The group returns to the police station, where the crowds have now largely dispersed. The place had been ransacked soon after the capture of the Inspector, and there is now no sign of a single constable or city official. They find Crimner’s office and search it for information, but this is apparently not where he kept his personal files, or any incriminating evidence. There is, however, a wooden military statue on the desk which Septimus smashes open, only to find a jumble of small mechanical gears and parts in a compartment at its base, which they turn over to Weed. After they unsuccessfully attempt to discuss what to do next, they end up sacking out for what’s left of the night on the couches and floor of the office while Septimus and James go out carousing.
On his way out, Septimus encounters one constable who is surveying the damage in the police station. The cop is impressed at what he sees, which is a group of citizens (including, notably, some of Jarley’s men) sweeping up, boarding over some of the broken windows, and putting things to right in the downstairs offices. Septimus glad hands the cop and praises him for returning bravely to the scene. The cop explains that he was sent by the higher ups to see what was left of the carnage, half expecting the building to be no longer there. Septimus is happy to take the credit for this peaceful turn of events, and expresses enthusiasm to see the constabulary return to duty and carry on with the task of protecting the city without the influence of Crimner.
The group is awakened in the morning by the returning policemen and eventually repairs to the Dog and Pony Tavern, dragging Septimus and James along who had only rejoined them a couple of hours earlier. Yachak comes up with a very effective herbal remedy for hangovers while Trink lists some of her concerns: What is Vasta’s situation now, and how do they arrange things so she will be alright? Septimus suggests that Nhymeri could stay and care for her, although Kibu is not receptive to this idea. But this triggers the suggestion of sending a messenger to Vasta, letting her know it’s safe to return to the city, which they do.
Then Trink huddles with Marina and Septimus about Countess Matreya. She wants to find out more about the Countess, what her past is, what her intentions are, and why she believes Gary is evil. Marina suggests they talk to Yachak and see what he can (or will) say about her. Yachak is receptive to speaking about her, and says that he understands their concerns about her and shares some of them. He briefly explains that she traveled from the Western lands under the name of Deneb to the steppes where she met his father, a practicing shaman. They fell in love and began to raise a son, and she learned her husband’s language and ways as they led a nomadic life among the far-flung villages and settlements. She told her son many fairy tales and parables in the private language they alone shared, but she never mentioned knowing someone of Gary’s description, and she never explained her childhood or any details about her early life to either her husband or her son.
Yachak does, however, tell them about his own first experience with the person who turned out to be Nimmo (Geronimo). As a boy, he was undergoing his initiation, a vision quest to find his spirit guide, heavily under the influence of the trance-inducing mushrooms used by his father. He discovered an abandoned eagle’s nest high in a tree with two eggs in it, one of which hatched in front of him. He returned to the ground and fell asleep under the tree, but had a vivid dream. In the dream, a white haired man appeared in a nearby field and walked to the tree. Discovering the sleeping boy, he sat next to him for a long while. Finally he set something next to the boy and left the way he had come. When Yachak awoke, there was a small statue of an eagle sitting next to him.
Septimus feels this is further evidence of Nimmo’s benevolence, and wants to know how she went from being his mother to someone wealthy enough to buy her way into Timble-tainian upper society. Yachak has no idea, but he can tell them about her disappearance. Now that he thinks about it, he does recall that his mother had been troubled when she had heard about the vision of the white-haired man, but she had said nothing at the time. When the young eagle had shown up a year later and formed a link with Yachek’s mind, confirming itself as his totem and signaling his inheritance of shamanic powers, his mother had raised no objection. From that time, however, she never seemed quite her former carefree self. Earlier, she had loved to walk with Yachek under the night sky, teaching him the names of the constellations, planets, and stars, but now she seemed haunted by the sight and unwilling to open up about it.
One morning, about two years before the present, Yachak and his father had awakened to find a note. Yachak recites it from memory. “My dears: I am required to leave you for a time. How long I cannot say, but when I am free to return, I will find you. Do what good in the land you can. There are always people in need. I am so very proud of you both, and I love you more than anything else in all the worlds. Deneb.”
The group thinks that the final word “worlds” is an odd turn of phrase, but Yachak is not aware of any particular significance to it. She had always had a sort of mystical bent, very distinctive from her husband’s, and her son had long been used to such utterances. Her fantastical stories had told of many worlds different from the real one, and he assumed she meant it as a general phrase for whatever exists.
Marina asks Trink when she encountered the Countess, which is less than a year ago. She points out that, based on the note she left Yachek, she was not acting on her own authority when she did whatever it was that has made Trink hate her. Trink concedes the point, but still doesn’t like or trust the woman. Septimus agrees with the deduction, and points out that Crimner also seems to be acting as an agent for unknown powers, but that they cannot let these suspicions delay the group’s departure. They should probably do what they can to persuade the town to build up its defenses, and then leave it to carry on as best it can.
James raises an interesting question. As the only one among them who had not had any previous dealings with Nimmo, how do they know they can trust him? Each of the members speaks up for their friend and declares his or her loyalty. Only Marina is willing to observe that because they know so little about him, they can only go on the evidence of his actions while they knew him. All agree, however, that the need to find him is not only to rescue their friend, but to get answers from him.
The conversation turns to the question of where they are going when they leave. Marina believes that the town she came from is on the way to Asterhelm, where they were last aware of Nimmo’s location. But the exact distance is not known. In Timble-tain, the northern lands are considered savage and no trade is conducted in that direction. Provisioning is discussed, and Septimus assures everyone that they will take everything they need, probably with the help of at least one pack horse. With Vasta’s help, money should not be an obstacle.
Jarley shows up with news that the town government is slowly putting itself back together, and expressing appreciation for how he and his men conducted themselves during the crisis. Crimner remains under lock and key and has been turned over to the jail warden until further instructions are received by the Burghers, who are scheduled to meet in session later in the afternoon. Septimus informs Jarley of the suspicious comments from Crimner and other sources hinting at a possible invasion of the city from outside sources, and it wouldn’t hurt to get the Plenum to build up its defenses.
As they leave the Tavern, a horseman comes through crying about riders coming from the south. They ask Yachek for an report on what he’s seen that day through the eagle, and he mentions that he caught glimpses of his mother visiting some of the other estates. Now he goes into his trance again, and confirms that there is indeed a force of about 60 horsemen coming up the south road and assembling along the far riverbank. Since they were on their way to the market anyway, they soon arrive at the docks to see what’s going on for themselves.