The evening continues without much trouble, most of the circle socializing and testing the waters for possible alliances. Beyaloa finds Osir Natae, a local noble who invites them to dinner, and she gladly accepts, recognizing him as a probable loyalist described by Teferi. Pragatima goes back to Asteria and Khnemu, asking forgiveness for her earlier attitude. Harik keeps studying the hall’s decorations, occasionally listening to distant conversations. Rain Pearl, still disguised as a simple Voriyara, watches over her “captain” and the rest of the group. After a while, Rohim rejoins the festivities, his haunted look masked by a polite smile.
They cross path with Lapis, his white jade daiklaive still proudly displayed at his side as the only weapon in the hall, and he shares a toast with the Hazan captain, congratulating them once more. But the night is getting dark, and with midnight approaching, they politely leave the palace, intent on learning more about the wrongdoings of the Path of Inspiration.
As they walk back towards the camp, Harik and Beyaloa brainstorming about the kind of demon they could use to rescue the Star-Prince, Pragatima and Rohim start sniping at each other, their argument fast turning into a shouting match, the normally kind young healer screaming at the Dawn and accusing her of putting the life of those he loves in danger out of pure nosiness. Has he not done enough to earn her trust in the past months, he screams, tears welling up in his eyes? Taking an angry step towards Pragatima, he points at the disguised Rain Pearl, a living reminder of how their lives could be torn up in an instant, destroying them and their families. Taken aback, almost afraid, Pragatima takes a fighting stance, ready to defend herself if need be. But the enraged physician is undaunted, getting inside her guard as he keeps on berating the Dawn.
A shout breaks through the night: the Voice of the Nightingale, breaking the stones and cracking the ground with its fury. Aghast at the violence Pragatima unleashed on her friend, the rest of the circle find themselves awestruck when the dust settles, revealing Rohim standing on top of the shattered paving stones, his clothes ripped by the kiai with not even a bruise to show for it.
The silence that follows is heavy with implications, and the group separates with a last remark from Pragatima, insinuating that such a powerful ability could have proven useful in the past had the physician deigned to mention it.
Once more, Rohim leaves the group, Ebele at his side, going back towards the palace. Disgusted by the altercation, Harik starts walking towards the camp, putting his concern aside with thoughts of sorcerous formulas. For a moment, the rest of the circle stays silent, unsure of what to do next. Still somewhat fuming, Pragatima asks the sorceress to call her Cirrus Skiff, and they head out towards the private part of the Inspired’s compound, flying over the fire where the day’s art is being burnt, and reaching the high wooden tower under cover of night. Under them, silver-masked guards patrol the grounds, blind to their advance.
Her spear in hand, Pragatima jumps from the cloud to the side of the tower, entering from a high window…
And the tower is a world unto itself. A desert of red-ocre diamond sand under a black daylight, the air dry as a flame, pillows and couches emerging haphazardly from the ground, under floating canopies of colored fabric. Here Fair Folk and humans mingle freely, feeding on each other, magnificent livery giving way to the crudeness of bare skin and broken souls.
In the rafters of the great tents, Pragatima jumps from roof to roof, searching for a trace of Star-Prince Zapir. She finally finds him, painting and elaborate sand mandala under the guiding eye of a bright fae with a tail of burning peacock feathers, his eyes like twin suns of melted glass as he gives advice to the entranced Zapir. He Who Burns, alone with their ally.