Rotating the pieces

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The fabric of the valley was unravelling; all the threads coming loose and threatening to tear off in the winds of change. There was no putting it back together, though the disintegration could perhaps still be slowed down, or even halted in its tracks.

Tranton Seldon was gone.

Fenris Silt had abandoned his post.

Princess Kirya Tellador had vanished.

An insurgent, previously unknown, gang had attacked the royal convoy.

Pienya Martoc had never felt more alive. This was her moment: it was the crisis she had waited for her whole life. It confirmed all her worst fears about people's true natures, and finally granted her the power and freedom to do something about it.

As she sat in the back of a large carriage supervising the deployment of the city guard in a strategic search pattern across the city, Pienya considered the new reality. Everyone thought the king had Seldon under warps somewhere but he was entirely gone, without a trace. It didn't surprise her, as he'd clearly desired to leave from the moment he stepped foot on the mesa. Seldon had only ever been a visitor, even if his sudden departure was sooner than she'd anticipated. It also didn't overly concern her - he had demonstrated that traversal of the Barrier Mountains was possible, so Lagonians could now take the lead. If one lone man from the south could manage it, then it would prove no bother for valley-born.

Her operations carriage was stationed outside the Verase residence, which she had searched earlier that afternoon. The old man of the house hadn't been happy about it, pointing out that only the previous night he had hosted the king and his guests in unrestrained splendour, but Pienya was leaving no stone unturned. Checking every corner of a house like Verase's wasn't a simple matter, with its automata and animated walls and courtyards providing a fluid, shifting notion of layout and architecture. Truthfully, she had not expected to find Fenris or Kirya here - even if the Verases had anything to do with it, they would not be so stupid as to leave evidence on their own estate - but it had been a useful demonstration of power and a reminder to Eddard Verase that King Guijus Tellador still ruled the valley.

She knocked on the ceiling and a moment later the carriage began to move, taking her away from the waterfront estates and back towards the mesas. A map of the city was spread out on a small table before her and she gazed at it blindly, unable to form any useful notions of how to progress. Three people to find in a city of thousands. Seldon should have been easy, given his unique appearance, but there had been no sightings. Fenris and Kirya were more troublesome still: they knew the city, and Fenris knew the movements and tactics of the city guard. It wasn't even known if they were together or working individually. She sat back in her seat and sighed, her body rocking with the movement of the wheels over cobbles.

Disembarking at the southern mesa, she walked the rest of the way through the barracks, noting with satisfaction that almost all the city guard was deployed into the city. There had not been a mobilisation of royal power like this for centuries. It was the long stretch after a too-long sleep.

Walking over the footbridge, she remembered meeting Fenris here on that evening several weeks prior, as he'd been staring out over the city and the valley below. For months she had suspected he was considering retiring and passing his baton to her - a long overdue decision - but the moment had never come. Yet now he was gone, and she was acting head of royal security, appointed immediately by Queen Anja upon Fenris' apparent disappearance. Pienya stopped at the circular viewing platform at the midpoint and leaned on the thick stone wall. This was where she had informed Fenris of the rumours of an escaped prisoner, and where he had put her on the hunt for the snotty little boy she'd hunted down in the slums of the theatre district. It felt like years ago.

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