|The oracle looked like this, only female.|
The Auditor has much to say about the Ninth’s performance thus far, little of it positive. Arc attempts to reason that there has not been sufficient time to master or at least utilize every shard—as the Auditor would evidently prefer—but his reasoning is not accepted and the unused shards are very nearly confiscated and redistributed; eventually, however, the Auditor relents, on the condition that the first six of those shards are worn at the next available opportunity, and the others utilized as well. (Oh, and Varian gets yelled at but is later apologized to by the Auditor.)
Following the Auditor’s departure, Arc goes to speak to the Warder of the Scrolls, only to be informed that he needs an oracle in order to receive the missions. Fortunately, in his capacity as Bejeweled Nuncio, Varian is able to summon an oracle to assist them, a female entity identified by the name of the stone used to summon her, CITRINE. Through Citrine, the party is able to learn most of the details regarding the ten missions that pertain to their number over the next thirty day period.
CATALINA suggests that they consult with the Eighth Number and the group elects to do so, whereupon they learn from the Unbound Warder BARTOLOMUS and the Illuminated Warder JERENUS that the Eighth do not intend to pursue the missions slated for the latter three numbers of the Circle of Ten, despite knowing that all three will be tasked to explain if these missions go unfulfilled. They also find out that the cryptic mission information is typically interpreted through the use of multiple oracles, and that warders are considered an exception to the specific taxonomies allowed for each mission, although it is strongly advised that even warders prepare only such abilities as are outlined in the mission parameters. The consultation ends with a cordial affirmation that each group may rely upon each other for assistance, and the warders of the Eighth send the party’s representatives off with a present of barley wine.
The following morning, the group complies with their agreement by wearing the six named shards, which are quickly and unexpectedly accomplished when the affable Emerald Mask Warder KARNESIS arrives to grant their reward for obtaining the Eye of Pluto—which is, indeed, accomplishment of the shards worn by the group at the time the reward is activated. They learn that rewards are given at the end of each thirty day period, and may be kept for as long as a month after they are received. The “Rewarder”, as she refers to herself, also confirms that while numbers are free to cooperate toward the accomplishment of a mission, the reward goes only to the primary group that achieves the mission goal, although it has been rumored that illegal sharing of rewards goes on clandestinely. (And Karnesis greets Catalina as the person responsible for the chauvinist warder’s downfall—which Cat modestly downplays—and seems inexplicably troubled whenever she catches sight of Aly.)
After Karnesis’s departure, Varian, in his capacity as the Oracle of Equinox, realizes that PORENDUS, the Grieving Warder of the Tenth Number, is trying to contact them, without success since they have no warder at present. They are able to communicate with him through ALINA’S Mirror Magus abilities, and the former Warder of the Second comes to speak with them. They agree to split the two missions slated for the Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Numbers; and, learning that the Tenth is in dire need of another warder shard, the party trades their Harmonic Warder for Porendus’s Fractured Mage and Grey Speaker. Porendus mentions that the Eighth are honorable—“sometimes too honorable”—but appears to restrain himself from saying negative things about others, perhaps particularly the highest numbers.
Following Porendus’s departure, Varian announces that the group will soon be dueled by and lose to the Sixth Number, whereupon he and Arc—with the latter’s ability of cold foretelling—are subjected to a battery of questions that leads to the general consensus that they can instead defeat the Sixth if, through the “second father” referred to by the oracles, they challenge the other group first. Luckily, they have the advantage of choosing when this will occur since they have no warder at present, leaving the Sixth unable to contact them.
A commotion above deck brings them all back out into the open, where they witness the arrival of TARAM, who has come for some sort of gathering of “his kind”, but detours long enough to greet them, in particular his second father, Dumas. Dumas urges him to stay with the party, but Taram answers that he can’t, “not yet”.