Tremontaine is serialized fiction set 15 years before Swordspoint, available from Serial Box. The first episode of season one is free, both text and audio version. It's written by Ellen Kushner and several other talented writers, and read by amazing voice actors.
Season two will be starting soon, and I joined TremonTEAM, which got me an early look at the first chapter of that season and a request to write about it. I am assuming anyone reading this summary has read at least the first season of Tremontaine.
Coming back to the City in autumn, there have clearly been some changes.
It is the Convocation for the Opening of the Council of Lords. Clara Galing has died, leaving some wondering whether her husband will remarry or not. On the one hand, the Crescent Chancellor seems to have eyes only for Asper Lindley; on the other, he does need an heir.
Kaab has quarreled with her family, or so it seems. Presuming this is not a facade -- and if it is, it has fooled even Diane -- the odds are that it has to do with Tess. Kaab attends the party to learn, but apparently learns all she needs to know from Rafe.
What has Rafe told her that was what she sought? That Micah is staying at the University? That he cannot seem to make his father's ledgers balance, something he has not told his father, lest his father's pride in him falter? And, just why can't Rafe make those ledgers balance? Is he that bad at adding figures, or has someone been cheating his father, a possibiity which does not seem to have occurred to him, but which ought to have occurred to Kaab. And perhaps it has -- we don't know.
The ambassador from Chartil catches everyone's eye in more ways than one, as do his fine gifts, a promise of equally fine trading goods. Diane has anticipated this with her locally made shawl croeated as an imitation of the Chartil styles -- one the ambassador recognizes and appreciates. Diane also makes sure that she and the extremely pregnant Ixsaabim are in accord over the agreement Diane made with Kaab.
Diane is enjoying her freedom and her power, beckoning to Rafe who responds by fleeing. But, what she assumes is fear seems more likely to be fury, rather like Kaab's flight from Lord Horn at the last Swan Ball. Kaab fled not because she feared the man, but because it would be inappropriate to skewer him in that setting.
Diane is seeking a new lover and does not wish the Dragon Chancellor to get improper ideas about his status when it comes to her. He is clearly trying to confirm some kind of ownership, which makes an interesting comparison with the Crescent's discomfort as the Chartil ambassador tries to find a way to "gift" the Crescent with a woman that will not violate the customs of the Land.
Basil Halliday stands out to Diane's discerning eye. Conscientious, patient in the face of social adversity whether that come from serving a demanding wife or a tiresome Dragon Chancellor, Halliday has but one flaw where Diane is concerned: The man is clearly faithful to his wife.
Diane does not have too many scruples on that account alone, but she does recognize how awkward it would be if the Dragon learned that she made a lover of someone working under him. So, she cannot choose Basil Halliday as a lover and cat's paw. But, there are two men who may do. One is Lionel Chesney, who seems to take an actual interest in politics and in Basil Halliday's role in them. The other is Ahtul of the Kinwiinik, born in the City, calling himself Arthur, to the dismay of his relatives. Like Lionel Chesney, Ahtul / Arthur is eager to please the duchess, and, to her delight, he has ties to the University, as well as to the Kinwiinik.
Finally, while she was unable to find a swordsman to replace the late, not especially lamented Reynald, a surprisingly non-tedious luncheon with women of her own station brought the Duchess of Hartsholt to suggest that, with William insane, possibly permanently, Diane might well rule as duchess in her own right. Certainly, this has not been done in living memory, but there are archives and lawyers to find precedent, and ducal houses "have always had the privilege of choosing their own heir". And, after all, Diane Roehaven is of as good a bloodline as William Tielman, and possibly possessed of an even better claim to the duchy.
The Raven Chancellor is Lord Ranulph Lassiter. The Raven is the secretary to the council.
The Dragon Chancellor is the exchequer.
The Serpent Chancellor is in charge of intelligence and is always Arlen.
The Crescent Chancellor presides over these three, and the three ducal houses of Hartholt, Karleigh, and Tremontaine.
These seven make up the Inner Council.
The Inner Council plus the rest of the nobles form the Council of Lords.
None of the Inner Council may leave the dais at the Convocation until all of them are present, and Arlen always comes late.
The Kinwiinik people have a "triple alliance of Kinwiinik Traders". This includes three cities: Binkiinha (which is where Kaab is from), Cehtuun (where Ahtul / Arthur is expected to think of as home), and one other, which I don't think has yet been named.
Ahtul / Arthur is the fifth son of the house of Chel.
Diane has scores to settle with Asper.
Rafe has scores to settle with Diane.
Rafe has cut his hair as a promise to his gods that if they help him find William, he won't touch another man. Presumably, this does not include casual contact or unintended contact, as when the Chartil ambassador kisses his hand, possibly flirting with him. Interestingly, if Rafe were to have intimate relations with a woman, he would not have broken that vow.