Reread Featuring Tremontaine

Tremontaine Season 1 Reread: Episode 3, “Heavenly Bodies”

[WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS]

Author Joel Derfner begins Episode 3 with a description of Diane’s gown so sumptuous I feel obligated to repeat it:

…silk the color of pale irises trembling open at the break of dawn, lace as fine as spiderwebs gathered at the cuffs, the bodice almost as exquisite as the collarbone it was cut to reveal…

The occasion for such a dress is left a mystery – and William’s ignorance of said reason is highlighted. It’s clear that the Duke Tremontaine has spent his marriage slowly learning to ignore the true subtleties of his wife.

Elsewhere, Rafe is dragged from his bed to attend lecture (though the hangover is less easy to escape). It seems our erstwhile scholar lost his head in drink the night before and thoroughly offended his professor de Bertel, giving offense not soon forgotten. The professor baits him into a public show of wits (as, we learn, battles can be fought in this world with poetry just as easily as with swords) but deals the killing blow by informing Rafe that the potential decision so recently protested has come to pass:

“I have the honor of informing you that the Board of Governors met this morning and, piqued by the ill-advised and bombastic gathering last week, decided to vote on their proposal immediately.”

Rafe is horrified. The decision means that the panel of professors assigned to oversee each student’s final examination will no longer be up to the choice of the student, but rather selected by the school – and de Bertel intends to sit on Rafe’s.

Too upset to stay and be further baited, Rafe leaves the lecture and stumbles into none other than William! Prepared to froth and rage, he is taken aback by a sudden – and forward – invitation from the Duke to take chocolate at House Tremontaine and discuss the vote.

Over in Riverside, Kaab returns like a moth to a flame in search of information – and action. From a flirtatious barmaid she finally learns she was mistaken about Tess and Ben: neither whore, pimp, nor lovers; they are instead a counterfeiter of some reputation, her protector, and just friends (having both of them inclinations away from the gender of the other.) Kaab is most intrigued.

Later she returns home in time to be present for Diane’s visit with Uncle Chuleb. It appears the Duchesses’ careful dress choice this morning was for none of other than the Balam patriarch. Unwilling to miss such a potentially significant discussion, Kaab pretends to be a servant and sits in, serving the chocolate.

Diane’s intentions are revealed to be a plot to influence William into leading a vote amongst the Chamber of Lords to lower the tax rate on chocolate import. This would dramatically help the Balam enterprise – and place them in a position of obligation to Diane as a thank you for her help. Chuleb is impressed by her cunning, though Kaab observes the cracks in her perfect façade: ignorance of Kinwiinik culture and a tendency to underestimate those she has not yet felt the need to understand fully.

A brief scene shows us that Micah is not forgotten: she’s just been doing math. Like a duckling to water, Micah has taken to her new studies – though the water (what with its yelling professors, inept fellow students, and endless stream of new faces and noises) is considerably harder to navigate than she generally prefers.

Finally, we return to the House Tremontaine where a bemused William is serving chocolate to a sulking Rafe. They discuss Rafe’s complaints against the University, particularly the professors who, according to him, are dinosaurs for refusing to enter the modern era and concede that the earth revolves around the sun.

William learns why the Board of Governor’s decision will likely mean the end of Rafe’s dreams (the panel selected for him will surely not let him pass, meaning Rafe will never get his robes and never be in a position of academia capable to launch his own university). Throughout the talk of stars, schools, and scholarship – Rafe can’t suppress a rising heat he is too worldly to wrongly attribute, and one William seems quite happy to flame.

Rafe felt feverish. “Call me”—the duke cleared his throat and paused—“do you even know my first name?”

“You mean it isn’t My?” No; the eyes weren’t just deep blue. There was a touch of the green sea in them as well.

The smile broadened. “Would that I were so lucky. No. It’s William.”

