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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