Grey and Furius aren’t the kind to bide time. Oliah says she’s ready to get to the Distant Port. She also asks if Grey or Furius have ever been to Cloister... Even as they determine next steps, riders from the west catch up to them. There is a selection of Houselands clans among the six riders and various wagons that make up this group. The two lead riders wear the fur that denotes House Wulsh. They clearly have something to say.
Assassins are not usually found in such numbers. In this case, they're numerous and had time to prepare for Praetor's reappearance. 'Thought' only knows why these particular assassins expected his return. Leaving these guildsmen in place only means that they will take the opportunity afforded them to make similar preparations for those that now accompany Praetor. Because the 'Bit' remain in the tunnels, nothing can be done to use the underground connection to Praetor's keep, which lies at the tunnel's other end. This situation cannot be left as is indefinitely. Will delaying the ousting of the Bit assassins mean other, further costs not understood? The Black prevents knowing, but a Rakshahasa would offer odds on it. First, the throwing shrike that was held by at the Valeguard fortress needed retrieving. It should be a simple thing to get and then they could consider serious matters.
‘The Medusa’ calls people who matter in events, ‘tiles’. She refers to a game she played when she was young. It was a game of sweeping the tapestry that formed the playing field, free of all the tiles you could, while managing to retain as many as you could of your own. Before there could be a match, there was the set-up to do. Before the playing field could be checked for loose threads, the tiles needed to be counted to make sure there weren’t any missing. Missing tiles would need finding or replacing.
Praetor Furius has nothing better to do... idle hands are the 'Fane's playthings.
Grey takes a 'tiger's chance' and risks a private meeting with Syrynx, Queen of the Courts. An uninvited guest can learn a many lessons from a host.
On the Deck of the Syryne’s Song Grey foam was pushed forcibly from the prow of the sleek cutter’s hull. Cantriq watched the foam trail away to the rear of the ship. Her place onboard was a last-minute thing. She hadn’t been about to venture to the mortal plane. It was barely any time at all since she’d last been to it. Her concerns were the Courts Foundation, her brother’s health and lastly a chance to take her rest on her island. None of these things looked into the faces of the growing external matters that she might be required to deal with soon. The rise of the Pandemonian princesses was not even the most recent one and it was still an unknown feature. The Pandemonian Foundation meant a restructuring of the existing balance in Chaos. Aquarch Cantriq tossed a tooth into the grey waters. An older than ages saying went, ‘A tooth in brine, will show you thine.’ Cantriq always threw fiends’ teeth. The old saying had never proved real, not even prophetic. She’d never been shown anything with inner meaning by following the old adage. Cantriq did it because it amused her to pretend to follow things that children put some faith in. It reminded her that even the greatest immortals needed to remember their place. Cantriq liked to remind herself of the fact that she knew less than she wished to and even less than that about herself. She didn’t need reminding very often. What about children who had never had a chance to learn childhood sayings? Did they know to think of their failings or to toss a tooth in the sea to learn what they needed most? Cantriq listened to the ship’s wash. It churned more loudly against an unseen current. Cantriq knew the waters of the Chaos Sea as well as anyone alive. She knew this change in the prevailing waters meant the mortal seas were fast taking prominence under the queen’s flagship. Cantriq didn’t understand why her sister had decided to make this voyage. There was the stated reason. An important meeting to attend: a meeting of the three, older Foundations of Chaos to acknowledge the newly formed Fourth. A true and real reason to talk things over — apparently. Cantriq knew that it was unlikely that the Thale would be represented by their King and Queen. The Confederacy would be hard pressed to send anyone who spoke for more than a portion of the Second Foundation. The Princesses of Pandemonia would only be sending one such, if even that, as they’d be wary of trickery by one of the older Foundations’ envoys. So why would Syrynx make this meeting a priority? Cantriq could ask her sister. There might even be an answer. Cantriq preferred to learn things for herself. After gaining an answer, she could then weigh what people might tell her with the benefit of perspective. What Cantriq needed was some advanced scouting. Profane had means at their disposal to send fiends to make searches. Her brother Bosphor was a master of using fiends this way. Basic-little could be mentioned to him that he didn’t already have second-hand knowledge about. Cantriq preferred her information firsthand. That made things harder. The water against the ship’s hull had turned an ‘alien’ sea-green; the Colour of the living, natural worlds. The far-from-grey smells of a sea filled with life and death came to Cantriq. Not too far from the ship, several icebergs glided past. The queen’s ship moved against the winds of this mortal world. Gulls skee-rawed angrily at the unnatural progress of the ship below them. Landfall was close. Six, Serpicane fiends entrusted with the ship since the beginning of the Second Realm, joined their dorsal wings together and caused the ship to rise up and over the shoreline. Waters of the Chaos Sea that still clung to the ship, dripped from her hull in great swathes. Dark and grey, the Chaos water fell to the land below. Where the Grey splashed down, the heath grasses and sedges burst into growth. Not a living charge of growth but into an alien one. Cantriq couldn’t see the end results of this as the ship was moving purposefully inland. She closed her eyes and couldn’t sense that the ship was in the air. The rocking of the ship seemed as if it was riding atop the sea of Chaos. She opened her eyes to see if she could see the lake. Cantriq knew what to look for because she knew where the meeting was to occur. The Island of the Three was the ship’s destination. Three — that name might have to change, she thought. A fiend dressed in robes of ash-grey and adorned with many intricacies came on deck. Her forehead was ringed by a crown of grey fire: Syrynx’s brazier. Her chief advisor, gifted with knowledge gained from the brazier’s innate attachment to Chaos. This brazier was still new to the royal house and the queen. Cantriq had wondered at Syrynx choosing a female brazier to attend her. There was a preponderance of females at the head of the Courts these days. Cantriq could feel the dislike of this when she was in the Courts. With the arrival of Pandemonia, the female influence grew even more prevalent within Chaos. Some in the Courts saw this and were pleased to have a queen in power but some were now convinced of the royal seat needing to return to a male’s control. Cantriq shifted her weight from her toes to her heels and stretched. The lake was just a few miles ahead. The ship gradually descended to arrive on the lake like a skimming stone might. Its hull leaped into the air slightly a few times before entering the fresher water for good. The ship didn’t slow at all. Cantriq was impressed. The pilot and captain should be commended for their skill, although the queen would not have had average skill on her vessel, still Cantriq knew they’d done well. Cantriq knew that in moments the ship would reorient itself and move on the island destination. She didn’t bother to look for the island. Cantriq was aware that it wasn’t visible above the lake’s surface. It lay below the surface and the ship would get there with some difficulties to be managed. The time had come. Cantriq smiled at herself. The queen might be irritated once she learned of Cantriq’s absence. Instead of tossing another tooth over the side, Cantriq went over herself. She clmbed down to the water’s surface and dropped a small object into the water. Expanding rapidly into a small boat, able to hold six, the object received Cantriq into it. She pushed off from the larger vessel. Rowing with an ease that revealed many years of practice, the lady of Chaos pulled away from the flagship. She set out toward the shore. She rowed happily. This was a thing she never tired of. A quiet sucking sound began to be noticeable. Cantriq had learned of this entrance-way. She wasn’t worried that she’d lose herself or her craft in pointing it straight toward the sound. Ahead of her, a whirlpool spun turning the water a deeper blue. Black perhaps she thought as the spiralling waters took her down into them. The boat turned ‘round and ‘round, its nose pointing at where the sky had been just before. A pop announced that she had arrived. Not so much upon a lake as in a pond. Cantriq laughed out loud. Her boat could almost bridge the water it sat in. A check with her oar told her that the pond was shin-deep. She jumped out and quickly pulled the boat to drier land. Boat secured, Cantriq moved off to where she could hear bird calls. She needed to clear her path. The undergrowth was thick. Not ridiculously so but some effort was needed to get through it. Just as well that the plant growth slowed movement, the plants suddenly gave way to nothingness. If a person had been moving quickly, they might well have fallen to their death. The ground she stood on was a few hundred feet in the air. She knew that the Island of the Three was not an isle surrounded by water but one surrounded by air. For Cantriq her vantage point was merely for observation. A life in Chaos meant she wasn’t at all surprised by what she could see. She was intrigued. Such ‘strangeness’ was not regular for mortal places. Despite the overall nature of the world this Island of the Three was placed in, the island was not regular at all. How could it be when it was used as place of meeting for such as Chaos. The ‘Three’ were the three Elements of air, land and sea. Cantriq thought again of the changes made to the realm. Now there were four Elements. Fire had been brought into the mix from the very beginnings of the First Realm. A new consideration for all the rest. She shrugged. She couldn’t worry about this. There was enough older, that she needed to consider. New things had to be placed where she could manage. Cantriq was happy to have to think about the Pandemonians. The new Element would have to wait its turn. The flagship would be here soon. Cantriq wasn’t here to announce the ship’s arrival. She’d come on ahead because she wanted to see for herself. To learn if she could, why her sister had decided to come here. The island seemed normal to her. Strangely comprised but ‘normally’ so. Cantriq gazed out beyond the island’s edge to the land it floated above. It was a dreary place. Gloom covered it. She looked but couldn’t make out a source of light in the sky. It was overcast and the clouds were a thick mat. She looked below and could see individuals moving. Not unlike men, Cantriq decided. She monitored the party’s progress below her. If she had wanted to, she could have dropped a tooth down on them. Some might not have thought to do so. Cantriq was able to think of it so she was capable of such an action. She chose not to. There was no point in creating havoc within the group of — what exactly? She looked more determinedly. Not men, nor were they veer. Too small for vast. She could discern that the party had wings. Bipeds with wings. Fiends? No, these would already have sensed her and be aloft to pay her homage or give challenge depending... so not fiendish at all. She thought about dropping a tooth again. It might at least tell her if the wings these beings had allowed them to fly. She found it strange that these below had wings but walked. Why didn’t they take to the air? There must be a reason for this. She looked to where the group walked. Something gleamed to their left. The winged ones didn’t see this, it was only seen by her. This gleam came from a weapon. No, a pair of weapons, Cantriq realised. She grew more thoughtful. A single glint from a pair of weapons? Linked in some manner then. This ‘reflection’ was made without a sun to be seen… She drew upon her bloods. A small slash with one of her remaining fiend teeth and a cut was opened on her hand. There was a variety of hues available to her. She looked for tell-tale sign in them. Colours that were clear to her; the Green, Cyan, the Black and Gold stood centre-most. Her own colour was absent. No matter for her in this instance. She decided upon the Black. She was after answering a mystery after all. She directed this blooded power into her vision. Her sight became grander. She could see that the winged beings below her were made of stone. This might be why they didn’t fly, or if not too heavy to fly, then perhaps they remained on the ground because they meant to surprise the group beyond. The group beyond were men -- Final Men. At least in part. Some were partly so, as if... as if only brushed by the blood of Lored Mann. Two, however, were clearly pure blooded. Two such humans led the party that was further from her. It was the younger of these that possessed the gleaming blades. She could see the paired weapons now. They were large knives. Cantriq grimaced. Her nephew had been fond of blades like these. His skilled use of such had made him sure he could deal death to anyone. He’d set about proving this belief. Cantriq pushed the thought away. No point in crying over spilled blood. Multi-hued and royal blood was just as pointless to mourn for as ordinary, it had turned out. She looked at the Final Man who carried the blades. His garb was managed artfully. A uniform way of dressing. Hooded and capable of menace but this man didn’t exude this as much as he denoted casual lack of concern. Aided by alcohol, she realised. Her enhanced vision showed her the interior of this minor hidden aspect. The man carried a bottle that could be seen bulging his cloak. Few would carry a bottle in the wilds. Too easily lost or contaminated. Few would, except the uncaring. Cantriq turned her attention to the other Final Man. He was dressed as a Seneshal Executioner. These were no more. The last of them had been —. That could not be. He was not permitted to leave his world of exile. Praetor should be on Tebbaren. She watched him moving. The same sure strides. The same cloak and mask. It could be no other. The same effectual sword. No, it wasn’t the same. The sword was changed. Her Black-vision revealed a mystery. A mystery that the wielder hadn’t yet solved. Eternus Est. A clue, in the name… Cantriq looked with renewed discipline at the younger Final Man. Only his chin and cheeks protruded from the hood. He moved like none she had known. He was dressed like none she had known. She stared and blinked. He did bear some similarities to one she had watched. That had been a long time ago. Syrynx had put her to the watching. Syrynx had asked her to spy on a Final Man whom she had taken an interest in. ‘Was he not handsome? Was he not intriguing? Did he not carry himself with authority?’ Cantriq had seen these things and more during her surveillance. That he was dangerous and a slayer of not only his Lored’s creations but of others. The Man didn’t limit his killings. He took life from any descriptor. Cantriq had been discovered and only the revelation that she was Syrynx’s sister had saved her from his attacks. She had to tell Syrynx about his indiscriminate nature. Cantriq should have known that this would only give her sister hope. Hope that Chaos might embrace her choice of this Man due to his wanton ability. Chaos needs more than an ability to unseat the mighty. Chaos needs more than an ability to destroy all things. That is work for the Incarnate and the Unknown other draped in Black. So Syrynx was disappointed. Cantriq had been chosen to lead the trackers. They followed on the trail left by her sister and her chosen lover. Cantriq had done all she could to catch her sister. When it became clear to Cantriq that it was too late, that her sister had given herself to the Man, Cantriq did all she could to delay her hunting party. It had worked out. Her sister managed to hide her child in the Black of a small, mortal place before she was caught. Her dalliance was deplored but Syrynx’s honour was salvaged. She stared at the two Final Men. Praetor and ... another. One whose chin bore a passing semblance to that other Man, Absolom. The meeting of the Foundations and her sister’s attendance could now be made to make some kind of random sense... Cantriq watched the humans walk toward the ambush. She didn’t know what the winged ones wanted these men for but she had no reason to allow it. She measured the distance below. A fair throw. Magick would help. She wet the tooth in her hand with which Colour?... With the Cyan. Cyan because... just because, why not? She watched the tooth sail downward. A breeze lofted it just when she thought she might have underthrown it. It flew in a graceful arc. It struck the young Final Man directly, right on his hood. Cantriq smiled. A fair throw. Her blood magick faded as her wound healed over. She turned her mind to the flagship and a meeting to come.
The Order sets off to learn some incidental details of the city that is to be their home.
Praetor can't sleep and neither can Grippe. They head to a place of old adventure and discover a new frontier.
The vaults of the Medallions-Croupier hold much of value. None has more potential value than the mortal resident in vault 3C. Sybermane is housed within this particular vault. Tar Kiln will make a suitable withdrawal.
Tar Kiln leaves the plane of Shadow. He departs from Kayyya, the Nemes-queen's palace, with new talents based on his ancient heritage. The cost was high but his ambition is clear and leads him tot he mortal plane and the world of Miranse. He stays within Shadow's embrace as he watches the people of Lowsis go about business. Lowsis is the churning heart of Spansis. Spansis is a city-state that resides above Lowsis, like a jeweled crown atop an unremarkable but capable ruler.