A crimson dawn rises lazily over blue waves and the little sailboat tracks its way across the Serpent’s Mouth bay towards Fang. Little do the sailors on that humble vessel know that four of their passengers bear a cargo worth the world – four mighty Vatcha, items whose powers could change the course of history. On the deck, Genevive di Caius is dueling with the sailors – four at once, but her background and her sharp sword soon put them to shame – tock, tock, tock, tock!
As the boat arrives in Fang, the passengers witness the vast flood defenses across the estuary – The Grieving Gates, The Gates of Despair – once known as the Gates of Glory, 300 years ago, in the time of the Iron Empire. Yarn’s pages flutter open and tells the tale of the new name – that 10,000 slaves died to build them; that the bones of dissenters are still interred within the foundations of the gates. The Crown of Kings hotly justifies its decision – that 100,000 fisherfolk have sailed the bay in safety since the gates were built.
The passengers disembark and make their way around the city – most to an inn – The Baron’s Head, while Anders Filk and Davvie the fiddle-playing monkey (with The Heat of the Moment) head first to the dockside market, to entertain the crowd for money, then across the lagoon to Market District, where it is said there is a grand sale of exotic animals. Anders tries to buy a baby crocodile, but the cheating merchant offers him a large lizard instead. The Heat of the Moment advises him on the sale and Anders threatens the merchant with the law. He sells the lizard at a knock-down price to get rid of Anders and, putting it in to his bag, Anders finds it changing colour – it is a chameleon!
Yarn, carried by Tobyn, along with the academic Roberto head to the University in Fang, where the Symposium on Prima Casa artifacts will be held this week. They meet Clarence, the architect who is due to lay the foundation stone on a new tower complex at the university – though the he is also here for the famous Gaming Halls of Fang. They meet Chancellor Prynn, who runs the University. Tobyn takes a quiet moment to tell the Chancellor about The Crown of Kings and to organise a private viewing that night. At first Chancellor Prynn ventures disbelief – The Crown is said to have been washed out to sea two hundred years ago – but Tobyn, using Yarn’s powers, shows the Chancellor a conjured image of The Crown; and Yarn tells a tale of the time the Crown spent building an empire of fish, before being lifted out of the water by a fisherman.
The Chancellor, his eyes filling with desire for the crown, agrees to a meeting.
Over in Guardswalk district, Ana (carrying The Lady of the Forest) and Williams finally bring Carmine (who pointblank refuses to talk) to the house of Senator Jonas Swinegorm, who has paid for her delivery. Genevive di Caius goes along, in hopes of a reward for saving them from bandits on the road., and The Crown of Kings rides on her brow. Their consciences get the better of them when they discover the truth, however – Carmine stole an artifact known as The Jotun’s Eye, from the Hags of the stilt town Hope, which Swinegorm desires for himself, in order to crush the hags. Genevive expresses a similar desire, telling Swinegorm that her father was killed by Hexing Jenny, the hag-queen.
Sick of Swinegorm’s attitude, The Crown of Kings loans its power to Genevive, who creates a glamour – a hag-spawn creature lurching out of midair, to attack! In the chaos, Williams and Carmine flee; while Ana hustles Swinegorm and his guards out of the room. Genevive mimes fighting the hag-spawn, and “slays” it, dispelling the illusion.
Later, Ana and Genevive manage to gain Carmine’s trust and she tells more of the tale – while in Cairnwood, her mother stole the Jotun’s Eye from Hexing Jenny herself; and sent it north to Worldsend, with her brother Niklaus. The Hag-queen turned her mother in to a bird; and keeps her captive – promising her release when the The Jotun’s Eye is returned to her. Ana and Genevive cut a deal with Swinegorm – telling him the eye has gone to Cravenburg, but that they can return it to him. A price is agreed.
That night, back at the Inn, the four Vatcha plan and scheme between themselves while their wielders sleep. The Jotun’s Eye is a Vatcha, recalls The Lady of the Forest, one who is obsessed with knowledge and the wheel of Fate, a Vatcha who can see and know all things…