Marielda 10: "Four Conversations" covers an extended downtime period of months between the end of The Valentine Affair and the start of The Six's final job.
Episode description[edit | edit source]
According to the scholars at the Sonorous Academy, there are three important songs in Marielda. The first, “High Pyre Adagio,” has its origins in songs of performative devotion, and emulates the distant, yet deep affection of the God-King Samothes with a temperate piano. The second is “The Last Eve of Summer,” a chamber sonata composed by the so-called traitor Samot during his stay in the City of Light—allegedly written for a particularly talented clarinetist, though no records support this claim. The third, “The Autumn (Lasts A Long Time Here),” predates both Marielda and the City of Light. Built around a memorable guitar melody, it has no clear origin—both the elves of the Western Wood and the refugee population of Emberboro independently claim that it has been in their respective cultures for centuries.
These, say the scholars of the Sonorous Academy, are the three songs that matter in Marielda. But the people in that city by the sea don’t care what the scholars say. They’re too busy dancing to a tune that hasn’t yet left the island.
This week on Marielda: Four Conversations
Is it time already?
Opening[edit | edit source]
There's, frankly, a whole lot more to know about what The Six got up to that year, but I am getting tired, weak. Maybe one day you'll hear more, whether from me or from someone else. For now, though, I'll tell you what you came here to learn. What? You think I didn't see it? I see his presence in your eyes, I see him all over you, I would recognize him anywhere. You didn't come here to investigate some tower. You came here to find your lord, the Undying Fire, King-God of the Order of Eternal Princes, Samothes himself. But I am sorry to say you will not find him here. All you will find, Hadrian, is the story of how he died.”
Plot[edit | edit source]
Opening[edit | edit source]
Peg wakes Aubrey up from her dream of Maelgwyn killing Samothes, saying Zaktrak said she was shouting but was too scared to wake her, and pushes for more details, saying she was "shouting the way people who know the truth shout."
Heading through Quince Parish looking to find Lilith so he can get trinkets to use for his boat, Sige is beckoned down an alleyway by Hedy, who tells him that there's a man who needs to meet him and begins leading him toward the woods, saying he can help get Sige out of Marielda.
While Edmund teaches a class, Ethan is in town on his way to meet the son of a duke whose father has asked for private lessons. The son does not want to be taught and Ethan does not want to teach him. Leading him is Snitch Nightly, who set the whole thing up, and insists on coming to the lesson, saying that he "told them there's two of you," only to act surprised and claim to have made the twin thing up when Ethan mentions it. Ethan backpedals and says there's only one of him.
Hedy leads Sige across rooftops and the forest seems closer than it used to be. In the woods, they meet a dark-skinned man playing a guitar who introduces himself as Sam and says that it would be better for his purposes if Sige left Marielda. Sam tells Sige a group of people who think they're doing him a favor have been trying to grow the forest, but they aren't, and he wants it to recede. He tells Sige that if he can put an end to it, "You won't even need a boat. I'll make the land come for you." Sam picks up his guitar and trees spread to offer Sige a path out.
Maelgwyn looks determined in a way that Castille hasn't seen since meeting him and says he needs to go for a while, saying something big is on its way and he thinks he knows how to stop it but he needs to gather materials and go to the mainland.
"Everyone thinks that they can stop it," she tells him. "What makes you so sure that you’ve figured it out?"
Timeskip[edit | edit source]
In the ten or so months this episode takes place, the war to the north worsens, as Samot's troops get closer to the city. Samot leads a multinational coalition of elves, dwarves, goblins, halflings and orcs based on the idea that something terrible is on its way that only he can stop. People in Marielda talk about this coalition with derision as a bunch of uncivilized brutes. The city is more empty than ever of able-bodied adults, and Samothes' control has been even further weakened by the fact that he's had to send some pala-din to the front, and has been going to the front lines himself.
All of Violet Parish and the northwestern parts of Chrysanthemum and Quince are now under the control of Claret Holiday and the Red Rank Irregulars. Claret has been trying to make inroads through Quince to gain power in Orchid and eventually starts going by the name Tamsyn again to make it clear why she feels she has rights to the area.
All of Emberboro and Iris Parish, along with much of Helianthus, has come under the control of the Black Slacks, who have allied with Hedy's Weaver Union and the cobbin-run Black Sand Alchemical. Although aggressively pushing for change, the Black Slacks are running into serious problems in a city that can reconfigure itself and repair protest damage overnight. However, with Samothes' frequent absences, reconfiguration is increasingly unpredictable, happening often in areas such as rich parts of Chrysanthemum that were generally left alone before, and rarely in areas where it once was common.
