Liturgy of Blood, Chapters 8–14

Chapters 8 through 14 cover the second and third days of the Patriarch's visit. The Patriarch is seen visiting Murikeer in the Keep library, Raven and Merai in the Lothanasi temple, Phil in his quarters, and Rickkter in the hallway. Vinsah has a vivid dream about accepting magic and staying at Metamor, one that haunts him throughout the third day. The four knights feel a presence in the forest, though nothing is discovered. Charles meets Dream Serpent, who joins Egland in a duet at the Deaf Mule.

Summary

Chapter 8

The second day of the Patriarch's visit, Charles awakes to find Garigan has already left to practice his Sondecki. As he brushes his fur, he reflects on the taur form he recently learned from Misha, and decides to practice it again. After initial difficulty, he manages the shift to taur form. He finds it even more relaxing to groom himself as a taur, though he has trouble reaching his Sondeck as a taur.

Someone knocks on the door. Charles figures it is too early to be anyone but Kimberly, and opens it hoping to surprise her. But instead it is Kashin, who had asked permission from the Patriarch to visit him privately. Charles is too flustered to say no, but finally asks why Kashin is interested in him. Kashin reveals that he knows Charles is a Sondeckis, as part of his ability as a Yeshuel. When Charles guardedly confirms, Kashin genuflects and praises the Sondeckis for seeking honor and justice. Charles is surprised and flattered.

Kashin asks about Charles's taur form, and Charles explains it is just a recent discovery. Kashin then asks what it is like to be a Keeper. Charles imagines that gender morphs find it hard to adjust to new social standards, though perhaps less so in the future. He suspects the child morphs will always be frustrated by being weaker and shorter and less attentive. He says as a rat, he's had to completely readjust to his teeth and fur, but gotten used to it by now, and he loves embracing Kimberly via their tails. Kashin laughs that they are more human than some non-cursed humans.

Charles is so happy, he invites Kashin to accompany him on his morning visit to the rats, asking him to step out so he can change back to morph form.

Chapter 9

Akabaieth visits the deep, quiet, religious section of Metamor's library with Vinsah and his two other Yeshuel. He notices a scent and a faint light, and heads towards it despite Vinsah's protests. A skunk morph looks up in shock as the Patriarch apologizes and asks for his name. Murikeer gives his name, and Akabaieth gives his own, telling him to be at ease. Murikeer's eyes dart among the humans, his normal panic oddly pacified by Akabaieth's pleasant gaze and indifference to his omnipresent scent.

Akabaieth gently asks what Murikeer is reading. Murikeer picks a nearby book, a treatise on Artela and Lilith by a Lothanasa, hoping to scare him off. Instead, Akabaieth asks more. Murikeer talks a bit about his experiences with their lands, such as Lilith's woods in the north. Akabaieth comments he must be very resourceful; Murikeer bitterly says sometimes life doesn't offer a choice. Akabaieth gives a look of pained empathy that moves Murikeer.

Murikeer casts two spells to help with the scent, which Vinsah and the Yeshuel were choking on. He asks them to stay, moves some books off a chair, and palms a pale white stone off his table. He asks why Akabaieth has come to the library. Akabaieth says he is curious for knowledge. Murikeer tells him he is currently reading the Book of Twelve Rings. He is curious about its claim that only a few people can learn magic. Most other books, and Murikeer himself, agree that magic is a skill like any other, one that anyone can learn, though few can master. To Vinsah's horror, Akabaieth asks if he too could learn magic. Murikeer suspects Akabaieth already has magic, and that the subtle powers he ascribes to Abba may be his own talent. For those who have magic, and live in lands intolerant of magic, spreading Abba's word could be a necessary outlet for them. Akabaieth agrees; the Ecclesia have already suspected this, and he hopes Yesulam will accept magic in others.

As they speak, Murikeer fiddles with a small quartz stone in his hands. He concludes by saying that magic is a tool like any other, and hands the quartz to Akabaieth, shaped into the face of Akabaieth with eyes of blue lapis. Akabaieth thanks for the words and gift. Before he leaves, Murikeer stops him and says that he once lived in Sathmore near the Pyralian border, where their two faiths were mutually despised; he is surprised to have seen no hostility in him. "There was," Akabaieth says with regret, before he leaves with his men.

