Marielda 06: The Valentine Affair Pt. 1

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Looking for help to end their war with the Fontmen, The Six embark upon a plan to steal a book from the famously guarded Memoriam College.

Episode description[edit | edit source]

Memoriam College only wears flowers for one week a year. On Sunday morning of that week, they send a man called Alexander to fetch them from the florists on Today-And-Tomorrow Street. He carries them back to the building and, balanced on a ladder, arms full of blooms, fixes the arrangements above the balconies. As he works, butchers and chefs down in the kitchens peer at yellowed recipe cards, trying to remember just how they made these dishes last year. In the empty refectory, Prelate Silas practices the grace he knows so well, looking at himself in the mirror. You’re getting old, he thinks. He sounds out the prayer’s vowels and its consonants carefully. He practices a smile. With eyes closed, he imagines exactly the day that lay ahead. Across town, five scoundrels do exactly the same.

This week on Marielda: The Valentine Affair Pt. 1

You did remember to study, right?

Opening[edit | edit source]

Now, there ain’t a damn thing that’s ever happen in Hieron that I ain’t know about. That gives me what you might call, a unique perspective, which comes in handy now and then. Take, for instance, ghosts. You know, spectres, phantoms, vampires. The undead of all sorts. Most folks will tell you that ghosts come from extreme circumstances; a traumatic death, an unavenged betrayal, a depraved killing. They couldn’t be more wrong. See, I know the man what moves a soul after the body goes. He ain’t leavin' behind those that have been wronged. Ghosts ain’t about quality of death, they’re about quantity. See, sometimes that old boy gets very busy, can’t keep up with ‘em. Maybe a war is on, maybe it’s a flood or a fire. Too many lives to process, and some are bound to slip through the cracks. After all, the truth is, all death is traumatic. But, don’t get me wrong. Every now and then, a ghost does want a little revenge. But that ain’t supernatural, that’s just numbers.

Plot[edit | edit source]

Prelude[edit | edit source]

“You weren’t followed, were you?” Claret Holiday asks Aubrey and Sige as they meet with her in the Southern Bucket. In a flashback, Aubrey sees two Fontmen following them. Sige does what he does best, but gets singed in the process, and a witness sees the end of the fight, raising the crew's heat.

Meanwhile, Edmund Hitchcock and Castille are facing off four Fontmen outside a cobbler’s shop in the Hanging Gardens of Maelgwyn. Castille decides to summon a ghost. However, the ghost she summons is the translucent purple form of Bolster Valentine, from the mage’s tower that once stood at this spot, who seems way too in control, and lifts and chokes her with a gesture. With another gesture, he creates magical flames between himself and the Fontmen. Edmund, who is terrified of ghosts, pulls out his spiritbane charm, a crow's skull with a sprig of heather through its eye socket, and holds it toward Bolster like one would hold a cross at a vampire. Bolster glares and starts sliding away carrying Castille, who manages to suck Bolster into a spirit bottle and the flames simmer down. Two of the Fontmen have fled and two remain.

In the Southern Bucket, Claret tells Sige and Aubrey that she could put the pressure on the Fontmen to end their war if they steal the book Mortal Liminality: On the Space Between Life and Death by Bolster Valentine for her from Memoriam College, and explains that the facility is closed to outsiders except for one week each year where the charms are down during a series of tests to admit new students. The college's doors will open for this occasion in two days.

Edmund and Castille manage to intimidate one of the Fontmen into retreating, but the final one, Rebecca, charges. Edmund gets burnt but knocks away her cane, then cuts off her hand. She screams and smashes a vial onto her wrist, cauterizing it, picks up her cane, and retreats.

Plan[edit | edit source]

Hitchcock knows that his student Carolyn Fair-Play wants to apply for the school, and from her learns that the assessment tests take many different forms (written exams, performances, debates) and the applicants are reduced via a series of cuts. He muses on how to exploit her for their heist.

Sige wants to leverage public dissatisfaction with the lack of wider access of the immutable college into a protest that will serve as a distraction. The group decides to climb up to the school's second floor balcony during the protest. To spur on the protest, Hitchcock pretends to be 'the first student ever expelled from Memoriam' and entices other students with rumors about a mysterious candle-making machine on the top floor.

Heist[edit | edit source]

The Six climb to the balcony, seeing that it connects to a reception hall where an evening welcome banquet is taking place. Below, the protest grows rowdier as members of the Black Slacks join in, agitated about lack of access to education.

At the banquet, Prelate Silas is giving a blessing. The group also recognizes Lance Noble Orchid (not in uniform), Elias, and Fair-Play. The group decides to bluff their way through by walking in while the crowd still has their head down during Silas’s grace and taking what seats they can. At the end of the table, next to where Sige and Aubrey sit, is Sabinia, who he recognizes but no one has seen in a while. Silas's blessing thanks her for the invitation to enter Memoriam and give the blessing at this event each year.

There is an interesting range of foods, including things that don’t grow in Marielda, such as a turkey dish with a berry garnish that Hitchcock recognizes as something that would have come from the area east of Nacre where the halflings live, and he’s pretty sure there must have been a successful battle recently for them to have access to it. Thankfully for Castille, the room is candlelit, keeping her from being too conspicuous.

Making a few conversational faux pas with her cobbin counterpart, Miss Salary introduces herself to 'Audrey' and gives her a brown card with a yellow triangle on it. On the back side is an address and a strange script that she can tell predates the common tongue, and thinks means something involving ‘game’, ‘dark’, and ‘heat’. Aubrey lets on that she recognizes the symbol as that of The Yellow House. Miss Salary does not recognize her. Across from Castille, Mrs. Manufactory glares at her, and lets on that she does know who she is, and what trouble The Six has been having with the Fontmen, at which Lance Noble Orchid's eyebrows raise. Castille pretends that this is a case of mistaken identity. Master Latitude is scarfing down his food like there's no tomorrow, but pauses long enough to introduce himself to the adjacent Sige, whose name he already knows.

In conversation with Silas, Hitchcock claims to be a member of the faculty who teaches dissection. Silas tells him conspiratorially that he'd like to see the operating theater, and the two slip out of the room. He tells Silas that he needs to run an errand, and knocks on the door of a locked dorm. Gentle The-Night-You-Were-Born, a grumpy man in nightcap and nightgown, opens it, and Hitchcock introduces himself as Professor Hectares, a name he got from a student urban legend from Fair-Play's research. According to the rumor, Hectares and dissection never appear on any timetables, but students will randomly be woken in the middle of the night and led to his classes. Gentle brings them into the room, which is a temporary dorm for those proctoring the exams, and Hitchcock quietly asks to borrow a map to show Silas to the restroom.

Sabinia places her hand on Aubrey's and tells her, "Listen to me. You are blessed by Samothes. Do not let these other ones distract from your brilliance." Aubrey sees deep sadness in her eyes. Meanwhile, Elias is prodding Castille about why she hasn't had any food. Next to Sige, Latitude finally stops eating and snaps his suspenders, at which he is chided by the other person beside him, Mister Calendar.

Hitchcock and Silas proceed to the operating theater, which is locked. Hitchcock tells Silas that as a result of the cleaning staff and pala-din closing people out, some of the higher-ups are permitted to carry lockpicks, and Silas goes along with the idea, letting him open the door. They enter the operating room, at which point Silas closes the door and swings his cane at Hitchcock's head.

Cast[edit | edit source]