|Let the Numbers fall where they may when|
they are sent on missions.
The trio arrives in a gray between-space, in which Mantius promptly goes into a sort of trance in order to resolve a matter of karmic debt. In response to the army-wide alert and mission abort heard by both Cat and Mantius earlier, a rescue team of warders soon appears, comprising TOLIRUS, AENEAS, ELINORA, TERENTIUS, ALOYSIUS, and ORANA, the Copper Tear Helm Warder of the Seventh. After some debate—during which Orana attempts to coerce shards out of Catalina and is soundly rebuffed and eventually slapped by Elinora—the team, now including Cat, resolves to rescue the party members left behind in Charexes, leaving Aeneas in the between-space to serve as a kind of home base, along with Varian.
The Tearstained Warder goes into a trance state as well, leaving Varian on his own to deal with the scout sent by Tisiphone, a spiky-carapaced creature that is just on the verge of reporting the two warders’ vulnerability to its mistress when it is assaulted by Varian, concealed and protected both by the Saint of Shadows and his own clever use of salt. Sacrificing one of the silence stones to keep the creature speechless, Varian manages to defeat it, rendering it helpless by turning it over on its shell.
Despite Tolirus falling en route and Orana nearly breaking and running, Catalina is able to use her abilities as Unconquered Warder to support the rescue effort, stubbornly denying the very real probabilities of the team’s death, defeat, or even partial failure. When Mantius awakens and sends the Diamond Azure Cloak Warder shard from the between-space to mount Aly, the team is finally able to transport ALINA, ARCTURUS, and DUMAS, as well as all warders—alive if far from well—out.
Spotting Varian’s captive, Mantius realizes that they are still not safe, even in the gray area, and worse, that he will not be able to convey the entire group to the designated extraction point. He is wrestling with the necessity of leaving four behind when he hits upon a practical but unsavory solution—destroying the Geometer shard to enable the number that he needs. With the shard’s unhesitating consent, this is done and the party and warders flee, leaving the Geometer behind, where it makes the most of its sacrifice by detonating Tisiphone’s hapless scout creature.
At the extraction point, Mantius collapses alongside the other warders, leaving Varian once more on his own in the face of the Chaos troop’s rapid pursuit. After some moments of extreme panic, he uses a god-touched leaf to awaken Mantius so that the latter is able to confirm the extraction; and the group escapes at last to safety.
Nearly a month later at Temple Mount, Varian remains unscathed—having thoroughly if worriedly enjoyed the run of the Citadel hospice in his guise as ‘Clemens’-- Aly’s leg has been regrown, and Cat has been restored to human form from her traumatizing but temporary transformation into a shapeless mass of flesh. However, Alina is being held at a separate facility; Dumas remains physically well but unspeaking and unresponsive; Mantius continues to lapse into bouts of frantic shouting about some debt that he promises to pay; and Arc, although recovered from the transmutation of his legs into a mass of tentacles, is in danger of being recommended for removal from service by the Essence Lancer AMIA, on the grounds that stress may cause him to revert.
All but the first of these are instantly resolved, however, when Mantius emerges from his room in apparent full possession of his facilities, thanks the physician while blithely disregarding her reservations, and sweeps his number out of the hospice (including Dumas who, as it turns out, was simply keeping silent by choice). Their warder then makes contact with the Diamond Blood Cloak Warder (since Varian learned that Alina is under the latter’s supervision), whereupon he turns over the Diamond Azure Cloak Warder shard, is granted the opportunity to see Alina in the near future, and learns that:
- Tolirus is dead, and a cerement will be held in his honor
- Four unique missions were compromised; those of the Sixth, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Numbers, the Tenth having been decimated.
- Other numbers—particularly their warders—are also in convalescence at Sigil, Water, and Garden Mounts.
- Diamond Blood Cloak is the assignator of missions.