The circle struggles to get what they came for before their time in Mahalanka runs out.
“The end of the game: when the GM might lose control. I can go crazy… or maybe the players will.”
Eyes Alight’s news takes the whole Circle by surprise. Rey rushes off with Valeria to check on her state, and discovers that she is not, in fact, pregnant. “You wouldn’t let me finish,” Eyes Alight pouts: she meant only that a child is in Rey’s future. (Later on, she hints to Jorek that by revealing this to Rey, she is able to assure her destiny.) The Dawn steps out onto 10K’s balcony to process this revelation about her destiny, and is joined by Speaks-of-Silence. The Lunar commiserates with Rey about her feelings, and specifically about not yet feeling ready for children. She also reveals to Rey that she once adopted a child, Races-the-Dead. Rey is crushed to learn that the Lunar she killed was in fact Speaks-of-Silence’s child, but she puts at Rey at ease: he betrayed them, and it would have been him or them, sooner or later.
Using Valeria’s incredible mind, the rest of the Circle sets about interpreting Entropy and Weaver’s prophecy: it would seem that immediately after Ember speaks on the Blessed Isle, the way back into the Imperial Manse will open again. The first inside will be able to “forsake Creation” and activate the Realm Defense Grid, giving that person the power to choose the new order of Creation. She-Who-Knows-Ten-Thousand-Things warns the Circle that this should all be accomplished before Calibration, given the chaos in Creation at that time.
It is at that moment that three Lunars arrive at 10K’s home: a huge man with legs like tree roots, a woman with a beak and feathers, and a small dog. The three tell her that the Lunars assembled in Mahalanka plan on moving in the next two hours. They will be killing the Raksi, burning Mahalanka down, and “taking the alliance” offered by the Terrestrials in order to break their bonds to the Solars. In shock at this development, 10K is cagey, telling the other Lunars only that she will “deal with” her guests. When she returns to the Circle, she tells them her plan: she will stay to defend Mahalanka alongside the Raksi, while the rest will try to beat the others Lunars to the Blessed Isle before they can forge an alliance with the Dragon-Blooded.
Knowing Ember to be a target, the Circle work to disguise him. Speaks-of-Silence, offering to stay back briefly to help She-Who-Knows-Ten-Thousand-Things in her fight, takes Valeria aside and drinks some of her blood in order to be able to track her better. Ember also takes Rey aside and asks her to “break his heart quickly”. Although their relationship is frayed because of Rey’s actions while under the effects of the Limit Break, the two agree that they don’t want to leave each other. In preparation for departure, 10K shows Jorek into a back room, imparting some of her knowledge of sorcery to him, along with the Talisman of Ten Thousand Eyes, and Sewell’s (his previous self’s) last known diary. She also asks Jorek to promise, privately, that All Fates Saved never have to be alone again, “in case anything happens”.
The Circle races out under a hail of arrows, as they watch the Raksi scream defiance at the Lunars rushing her, batting the arrows out of the air. The Solars, Eyes Alight, and Ember make it to the ship, waiting impatiently for Speaks-of-Silence and 10K. The latter flies up as an owl, and speaks to All Fates Saved: “I think we can turn it! We can save the library. I’m going to stay, but Speaks-of-Silence is right behind me, and coming with you. As soon as we’ve won it, I’ll come find you… I’ll always come find you. I’m going to be real hungry. I love you. You said something about biscuits?” Disappearing below decks, the form of She-Who-Knows-Ten-Thousand-Things morphs back into S-o-S, who tells Valeria, Rey, and Jorek that All Fates Saved’s mate didn’t make it out alive. At least the library will be safe… and she got her final message to her lover.
Rey and Speaks-of-Silence work to toss the airship crew’s shoes overboard in a “21 Sandal Salute” to their fallen comrade, a fitting epitaph for an intelligent, powerful, sweet Lunar who really, really didn’t like shoes. And although all of this is unknown to All Fates Saved (or at least seems to be), she seems satisfied, somehow.
As the Circle sails away from Mahalanka towards the Blessed Isle, where they hope to reclaim their war manse at Arjuf, Ember has a word with Valeria. He will only have ten seconds to speak on the Blessed Isle, and while Valeria offers to train his oratory skills, he suggests that she, also, better start preparing a speech of her own….