Chapter 10

It is mid-morning. Charles has shown Kashin around the cellars and the walls. While looking for more sites, they talk about things such as the Keep's variable geometry, the city of Yesulam, and Charles's writing. Kashin is curious why Charles left the Writer's Guild, and furthermore why he left his clan.

Fortunately, Charles arrives at the Long House, which Finbar is guarding. Charles is always welcome at the Long House, and he says that Kashin will be accompanying him. Finbar still wants to how Kashin snuck up on him, especially as he and his party were downwind. Kashin calls it skill, and muses that perhaps he will tell him later.

In the Long House, Charles briefly meets with Misha in his office. Misha is pleased to see him, as Garigan was looking for him. They talk about how quiet things are with Lutins, and Caroline learning the flute from Dream. Charles wishes he knew Dream better. Before he leaves, Misha asks him spend most of tomorrow on patrol with Finbar; he needs the practice, and the other Longs need a break. Charles begrudgingly accepts.

Misha and Charles exit the office, and Charles introduces Kashin to Misha. Charles shows Kashin the upper halls and the defensive structures, avoiding the rooms restricted to Long Scouts.

Kashin then asks to spar with Charles, as he has never fought a Sondeckis before. Charles has some misgivings, but agrees to fight until one brings the other to their knees. Charles quickly learns that Kashin is well-trained, and relies on fluidity rather than force. Kashin begins weaving some kind of spell, and Charles tries the Longfugos technique. Kashin, however, is able to break through the Sondeckis force and land a kick on the surprised Charles, knocking him down and winning the match.

Garigan watches from outside the Sondeckis training room, ignoring Kashin and asking Charles if he's okay. Kashin starts to walk over, but Charles stops him so he can't see inside the Sondeckis room. Kashin only pushes him briefly before he apologies and leaves for his duties. He hopes Charles will visit Yesulam one day. Garigan asks Charles who he was; Charles says all they need to know is that he is a good man.

Chapter 11

Albert and Egland are touring the valley with Saulius and Andre, riding through its hills and forests. As Saulius races with Albert, Andre reflects how much Saulius's spirit has changed since his years hiding in the dungeon as a rat morph. Egland timidly asks if he could feel Andre's paw, to feel what it is like. Andre laughs and agrees, with a joke not to let anyone see him cheating on his wife.

As Egland protractedly explores Andre's paw, they hear shouts from Saulius and Albert by the trees. They ride to them, and Saulius says something sinister is in the woods and had spooked Albert's horse. Albert himself has a distant look on his face. Andre sees nothing in the forest, and suggests they tell George to send someone to investigate. Egland turns away, having seen a handsome face in the woods that filled him with fear and desire.

In the afternoon, Merai welcomes Akabaieth and Vinsah to the Lothanasi temple. She leads Akabaieth to Raven's office, and Akabaieth asks that she give his 3 companions a tour of the temple, despite Vinsah's protest. Vinsah apologizes to Merai and asks how old she is. She is young, but says service knows no age, to Akabaieth's admiration. Vinsah prays to himself as he walks away; Akabaieth prays for Vinsah to learn.

Akabaieth enters and formally introduces himself to Raven; Raven does the same, and offers some milk. Akabaieth explains his purpose: he wants to relieve the tension between their faiths, and as traditional head of the Lothanasi church, he wants Raven's help working for peace. Raven asks why should they trust him, after he'd spent his earlier years forcing Sathmoran citizens to convert to Ecclesian or die. Akabaieth pales and says he hopes to turn his life around and undo that damage before he dies, and that Vinsah will finish his legacy. Fortunately, Raven does believe him, as she has heard of his kindnesses yesterday and that morning, but that she has less influence with the High Council than her father had.

She takes a book off the bookshelf to show him a prophecy she believes is coming to pass — the Starchild Prophecy. Its prediction of two corrupt holy councils seems prescient, and Raven believes someone is trying to bring about an era of darkness. She tells him about the only two on the High Council she trusts; Akabaieth admits he only trusts a handful as well. He promises to tell her more about the loyalties of Yesulam in time.

He asks that she trust Hough and work with him more closely; she agrees, despite Sathmore's likely objection. Akabaieth says he hopes his visit to the Midlands will relieve tensions with them. Before he leaves, he asks who the Starchild is. Raven smiles mysteriously, and says she can't be sure, but he's probably met her; she opens the door to show Merai giving a lecture on Lothanasi history. Raven gives the subtlest nod to the astonished Akabaieth.

