The circle walks throught the tense city, passing butcher-alchemists and patrols on the way. The unpaved streets are dry and nearly empty, with only a few workers waiting in line to get loans. The atmosphere is electric, and a storm is brewing in the east, as if to conclude the month of Resplendant Water. As they take a sampan to cross the red Dast river, a lazy sparowhawk circling over them, they question Rohim on the veneration Lee the Blind seems to have for him, but the young Zenith seems to be as taken aback as they are.
They make their way to the southern kells, passing through the poor quarters, and soon notice that Sën is once again missing. Once in the great barracks, past the cooking fires and the woolen partitions separating each empty worker’s spot, the young revolutionnaries they met next to the Inashi’s chains are waiting for them, along with a blond-haired wild giant meditating silently. All of them share a meal of flat bread and weak beer, and talk about the state of the city, confirming what they already guessed : high food prices and loan sharks have made life more difficult than ever for most workers, and day-to-day work is harder than ever to find. The recent apparition of the silver-masked warriors has driven most protesters underground, giving the Cult of the Chained God a powerful recruiting tool.
As their meal ends, the young revolutionnaries try to recruit Beyaloa and the rest of the circle in their fight against the silver masks, arguing that their presence has created to much resentment amongts the city’s malcontent : without any other way to protest against they see as unacceptable conditions, the cult is threatening to free the Inashi as a bargaining chip. “Better to live free than to die in chains”, chimes in the blond giant with a thick Prasadi accent.
Justly horrified at that idea (with the exception of Pragatima), the circle give the cultists what little information they gathered on the silver masks, and promise to bring the cult’s issues to the council, but argues for caution: after all, no-one really wants to go back to the times where the god-monsters predations redered any kind of civilised life impossible in the area… There is a moment of silence, as Pragatima shrugs and the giant leaves with a look of contempt.
As they leave the kells, Rohim and Harik try to question Beyaloa on her apparent hatred of the dreameaten warriors, but get an angry lie as their sole answer. Before they can press her, they stumble upon a clerk anouncing that the council has decided to put the city under a curfew for the foreseable future. The people surrounding them grumble, but the sharp glances of the guards patrols quickly dispel any ideas of protesting the decision.
Pragatima then spends some time organising her expedition. She goes to enquire about Siem’s health after the night, and enrolls her as the expedition quartermaster, before going to Jemdat to talk about equipment and sparing. The young martial artist promises to lend the Voriyaras Inashi-bone spears for the expedition. Meanwhile, a sparowhawk lands on the palace-fortress of Nash Draghma. It flutters from window to window, admiring the colored glass and the rich interiors, almost as if looking for something, someone. After a while, it leave, and circles the city, observing the oblivious people living under him. And notices a commotion to the east of the city, a clash of cymbals and a rolling of drums, under green and gold banners. Ever curious, it lands in the middle of the procession entering the city, atop a great throne carried by a dozen slaves.
The very same procession crosses the path of the circle as they make their way towards the Alchemist’s Ziggurat. Dancers and musicians paving the way with flower petals, in front of the lavishly decorated trone carried on the back of powerful-looking slaves, and thirty warriors clad in the armor of Prasadi soldiers, brandishing the banners of Clan Burano. And atop the trone, a powerful looking man talking to his advisor, occasionnaly throwing fistfulls of pearls and candied fruits to the people massing around his slow-moving procession. No mere man, but a living god clad in gree silk, with skin like brown marble : a Prince of the Earth. Burano Arjuna, Choosen of the dragon of Earth.
Quickly, they make their way to the Ziggurat, where they find Piah and the rest of the alchemists frantically preparing for the unexpected visit. The exasperated Black Alchemist tells them to find a place in the reception party untill she can take care of their request.
Under the light of the dying sun, the procession arrives at the foot of the great Ziggurat, and Burano Arjuna’s slaves bestow extravagant gift of gold, silver and precious incense to the council members, who offer back works of arts and weapons made from the remains of the Inashi. As the ceremony draws to a close and night falls on the city, the emissary from the distant empire is offered a wing of Pree Asma‘s palace to rest. Wary of this arrival, Harik goes to find Piah, dragging his three companions behind him inside the alchemist’s maze.
