|Thematic image from (oldserenesforest.net)|
After much largely futile discussion (in the course of which Chadranizar mentions that the “mote of Magor” has identified their shards as “a Bejeweled… a yearling… and one of the Consonances, Kirian or one of her sisters”), the three decide to end the parley and fight for their freedom, hoping—despite the inflation and prohibition on traverse laid upon them—that Chadranizar’s apparent inability to perceive DEVON will give them an edge in the confrontation.
To their chagrin, however, they learn that not only has the Keeper merely been ignoring Devon because she was not part of the original trespass on Kaven (He gives her the option to stay out of the fight, but she stands with her number), he is accompanied by no less than 12 previously concealed Bone legionaries. To make matters even worse, he then presents them with the shattered pieces of the Torrent Mariner and Imperious Magister, saying, “I have taken the motes of both… consider these a memento.”
At this revelation, VARIAN and ALECTO are essentially prepared to go down in flames, but ARCTURUS proposes that they might as well try to complete their mission before death or capture. Accordingly, then, Aly and particularly Ian spend a great deal of inner reserve for the latter to instantly build a structure that will conceal them for long enough to make the declaration. The mammoth keep thus formed slams into existence and against the cliff side concealing the Bone encampment (and probably into several Bone people as well), while Aly further conceals Arc’s invocation of Terminus’s permission to reform the writ.
His meticulous inclusion of all elements of their quest significantly improves their chances and results in success, such that a female personage appears to Arc and gives him the option to decide what legion the writ will cover. Arc chooses Amber and receives the appropriate writ, at which point the quartet is suffused in a blue light and hears the voices of Bregan and Khimere, the former fiercely applauding their success and the latter telling Aly, “You will have to be her second now.” Grief-stricken but acutely aware that they are still in danger, Arc formally declares the mission over and hopes for extraction back to Peerdin.
Outside the keep, the members of Bone sacrifice their entire encampment in order to bring the structure down, but by the time they have accomplished this, the First are gone. A fat, floating, scary woman with a querulous voice—clearly a Bone authority figure of some rank—appears and declares that Chadranizar Contus has failed. He attempts to maneuver out of this condemnation, but before long is stripped of all his shards and accoutrements, and somehow turned into a shard himself.
Aly, Arc, Devon, and Ian materialize just outside Peerdin, where the subsequent five days of debriefing and ISAACUS’S initial fear that they have returned because of failure are followed by resounding jubilation, albeit tempered by the absence of Brand, Catalina, Kim, and Mantius. Significant notes during the debriefing and celebration include:
- Information about Bone is restricted to the offices of Oversight and Intelligence; information about Pasver’s shards is restricted to the offices of Oversight, Intelligence, Training, and Finance.
- GWYNETH and the Ninth number have returned.
- Ian greets the legendaries of Peerdin, including two new arrivals, ARSINOE TRIEN♀ and POLONIUS DEMARK♂.
- The Fifth has a new (female!) member, CHALDEA.
- PATRICUS has recovered and is once again Master Oversight, with TERENTIUS stepping down (and disappearing immediately after discerning Cat’s absence) to make room for OLIVERUS as Master Strategy.
- PANDORA and 20 mounts of the Amber legion accept their new writ and pledge unofficial alliance with Diamond.
- Arc presents the Will-o’-Wisp Diadem to LUCIA and witnesses a conversation between Lucia and ELINORA which seems to imply some kind of development between Eli and Terry. (“He’s gone to look for her… as he should.”)
- Ian is thrown a party by his industrious building committee, and tours the city, in the course of which he discovers that one of the specialist towers is now occupied by the Essence Lancer AMIAH, who happens to be treating the returned and very apologetic VEDA. He also learns from Amiah that Mantius is alive, as his file with her is still active.
- Aly presents the Harlequin Cowl to KENJIRO and learns that his brother Katsumoto and their sister AJI have been 42 miles outside of Peerdin for a month and a half now, exchanging letters of courtship supposedly with Cat. Aly engages THESSALY’S assistance and they learn that this correspondence was carried on by TALTUN, who then crafts them a letter which they hope will end the matter without shame or insult.
The ruling warders inform the First that they must nominate two new members, with the assurance that their missing teammates will of course be reinstated once found. Devon remains a member of the First, but is withheld from field duty temporarily to undergo training, and the First Tier nominate a candidate of their own to round out the First’s active roster to six, now including new members TOBIAS, ROGELIO, and Thess (after the last ensures that there is no problem with her and Ian).
About to go present the letter ‘from Cat’ to Katsumoto with Kenjiro and Thess, Aly is summoned by Isaac to a general gathering of the Veiled Cardinals, at which the master of Intelligence disseminates the following information:
- Brand, Mantius, Cat, and Kim (in this order of importance) are missing; steps will be taken to find them, and Brand and Mantius will not be replaced in the Strange Number.
- It has been ascertained that Amber’s fall was helped along by the presence of a white dragon with a sharded mount—evidently causing a disastrous inflation—as well as three camouflaged agents of Bone, whose signal from outside the city of Amber was answered by a gleam from one of the towers within.
- Corollary to this: the 25% discount on purchases has been revoked, and Patricus must renegotiate in the place of Cat, who was specifically requested.
- Ivory and Bone are suspected to now be targeting Sapphire.
- Aly later confirms that the real target is likely Emerald, and that Bone has rewritten the other two previously destroyed writs, so that they now have three legions, the opposing courts of which have likely been dealt with.
- The plans of the Renegade’s Number are not to be tolerated, and something will be done.
After Aly’s departure, Isaac uses deviancy and promptly learns the Blood Tear technique, saying, “Could it be that simple?”