I've written before about how tightly edited Escaflowne is but episode 9 is where it really begins to be noticeable as the tag in gets dropped. That field of tarot cards with the "Was it a dream? Or a vision?" is gone from this episode on as there is simply not enough time to include it and the story anymore.
Having said that there is an alternative explanation that is worth considering: having finally accepted what is happening Hitomi is no longer questioning what is happening.
That said Memories of a Feather continues straight on where The Day the Angel Flew left off with Hitomi looking at Van. The card is revealed to be the Ace of Birds.
I previously guessed that the Ace of Serpents in The Girl from the Mystic Moon replaced the Ace of Wands. I've since found a website confirming that guess and that also aligns Birds with Swords. This is apparently known as the Merlin Tarot.
So the card for this episode is effectively the Ace of Swords representing among other things the ability to see through deception, and expose it. That would be Hitomi then. :)
The episode really starts with Merle attempting to shield Van from Hitomi, and Hitomi catching one of Van's feathers. This triggers a vision of the past.
Meanwhile the Crusade is trying to sneak past the Zaibach fleet by flying through a narrow valley at really low altitude. This makes for interesting times for the crew.
Millerna has also set off for Freid in the company of the mole man (more and more I'm liking the idea that the mole man is a spy for Eries). It turns out that Millerna is resenting having Aston and Eries prevent her from completing her medical studies.
You may now consider Chekhov's Gun to be loaded and cocked. :)
Back in the vision of the past Hitomi is getting an exposure to one of Gaea's examples of fantastic racism (there is a much more important example later). This time it is targeted on the draconians, humans with wings who are connected to the fall of Atlantis and the destruction of the world.
A flash of Van's childhood shows him trying to fly far too young. Then back in time to the eve of a battle where Van's father Goau is the current user of Escaflowne. Goau is drawn to a beautiful lady Varie standing in a lake who sprouts wings (no Arthurian references there. No. Not at all).
Another dose of racism from Goau's advisors before the wedding, then Van's birth, and then back to Van's ill fated first flight. His wings collapse under his weight and his mother has to rescue him.
Then Goau passes, and Folken disappears during his dragon hunt, and a heartbroken Varie follows soon after.
A quick look at an unhappy Emperor Dornkirk who cannot see the future anymore (that pesky dragon).
Van, Hitomi, and Merle land to sneak into Freid when they are caught on the ground by Dilandau.
This is where Hitomi represents the Ace of Swords by using her visions to guide Van through the skirmish. Van attempts to evade (he does have Merle and Hitomi riding on the outside) until he arrives at a river where he plans to stand. You can't hide your position in water.
Unfortunately he is outnumbered 5 to 1.
Things are looking grim when Hitomi's prayers for help are answered by an impossibly cool entrance from Allen.
5 to 2 is another story entirely and things are going well until it looks like a stray shot is heading for Hitomi. Allen intercepts it but is gravely wounded, the fortuitous arrival of a Freid convoy causes Zaibach to retreat.
On board the convoy Millerna arrives and Chekhov's Gun is fired as she agrees to attempt the surgery to save him
And then the end credits roll before the bullet leaves the barrel.
Memories of a Feather is a very clever episode in a number of ways.
For a start it is exposing the seamier side of Gaea in terms of how the non humans are treated. Thus far Hitomi has not seen anything like this - the wolfmen in the second episode were clearly allies and equals, Merle is an almost sister to a prince, and cosmopolitan Asturia would never be so crude as to be openly racist. So this is an important piece of worldbuilding slipped under the radar.
Second it confirms that Atlantis is going to be a major part of what's coming - Varie was destined to meet Goau which says some really interesting things about Van and Folken.
Third, despite the new skills at the speed of plot flavour, the episode finishes breaking Millerna free of being just the spoiled princess.
Finally, it is a very clever example of thrilling action making the infodump go down.
There is one other point I could make but it is a major major spoiler so I'll pass on that for now.
Day 1 - Fateful Confession / The Tower
Day 2 - The Girl From the Mystic Moon / The Ace of Serpents
Day 3 - The Gallant Swordsman / Death
Day 4 - The Diabolical Adonis / The Hanged Man
Day 5 - The Seal of the Brothers / Judgement
Day 6 - Capitol of Intrigue / Justice
Day 7 - Unexpected Partings / The Chariot
Day 8 - Sub vs Dub
Day 9 - The Day the Angel Flew / Temperance
Day 10 - Memories of a Feather / Ace of Birds
Day 11 - The Blue-Eyed Prince
Day 12 - Prophecy of Death
Day 13 - The Secret Door
Day 14 - Red Destiny
Day 15 - ???
Day 16 - Dangerous Wounds
Day 17 - Lost Paradise
Day 18 - The Guided Ones
Day 19 - The Edge of the World
Day 20 - The Gravity of Destiny
Day 21 - Operation Golden Rule of Love
Day 22 - False Vows
Day 23 - Reaction of Fortune
Day 24 - ???
Day 25 - The Black Winged Angel
Day 26 - Storm Premonition
Day 27 - Fateful Decision
Day 28 - Zone of Absolute Fortune
Day 29 - Eternal Love
Day 30 - Looking Back at The Vision of Escaflowne