The Brotherhood of Virtue

Part VI: Murder Most Foul
In which a Solar Exalt is slain, and Tamas Khan unexpectedly appears.

When Yensen wakes up, he’s slightly disoriented but not much worse for the wear: A life on the high seas has given him a hard head. First he thinks that Rakios accidentally hit him, and was trying to hit Shadow Edge; Rakios explains, though, that Shadow Edge is a friend, and Yensen reluctantly agrees not to kill him.

Shadow Edge, Cynis Megara, and Shadow Edge’s sister Aminah are all placed under Keemia’s medical attention while Yensen pilots his ship, and the conquered Realm ship, back to Chiaroscuro. They have been spotted by a Realm patrol in the north, and are pursued by some ten ships.

As they reach Chiaroscuro, Megara wakes up and tells Rakios and Keemia of Shadow Edge’s treachery when all she did was tend his wounds. They do not believe her. Rakios swims away to speak with Chiaroscuro’s admiral, to explain that Yensen is an ally and not an enemy – meanwhile, Keemia goes to see Shadow Edge, who has just woken up. Shadow Edge is sorry for his behavior, and says that he doesn’t know what came over him. He can understand that he was angry, but finds it unforgivable that he was so careless – it almost got him killed. Having said this, he goes to speak with his sister, who is by Megara’s side.

Aminah, his sister, is a frail young woman, a big bruise on her face from where Yensen struck her unconscious. As she sees Shadow Edge, the first thing she learns is that he stabbed her mistress, Cynis Megara. Knowing that he is Anathema, she looks upon her brother with fear in her eyes, and does not trust him. She wishes to be set free and go to the Realm, but this is unfortunately an impossibility – so Shadow Edge finds himself forced to hold his own sister a prisoner.

Well back in Chiaroscuro, Yensen unloads his goods and plans to speak with Faqir about selling all the loot he has acquired in the Southern seas. He is invited by Rakios to stay at the circles’ Wood-Aspected manse, there to enjoy the fine wine and the company of the courtesans.

Shadow Edge and Keemia go to see the Khan. Rakios lingers behind, however, and discovers that Cynis Megara has sent a warning back to the Realm patrol following Yensen’s ship. Yensen had men watching over her, but Shadow Edge ordered them away at his sister’s behest, to give the women some privacy. Yensen is furious over this, and Rakios is greatly saddened, for now the Realm patrol retreats to return with a full fleet, whose intent will be nothing short of a full-scale invasion of Chiaroscuro.

Meanwhile, Edge and Keemia make a gruesome discovery. Returning to the Khan’s palace, they find that Arbash the Night Caste has been assassinated! Some foe that even he could not discover the evil intents of has stabbed him to death in his bed. Edge suspects an assassin named Husseyn, and hurries to find him; Keemia goes to speak with Yejouj Khan.

When Rakios finally arrives, he learns that a fellow Solar has been slain, and nearly falls to his knees and weeps. He must shape up, however, for this dangerous assassin is still on the loose, and there is no telling who he might kill next. He leaves Cynis Megara and Aminah under the close watch of some of the Khan’s men, and hurries to speak with Keemia, Shadow Edge, and Yejouj Khan.

The clever old ruler soon concludes, that he himself is in no danger, for the assassin has already had a chance to kill him when he slew Arbash. He thinks instead, that this killer must be after the Solar Exalted, placing the Brotherhood of Virtue and Yensen in great danger. Shadow Edge learns from his contacts, that the killer infiltrated the palace by bearing the disguise of Husseyn the assassin, who serves in the Khan’s secret service. Not only did he wear such a disguise – Husseyn has been found killed, and the manner of his death suggests a Lunar Exalt.

A dangerous plan is designed. Rakios, Keemia and Yensen will hide in the relative safety of their captured manse, the best-defended place they have. Shadow Edge, meanwhile, will wait with the Khan, who will send out word that he knows of the Lunar and wishes to speak with him.

A few days pass, during which Rakios studies magic and Shadow Edge nervously waits. When the Lunar finally comes, he does so at an unexpected time, waking Shadow Edge up from his sleep with a blade pointed at his throat. “I am Tamas Khan”, he explains, “Who else is with you?”