But before they can talk to the Black Alchemist, a diminutive blond woman approachs them, introducing herself as Yadu Vanshi, the blond giant they met in the Kels earlier, saying that he/she merely changed face to find them here.
“They come to us wearing the faces of our dead.” The group shudders for an instant, remembering the legends of the dreaded Lunar Anathema, the face-stealers of the wilderness, killers of men and beast, nightmare-prowlers, bringers of war and revolutionnaries. And one of them is helping the revolutionnaries of Dir-Jal against the council. They give him the adress of the inn they use as a base of operation, promising to meet him there once they have talked to Piah. The Lunar leaves without protest, and a blond-headed sparrowhawk lands on Piah’s balcony a few minutes later.
While talking to Piah, Harik learns that the strange glowing lense he bought on the way to the city is part of an ancient apparatus to reveal the things that are unseeable. Piah points him to an ancient apprentice of her, Ciello Three Tears, who moved to the Twelve Kingdoms of the Isles and is currently a guest of the Lady of Ansibah, Omale Najilah’ojoeni. They start discussing the silver masks and learn that the council as a whole is ignorant of their true nature, but have to head back to Memdil’s Inn before they find a possible solution, unwilling to be out past the curfew. In the empty streets, the wind is picking up, giving texture to the darkness, a storm is approaching, more efficient at keeping malcontents inside their homes than any curfew.
As the wind and the rain pour and scream around the inn, the group meet once more with Yadu Vanshi, and start talking about how they plan on defeating the silver masks : no-one truly knows how many dream-eaten warriors Nash Dragma has secreted in the city, and the question of how he manages to control them is impossible to answer for the time being.
Before they can start worrying about Sën’s whereabouts, a drenched and crazy-looking Farris stumbles in their room. He crashes at Rohim’s feet, apparently relieved to see him alive : his workplace has been set on fire as the storm started, and attacks have been happening all over the city. Known members and supporters of the cult of the Chained God are being ambushed by the silver masks everywhere, and Farris has come to warn the circle and seek protection for himself.
Immediately, the circle springs into action : most of the group prepare for a siege inside the inn with the Voriyaras and the rest of the inn’s clients, while Yadu Vanshi and Pragatima jump onto the back of her rhino and go out to confront Nash Dragma and Pree Asma. On their way, in the pouring rain, they find themselves facing Burano Arjuna, decked in a glorious jade and orichalcum devil-armor. Yadu throws himself on the terrestrial, shifting from shape to shape to evade the great iron tetsubo, allowing Pragatima to keep running towards Pree Asma’s palace.
She blasts throught the iron-wrought door of the palace ground, scattering the guards and jumping throught a window. Soon, she is standing in front of Nash Dragma and Pree Asma, asking them to call off their attack or suffer the consequences. Silver masked warriors pour into the room, and she takes on a White Reaper stance, holding them at bay as she dives for the two merchant princes. More surprised than afraid, Pree throws a table at the mercenary woman, who shatters the wood with a shout. The windows explode, and wind and rain pour into the room as Pree Asma lifts her heavy wooden throne over her head as a last-resort weapon. But her strenght is of no more help against the prowess of the Dawn caste than the training of the dream-eaten warrior, and she soon falls on the ground, asking a terrified Nash Dragma to call off his attack. Promising to return, Pragatima jumps from a shattered window, and disapear in the night.
Meanwhile, dozens of dream-eaten warriors are now trying to enter Memdil’s Inn. The siege is violent but short, with bursts of flamme from Pragatima’s weapons illuminating the clashing spears, and soon the masked men push through the slim door… and with a word of power and a single gesture, Harik lets loose the Flight of the Brillant Raptor, burning the group to a cinder.
They barely have a moment to recover : soon, a wounded Yadu comes to them, followed by the light of the terrestrial’s anima. The Dragon-blooded comes throught them with deadly purpose, intent on killing the Lunar Anathema and the people protecting him. With a single gesture, he nearly roots Harik in place, his anima erupting in ropes of cristaline shards pouring up from the drenched ground.
But even the might of the Choosen of Pasiap cannot stand against a full circle of Solar and Lunar exalts, and soon, he falls to his knees in the rain, pierced by Pragatima’s and the Voriyara’s spears, leaving them all to mend their wounds and reflect on what to do next.