As their second day in the city comes to an end, the circle have to admit that help will probably not come from the Twelve. After a small discussion with Beyaloa’s Aunt, they agree to spend the evening in Ansibah, and to leave the next morning towards Dir-Jal, a decision that is reinforced when they receive Pragatima’s messenger falcon with fresh news from the City of the Chained God.
Still worried about the possibility the He Who Burns might have followers in the capital, Rohim and Rain Pearl head towards the street of temples, looking for the small shrine lovingly maintained by local adepts of the Path of Inspiration. Posing as potential converts or even patrons, the get invited to diner with the couple who started the local branch of the Path.
Meanwhile, Hark, Beyaloa and Kadma head towards the Blue House, to serve as Omale’s representatives at a party. But things take a turn for the strange as soon as they arrive : the ancient stone god guarding the villa and its gardens walks down from his post as soon as Kadma passes close to him, suddenly acting like an excited pup. To the surprise of everyone present, he pulls the Blue Walker to a specific spot in the gardens, where old stones are protruding from the ground, out of the way of the party. Inspecting the stonework, the realize that they have stumbled upon and old stone relief depicting the Broken King and his consort, whose face has been destroyed by time, but still has a resemblance with Kadma’s soma.
As their host arrives to check on his guardian, Harik recognizes that the text on the stone is a dialect of Old Realm, but before he can try to decipher it, he perks up, his superhuman hearing picking up a great clamor coming from the sea.
Far from the Twelve, Pragatima spent the better part of the afternoon talking with Jemdat about her plans, and decides to spend some time spying on Pree Asma’s routine in order to decide on the best way to act. As she vaults effortlessly on the roofs next to the palace, she spots another observer, a young man sitting unmoving on a nearby building.
Getting closer, she understands that the man has noticed her too, and she introduces herself. With a calm smile, he acknowledges her presence, and responds in kind : he is Visadhara, the Bane of Ansibah, and close friend of Ebele. There is a moment of silence as the two Dawn caste observe each other, aware that they do not yet know each other’s agendas, each both afraid and eager to ask the question for fear of starting a duel that would probably end up devastating for both themselves and the city as a whole.
With some care, they manage to delicately exchange information on their goals, and Pragatima learns that Visadhara hasn’t been in the city for long, and is currently trying to decide who to back up should trouble occur. Pragatima is more than willing to give him dirt on Pree, but he declines the proposition for now, and they part on somewhat neutral terms.
The waters of the Dreaming Sea are boiling, thousands of Sea People soldiers crawling on the shores of Ansibah. Beyaloa reacts immediately, grabbing her two companions by the arms and starting to speak the words that will transport them where they need to be. With a flash of light, the two sorcerers and the living statue appear on the roof of the People’s Palace, gasping at the terrible scene unfolding in front of their eyes. The few soldiers guarding the palace are already falling back, and most would already be lying dead on the beach were it not for Omale, her anima already lighting the scene. The Lady of Ansibah is rallying her guards, standing in the midst of the battle, her silk pantaloons covered in dark red blood, holding a broken spear and a sword in her hands. Kadma jumps on the beach, leaving her stone skin to possess the closest sea warrior’s weapon and turn them against their owner. Harik invokes the Brilliant Raptor, burning a swath through the invaders to seal off a flank, as Beyaloa starts muttering her own incantation. Soon, pillars of lava sprout from the ground, the burning tentacles of the Magma Kraken protecting the beachfront, throwing the sea people back in the water or burning them where they stand.
Amidst the flames, she pauses a moment to survey the carnage, sending off an Infallible Messenger to alert Pragatima, and Rain Pearl and Rohim arrive at last, having run towards the commotion, figuring that the rest of the circle would probably be at the center of the sorcerous lightshow.
Quickly, they agree that now that the People’s Palace is somewhat safe, their next priority is to help the queen. Rain Pearl, Kadma and Omale, still clad in the fish-scaled dragon of her anima, take what few soldiers they can spare, and make towards the plaza of Sarebe, cutting their path in the dark streets full of panicking citizens and Sea People invaders.
Beyaloa calls her Cirrus Skiff, taking to the skies with Rohim and Harik, who is now whispering maddening incantations under his breath. Slowly, his voice is joined by an eerie choir, spiraling figures of smoke and ghostly ephemera surrounding the trio, growing in number until they reach the streets below, sending the Sea People in a panicked rout. Those who stay put or can’t escape find themselves unable to breathe, and the Cantata of Empty Voices continues to spread over the city, panicking even those who don’t feel its sorcerous effect.
In the chaos, storming the queen’s palace is almost easy, and soon, Saramen and her honor guard are brought back to the People Palace, as more permanent defenses are erected. The battle almost seems over, the sorcerers still flying over the city inside a mile-wide tornado of ghostly light, when a monstrous sea-turtle rises out of the water, a ballista on her shell. The first shot is well-aimed, and the two sorcerer barely have time to blink as the meter-long bolt of iron pierces through Rohim’s body, throwing him clean off the Cirrus Skiff to plunge towards the ground a hundred feet below.
Beyaloa rushes to cover, the cloud diving amongst the protection of the city roofs, and they lose sight of their friend’s body.
Rohim opens his eyes on the floor of a house, having shattered the wooden roof with his fall, shouts rising in the dust. Still trembling, he gets up and starts running back towards the shore and the People’s Palace.
He is nearly there when lightning strikes right next to him, revealing Pragatima holding piercing thunder, a serious look upon her face as the ozone dissipates.
“Took you long enough.”