Tirnanese Highlands: Kingdom of Anoun
The 13th Light Dragoons travel through the wilderness. Darius and Philo check ahead and spot a mimasery. Their commander, Winshaw, rides up to join them and confirms that the mimasery is the place they're looking for. Philo tells the soldiers to abandon the wagons and they're continuing on foot.
The troops continue on and a Fae watches from above. Philo spots her and others, and the soldiers continue on. The men come to a door set in a rock wall and they show the colors. The door opens, and Philo and Winshaw ride through into the mimasery beyond where Mima Roosan is waiting on the ground while a hundred Fae hover overhead. When Philo calls out that they're Burguishmen and mean them no harm, Roosan gestures to her troops to set down.
Winshaw says that per the treaty between the Fae kingdom and Burgue, they're commandeering the premises to defend the nearby telegraph land. Roosan tells them that the mimasery is a holy place and they should act accordingly, and goes inside.
The dragoon soldiers set up inside the mimasery, and Winshaw advises Philo to have the soldiers search the grounds to make sure Fae resistance fighters haven't infiltrated the place. Philo points out that they're refugees, not guerillas, but Winshaw doesn't care. Once Winshaw leaves, Philo tells Darius to keep it discrete rather than deploy their men.
Philo goes outside the walls to check the area and comes to a pathway leading down between the cliffs. He continues down and comes to large runestones, and sees footprints in the snow. The footprints disappear and Philo looks up to see if he can see the Fae who flew off. He spots a cave and climbs up. The cave leads to a torchlit passageway, and Philo comes to a room with a ceiling lost in the darkness above. A book rests on a pedestal, and as Philo looks through the pages Vignette flies down from the ceiling and puts her knife to his neck. She says that she's the steward of the sacred lawyer. Philo assures her that Winshaw has no interest in books, and gives his word that he'll tell no one. Vignette accepts it and orders him to leave.
That night at the mimasery, the soldiers stare at the Fae and vice versa. Darius tells Philo that he found nothing amiss. Meanwhile, Vignette and Roosan watch Philo and Roosan wonders if Philo will keep his word. Vignette isn't sure and Roosan tells her to keep an eye on him.
The next morning, Philo is eating and reading. He notices Vignette watching him and goes back to his reading. Darius rides into the mimasery and reports that the telegraph line has snapped over a ravine and it may be a trap. and they put together a repair detachment. Philo figures that the fae can run a line across the line and he knows who might do it.
Later on the two sides of the ravine, Philo and Darius confirm that the area is clear. Vignette takes the replacement line and flies it across. She returns and refuses to go back to the mimasery. As they wait to finish putting up the line, Philo tells her about the book he's reading, Kingdoms of the Moon, a scientific romance. Philo offers her the book, and she finally takes it and gives him her name.
Three Pact soldiers watch the detachment, remove their clothing, and inject themselves with syringes.
Vignette reads the novel and they all hear wolves howling in the distance. The horses panic and Philo spots soldiers on the other side disappear as wolf-life figures attack them. He rides over and finds the soldiers torn apart, and looks down a ravine to see one of the werecreatures ripping apart another body. It spots Philo and bounds up the ravine walls, and Philo manages to shoot it dead as it leaps at him. Another wolf creature attacks him, and Vignette arrives to stab it dead. Darius arrives and insists that he's fine, even though there's blood on his jacket. He says that it's the blood of the third creature, and a dying werecreature reverts to human form.
Philo and Darius take one of the bodies back to Winshaw and report what happened. They realize that the Pact is infect its soldiers with the wolf's curse, and give Winshaw one syringe that they found. Winshaw asks if anyone was bitten, and Philo says that no one survived.
The next day, the soldiers set up a telegraph line within the mimasery. Philo is eating outside, and Vignette flies up to him and says that she finished the novel. She admits that it's extraordinary, and they discuss the novel's merits. Philo offers the book to Vignette, saying he can find another when he returns to the Burgue. She takes it and offers to show him the sacred library properly.
Philo agrees and Vignette takes him inside. She flies up with a torch, showing that shelves extend up and out of sight into the darkness. She shows him the book he was looking at before, a 700-year-old text about the first human explorer of Tirnanoc, Isen. Isen and a fae queen, Aradis fell in love. One day Isen returned to his lands, leaving a half-blood son behind who spent his life looking for his father. They figure that the legend somehow made its way to the author of Kingdoms of the Moon, and Vignette admits that she likes the idea such a story might find its way across the world.
The soldiers receive word by telegraph that the Pact shelled Fort Sovereign, and the injured soldiers there need blood donations. Winshaw says that it's too far away for them to help, and Roosan offers to fly relief there. The commander agrees and orders every able-bodied man to come forward to provide blood for the front. Philo, overhearing, goes to the cave entrance to the library. Vignette is inside and draws her knife when she hears someone, and Philo draws his pistol. They almost kill each other, and then Philo lowers his gun and moves Vignette's knife from his throat. The two of them drop their weapons and kiss, then make love, Philo stroking Vignette's wings as they glow.
