The Chaos bears they acquired at the House of Mim will “remind me of my lost childhood,” she says. They “will save you if you show (them) to me, but not for a long time.” Her husband and son, mother and daughter, she adds, will act when she cannot.
Soon after this, Arc and Varian—as Unconquered and Stalwart Warders, respectively—receive an urgent call for help from Terentius, to which they promptly respond, vanishing. As Aly, Cat, and Mantius settle down to wait for their return, Vindar rushes in with a warning not to answer the distress call, as it is a trap.
Alarmed, Mantius deshards the Bone Collector and dons the Renegade Warder, putting off the penalty for such action for later using his karmic debt ability (and at least partially forced to do so because the Prodigious Scholar, through an unwilling Cat, was blocking Mr. Potior’s attempts to do something about the situation).
He is thus privy to anguished warnings in the same vein from Oliveros of the Seventh, Veda, and Terry himself, learning in the process that Aloysius, Orana, and others have already been lost to the deception. He also hears:
- a faint, frantic message from Fida, asking for help in the wake of Elinora’s disappearance
- a stern admonition from Maxilius of the Tenth that no one should panic or congregate
- an official transmission to or from Iason of the first tier, including the disjointed words “all… warders… recalled… do not… city… emergency”
All five remaining are also witness to Leontes’s communication, through a sudden thundercloud, that Aeneas has been taken.
Elsewhere, in an area of intense blue, Arc and Varian find themselves facing an albino man clad in blue, who calls their attention to the remains of six warders he has already killed, and challenges them to an honorable duel. Arc attempts to question the man’s right to have anything to do with a matter of honor, and is immediately beheaded for his trouble. When Varian accepts the challenge, however, they find themselves in need of an arbitrator, and Arc is therefore restored.
Despite the severe handicaps afflicting both his and Arc’s attributes, Varian manages to triumph, but is attacked from behind by a baglike Chaos creature (at the albino’s apparent but deniable behest), which aside from hurting him, tears open the pouch containing half the Ninth’s shards, spilling them out. Arc therefore levies a penalty on the albino for violating the terms of the duel, and two warders flee before even worse can occur.
Returning to Peerdin, they make their report to the party’s general dismay—especially, in the case of the Renegade Warder and Prodigal Scholar, over the loss of the Bejeweled Nuncio and Saint of Talons. Prompted by the Scholar (who realizes that the albino is in fact her former mentor, the GRAND SCHOLAR), Cat realizes that the dormant Saint of Warrens, worn by Aly, might be able to save some of the stolen shards.
Despite her growing distrust of those two shards of the Renegade’s number, Aly has a conversation with her shard, who confirms that they might be able to rescue as many as five if they are willing to risk destruction in the attempt. Shard and bearer agree to do so; and the Saint of Warrens calls upon one of the many favors evidently owed to her by each of the saints in existence. She is therefore able to assume the guise of the Azuris Beatus (a saint apparently on the side of Chaos!), and the pair travel back to the blue where, in the course of a deceitful conversation with the Grand Scholar, they manage to recover the White Mage, Bejeweled Nuncio, Saint of Talons, Sacred Fist, and Blue Mage shards before fleeing themselves.
Back at Peerdin, the stronghold has been put on high alert, with the Peerless Warder LORD SALINICUS maintaining the Citadel-class defense (and reputedly able to so for as long as fifty years). Cat confers with the warder’s daughter, JUDEA, as to how to proceed in light of Vindar’s revelation that the Citadel has indeed fallen. They agree to implement breakaway protocols, and make arrangements for the Ninth to come and go through the defenses as they try to find and gather their comrades.
Through Varian’s use of the Bejeweled Nuncio’s opal ability, the Ninth ventures out to rendezvous with TERRY, VEDA, and BANISA. Veda is persuaded to return with them and Banisa to Peerdin, and Terry promises to follow after searching for his own number and other survivors. He departs on his own, though not before kissing Cat. The group returns to Peerdin and holds a ceremony for their lost friends.