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Subject: Session 2-13: Esteren Stand-Off rss

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Andrea G
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As the group walks out of the castle, they begin to discuss what they've learned. They notice someone walking quite close behind them suddenly, but they don't recognize him. Catriona asks if they can help him; he says he was just deep in thought, then turns and walks away.

At the MacLeur house, they go to Filian's room to continue their discussion. Filian suggests meeting with the Duke to see if they can confirm what either Turian or Aoda told them. Caerian quietly moves over to the door and suddenly pulls it open quickly. He finds a servant (Yvan) approaching the door with some dinner on a tray. Caerian invites him in, and he puts the meal down on a table. Caerian asks if he's seen any of the servants loitering around the door to their room. He notices the servant glances away quickly and thinks a moment before replying in the negative, but Caerian doesn't get the feeling he's lying. Caerian asks him to keep an eye on their rooms and on the other servants, and Yvan looks to Filian and Fiona for their assent. Filian nods; Fiona sighs and tells him flatly to humor Caerian. After he leaves, everyone enjoys the food except Caerian, who remains suspicious of the food. Once the servant is gone, they continue their discussion. It's clear that Catriona does not know who is telling the truth, Fiona sides with Turian, and Caerian and Filian sides with Aoda.

They decide to try to visit the Duke in the Dreamscape tonight and in person tomorrow. However, when they try to enter the Dreamscape, Caerian feels as though there's something holding him back. He isn't sure whether it is because of a Feond or a Morcail. They decide to go to bed for the night.

That night, Caerian is plagued by dreams. His lost fiancee is wandering around dark halls similar to the castle. She calls for help, but he can never seem to reach her to rescue her. He wakes up screaming, which awakens Caerian. Caerian confesses to experiencing the dreams, and Filian hands him something strong to drink.

As the group enjoys breakfast, a messenger arrives with a note for Fiona. Apparently, her trainees are taking their exams today, and she is expected to attend. Before she goes, she asks Catriona to keep an eye on Filian and Caerian, as she believes they may be biased. She agrees that they have no evidence either way, and they have already seemed to have made up their minds. She promises to do her best, and Fiona responds that she trusts Catriona to do well.

Midway through the exams, another messenger arrives. He speaks quietly to Sir Alban, who seems puzzled, and then he pulls Fiona aside and leads her into a small room. Inside, Fiona finds Turian. Turian tells her that he considers her a neutral observer due to her position as a Hilderin Knight. He also tells her that he's concerned someone in her party might be a traitor to the Duchy and that he would like her to keep an eye on them. Fiona promises to do her duty -- she will watch the group and ensure no innocents come to harm or laws broken...but she also tells him that failing to understand politics is not the same thing as acting as a traitor. He accepts her response and stands, then adds that Filian and Catriona were spotted following him through the city...and that he's a bit flattered, honestly.

The rest of the party heads to the castle to see if they can obtain an audience. However, the Duke is not seeing anybody today. They try, instead, to see Lady Aoda, and they are told she is not feeling well enough to have any audiences either. Caerian steps around a corner and camouflages himself using his Demorthen powers. He sneaks into the castle and heads towards the wing where the family has made their home. He finds Lady Aoda working at a desk (perhaps drawing something?) but does not see the Duke. As he watches her, she sings in a soft, eerie voice. He doesn't recognize the tune nor the words -- they appear to be in a different language. She invites him to come closer, and he asks where the Duke is. She says he isn't feeling well and wants to know why he wishes to see him. Caerian tries to tell her he has urgent news for the Duke. When she offers to take the message on his behalf, he tells her that it's for the Duke's ears only. She stands as if to physically block his path and tells him there's nothing Caerian can do for him -- his soul suffers, because he believes she is not his daughter and that she has changed too much from her experience. Caerian tells her that he may be able to help and to protect them if Turian really is a traitor.

Aoda invites him to join her through a doorway, and as she does, he realizes she has been calling him "Caerian the Demorthen" -- which is odd, because she usually calls him "Caerian of Llewellen." She leads him through a dark corridor (and seems able to see in the dark just fine) and leads him into a bedroom where the Duke lies in the bed. He seems to be staring at a wall without seeing it, and he seems to not have bathed or shaved in several days. He kneels beside the Duke while keeping an eye on Aoda just in case she chooses to move against him. The Duke doesn't respond to Caerian, but Aoda does lean in to whisper in his ear to say that she told him so. He casts curative berry on the fruit, then mashes it up and tries to feed it to him. She watches every move he makes intently. When he tries to forcefeed the Duke by pinching his nose shut, Lady Aoda grabs his hands and tells him she cannot allow him to treat the Duke that way. She suggests trying to talk to him instead. He tries, but he's unsuccessful. Caerian persuades Aoda to hold his nose shut, and he notices two things: she looks triumphant, while the Duke looks panicked, as though she's a monster. The Duke gags a bit on the fruit, and then he spits them out. He tells her that the Duke is very afraid of her, and she agrees. When she asks if Caerian is afraid of her too, he tells her he isn't.

