The Tiger Generals sail across the central ocean for Azuros. The day before the festival, they arrive in Sapphire, the capital city, throne of the Dragon Emperor, and source of the four grand rivers. There they meet their assigned aide, a friendly river-spirit named Twinkling Pearlescent Droplet. The river-spirit (who ends up answering to “Pearl”) offers to give them a tour of the city and arrange for any diversions or necessities they may require before the festival.
Valakar dispatches Torgo to purchase formal clothing for the Tiger Generals and their “guest” Jin Woo. Then Gemma’s metabolism asserts itself, and the next goal is going out to sample the local cuisine.
They drop Jin Woo off at an island in one of the four rivers, with a trio of Dragon’s Shadows explosives experts. While the Brigand boss expands his knowledge, the others go for a stroll through Sapphire.
During their tour, Lupine notices a guard doing his best to inconspicuously tail the group. The good doctor confronts the suspicious man, but the fellow claims it was unintentional. Lupine has little choice but to release the guard, who heads off in a different direction.
The rest of the afternoon goes without notable incident. The Tiger Generals return to the hotel, where Jin Woo is later brought to them, and change into Torgo’s selections of formal attire. Then it’s off to the festival!
The lantern festival is held on the city’s largest lake, a body of water that curves like a cresent halfway around the palace. All number of boats fill the festival, from tiny craft to squat barges containing fireworks launchers or orchestras. The Tiger Generals briefly note or meet a number of Exemplars: Gyre, Cirra Talonicus, Levinbolt, the Keeper of Thunder, Caligos of Golgotha and Sepultura Harrowgrave. They find that the Cardinals Delilah Crimson and Rubican are also visiting. But of all the Exemplars present, they have the most interest in Delphine.
Valakar arranges for a private reading with the Exemplars’ greatest oracle. The cartomancer agrees to divine the threats surrounding their initiative. The card-reading depicts The Puppet as a central figure, which Delphine immediately interprets as the presence of the Pandaemonic puppeteer Mephistello. She also notes that Mephistello has created puppets of “three colors” — probably in the chosen star-bearer ranks of three continents. His soldiers are close. The Tiger Generals thank her and leave. The grizzled future-Lupine pauses on the way out and makes sure to tell Delphine a specific date in the future — the date that Valakar and Gemma appear with the chronal tower in his timeline, so that she can be able to tell him in turn.
They keep a close eye on their fellows during the festival. At one point they notice Delilah Crimson slipping away. Gemma cuts her off instantly, and brings her back. The Cardinal says that she was worried about the way Gyre was acting, and that he’d headed off to a particular boat.
Gemma runs off to the boat to investigate. However, once inside she’s confronted with a trio of very familiar voices. She immediately runs for it, cutting right across the water. An identical wake appears after hers, as someone just as fast pursues.
Valakar and Lupine confront Gyre, with Cirra Talonicus as a witness. They ask him to show his star, and his response is to conjure a whirlwind that hurls Lupine overboard. The speeders draw near just in time for chaos to break loose.