Further exploration of Anamethe/Ephraim’s hideout beneath Derby’s house must wait, for Aelric requires immediate magical assistance to cure the condition inflicted by the chaos beast. The company leaves Derby’s house and make a midnight stop at the Temple of Ashe, where the priests take care of Aelric for the next 24 hours. Dziga heads to his girlfriend’s house to visit her. Emeris the shadowcaster and Early the fighter-turned-warblade return to the docks to get some rest at the Darkwater hideout.
Upon arrival, something is immediately wrong. Hans, Bort, Abdar, Kerris, and even their boss, Darusa, had all been killed by stealthily executed twin sneak attacks. An attack by Vai assassins! Furthermore, it seemed the assassins were being stalked by the Pyrnese swordswoman for whom they had been searching! Emeris is enraged by the death of Darusa, and swears vengeance. Darusa had brought him in when Emeris was in the city with no job prospects and no place to live, and had always treated him fairly. Joining forces with the eastern woman, the Vai are torn apart in a quick melee fuelled by vengeful bloodlust. On the assassins’ bodies, the characters find a magical globe containing an image of Darusa, Emeris, and Early.
They speak with the young swordswoman, eager to hear what she has to say. She is beautiful and graceful but the hunger for revenge burns in her eyes. Her name is Hitomi, and she is trying to find a gun-wielding Vai assassin known as VERMILLION. She explains that this exceptionally youthful looking, green-haired, red-eyed assassin travelled thousands of miles to West Pyrna to murder her twelve-year old brother. He was apparently sent by…Methul Watcher! Finding no leads on Methul Watcher, Hitomi began hunting the Vai (not an easy task) hoping to find Vermillion. That led her to confront the Vai in the brutal attack on the Darkwater smugglers. Of the Vai, she knows that they are led by the TWIN LORDS KEPER, possibly the two greatest assassins in the Empire. Their hideout is somewhere beneath the Warrens, and they have connections to the undead-worshipping Forsaken.
The three of them consider further connections. Hitomi’s little brother had a rune on his face, as did Dullin Balacazar (whom Dziga had protected from another Vai). Did Phon bear such a rune? Darkwater is declared finished, and the hideout abandoned -- it is too dangerous to remain. Emeris and Early meet up with Aelric and get rooms at the low-profile Dragonsfire Inn, where Hitomi is staying.
The next few days are spent investigating. They speak with many people: Saharasahla, Zophas, Gandorf, Judge Rahl, and a professor at the Imperial University named BELSKY. They were referred to another professor, a shoal elf named SHAR, but he was out of town, and they sought information from Lord Zavere and Lady Rill but they were too busy working on the restoration of Lord Abbercrombe. Additionally, they visited Chasthamus Isle in the Necropolis, home of the great druid ANDACH, where they spoke with a huge talking lion named SAMUH. All in all, they learn the following:
> The runes are characters from a written language called the Elder Script, which is recognized as such by some specialist scholars. However, no known person can read the script. It was used tens of thousands of years ago, when ancient peoples worshipped the Elder Gods. (Belsky also mentions something called the “Enhasa Prison Theory” although he is too impatient to elaborate.)
> Thousands of years ago, the runebearers were quite common (one in four people bore runes), and marked people with a special aptitude in things such as fighting ability, arcane might, and so on. The great heroes who defeated Darkstar were all runebearers. Fewer runebearers were born as time passed and eventually they disappeared. Some say it was related to Enhasa’s second moon disappearing, but others say Enhasa never had a second moon.
> The Vai’s most high-profile clients are the Balacazars, the Killraven Crime League, and House Vladaam.
> Methul Watcher is bogus name. There is no listing of that name in the City Registry and no criminal connections have heard of such a person.
> Archanfel, leader of the demons of the Dark Reliquary, is something other than a demon and "arguably worse" than one.
Emeris speaks with Saharasahla. The old sage takes the strange shadow key and stores it in a safe. Emeris asks to read a copy of the Book of Inverted Shadows, but Saharasahla says he is not ready. To grapple with the concepts of the Book of Inverted Shadows at a premature level of understanding could cause insanity or worse. Instead, the sage provides the young shadowcaster with the Book of Eidon, an introductory tome of shadow metaphysics.
Fabitor finally returns from a mission for his deity, and reveals that he has discovered the identity of Phon’s lover – Helmut Itlstein, High Priest of Watcher of the Skies and leader of the Republican movement. Fabitor considers him one of the most dangerous men in the city. What is Helmut’s motivation in all this?
The characters visit the Temple Observatory and learn about the Watcher of the Skies and his priesthood. Using methods prescribed in their holy texts and the magic of their massive telescope, the clergy looks for special formations of celestial bodies and translates these into prophecy. Helmut’s skill with translating the prophecies is regarded as the greatest of all the Watcher’s followers. It turns out Helmut’s is away from Elan and will be gone for several weeks. Early, Emeris, and Aelric decide they will need Dziga to rejoin them – they plan on breaking into Helmut’s house while he is away. They must first find out where he lives...
Next: The characters break into Helmut's house, and Shilukar offers to make a deal with Castle Shard.