In the middle of the night, Harik feels his Peronelle shuddering, fearing the return of the sorcerous presence she already sensed a few days ago. After reassuring her, the sorcerer’s keen senses pick up a conversation in the otherwise silent villa: Teferi’s domestic sharing a meal and news with a newly arrived Ebele, returning north after her mission amongst the local pirate crews. Interrupting their late dinner, he greets the demigoddess and informs her that her cousin is here, along with the rest of their circle.
Around the breakfast table of their host, the group reunites with Ebele, and introduces her to Rain Pearl. They start discussing the reasons of their presence in Baliad, the menace of the Sea People and the treason of the Bey, the trail of the Fair Folk that led them here, and the capture of Star-Prince Zapir and Foam Spiral. Immediately, Ebele tells them that she might be able to help on that count: during her weeks spent amongst the pirates of the southern coast, she saw the hideout they use to sell their captives to the Guild. She adds that high value slaves are usually sold well before coming into Baliad.
Pragatima, Rohim and Rain Pearl decide to follow her there : a few hours away from the city, they find the narrow cove, where and ancient village hollowed in the white cliffs, a single ship and his crew resting under the watchful eye of an ancient idol sculpted on the rocky façade.
Learning that some crewmembers sometimes come here without their ships, Rain Pearl disguises herself as a member of another crew, and goes out to investigate. She learns that Zapir was indeed taken here after being captured, and was sold to a guildsman guarded by a group of masked warriors.
Meanwhile, Harik and Beyaloa decide to look into the Way of Inspiration, and visit the compound built on the hillside in the center of the city. They pass the nine gates, entering a garden where disciples train in the Low and High Arts under the watchful eyes of their teachers. They meet with Khnemu, an Inspired who introduces them to the Way and its tenets, and decide to watch one of their lessons.
Unsurprisingly, they notice that the so-called muses of the Inspired are in fact so many Fair Folks, flittering about the grounds of the complex, flourishing under the steady diet of creativity produced by the cult. As fast as politely possible, the two sorcerers leave, not without planning to come back to explore the restricted area of the compound.
The circle meets back at Teferi’s villa to compare their findings, and conclude that they have few avenues left to explore. As they hesitate on their next course of action, a messenger bearing a package for Pragatima: inside they find a freshly severed hand, with the glowing tattoo of the Illuvari Flashing Mirrors. All eyes turn to Rain Pearl, who turns visibly pale at the gruesome sight and what it means: Foam Spiral in indeed held prisoner, and her captor known about their search. Along with the hand is a note, asking one of them to come alone to a dock a bit before midnight.
After an instant of stunned silence, the room erupts in a flurry of activity. Harik runs out in the street to find the messenger and hopefully interrogate him; Rohim starts digging in his satchel to find reagents that will allow him to preserve the hand; Ebele extends her senses into it to search for hidden clues; Beyaloa send an Infallible Messenger directly to Foam Spiral; and Pragatima starts making plans with Rain Pearl to take on the obvious trap.
Beyaloa is the first to come up with results, as she sees the Flashing Mirror held prisoner next a Fire Aspect she recognizes as Lapis Ojamila, a noble of Ayodhya, but the captive is unable to answer the sorceress’s query as to her location by her Dragon-Blooded guard. Harik returns empty-handed, but Ebele’s visions lead them to believe that Foam Spiral is held in the lighthouse at the north-east of the city. The circle starts making preparation, wary but determined.
Night comes, and then midnight, and Pragatima comes up at the dock alone, only to be told that the meeting will take place at the lighthouse instead. Feigning surprise, she rushes toward the gardens, where she is greeted by a dozen guards who escort her to the base of the tower. As she walks, her eyes dart around her, trying (and failing) to notice the other members of the circle. Far up in the air the air the two sorcerers ride Beyaloa’s Cirrus Skiff. In the water close to the shore, Ebele is holding her breath, waiting for signs of trouble. And Rain Pearl, unbeknownst to everyone else, is standing right next to the Hazan warrior, disguised as one of the guards escorting her.
At the base of the tower, surrounded by armed guards, Lapis, a sheathed Daiklave at his hand, is seated next to Enandi Iobana, a Wood Aspect and head of a local noble family. At their feet, bound and gagged, Foam Spiral struggles against her chains. Lapis greets Pragatima warmly, thanking her for her trust, and the two start discussing the situation, royally ignored by Enandi, absent-mindedly stunning and tuning her rebab.
The Fire Aspect tells Pragatima about the Wyld Hunt he is assembling, and reveals that he knows the Anathema who assaulted the Bey of the Fiery Isles bore the tattoos of an Illuvari Flashing Mirror. As he came to Baliad, he learned that they were also looking for Illuvari slaves and figured that they might know where his quarry went to ground. As the Hazan mercenary hints at a partnership with Star Prince Zapir and suggest that they were simply looking for him and his bodyguards, the two sorcerers see a dark shape flying toward them: Lapis’s giant bat, guarding the skies. Beyaloa flees, crashing the Cirrus Skiff in the sea to escape from the beast.
Unaware of the situation, Pragatima keep discussing the situation with the two Dragon-Blooded, eventually coming to an agreement: she and her friends will keep looking for Rain Pearl, and will notify Lapis when they find her, in exchange for Foam Spiral’s freedom. With a nod, Lapis agrees, still somewhat suspicious.
Everyone is on edge when they meet again, and they agree that something must be done to stop the burgeoning Wyld Hunt before they learn too much and fall on the circle. Killing them is hardly an option, as that would draw even more unwanted attention and possibly precipitate their fate. There is no other clear option : Rain Pearl must die.
Or at least appear to. Finding a fresh body is not hard, though there is a stringent debate between Rohim and the rest of the group concerning the ethics of such a thing. But time is of the essence, and much to the physician’s chagrin, he soon has at his feet the corpse of a pirate girl, taken from their hidden cove in the dead of night. Both Rain Pearl and Rohim go to work, the Zenith replacing the original hand with the tattooed one he saved earlier, and the Night working her own brand of magic, disguising the pirate girl and making her look like a copy of herself. Her anima starting to burn, she turns towards the rest of the group, and draws her weapon.
In the darkness of the last hour before dawn, their fight is awe-inspiring, the Night’s anima flaring bright next to the city gates, as she evades the spears of Hazan riders and gusts of flame called by Harik’s Burning Name. The lightshow is visible far and wide, alerting the city guards and the rare passersby and sailors up at this early hour, but it is over in the few minutes: in the midst of the Voriyaras’ camp, the Anathema lays dead, surrounded by burning tents and the bloodied faces of those who cornered her.