Unable to think of another means of egress, Mantius elects to free Nesimal, thereby being granted the three secrets of finality:
- The sacrifice of three fully expressed legions (numbers as well as “stones”) will cause the retreat of the courts of chaos.
- The second secret is buried in Mantius’s mind, to be revealed when his spirit is capable of dealing with it.
- The third secret is similarly buried in Mantius’s heart.
BREGAN arrives and knocks Larissa down in order to whisk Mantius away; they reappear on a battlefield where TERENTIUS challenges LADY BLIGHT to a duel and is struck down by her soul blight attack. Mantius attempts to reason with the courtier, but she directs her ire at him and is stopped only by KENJIRO, who is then defeated in turn. Fortunately, the physically drained Bregan is able to literally draw strength from Mantius to use a combination of his own abilities, Mantius’s Mace of the Four Kings, and what is possibly Lady Blight’s true name in order to push the latter into sending them away from her.
With Mantius now in physical distress, the pair journey through time in the attempt to return to Peerdin, passing through, among others, the underworld and the court of the WICKER KING, not to mention several periods in which Bregan apparently had various families. After a number of close calls and mishaps, they are finally able to return and spend several days in a sort of waking fugue state before they return to full alertness and give their comrades a truncated explanation of their shared ordeal.
Meanwhile, ALECTO and Kenjiro’s relationship continues along its merry way of mindless physical gratification (including a thankfully halted run of shardless sex), while CATALINA is dismayed by Terry’s apparent reluctance to engage in same. Along with the girls, ARCTURUS is somewhat troubled by TOBIAS’S renewed closeness with his former number, the Fifth, but this is soon resolved when Toby explains that one of his friends is leaving soon and (in private, just between the two of them) that he was upset by Cat’s kissing Donovan. Cat explains that she was bribed, and all is well, at least among the Second.
As to the First, VARIAN learns from AUDEN that VINDAR has requested for a transfer. Having been constrained to pretend ignorance by his father, Ian nevertheless attempts to convey Vindar’s importance to himself and his number, particularly when THESSALY returns with the heartening news that she and Patricus have gotten the legion fully recognized and, as a consequence, Thess has been offered a promotion as Patricus’s junior.
A general gathering of all numbers is called, in which the party learns to their surprise that many new mounts have been recruited into the legion, and to their distress that the numbers have been reorganized, with Toby in particular returned to the Fifth; Vindar reassigned to a separate legion; and Bregan, Maxilius, Brigit, and Teregan arrested for their involvement in various crimes involving the Tenth of the Diamond Red. The former First and Second are reintegrated as the First, with SER ORLANDO of the Silver Legion’s First Number and KHIMERE of Platin’s First introduced to round out the number.
After the meeting, members of the new First scatter to deal with the startling new developments. Cat learns from Terry that the arrests were ordered by Patricus; Mantius assures Bregan of his support; Ian makes a last-ditch effort (which ends badly) to convince Vindar to stay; Arc bids Vindar goodbye; and Aly learns from her sister MEGAERA (now of the Third) that their hometown has been infested by the blue.
An informal-formal lunch is held, for all numbers to get to know each other and the new “reWarder”, TALTUN of the Ivory Legion. Arc and Mantius in particular play host to the new members of their number; Cat renews ties with the newly returned ALOYSIUS; Aly petitions FIDA for a mission to find the former’s parents; and Ian renews ties with the new Second, in particular LADY ADRIA and their new-not-so-new warder LEONTES the Younger, learning in the process of the Interlegionary Competitions, upcoming in about a month.
After the ground-breaking ceremony for the new bank, Cat and Arc get notes with roses from Toby; Aly bonds with Meg; Ian goes off with GWYNETH; Thess tells Mantius that they will need to secure endorsement from three ruling warders in order to attend Bregan’s hearing; and Arc makes friends with the rest of the Fifth.