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Normal classes resume, but the events of their first day back are anything but normal.


"..."


After a night of rest, the Lost Hand squeezes in a bit of work before a day of attending lectures. Gale and Sientelle devise ways to pass Bracken's magical office door, Pyres writes letters to family, and Oresta researches Anathema. None make any immediately actionable discoveries, so they shelve their projects and head to class. Sitting among their peers for the first time since the fire in the Glade, the Lost Hand appreciates an all new level of awestruck looks directed at them. From the whispers in the halls, it seems that they're being credited with all sorts of deeds in vague proximity to their actual accomplishments. Supposedly, they've fended off mysterious assassins and gained the esteem of the Regent. No mentions, however, of Anathema or Vieren's betrayal.

A lecture about military campaigns given by Peleps Seven Fingers briefly touches on the tragic fight against the Bull of the North. When the teacher steers the topic away from Anathema, Oresta interrupts to re-focus on the Realm's greatest enemy. The teacher patiently tries to move past the topic, but the rest of the Lost Hand backs her up. This stirs Seven Fingers to recall a story of his own encounter with the Anathema, a sweet-tongued manipulator that drew the Dragon-Blood to turn on each other. He doesn't want to get into it more during class, but he offers the Lost Hand the chance to stay after class, which they eagerly take.

After class, Seven Fingers briefly scolds them about stirring up Anathema rumors when the faculty is obviously trying to keep them quiet. Unlike Vieren, he has little interest in bringing all he has to bear against the Anathema, much less in stirring young students to do so. The remainder of his tale about his own encounter with Anathema sheds some light on why. His own compatriots who were convinced to fight alongside the enemy were killed, except for one: Garavel, whose career was ruined. With that explanation over, he addresses some of the Lost Hand's concerns around more recent events. He confirms Vieren's status as an outsider foisted on the school by the palace. The upcoming naval exercise is apparently a short affair meant to keep the Lost Hand away from the eyes of a team of inspectors He sends the Lost Hand away with an offer to instruct them on resisting mental manipulation, though he has Oresta stay for a brief lecture on weapon maintenance.

Sientelle, Gale, Pyres, and Oresta go to fetch Fleuvienne as she's getting discharged from the infirmary. With the Fang once again at full strength, they proceed to the obvious next step of splitting up. Pyres and Gale quickly run into Bracken as she sits in a common area, enjoying a book she borrowed from Oresta. Gale, perhaps overwhelmed with mystery and skullduggery, confronts her mentor directly with questions about Juwinn and the hidden items she found while breaking into Bracken's office. Bracken, mildly incensed, banishes the population of the library with a shout rather uncharacteristic of a librarian, then summons Gale and Pyres into her office. Before she gives much in the way of answers, she sends Pyres to fetch Oresta. Pyres returns with all of the Lost Hand, to which Bracken objects, but Oresta insists that they are a package deal. Bracken makes no more mention of it, and fetches Gale's Gateway board from her shelf.

Gale and Bracken face off in a game of Gateway. Bracken offers honest answers as a reward for captured pieces, but the fury in her eyes and placement of her pieces make it clear that she intends to give no quarter. Gale plays for fast answers, with no thought towards the long game, as Bracken tests her by displaying a mystical attunement to the game itself. With every piece Bracken captures, she flings it into a fire. Gale manages to capture four pieces before it is obvious to her that she can't win the game. She asks four questions, and Bracken answers them all.

For her first question, Gale asks what the nature of Bracken and Juwinn's relationship is. Bracken says that they are lovers, and that if she had her way, they would be married.

For her second question, Gale asks if Bracken is, indeed, actually a Terrestrial Exalt named Cynis Bracken. Bracken simply answers, 'No.'

For her third question, Gale asks Bracken what her purpose is for taking the post of librarian at the House of Bells. Bracken answers that she is legitimately interested in raising and protecting the scions of the Realm, but being able to help and protect Juwinn is certainly a big part of it.

For her final question, Gale asks what type of Exalted Bracken is. Bracken answers that she is the Chosen of Games, a unique type of Exalted created by a lesser god borrowing greater divine power.

With no hope of winning the game, Gale forfeits, and Bracken throws the entire set into the fire. As Oresta picks up one of Bracken's own sets, Bracken stays her hand by asking Pyres to retrieve the thrown pieces. He sets the burnt cinders on the table, and Bracken restores them with a wave of her hand. With her true nature revealed, Bracken explains that she was forced into the unenviable position of helping Vieren plan his games despite the goal they were made for. Though the Lost Hand has many more questions for her, Bracken has little more information than they already know. She does mention something about a wager made regarding the situation by unknown parties, but she is in the midst of her own inquiries on the matter. Gale finally finds the secret note from Juwinn she had been looking for, revealed by the heat of the flame, but it is nothing more than a heartfelt apology over the misfortunes of the recent days

The conversation is interrupted when Oresta detects a small disturbance outside. She opens the door to catch Brevin eavesdropping outside. Surprising nobody, after hearing all this, he is prepared to turn in Bracken and the Lost Hand over the matter of treason. When Oresta prevents him from running off to get someone, he draws his weapon and announces his intent to take down Bracken himself.


Student Comments

The following are reactions from viewer's non-canon students.

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