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Issue Seven Synopsis


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Arram and Shirin confront the Principal of the Flyers Guild in Sarani, demanding to know what's going on. The Principal explains that they were asked by the police to investigate offshore because a pair of thieves fled that way. Because of the rumours of an offshore dwelling, she consented, although normally the Flyers remain neutral. They did find a raft, she says, although no sign of the fugitives, and while the Flyers circled the raft, something was fired at them. The Flyers retaliated by firing their launching rockets at the raft. Shirin asks what the odd flyer was doing, the one that flew west, and the Principal denies all knowledge - one of her pilots said it had come from the raft, but that was clearly ridiculous. But Arram has put things together - if the thieves from the morning who fled to the raft and the fugitives he and Shirin are chasing are one and the same, which their descriptions indicate they are, then one of the thieves is the man he pursued fifteen years ago - a renegade flyer named Annuin Setharan. So perhaps it is he piloting that Flyer. Shirin smirks at him. The Principal reluctantly admits that she feared it was Annuin when she read his description. She trained him; his leaving was difficult, although he never made his oath, so did not break it. She arranges for them to fly in pursuit of "Annuin" in the morning, and to remain for the night at the Guild. No-one, she says, flies at night.

Maren's Flyer is over the mountains, and Rain and Miriam are dozing in the back seats. Rua looks for a place to land - because no-one flies at night - and spots something that unsettles him. The Flyer lurches mid-air, and plunges towards the trees on the mountain slope. Rua can't pull up in time, the landing skids catch tree branches, and the Flyer hits the ground at speed, breaking most of the struts and catapulting Rain out of the cockpit and onto the ground. Upon examination, Rua ascertains that the little thief is badly hurt but not dangerously so, and says he will head into the nearby city to get stuff to repair the flyer and something for Rain. Miriam asks what city it is, and Rua admits it is Tsien. He leaves Miriam sitting forlornly by Rain, confused by Rua's choice of pronoun for their companion and wishing they had gone with Maren, because it would have been safer.

Out at sea, Maren sails south until he judges it is safe, then turns about and heads back towards Second. He moors his boat to an undamaged bit of raft, then heads for the library, stopping as he hears some odd noises and dodging out of the way of a light that shines past his head. Someone else is here.

Outside the walls of Tsien Rua remembers when he was last there. He does not want to return.

In the forest, Rain wakes up and wants to know why Miriam is angry with Rua. What happened on the raft?

On Second, Maren cautiously follows the noises, keeping his head down, until he finds the source; the mechanical lab. He peeks over the walls and sees odd creatures there - creatures he has never seen the like of. More creatures arrive on a boat to join the first ones, one of them apparently metal, and there appears to be a stand off. He wishes for a notebook, and then a sonograph.

Rua has found the tools and kits he needs, and is returning to the gap in the wall he entered through when he remembers his promise to the Crank in Ember, that should he ever return to Tsien he would take the Cranks' message to an appropriate person. Annoyed, he leaves his stolen goods by the wall and plans to write a note to put on the chief astrologer's desk - he's probably the best person to tell. Unfortunately for him, Tsien is not deserted at night. A sword slides over his shoulder, and he puts his hands up as he hears a familiar voice say, 'An Ruain Seth Arhan. You came back.'

Miriam explains to Rain that she has wanted to look into her father's research, so she had gone to the library on the raft. She found there not only her father's work but also a report on his death. He'd jumped - or been pushed - out of a high window. The other scientist in the lab at the time was killed with a blade, and witnesses had seen a Tsiennese man close by the building. Rain wants to know why she's considering this as proof Rua killed her father, and she admits it's not proof, but it's not like Rua doesn't work for hire. All kinds of work. Rain asks who would have hired Rua to assassinate her father.

An odd flying thing lands near the raft on a plume of blue light. Another creature emerges and addresses the creatures in a language Maren understands. One of the others says something about a vercoder being stuck in human, and berates the new arrival for being unsubtle. What if a human saw? You're lucky there aren't any here, it says.

Rua turns round and recognises a childhood friend, Ash (that's Sein Ashar to you). Ash makes him drop his blades and asks him why he's come back. Rua says Ash wouldn't believe him. Ash asks if he's returned for his extended family - going to murder themm too? Rua snaps back that he never killed anyone. Ash doesn't believe him. After all, Rua had been standing in the middle of the slaughter, with his swords covered in the blood of his family. He prods Rua into moving, saying the judge will decide his case. After a while of walking, Ash adds that Atha Ellian is getting married next month. Rua remembers her face, and then remembers Miriam and Rain, waiting for him.

Miriam admits she doesn't know why someone would want her father dead, or even what he was working on. The report on his death was the second thing she found; the first was a list of requisitions - an odd one. A child's bed, toys, that sort of thing. She'd have thought they were for her, but she never owned a pink teddy bear, and her father wasn't going to requisition the university for toys for his daughter, after all. Rain asks if he was doing research on a child, but Miriam says that that would be Forbidden, so he can't have been. And all the books were on the raft - now they're gone.

On the raft, Maren is hastily writing down as much as he can remember of the conversation of the strange creatures, now gone. It is dawn. He writes that the creatures spoke of 'killing it,' 'studying it,' and seeking books, although he doesn't know why they'd want the books from Second. He finishes, and starts moving all the books he could salvage from the library onto his boat. He hopes someone else found Dr White's work - he knows Miriam wanted to see it, but he couldn't find any of the relevant books.

In Tsien, Rua grabs Ash's wrist and pulls him over his shoulder to slam him to the ground. Leaving his swords with his friend, he goes to get the kit he'd gathered and leaves.

Miriam asks Rain how they got onto the topic of her father, and Rain reminds her of the start of the conversation - why was she angry with Rua. Miriam's worried about Rua now. Why did Rain want to know, anyway? Just curious. She asks why Rain followed them in Triaden - "I thought you had it", Rain says. Had what? The artifact! Oh - Miriam had forgotten about that. Rain looks relieved, especially when Miriam confirms that she doesn't really want it any more. Neither of them know what it is - Miriam is about to ask why Rain wanted it without any knowledge of what it did when Rua returns.  He splints Rain's broken arm and suggests they head to Tiermond by foot and bring Maren back to work on the Flyer. Even if they could fix it here, launching it would be a problem. He's not keen to get to Tiermond, though - explaining the Flyer to Maren will not be pretty.

In Tiermond, Arram is wandering around looking for his quarry and admiring the city, which reminds him of Triaden. He's feeling vaguely homesick, which he hadn't expected. Neither he nor Shirin can find any trace of the fugitives. Shirin is furious, wanting to know why they can't get anything right. Arram wonders what he's doing here...



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