Last time on The Shadow Cats, Alodia and Elisa met Paxón, his fiancée Calla, and Calla’s niece Lupita. What will happen next? Find out after the cut.
Zito, Elisa, Ximena, and I follow the conde and his mayordomo to the audience hall, which is dimly lit by grimy clerestory windows. The dry air smells faintly of incense. Dusty tables are scattered haphazardly throughout, covered with cold candles in various states of melt. It feels like a place that suffers human company rarely – a good place for secrets, perhaps.
This place is also an excellent one for Paxón to infodump his guests! As always, I’ll break this up into manageable chunks.
Why Is Paxón Marrying Calla?
Paxón is marrying Calla so that he can a) strengthen Khelia’s borders, and b) prove to King Hitzedar that he takes defending Orovalle seriously. This pleases Alodia, because she wants to improve southern Orovalle before becoming queen.
What Is the Extent of the Blight?
Paxón reveals that the blight affects all the land a league (that’s anywhere between 4 to 6 kilometers) around Khelia. The region has had perfect weather, but the trees haven’t blossomed, and the fields haven’t yielded any crops. And all of this started when Calla and her family arrived at Khelia. Oh, and to make matters worse, Calla’s father is having doubts about the marriage, Khelia’s food stores are nearly depleted, fights are breaking out between the soldiers, and something called Espiritu is terrorizing the citizens.
What Is Espiritu?
Espiritu is a jaguar. Maybe. At least, that’s what Elisa thinks it is, after Paxón describes it as a creature that eats sheep and chickens.
Espiritu is blamed for things other than eating livestock. He’s somehow responsible for Calla’s seamstress messing up some stitches on her wedding terno, making horses panic, letting rats into the food stores, and causing food to spoil. He’s just generally bad news.
Of course, Elisa doesn’t think that Espiritu is to blame for everything. She thinks that whatever’s causing the blight is also poisoning the food stores, and that God may be punishing Paxón for something.
And then the infodump is interrupted by Calla and Lupita. After a round of apologies, Lupita complains that she can’t be the flower girl at the wedding because there are no flowers. And no, dried flowers just won’t cut it. However, Elisa finds some scarlet hedgenettle in Lupita’s hair, and explains that the flower can symbolize the hardiness of the Khelians. Lupita is initially skeptical, since she thinks that scarlet hedgenettle is a weed.
During this little conversation, Alodia realizes that she never noticed any scarlet hedgenettle plants on the way to Khelia, but Elisa obviously did. She also notices that Paxón and Calla seem to genuinely care for each other. Alodia laments that she’ll probably never get to marry someone she loves.
After dinner and some boring conversation about lumber prices and Ventierran wine, a jaguar roars somewhere nearby. Everyone gets scared shitless, especially after they discover that the roar came from the castle gardens….
Stuff I Forgot to Mention Above:
How does Elisa know so much about jaguars? Well, she read about them, of course.
Lupita’s full name: Guadalupe-Esteva.
For those of you wondering: scarlet hedgenettle is a real plant.
Calla adopted Lupita after her mother died several years ago.
Spoiler alert: Alodia ends up in an arranged marriage. Guess who arranges it.
Hector – royal guard and tour guide extraordinaire – hails from Ventierra. It’s not revealed until the next book, though. So, um … spoiler, I guess?
“How do you know about the shadow cats, Your Highness?” says Paxón, and I don’t appreciate the mockery in his tone. “Have you hunted them yourself?”
All the foodstuffs mentioned in this chapter:
- Small puffs filled with diced mushrooms
- Cheese and chive scones
- Tiny quiches with red peppers (lol that’s traditional Thanksgiving fare at my house)
It’s Translation Time!
Translations of Spanish / Spanish-influenced words in this chapter:
- Espiritu = spirit (he’s like a ghost!)
- Ventierra = see land; alternately, from Spanish vino tierra = wine land (the latter derivation is probably correct)
Advanced Translation Time!
We get a scripture quote in this chapter: “It is not for man to know the intent of God.” Here’s the quote in Lengua Classica:
Né es para lo homem a conhecer la intençé de Deus.
Crazy Theory Time!
Guadalupe is another name that can’t exist in this setting, unless we’re dealing with a post-apocalyptic world or a human colony on another planet. Two reasons: the name is of partial Arabic origin, and it has obvious religious connotations.
Next time: Alodia and Elisa stumble onto a crime scene.