Some time later, several of the Solars gather back together for further investigation and the sharing of results.
Imrama and Lucent's intense grilling of the captive Suns had established a consistent MO for the purchase of weapons by the cells: acquisition of unmarked jade blocks at a series of cache locations just outside the Sunlands' borders, followed by arranged meetings with black market weapons merchants or insertion into organizations with weapons caches.
As they cross-referenced amongst the various prisoners, the Solars discovered that despite a larger number of cells, only five actual drop locations were used, with drops staggered by date: one in Harborhead, one in Mugadesh, one in the Southern Dominion south of Thorns, one in Kansagra, and one on a small island in the inland sea.
A quick flyby in the Fable revealed that the last drop in the sea cache had failed to be picked up, leaving a set of "fresh" jade blocks in Imrama's possession.
The network of merchants was rather more extensive, drawing on at least four different pathways: established black-market dealers associated with the Guild, ex-military associates of the Red Lily selling off caches of weapons gathered for that organization's war effort,
second-hand resellers of auctioned small arms released into the Netheos economy by the mask after his conquest of Lookshy, and a network of Outcastes and other rogue Exalts known as the Dust Drinkers, who were engaged in a systematic process of locating and looting First Age (and older) ruins.
Most of the figures in the first and third categories are known to Sunlands intelligence, as are the more notable figures in category two, but all ensured that their meetings took place well beyond Sunlands borders and generally through disposable intermediaries to avoid direct implication in whatever the weapons were to be used for.
In all cases, however, the merchants were pre-contacted by another source, not by the Broken Suns who purchased from them.
Imrama "So. We have learned of, or rather, had our attention drawn to, multiple overlapping networks dealing in dangerous armaments. Also, we have a pile of fresh jade that you might want to take a reading on, Varanim. And we have further established that our adversary is spectacularly methodical and well-organized. Anything else?"
Varanim "Fake identity on the owner of the bomb."
Spring "Hm? What information did you get?"
Varanim "A name and a face, like usual, but it feels painted on." She scowls a bit at the unfamiliar puzzle.
Spring "Can you be slightly more specific?"
Varanim "Evim Estar, mannish woman or womanish man, Sijan funeral duds, barefoot, withered flower behind one ear and a generally squeezed-out look. Like that?"
Spring "Dressed for burial, worn out, unshod, and wearing a withered flower."
Spring "That is a Sidereal, wearing a Resplendent Destiny of the Sword. Your feeling of doubt was quite right."
Varanim "You people and your names," Varanim says with a heavenward glance. "What does that mean?"
Spring "It means that a Sidereal in disguise set the bomb. What odds will you give me that it was one of the Five?"
Lucent "Oh, yes. They are identities now."
Imrama "The Sword is in the House of Endings, but they are mighty and ancient. It could be any one of them. Other than Fierce Red Star, of course."
Lucent "Qian Mian, if I had to guess. That scarcely explains who did it, however; they appear to be majordomos to great powers, sometimes more than one at once, in those new days, like Qian was to the Lily and Nightblossom." He closes his eyes, then opens them again. "Astrology. Whoever used this Destiny is recorded on the Heavens."
Spring "An excellent thought, Lucent. Well done."
Spring "We shall speak with Berwyn."
Spring "I am not sure that they are trackable this way, though, but we may as least begin our investigation there."
Varanim looks pained, but nods. "Whoever it was is either big into necromancy, or shacked up with someone who is. The bomb-flower is pretty great work, as those things go."
Lucent "Even if what they have is merely an identification code of the Shard, Imrama can extract the name of its holder in his impending visit to Lytek." He nods, "I know not of the specifics of Resplendent Destinies in the Second Age, Spring, but all Astronomy is a plea to the Heavens, a direct one. And Heaven Knows Who You Are."
Spring "Since I am planning to pay a visit to Heaven in any case, perhaps we can put the two together."
Imrama "An excellent idea."
Lucent "So let us go inquire with the Knights-of-needing-a-new-place, Spring!" He motions imperiously, pointing to the sky as the seven orbs detach from him and burn bright above them, as if sun, moon, and all stars shine at once, "For next, we are going to Heaven!"