Blurbs (chapter-by-chapter breakdowns are below):
Having escaped from the twisted moon-cult, Neoma finds safe haven, and settles down to a very different life, including adopting an orphaned amarog cub. She’s run a long way, but is anywhere far enough?
The forts once built to protect the nearby cities from outside threats have turned to raiding the cities, who encourage the forts to raid rival cities. The heir apparent to the fort Dunnval isn’t happy with this or his own role in it, but tries to be responsible. During what should be the final test of his fitness to eventually take over, Tyrel and his half-brother and best friend Madoc encounter a very peculiar amarog, and life suddenly turns onto a completely new track for them and for Tyrel’s thrall Kaveri.
The Valley of Umako is a single large, complex, highly varied garden, tended by an all-male semi-religious order created by the earth-lady mother, Chimaka, of the very young earth-lord who is the Valley. Our heroes expect only a pleasant sightseeing trip, but something is clearly amiss in the Garden, and perhaps they can do what humans can’t.
The road they’re following leads straight into a village devastated by plague. Illness can’t affect them, so what can they do but spend a few days helping, to whatever extent they can?
The city of Galimont is plagued with violence, and those responsible are getting trivial sentences or are acquitted despite evidence. Clearly, someone with considerable power is protecting them, but the Watch have been forbidden to investigate the magistrates and the other elite. Galimont’s average citizens, and most of all Galimont’s women, live in fear. Though they’re nearing Valeyan’s domain, could our heroes possibly ignore the situation? But what can four outsiders do about it?
Valeyan’s domain, at last! (And it only took 65k words to get here!)
Meet royal cousins Narcissa and Lysandra. Narcissa took a vow long ago never to marry, and devotes her herbalist and healing skills and her considerable influence to the care of her people – most recently, attempting to found public hospitals. Lysandra, by day, is Narcissa’s dutiful and reserved assistant Evander, but by night she can be herself, an outgoing and popular belly dancer. Someone wants them out of the way, badly.
Conspiracies, assassination attempts, a persistent suitor, big fight scenes with multiple combatants on each side, the first head-on clash between Neoma’s descendants and the group she ran from, a few answers and more questions, a tavern with unusual customers but great entertainment, a transsexual central character and her chaste semi-sacred cousin’s all-feminine household, all in a highly civilized nation with an extraordinary number of gods. No wonder this is unquestionably the longest single story yet!
On the way to the Valley of Umako, now a larger group and no longer owning only what they can carry, our heroes join up with a series of travelling shows and adjust to a life new to all of them.
The town of Ilek is suffering from the effects of flood, a shortage of food, and a plague of mice. Narcissa believes she can help. But the local earthborn is acting oddly, as well, and the pieces don’t all fit. Is there more to this than a natural catastrophe and poor planning?
This section contains spoilers!
You probably don’t want to look below this point if you haven’t actually read the story yet. But if you have and want a reminder of what happened when, this should help.
Neoma has escaped the cult of blood that has evolved from the moons’ original creation, and flees far away in hopes of finding a new home. Valeyan, one of many local earth gods, welcomes her to his domain.
Hickory, one of Valeyan’s forest spirits, offers her assistance; Neoma discovers that she can make moonspun fabric.
Hickory and Neoma build Neoma’s house.
Neoma and the forest spirits adopt an orphaned amarog, captured and caged by hunters.
Neoma and her amarog son Kieran visit the nearest village on market day.
The cult finds Neoma and uses Kieran to trap her into surrendering to them.
Tyrel is the heir apparent to the title of Chief of an independent fort. His half-brother Madoc is his loyal shadow and best friend, and they grew up learning together how to fight. Tyrel has a thrall, a young woman named Kaveri, captured during a raid.
Tyrel has to prove himself with one last trial, with a trip to the one fort that has ever fallen, alone with Madoc. On the way, they encounter a wolf-like amarog outside of what should be normal range, and have a short and rather odd battle with it.
Meetings 3 (2 parts)
Madoc’s injury from the fight with the amarog is healed by morning. At Banvard, they find that after dark, the previous residents manifest as ghosts, including the Chief, whose approval Tyrel needs. The Chief instead turns aggressive, claiming that Tyrel has brought a non-human into his hall, and has his people attack the two of them.
