The group has arrived on Byzantium Secundus, and Paxton leaves the group for a few hours, saying that he has an appointment to keep. Shortly after making planetfall from Cumulus Station, Lady Koralia is greeted by an envoy, bearing a missive from Marquessa Lakoya Skareenon Asttanyani, the governess of Byzantium Secundus. The Marquessa has invited Lady Koralia and her entourage to a masquerade ball in two days’ time. Lady Koralia knows that inviting Questing Knights to formal parties such as this is something of a fad among the nobility at the moment, and graciously accepts. The envoy gives Lady Koralia a card for an artisan that specializes in making masks.
The group commissions masquerade masks: Lady Koralia orders a mask of a golden lion with a resplendent mane. Enhenduanna orders a mask in the fashion of an Empyrean Intelligence. Kadan orders a mask of a serpentine skull in black and red. Paxton already owns a masquerade mask, fashioned similarly to a gas mask. Doctor Wulfric excuses himself from the ball, stating business elsewhere on the world with the Scravers.
The group begins to hear mixed rumors around the Imperial Capital. Some of the freemen and merchants speak of some sort of trouble at the Vau Embassy in Tarsus. Kadan receives a bit more information from the Ur-Ukar embassy, learning that the trouble wasn’t at the Embassy, but was actually at the Imperial Palace. A crazed woman was caught vandalizing one of the Vau statues in the Imperial Palace. She is currently being held in an Avestite asylum. Enhenduanna learns much the same information from the local Eskatonic priests after receiving confession, but also learns that the perpetrator was an Eskatonic novitiate named Sister Georgina.
The night of the ball arrives. Lady Koralia and Paxton make quite a splash after unveiling a new fashion technology at the ball: a series of magic lantern projectors attached to their formal wear that projects images of flames. The group has a lovely time, socializing and networking. They meet several people, notably an Almathean Deacon named Sheb Mokira, on a rare time off from working in the slums of the Port Authority Agora, and Duchess Oelestre Xanthippe, current head of the Imperial Eye.
For reasons unbeknownst to the rest of the group, the Duchess and Lady Koralia become instant friends, and spend a great deal of time talking. Also in attendance is a young Knight named Sir Damien Xanthippe, who Lady Koralia recognizes as a potential suitor from before she married Baronet Evander Hawkwood. He seems bitter, and constantly glares at Lady Koralia.
Later in the evening, after many drinks, Sir Damien musters the courage to confront Lady Koralia, and challenges her to a duel. Not wishing to lose face, she accepts. The attendees circle the group, and the Marquessa announces the formal rules of dueling to those present. The crowd begins to place bets, and are saying that they are sure to remember this party for months to come.
Kadan and Duchess Oelestre watch intently, as both seem convinced that trickery may be involved in the duel. Lady Koralia reveals that she is adept at Kraxi knife fencing (thus assuaging some of the rumors as to her insistence on keeping an Ukari bodyguard). Sir Damien is also well versed in that style, but also trained in two weapon fighting. After several flurries of blows, Sir Damien, determined to kill Koralia where she stands, surreptitiously activates a shield breaker on one of his daggers. Paxton immediately notices, and loudly cries, “He’s cheating! He has a breaker!” but it is too late. Lady Koralia’s shield shuts down.
Just as things look grim, Duchess Oelestre says, “Enough, STOP!” and Sir Damien drops his daggers, looking confused. Kadan surmises that the Duchess is psychic, and has used her powers to stop the duel. She tells Sir Damien that he is a disgrace to the Xanthippe name, and if he values his life, he will leave at once. He obeys, but vows publicly to end Lady Koralia.
After the party winds down, the group is intercepted on their way back to their hotel by a dirty, desperate looking woman. She identifies herself as Sister Georgina. They quickly usher her to their rooms to speak with her, while Paxton goes to his own room with a random lower noblewoman he brought home from the ball.
Through a variety of means, the uncover that she was taught a Theurgic Rite that was supposed to show her the truth of what she viewed, and used it on the Vau statues. She claims that it showed her that they were used to spy on the Emperor, and that is why she destroyed it. She claims to have knowledge of a powerful weapon in the Vau Embassy, and wishes for the group to escort her there, where she can disable the energy shield around the Embassy using another Rite, and destroy the weapon.
Wary of Georgina’s sanity, Kadan and Enhenduanna take her to see Sheb Mokira while Lady Koralia contacts Duchess Oelestre. Lady Koralia is unaware of their departure until she has finished her conversation with the Duchess, and is irate beyond telling to discover they have gone. Her anger is quickly transformed into relief that Georgina is absent when a man enters her room, and tells her to do as Georgina wishes, or else. Lady Koralia tells the man that she doesn’t take kindly to threats, and will do as she deems best after deducing all of the facts.
Meanwhile, Enhenduanna and Kadan reach Deacon Mokira’s room, and ask him for the favor of determining Georgina’s sanity. He tells them that he doesn’t have the training to accurately diagnose her, but after speaking with her for a while, he does think that she is unreliable and paranoid. They return to the group’s own hotel, and are apprised of what happened while they were gone, and chastised for leaving without letting her know.
Duchess Oelestre arrives at the group’s rooms, and begins to speak with Lady Koralia. Enhenduanna manages to get the details for the Theurgy Rite that Georgina claims to have used, and goes through it in her head, comparing it to her own knowledge of Theurgy. She surmises that it is a Bintaru Rite, not standard Theurgy, and that it is designed to let one see what dwells in one’s own mind. Sister Georgina was misled, thus why she misinterpreted her own visions of paranoia as facts of the outside world. Enhenduanna also convinces Georgina to tell her how the other Rite is to be performed, the one designed to get her through the Vau energy shield. Enhenduanna realizes that this Rite is also Bintaru, but is much more potent than would be necessary to get a single person, or even a group of people, through the shield. She thinks that whoever taught Georgina these Rites wants the energy shield around the Vau Embassy to be destroyed utterly.
Georgina says that the man who taught her the Rites was none other than Bran Botan vo Karm, one of the Emperor’s personal advisers. Lady Koralia determines that challenging such a man is far beyond her current station, but files away his shady actions for use in the future. She asks Duchess Oelestre to take Sister Georgina into custody, and to keep her away from the Emperor’s adviser, whom the group is convinced orchestrated her escape.
Duchess Oelestra and Lady Koralia exchange parting words, which make little sense to the rest of the group, and everyone turns in for the night.