|OUR HEROES:||Tira Wolfsdaughter||Hank Woodman||Gilead||Persia||Khaz|
ews of the Archon's fall spreads quickly. Though the line-eaters were largely unsuccessful in destroying the city infrastructure, they have struck deeply at the city's spirit nonetheless. With this latest event in the turbulent health of Ningan, people begin to wonder how much can he take at his advanced age. Ningan is reported to be unresponsive, lying comatose in his Palace bedroom.
With the loss of the head of State, people continue to look to the Warlord for leadership. Increasingly remote due to the ongoing sabotage and assassination attempts, Hannon places much of the responsibility for civil order in the hands of Zane, the Chief Inspector of the Spirit Guard. Though most people applaud the move, some of the city notables are less than happy. Most prominent is Novya, who creates her own private guard in response. The Star Guard where her traditional seven-rayed star. Though they have no official authority in the City, devout Novyists nevertheless begin to look to them for aid and protection. Confusion begins to take hold in the city as the populace is uncertain who to obey, fear, or ask for aid. Fights between the Spirit Guard, the Star Guard and the various local Constabularies. Persia finds herself the recipient of automatic antipathy from the Spirit Guard, due to the Novyist livery she wears.
Gilead receives a clean bill of health from Farallon at long last. He will resume active duty in ten days. He constantly asks for front-line duty, bearing a tremendous personal grudge against the Celestial City. Also, he deeply wishes to rescue Kamlak from the torment he witnessed in the glamour sent to him from the enemy. To his great annoyance, he is repeatedly put off or told that his request has been "taken under advisement". It is during one of these visits that his eye is caught by Lucaius, the rebel Nephil who pledged to help Tallon cause the downfall of the Serafim. The diabolus tells Gilead to meet him on a particular night in a remote corner of the farmlands. He might be able to help.
In the meantime, Tira is summoned to Headmistress Halifax' office. Tira had assumed that her tuition problems were over once the Archon had promised to cover her education expenses. Apparently, he had put nothing into the Treasurer's instructions regarding this, preferring to handle it quietly and personally. Thus, with his fall, there is no one to foot the bill. This is distressing of course, but not nearly so distressing as other revelations She visited Dakota who holds the remains of Hank. She had hoped that she might be able to bring back Hank the same way she was able to restore Peter Shroud. When she tried, she was shocked to realize that the special reserves she called upon for her sympath abilities were gone. Had they been burned out by the line-eater that attacked her? She tests this over the course of several days and confirms that she can no longer commune with the Dancers of Dawn. The only bright side to this is that she can withdraw from her examination of the Celestial City scriptures and thus rid herself of Watcher Larthine.
Gilead keeps the rendezvous, with Khaz for accompaniment. They meet with Lucaius and an unnamed adept. The diabolus says that he can get Gilead onto the Celestial City, but it will cost him. He knows Gilead is wealthy, and asks for ten of Spirit Swords in payment. These swords will go to arm the resistance, he says. Gilead protests that the cost is prohibitively high, but the diabolus seems to think he can do it.
Gilead returns home and begins to see where he can raise the money from Elias' assets without raising attention. It is at this time that he begins to notice discrepancies in his grandfather's accounting. The deeper he digs, the more debt he finds. This takes several days of course. During this time, he begins to privately poll his friends to see who is willing to go on a raid to the floating city.
Tira is in, apparently. One of the last things she did before resigning was to examine the records stolen from the city to find out what she could about line-eaters. Although there was little direct mention, she did find a reference to a flower called the Silver Hellebore that is reputed to restore fading adept abilities. She distinctly remembers having the flower pointed out to her by Operator Ossa while crossing the palace gardens of Helios, the Most High. She hopes that by drinking an infusion of the flower, she might have her abilities restored and thus be able to bring back Hank. It is a slim hope, but she clings to it.
Others agree to help, notably Quarra and Exon Ironhand. It is Exon who sheds some light on Gilead's apparent shunning. Exon spent a stint in the military in a quelling some Hill Tribe raids, and his father served in the Karkul War. He explains that people who are considered notable figures are often cut out of planning during wartime. Gilead has been the target of many Celestial City attacks. Should he be captured and probed, it could be disastrous for the City should he have knowledge of any real military operations. It rankles, but Gilead is forced to accept the logic. In any case, Exon is in.
Persia has been increasingly of value to Novya and the Grandmistress begins to entrust her with more important tasks. She is instructed to escort a moneylender named Brillo to a rendezvous at a popular restaurant called the Rolling Deep. She does so without incident and takes him to the queer establishment. The restaurant is built to resemble a sailing ship. There are tables in the "hold" and the "top deck" as well as a private room in the "crow's nest". It is to this latter room that Brillo goes.
Persia is surprised to see Khaz show up shortly afterward, escorting Elias to the same room. The two of them are bid to remain below while some mysterious business is conducted.
Another piece of this curious puzzle is revealed when a cadet student approaches Tira and asks if she can contact Gilead quickly. The Cadet is not free to leave the Old Circle, but wants her to pass a message to Gilead that she overheard several of the Spirit Guard stating that they intended to arrest Elias. Tira immediately goes to Gilead to let him know. By now Gilead has become aware of the extent of Elias' debt. It is considerable, dangerously high. He can't quite make out why, give his relative inexperience with creative accounting, but it makes him worry. It does not seem he will be able to find the funds to buys spirit weaponry. He begins to regret the money he recently spent to re-enhance his personal weapon. However, all thoughts of money are banished when Tira relates her news. They begin to run through the city toward the Rolling Deep.
When they get there, they see that chaos has broken out. The Spirit Guard did indeed show up first. Khaz and Persia denied them entry to the Crow's Nest. Persia is on shaky ground with only her Star Guard status to back her up, but Khaz is merely a mercenary acting for a private citizen. Things do not look well, particularly after it begins to come to blows. The fight is infectious and instigates a true barfight in that area of the top deck. The moneylender looks out of the enclosed platform room to see what the commotion is and is hit in the head by a flying tankard. Unfortunately, he had been holding a bag of coins at the time and the gold and silver spray out onto the deck. This really causes a ruckus as greedy diners begin fighting over the "free money". Fortunately, this larger fracas masks the smaller, more important fight. The Sentinels prove to be capable combatants. Sotha is gravely injured by Khaz' mighty hammer at one point, which causes Surama to decide to stop holding back. He proves to be quite capable with Shocking Psyche, and does this to Persia.
In the meantime, Gilead has leapt into the fray and demanded that they cease and desist. Tira has taken a high and unexpected route and climbed the faux rigging into the private dining room. There she explains what is going on below to a startled and worried-looking Elias. Rather than see his grandson come to harm and possibly ruin his career and future, he exits the dining room and declares, "Stop. I surrender myself to the authorities. You have your man, let these others go."
Gilead, who up until the last moment had hoped that Elias was somehow being framed, is shocked. All the fight goes out of him.