Tyrel and Madoc have made it home to Dunnval, but without the blessings of Banvard’s Chief, the trouble’s only starting. They have to pack and leave as quickly as possible, and Tyrel decides that rather than abandoning Kaveri, he’s taking her along.
The trio stay along the edge of the Forest, which tends to be intimidating to the residents of the forts, in hopes of getting as far away as possible without being caught. Kaveri’s hunter-gatherer upbringing within the Forest is extremely useful.
Kaveri meets Kieran
Meetings 7 (2 parts)
Fighters from Dunnval and other forts ambush them; they’re helped in the fight by an amarog. Madoc dies, but not before his blood gets on Tyrel’s badly wounded leg. The amarog leads Tyrel and Kaveri to a safer place, and after moonrise, introduces himself as Kieran and explains. Kaveri makes a choice. Tyrel’s first experience as a fox.
Tyrel and Kaveri experimenting with, and playing in, fox and raccoon forms.
Kieran, Tyrel, and Kaveri cross the river into a new land.
Kieran is leading Tyrel, Kaveri, and Madoc back towards Valeyan’s domain. Tyrel is finding it difficult to adapt to a very different life.
Garden 2 (2 parts)
The moonblood quartet reach the Valley of Umako, which is entirely a single immense garden. While wandering, they begin to find hints that all is not well within the Garden, though the semi-religious order that tends to it and its very young earth-lord aren’t discussing it.
Garden 3 (3 parts)
The moonblood quartet slip back into the Garden after dark, when most of it is inaccessible to the public. Kieran waits in the night garden and sends the younger trio to investigate. They rescue one of the gardeners from what would have been an uncomfortable experience, and find an ally and further information that allows them to plan a trap for the creature that has been causing mischief.
Garden 4 (2 parts)
The trap is a success, leading to a showdown with Umako personally, as it’s his creation that got out of his control.
In the Garden by daylight, Tyrel and Kaveri talk about past and future.
The road takes our heroes into a village struck by plague. Kaveri and Kieran make contact with the survivors, while Madoc and Tyrel search the outlying farms.
Kaveri and Kieran make contact with the survivors, while Madoc and Tyrel search the outlying farms.
All four do what they can for the plague survivors, until official help is spotted.
A quartet of city guards have supper at a small food-shop, celebrating Tyrel’s promotion. Afterwards, Tyrel and his now-ex partner interrupt Mirren on a street-corner, haranguing a growing crowd about the downward spiral Galimont is in.
The moonblood group meet by moonlight outside the city to compare notes on their various approaches and make plans.
Convictions 3 (2 parts)
A quartet of troublemakers visit the food-shop, and Madoc rapes (apparently) Kaveri. Tyrel and his guard friends show up at exactly the right moment to make an arrest.
Tyrel convinces the Chief Magistrate’s secretary that this case should be heard personally; on the way out, he stops to speak to the secretary of the single female magistrate clinging to her position. Outside, he encounters Mirren and makes a bargain with her.
Convictions 5 (3 parts)
As planned, Kaveri’s refusal to back down from her charges of rape lead to her being kidnapped and spirited out of the city. Not as planned, Mirren gets caught in the same trap. With few other options, Kaveri shares blood with Mirren.
Tyrel and Kieran show up, covertly. Rather than being raped repeatedly, Kaveri and Mirren run and are brought down by trained dogs, with Kieran hiding among them to make it a quicker death.
Mirren and Madoc are both back when Sanur is full; explanations and plans follow.
Convictions 8 (2 parts)
A trap is sprung, sealing off the city and rounding up those in positions of authority that Tyrel has reason to believe are involved in the crimes. Lilura, as the one magistrate he is certain of, is installed as Acting Chief Magistrate.
Mirren takes over the food-shop, as Kaveri and Kieran leave Galimont ahead of the others. Tyrel expects to spend a few more months making sure everything is stable before he and Mirren and Madoc follow.
Kieran and Kaveri reach Valeyan’s domain, for reunions and introductions. Neoma isn’t there.
Kieran tells Hickory about what he’s been doing, including the decades before meeting Kaveri, Tyrel, and Madoc.
Mirren, Madoc, and Tyrel catch up with them.
Reflections on the winter, fun on four feet, and a plan to make sure they can’t lose each other even if they’re separated.
Our heroes are now in Enodia, a highly civilized nation with an abundance of gods. While wandering, they witness part of a marriage rite: the bride dancing for the Great Mother in the temple to ask her blessings.
