In the seaside port of Velas, it is Sun Day, the Long Day, the Day of High Sun, the most holy 20 hours of the year. Visitors from across the region have come to visit their families, to celebrate in the streets, and to sweat under the heat of Samothes's Gift. But when not everyone in town lives to see the sun rise, the party is recruited to investigate the murder... and the conspiracy behind it.
"The week in Hieron is broken down into seven days. Today is Sunday. Sunday is, of course, named for the sun in the sky which gives us the light we need to do our work. And then, of course, there's Tesday, named for Samothes, formerly Samotes, who put the sun in the sky. And then gave us fire, and made from it tools, so that we could do our work. And then Olday, from Samol, who donates his body and blood to be worked on. Followed by Tineday, for Samotine, for who shields us while we work, trade, think, play, and sleep. Ontday for Samonta, once called Severea by the old people, who blows the wind into our sails so that we may trade our work. Oteday, for Samote, now known as Samot, who taught us how to work, and how to relax when the work is done. Finally, there is Kinday, for Del and Bri, our twin moons who whisper love to us as we drift off to sleep. Kinday was, of course, the name the middle clans gave to the weekly day of reckoning. Though recent findings complicate matters, it was long believed that this was a day in which families executed any rulebreakers inside of their own clan, and decided who would count as kin for the week to come.
But today, it's Sunday, and not just any Sunday. It's the Sun Day, the Long Day, the Day of the High Sun. Once a year, sometime in the final month of the year, the sun offers its light to us for twenty full hours. No one knows exactly when it will be, though by mid-year the cloud-watchers are able to narrow it down to one specific week. For the week before the week, people across Velas, in fact, across the whole region of Hieron, prepare for the festival. Special dishes are made. Everyone puts together their holiday outfits. Distant family members travel to Velas to spend the holiday with their metropolitan relatives.
On the Day of High Sun, everyone celebrates life, love, family, relaxation, and creativity. The things we work for all year. Some celebrate the day privately, among their closest kin, sitting on their roofs with a glass of a cool cocktail. Others celebrate en masse with parades, competitions, and tons of other joyful activities. There's lots of color, fashion, interesting signage, singing. Everything is bright, to take advantage of the light the High Sun offers. And there's lots of hats, because it is very hot. And when the Long Day, the Day of High Sun ends, the week resets. That day, whatever day it was before, becomes the new Sunday, and we move on from there. The days get shorter, much shorter in the months that follow. The light dims. And though things never really get cold, remember, it hasn't snowed in Velas since before the Erasure, the weather after the Long Day is more temperate, perfect for harvesting.
It is now the second-to-last day of the Week of Sun, the week that the Day of High Sun will come in. As is the custom, the children of Velas have elected who will wait each night, eyes blurry and hopeful, for the sun to rise early. Today, it is little Danielle Hightown, yawning, being lulled to sleep by the distant crashing of waves against the coastline. She's so tired. But she's also proud to have the chance to announce to the city that the celebrations should begin. And she's also hopeful that it will be Sun Day, if only so that she knows that school will be canceled.
And as luck has it, it is. Sun Day is here. She sees the sun cresting over the hills to the east, and she hops down from her rooftop stool, she runs down the stairs of the empty building and out into the streets. It is the Day of High Sun. We can put aside our tools for the day. Celebrate our joys and our loves. Little Danielle, little Dani, does not understand it all in words, really, but she understands the spirit of the holiday as well as anyone. So she takes to the streets, screaming with a child's bellow, a voice we all had once but which most of us have cut from our throats in old cynicism, "The sun is here!" she yells. "Get up get up get up, the sun is here!"
She runs through the twisting corridors of the mostly empty Sun District, down the main thoroughfare of the Fish District, even up to the gates of the Gardens, where Velas's rich and powerful live. She vibrates with joy and enthusiasm. She's never been to the Gardens. Well, not that she remembers, anyway. But on today's holiday, the gates open for her so that she may go in and deliver her message, and they'll stay open all day, too, there will be festivities here in the Gardens for everyone, from the wealthiest city noble to the struggling field hand.
She is so excited shouting her message that she feels the need for another lap of the whole city. She will run back down the market streets, and through the docks, and she will shout the news from the beach to the temples of Samothes. And she'll run out of Velas, she'll reach the sun itself, and welcome it with her glowing smile. And it's in the fields where she sees the body. Hung to a board in the wheat, like a scarecrow of flesh. And she screams a more familiar scream now, one none of us ever lose.
It is not the only crime that night. Across town there is a prison break. Velas's only prison is in the heart of the nest of abandoned buildings which makes up the northern half of the Sun District. Therat Saal, young prince of one of Ordenna's richest mining families, had been locked up for theft, though he stands by his claim that one of Velas's richest counselors simply locked him away to cover up the scandalous affair that he'd been carrying out with the counselor's son. Three dead guards, a broken wall. Rumor is, Therat rests comfortably in the Ordennan embassy just off the coast, waiting to be brought back home to Ordenna.
Meanwhile, it was Fantasmo's great luck that he woke up in time to see a figure leaving his window, but his misfortune that he was only able to rip a strange cloak from the thief's back. One side of it is a simple grey wool, and the other shimmers into nothingness in the night. It's not magical in nature, he checked for that. But the cloth made the thief nearly invisible in the night. And after going through his things, he realized that the Book of Life which you all recovered from the top of the Tower of Eventide was missing.
By the time the sun would normally be rising, around the sixth hour of the day, the bird had been sent. The Golden Lance had been called. Not quite mercenaries, but not quite real police, either. They represent an extraterritorial force of justice. A group that regular law enforcers hate as much as everybody else seems to love. And on a day like today, keeping people happy is priority number one.
When Lancer Victoria Solomon arrives, long brown coat, wide brimmed hat, strange weapon at her side, the town falls into ease. She is, as always, joined by her partner, the mousy Dr. Gloria Lake. It's only about an hour before Solomon and Lake find out from the locals who here can be trusted, who should be deputized. The Golden Lance has its own investigators, its own soldiers, but the best of them—and Solomon and Lake are the best of them—trust locals to help them solve the terrible crimes that they've been called in to deal with. This is partially what makes them so well-loved by the people. The other thing that makes them so well-loved is how they can drop a target at one hundred paces with a blast of strange magical energy.
In any case, it turns out that you're the ones who can be trusted, you're the ones who should be deputized. It's 11 A.M. The sun is beating down on you. It's already an especially hot day. Temperatures have been rising all week, along with the excitement and tension of folks waiting for the holiday to begin. In fact, if you had time to check them, records would show that this is the hottest day since the records started being kept. You have twelve hours. Can you solve the murder? Can you solve the case of the Sun Day Slaying?"