With the deeds back in their hands and Eustice out of trouble, at least for the moment, the Men of Real Talent pondered what came next. Eustice had noted that the Sky-Carvers Freyj had working for her during the game had been of House Verimadia, a noble family known to be associated with his cousin Phineos’s bid for power. Eustice decided he wanted to go laugh in his cousin’s face at his failure to screw up his game, and the rest of the Men wanted to know why Freyj had wanted the mining rights in the first place, and how House Verimadia was associated with the scheme. With both of these desires in accordance, the Men of Real Talent went to cousin Phineos’s house.
Phineos and Eustice have long had a tumultuous relationship. The son of Theonides’ less financially fortunate brother, Phineos is poor for a Varos, and has little overt influence in politics. However, he is often seen as a “golden boy,” everything Eustice is not: he is not only charming, but also intelligent, genuinely friendly and well-meaning, with a wisdom that belies his age and a knack for leadership. He is favored by a number of people (including Arrulio Verimadia) to replace Eustice as heir to the Varos fortune and political dynasty. Eustice refuses to see these good qualities, but hates that Phineos gets all this attention (Phineos had the gall to hog the attention at his own birthday parties when they were boys). Phineos, on the other hand, seems to legitimately like his cousin, and has shown no desire to oust Eustice from his seat of power.
At Phineos’s house, a modest dwelling in Council Heights, Eustice forced Jonakin to knock on the door and then turned blue (his inner fire blazing hot) in rage at the insolence of Phineos’s butler not knowing him by sight. Phineos greeted his cousin and the Men of Real Talent (including Mili, who had failed to properly camouflage herself, instead turning the color of wood without any kind of grain). His charming demeanor threw off Mili, who strobed her skin and ran out, prompting a reaction from Phineos of “that was really quite stunning,” and also began to confuse Gruda into thinking there might be other fish in the sea. Jonakin, noting this and wanting Gruda to get over Eustice, used her Bloodshifting to subtly enhance Gruda’s feminine qualities. As they sat down at Phineos’s table (Eustice taking Phineos’s place at the head), Iolanthe began subtly quizzing Phineos about the events at the Thousand Tastes. She pretended to be discussing a friend of marriageable age who was at the game, and in discussing Freyj and the presence of House Verimadia, gleaned a few details: Phineos did not appear to have been directly involved in the scheme, but may have suspected. He certainly was nervous about the mention of House Verimadia. Additionally, when Elleia House Idalion (an old friend of Iolanthe’s who was known to associate with House Verimadia and who frequented the Thousand Tastes while Iolanthe was there) was brought up, Phineos gave an obvious lie that he hadn’t seen her recently and didn’t know her well. The lie of this was established further as Mili investigated Phineos’s bedroom, seeing evidence of a woman staying there, and the Men of Real Talent decided to stake out the house, waiting to see if Elleia would arrive so that they could determine her role in all of this.
[Phineos’s mom is dead]
“Yeah, how’s that working out for you?” [Eustice]