Rey, Jorek and Valeria have each given up an important part of themselves. How will this loss impact the decisions ahead?
“Restraint, despair, and lust: two states of being that we are taught to deny, and one we are taught to cultivate…”
The Solars’ story picks up right where it left off: Illuma has just feasted upon Val’s lust, Rey’s despair, and Jorek’s restraint and temporarily, at least, our Solars have lost those aspects of themselves. Thanking them for providing her with sustenance, Illuma tells the Solars of the Sidereals in Yu-Shan. The Sidereals, the Chosen of the Five Maidens, can slip in and out of the consciousness and memory of all — they work to manipulate the Loom of Fate, and see themselves as stewards of Destiny. However, two factions emerged during the First Age to do with the destiny of the Solar Exalted: the Bronze faction was convinced the Solars were destined to ruin and imprisoned them, while the Gold faction believed the Solars had been chosen to lead for a reason, and that they shouldn’t interfere with the natural way of things.
Illuma also provides the Circle with a map of the Blessed Isle west of Nexus with a large X above it, showing one entrance to Yu-Shan, but not before telling them she doesn’t believe they have what it takes to get there. Valeria retorts that if that were true, then “we wouldn’t have Exalted”; Illuma feels that Rey has strength but lacks will, Val has will but lacks allies, and Jorek has allies but lacks strength. Jorek, curious about the strange being Illuma and completely unrestrained, peers deep into her soul and discovers what it would take for Illuma to be their ally: an enslaved mortal village, or a guarantee that all Solars would protect the Wyld from intrusion and dominance. Illuma tries to provoke the Solars by insulting the “abomination”, their companion Three Fates, and while Heart’s String prompts Jorek to draw, Valeria hustles the Circle out of Illuma’s presence. They have received the map that they came to obtain, after all!
On their way out of the Wyld, the group seems in agreement about the need to get to Yu-Shan and uncover more information about the Sidereals. Even Rey, normally against leaving Nexus too far behind or undertaking tasks too far removed from mortal concern, is more open-minded, since losing her despair has changed her relationship to her father.
Instead of a few hours, it appears that a week has passed in the Wyld: returning to the Lunar camp, the Circle finds it abandoned, with dozens of dead soldiers from Gem piled up. One remains alive, captured by Rey: Gek tells them (through Speaks-of-Silence, as none of the Solars knows his tongue) that they had been marching for a year, searching for Exalted to draft into the army of Gem. A woman named Velvet told them about the Lunar camp and had been staying with the army. Gek is sent away to the nearest settlement, and the Solars puzzle over who Velvet might be. As Valeria burns the bodies of the soldiers in a pyre, Three Fates Shadow approaches her. She doesn’t like to see Val put herself down, and is perhaps even jealous of the feeling of “lust” that Val had given up; she also seems to know Val’s home village prayer, almost as if she had grown up there.
Nexus is the destination for the group in order to find a ship to take them to Chirascuro and rescue Crest Exultant’s husband, hopefully comandeering his airship to the Yu-Shan entrance above the Blessed Isle! Meanwhile, Velvet is heading north too, but is she following the Circle… or leading them?