Back on school grounds, the Fang of the Lost Hand struggles to get answers.
"I love my sisters."
The woman who wears the face of Bracken , caged as she is, has nothing to say to the Hearth. Pyres and Oresta try to reason with her, or move her, but to no avail: all she wants is to leave the cage, and we "have no power over her". Pyres tries to cajole her into talking by playing on her hatred for Bracken, but Oresta favours a more direct route: she begins to crush her cage.
Meanwhile, Gale takes Fleuvienne and Sientelle on a mission to find evidence of the anti-Exalt toxin at the House of Bells. While searching the infirmary, they come across a hidden door behind Garavel's desk: down in the cellar, in amongst a jumble of jars labeled in an unknown language, they find the toxin! Gale is able to divine that the last person to use it was Vieren, but that Garavel himself was involved in making it. The three Dragon-Blooded are devastated, realizing that Garavel must have been a part of, or assisting, House Iselsi. At that moment, Sientelle uncovers a single golden thread on the doorway, which they disturbed in their entrance. House Iselsi, it would seem, is on their way...
Both Oresta and Neckarb drop into their martial arts stances, and a fight breaks out! Maral and Pyres inspire Oresta, who lands a hit on Neckarb but is unable to stop her unleashing power from her voice. The Cathak siblings fight together as Oresta knocks Neckarb to the floor. When she attempts to shatter Maral's mind with a horrible scream, Oresta takes the blow, letting it vibrate through the earth. Pyres is able to take her out, and she is fatally wounded.
As the rest of the Hearth return, Neckarb tells them, truthfully, that she was trying to help them when she killed Garavel -- it was he who poisoned Juwinn. She tells them that she is in the employ of Zindel, working from the Imperial City to try to bring down House Iselsi's vendetta; after all, what better way to destabilize the system than to undo the very power that makes Exalts great?
Suddenly, it becomes clear to the Hearth: the Scarlet Empress disappeared from the Blessed Isle to orchestrate House Iselsi's plot. By bringing in Anathema and exposing them, the chaos would cause a civil war, with the inevitable winner being weakened. Then, she could return, crush her weakened opponents and re-establish control over the Realm for another thousand years!
Maral goes to ring the bell above as Oresta finally puts Neckarb out of her misery, and something feels right in Creation with her death. As Oresta goes to fetch wine for the six, the Hearth ponders their next moves. Gale gives Sientelle the gemstone she had bought for her, telling her that they are once again "trying to wake the earth". Sientelle tells her that she feels belief in herself now, because of them. Pyres and Maral embrace each other, saying that have found passion and restraint in each other, the perfect balance.
And when Fleuvienne asks Oresta about the future, she tells her that she hasn't considered the future in some time, that she's living day by day... and that she perhaps loves Pyres.
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