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The strength of the Hearth of True Bells is put to the test.


"Do you trust Cathak Vieren?"


Pyres confronts Vieren alone in the infirmary room. Remembering the strategy he and his fangmates devised, Pyres makes a show of wanting to go along with Vieren's plan. Vieren wants to bring Pyres along now, but before he can coax Pyres away, they find out their conversation had not gone unheard. Oresta comes into the room, demanding that Vieren explain himself. With a master of deception lurking around the House of Bells, nobody is above suspicion. Vieren invokes a ritual of jade and blood, changing the color of water as he's questioned. He claims that the magic is a truth-telling rite, but Oresta refuses to accept this unheard-of spell as any sort of proof. Vieren continues to try and pressure the two fangmates to join him, but Oresta shouts down his every attempt. Finally, Vieren turns to walk out of the room with disdain in his eyes.

Gale, woken by Sientelle's night terrors, hears signs of conflict in Pyres and Oresta's room. She takes up her weapon and fetches Garavel. When they encounter Vieren in the hallway, Garavel tells the Gamesmaster off for trying to take students out of the infirmary. Vieren has little regard for the warning, and leaves. With that situation put off for the moment, Garavel is a little curious why Vieren snuck in to see Pyres instead of just returning to the school normally. The Lost Hand is not sure if they want to trust Garavel with any more information, and he grants them leave to keep their secrets, given the circumstances. Oresta asks Garavel if he knows anything about Garavel's truth ritual, but before he can reply, Gale confirms Oresta's suspicion that it's a fabrication, nothing more than a minor illusion. The Lost Hand is not pleased that Vieren has managed to climb to further levels of untrustworthiness without reprisal, but Garavel reminds them that the school has had its hands full. Garavel alerts the school that Vieren has been spotted and should be seized on sight, and the Lost Hand agrees that it's time to go back to bed.

The next morning, Oresta catches Fleuvienne up on what she slept through. Gale does the same with Sientelle. All five of the Lost Hand convene over breakfast. Making a plan to deal with Garavel is too risky with so much hidden information, but before they can commit on a course of action, Commandant Nuven knocks at the door. Nuven splits them off for individual questioning, but before they part, Gale uses clever signals to communicate a plan to everyone without Nuven's notice: stall as long as possible, don't mention Garavel, feign ignorance about Anathema. Oresta attempts to eavesdrop of Fleuvienne's interrogation, but Nuven uses some kind of countermeasure against eavesdropping. Gale runs off to track Juwinn, hoping Fleuvienne's stalling is enough time for her to make it to the outskirts and back again. Gale manages to find Juwinn's tracks, leading directly into a large tree. Gale leaves a coded message for Juwinn and runs back. Unfortunately, she doesn't make it back before Nuven finishes interrogating Fleuvienne, so Pyres runs interference by diverting Nuven's attention onto himself. Gale dodges Nuven, but runs into Garavel as she sneaks back in. She makes up a flimsy excuse, and Garavel leaves without a word.

When Nuven interrogates Pyres, she makes it very clear that she is in no mood for prepared stories. Pyres makes no attempts to lie to her, and tells her everything he saw in the Glade, including Juwinn's Anathema flare and Vieren setting the fire, even about Vieren's reappearance on campus. Pyres pleads with Nuven to take down Vieren, and she wordlessly bursts back into the main room of the infirmary, confronting Oresta with the same questions. Oresta gives the same answers as Pyres. Nuven leaves, and Oresta convenes everyone to make sure the whole fang is up to speed. Garavel knocks and enters, informing them that they are no longer being held for investigation, then leaves. When Nuven returns, she explains to the Lost Hand that Vieren is no longer in good standing at the House of Bells. She tells them that Vieren lost his companions to the Bull of the North years ago, and now hunts Anathema relentlessly. He was also sent directly by Regent Fokuf to find a suspect Anathema at the school, which is why he enjoyed so much power in the school. Nuven verifies that the fang's other information about the circumstances of the expulsions at the beginning of the year is accurate, and leaves.

The Lost Hand reflects on their new potential allies, and whether or not they can afford to reach out a little more. They conclude that they cannot, but they need more food. Gale and Sientelle head off together and have a somber discussion about the trust between them. But before they can enjoy each other's company, Gale sees Mnemon Seppe walking across the hall.



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