Motoring through the morning mist with Frund, the chutter and thunk of his boat is a comfort, but a prickly reminder of the thrumming down in the dark and crushing sea, in that … Lair.

The mist peeled back eventually, and the warm blue sky peered down at them, as though it were the most natural thing in the world.

They chugged up the Tithe, the forest giving away to bushes and hills. The hills slowly gave way to canyons of a coastal range. The day gave way to the night.

They decided to continue on through the dark, using the nacreous glare of the boat’s throw lights to slide forward.

They found a man: not so strange an event in itself, except that he was suspended in an inverted crystal teardrop, hovering most airily above and sliding, presumably, down the river.

Being who they are, they tuttered up just under the crystal. They prodded and zapped.

They broke the crystal broke apart. Then they had decaying gravity and time, and a man. And a bit of a hole in the deck.

It was a Gaian weapon. They came in their gleaming floating crystal ship. There was an encampment along the hillside, a watchpost embankment, armed and ready. They had their own weapons.

They were not sufficient.

They got Kline Aryan back to his post, his men.

The next day, having seen the sky, Frund’s wife Effie came out on deck, carried in a deck chair. Her surprisingly thick brown hair fluttered in the breeze. The gharolan made her breezy herself, and was slowly coloring her sclera a pale blue/violet. Hasver spent some time speaking with her about endings and the Truth. They both seemed lightened by it.

The next afternoon was a jaunty ride through the Narrows – swift, dark water, and the boat’s more lively duddering.

That evening, Effie died with a strong tea on her lap, and the evening light on her thin features.

They stopped somewhere below the ruins of Junction, and made a cairn for her, because she’d had a childhood fear of being buried.

Frund wept. As did Ariadoca, who then made stew.

The next day they noticed remains of crystals all along one low hill south of the river. They didn’t see any of the strange cats or their robot companions north of the river.

The place where the water river flowed uphill between great teeth made a fine resting point for the night. Something glowed in the distance like a city, but they knew it wasn’t.

That night, they all dreamed of eating dinner in the wide, empty courtyard outside the Red Tower in Uxphon. The table was a long, grey slab of material that wended off toward infinity in one direction. As Jack’s smile grew brighter, the lights in the Red Tower began going out.

The next day, Hasver muttered about Brother Thom. Frund said he didn’t want to take them to Uxphon now (not that he was, anyway, not directly). Frund took a small tributary; no one stopped him. It would end at a road that lead to an army rallying point called Scorpion Stockade.

Somewhere along that road lived a man named Eenosh, who knew something about an Impossible Blade.