Together once more, the Solars set sail to Chiaroscuro in pursuit of Speaks-of-Silence.
“You can’t always win, but winning is not always defined.”
Running ever deeper into the maze to find the sorcerer who tried to kill them, Rey stops the group: her keen hearing indicates that there is no one there, and it’s impossible to tell where the spell originated. The group decides to leave Nexus and continue to Chiaroscuro, hopefully drawing the threat away from the city. Coming across Velvet’s shredded body, Valeria examines it and determines that it was a woman in her 30s wearing Velvet’s clothing, but the group is still skeptical. When Jorek suggests that she may have been associated with the attack, Rey defends her, snapping at Jorek that at least she was there for her, while he was off collecting his winnings. Jorek is hurt and pulls away from Rey.
On their way out of the arena, they encounter Entropy’s twin brother, calling himself Weaver. He confirms to the group that Speaks-of-Silence has been captured and is on a ship sailing out of Nexus. He also reassures Rey that her real father is at home safe, and that as much as he would like to accompany them there, seeing one member of their party sets his teeth on edge; the Solars are once again confronted with the knowledge of how their their relationship with an Abyssal, Three Fates Shadow, must appear to the rest of Creation. Before they leave the arena, Valeria commits the body of the woman changed to look like Alvor: “I will prove to the world that the Solar Exalted no longer deserve a place in it.”
Hearing that Kanna was killed in suspicious circumstances following her fight, Rey leads the Circle to their bodies. Valeria discovers that the Golden Tigers were not killed by trauma, despite the stab wounds Jorek saw on them earlier; Val commits Kanna’s body as well, discovering some of his Intimacies. “I will rise to the Elite”; “I feel my face is my best feature”; and “Rey – Protectiveness”, which Val passes on to her. With the understanding that Kanna did have a good relationship with her, and with the fear that her power led to his death, Rey promises to avenge him.
The Circle heads to Alvor’s new home overlooking the river, and he expresses his pride in Rey, and incredulity at just how fast she can move. She breaks the news to him that the group will be moving on again soon, and Alvor is very understanding of their commitments elsewhere. Before leaving Nexus, the Circle wants to try to find out if Speaks-of-Silence has indeed been captured. Heading down to the docks, they meet a young labourer who, after some financial lubricant, remembers seeing Speaks-of-Silence being taken off on a ship, the Empress Runner, headed towards the Blessed Isle. The Circle decides to continue on to Chiaroscuro the next day, as per their plan, to at least have access to an escape plan if needed (the airship). That night, Valeria spends more time healing Alvor’s scarred lungs: using pure Essence to show him how to use his breath in certain exercises, she is able to achieve legendary success in treating him, reducing his illness significantly.
The next morning, the Circle set sail on the Whispered Dog at dawn, after having promised the Captain that if any trouble follows them from Nexus, that they must do everything in their power to save all souls on board. Jorek is able to divine from this that the Captain believes that everyone who works for him “deserves a chance” (unusual for a ship’s captain).
Rey and Ember are more naturally able to socialize with the sailors, while Jorek and Valeria take longer to get to know them. As the group contemplates what they might find in Chiaroscuro, they notice a change in Three Fates Shadow, who had come along, still mute from possible sorcery at the arena. The three Solars find her at the bow of the ship one night, crying softly and touching the scar on her chest. She motions to her hair, changed to a shocking white, as she reveals to them that she “is a defector”. She admits to the Solars that she regrets having made the choices she did that led her away from the rest of her Circle, and while she has some memory of her past with them, it is very hazy. What comes to light, though, is that when Three Fates Shadow became an Abyssal, she pledged to her Lord to “make her Circle pay for rejecting the offer I took”: “one sister, one father, one daughter, one lover.”
With the knowledge that Three Fates may have killed her sister, Valeria has to step away. The Abyssal tells the others that she was unable to kill her in the end, giving her a sleeping draught instead, and that she “felt something unchivalrous”. She set off after her other targets, believing that she could go back for Hope when she was ready… but she admits that she had not been able to kill them or hurt her former Circlemates. Now Three Fates feels she is being “summoned” by her Lord for not fulfilling her end of the bargain, but doesn’t want to abandon her friends, even if she can no longer feel the camaraderie and love she once did. The three Solars, including Val, embrace Three Fates and tell her that, come what may, they will protect her. Three Fates knows that she must ask them for the impossible, but that she has seen them provide the impossible before. As they leave, Three Fates whispers to herself. “I was once Three Fates Saved… why could I not save the fourth?”
This new revelation about Three Fates’ past provides much food for thought for the Chosen of the Unconquered Sun as they sail towards Chiaroscuro; elsewhere, the sister, the father, the lover, and the daughter are all ignorant of the common link that binds them together.