On their way to Yu-Shan and the Blessed Isle, the Circle is faced with the opportunity to rescue one of their own.
“Redemption is something that is possible. Occasionally.”
Having discovered that Felicity is in fact the Scarlet Empress herself, the Circle needs to decide what must be done with this revelation. When the Empress tells them that she hunted their kind down because of the danger they posed, Valeria compares the Solar Exalted to a fire: while it can be dangerous if out-of-control, it can also provide warmth and sustenance to all. The Scarlet Empress asks to be an equal to them, and, since they showed her a kindness in smuggling her out of the Tri-Khan’s office, she will now show them one. Bringing Ember into the conversation, she kisses him full on the lips: Rey is outraged, but Felicity explains that the kiss imbues a small bit of her power on Ember. She has given him a gift: “ten seconds where everyone will listen to what you say”.
Since the Scarlet Empress refuses to go back to the Blessed Isle, the Circle parts ways with her, assuming that their paths will cross again one day. On board, they are shown to their quarters by the first mate, Seh, before the three Solars head off to hold up their bargains. Jorek goes down to the “engine room” where he offers up his despair as fuel to Rains-After-Storms. After “tasting” him, she asks him to name the woman he had lost that had hurt the most. Jorek, thinking back to the people he had lost since exalting, names Heart’s String, a true friend. Rains-After-Storms mocks the Eclipse and his love of a bow over actual people. Jorek is quick to snipe back, naming her food of choice, despair, as a “poison”, warning her to be careful. Jorek also deliberately chooses to hold on to his memories of Heart’s String…. “As if you have a choice,” the Fae intones.
Rey and Valeria rush up on to the deck, hearing the howling of Tepet Crest Exultant, regaining his ability to despair and truly feeling the loss of his husband. Rey asks to help, and Crest gives her the task of scrubbing all of the airship’s decks. Val tells Crest some of the truth about his husband’s death, telling him that Flow had been killed by a woman, who they had then killed. She can’t help her honesty and amends this to explain that Flow had in fact been this woman all along, and although she seemed to have some feelings for him, his husband never really existed in the way he knew. Tepet Crest Exultant, broken and despairing, steps right up to the edge of the airship; Val persuades him to take joy in his life and in simply being the captain of his ship!
Later on, Jorek also speaks to Crest Exultant about their future: the Terrestrial believes that even the most influential beings in Creation will one day die and then be forgotten, even if it takes thousands of years. He extols Jorek to not think about his other, past lives: “Be the change you want to be today”.
Rey, excited to finally get a chance to helm the ship, explains to Crest that she has never truly felt part of a crew, all working together towards a common goal, which is why she is enjoying her time on the ship so much. Just before she can take the wheel, a crew member reports an unidentified craft below on the water. While it is difficult for Rey to read the markings on her side, the crew eventually identify the Empress Runner, the Tepet ship that had taken Speaks-of-Silence. Naturally, the Circle doesn’t want to start a war with House Tepet by directly assaulting the ship; Crest Exultant decides to go rogue and help the Solars recover their friend. Over dinner, Valeria persuades the crew to stay loyal to Crest and to the idea of sticking by friends.
Under cover of night, Valeria, Rey, and Ember use pieces of canvas to slow their fall as they leap off the side of Crest’s ship. Their plan: sneak on to the Empress Runner, distract the crew, extract Speaks-of-Silence, steal the ship’s longboat, and await pickup. While Ember manages to start a small fire on deck, Valeria is confronted by a crew member, assuming she is a stowaway. Val quickly turns the tables, threatening to throw him overboard….
Rey, meanwhile, has found her way down into the bowels of the ship. Finding the room she assumes holds Speaks-of-Silence, she is instead shocked to find Exquisite Tide, aiming a drawn bow directly at a small rat. When Tide refers to her as “sister”, Rey has no choice but to laugh about their new relationship, although Tide doesn’t seem to understand. Rey takes a step forward to save Speaks-of-Silence and Tide fires at the rat, severing its head, as well as firing at a nearby closet, neatly killing a man inside. Rey is just about to launch herself at the Terrestrial when “Tide”, in a low voice, reveals herself to be Speaks-of-Silence in disguise. “You must get me out of here!”