Gemma Fleetwind races through the streets of Ivory, which are strangely clustered and oddly familiar, pursued by Shango the Storm-Binder. She runs up and leaps off a laundry pole to aim a kick at his head. It connects, but when his mask is knocked away, the face underneath is an angry Bolt Blitzmark.
Elsewhere, Valakar watches the cherry blossoms drift down from the flowering tree at the heart of his ship. As his men frolic during the on-deck festival, he remembers that the tree couldn’t be mistaken for a flowering cherry. I’m dreaming, he thinks.
He recollects being awake, and speaking with the Cardinal Aria Equinox about the possibility of a strike against Pandaemonium. Aria had mentioned the possibility that Lady O-Nei could help them. The dream-mage of the Cardinals turned out be able to place them in a shared dream to go through a knave’s memories, specifically one who remembered being part of a Pandaemonic assault. The Tiger Generals agreed to try it.
So it was that they wound up in Lady O-Nei’s parlor, descending into the dreams of the unconscious patchwork undead knave Piecemeal. Valakar remembers being told that each dreamer starts in their own personal subconscious zone, but once they realize they’re dreaming, they can find one another. So he focuses on Gemma, and sails his ship through the rift of light that opens.
When he arrives in Gemma’s dream, he finds her locked in a fritter-eating competition with the imagined Bolt, each one trying to steal fritters from the other’s plate while defending their own. He reminds her that they’re dreaming, and she comes around. Before they leave her subsconscious, she gathers the remaining fritters for the road.
The two push out of Gemma’s headspace and into a strange, Escherian zone between individual reveries. Lady O-Nei’s astral form floats there, strands of her hair reaching out to various gates. She declines the phantom fritter Gemma offers her (one of the last), and pulls up the gate to Piecemeal’s memory.
The two arrive on the gun deck of a huge Pandaemonic skyship — of such size and decoration that it seems to be Heladonna’s very flagship. Valakar uses lucid dreaming techniques to change his clothes to a uniform; Gemma is less successful at concentration, and has to go “borrow” one from a crewsoul. The two of them then ascend to the bridge.
Piecemeal’s memory of the bridge is fairly intimidating. They don’t see Heladonna’s face from the massive wrought-iron throne, but they do see four of her generals standing at attention — Insinner, Rezrael, a hulking brute and what appears to be a surgeon — and a small group of undead paragons farther from the throne, Piecemeal among them. They listen to the conversation, which seems to focus on competition among Overlords for the primary gates.
Looking out the windows, the group sees the five-fold twisted space of Pandaemonium, a world hanging in each nebula-like section of distorted sky. At some sort of center point, where the five skies meet, a disembodied mountain studded with portals hangs in mid-air. The gateways on its surface seems large enough for humanoids or perhaps even Jotun, but chained to the main rock, seven smaller rocks support gates large enough to fly an airship through.
The memory-dream continues with Rezrael and the Embalmer-General deploying to a smaller ship with several paragons, Piecemeal among them. As the smaller ship breaks free and sets its own course, they see the surface of the gate-nexus contort and then split — a massive eye opening in its surface. The voice of Lady O-Nei reaches them, pulling them away as the eye focuses on them.
The two wake in Lady O-Nei’s parlor. She tells them she withdrew them before they were forced to deal with Grotesquerie, a dream-eating nightmare entity that preys on people such as them. The two Tiger Generals thank the Cardinal for her aid, and then agree that they finally have a target. The Pandaemonic gate-nexus, if damaged or destroyed, would severely limit future invasions for a time — and unlike invading an Overlord’s world, the target is small enough to be within reach. But it’s still sure to be a dangerous mission, and they’ll need a good plan.