It’s time for Episode 5 of our reread and judging from the cover and tile, we are in for a lot of that most favored Riverside activity! …No, not that one – we mean swordplay, of course!
Our drama opens on Kaab, panting and sweaty, 2 hours into an “All Challengers Welcome” duel extravaganza. It seems she is hosting auditions for Tess’s next protector and the test of strength is against her own blade.
Amongst the crowd gathering to cheer is none other than Vincent Applethorpe (who readers experienced with Kushner’s previous works might recognize…). When one particular opponent fights without honor, Vincent swoops in to save Kaab from an untimely death.
<scene change> 72 hours earlier
Micah is not happy with how the math is going. Endless hours since last episode have continued to come to naught as her tables, charts, and sums still don’t add up. Rafe is distressed – but way too distracted by his continuing affair with William to be much help. And Kaab, though joining them for friendly cups of chocolate, is doing her absolute best to keep Micah from the truth. That said, everyone knows it’s hard to say “no” to a friend so when Rafe and Micah ask her to let them look at her uncle’s navigational charts, she reluctantly agrees.
We’re back in Riverside and Kaab is getting acquainted with the talented new arrival until a shriek from Tess makes all the heads turn: her drawings have been stolen! Kaab scans the crowd for the culprit and distractedly makes plans to engage Vincent in a friendly bout at another tine.
<scene change> 70 hours earlier
After leaving Micah and Rafe, Kaab goes to visit the object of her affections and finds Tess thoroughly shaken from having her home ransacked. The hopeful thieves seem not to have found what they were after as nothing was stolen, despite the thorough damage. Kaab is adamant that Tess needs a new protector, drawing a line between this recent attack and Ben’s murder, but Tess is just as adamant that this is a random act and one very out of the norm for Riverside. They argue and Tess kicks Kaab out for acting as if she knows better than a born and raised Riversider.
We’re back in the present, after Kaab’s dramatic showing. A new figure amongst the crowd is highlighted, and we learn his nefarious history: He is a swordsman working for none other than House Tremontaine! His interior monologue reveals that he was the man sent to murder Ben, after Ben appeared at the house to show Diane a certain picture. Having dispatched the unlucky man, the swordsman is now set upon his new task of ensuring that no additional copies of the mysterious picture exist – or ever could exist. Given this new reveal, it can be safely assumed that he was the rogue behind Tess’ recent break in.
The Swordsman observes Tess’ dismay over her lost drawings and grows concerned that he has already let the picture replicas through his grasps. In that moment of anxiety, his carefully constructed affectation of a bumbling fool is allowed to slide…
<scene change> 65 hours earlier
Diana suffers through one of her endless social gatherings, fending off sycophants and character assassin alike. Particularly disturbing are the barbs tossed her way regarding William’s recent lack of focus at Council meetings – it seems his affair with Rafe is seeing consequences elsewhere.
Diane returns home, intent to confront William about exactly that – only to come up short at the door between their bedrooms when she hears him and Rafe at play on the other side. She waits, seething with rage, for them to finish – only to hear Rafe encouraging William to pursue that very thing she had just recently distracted him from: Highcombe!
Rafe wants William to rent it out, Diane knows he can’t because she has secretly mortgaged it, and Will knows nothing but that he wants to please both his lover and his wife. In the end, leaving them to their sport, Diane determines that she must find a way to make William hers – and hers alone – again.
Present moment again, back in Riverside, and we see that Kaab’s keen eye has caught the slip by the dangerous Tremontaine swordsman – as well as his feigned non-interest in Tess and her missing papers. Apparently their object having been found, Kaan and Tess execute the last act of their play wherein Tess miraculously “finds” her missing drawings and makes sure the surrounding crowd can see what they are of – drawings of a locket. Content that their move has been played, Kaab tells Tess to watch the swordsman while she takes on one last challenger: Vincent Applethorpe.
<scene change> 30 hours earlier
Kaab’s restless sleep at the Balam compound is interrupted by a clandestine visit from Tess. Even more shaken than before, she’s come to tell Kaab that her home was invaded again – and this time they left something: Ben’s bloodied coat, and a drawing of Tess that indicates they’ve been watching her. She is now convinced Kaab was right – she is in danger.
Given this latest scare, she opens up to Kaab about what Ben showed her the night before he died: a locket his father had given to him. Ben had asked her to draw it for him then took the drawings on an errand from which he never returned.
Tess’ fear has a profound effect on Kaab: she finds stillness. The clarity of purpose (to find Ben’s murderer and protect Tess) leads her to forming a plan: She suspects that the home invaders are seeking any potential remaining evidence of the locket’s existence. She proposes that Tess make some replica drawings and they use these as a lure to figure out who exactly their foe is. Meanwhile, they must also find a new protector for Tess. For her part, the forger is grateful for this new and unexpected friend, and they share a long embrace.
The fight between Kaab and Vincient is under way and it is a thing of beauty. Vincent is clearly the superior swordsman but Kaab’s stillness is apparent and any man as skilled with a blade as Applethorpe can recognize it. After much exciting back and forth (really great fight scene work here from Alaya Dawn Johnson), Kaab yields – and demands Vincent take up the role of Tess’s protector. So intrigued by the foreign swordswoman, and her offer to teach him about her stillness (if he’ll teach her the sword), he agrees.
<scene change> 5 hours earlier
Diane is most displeased. Apparently William slept through the morning’s Council of Lords meeting – where Diane had intended him to vote in the chocolate tariff-lowing measure that she needs to secure her deal with the Balam’s and restore some financial security. She arrives at the house to find Rafe, disheveled and sleep-deprived, just stumbling out of William’s room.
With merely a quirked brow and a sly question, Diana shames Rafe and reveals her complete awareness of what is going on. After he leaves, William scrambles to apologize for failing her (by not attending the meeting – it seems he still might think she’s none the wiser to the true nature of his relationship with Rafe) – but Diane will hear none of it.
By calculated decisions she shows him only sadness and disappointment, rather than anger, then retreats to her rooms to deal with the situation herself. Clearly she can no longer trust William to execute her carefully constructed plots, but there are other ways. Amongst them, we see – a certain Lord Davenant, Dragon Chancellor of the Council of Lords, Master of the Exchequer, and hopeful lover of Diane…
The final act of Episode 5 reveals the culmination of Kaab and Tess’s plot: in the joyous carousing after the final duel of the day, the Tremontaine swordsman (we now know is named Reynald) falls into their trap and steals Tess’s drawings. In the move from field-of-fight to the tavern, Kaab had clued Vincent in on the plan and asked him to keep watch.
When they see that their trap has successfully sprung, Kaab begs a prize from Tess – ostensibly for winning her such a great protector as Vincent – and is awarded with a kiss. Vincent uses the uproar to cover his escape as he follows the retreating Reynald out of Riverside…and all the way to the gates of Tremontaine.