The journey to Chiaroscuro comes to a close, but what exactly are the Solars walking into?
“But sometimes you’re on a boat… and you can enjoy your character earning a rest.”
As the Whispered Dog approaches Chiaroscuro, the once very wealthy but now broken “City of Glass”, the sailors hold a party to celebrate their safe voyage. Jorek visits the captain to learn more about his relationship to his crew, and learns that he chooses to lead so that he can “go home”. Valeria leaves the party briefly to find Three Fates Shadow on the bow, and they discuss her understanding of beauty and her inability to feel it. Val states that she doesn’t want to be “held back” by love or attraction, and Three Fates echoes the sentiment, endeavoring to be strong without those feelings. Meanwhile, Rey has been avoiding Ember, who is uncomfortable and trying to come to terms with their strained relationship. Rey finally admits that she’s upset that he’s been putting himself between the Solars and danger: “You’re not allowed to die for us!” She also confesses that her feelings have developed into love, so if he decides to run into danger again, she will too: “I’m through walking away.” Ember reveals that he loves her back, whether or not he is “allowed”.
Back at the party, there is a sailor trying to convince Val to kiss him for good luck. She refuses, and Jorek dives in instead. As they approach their destination, the Circle discovers a huge sandstorm engulfing the city, which Valeria recognizes as very rare, and possibly even summoned by a powerful sorcerer. The Whispered Dog stays away from port, but Val’s need to alleviate suffering pushes her to persuade the group to enter the city. Rey wants to help the disadvantaged, and Jorek thinks it may be a good “introduction” for the people of Chiaroscuro.
The sandstorm pelts the Circle as they arrive: Rey’s Diamond Body Prana protects her as she leads the group to find shelter, while Jorek and Valeria suffer minor damage. They happen across Scarlet Empire legionnaires who take them to be their military reinforcements: while Jorek agrees, Valeria senses danger in going undercover in a strange land and claims a misunderstanding. Rey, unable to speak Flametongue or High Realm, is blissfully unaware of the conflict. The legionnaires take them to their headquarters to get them out of the storm and, inside, the Circle finds a banquet in full swing. About 15 very wealthy merchants and/or nobles in Empire colours are present, and Jorek discerns that they all, to varying degrees, are trying to impress the Empire but hate each other. As the Solars enter and reveal themselves (except Ember, who remains covered), the nobles adopt deference & respect towards Three Fates Shadow. “We didn’t expect to see you so soon.”
Once they are given a bit of space, the Solars question this development: Three Fates doesn’t remember having been to Chiaroscuro before, although she does remember the laughter of a child and climbing a tower. There are cheers from the group of nobles, now upstairs: Jorek discovers them excited about the imminent collapse of the building across the street, which just so happens to be the prison. Valeria heads upstairs to distract the group for a moment as Rey, Ember, and Jorek dash out into the storm and across the street to the prison.
Val begins to tell the nobles “just the facts” about the Solars’ involvement in recent events in Nexus. Her natural charisma and persuasiveness is so compelling that half of the room are convinced of the Solars’ greatness and move to defend her, leading to a standoff! Meanwhile, in the prison, Rey quickly becomes The Human Pillar to hold up the quickly-collapsing prison. Jorek and Ember watch one prisoner get crushed and rush to free the rest, regardless of their past crimes. The last cell contains a man who claims to be a traitor who “helped the wrong person escape”….