The Solars are faced with a seemingly impossible task to save their friend. 10K's revelations prove difficult to accept, and the surprises aren't over yet.
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On the heels of She-Who-Knows-Ten-Thousand-Things’ revelation about Rey sharing a mother with Tepet Exquisite Tide, the proud Dawn vomits, trying to get the news out of her system. Jorek and Valeria don’t know what to say, but Ember is quick to take Rey out into Chiaroscuro for a meal. Over noodles (and a bowl of broth for Rey), Ember tells her about his training in the Immaculate Order and asks her what exactly is changed by the news of her relation to Tide. Rey is adamant that Ten-Thousand must be wrong, that it can’t be possible for the mother she remembers to also be a Dragon-Blooded Exalt of House Tepet. She does eventually come around to the possibility of this, though, although she does make it clear that it doesn’t change her opinion of either Tide or her mother.
Meanwhile, Valeria and Jorek are trying to hash out exactly what their next move should be. They must wait three days for Crest Exultant’s ship: either he will still be in control of it, in which case they should they need to come clean about his “husband’s” death, or something will have happened to him, and they can perhaps bargain with the Tri-Khan for the use of the airship to get to Yu-Shan. Rey and Ember return, and the Dragon-Blood tells the Circle a bit of his history. When it became clear that his older brother would never Exalt, he was tortured and killed by his father, who then proceeded to erase all traces of his eldest son from the history books. Ember makes it clear that there are in Creation three groups: those who were taught that the Solar Exalted are Anathema; those who wish to see the First Age restored; and those in power, the leaders who are choosing to allow the myth of “Anathema” to persist. If the Circle hopes to truly “win the war”, they must defeat the members of the third group.
Setting out to the Chiaroscuro docks in order to make sure the Whispered Dog docked, the Circle is very surprised to learn that the ship was sent away upon arriving that morning. Trying to learn more from the Quartermaster, the Circle discovers an absolutely incredible level of bureaucratic disorganization there, which is confirmed by a dock worker (“Everything seems to be taking longer than usual these days”). Trying to learn more, Jorek suggests to the Circle that perhaps there are Essence-based bureaucratic ensnarement charms at work in the city, while Valeria takes a darker view, supposing that Quiet Word may have been “holding Chiaroscuro together”. Either way, Rey and Val convince Jorek to head to the Tri-Khan’s office now to preempt their meeting and offer their services to help the city.
Getting past the guards and into the Tri-Khan’s office presents no challenge, but there is definitely something amiss in the luxurious rooms. The Circle finds an old acquaintance, Felicity, in a deep meditative trance in the Tri-Khan’s bed, and in the office is the man himself, strung up and murdered! Waking Felicity at spear-point and questioning her, the woman quietly accepts her fate at the hand of the Solars. When asked what she had done, Felicity only answers: “Many bad things”.
After investigating, Jorek learns that the Tri-Khan’s murderer must have used Essence to cover up their tracks. On his desk is a letter from House Tepet to the Tri-Khan, and Valeria copies it down, since it is written in Seatongue (and none in the Circle are fluent). Felicity claims to have been in her meditative trance in order to “distance herself” from the goings on here, and even though she remembers coming to Chiaroscuro, she can’t remember how she got into the Tri-Khan’s office. Not trusting her, the Solars take her with them back to the tea-shop.
With the Tri-Khan’s death, Chiaroscuro is “about to explode”, and Ember confirms that the Circle should leave the city as soon as possible. Felicity reveals that she arrived on Crest Exultant’s airship, and that he’s already here: loading up a wagon with Three Fates’ barely-alive body, they set out to the airship. Meeting Crest, he reveals that he is on vacation, hoping to spend some time with his husband before having to “officially” arrive in a few days. The Circle breaks the news of Flow Exultant’s death to Crest (leaving out any mention of Velvet); since his despair is still being used as airship fuel, he accepts the news calmly. He agrees that they did what they could to re-unite the two, and offers to take them on-board as long as one of them offers to power the ship with their despair, and the others work to console him once he gets his emotional strength back.
The Solars ask Felicity to come with them: she refuses, as she has accepted her fate here in Chiaroscuro. They tell her that they are headed to the Blessed Isle, and that perhaps, even if she has done terrible things, that she could make a new life for herself there. Felicity is adamant that she will never return to the Blessed Isle; when she tells them that all she has left in the world of value is information, Jorek accuses her of being just another malicious Sidereal. Felicity tells him that even though she has been walking the world for many years trying to eliminate the Solars, she also “doesn’t truck in Sidereal” things. Valeria in particular is very curious about Felicity’s true identity, as she obviously knows much more than she is letting on. After swearing not to tell anyone about her true identity (sanctified by Jorek), Felicity reveals that she… is the Scarlet Empress!