Our circle struggles to deal with an ever-increasing number of problems. Who, or what, is the true threat?
“Does ease of mind imply a lack of stress? And is stress really safe?”
The Circle awaken in the manse, feeling rested and somewhat healed from Valeria’s ministrations, although Ember is still in relatively rough shape. Three crises confront the group: what to do about Exquisite Tide, Pearl’s disease, and the Legions stationed outside the city. Valeria plans on spending time “working on” Tide, trying to bring her over to the Solars’ side, and learning more about her drug addiction at the same time; Jorek has a seat at the Guild’s meeting about the presence of the House Tepet legions outside the gates; Rey, originally unsure, decides to use her new Golden Tiger contacts to ask around about the disease. Before setting off, Valeria speaks to Three Fates Shadow about accompanying them into the city, expressing her gratitude for Three Fates’ loyalty, and she tells Val it’s merely a matter of time before she can repay the debt. The group also learns of Three Fates’ revulsion towards Infinite Dirge. In that moment, Jorek hears a voice coming from his bow: it appears Heart’s String can speak to him, and is curious about its new owner. Rey, meanwhile, has a heartfelt moment with her father when he comes round to her being part of something bigger than any of them individually, and he understands the need to stay safe in the manse. Ember and Summer Blaze also remain in the manse, as they would be most easily recognized by the Tepet legions.
Rey, Jorek, Valeria, and Three Fates Shadow take their goodbyes, and head up to the river, where Klem propels them back into the tunnels beneath Nexus. Valeria heads off to the stage built for her at the site of the burnt-out warehouse and begins to preach about the inequality present in Nexus, inspiring the masses with her words, filling their hearts with awe and their bellies with sustenance.
Jorek and Rey, on their way to Blue Sky to check in on Tide, come across the apothecary who has changed his life because of Valeria: now selling only medicines, Rey gets frustrated when she can’t get useful information out of him about the red crystalline drug. “At least the apothecary who sold the bad medicine for my dad knew exactly what he was doing.” Jorek tries to gently educate Rey that those merchants selling drugs aren’t necessarily being malicious, and that it’s just business. Rey snaps back with a: “Sorry that I get emotional sometimes, Jorek!” Hurt that Rey finds him cold, Jorek grabs a drink of the drugged water out of spite, but since his gemstone has already purified it, this has no effect. It does, however, lead him to believe that they had only given a placebo to Tide the day before.
Jorek finds Tide in a very emotional place: memories of her causing pain to others are flooding back, and she feels conflicted about what to do and how to feel now. One example she throws at Jorek are the intense feelings of right & wrong stemming from her mother’s friend having had her baby returned to her, saved by an Anathema, many years ago. She speaks of how she was originally intended for Ember and Summer Blaze’s elder brother, but because he never Exalted, the plans changed and he was apparently bitter about it. Confused and upset, she rushes Jorek to wrest the crystal from him to try to focus her mind. Rey scales the building and grabs her before she can do any damage; Heart’s String quietly asks Jorek to “draw” her and show Tide “he means business”. Now restrained by Rey but still very unbalanced, Tide reveals that the Legions outside Nexus were being kept at bay by her to protect Ember. Sensing how open she might be to suggestion, Jorek convinces her that she what she needs is not the drug, but healing from Valeria, instilling in her a sense of awe towards the Zenith.
Back at the stage, Val has been treating the populace and discovers that none of them seem to be infected with the disease after all. Entropy arrives and, sensing trouble, she sends the people away to talk with him privately. Entropy demands Val cease trying to learn about and treat the mysterious disease. Three Fates Shadow and Valeria return to the rooms where Entropy is staying, and he makes a power play: the disease was apparently not Pearl’s after all, but his. He simply wants to “bring it all down”, and he hopes Valeria will share this new development with the others. She refuses to accept his terms, as she knows him to be notoriously disloyal. Entropy, not in a bargaining mood, takes the opportunity to attack, and Three Fates Shadow steps in between them. A life-or-death struggle breaks out: in the close quarters on his rooms, Betty inflicts massive damage on Val while Three Fates struggles to get a foothold against him.
In desperation, Valeria successfully persuades Entropy to stop fighting: “As a Solar Exalted, I’m causing discord, and killing me would just be doing what THEY want you to do.” As she begins to leave, Entropy’s weapon begins to overload. A massive explosion throws Valeria and Entropy from the building; the other Solars see Val’s anima being surrounded by a dark fog & tiny kunai as Three Fates Shadow shields Val from almost-certain death.
Seeing her alive, the crowd rejoices in the Angel of Nexus’ survival, while Rey, racing after Entropy, learns he apparently has an antidote to the disease, but he dies before revealing anything else. Val, furious, throws her anima’s energy into his corpse, committing it and learning of his drive to “bring it all down”.
Somewhere, one of the Solars’ allies is in the midst of betraying them, knowingly and deliberately….
“Dragons left home, Klem gets em wet … again, Val woos, Rey does NOT punch and Jorek flirts with his power bow?!
This and more!”