New city. New challenges. New allies. But will their past catch up to them?
“One of the curses of becoming Exalted is that your notion of family can change.”
The last prisoner “helped the wrong person escape”… A man named Infinite Dirge, who was with “the most beautiful woman he had ever seen”, Three Fates Shadow! Rey, Jorek, and Ember all flee the prison with this “traitor”, Jola, just as it collapses. As they take refuge in an old tea-shop, Jorek asks for some clarification about what exactly happened in Chiaroscuro with the Abyssals. It seems that some time ago, Infinite Dirge was arrested, “awaiting trial for an assassination attempt on a merchant price”, Quiet Word. He was able to downgrade the execution order to imprisonment as he claimed to be hunting an Anathema, and Jorek also learns that Jola has a major tie of trust to Infinite Dirge, suggesting perhaps some emotional manipulation at work.
Back at the Legion headquarters, Valeria pretends to know nothing of angels from Nexus, and prepares to do battle with the Dragon-Blooded who had moved to defend her and are now ranged against the others. Three Fates Shadow arrives and lets Val go so that she can “end” the conflict.
Joining the other Solars in the tea shop, Valeria witnesses Jola pass into a (possibly magical) deep slumber, and the Circle come up with a plan to visit & scout Quiet Word: they can try to find Crest’s husband, and perhaps discover whether the merchant prince is also Anathema. Before leaving, Jorek speaks with Three Fates Shadow, hoping to learn more about her history with Infinite Dirge. She warns Jorek that Valeria “is suffering and trying to lead”, and that since there is a difference between sacrifice and martyrdom, they should all be sure to not show Creation the hubris of the Solars. Despite Three Fates not remembering anything of her time in Chiaroscuro, Jorek is able to divine that she believes that “to reach a goal is to justify the journey”, suggesting that she may have been open to all kinds of actions in the past…
Ember stays behind, undercover, to learn what he can from the Dragon-Blooded, while the Solars set off for Quiet Word’s. He lives in a magnificent mansion with lush gardens and a dark blue glass tower, and, in the underground pool, they meet the lithe, fit, very friendly merchant. Quiet Word, remarkably, allows anyone to use his grounds and library, provided that he be allowed to vet those who want to do so. Rey hears a strange chiming coming from below the pool, along with a single solitary heartbeat. Jorek takes it upon himself to try to suss out Quiet Word while the merchant attempts to do the same. Jorek learns that Quiet Word “abhors the current state of Creation”, severely mistrusts the Dragon-Blooded, and that, most importantly, he will “help others, but only in his own way”. When Quiet Word attempts to learn more about Valeria’s relationship to Nexus, he discovers her feelings towards the Solar Exalted; “I thought as much”, he murmurs, revealing himself to be a Twilight Caste Solar Exalted!
Having possibly met the last member of their Circle, the group had been distracted long enough to discover that Three Fates must have disappeared some time ago. Learning that Quiet Word keeps his daughter upstairs in the glass tower, and afraid that Three Fates may have gone to start her dark mission, the four rush upstairs. Quiet Word’s daughter, Sola, is safe, playing with Zek the caretaker, and they learn that Quiet Word had driven Infinite Dirge and Three Fates away from Chiaroscuro.
At that moment, a note arrives for the Solars, penned by Sanguine Grasp of Gentle Repose, the other remaining Abyssal Exalted! Quiet Word heads upstairs to protect Sola as the three Chosen of the Unconquered Sun step out to meet her. It appears that she wants to complete Three Fates Shadow’s failed mission, as she seeks to “destroy all traitors”. Rey strikes back at Sanguine and tauntingly insists that the Abyssal “can only succeed by stepping (or landing) on the bodies of her allies”. Sanguine has a choice for them: either they hand over Sola quietly so that she can be led away to be killed, or Sanguine’s messengers will deliver letters to the Dragon-Blooded here in Chiaroscuro, leading them directly to Quiet Word’s home, and putting Ember in very grave danger. With her ultimatum delivered, Sanguine covers her ears and waits for the Solars’ response….