The time for another Grand Symposium has rolled around, and the Tiger Generals are present in Alabaster to both participate and provide security. As Hyuginsha and Myuninsha explain it, since Dr. Lupine has been invited to host a session and Valakar Doel intends to participate, it makes the most sense to have Gemma Fleetwind along as security, since the three work well together. Another Tiger General, the silent Thorbjorn, rounds out the official presence. The hawkwomen explain that they don’t expect too much trouble — the knaves most likely to cause trouble at such a scholarly accounting, such as Vervetine the Tinker Queen, are largely accounted for or being actively distracted.
“So there’s little danger of the symposium getting out of hand,” says Hyuginsha. “Well, apart from the usual.” She gestures toward the heavily laden wine carts pulling up to the gardens.
As is traditional for a Grand Symposium, the first round of mingling takes place over breakfast before the seminars begin. The Tiger Generals enjoy their places of honor at the table, and Doel and Lupine begin speaking with their fellow scholars. An enthusiastic human scholar attaches himself to Lupine, introducing himself as Dr. Archimedes Griffon, another herbalist and alchemist of some repute. Griffon admits to being very interested in Lupine’s work. He also helps point out some of the other luminaries, such as Malachi Riverfoot (naturalism), Octavian Lycosa (medicine), Cleophilia Neferbuto (archaeology), Orbran Tyrfonsson (metallurgy), Petrovosondarvikkios (geology), Diana Argentine (alchemy), and Hephaestia Geier (mechanics).
The scholars head to the first symposiums of the day, while Gemma Fleetwind and Thorbjorn patrol as security detail. Orbrang Tyrfonsson’s metallurgy symposium is a noisy place, even ruling out the massive voice of the fire jotun. Valakar Doel quite enjoys the opportunity to discuss technique at full volume. Alec Lupine’s seminar on herbalism is directly the opposite, however, as he augments his discussion with free samples of various soporific botanica. Their discussion takes place in a dreamy haze.
The scholars spill out for lunch before the afternoon lecture/debates begin. Doel heads for the mechanics symposium led by Hephaestia Geier. Griffon attaches himself to Lupine again, claiming excitedly that the botanarium contains a rare phoenix-in-the-pulpit. The two herbalists agree to go and view it for themselves.
But someone’s waiting for them along the way to the greenhouses — Smiling Kate, the smilodon-shifter who holds the dubious honor of craziest among the Purebloods. Kate begins toying with Lupine, who takes a nasty wound. Dr. Lupine yells for Griffon to find help, and then blinks away, leaving his clothes and gear behind.
Smiling Kate and Dr. Lupine play a game of cat and mouse, as she continues to track him as best she can given his teleportation. The badly bleeding herbalist hides in the brain cavity of a behemoth skull, hoping for the time to transform before the Pureblood picks up his scent. Soon he hears her padding through the room full of skeletons, sniffing the air.
In the other rooms, the sounds of drinking, lecturing and debating drown out any chance of hearing Lupine’s troubles — almost any. The storm bear senses of Thorbjorn are different. The ursine Tiger General speaks for the first time since meeting the others, directing Gemma to go look for Lupine. He in turn heads to the engineering symposium that Valakar Doel’s attending.
Doel’s symposium is reaching an energetic pitch, as Geier’s claims that Ebonheim has by and large better engineering at hand are causing some controversy. The argument is abruptly cut short when the door slams down off its hinges courtesy of Thorbjorn’s paw. The storm bear roars for Doel, telling him that trouble’s at hand. Doel rises and promises his peers to finish the discussion later.
Smiling Kate pauses under the skeleton where Lupine is hiding, but before she can clamber up, Gemma Fleetwind dashes into the gallery. She throws a flurry of unblockable punches, staggering the Pureblood. Kate anticipates the gazelle-Kin’s next move, and sends Gemma flying with a well-aimed backhand, but by then Lupine has completed his change. In his bloodied warform, he explodes from the skull and flattens Smiling Kate.
At the other end of the building, Doel and Thorbjorn storm the alchemy seminar, where the Knockabout Three have raided the party. Brother Griff and Ursus Majorus are looting the shelves for valuable reagents, while Tyg the Wallbender has pressed various scholars against the wall with a stone rampart.
Thorbjorn slams into Ursus Majorus, storm bear vs. bear-Kin. Brother Griff spars with Doel in turn, leaping off the walls to strike the hawkman. The irritated Doel soon overcharges and strikes Griff with his maximum-strength thunderbolt, blasting the goat-Kin back so far he’s embedded in Tyg’s imprisoning wall. Doel demands that Tyg surrender, and faced with the violent subdual of Brother Griff, Tyg seriously considers it for a moment.
But only for a moment. Mocking the hawkman for an intellectual, he strikes Doel with an earthbolt, then pins the hawkman between two stony slabs. The brawl between Majorus and Thorbjorn is still inconclusive, but assistance arrives quickly as Gemma and then Dr. Lupine reach the brawl.
Gemma chooses to aid Thorbjorn, using the storm bear’s back as a ramp to leap up and strike at Majorus. Lupine runs down Tyg, knocking him into his own wall as Valakar Doel explodes free. With four-against-two odds (and Griff still unconscious), the remaining members of the Knockabout Three are quickly subdued. Fleetwind fetches Dr. Lycosa from his medicine seminar, and the bemused Spinner sees to mending Lupine’s wounds.
Doel waits for Tyg to regain consciousness and be carted away before he addresses the assembled scholars. “Ladies and gentlemen, this bruised brute figured me for a nerd. Ha! Let’s have a toast to nerddom — we’re smart enough not to go to jail!” He cheerily returns to the mechanics symposium, to defend the state of Chalcedonian mechanical advances.
But when Lupine returns to the site of Kate’s attack, things are less tidily resolved. Smiling Kate is long gone, her stubby tail between her legs. Also troubling, there’s no sign of Dr. Archimedes Griffon, who apparently didn’t go for help as instructed. When Dr. Lupine investigates the scene, it becomes evident that someone has scraped up some of his spilled blood.