Returning to Temple Mount for his convalescence, Mantius is visited by Orestes’s junior warders LORIC and JARDA, ostensibly to debrief him on the ‘Sister of the Sun’ mission, but also to request that he “continue to foster the relationship” with Terentius, who evidently has a habit of going off on unassigned missions on his own, and is therefore being closely watched by Intelligence.
Mantius gives them his information concerning Genarius’s actions back in the Aeternum, which soon leads to a formal visit from ORESTES himself, closely followed by NICOMEDES, the latter having been alerted by Mantius (and accompanied by his own juniors, the male one bearing a startling resemblance to Veda). Despite some obvious tension between the Masters of Intelligence and Operations, they are soon united in their concern over the irregularities in the Ninth’s recruitment, and agree to look deeper into the matter without attracting the attention of the Master of Recruitment, Vasilis.
In the wee hours of the morning, INEA comes to request a conversation with Canar, the Renegade Warder himself. Despite the fact that he will be unaware of what transpires, Mantius agrees. When he wakes from the slumber required to enable this, he is visited by ALINA, who covertly warns him that “the big top could come down”, but that she is doing what she can to protect them. By mid-morning, Nicomedes informs Mantius that the Ninth have finished their first official mission, and the three warders go to join them at Peerdin.
At the stronghold, Orestes and Nicomedes show the party what Intelligence has managed to discern from their records:
- Fourteen shards (the maximum generally sent, as compared to the minimum of seven) were initially sent out to Varian, who was requested by his father to be assigned as the prime mount for the fledgling number.
- The courier delivering the shards was attacked by All Saints, as a consequence of which the courier was killed and his shard destroyed, one other shard destroyed, and two more not only destroyed but replaced with new shards.
- All Saints, in turn, was attacked by six shard-bearers, led by GENARIUS and supported by a many-eyed creature of Chaos, as a consequence of which the bearer is killed and All Saints taken by Chaos.
- The Chaos creature then attacks Genarius et al from behind, which causes the thirteen shards in their position to go flying, apparently resulting in the catastrophic white event at Koros.
- The original party is saved by the shards as follows: ALECTO, White Mage; Alina, Storm Talon; ARCTURUS, Blue Mage; CATALINA, Fire Mage; DUMAS, Blade Bravo; Mantius, Bone Collector; and VARIAN, Saint of Shadows.
- Following this, Genarius and his ilk go back in time repeatedly, attempting to kill Varian. In one of these attempts, he is foiled by the sudden appearance of a screaming, glowing woman (ELIANDRA) in the sky above Koros.
- Eliandra and ZOILO appear in a later iteration, discussing incomprehensible matters.
Having shown the preceding, the first-tier warders consider which of their colleagues might be involved, not excluding the most senior of them, Kadmos, although his involvement seems perplexing given that he is poised to become a centurion. After informing the rather dismayed Ninth that they have arranged for them to be trained the following month in a series of joint missions with the Sixth, they introduce the man who will of course be doing the training: the Easterly Blade Gallant AUDEN.
Despite some initial confusion and diffidence, father and son are at last (tearfully, but in a manly way) reunited, and Varian learns that Auden sent his own shard, the Stalwart Warder, for Varian to bear. Auden soon has to go tend to his other duties, in the wake of which departure Varian dons the Stalwart Warder, learning to his delight that the shard is considerably more impressive when worn by the son of its favorite mount.
Meanwhile, Mantius dons the Bone Collector (much to the Prodigious Scholar’s disgust), which results in a conversation in which Mr. Potior grants Mantius his previously hidden tenth action and attests that the Harmonic Warder and Thornthumb were the shards inserted in their number by All Saints.