The rain and surf make the cliffside slippery and treacherous, and it takes all of Rain Pearl’s skill to get to the top without cutting herself on the facade of the coral. As she arrives on the plateau overlooking the sea, she looks around her, but it is already almost impossible to distinguish her allies: Pragatima and Rohim are hidden in a small cavern sculpted by the sea, ready to jump back into the sea and board Calyp once they manage to grab the Bey. Beyaloa and Harik are lost in the clouds, acting as lookouts from the safety of their Cirrus Skiff.
For an instant Rain Pearl can’t help but feel in over her head; accepting to help her newfound allies is one thing, but as she sees the small fortress lying between the shore and the mountain, guarded by soldiers and warrior-ghosts, she shudders in the warm rain before advancing.
Meanwhile, Rohim and Prgatima notice marks on the ground of the narrow cave. Following them inside, they stumble on a small rowboat, complete with multiple disquises and a boxfull of deadly poisonned coneshells, recently harvested : they realise that someone else is infiltrating the fortress, and quickly sabotage the small boat and leave the cave, waiting for any sign of distress.
Unaware of the new complication, Rain Pearl is slowly searching the castle room by room, avoiding patrols (and quickly putting a page to sleep when he stumbles upon her.) It is only when she finds a suit of copper armor pierced by a dagger blow next to the Bey’s study that she begins to suspect foul play. Finding the Bey sleeping, she quickly drugs him and puts him on her shoulders… only to come face to face with a servant holding a vicious-looking dagger, who closes the door silently before jumping on her.
A furious duel starts, both fightersstruggling to keep as silent as possible as they exchange vicious blows in the dark room. They trained bodyguard manages to disarm her opponent, but she soon realises how outclassed she is when the misterious assaillant phases throught her next attack, leaving her oppen for a fatal counter.
And then there is light. Enough of it to bathe the room like a sun, enough to creep under the closed door and fire the suspicion of the palace guards. As stunned as her terrified opponent, Rain Pearl feels the deep, terrible power she has tapped into, her soul erupting around her in blue-white twin waves of phosphorescent light. Flowing like water, she dodges the killing blow with little to no apparent effort, and the assassing flees.
Knowing that she has little time before guards swarm her, Rain Pearl decides against pursuit, choosing to grab the Bey and fleeing, her blazing anima illuminating the castle grounds. Alerted by the light and the call of the guards, Pragatima jumps into action, and finds the newly exalted Night caste running towards the sea, ghost-warriors and guards in pursuit. They jump from the cliffside and the last thing the Bey’s guard see is a deep light sinking under the ship watching over the bay, plunging ever further under the surface…
Dawn cracks up the sky, melting the storm clouds away, and the group meet up on a small coral island, Calyp calmly letting her four passengers on the sand as the two sorcerers step down from Beyaloa’s Cirrus Skiff. They barely have time to catch some of the conversation, the Dawn and the Zenith reassuring a troubled Rain Pearl, when the Bey coughs and wakes up, interupting the exchange.
The circle try talking to him, soon realising that his mind is blurred by old age, and meanders throught the events of his life without order, mixing up his wives and conflating the wars he fought. They manage to get him to realise that the circumstance are dire, and he mentions the name of his admiral, telling them that he trusts him to make the proper choices.
Disapointed, they send for Abduraman, and find him in the midst of the chaos reigning in Ma Nao after the attack of the Bey’s fortress, both relieved at learning that the Bey is safe, and somewhat suspicious at their story of recapturing him from his Anathema kidnapper.
Bringing the Bey in the palace at Ma Nao, they find out that Piliang disapeared during the night, and the suspicions of the royal family soon fall upon her. Unwilling to lose a precious ally if she ends up an outlaw, Beyaloa interupts the debate amongst the potential heirs by contacting her on the spot throught an open use of her sorcery, and the discussion is soon brought to an end when she calls the wayward wife back. Still, with an Anathema on the loose and the Bey’s failing health, they agree that naming an heir as soon as possible is a priority, and everyone agree to reconvene the next day, hopefully with Piliang present.
Rain Pearl sleeps, for a while, exhausted by the event of the night. But this is no time for peace yet : as she falls into a deep slumbers, she finds herself in a great prison-palace of void and glass, miles long, tall as a mountain but far narrower. In the distance, a great blue light, a fire surrounding a many-armed spirit of obsidian and ectoplasm, who stares at her for a moment in silence before banishing her with a gesture and sending her back to her body. She wakes up sweating, unsure of the significance of such an omen.
After a quick rest, Rain Pearl and Pragatima tell the rest of the circle about their own suspicions, noting Panman’s suspect attitude during the discussion of the assassin. Eager to know more, Rain Pearl disapears for a few minutes and comes back wearing a nigh-perfect disguise of the woman she fought last night.
She infiltrates the prince’s quarters, finding him deep in toughts in his room. As predicted, he is nonplussed when he sees the pale woman enter, and asks her about the events of last night, annoyed at the perceived interference of the northern foreigners. But the conversation doesn’t go as planned : trying to act like an assassin-for-hire, Rain Pearl tries to negociate her pay, sending immediate red flags. Suspisious, the prince ask her how long they have known each other, drawing his dagger and yelling for his guards when she hesitates.
The gig is up, and Rain Pearl quickly disarms him. Acting without thinking, Panman throws an oil lamp at her, barely missing and setting fire to the room. As the first guards pour into the room, the Night caste cuts the prince with the dagger she grabbed from the original assassin, still coated in deadly poison. A shallow but fatal wound, before she disapears from view in the smoke and leaves her foes to deal with the fire.
She barely has time to get back to her circle to tell them what she learned. A page and two guards bursts into their bungalow, asking Rohim for his help : prince Panman has been poisonned, and they need a physician’s immediate assistance if he is to live. Ignoring the obvious insistent looks of his circlemates, the doctor leaves without saying a word.
The venom is known to him, after all : no need for a diagnostic, and he quickly stops the muscle paralysis and the respiratory failure before they can be fatal. Once the prince is out of danger, he stays for a moment, looking at the sleeping face of the ennemy he just saved, thinking. And with a sigh, goes out to confront his friends.