Turn 2 (3 parts)
Drawn by a crowd, Kaveri and her friends watch the opening of a new public hospital, with a speech by the princess who was the primary force behind it. When the princess and her cousin are attacked by a brown bear and a bald eagle, Kieran goes berserk attacking both. Kaveri and her other friends do their best to protect the royal pair, but an injury by a gastrophete bolt results in an accident while Madoc is trying to keep Narcissa safe behind him. Bear, eagle, and Kieran all die, Madoc is badly injured and Mirren less so, and the third would-be assassin escapes.
After the battle: explaining to Narcissa and Evander who they are and what’s happened. An agreement is reached that Kaveri and the others will step in as bodyguards, since they can fight things humans can’t and since two of Narcissa’s are badly hurt.
Turn 4 (2 parts)
Narcissa has her first encounter with Lirit’s light; Narcissa and Evander talk alone; Kaveri can’t sleep.
Turn 5 (2 parts)
While discussing the reasons for the particular form of attack used, the meaning of bear and eagle, some of Enodia’s gods, and something of the histories of Narcissa and Evander, the group is interrupted by repeated pounding at the door. Hermia is attacked outside the back door when she goes to fetch the city patrol, but Madoc and Kaveri help out.
Turn 6 (3 parts)
For the sake of keeping everything normal, Evander, as Lysandra, goes to her weekly “job” as dancer at the Peacock, a haven for those who don’t fit into rigid categories. While Lysandra dances, Narcissa reassures friends that they’re both safe.
Evander and Kaveri talk about civilization, privacy violations, and masks.
Turn 8 (2 parts)
Lysandra discovers that someone has been trying to manipulate housemaid Clytie into giving them access to the house at night.
Turn 10 (3 parts)
An old and extremely persistent suitor of Narcissa’s, prince of a neighbouring nation, pays a visit, and turns out to belong to the other moonblood line.
Turn 11 (2 parts)
Narcissa’s household is attacked by the other bloodline, and Lysandra is badly injured.
Turn 12 (3 parts)
Narcissa waits at the hospital for Lysandra to wait, tries to decide whether it would be worse in the long run to change her, and has a conversation with Lirit. Aithre and others intervene.
Turn 13 (3 parts)
As they leave Enodia roughly two years later, Lysandra joins the family as Meyar’s daughter, a honeyfox (a type of flying fox or fruit bat), and gets a further gift from Meyar.
Travelling 1 (2 parts)
A young woman and her fiance watch a show at a fair, which includes some familiar figures among the performances.
Travelling 2 (2 parts)
The end of the day as part of the travelling show.
Travelling 3 (2 parts)
Lysandra’s adventures shopping in a small town.
Return 1 (3 parts)
Travelling along a miserably hot deserted road, they stop at a well and encounter mice. Narcissa speculates about conditions, disease, and her ability to help if they continue.
Return 2 (2 parts)
They reach the town, speak to the authorities, and are given a place to camp in an abandoned lot.
Return 3 (3 parts)
Lysandra and Narcissa explore the town, find the temple and Ejiro’s Bride, and meet Onyeko.
Onyeka and her children Enitan and Nechi visit for a meal and an educational conversation about what’s been happening in Ilek.
Lysandra, with Narcissa and Kieran, dances to invite Ejiro to talk to them.
Lysandra’s hidden audience and the effects of her dance on two other moonblood and on Ejiro’s spirit-creatures.
Kaveri, Tyrel, and the cats at the camp while Lysandra is dancing: a would-be thief, and Lysandra returning with news.
Return 9 (2 parts)
A day’s hard work, a small furry guest, and a pushy messenger.
Tyrel, Mirren, and Lysandra scout in animal-form.
Return 11 (2 parts)
An informative conversation with Aithre takes place, and a discussion of what they should do.
Return 12 (2 parts)
An even busier day, a gift with an ulterior motive, and a further conversation with Onyeka regarding spirit-creatures, Ejiro, and his Brides.
Return 13 (2 parts)
Kaveri and Kieran are attacked and kidnapped while alone at the campsite. Lysandra forces Juro into the open.
Ejiro’s spirit-creatures urge Abena, Onyeka, and the other previous Brides to the campsite, where they decide to stay to keep it safe from looting.