|We finally discover that the|
undead-themed shard that
Mantius has been favoring
is also a scholar in its
Ian’s conversation with the Truesilver Pardoner shard is more cordial, although this time it is the shard’s turn to be taken aback by Ian’s revelation that its legion, the former Crystalline Steel, has been transformed into Platin. After Ian explains that the First cannot at present provide a mount with which KELMEN might investigate the veracity of this claim, it agrees to wait for the First to either find it a mount or bring it into company with Master Mirage, also late of Steel. In the course of this conversation, the number further learns that the Dweomer Keeper and Truesilver Mocker shards likewise originate from Steel (with some contempt from Kelmen in the case of the latter); and, from KHIMERE, that the ‘dissolution’ of Steel stemmed from a disagreement between its male and female mounts, and that the writ used by Platin is still that of Steel.
After taking amiable leave of the affable GELDARIUS, Merchant of Marvels, the First land on a peaceful plain, where ALECTO consults with the nearest scholar—OSSIS POTIOR EXCELSIS—as to the next step of their mission. In addition to roundly scolding Aly’s Saint of Consonance regarding the costs the latter has been levying and remitting a sum of 100,000 bright light to the mystified Aly, Mr. Potior conveys the following information:
- In the midst of a small catastrophe, use Pasver’s key in Pasver’s vault—which is at the heart of Pasver’s Keep—to acquire the Luna Noxus Triptych.
- The Keep lies where Pasver’s lord secreted it in order to save his people, accessible through a sphere of oblivion within the Tortured Swath of Legatum in the region of Gromon.
- Along the way, the Swath itself will attempt to prevent entry by means of the creatures it produces, “an unholy mingling of life and undeath”.
- Defeating each of these creatures will give the group a piece of the shattered statue of Legatum, god of ill gains; these pieces in turn will add to their probability of being able to enter the sphere.
- Only certain taxonomies—including cleric, warrior, and forester—will function at optimum capability within the Swath. Others—including wizard and elementalist—will be all but useless, while still others will be at half capacity.
Progressing onward, Ian spots one of the creatures of the Swath, whereupon the creature sees them and draws them toward it so that it can launch a preemptive strike. Accords prove invaluable in this and several later battles, in the course of which:
- Arc assumes dragon form and is stuck that way for the time being.
- Aly’s Devoted Warder learns a new ability, shield of devotion, as a result of repeated backlash from creature death.
- Mantius’s clerical and death-defying abilities prove critical time and again, particularly when—
- Ian experiences the misfortune of having a tree grow right through him, shredding his body.
Accordingly, then, Mantius dons Pasver’s Almoner in order to enter the vault, wherein he finds not only the Luna Noxus Triptych but also a small chest and Pasver’s seal, both of which the shard urges him to take along. With all mounts feeling sorrow over the fate of Pasver’s people (and, in the case of Ian, the Keep itself) the First departs as the structure begins to fall.
Carefully bearing the triptych, they return to the plain they departed from earlier, where Mantius learns the drawbacks as well as the incredible benefits associated with Pasver’s Almoner, not least of which is the reduction of all action purchase costs to zero. Resolving to keep Pasver’s shards a secret among them for the time being, they head for a nearby farmstead to ask permission to put up shelter as they prepare to make their next move.