We returned to Palanquin by Jason Pitre this week with a small retinue bearing Princess Ulkualzi, the Ulanaki heir, to the safety of her Aunt’s palace across the kingdom after a coup kills the rest of her family. She is whisked away from the palace by Xanling the Scholar, Bearer of Society, and Periani the Hunter, Bearer of Nature. The princess is alone in the kitchen when the coup begins, but she is quickly joined by the other two, the scholar confused by all the commotion and the hunter determined to rescue the girl. Periani leads us through a trap door that takes us into the marketplace among the people, any one of whom could be a co-conspirator.
The heir wants to explore the market and buy food, but Periani is concerned for how to blend in among people, having always preferred sparsely populated wild spaces. Xanling offers advice, but the hunter isn’t skilled at smiling or turning down the intensity. A large family of beggars surrounds us and starts making a lot of noise, pulling at our clothing, asking for alms. Periani fails to distract them by tossing an apple away from us, and instead a few take his bow and dart away while the others continue to surround us. To rid ourselves of them, the Princess must trade the food we just purchased for the bow, after which they let us pass. We talk of the river festival that is to happen next week, wondering how it will proceed without the royal family to preside over the ceremonies. Suddenly a man interrupts us, declaiming loudly about the adamantium oil he would sell us to enhance our strength. Before he attracts too much attention, Xanling steps forward with information about the history of adamantium oil and its general ineffectiveness, as proven by Atlas in ancient times.
At last, we slip into the Purple Jungle where Periani is master. He explains which plants are beneficial (the alohamora flowers and pennywhistle plant) and what dangers we must avoid (the fear mist is the worst) and what people we may find in the jungle (woodsmen to the north, jungle nymphs, and the aquatic mir people of the lakes and rivers). As we walk on, we begin to hear voices in our heads, voices that degrade us and make us doubt ourselves. We do not realize it is the madness brought on by the mists, but Xanling recites a riddle and its answer that allows us to block the shaming words from our minds.
When we reach the Holy River, we believe that we are safe. Periani knows the villagers who live upon the river on their stilt houses and their punting canoes. We learn about the dangerous animals on the riverbanks, and how the mir people have taken to capturing and killing humans. Periani takes us to the home of Bearded Brennan, a friend he has traded with in the past, who welcomes us with smiles and whose family gives the Princess the warm bath she longs for and clean clothes. But after dinner, Brennan locks us into the back room, talking of how he will give us to the mir people in the morning. Xanling makes an impassioned speech about the obligations of hospitality, and what terrible things await those who harm those in their care. After midnight, Brennan’s wife guiltily comes and unlocks the door and tells us to run away. We escape through the mists just before the sun rises and the shouts of alarm resound from Brennan’s village.
Now safe at the palace of the heir’s Aunt Baru, the Princess must decide what to do with us. For having solved the riddle of the mists, outfoxed the salesman, and saved us from the mir, she ennobles Xanling and appoints him to her royal council, for surely his knowledge will be needed if she is to retake her throne. To Periani, she gives her sincerest thanks for keeping us safe and sane on the road, and bestows upon him a future boon and a steed with which he can travel the open lands to his heart’s content.