press. She tells the girl she can give her answer later in the week. She also offers to help Tira with another problem. Tira has become overly concerned with her age and legal status in the city. Novya says it is a simple matter to discover, but would require a probe. Tira again declines to accept immediately. Novya leaves her to ponder her offers.
Persia is approached by none other than Bishop Thane, attended by a woman he introduces as Sister Winnipeg. The high priest wishes to express thanks on her recent actions on behalf of the city. Not aware that Thane probed Gilead and knows the whole story, she does her best to be polite but ignorant the events he relates. He repeats his thanks and mentions several things that only someone was there would know. This rattles the feline so much that she begs his leave and excuses herself.
Meanwhile, Char has been having a great time. Although he is a bit ignored by the elders at the party, it turns out that many of the young men find wolves, cool. Familiar only with dogs, it turns out that wolves have a certain air of exoticness. He tells this to Hank, who suggests that he learn their names. It never hurts to have too many contacts.
At this point Hank is introduced to Gem. The animate of Novya is as sparkling as her name. She is made entirely of precious substances and is undoubtedly worth a staggering fortune. He speaks with her a bit, but feels slightly uncomfortable. As if sensing this, she attempts to draw him out of his shell. Through sheer force of personality, she manages to drag him onto the dance floor. He is a bit clumsy, but she is talented in this regard and masks his unfamiliarity with grace and ease. Although appearing slightly ditzy, she is obviously a skilled conversationalist, for when they are finished, Hank has trouble remembering exactly what they talked about. Novya seeks him out afterwards and extends an invitation to him to return and visit Gem, should he so choose. He gives a vague answer and points out that Raggedy Jane also might make fitting companionship for her animate.
While Hank was out on the dance floor, Gilead had finished giving his grandmother the first dance and had finally sought out Tira to ask her onto the floor. Tira is nervous but agrees. While they are dancing she becomes aware of disdain and discreet yet scornful remarks from Pasha. The merchant's daughter is seems to be insulted by the fact that Gilead gave the dance to the wolf-girl. She is quite obviously a better dancer and does her best to show up the young adept.
Persia has retreated to the safety of the back of the pavilion when once again she is startled. A menacing voice says, I didn't expect to see you here, Kitty-cat. It is Harker the master of vice in Tallon. She is amazed to find him here, since it was the heroes' understanding that Harker avoids adepts whenever he can. Harker makes several comments about letting bygones be bygones and forgetting the past. His easy words are belied by the fact that he makes several veiled threats regarding the consequences of not following his sensible advice. He makes sure they have an understanding before he leaves her, even more nervous than before.
She nearly leaps out of her fur when Char comes up from behind to ask how she is enjoying herself. The young wolf notices her discomfort and says that dancing would help to calm her. Persia is dubious but allows herself to be pulled off to the side. She will under no circumstances go out onto the dance floor. Char shows her a hunting dance of Ungava that can be done to the beat that is playing and they are soon moving with rhythm. Nevertheless, Persia has had her fill of high society and is ready to leave. She and Char gather Hank and leave the party, but not before Tira teases Char about teaching a cat a hunting dance of the Packs of Ungava.
Gilead takes Tira home from the party. He walks her to her dormitory floor in the Hall. He tries to kiss her good night, but Tira is startled and scared and turns her face so that the kiss lands on her cheek. They part. Gilead returns to his room somewhat confused, but Tira seeing no one else to turn to, runs to Headmistress Halifax's office and collapses in front of her door crying. She remains there all night.