Summary: M’rina explains that she was with an expedition looking for this city when the mercenaries they hired betrayed them. They sold her and Daugma, the leader of the expedition, to the anole tribesmen as slaves. Although she managed to escape, Daugma is still being held captive. Plans are made to rescue him after they have spent a little more time exploring. It rains all night, but with Krista’s help, they are able to keep a small fire going. The next morning is bright and clear. At False Dawn, they hear the sound of music coming from somewhere in the direction of the palace, whose towers they occasionally glimpse through the undergrowth. The sound dies away after a few minutes. Ganjan decides to scout ahead, and takes to the air on Vi. When he reaches the area of the palace, he sees that the grounds immediately surrounding it and the courtyard inside are free of the jungle’s encroachment. In the courtyard bright flowering shrubs send up a sweet scent, and a fountain sprays water into the air. Vi wants to land, but Ganjan manages to convince her it would be better to tell everyone else first. He flies back and informs everyone of what he’s seen, and the party proceeds deeper into the city, passing through the Nobles Circle and into the temple district. Kailua suggests finding a temple where they can take some rubbings for Sandeep, the mockingbird who translated the map for them. They find one devoted to Nagamíssa. The roof has mostly collapsed, and inside trees and shrubs have pushed up through the tiled floor. Kailua begins to make rubbings of inscriptions on the walls while the others look around. Arjuna notices that there are few suthra tracks here, and begins poking the shrubbery with a stick. He uncovers a baby makri the size of Harthuk, which screeches in terror. This brings out the rest of the babies and their mother, who is almost as big as Vi. She and her seven children fight ferociously. Even after she is brought down fairly early in the battle, almost all of her babies fight on. On Ganjan’s orders, the sailors from the skyship hustle Kailua out the door to ensure her safety. Ganjan wounds several makri but is forced to climb a tree as he is swarmed. He leaps down with his spear and impales one of the babies, but is again forced to retreat. Krista, not at his best after a bout of insomnia the previous night, is able to wound several, but is seriously injured and flies up to the broken roof. Kailua, refusing to wait outside, re-enters the temple with her reluctant guards. Her shell protects her quite well, and she is able to finish off several of the babies. Arjuna kills the mother and at least one baby, M’rina shoots several with a borrowed bow, and the sailors dispatch the wounded. Vi, who is also perched on the roof and has been anxiously watching Ganjan, now examines Krista, and with surprising gentleness, takes him in her foreclaws and flies him to the ground so he can be examined and treated by Kailua. Everyone agrees that it is probably unsafe to perform a healing ritual here, so she makes do with non-magical medical care. The decision is made to press on to the palace in the hopes of finding shelter and perhaps assistance from whoever has been tending the gardens. By early afternoon, they are standing before the gates of the palace, which are wreathed in flowering vines.
Story Points: 2 for Arjuna, Ganjan, Krista, Kailua; 1 for M’rina