The party makes their way to Arjuf in search of the mysterious war manse.
"I feel like after so many sessions, you know what you need to know… Now is the time to embrace it, and move forward."
Their work in Nexus done, and eager to get on to the Blessed Isle, the Circle returns to the airship, now flying Tepet colours once again. Jorek presents the mysterious box he received to All Fates Saved: she’s not sure how it came to be in someone else’s possession, as she left it in trust for She-Who-Knows-Ten-Thousand Things. As she takes the box below decks, Jorek reveals the existence of the Warstrider gloves and schematics to the rest of the Circle. As the airship departs towards the Blessed Isle and both Rey & Valeria train with Ember, the latter confides in the Zenith: “Although they may all listen when I speak, they may be mad.” Later on, Jorek shares All Fates Saved’s chocolate with her as a tribute to She-Who-Knows-Ten-Thousand-Things. Although All Fates doesn’t remember much in particular, she does remember a phrase that was written in Sewell’s diary: “In opposition, forward.”
Approaching the Blessed Isle, the Circle sees a place that doesn’t look to be dangerous to the Solar Exalted… though they know better. With her heightened senses, Rey spots a single tree east of Arjuf with owl talon marks at the top, the only one in the area. Setting down, Crest heads into Arjuf to announce their presence to the town, while the rest of the Circle spot a cliff-face with moss growing on it in the shape of a sword. Investigating the area, Jorek discovers traces of pairs of footprints in front of the rock face: interpreting “In opposition, forward”, Valeria takes Speaks-of-Silence’s hand in love, prompting a shudder from the rocks. Rey kisses Ember, and the stones spiral outwards, revealing that to access the war manse, a pair must prove their love.
Entering the war manse, the Circle discovers a large room beneath the hill with shimmering lights, a pedestal with a circlet similar to the setup in the manse outside of Nexus, a long table… and two people: a strange man with close-cropped grey hair, and Starlight Dove. The Sidereal introduces the man as a Chosen of the Forgotten, an Exigent. Starlight Dove offers to help the Circle in any way she can right now, as she will be dead in a matter of hours! While fighting off three members of the Bronze Faction outside the Imperial manse, she was hit with a slow-acting poison or attack. She tells the Circle that a young upstart with House Tepet has been granted the opportunity to attempt to conquer the Imperial Manse, which would be a perfect time for the Circle to strike as well.
As Valeria races to figure out a way to save Starlight Dove, the Sidereal reveals to the Circle that the war manse is most likely “intended for” the Twilight of the group… Quiet Word, if he were still alive. The manse’s circlet seems to point to that fact, conferring on the wearer extra skills in crafting. She also explains a long-standing mystery: the orange jade arrowhead, found embedded in Tide, was part of a large amount of the substance intended to “attack the mind”, although it can be melted down and alloyed to destroy its potency.
At that moment, the floor shifts as what was hiding underneath the manse is revealed: a 4 metre tall Warstrider, shining in silver and onyx and perfectly silent, stands waiting for the Circle. Rey touches it, awakening the thoughts within as it unfolds to its full height of 10 metres. It plays a message from the Twilight who had built it: his last words are pride for the other Solars in his Circle, as they come to realize that this must have been a previous incarnation of Quiet Word. Jorek, Rey, and All Fates try out the Warstrider in the hangar further underground: with Jorek piloting the artifact, he is able to launch Rey across the field while different weapons appear in its hands. Valeria diagnoses Starlight Dove: the “poison”, actually an effect put upon her by a martial artist, is locking her chakras one by one, and will eventually stop her heart and then disappear… unless Val can stop it first. Laying her down in a bed, Valeria uses her spear’s evocation to stop Starlight’s heart, but keep her alive, thereby saving her life. As she does, her husband, invisible to her, presents Val with a “gift”, so that she can make someone forget one thing they know by touching them.
It is at this moment that Crest Exultant returns from Arjuf: the Tepet attempt on the Imperial Manse will be tomorrow, and so the Circle must leave at dawn! If they can convince the crowd that Rey should also be allowed an attempt on the Imperial Manse, the Circle can rush in and hopefully secure the Realm Defense Grid. The Circle takes their rest, knowing tomorrow will bring their greatest challenge yet, and possibly a world-changing achievement.
Meanwhile, at the Imperial Manse, as bleachers and stands are being set up for tomorrow’s heroics, one young girl, unnoticed by all, stands at the entrance. The girl thinks only to herself: “If all else fails, I can sing….”