Faced with this ancient god-king of the Delzahn Horde, Shadow Edge is in awe. He assumes the Lunar speaks the truth, for who else could outwit two Night Castes with such ease? Edge explains about the other Solars, and Tamas Khan is just about to kill him, when he discovers about their circle’s past.

“I owe you a debt from another life.” Tamas Khan says. “Leave Chiaroscuro, and I will spare the Brotherhood of Virtue.” Shadow Edge refuses, and even though Tamas Khan tries to strike fear into his heart with powerful Charms, he does not stand down. Seeing that he cannot change his mind, Tamas Khan sighs and allows him to stay and live, if he does exactly as he is told. He instructs the Brotherhood of Virtue to travel to the kingdom of Alom Vilag, and to persuade the Guildsmen there to come to the protection of Chiaroscuro, well in time before the Realm invasion. Meanwhile, the ancient Khan says, he will go see to the Realm fleet.

Shadow Edge returns to the Brotherhood and explains all this. They are all puzzled as to why Tamas Khan would slay one of his most loyal subjects, Arbash Serik, but realize that they face little choice – if the Lunar is who he says he is, he would be many centuries old, and very powerful. They make preparations to send Yensen safely outside of Chiaroscuro – for Tamas Khan’s promise of mercy does not extend to him – and to travel to Alom Vilag together.

Two problems, however, arise. Aminah does not wish to leave the manse; she wants to stay with Cynis Megara. Shadow Edge, reluctantly, decides he must stay with them and protect them. Yensen, on the other hand, adamantly insists to help Rakios in his task.

Thus it is that the Brotherhood splits up. Keemia will speak with the Guildsmen in Chiaroscuro, all of whom she knows well; Shadow Edge will stay and guard his sister; and Rakios will travel to Alom Vilag together with Captain Yensen, there to wait for Keemia to catch up with him.

The Brotherhood of Virtue parts ways, praying that the ill fate that befell Arbash Serik will not fall upon themselves, or their beloved companions. They are playing a dangerous game of Tamas Khan’s design, now… and the fate of the South lies in the balance.

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Part V: Dread Pirate Yensen
In which Chiaroscuro's liberation begins, and Shadow Edge finally meets his sister.

The Exalted only have one night to recover after their fight. Their very first morning in the manse, a letter arrives from the Tri-Khan, summoning them to his palace. They meet the Khan over breakfast, and learn that Tepet Lisara has used a Charm to send word back to the Wyld Hunt – the four Dragon-Blooded who traveled with her now know that she is kept at the Tri-Khans palace.

Decisive action must be taken. Rakios speaks with Lisara again, and finally manages to convince her that the Solars are no demons – as a token of trust he returns her daiklave to her. Meanwhile, Shadow Edge, Keemia and Arbash head out to prepare to take care of the Wyld Hunt: Keemia will distract the Immaculate Monk Sesus Tav with a rumor of a heretic prophet, while Shadow Edge sneaks into the Hunt and speaks with Yasur. Yasur, upset with how Sesus Tav killed four innocent men, agrees not to stop the Solar Exalted if they take action against the Dragon-Blooded.

Now, however, something unexpected happens: Rakios completes the training regime he was given by his sifu, and she visits him with more instructions. Rakios is to begin undertaking serious study of sorcery, and besides this training he must also speak with a fellow student, a Dawn caste pirate named Yensen, who needs guidance. As she takes off, the mysterious teacher leaves behind a note for Shadow Edge. It reads:

“Shadow Edge,
Your sister is dead. Seek her no longer.”

Reading this, Edge is overcome with fear, and immediately sets sail on a Guild racing ship to meet Cynis Megara at sea.

Keemia and Rakios go through with their original plan, not knowing where Shadow Edge has gone. They seek to lure Sesus Tav into a trap before he liberates Lisara. Rakios takes the role of the “heretic prophet” and preaches to the native Chiaroscurans about the three hundred champions who will save the world. Sesus Tav is drawn to the false prophet like a moth to the flame. They fight; only thanks to his sorcerous skin of bronze does Rakios survive, and while he suffers several nicks and cuts he manages to kill Sesus Tav with a well-placed strike to his throat. In the fight, Rakios’ anima has flared up, and for the first time since the First Age the glass towers of Chiaroscuro glitter with the light of the Solar Exalted.

