Judging from Episode 4’s title, “A Wake in Riverside”, It seems we won’t be long left in the dark over just whose body was seen floating down river in the last moments of “Heavenly Bodies”. But who is the unlucky soul?? Kaab seems about to find out as her continued efforts at tracking down the beautiful Tess who so captivated her in Episode 1 lead her back to Riverside. She talks to a street urchin named Jamie who, for a price, tells her Tess is at a nearby tavern – “Near where the body washed up.”
After making her way to the Three Dogs, Kaab takes time to scout the area. After skulking around back she makes the disturbing discovery of just what has gathered Tess and others that day: the body of Ben. She keenly observes a stab wound in his back and suddenly is overcome by memories of a moonlit courtyard in Tullan and another body, another stab wound, another time she brushed close to death. She whispers a prayer over Ben, covers his body back up, and heads into the tavern to observe how Riversiders mourn death – in short: with drink and song.
Kaab stands out pretty immediately from the crowd of Riversiders, but quick thinking and a sincere toast to the departed sets the party at ease and she is accepted into the fold of not-so-sober mourners. Stories of Ben are told, as well as of his father who apparently was a notorious highwayman, though one with a moral compass: “Ruper Hawke, Gentleman Robber, steals your money but spares your daughter!” She hears one particular tale of the time he robbed a carriage, murdered the attending men, but left the two young ladies therein unmolested.
More stories, drinks, and songs go by and at the end of the evening Kaab has outwaited the rest to finally approach the beautiful Tess. The forger, for her part, seems aware she’s caught the foreigner’s eye and unsurprised by Kaab’s offer to walk her home. Kaab’s overture had begun under the guise of acting as Tess’ protector, now that Ben was no more, but Tess educates her on Riverside etiquette: “There’s two weeks to mourn someone, here in Riverside, before anyone would even think to bother you.”
Still, she’s intrigued enough by Kaab to allow the odd aspiring swordswoman to accompany her. They become aquainted through the course of the walk, with Tess finally learning Kaab’s name and Kaab extolling the virtues of chocolate – a delicacy we see here has thus far been reserved for the nobles on the hill. Upon reaching Tess’ home, Kaab asks to come up – to speak of business, of course.
The job is an odd one: she wants Tess to forge some star charts of her family’s, but insert mistakes. She’d promised to provide the documents to Micah but must keep the brilliant mathematician (and her ambitious benefactor Rafe) away from the truth of the stars, in order to protect the Kinwiinik’s trading monopoly. Tess is surprised by the odd request, but accepts the job.
Having settled the matter, Kaab moves on to the more pressing matter: the fact that she believes Ben was murdered. She tells Tess about the stab wound and expresses her earnest concern over the forger’s safety. Tess is frightened by the news, and surprised by Kaab’s keen interest in protecting her. With a quick kiss on the cheek, Kaab promises to find out more about Ben’s murder.
Over in Lovers Land, Will has paid Rafe a visit at his humble abode – but their post-coital happy glow doesn’t last long, unfortunately, once their discussion turns more serious. Will proposes that Rafe come join his staff as Duke’s Secretary: this would give them reason to be together more, and stave off suspicions of their close relationship. Rafe bristles: he’s utterly unused to open affection from a lover, and disinclined to take any job at the service of nobles. He shuts down the idea and Will leaves disappointed and without a goodbye kiss.
Micah, meanwhile, is dealing with frustrations of her own. Hard at work on the question of celestial orbits and the movements of planets and stars, she’s figured out enough to know what’s wrong, just not yet enough to fix it. Rafe comes in, bringing much needed brain fuel in the form of meat pies, but before they can dig too deep into the mathematical quandary at hand, his roommates Thaddeus and Joshua tumble in.
They are far more concerned with the Duke’s surprise visit that morning and, much to Micah’s dismay, pull Rafe away from the stars and back to other theoretical matters – mainly Will’s offer. They are both convinced it’s a good idea: Rafe’s academic career being so stymied by the incalcitrant Board of Governors, why not take a position where he could make connections with those able to help him build his school?
Their logic, Rafe must admit, is sound. Not to mention that taking in the young Micah and keeping her supplied with the room, board, pens, and ink necessary to crack the navigation problem is no cost-less affair. After making up his mind and reassuring Micah that she absolutely must stay and continue her work, he sets off for the Hill – where, suffice to say, he and his decision are welcomed eagerly by his lover.
…An eagerness that can be heard through walls, as Diane learns. Interruped in her boudoir by the unmistakable sounds of two lovers at play, Diane is no fool to the situation playing out right in her own home. Her husband has taken a lover – a man, if her ear is to be trusted.
Cool under all circumstances, the Duchess is hard to read in this scene, even though no one save the reader is around to see her reaction as she presses her ear to the door and listens. In truth, she seems less upset by William’s infidelity and far more disconcerted by his acting outside of her per view. She is clearly wounded – but not to the point of breaking her calm. When the clock strikes the dinner hour, she pulls back from the door and descends to supper.
William arrives late – and lies to her about the reason for his tardiness. This, it seems, is the true heart break for Diane.
So William intended to lie to her about this Rafe. That was more upsetting than the affair itself. Men and women had needs, after all, and marriage was about more than physical desires. Did he not know she understood this? She wanted to demand that he tell her the truth, but he kept his gaze lowered to his plate of soup and said nothing. He was a horrible liar.
She was not.
She baits him as he discusses – slyly, he clearly believes – his intention to hire a young scholar named Rafe Fenton as his new secretary. She plays the perfect Duchess, offering to help situate Rafe in the house with room and livery and William, so perfectly inept at reading his own wife, babbles on happily, completely unaware.
He quickly shows his cards further by explaining that Rafe is on the verge of some important academic discovery and needs only the time and space to finish the work. He suggests taking a sojourn with his secretary to their garden estate Highcombe. Diane’s sudden terror reveals to the reader just what property she has secretly mortgaged behind William’s back: that very same Highcombe! She quickly makes up an excuse to delay any such journey by William and masterfully distracts her husband from the idea by inviting him to further extol her with the virtues of his new secretary.
And so ends Episode 4 wherein some things started to break apart, while many others began coming together, as artist Michelle Fee so wonderfully illustrates: