- The Principle of Hierarchy offers Maïe Exaltation.
- Lion, for obvious reasons, strenuously disagrees, but while the Yozi seems unable or uninclined to attack anyone while in this body, She does seem capable of defending the demon and its conocommitant Exaltation effectively.
- Meanwhile, things have gotten…interesting. Apparently the Blood on the Rose has gone on the march, opening with firedust and explosions.
- Chaos on the streets ensues.
- While Lion and Lyim continue to try to talk the queen down off the edge of that particular pit, the others go to deal with the more pressing issues.
- Sparrowsteel and Unari are primarily on the defensive. A series of tents is set up to deal with the wounded, and fire breaks are set up.
- Akeva deals with the Blood on the Rose more directly. It looks like their hired sorceress has been busy summoning, and blood apes are on the prowl. Not that Erymanthoi mean anything to the Red Beast of Nexus.
- Rallying some of the troops to himself, Akeva leads the charge, taking down many of the rebels trying to overthrow Askatu’s rule.
- Askatu, in the meantime, is having a wonderful time beating people senseless with the flat side of a grand daiklave.
- Eventually, knowing Lion disapproves but throwing her own words back at her in the process, the uncrowned Queen accepts the Exaltation and is immediately wrapped in a Chrysalis Grotesque.
- The Chrysalis seems terrifyingly resilient to attempts to bring it—or its inhabitant—to harm.
- Deciding the Queen isn’t going anywhere for a while, the two decide to turn their concerns to more immediately pressing matters.
- Dusk—still wearing Maïe’s face—encounters soldiers. The first group he convinces to return to camp, and to spread the word.
- The second one comes down to retrieve her.
- Dusk fails to give some sort of cue, however—when they ascend on the soldier’s agata mount, they zip out to sea—dozens of miles from shore—and the two of them are deposited on the ocean—if Dusk hadn’t held on, the demon would have caught the soldier and left him asea.
- With no options, the two begin the long, long swim back.
- The Agata—Laphistes—says he can take back the soldier. He’s supposed to, after all. But the fake queen needs to drown.
- Dusk finds this objectionable. He attempts to bribe the Agata, and realizes through preternatural insights that the demon desires vengeance for his previous master.
- He’s about to try to spin this to his advantage…and then remembers he’s heard that name before.
- Well, forget that.
- Frustrated, Laphistes returns to his master…
- On the streets of Thorns, Mint is busy. She’s laying down a salt line, verrrry carefully. Very carefully.
- And then someone from the Blood on the Rose messes it up. And kicks her in the side.
- How hilarious! She laughs, and orders Zsofika to kill them all.
- So she gets to work on that.
- Laphistes arrives, bearing his master, Kiryam.
- Ever the opportunist—and realizing this whole “Let’s take Thorns!” thing isn’t working out—she offers her services to Dusk.
- Conjuring a Floral Ferry, she makes the return trip much faster and easier…and the two discuss business.
- Meanwhile, Laphistes grumbles. A lot.
- The Kite Flute sweeps across the city in a bloody swath. Hundreds, perhaps thousands die as she passes.
- Akeva takes a stand against her; stopping the rebellion is one thing, but killing the fallen just because they’re wearing the wrong color is too much.
- Lion arrives just in time to watch; to Zsofika’s disappointment she does not involve herself in the combat.
- The battle takes a little bit, but the Dawn ultimately rises to the challenge, executing the demon with extreme prejudice and leaving a crater in the middle of the street that consumes nearby buildings.
- Mint passes by the tents. Using sorcery to actually talk, she explains that she’s setting up something geomantic but doesn’t know what it’s going to do.
- She doesn’t particularly care about the carnage.
- Following back the salt lines, Unari finds…something. And is blissing out just a bit when she returns.
- The battle is mostly over. The Blood on the Rose is mostly dead at the hands of one demon, the others are apprehended or fled.
- Suffice to say that when Dusk-as-Maïe arrives, it is not a smiling crowd that greets her.
- But the Night manages to pull off a convincing monologue, giving up any claim Maïe has to the throne.
- It doesn’t stop them from trying to lynch their once-rightful Queen, only to be stopped by a sudden intrusion by a woman wearing the armor of the guard.
- She stops the attempt—not that it was succeeding particularly well—and escorts the queen away.
- Once safely apart from the crowd, she leaves Dusk in the company of a companion—a man named Sagacious Stone—and departs to get someone else.
- A starry-eyed woman named Ailurah enters shortly thereafter, and the two promptly begin to warn Maïe about a demon that would approach her.
- Too late, obviously.
- But he comes to the conclusion that someone he doesn’t like much is involved.
- Cover is blown. They realize who he is. He realizes Stone is Infernal.
- But Stone apparently works for Heaven.
- He takes them back to where he saw the Queen last.
- Aaand pretty much everyone arrives at once.
- Discussions are had, pretty much everyone is caught up on what’s going on, and Lion claims responsibility for the Queen.
- In four days, she hatches…