Rakios now hides in a house in the Plaza, while Keemia tries to control the awestruck crowd. Some time passes, until Arbash arrives with dire news. Shadow Edge is at sea, about to intervene in a naval battle between a Realm ship and a pirate flying a Solar flag. Arbash has been forced to fight the other Dragon-Blooded without Shadow Edge’s aid, and he is injured.

Rakios suspects the worst: Shadow Edge is intervening in a battle between Cynis Megara and Captain Yensen, the Dawn caste pirate. He takes Keemia on his back and begins to swim, trying to catch up with Shadow Edge by whatever means. Before he can get there, though, Shadow Edge has already found Yensen. The pirate captain holds everyone on Cynis Megara’s ship as his captives, and plans to collect a fine ransom for them. Shadow Edge refuses to buy his sisters’ life, and duels the pirate captain; he is struck down by the Dawn caste’s daiklave, though he manages to injure the great warrior.

When Rakios finally arrives, he find Yensen open to negotiations. They work out an agreement giving Yensen safe haven in Chiaroscuro if he sets Shadow Edge and his sister free. Unfortunately, before the deal can be sealed, the captain is shot. Shadow Edge’s wounds have been treated by Cynis Megara, and he has awoken; as thanks for her charity, Edge stabbed her with a piece of broken glass and has now set his sights on murdering Captain Yensen. A short but brutal fight ensues in which Shadow Edge is again struck down, Keemia is grievously wounded, and Rakios strikes Yensen unconscious by hitting him with the mast of his own ship.

With Shadow Edge unconscious, Keemia bleeding profusely, and Rakios’ anima burning, the heroes must consider their next move carefully. They are still in Realm-controlled waters, with a hijacked Dynast ship and an angry pirate crew surrounding them…

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Part IV: The Dragon's Nest
In which concubines are rescued and demons are slain.

The three heroes, with the blessing of Yejouj Khan, are to infiltrate the manse where Cynis Denovah Yassari dwells. Arbash Serik cannot aid them, for he is guarding the palace, but promises them aid in the future.

Leaving Tepet Lisara under the watchful eye of Arbash Serik, Keemia and Shadow Edge disguise themselves as courtesans – for it is said Cynis Denovah Yassari lets no man enter her dwelling, having demons for her servants and keeping only women for concubines. Rakios, whose looks are ill-suited for a woman’s disguise, is instructed to stealthily leap through a window and enter from above instead. He does so, but immediately encounters trouble – a woman has been set to scrubbing the floor in a room where demons cannot enter, and she screams as she sees him. He must retreat, holding her captive until she calms down.

Shadow Edge and Keemia, meanwhile, are guided by a fat eunuch past a demonic guardian, and taken into the sorceress’ private harem. It is a virtual paradise on earth, streams of water and wine flowing in a serene landscape full of beautiful women. Shadow Edge, however, has more important things to think about, and sneaks out of the chamber to try and find his sister.

Pacifying a demon by playing the harmonica, Shadow Edge manages to locate the sorceress, whipping a disobedient slave. He intends to sneak in, but she notices him, and he must rely on guile to talk his way out of the situation. He manages to stall her, but, ultimately, fails, and she calls upon the manses’ mystic powers to bind him with vines and creepers, intending to strangle him to death.

Rakios, meanwhile, has discovered that the sorceress’ apprentice, Cynis Megara, has an interest in Varangian astrology and particularly, in the fate of Shadow Edge, for she has looked up the star of his birth in her books. The apprentice herself, however, is not present, and so Rakios – having left his prisoner outside the manse – sneaks into the hearthroom, there pacifying the demon that guards it using a shiny mirror. He deactivates the manses’ traps and magical defenses just in time to hear that Shadow Edge is in trouble, and rushes to his aid.

A short but intense battle follows. Rakios manages to rescue the poor slave still stuck in the room, as Shadow Edge breaks free and engages in a deadly duel with the sorceress. She is finally killed when Rakios strikes her, so that her deadly spell explodes in her hands. Keemia then kills her summoned demon before it can work its magic on Shadow Edge.