It isn’t long before William breaks their chatter by making the first move – the mutual attraction being too strong to ignore for even one more second. Rafe is too intoxicated to want the escalation to stop – but even as his mouth and hands work independently for pleasure, his brain starts to twist and dodge, forming excuses for why he would ever get intimate with a noble, much less one he hates for being involved with the Board of Governors. He will use William, or so he imagines, to secure a more favorable decision from the University.

William, proving not nearly as lacking in perception as we were led to believe (or rather – at least not when a handsome young man is involved), feels the subtle change in the scholar’s attention and withdraws: He has no interest in a pliable Rafe who performs for lovers in hopes of affecting some action. He wants Rafe as he is: hot-blooded and tempestuous, angry and willing to say so, unconcerned with William’s rank or influence. For his part, Rafe is easily persuaded to drop his scheming and let his passions again take charge.

After their love making, there on the lush carpeting of William’s library, they return to the Board’s decision and William finally reveals how he voted: in support of the measure so detested by Rafe. He is quick to say that he now realizes his mistake and will work to overturn the decision – but the blow is dealt and Rafe storms out in a rage.

On the stair, he runs into none other than Diane, recently returned from her meeting with the Balams. Riding a wave of passion mingled with fury, he lashes out at her, cursing her privilege and spitefully wishing poverty and destitution upon her. She is taken aback – a small victory in and of itself that Rafe clutches to before finishing his hurried departure.

Heavenly Bodies

But Diane is not one to be totally unsettled by a raving student yelling at her in her own home, especially when other concerns take precedence: a note from her maid reveals a caller at the gates wishing to speak with her. It’s Ben – Benjamin Hawke, to name him in full – there to show her “a certain object that had long been in his family’s possession; an object, he was sure, of the greatest interest to her.”

And apparently he wasn’t wrong. We don’t learn anything more about the object from this scene, only that it could mean her total destruction. She gives Ben some promise and he leaves content, while she sits and ponders her own impending doom.

Elsewhere someone else is also having a bad day – Micah’s professor is none too pleased when she interrupts his lecture to point out a significant error in his thinking on the matter of triangles and their relations to spheres. Eventually the good Doctor Volney storms out, too angry (or, hopefully, embarrassed) to continue, and Rafe takes Micah for celebratory tomato pies.

At the tavern they run into Kaab, who had been searching without luck for Tess. Over beers, their talk turns back to the question of the stars and Rafe’s firm belief that the established thought (that the sun revolves around the earth) is wrong. Kaab reveals that all of her people know such a thing is preposterous. Rafe condescendingly wonders how it is possible that even the Kinwiinik understand something his own people have yet to grasp, and this baits Kaab into making a statement both casually grand, but also terrifyingly destructive in its potential: she boasts: “in regard of the earth circling the sun—of course we understand that. If we didn’t, how do you think we would find our way here?”

She realizes her misstep immediately when Rafe takes the logical jump to thinking how his own father, a local merchant, would benefit if he too understood how to properly use the stars for navigation. Kaab is horrified at her lapse in judgment and tries to amend the damage by throwing Rafe (and, more honestly, Micah, who will be the one actually doing the equations to support Rafe’s thesis) by spinning a lie that the earth is an ellipsoid, rather than a sphere. Rafe and Micah seem to buy her story – but Kaab’s fears are barely assuaged.

After the tavern Rafe finds himself on the street, standing quite literally at a crossroads. One way would be home – The university, more taverns, his studies, other lovers. The other way lies the Hill. And William. He turns towards the latter.

Already at the Tremontiane manor, Diane reads a letter newly come from Uncle Chuleb – in veiled language, he accepts her overture and promises friendship in return, should she be able to make good on her promise of having the chocolate tariffs lowered. Content that at least one of her plans is moving forward apace, she sets in motion another by calling her house swordsman Renald and giving him some secret mission.

The final scene gives us snapshots of the city: Rafe, in the arms of a lover he never expected; Kaab, immersed in her family she so recently endangered; Micah, staring at the stars and pondering the math of it all; Diane, blessing a dinner party with her presence; and finally a body, dead and floating through the waters of Riverside – unnoticed, for now…

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