Later in Vignette's quarters, Philo admires Vignette's braids and the woman explains what each one means. She looks at the scars on Philo's back, Vignette says that she has a scar and invites Philo to find it.
That night, Roosan, makes a cairn of stones in honor of the dead. Philo talks to a fae soldier about his missing leg, After the fae flies off, Winshaw talks to Philo about the fae and how they've lagged behind the humans in industry, and says that it's wise not to be seduced by them. Once the commander leaves, Philo sees Darius limp off and goes after him. He follows his friend out into the woods and sees Darius remove his clothes. The full moon comes up and Darius transforms into a werecreature. Philo watches from the shadows as the creature bounds off into the forest.
Come morning, Darius lies naked and asleep next to the deer that he killed. He wakes up and washes off the blood in a nearby stream. Darius turns to see Philo watching him, and Philo tosses him his clothes. Once Darius dresses, he insists that he has the curse under control and it's only once a month. He says that he'll hand himself in once they return to the Burgue. Darius figures that his superiors will dismiss him as a Critch except worse and they'll kill him. Philo says that he'll take care of it, and Darius says that he can smell Vignette on Philo. His friend refuses to discuss it, and Darius tells him that he enjoys the freedom when he's a wolf. Darius looks forward to the change, and he figures the land is permission for them to stop pretending and be their real selves.
Wounded fae arrive at the mimasery and Vignette sees Tourmaline among the refugees. Tourmaline tells her friend that the city of Kish has fallen, and the Pact picked off the escaping fae with sharpshooters. Inside, Tourmaline bathes and says that the Burguish are no better than the Pact. She says that all she could think of was getting to Vignette, and Vignette tells Tourmaline that she's met someone. Vignette explains about Philo, and Tourmaline warns that after the war Philo will go back and marry a human woman and have human children. Tourmaline figures that Vignette hasn't thought past the end of the war, and sets the matter aside.
Later, Philo and Vignette make love. Her wings don't glow as they did before, and afterward she says that the wings are only supposed to glow when two fae make love. Vignette asks what will become of them after the war, and wonders if she's some exotic fuck. Philo says that she's like coming home, and talks about how he lost a part of himself a long time ago. Vignette realizes that the scars on Philo's back are from when his wings were removed, and that he's half fae. She assures him that it was done to him, and realizes why the story of Isen made such an impression on him. Philo wonders if love would have a difference, and says that half-bloods don't belong anywhere in the Burgue, among humans or fae. The headmaster at his school knew of Philo's origins and kept his secret. Philo admits that the Burgue never felt like home, the way that Tirnanoc does.
Later, Tourmaline prepares to leave with the other refugees, and Vignette says that she loves her and wishes her luck. They assure each other that they'll somehow see each other again. As Tourmaline prepares to leave, she sees Philo and asks if he loves Vignette. She then says that it doesn't matter because Vignette will stay with Philo when the Pact comes, and it will get her killed. Tourmaline tells Philo that he shouldn't give Vignette the choice to stay with him. With that, Tourmaline and the other refugees fly away.
A wire comes in that the capital has fallen, and Winshaw orders his men to evacuate. The Pact will be there by morning. The fae evacuate, and Philo looks for Vignette. Meanwhile, Roosan tells Vignette to seal the library and leave with the others. Philo arrives and goes after Vignette, saying that she could go with the other fae while he evacuates with his men. Vignette worries that she'll never see Philo again if the Pact catch up to him, and insists that they go together. He warns that a Burguish soldier won't last long in Pact territory, but Vignette insists and Philo apparently gives in. Vignette hugs him and she gives him the braid representing her heart. She tells him to meet him at the stones after she seals the library and Philo tells her that he loves her before letting her go.
Pact airships arrive and Philo sounds the alarm.
In the library, Vignette hears the alarms and seals the library.
The fae grab torches and fly up to set the airships on fire. The Pact soldiers open fire on them and then fire missiles, bringing down the mimasery. A blast knocks Philo to his knees.
Vignette waits for Philo by the stones, but he never comes.
Philo finds Roosan and asks her to do something for her. A few minutes later, Roosan flies to the stones and tells Vignette that Philo is dead.
In the mimasery, Philo finds Winshaw dead. Darius has a horse waiting and tells Philo that it's time to ride.
Vignette tries to run back to the mimasery but Roosan holds her back.
Philo and Darius ride off.
Vignette and Roosan fly off.
Philo goes to the hotel and Tourmaline sees him on the street. Vignette is with her friend, and says that she'll talk to him. She goes out and asks him why he's there, and Philo reminds her that she threatened to reveal his secret. Vignette wonders if what they had was real, and that he left her. He tells her that he didn't want her to die for him, and that he's a broken thing. Vignette asks if he has ever told anyone else the secrets he told her. Philo says nothing, and Vignette says that she'll pray that he finds where it belongs... because it isn't with her.
Written by Gadfly on Sep 7, 2019