Somewhere in the Thunder Plains, Bolt Blitzmark opens the door to a tower, and steps inside. He is immediately struck down by a blast of energy emerging from the dark. “You’re not the speedster I was expecting,” says a voice, “but you’ll do.”
Valakar Doel is reprovisioning in Ivory, and decides to treat his men to a proper evening of land leave. He arranges for a fine dinner at Cortunum’s Contusion Cafe. They occupy one of the curtained-off back areas, and carouse mightily. In the main section of the restaurant, Gemma Fleetwind is also having dinner and catching her mother up on some of the Diamond gossip.
Partway through her dinner, Gemma is approached by a pair of mages: a conservatively dressed owl-hawkman with spectacles, and a shaggy-haired yak-Kin carrying a staff carved with spirals. The two introduce themselves respectively as Pulsator of the Nexus Pact and Rafa of the Spiral Clan. Pulsator asks for her assistance in a Pact matter, and Rafa clarifies that a friend of the Spiral Clan is affected — Bolt Blitzmark.
Pulsator explains that they lost contact with a Nexus Pact tower on the Emerald Plateau a day ago. They requested assistance from the Tiger Generals, and Bolt Blitzmark volunteered. However, the cheetah-Kin has yet to return from the errand, and it’s been eight hours — far too long for an impatient speedster. To complicate things, a powerful storm has been brewing in the area; something is clearly amiss. Gemma immediately becomes suspicious.
Doel wanders out of his party to enter the conversation. After introductions, the mages ask for his help as well, given his ship’s utility where thunderstorms are concerned. Doel agrees, invites Pulsator and Rafa to come along, and goes to gather up his men.
Despite his men being drunk at the time of the order, Doel is able to wrangle them into an orderly casting-off within the hour. The ship soon reaches the plateau, where they see not only the gathering storm, but a small group of forces at the base. Doel recognizes the banner of the Overkhan, and estimates about fifty men are present, with a dozen or so beginning the march up the road winding around the mesa’s side.
Doel brings the ship around the mesa, carefully angling it so that it will be hidden from the Overkhan’s troops. He lowers a rope for Gemma to use, and the two of them descent to the roof of the tower. The Pact tower is set about with lightning rods and has a domed iris-roof, which Doel is easily able to open.
They drop down inside, and survey the room. The tower is outfitted for all manner of magical observations, from star-charts and meteoromantic diagrams to racks of reagents. The room is dominated by a huge brass gyroscope, spinning wildly — with Bolt Blitzmark strapped into it. The device seems to be siphoning off his lightning-power, and charging up some form of golem.
Before they can free Bolt, his captor arrives. Gemma’s suspicions were correct — the knave is Shango the Storm-Binder. He exchanges a few quips with the Tiger Generals, noting that he’d be glad to strap Gemma into the machine instead, before the fighting begins.
Gemma’s quick to begin tying up Shango with loose coils of the gyroscope’s cable. The storm sorcerer blasts himself free, though. As he’s exchanging thunderbolts with Doel, Gemma then manages to pull his golden rod free from his hand. The Storm-Binder is far from useless without it, and conjures up whirlwinds to defend himself, but a portion of his offense is gone. Valakar Doel sends an overcharged lightning bolt into Shango, dropping the knave.
But the trouble’s not over. The golem, fully charge, lurches into battle. It manages to get in a punch accurate enough to strike Gemma, and the gazelle-Kin is not built to withstand it. She flies backward, unconscious. Doel and a newly freed Bolt Blitzmark try to finish the work. “Glad you could join the fight!” shouts the privateer captain. Regrettably, Bolt isn’t at his best form. He manages to get a couple of good hits in before the golem stuns him in turn. But it eats too many thunderbolts in the process, and Doel is finally able to drop it.
By that point, Shango has recovered consciousness enough to attempt to flee, leaving his scepter behind. The Tiger Generals let him go, focusing their attention on defending against the Overkhan’s troops. When Crazy Dragon leads a platoon to the top of the mesa, they aren’t please to find themselves up against three of the Stars of Courage. A few handfuls of soldiers go flying before Crazy Dragon calls for the retreat.
With the tower secured, Pulsator and Rafa are finally able to descend from the airship and investigate the scene. Pulsator is quite chagrined to see the damage sustained by the tower’s uppermost level during the fight with Shango. “Those savages!” he exclaims.
“Yes,” agrees Doel. “Savages indeed.”