The elven spy, Jura, decides to gather information concerning the inscriptions on the magical map, in the monastery library. He reckons the library is huge, and decides to ask for help to brother Eldrip the wrinkly, expert in old languages. Eldrip is quite annoyed to be addressed in the sacred silence of the library, and under the suggestion of brother Luka, Jura decides to ask him for help later.
In the meanwhile Sheeba walks towards the inner yard, attracted by an evident commotion building up there. Princess Lilian is outraged that the crow trainers will not allow her to send a message to castle Windswept, while the monks defend themselves with empty excuses. But suddenly, Sheeba smells the rush of incoming magical power: a magical elemental wind turbulence emerges from the monastery corridors and rushes towards the princess. Sheeba has just the time to push Lilian out of the magic torrent’s way, but she gets caught in it instead. She feels heavily dizzy after that, and then she realises her own magic power is disordered, drained, messed up (at least temporarily).
After the magical rush fades, a serious monk with bushy eyebrows loses his temper, and accuses Lilian to be the cause of all this trouble, clearly stating that it would be much better if she left the monastery at once, with her entourage.
Somewhere else, Claret wakes up in a large, ancient vault, its walls littered with burnt runes, a huge empty brazier standing in the middle of it. She understands at once: she was captured while under the effect of the painkiller drug, and brought and locked inside here. A hole in the vault ceiling is the only source of light in the room. Of course no normal human would be able to climb up to such opening. But Claret is no ordinary human. This predicament actually reminds her of an episode of her teenage life, various years ago.
Some years ago….
Claret knew her previous gang fellows, and especially their leader, the Cap’N, would not like what she did, but it was the right thing to do and she did it nevertheless. She had realised that the gang was going to ambush one of the Hedra customers she was delivering merchandise to, and she tipped him off. Oooh, the Cap’N did’t like that. And decided to give her an exemplary punishment.
Now she found herself in the bottom of a well, to ‘season’ a bit before the gang sold her to slaver ships from the empire. Thankfully, the Cap’N himself was too busy to guard the girl himself, so he entrusted three younger thugs (Rat-Tail, the Slim, and One-eye) to see that she behaves until the trade is dealt with. Claret knows she has to try and escape now, or never.
The opportunity presents when the three thugs start having an argument, Claret manages to climb the inner well up to its edge, but at the last moment, as she tries to run for it, she missteps miserably and hits the dusty ground hard. The gang members approach her grinning, but they waste their time spouting empty threats, while she makes up a plan. Quickly, she blinds One-eye’s only eye with a handful of dust. Then she goes for the weak knee of Rat-tail (which he broke years before falling from a roof). She misses the shot, though, and the thug answers trying to shoulderbutt Claret down the well. Claret dodges successfully, and exploits the momentum gained by Rat-Tail to shove him down the well.
The Slim draws his throwing knife, barring claret from running with all his fat. She pick the bucket of the well and pushes it hard onto the head of the thug, where it gets stuck, blinding him as well. Clare then makes the best of the confusion to escape, and not be ever again in the radar of the gang.
This does not look so different from back then, except the vault walls are too smooth for anyone else to grab onto… anyone else but Claret. After some attempts, she manages to escape the vault from the ceiling hole. She is not far from the monastery: she has to warn her companions of the monks trickery.
In the meanwhile, Sheeba tracks the source of magical energy manifestation, and pinpoints a secret passage in one of the beer-brewing chambers. After distracting some young monks and seducing old brother Stout, she is able to enter unobserved the secret passage.The path goes down into the core of the stone pillar which the monastery is built upon. She has to halt when a small group of wise monks passes by her, going upwards. She manages to recollect some of her scrambled magical energies to transform into a badger and remain (almost) unobserved. Among the group of monks, there are the great Pika, and bushy-brows.
As Sheeba rushes outside to tell her discoveries to the princess, she meets Claret instead, just came back to the monastery. They are approached by bushy-brows, who introduces himself as brother Iasuo, and some lackeys. He tells the girls that Lilian is sick in bed, in her chambers, and she demands the presence of her entourage. The girls decide to follow, but Lilian is not in her room, and as soon as they enter, Iasuo locks them inside, leaving a monk to guard them. Claret is starting to be sick to be captured over and over in one day.
Iasuo comes back to the bedroom a few minutes later, and after having the guard-monk open the door he tries to knock him out. He succeeds only in dazing him, but then claret kicks the door open sending the lackey monk and Iasuo down on the floor. She is about to beat the crap out of the bushy-browed monk, but then he suddenly transforms into a blonde girl. She introduces herself as Alouette and proves her good intentions by explaining that she intended to free Sheeba and Claret, as she actually did. They will have to believe her for now, because matters are pressing, and they need to rejoin with Jura and find Lilian.
Jura in the meanwhile is trying to process the red leaves collected in the Mere of the Dead men into a powerful drug. In that moment he is approached by his contact of the Lotus order, a young female monk.
She feeds him important information: an important figure from the empire is visiting castle Windswept at the moment. Despite the identity is not known, she/he is very influential, and Jura figures out the king sent the Princess away from palace to protect her.
She tells him that they are all in danger here at the monastery, and they should leave at once. Jura does not need her to repeat herself. But as he is about to leave the hebalist lab, he is surrounded by a trio of monks asking him to follow them. They look willing to fight, would he not cooperate.