|OUR HEROES:||Tira Wolfsdaughter||Hank Woodman||Gilead||Persia||Khaz|
everal days after the momentous occasions of Lawgiver's Day, Tira is summoned to the office of the Headmistress Halifax. There are a number of important scholars there. Bishop Thane is also in attendance. He tells Tira that she has been selected to be on a very special team. Tallon needs to understand the books as clearly as possible. At the same time they need to be protected. They have been placed within the Restricted Volumes vault of the library in the Hall of Art. Tira, the Bishop and the other Scholars are to be allowed access to them for the purposes of interpretation. They will be required to transcribe, make notes, interpret and summarize. They will all have access to each other's work. Tira agrees wholeheartedly.
In the meantime, the temples of the city have made an announcement. On Highday, all the priests proclaim that Riven who report to the Church and are cleared by Church Psychists will be given a special, indelible and unforgeable mark, the Triangle of Patha. This mark will allow them to walk the city under protection of the law.
There are further details that become generally known afterward. First, and most importantly, the process is expensive. To defray the costs, all Riven who undergo the verification are considered indentured to the Church for one year or one hundred silver dollars.
The mark they wear requires scarification, tattooing, and the implantation of gold and lumina. Any adept will be able to cause a riven's mark to glow faintly at will. These elaborate measures are undertaken in order to prevent forgeries.
Lastly, any riven who fails a psychist check for antisocial behavior, or who exhibits a reaving unsuitable for life in the city, will be summarily ejected from the main gate or destroyed as need be.
Hank decides to get Sanyo cleared as soon as possible. He tells the riven of his plan, and Sanyo agrees to try. He passes the scan easily, but the mark may prove problematical. Sanyo's reaving is such that he is constantly and slowly changing his appearance. The mark may not remain. Still, Sanyo agrees to the indenture, so that he may walk the streets again. He will continue to walk about hooded and cloaked, in order to protect delicate sensibilities, but must show the mark upon a challenge. Upon Hank's recommendation, he is accepted into Dakota's service immediately. She pays the indenture off to the church. Sanyo is bound to her for a period of one year.
During this time, Khaz is debriefed by the Warlord, who wishes to know all of the details surrounding the death of his Paladin, Pollux. When the Devil Merk is finished, Hannon is impressed enough that he offers the mutant a commission. Khaz politely refuses, saying he already has another client he serves. Hannon is amused when he discovers the client is Gilead. When the young man returns to active duty, Hannon will have the services of Khaz anyway, and the House of Elias will foot the bill. Khaz doesn't mind. The longer he stays in the service of Gilead, who seems marked for retribution from the Celestial City, the more likely it is he will encounter the one-handed wraith who dishonorably slaughtered his band.
Tira and Gilead are approached one day by a distraught Basarin. The half-breed is concerned about Persia and Char. Neither one has so much as passed by the house in two days. She realizes that Persia was going to live with Novya for a time, but her cat friend left behind several personal effects she felt certain would be collected. And there is no reason Char would not have sent word.
Tira and Gilead travel to Novya's where they learn that Persia and Char had undertaken to find riven upon Novya's behalf.
Novya is jumping on the riven bandwagon with an eye on the driver's seat. She is offering to buy any and all indentures from the church. Under her indenture, the riven will receive training, health care and decent job appointments. She is looking to broker them and become THE source for riven in Tallon. Not only will she likely increase her wealth and power this way, she will also have the largest number of riven in the city keeping an eye on her or her prospects.
Char and Persia were offered a bonus for every riven delivered willingly to the church.
Tira and Gilead confer with Hank, who admits that Novya's idea is brilliant. While they are discussing this, casual remarks by Basarin within earshot of Sanyo prompt the riven man to relate rumors he has heard of a band of riven hiding somewhere up along the spit that leads to the lighthouse. They could have gone to investigate that. It seems as likely as any other lead, so they agree to investigate. They will rendezvous and begin sometime after dark. Since there is martial law in effect, they will need Gilead. He should be able to deflect any inquiries or arrests.
Tira, Hank, Gilead and Khaz meet along the spit shortly after sundown. For several hours the heroes prowl along the most deserted stretch of waterfront in Tallon. Out here are disrepaired boathouses, broken docks and jumbles of rubble that were used to create the breakwater. Overhead looms the towering lighthouse colossus, it's eyes forever facing outward. Tira confirms that under their feet is a vast expanse of undergournd spaces, but the materials are too jumbled for her Spirit Sense to pick out more.
It is not long before one of them spots a dark shape dashing over the broken ground and into the water. Investigating, they discover a grating below a tilting pier. The cover is rusty, but not rusted shut, though it lies half in the water. Gilead and Hank go first, carrying lumina that Tira lends them.
There is a short underwater swim, and the two of them quickly put their heads up in an underground passage. They startle a riven sentry of some sort, who goes scampering off toward the far end. Gilead goes back to fetch the others, leaving Hank in the dark.
The manikin decides to investigate one of the numerous doorways while waiting. In the pitch black, something drops on him and grabs him. Soon he is bound tight, unable to move.
The others come in and begin to render aid when the doors and halls erupt with riven. It is tight fighting in the corridor. Hank is unable to aid them. They sense relief for a moment, when Char and Persia appear, but it is quickly dashed when their friends begin attacking them, fighting alongside the riven. Now the battle is truly difficult. Our heroes hold back, trying to avoid harming their friends, but their enthralled attackers have no such reservations.
Over all of the combat is the eerie noise of someone playing a flute. Is this some mad piper, giving instructions? A strange mind-controlling devotion? Or something else entirely?
Khaz tries to find the source of the piping and is clothelined by a pair of riven females who ambush him from opposite sides of a doorway, and drops unconscious. Tira scoots past him and finds the piper, a huge red-furred riven. While her attention is thus taken, she is grabbed by a tentacled horror from the pool of water that drowns half the room. She fights back physically and with her spirit powers, but the thing is too strong. Its limbs crush her, and hold her underwater so she cannot breathe. Darkness takes her.
Alone in the hallway, Gilead disappears under a wave of riven. He is overwhelmed and bludgeoned into oblivion...