Durandal surveys his city from on top his tower. He watches Felsic explore the wonders the city has to offer. Felsic is fascinated by the artifacts that help run the city. Durandal realizes something, and heads down to talk with Felsic.
Durandal invites Felsic home for dinner. There we are introduced to Durandal’s children Michael, Esteleah, and Gabriel. They are being watched over by their Pterok tutor Shree’ee and Kneah, the Lightbringer’s chief domestic.
They may or may not call him Uncle Feslic.
Durandal takes Felsic to the sitting room and tells him why he brought him into his home. “So Felsic, you asked me earlier, how did you put it? ‘Why are you the boss?’”
“I’ve been leading the Exalted since I was 12. One thing I learned is when you’re Exalted, no one is the boss of you.”
Durandal continues, “Everyone else was wrangled up by the Zion government. You stumbled across people in need, and literally leapt into action. Have you considered what you want out of all this?”
Esteleah sits down next to Felsic, peeling an orange.
Felsic ponders a moment, and then tells Durandal his origin story.
Felsic says, “I think what I want is someplace to have a grounding again. I do want a home. A place where I can get back to what I enjoy doing.”
Durandal gets to the point of why he brought Felsic here. “We have no chief artificer. My circle is the Circle of Unbroken Fate. I can recognize certain signs, and you’re the one who was drawn specifically and directly to me. The one who most exhibits the qualities my circle shares. You ask for no reward, leapt into action without thought. You continue to risk your life, continue to help. We consider ourselves the Vanguard of all of Creation.”
“There could be something here for you.”
Meanwhile, Rose is cooking like the wind. She has heard Caymlyn’s child is feeling unwell being away from Chaya. She wants to make sure everyone is well-fed and ready for the trip.
Durandal and Felsic get ready to head out. Durandal summons his FIrst Company’s sky-barge from underneath the mount, and it comes to rest in the lee of the tower, extending a wide. Two nacelles long the underside funnel essence to propel the craft. Captain Drederig orders the First Company of the Ordo Invictus to board.
Durandal, Caymlyn, Felsic Rose and her Golden Guardians board the Wind Chicken and set a course for Chaya.
Going back in time a bit, we find Byrrden sneaking aboard Felsic’s airship as it ferries Vox to Lookshy, instructed to watch Vox’s back. He stealths throughout the trip, catching sight of a man in a blue ninja outfit brewing tea behind some crates.
Once at Lookshy, he follows Vox and Dalia of the Chayan Guard but sticks to the shadow. He watches as Vox and Dalia get vetted, and follows them into the city as ox gets an invite to the funeral, and to stay at House Nefverin. He catches Vox’s attention and asks him for details on the funeral so he can scout ahead.
Vox talks up a servent girl and gets the deets: The funeral will be held underneath the city in the catacombs accessed via the parade grounds. The march will lead down below, where the remains of heroes are laid to rest.
Byrrden leaves Vox to explore the catacombs and “find an easy way in, and an easier way out.” The Night Caste easily lock picks his way into the underways of Lookshy. Inside are rows and rows of urns filled with ashes, heroic reliefs carved into the walls, votive fires burning.
He takes it slow and spots a single thread of spider silk, a very brilliant sort of silver. Golden runes skitter along the webline. Byrrden recognizes them as tripwires. He finds a few laid across the path of tomorrow’s procession. Byrdden clears the traps and examines them. He figures if Vox or any Lawgiver had walked through them, their Caste Mark would’ve lit up for all to see, in close quarters with dozens of Dragon Bloods.
Vox gets to know the family of Nefvarin Ranidos family: Rogro Yushuto, a military engineer and Ranidos’s stoic widow, Ranidos’s mortal father Lakaon — an irascible gossip — as well as her six children, two of them have been blessed by the dragons.
Vox talks to Lakaon and learns Ranidos died fighting a behemoth called the Borrowing Hillock beside his squad. The slain beast is currently being butchered for parts in the catacombs.
After a night of gathering intel and making nice, Vox heads to bed. He hears sobbing upstairs and investigates. In the armory is Lakaor, a middle son, clutching his father’s breastplate and weeping openly. There is a gaping wound painted on the white armor.
While soothing the young man’s pain, Vox learns Ranidos once executed three field officers for treason: His troop had captured three Abyssal Anathema. The Abyssals were trying to negotiate an alliance with Lookshy against the Mask of Winters, but a few of Ranidos’s officers became disgruntled with letting them live and went to eliminate them. Ranodos fought against them to protect the Anathema. He always said, “If Lookshy has no honor, then Lookshy is Anathema.”
The next day, Vox joins the who’s who of Lookshy to attend the funeral. It is very subdued, proper, and elegant. Afterwards, the socializing commences in the parade grounds.
Vox performs a poem, a tale of virtuous allies honoring an agreement. He gets a standing ovation.