As Akabaieth leaves with Vinsah, Vinsah asks what they discussed. Akabaieth mysteriously replies, "the future".

Chapter 12

Vinsah has been very unnerved by the day's events — the talk with Murikeer, the tour with Merai, and Murikeer's sculpture which Akabaieth keeps looking over.

That night, he dreams he is preparing for morning service in his church in Abaef when an otherworldly woman calls him Elvmere, and shows him that outside is a much milder climate than Abaef. Vinsah asks if it's a dream and who she is, and why she calls him Elvmere. She ignores his questions, and leads him outside to a Metamor-like courtyard, where she disappears. He finds a brook with several stones in it. One of the stones is made of quartz; Vinsah reaches in and grabs it. He is startled when he sees it carved into his face, with a mask-like pattern around its agate eyes, and he puts it back in the river.

The figure of Murikeer chides Elvmere for returning a gift. He pulls it out and offers it back to him. Vinsah says he can't accept anything made from magic. "Murikeer" says that everyone has magic. Vinsah runs away, but "Murikeer" follows him and tells him that "Vinsah" is a mask that he wears to serve a violent man, and shows him a scene from 25 years ago, where a younger Akabaieth tortured and killed a young girl before her mother and brother, for failing to embrace Yahshua. Slowly, Akabaieth realizes what he's done, and he sobs as he drops the knife.

The vision returns to the courtyard, and Vinsah whirls around to find Raven there, and protests to here that the Lothanasi were just as bad. Raven calls him Elvmere and tells him to accept her gift, despite her protests. She fastens a black domino mask to his face; when he curses her, she slaps him and calls him on his casual blasphemy. She says his mask will come off when he is ready. She offers the quartz stone again; Vinsah almost takes it, but is scared and runs away again to the gate.

Now in the form of the dream woman, she calls him to stop, for beyond the gate is darkness and pain. Vinsah takes another look at the grinning man at the gate, and sees his hands covered in blood. Vinsah screams and cowers at the woman's feet. The woman strokes his hair and whispers something in a strange language that calms him and comforts him.

Vinsah awakes, troubled by his dream. He dons some light clothes and steps out, telling the Yeshuel that he is going for a private walk around the Keep. As he contemplates his dream, Dream Serpent steps around a corner wearing a carnival mask, having been told to in his dreams. Vinsah screams in horror and runs away, bumping into Kashin and Iosef who had followed him. Dream quickly snuffs his lantern and darts down a side passage. Kashin, though satisfied that the threat is gone, agrees with Iosef not to let anyone wander the halls again without an escort.

Chapter 13

In the morning before sunrise, Charles and Finbar patrol the south forest where suspicious activity was reported yesterday. They soundlessly creep over the hills and through the grass. They search through the forest, but find no signs of human activity, though Finbar feels a wrongness that Charles doesn't feel. They return to Metamor, hearing a distant storm approaching.

At breakfast, Akabaieth notices Vinsah's restlessness. Vinsah at first says he had a bad dream, and was spooked in the halls by someone who reminded him of his dream. Akabaieth asks more about his dream, as Eli speaks to people in dream. Vinsah choose to describe only the man with bloody hands outside the Metamor gates, and a woman asking him to stay; he wonders if they should stay at Metamor. He is immediately ashamed to have said it, and Akabaieth reminds him that they are on a mission and cannot stay, but would be willing to let him stay. Vinsah quickly affirms that he will stay with Akabaieth too, and not to worry about his dream.

Akabaieth then discusses the approaching storm, and its possible interference with his planned speech. He asks Vinsah to speak with Thalberg for arrangements if so, and Vinsah agrees. Akabaieth continues that he worries there will be limited space indoors, and asks if he could speak to the mages for a solution; Vinsah declines, but can't justify his discomfort well-enough for Akabaieth, especially after Merai made him so welcome. Akabaieth suggests Murikeer; Vinsah quickly agrees and dismisses himself to see to the arrangements.

At midday in the Deaf Mule, Albert, Egland, Andre, and Saulius are drinking and sharing stories, while Dream sits in the corner, listening in but also thinking about last night. Charles asks to join Dream to get to know him better, as fellow storytellers. Dream is pleased by the distraction, and is himself curious about the former Writer's Guild Headmaster's background.