Filian and Catriona are miffed at their dismissal, but they do notice Turian leaving the castle. They agree to follow him -- but at a distance. As they travel, Filian asks if Catriona would chaperone his meeting with his fiancee. She is surprised, but she agrees to accompany him. They follow him to the Hilderin Knight Chapter House. While they're waiting, Filian asks a guard to tell Fiona that her brother has arrived. Unfortunately, she's in the middle of the exams and cannot be bothered. The guards tell Filian he should be proud of his sister -- she is really an amazing fighter. After about thirty minutes, Turian leaves and gives them a slight nod. Filian and Catriona return the gesture.

Filian and Catriona stop at the MacLeur household to pick up the gift, and then they go to visit Filian's fiancee. They find her in the garden with a book and her governess keeping an eye on her. She strikes him as more beautiful than what she had been just a month ago when he last saw her. Adeliane giggles and blushes a bit at his introduction. He compliments her on the garden, and she seems to take pride in it. She mistakes Catriona as Filian's servant, but her eyes light up when she learns she's a varigal. Catriona tells her that Filian has been very brave. The servant looks on very disapprovingly and is dismissed by Adeliane when she tries to stop Filian from telling about the foul creatures he's dispatched on his adventures. He tells her about the plant-wolf creatures they faced outside of Seol but is forced to admit that Fiona did most of the dispatching. He does offer to arrange a tour for her of the Chapter House. When he offers her the beautiful sewing kit, he's certain she loves it -- but Catriona can tell she's disappointed. Catriona tries to tell her that he spent a lot of time and effort looking for this gift, but she doesn't seem to appreciate the gesture. He promises to bring her a book detailing their previous adventures. The servant creeps in and tells Adeliane that it's time for lunch. Adeliane gracefully tells him she's looking forward to their next meeting and departs.

After the cadets have finished training, Fiona finds Sir Harald training his own cadets (and by training, I mean screaming at them.) She gently brings up (by claiming she had read about it in the Poems of Myrick -- he pretends to have read them) the care he had taken in arranging for Sir Alban's squire to keep an eye on her. He seems surprised and claims he knew nothing of the squire watching her. They offer each other a few platitudes then go their separate ways.

Caerian sits beside the Duke so he can try to look into his eyes. While speaking to him, he wants to try to use some of his knowledge of occultism to see if he can impress upon the Duke the urgency of his words. He tells him that the Duchy's daily needs are being seen to by Turian, who is a Demorthen and is therefore not to be responsible for such things. He also tells him that he must return to his duty to keep that which is threatening the Duchy at bay. Aoda helps by kneeling beside him and saying, "Father, please." The Duke's only reaction is to moan softly. Caerian asks her to retrieve some paper and asks the Duke if he wishes to write something down. He does, and he writes: GET HER OUT OF HERE. Aoda refuses to leave. She also agrees to call him simply "Caerian" from now on. He says he fears the Beast's influence on her has grown since their last interaction due to her strange speech patterns and behaviors. She agrees at last to leave, and, when she does, the Duke speaks in a hoarse voice that slowly grows stronger the more he speaks, as though he hadn't spoken in several days. He tells Caerian he mourns for his lost daughter but also that he doubts there is a morcail -- the only thing wrong with this Duchy is "that thing that pretends to be my daughter." But he doesn't know what he can do to help. Caerian suggests calling upon the Council to help them, and he dismisses it as too timely. The Duke tells him Caerian has the authority to do what needs to be done to protect the Duchy and has had it all along. He refuses to directly tell Caerian to lock up Aoda, but he also tells him to do what must be done. The Duke dismisses him, and Caerian has no choice but to go.

Outside, he finds Lady Aoda waiting for him. He tells her that there's nothing more he can do for the Duke and confesses that he has tried to do everything in his power to protect her because she resembles his lost fiancee, Laura. However, like Laura, he's fearful that she's lost forever. When he stops speaking, she tells him she remembered a different name for his fiancee (it was Sian), and he is relieved the old Aoda is still within her. He tells her she must fight the forces trying to consume her and corrupt her. The Beast is abusing its power to control her, and it is immoral. She tells him that one of his companions has a different view of love -- she read her mind the night she was freed from the Beast, and there is no love lost between the two of them. When he asks if she is talking about Sir Harald and Lady Fiona, she just smiles knowingly. He tells her there are different types of love, but she must strive to love as a human. She has the capacity to influence many people, and she must step into a role to protect the people of Seol. She tells him she understands and reminds him that he agreed to take care of Turian. Before he leaves, she gives him permission to look at her drawings -- and although it is unclear what she's drawing exactly, but the three amber eyes are very apparent.

When they meet back up at the MacLeur household, it's obvious to the whole group that Caerian has been crying. Catriona gives him a gentle squeeze on his shoulder and asks what he learned at the castle. But that makes him cry again, and he hugs Catriona and sobs. When he's regained control of himself again, he looks embarrassed, and Catriona asks for some tea. Ivan tells him the servants have been gossiping about when Filian will get married. Filian thanks him and takes the tea back into the sitting room. Caerian confesses he believes she's losing the battle and that he doesn't know what to do anymore. He tells them of his meeting with the Duke and of his deep despair. Once again, the party begins to discuss their options, which range from taking Aoda somewhere to killing her to just walking away.
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