Vox speaks with various high ranking individuals, trying to get them to honor their pledge to the Republic of Chaya. He speaks with Yushuto Utrax, brother to Rogro and Randisos’s lieutenant, who tells him of their last battle together. He also mentions the drama in his love life, about how his former lover Nerigus Dilioc has turned his gens against the Yushuto.
Utrax brings Vox to meet his Uncle Habo. Yushuto Habo wants Chaya to break off its association with the Anathema in Zion in trade for Looksy’s help. With a bit of persuasian (and charms), Vox is able to convince him it’s better to stop the horde before they rape and pillage the whole countryside and get closer to Lookshy. Habo agrees to vote for Chaya.
Vox next speaks with the most senior officer at the funeral, Strategos Karal Linwei. She is alone at the food table, having been ostracized due to rumors her daughter Fire Orchid has become Anathema. Linwei is not convinced that Lookshy should help Chaya, but Vox, using her daughter as leverage, convinces her anyone who fights Lunar Anathema is obviously not allied with Solar Anathema.
Having talked to the right people, and hoping he turned the vote in favor of Chaya, Vox prepares to depart. He waits for Byrdden to make himself known.
Speaking of, Byrdden had been dealing with his own problems. Keeping up with Vox via rooftops during the funeral, Byrdden spots a black widow spider, floating on the wind. He follows as it shifts into a woman, who starts taking aim at Vox with a blowdart.
Byrdden attacks the spider woman, who counter attacks with vicious jabs, trying to poison the Night Caste.
Byrdden focuses on the lunar’s blow dart. He knocks the weapon out of her hand, pushing it away from her. She back flips, slicking at Byrdden with moonsilver heels. She grabs the blow dart, grows additional arms covered in barbs, and takes aim.
Byrdden dodges and trades blows with her. He rushes her as she sprays him with a poison cloud of barbs. As he does so, a volley of blue Chakram comes out of nowhere, displacing the cloud. The Blue Ninja appears and stands at Byrddens side.
The Lunar shifts into a spider and flies off, carried by the wind and her silk, leaving a small token of red marble carved with a rose webbed to the nearby wall.
Byrdden meets up with Vox, who is casually socializing and enjoying the delicacies of Lookshy. Vox says, “Ah, Byrdden. Time to go. Let us get a cookbook for Rose and head back to the ship. I am so glad this all went off without any problems arising.”
Byrdden glares at him, walks off and mutters, “You’re welcome.”
The Wind Chicken rides the river toward Chaya. A storm marches towards them, intensifying quickly. The crew batten down the hatches and brace themselves. The wind seems to blow in a circle, surrounding the ship, very unnaturally.
Rose stands on the bow and looks out. She sees many pairs of slitted eyes glowing in the surrounding forest. She summons her golden bow and lets loose an arrow, and hears a screech of pain as it hits her target.
The wind intensifies and begins to lift the Wind Chicken into the sky! The wind becomes purple, and the crew can see the laughing heads of a beautiful woman repeated in the tornado.
Caymlyn recognizes sorcery and begins to enact a counterspell. The rest of the team realize they have to protect her.
Rose commands her troops to spread out and align themselves to the walls of the wind chicken.
From out of the forest spring dozens of winged men with the heads of bats, flying up above the tornado and diving for the ship. A giant bat with Moonsilver tattoos is in the lead. They hit the Wind Chicken en mass, shrieking and grabbing at anyone they can. The lead bat grabs onto Rose and carries her from the deck!
Felsic takes a defensive stance against the creatures, keeping Caymlyn protected while she casts her spell.
Durandal unleashes his solar essence, increasing the strength of Rose’s army. He summons Retribution and swings to and fro, reducing the size of the attacking army.
The wind intensifies and starts to spin the ship in the air. Rose’s archers let loose, sending beastmen raining down from the sky with each shot.
Carried away by the giant bat, Rose whips out her fire cannon and lets loose into its breast. So it releases her to fallto her doom.
Rose has other plans.
She cackles loudly, so loud her voice is heard over the beating wings and whirling storm. She summons her golden bow, pulls back the drawstring with her foot, spinning in the air, and lets loose an arrow of golden light. She channels the very essence of Creation and somehow leaps ONTO THE PHANTOM ARROW and rides it past the bat and back onto the Wind Chicken, slashing at the man bats, tearing their wings as they try to dodge this madwoman.
The giant bat chases Rose back to the ship only to be met with a leaping slash from Durandal. It blocks his attacks with moonsilver wings, or at least tries to. Retribution overpowers this defense, causing an explosion of blood and essence.
The Lunar flies off, leaving a trail of blood.
Caymlyn by this time has created golden runes that swirl around her. She cries out in an arcane tongue and the eldritch symbols explode in glass butterflies, shattering against the winds, breaking the spell and causing the Wind Chicken to plummet.
It more less lands in the water.