As they talk, Egland opens his violin case and plays for them a melody inspired by his homeland. Dream and Charles are impressed by his ability, and Charles suggests they play a duet. Egland is surprised but delighted, and offers to perform a theme and variations, inspired by the rats of Metamor Keep. Their performance is masterful; when they are done, they get each other's names and begin to play again.

Chapter 14

As Phil is reviewing scout reports, Akabaieth arrives for their agreed-upon meeting. His Yeshuel have told him that Phil is the head of intelligence, and Akabaieth asks if he's found anything about the forests yet. Phil promises he will do the utmost to investigate it, as Rupert brings out some maple leaf tea.

Akabaieth asks for some privacy, and the Yeshuel and Rupert step out. Akabaieth explains that he knows he will die soon. Tradition says that a Patriarch be buried under his first church, but Akabaieth is ashamed of his early years in the church. He pulls out an old piece of rope, with which he has been practicing sailing knots for 80 years. He says it was always his dream to be an officer in the Fleet of Whales. It is too late to become one in life, so he hopes he might be buried as one. He knows it is a great thing to ask; the only two non-members to have such a burial had died for Whales in battle. Phil is reluctant to do so, and with sad understanding, Akabaieth gets up to leave. Moved with pity, Phil asks what his mission is. Akabaieth explains he wishes to end bloodshed between the nations and bring peace to the world. Phil decides that, if not actual peace, then the hope for peace will be sufficient cause for the burial he requests. Akabaieth weeps and embraces Phil; outside, Rupert and the Yeshuel also weep for joy.

In his workroom, Wessex performs his 3rd augury on a set of leaves. Unlike the previous two times, this time he catches a glimpse of two figures. He correctly guesses one is Zagrosek, but when he sharpens the vision, he finds the other is not Charles Matthias as he expected, but a woman in purple robes with the symbol of a pointing hand. A knock interrupts him; he carefully ends the spell and opens the door. Jessica is here with Weyden, and wants to know if he will attend the Patriarch's speech with them. Wessex snaps that he is uninterested in religions that interfere with his life — and quickly apologizes for his outburst, as he's been hard at work. He promises to show them soon, and surprises Jessica by telling her that he is making her a journeyman.

On the way to give his speech, Akabaieth sees Rickkter by the window, who has but one request for him: to say a prayer for an old Ecclesian friend of his named Egan, who gave his life for a friend. After he leaves, Akabaieth asks Kashin if Vinsah's message said he would attend the speech. Kashin confirms he did, but it suggested he did not see Murikeer as requested. Akabaieth is disappointed, but he and the Yeshuel agree that Vinsah will one day follow the same path of peace between the faiths.

Kashin's and Charles's spar

  • Due to both having immediate physical duties, Kashin and Charles agree to fight until one is brought to their knees. No other restrictions apply. They fight in the main hall of the Long House, though both try to stay within a circle.
  • In the first bout, Charles and Kashin limber up and study their opponent's movements. Kashin steps forward suddenly, hoping to see whether Charles steps forward (aggressive), backward (defensive), or stands his ground (cautious). Charles stands his ground.
  • 2nd bout: Kashin aims a fist to Charles's shoulder. Charles easily blocks it, and lands a paw on Kashin's chest, pressing enough Sondecki power to crush a normal man's chest. He correctly guesses Kashin can resist it. Kashin, meanwhile, drives his knee into Charles's ribs.
  • 3rd bout: Both hide their pain and circle the other, searching for weaknesses. Charles fails to distract Kashin with his tail. He unexpectedly steps back to see how Kashin reacts. Kashin immediately steps forward, a sign of good training.
  • 4th bout: Charles runs to the wall, charging his arms with Sondeckis force. Kashin gives chase, and Charles stops and throws the force at Kashin's legs. Kashin almost trips, but keeps one foot on the ground as he throws a fist down at Charles's head (Charles deflects it with his forearm, losing several hairs in the process) and his airborne knee at Charles's side — which Charles expected, and grabs Kashin's arm and twists backward — but Kashin also expected this, and grabs Charles's shoulder and twists, slamming Charles's head into Kashin's groin. Charles backs off, flexing his fingers, while Kashin shows no sign other than amusement.
  • 5th bout: Kashin leaps backwards, landing on his hands, and kicks at Charles with his soles. Charles is surprised at first, but knocks the boot to the side (earning a small cut and loosing another scruff of fur), grabs a leg and pulls, throwing more Sondeckis into his arms. Kashin twists around and swings his other foot. Charles releases him and ducks. Both assume a ready stance.
  • 6th bout: Kashin begins weaving a pattern with his hands. Charles decides to use the Longfugos technique to contain Kashin's body and shatter his spell. After a brief pause, Kashin leaps and twists in the air. Charles swings his arms together in a V-shape, throwing a wall of dense force at Kashin. It hits and envelopes him, but Kashin throws his hands apart, splitting the wall apart, and drives his legs through, hitting Charles in the chest.
    • With the wind knocked out of him, and no energy left to stand, Charles falls backwards on his tail and loses the match.