Speaking with the rescued slave, whose name is Madeira, they learn that Shadow Edge’s sister has the protection of Cynis Megara. Megara saw her great intelligence as an asset, and rescued her from the lecherous Yassari to keep her as her own, personal servant. Unfortunately, Megara is currently at sea, and she has brought her own retinue with her.

The three Solars discuss, and decide to move their new base of operations to this manse. Cynis Megara’s ship will be back in a few days, but now, the heroes must make preparations – for the Wyld Hunt is shortly returning to Chiaroscuro…

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Part III: Broken Jewel of the South
In which the heroes return to Chiaroscuro.

Having outmaneuvered the Wyld Hunt and left them chasing their own tail in the desert, the three heroes make the journey back to Chiaroscuro, though not without incident – Tepet Lisara seduces one of Keemia’s handmaidens, and Shadow Edge reveals his Solar Exalt nature to the Varangian men they met earlier. These Varangians have come to trust Edge and Rakios, and at least two of them – Fahrad and Kasim – declare that the heroes have their loyalty. Kasim becomes Rakios’ student, and Fahrad promises to be loyal to Shadow Edge and to do his best to kill him should he turn evil. Shadow Edge appreciates this gesture.

Shadow Edge goes to find Faqir, and arranges a deal with him. Faqir can smuggle the heroes into the city, and provide a sleeping draught for Tepet Lisara so that she does not cause trouble. He does this in exchange for a few gems from the Glittering Desert. So it is that the heroes sneak into the City of Glass, setting up camp in one of Keemia’s warehouses, where nobody will look for them.

Shadow Edge also visits Keemia’s husband, Rajeed. He finds that he is with another woman. Reporting this to Keemia, they learn that he has always surrounded himself with mistresses, but that she loves him deeply anyway. She wants to see him again, so Rakios escorts her to her old manor. Keemia goes disguised as Takeshi the Poet, an alter ego she comes to use extensively in Chiaroscuro.

While Shadow Edge learns the lay of the land by calling upon his contacts, Keemia learns that her husband has not even held a funeral for her, despite thinking her dead. This enrages her so, that she makes him swear to never touch another woman again, and binds this oath into Heaven. She leaves together with Rakios, and tells him that she has always suspected Rajeed only married her for the money.

Edge lures out Jafaar from his hidey-hole, and they banish him from the city, setting up residence in his apartment instead. Thereafter, they decide the best course of action might be to speak with the Tri-Khan of Chiaroscuro, for they hear rumours there is yet another Solar in the city, one with supposed connections to the Khan.

Meeting Yejouj Khan, a crafty old man, in his throne room, they learn that it is indeed so. Arbash Serik, a loyal member of the Chiaroscuro Guard, has indeed Exalted and serves the Tri-Khan fiercely. Yejouj Khan agrees to lend help in freeing Shadow Edge’s sister from Cynis Denovah Yassari, so long as the wicked sorceress dies in the process. He provides them with maps of the manse she inhabits and with papers so that they can approach it in disguise.

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Part II: How To Tame Your Dragon
In which a Dragon-Blood is subdued.

Shadow Edge rides with Keemia to where the Wyld Hunt has made camp. The Hunt consists of some three hundred soldiers and at least four Dragon-Blooded. He instructs Keemia to stay back while he infiltrates, at first intending to sneak inside but then changing his mind, approaching some scouts openly.

Shadow Edge learns that most of this army consists of press-ganged men from the native Delzahn tribes, who have little love of the Dragon-Blooded. These men are kept coordinated by a Delzahn Dragon-Blood, a Lost Egg named Yasur, whom the Delzahn men respect at least a little. Shadow Edge tries to gain audience with Tepet Lisara, but being a native Southerner, has no luck with the people of the Realm. Eventually, Yasur comes to speak with him.

Yasur takes a liking to Shadow Edge and brings him into his tent. He takes on Edge as his servant and promises that he will try to help him. Following Yasur around by stealth, Shadow Edge learns that there are five Dragon-Blooded present, and he also learn where Tepet Lisara may be found.

Meanwhile, Keemia and Rakios grow worried for Shadow Edge as he has been missing for more than a day. They devise a plan to infiltrate the Hunt and rescue him. Bargaining with some native Delzahn riders, they purchase their clothing for disguises and move into the ranks of the Wyld Hunt soldiers as they begin to march.

