Miriam, Rua and Rain travel through a desert area and make camp at an oasis. Oddly, the water there is safe to drink and Miriam finds beads on the ground, but when questioned, Rua just grins and says they'll find out in the morning. Indeed, in the morning, the city of Darishian arrives in the form of a fleet of sand yachts which move from oasis to oasis. Rua, who has been there before, goes off to speak to an acquaintance while Miriam and Rain speak to a friendly Darishian girl. She mentions Rua had come upon their camp sixteen years ago, close to death. Miriam comments that it is unusual for cities to be so open to travellers (never mind moving) - travelling between cities is against the rules passed down and imposed by the council - and the girl says it is perhaps because their council all died a few generations back, so such rules would have been lost then. Arram makes the decision to head out from Triaden to Ember, hoping to find out some background on his thieves. He drinks the water and falls ill. Rua, Miriam and Rain leave Darishian on a small sand yacht that Rua build back when he stayed with the nomads before. He comments that the oases are growing smaller, less able to support life. Arram arrives in Ember and is promptly arrested for being an immigrant - his skin is not the same colour as Ember inhabitants', so he stands out. He tells them that he is from the Notaries' Guild, and they check that up. Finding he is telling the truth, they offer him assistance and weak coffee. They have no information on Rain and precious little on Rua - not much for fifteen years, the policeman says, which surprises Arram. Fifteen years? On Miriam, they have only the official file which Arram has already seen. The policeman gives him a letter to the Chancellor of the university so Arram can look around, and also a hat, to hide his face a bit. In the next oasis along, Miriam, Rua and Rain stop for the night. Although most of the Darishian nomads move from oasis to oasis as the availability of food changes, a few dedicated scientists have set up permanent camp - and labs - at this one. The scientist there has the hypothesis that the world is running down. He thinks they are managing to slow the decline, but is not sure - it's been a long time and hard work even just surviving staying at one oasis. Miriam is fascinated - studying the toxicity of the land is discouraged in Ember, and these people are trying to work out how to change it. Rua later suggests she stay if she's interested, but she wants to move on - finish the journey. Anyway, it may be interesting but it's not her field. Rain quizzes the scientist about how the world could be 'running down', but the scientists' answer - that there's time to find this out, perhaps Rain's children will discover it - seems to be upsetting. Arram searches Miriam's lab but finds nothing - he is not a scientist, after all. He goes back to the Chancellor to ask about her father's work, since all that took place around the time he was looking for one Annuin Setharan, a Tsiennese, at the behest of the Flyers. He's wondering if it's linked - if perhaps Rua is the man he was looking for all those years ago.