Vinsah's dream

  • Vinsah's dream is vivid with imagery that may not reflect reality.
  • Vinsah first dreams that he is sitting at his desk in his office in Abaef, preparing for morning service.
    • His office has a clay-tiled floor, a desk, and a single window with dark brown curtains.
    • A woman with an undreamlike presence enters from the hallway and calls him Elvmere, and seems relieved that he has finally come. He soon notices two discrepancies:
      • The village outside his window has northern tones: distant mountains, autumned-colored trees, stone houses.
      • His body feels youthful, and he wears the robes of an acolyte, instead of a priest.
  • She leads him to a corridor, which seems vaguely familiar.
    • It is a long, brightly decorated hall. The floors have glistening parquetry with rich carpets, and the walls have gilded tapestries and strange letters.
  • They turn a corner, and Vinsah is in a courtyard.
    • There are fields of grass and terrazzo walkways. The columned entrance from the hall has ivy with purple blossoms around each column. At the far end are high walls, and a gate with a darkly-dressed man.
      • The man has neatly combed hair, his hands on hips, and a faint smile. He has a terrifying aura.
    • While turning around, he sees some bushes and a fountain by the terrazo that spills over into a brook with small smooth granite rocks.
  • Vinsah finds a quartz rock, similar to the one given to Akabaieth, but of Vinsah's face, inside the brook. "Murikeer", though likely the same woman in a different appearance, tells him to accept both the stone and the name Elvmere.
  • Murikeer takes Vinsah to a home in Sathmore. Akabaieth holds a girl named Elsie over the corpse of her father, witnessed by her mother and brother.
    • Akabaieth wielded a crucifix dagger.

Egland's and Dream's duet

  • Egland starts by playing one theme by itself, then again for Dream to join in, and then variations however many times they want afterwards.
    • The motif is a simple rhythm in quick duple meter. The notes take short steps up and down the scale, like rats, but which suggest advanced harmonies.
    • Dream joins in with a slow counterpoint melody.
    • In the 1st variation, the theme is played erratically with short notes.
    • In the 2nd variation, Dream and Egland switch off between playing the theme and counterpoint.
    • Later variations include a soft-toned variation with clipped notes, a screechy martial variation, and an elaborate variation that leaves the original melody barely recognizable.
  • The next theme they play is a slow haunting tune.

Story Connections

  • The need for an outlet when trying to repress magic was earlier hinted at in Ward.
  • Charles describes the first time he saw Garigan's quarters from Declarations of Allegiance.
  • Andre comments on Saulius's change in spirit — from his well-known madness in Facing Knight, to his appearance in the summer joust in Stepping Up to Destiny, today.
  • Charles briefly tries picturing a new Calm for his taur form, using imagery from Fireside — specifically, the campsite near the glacier.
  • Charles tells Kashin about how they found the Long House from Hunt.
  • Murikeer's reshaping of quartz is similar to that seen in Speaking with Stones and The Pebble and the King, though for more utilitarian purposes.
  • Charles taught Garigan the Song of the Sondecki in The Three Sides of Truth. There is no story where Charles overheard Garigan singing the Song to himself in his sleep.
  • Dream briefly mentions how Caroline met him in Dream's Aria: Light Finds Caroline, which led to her learning the flute.
  • Charles learned the taur form from Misha in Four-by-Four — which is also when Rickkter commented on his endowment as a taur. Charles had not become a taur since then, until now.
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