In central Helianthus, the Hospitaliers have grown erratic and violent, still jockeying for power but without helping the sick and wounded like they used to. People remember a time when they were better and worshipped a distant god, but nobody can remember the god's name.
Maelgwyn's Faithful grow more powerful across the city. Their absent idol is rumored to have returned, wearing a steel mask and steel crown.
With Samothes absent, the Golden Lance gains more and more authority, including Rebecca, the new Lance Noble Orchid and former agent of the Fontmen. The Fontmen themselves still exist after the war with The Six, but barely; just an office censoring things that are sent through there instead of an agency that hunts down black-market knowledge. Most of their work involves censoring figures on casualties and losses from the war.
In the south, people swear they've seen a creature in the sea, a giant water lizard that had been written off as a myth.
Downtime[edit | edit source]
Aubrey[edit | edit source]
With the help of Zaktrak and Peg (who are clued in now, at Peg's insistence), Aubrey uses the dream essence to see and slowly transcribe the breakup between Samothes and Samot. The final time she goes in, everything feels more material, and she realizes that everything had been going through a "weird supernatural translation" before; now they're speaking in the old tongue and she understands the nuances. When they're talking about the Heat and the Dark coming to kill everything, it's not in an abstract sense; they're talking about it coming to kill Samol, who is rarely personified beyond just being "the earth", like he's a sick parent. When she wakes, she puts the complete transcription out on a main table where everyone will be able to see it.
That night, instead of the Maelgwyn dream, she has the Samot-Samothes dream, but Samothes isn't there. She speaks to Samot, and eats from his table, which has apples, a fruit that, along with good wine and coffee recently stopped coming to the city from some other place. She has never had an apple before, even when they were available. She asks Samot what she can do, and he warns her not to be to quick to commit – he will need her to do violence.
Castille[edit | edit source]
Castille has been trying to dodge her identity issues by shutting down into her mindless pala-din mode more and more. One day, while patrolling around the hole where Memoriam College used to be, she notices that the hole is getting bigger and swallowing more of the university. Then she notices that she notices, which is bad, and realizes that she's Charter noticing this, and is not in control of her body. Charter endures a 12-hour shift patrolling around the Dark as it pulls at her consciousness, and has to focus the whole time not to be sucked in.
After that, she can no longer go back into that mode or indulge her vice. She's just stuck being Charter Castille now.
Hitchcock[edit | edit source]
The Hitchcocks want to locate the other half of the map to the mansion. The twins make sure that they (or Miss Salary, or Caroline) are attending parties held by antiquarian booksellers, antique dealers, or eccentric countesses with cabinets of curiosities. Not only do things go missing at those parties, but the brothers also meet after each one to compare notes about which people have heard of which places and know which things. Doing this, they are able to discern that it's in the hands of a private collector; probably an academic, scholar, or clergyman; definitely someone in the business of knowing things.
Edmund Hitchcock decides to visit the witches of the Tea Leaf Set, and goes with Snitch Nightly to see Coral, who brings him to a table in her backyard. Hearing what Hitchcock is looking for, she cuts off a corner of the half of the map that he has, grinds it in a pestle, mixes in some leaves, and brews it for him to drink.
Hitchcock has a vision of the mansion. When he knocks on the door, the little girl from his earlier visions answers it; at this point, with a bit of disbelief, he begins to realize that it is his mother. She runs ahead into the backyard and plays with a young Maelgwyn. In the kitchen, he finds Samothes looking at the complete map. Samothes thanks him for not taking the candlestick. After asking Edmund what he expects to find at the end of the map, Samothes tells him, "This map doesn’t lead to treasure, Hitchcock. This map is a timeline. This map is a road map to death."
After being beckoned to look, Hitchcock sees that there are five strange burn marks. A line runs from the mansion to one of the marks, in the woods south of Rosemerrow. The marks are actively burning, and slowly expanding.
"Do I need to go there?" asks Hitchcock. "Is that where I need to be?"
"What's there is coming to us," Samothes replies. "If you're so desperate, just wait."
As his visitor leaves, Samothes asks him, "Hitchcock, why are you alone?" and the vision ends.
In the real world, Edmund has been saying "Silas" over and over again. Coral tells Edmund the day's services have been free if he promises never to bring back Snitch.
Sige[edit | edit source]
Sige, forcing Hedy to come with him, goes into the forest to gather information on the Gardeners. She doesn't want to come; there is a clear divison between the weavers of the city like herself, and those of Quince Parish and the woods. Sige learns that the Gardeners are a cult of elves and weavers devoted to Samol (who he understands Sam to have been), a group of ecoterrorists who believe there was a purer and more natural time before the factories and the war. At this point, trees are growing up through Quince and poking through the walls into Orchid and Helianthus. Sige tries to take action and get their attention by setting forest fires, but things have been growing back too quickly.
