The afternoon is starting, sweet sunlight pouring on the beach where Daitya and Elikem are playing with his latest kite, under the watchful eye of their mother and Harik. The two sorcerers are debating, drawing occult schematics on the fine sand. Meanwhile, Pragatima is taking care of Gendo in the middle of her Voriyaras in the gardens. In the house, Rohim is working on an elixir to cure the rest of those afflicted by the coral plague, a letter from Farris in hand, ignoring the buzzing coming from Zao Khan, Jemdat and Siem as they write to Ysmir. The day is calm and relaxed, a moment lost in time before the expedition starts once more.
But their original plan is soon threatened when a Cloud Person, one of Beyaloa’s elemental servants, descends to warn them : a great troupe of warrior is approaching her land from the northern road. Soon, the group leaves to intercept them, along with Beyaloa’s new captain of the guards, leaving the Voriyaras and the rest of the guards to prepare their defense.
A hour’s ride later, they find the sixty or so armed men harassing some of Beyaloa’s subjects, their leader Maratan interogating an old man. Furious, the sorceress demands explanations, helped by a glaring Pragatima, dominating the field astride her rhino.
Obsequious, Maratan tells her that one of his slave escaped his lands, fleeing south, and that the only reason they crossed into her land without asking for permission was to be sure they wouldn’t loose him. Suspicious of the number of men brought to capture a single fleeing slave, Beyaloa takes a minute to ask the villager about the hypothetical stranger. Standing by her side, Harik’s preternatural hearing catches Maratan telling his lieutenant about the book carried by the man they search. They learn that a young man passed throught the village this morning, and left towards Ansibah.
Still furious at the intrusion, Beyaloa gives that information to her neighbour, and provides him with some of her men to help him along his way, all the while planning to send Pragatima cross-country in order to find the fleing man before Maratan’s men. She sends Maratan on his way, and as the Hazan woman starts galloping throught the bushes, calls the Cirrus Skiff to her. Soon, she is back at her manse, giving instructions to her elementals watchers to circle the property and look for Maratan’s escaped slave. But from the sky, Harik’s keen eyes notices a warship flying the flag of the Twelve Thrones dropping anchor in front of her properties. Leaving him on the tower to act as a lookout, she rides her cloud towards the ship to learn more, accompagnied by Rohim.
Curious, Harik glances towards the ship, using the power of the manse and his own powerful vision, and shivers, recognising one of the passengers : Burano Madoria Makeba, a Prasadi sorceress and Fire Aspect . Worried, he turns his sight inland to help Pragatima.
On the ship, Rohim and Beyaloa are greeted by the captain, who respecfully explains he does not intend to attack her lands, and that his ship is part of a vast fleet manoeuver. With obvious distaste, he introduces them to his guests, Makeba and Ejain, two Prasadi Dragonblooded. Somewhat reassured, Beyaloa climbs back on the Cirrus Skiff to leave, catching the eye of Makeba looking at the sorcerous vessel.
Meanwhile, Pragatima soon finds the trail of the escaped slave resting in the high banians, and leaves the trail to catch him. As she climbs the tree to find him, she hears a commotion behind her : Maratan’s men, who obviously know that the man is in the area. Unable to move stealthily in the high branches, she grabs the man by the collar and starts running on the treetops, leading them on a merry chase and loosing them in the forest.
They end up riding peacefully back to Beyaloa’s estate on Gendo’s back, and here the man tells her his version of the story : his name is Osbek, a thief working for the highest bidder, who ended up fleeing with his latest loot after being double-crossed by his employer Maratan. Pragatima tries interogating him about the nature of his last contract, but the thief only pats his pack, asking her if she knows anyone rich enough to buy a kingdom.
When they finally arrive, Beyaloa offers her hospitality to the thief, and after a hearty meal he ends up sleeping deeply, aided by a powerful dose of God-milk concocted by Rohim. He does not hear or see the circle opening his pack to find the heavy leather tome hidden inside it, doesn’t see their surprise when they open it to find pages after pages of coded columns, or their horror when they realise that they hold in their hands the ledger of the Bank of Ansibah, a book capable to utterly upset the balance of power of the region should it fall into the wrong hands.
When Osbek wakes up, he is surrounded by the four Exalts and a collection of living cristalline statues, and soon realise that the best way out of his predicament is to tell the truth and hope for the best : he says that he was simply hired to steal a book held by a clerk without any knowledge of its nature, and that he was nearly killed by Maratan when he refused to give him the tome.
The group debates what to do for hours, but ultimately settle on what they feel is the most reasonnable solution : giving the ledger back to the bank in exchange for a reward, using Beyaloa’s aunt Omale as an intermediary. They leave for Ansibah before dawn, Osbek in tow after Pragatima gave him her word to protect him as long as he followed their lead.
After a few hours on the road, they are in the capital of the Twelve Thrones of the Isles, and head straight for the People’s Palace, where Omale has appropriated an entire wing for her and her staff. They meet the Dragon-Blooded Admiral in her changing room, and tell her all that they know about the situation, igniting a hungry gleam in her eyes. She tell them that she will do what she can to help, and leaves them to wait until noon.
Unwilling to spend the morning idle, Harik leaves to find one of Omale’s artisans, an old apprentice of the Black Alchemist of Dir-Jal now working for Beyaloa’s aunt. They meet Ciello in the great room where the artists patronned by the Admiral work, busy between a scupltor and a silk painter. As the group wanders the room, admiring the collection of art collected by their host, Harik and the young artesan talk about his peculiar lense. Ciello reveals that she probably knows the original owner, and mentions a sailor living in a village north of the Sea of Gold. After some talk about artefacts and legendary objects taken from the sea, they leave the artesan to her work.
The afternoon sees Pragatiman, Beyaloa and her aunt taking one of Omale’s barges to the Bank, a forteress island sitting in the bay, far from any possible menace, in order to negociate their reward upon the return of the ledger. In the dark, ancient building, they meet with Gouka of the Eyes, Secretary of the Bank, and the local rector of the Guild, Mahel of Agate. The negociation are harsh and take up most of the afternoon, but they end up agreeing on the book’s return, in exchange of which the bank will reward them with a substantial amount of silver and forget all current debt held by the Ojoeni family. As they prepare to leave, Beyaloa is taken aside by Mahel, and they agree to meet later to discuss the identity of the original commisionner of the theft, in exchange for another reward.
Back at the People’s Palace, the mood is celebratory, and the group debates on where to spend the evening in the shining city, settling on a singing performance by an musician from the city of Puljad. They go up to Osbek’s room to ask him to come… only to find him chained up on a chair, a mysterious Air Aspect interogating him. For an instant everyone stays perfectly still, and the Dragon-Blooded jumps from the window onto the roofs of the palace…