The Lost Hand starts to push back.
"You are seeking deeper meaning where there is none."
In the barracks, before the sun rises, the Lost Hand rushes to address the sabotaged summons that had been planted by Mnemon Seppe before they're put into yet another match that will see them either broken apart or further vilified for their continued role in the destruction of other fangs in the school. Pyres and Gale work together to forge new missives while Sientelle rushes to steal the official seal to mark them with. Pyres runs a distraction to catch the eyes of any early risers while Gale switches the announcements, delivering them to their original intended recipients: 6th year fangs Giant's Tome and Serpent's Coil.
At the mess hall, tensions run high, as the Lost Hand do not know if their gambit worked, or if they're about to be in a breakfast brawl. The two 6th year fangs sit opposite each other at a quintet of Gateway boards, playing peacefully. Pyres attempts to get on Gamesmaster Vieren's good side, hoping to get a better read on things. It seems to work a little, but Vieren has work to do, for the time to announce the games comes swiftly. He gives only one rule: last fang standing wins. Because of the lack of usual fanfare, as well as the notable absence of competitor names being announced, everyone casts their eyes about waiting for someone to make a move. One pair rests on the Lost Hand - the Quartermaster's gaze is fixed and unreadable. Oresta meets it with a stare of her own, daring, but not defiant. After seconds that seem like hours, the Giant's Tome leaps at the Serpent's Coil, scattering the game pieces as a frantic melee begins. Immediately, Commandant Nuven turns and leaves the mess hall. Gale and Pyres pursue, and Gale makes an awkward complaint to the Commandant about the disgrace of ruining Gateway with brutality. Nuven holds her cards close to her chest, keeping her words to propriety, but she makes her disdain for Vieren as plain as silence can allow. After being dismissed, the two students rush back to the mess hall to see the end of the fight - Serpent's Coil standing triumphant over the Giant's Tome, who clamber together fearfully as their fang's dissolution seems nigh.
Unbidden, Ragara Brevin shouts a declamation of these senseless games, with some entirely unwarranted targeting of the Lost Hand thrown in for good measure. Before Vieren can respond, Pyres joins in with the general sentiment rumbling through the crowd, and the Gamesmaster's demeanor darkens. As a show of force, he cancels all classes for the day and bars the barracks, forcing the students to find a good use of an unexpected self-study period. Before Vieren can storm out of the hall, Oresta shouts after him asking him to explain what this is meant to teach. Though she matches Vieren's blistering insults with the serenity of the mountains, she fails to get anything from him. Juwinn steps in, demanding Oresta receive further instruction under her own tutelage. As Oresta is led away, Gale frets that the Gateway setting may have been meant to exploit her obsession with the game. Sientelle attempts to comfort Gale with emotional appeals. Pyres looks to see how the Bearded Skull is reacting. Tepet Single Edge appears to have softened somewhat to the Lost Hand, but Peleps Kenton is, if anything, more vicious than before. Unfortunately for Kenton, when he verbally lashes out, Pyres undercuts his hostility with an utterly devastating show of disregard. With Kenton more or less dispatched, Pyres leaves to return to his own Fang.
Juwinn takes Oresta to the edge of the forest. Oresta is quite suspicious of being drawn away by Juwinn, whose motives are unknown. Juwinn disarms herself in an attempt to get Oresta to lower her hackles. Oresta is unmoved. Free of eavesdroppers, Juwinn reveals to Oresta that there are indeed dire machinations at work in the House of Bells - mysteries that kill students who look too closely. At least, after having seen their resolve, Juwinn is willing to place her bets on the Lost Hand, rather than continuing her futile effort to keep them out of the matter. Meanwhile, Pyres enjoys a brief rant from Brevin about his new fang called the Quiet Salamander that's surely going to be the new big thing. Gale and Sientelle have a sensitive discussion about feelings and love
Later in the day, after the Lost Hand is reunited and spending time outside, Sientelle brings to the fang a terrified Peleps Lee-Ann. They attempt to carefully question her, but being wrapped up in a horrible lethal conspiracy seems to have done no favors for her nerves. The Lost Hand manages to get her to a state fit for some questioning. Lee-Ann claims that she's been playing her role to make the Lost Hand bear the load as the House of Bells is turned upside-down in the days to come. She carries a warning on a sealed scroll...to be opened...very soon...just about...Next Time on Exaltwitch: Academy!
The following are reactions from viewer's non-canon students.
- "Well, Brevin is a proven idiots. No fang disbanded another in these games, and no fang has a choice if to fight or not. We're training to be soldiers. We follow orders. You might not like them, but you follow." Mnemon Ptack, 5th year
- "Well, this year is off to a terrible start. Only 5 days in - normally not even enough for the 1st official fight - and already 2 fangs have been disbanded, students are devolving into mobs and start tearing each other - and the teachers - apart. Maybe I made a mistake thinking this was the place for me." V'neef Siltara, 5th year
- "That was weird. Since when does one teacher have the power to cancel classes for everybody? I thought only the Commandant had that power. Seems like Vieren is more important than I thought..." Karal Silent Inferno, 5th year
- "Cathak Vieren is wrong. The House of Bells teaches us to think for ourselves, not be mere pawns. Commanders must earn and deserve trust. If the faculty don't tell us something soon, refusals will likely be starting soon." Tepet Voren, 5th Year
- "From a single spark can a field be consumed by flame, from a single stone can an avalanche destroy a city. So to from a single word can descent be sown into an army. ~quoted from The Thousand Correct Actions of the Upright Soldier" Tepet Aoife, 6th Year
- "I followed Commandant Tepet Nuven out of the mess with the intent to request an audience with her, you know, one Tepet to another, hoping to see if she'd shed some light on the purpose of these games. I ducked around the corner when I saw that Gale Whispered and Pyres had beaten me to it. I overheard the conversation between Gale Whispered and the commandant, and I got the impression that the Commandant has a rather low opinion of these games herself. Could Kathak Vieren be blackmailing her in order to make these game happen? If so, for why?" Tepet Kendra Kai, 5th Year
- "Using gateway boards as combat props; it's wasteful, and despicable. Is this really a school to stay in?" Cathak Jak Cuse, 5th Year