With the help of Peg and Zaktrak, Sige wants to refashion his old sawed-off gun into one that Aubrey can use, and attach his Fontmen's cane to the more recently stolen gun as a sort of searing bayonet. He is able to do this, but only by giving the pair directions to the shack in Emberboro where he keeps his boat and allowing them to scavenge it for materials. Sige resigns himself to the fact that he's not escaping Marielda by boat. When he gives Aubrey the gun, she thanks him.
Entanglement[edit | edit source]
Rebecca shows up at The Six's brunch to make threats against them, saying that she doesn't care about knowledge anymore, she just doesn't want people to get hurt, and people always get killed during The Six's jobs. Most of them want to deescalate or flirt, but Sige claims credit for Lance Noble Orchid's death. She tells them that killing a member of the Golden Lance, a key city official, is nearly the highest crime there is, short of attempting to hurt Our Lord Samothes.
Closing narration[edit | edit source]
Aubrey, it comes to you in a dream. It's Samot again, and over the last couple of months he's been explaining to you the way things are in great detail, about who he is, how long he's been around, and how time is weird in a way that you can't quite comprehend, and about how in order for Hieron to be saved, Samothes has to be killed.
I think you hear it, Castille, from Maelgwyn, who meets you for a drink later that night with his mask and his, like, crown off to the side. He's, like, in superhero mode basically, but he's taken off his mask and has settled down for a glass of vintage Nacre wine, which is very expensive, you don't know how he got that. But he is definitely drinking it, and is drinking it in a very forceful way, in a way that's basically saying, "This is a drink I need before what we're about to do."
You hear it, Sige, deep in the woods, where Samol has called you back to him, not pleased with how you handled the Gardeners, but offering you a new deal.
Hitchcock, you hear it in a dream too, except you hear it from Samothes himself. He looks you in the eye and says, "You're coming to kill me. You don't know it yet, but you and your friends are coming to kill me."
"So, the thing is, Sige, that Samot has it in his head that Samothes has an artifact. Something old, something that'll spark a solution into being, and the only way to get to it is to get into his grave, only thing is, ain't no grave yet, cause Samothes is still alive."
"When I drive a dagger into my father's heart, the city will come awake for him. There are protocols in place for when great beings die. The city will reconfigure itself instantly, sensing his demise, and it will build a sepulchre for him. Massive. Noble. And somewhere in there, i am sure, is the solution."
And Samot asks you, Aubrey, if you know how gods are made.
"Well, the thing is, gods come from a sort of divine impulse. You see, when someone like me rears just so from their intended character, something new springs into being, so for instance, when I saw the world that I had made, and I saw it lonely, well, things sprung into being, and my sister Severea filled the world with creatures. And when I saw them dumb and unable to care for themselves, well, there was Samothes, to build them bridges and homes."
"And so, Samot and Maelgwyn are convinced that they can get into my mausoleum. If the divine blood in Maelgwyn can feel something new in seeing me there resting, something might spring into being. Something powerful enough to hold back the Heat and the Dark. I don't know what he thinks he'll see when he looks at me in a grave."
"I'll feel regret," he says, Castille, and he takes your hand, "I've never felt regret in my life. I am confidence, breathing. But I think if I go forward, and I kill him, and I see him there, surrounded by his adoring subjects, by those he's protected, I'll feel regret, and whatever that thing is, that can hold back the Heat and the Dark. That's what the—that's what the mages told me, anyway. They were sure."
"Regret is much more manageable than you would think."
"It's funny you say that, because, in a sense, death exists because of regret. You see, I know what you're thinking, Sige. If every god sprang from something else, where did I come from? Well, one day, nothing flinched, and there I was. And instantly, it regretted me, and so my good friend Tristero was born. Haven't seen him in a minute, though. Still, the point is, that, in moments like these, gods don't design what their offspring looks like. I mean, hell, just look at the cobbins. You think Samothes set out to make little lizard men? Please. But it's the emotion that becomes alive. It was the intuition and the perseverance of Samothes that made the cobbins. And in the same way, it was the fear that it had done something wrong that made nothing make Tristero, so whatever Maelgwyn thinks he'll see in that tomb, boy, he could not be more wrong. You can't let them do it."
"Castille, you have to help me with this."
"Hitchcock, they're going to come for me. And as time goes on, I wonder if they might be right."
"Aubrey. Are you ready to do violence?"