Just as Shadow Edge spots them, he sees Yasur slip into Lisara’s palanquin to speak with her. Following, he hopes she will let slip where his sister is held – but instead he insults her so gravely that Shadow Edge loses his temper, and stabs her. A brutal battle ensures, but Yasur has taken such a liking to Shadow Edge that he does not interfere, letting Rakios and Edge knock her unconscious and kidnap her. The other Dragon-Blooded, who only hear the noise of the fight, believe it to be a scrap between Lisara and Yasur, and do not interfere either. The Delzahn soldiers are just happy to see a hated Dragon-Blood being brought low.

The three Solar Exalted kidnap Lisara and take her to an abandoned military camp for questioning. She tries to escape by force and by guile, attempting to both seduce, flatter, and fight her way to freedom, but nothing works. Eventually she gives up, informing Shadow Edge that his sister is likely held by the sorceress Cynis Denovah Yassari, back in Chiaroscuro.

Not wishing to kill an innocent captive, but recognizing they can’t let Lisara bring word back to the Hunt of what is happening, the Solars decide to bring her as their prisoner. Before they can leave the camp, they have a brief run-in with Yasur, who finds out about Shadow Edge’s Anathema nature but is knocked out before he can do anything about it. They hurry back to Zalim with Lisara held prisoner, hoping to outmaneuver the Hunt now that its attention is drawn to the abandoned military camp. This plan succeeds, and they make it back to Chiaroscuro, even bringing some deserters from the Wyld Hunt and some of the Dragon-Blooded’s treasures.

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Part I: A Link To The Past
In which three heroes meet.

Our tale begins to the south of Chiaroscuro. The mercenary Shadow Edge has been tracing a strange bauble which he recognizes from a past life; his contacts in the Guild tell him, that it was found in a ruined university recently uncovered by the shifting sands.

Shadow Edge hitches a ride with his friend Faqir, and finds – to his great surprise – that the university holds more than just memories – in it, he meets Rakios of the Sun-Searing Fist, the reincarnation of General Gao. Rakios greets him, and explains he feels a strong connection to his First Age incarnation and remembers a great lot about it – including that Shadow Edge was once Janira Baccaran, the clever thief.

In the ruins of the old university, he has discovered a sealed box that once belonged to her. Shadow Edge opens it, to find it contains an ancient weapon, left there by Janira for the local savants to study. Pleased with having discovered two old friends – General Gao, and the sword-bow he wielded in another life – Shadow Edge invites Rakios to come with him back to Faqir’s camp. On the way, he tells Rakios that he is searching for his sister, who is in the clutches of a dragon-blooded slaver.

Once back in the camp, Shadow Edge and Rakios learn from Faqir that there is a Wyld Hunt on the move towards the South, looking for an Anathema. Rakios wishes to save this fellow Solar or Lunar; Edge is hesitant at first, but changes his mind when he hears Tepet Lisara is marching with the Hunt, for she knows where his sister may be found.

Together, Shadow Edge and Rakios venture across the scorching desert. They face many dangers – the Dune People, the ghosts of the desert, and an inbred demon-worshiping cult in the village of Afshar – but they also make friends with a group of Varangian refugees, who claim to have been attacked by a flamepiece-wielding devil.

Eventually they arrive in Camp Zalim, where they meet a third old friend – the reincarnated form of Takeshi the Poet, who is now Sahlak Keemia, a merchant-woman of the Guild. She explains that the Dune People are moving north, and attacked her caravan; she Exalted trying to save her fellow Guildsmen, mere weeks ago. They made the trek to the oasis at Zalim but can go no further, lacking enough horses and camels. She sent a man named Jafaar for help, but since the Wyld Hunt has been alerted, she guesses he must have betrayed her.

The three heroes find themselves forced to outmaneuver the Hunt – they cannot fight them openly, and they cannot just run away from them because of Shadow Edge’s plight. Furthermore, their task is complicated by how Keemia’s retinue of Guildsmen need to be saved from the desert as well. Eventually, it is decided that Shadow Edge will spy on the Wyld Hunt and see what can be done, while Rakios recovers from his injuries.

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