008. Dragon Age

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The motley rush Little One out of the freehold as they plan their next move.

"Sometimes my characters don't play by the rules. They can be unpredictable… and not very nice."

The motley has confronted Fala in the basement but are at an impasse. On one hand, she and her sluagh companion broke into The Spark, but on the other, if they hadn't, the motley would have had ample opportunity to "throw evidence out the back door" (at least according to her). Sophia and Patches are both adamant that Fala leave the freehold immediately, but Braum attempts to learn more about her motivations by inviting her for a drink in The Exhaust. Fala turns down the offer, knowing she is unwelcome, and vows to return to The Spark. On her way up with Braum, she cautions him: "Braum, you're better than this. This is a place where lost people go… Take your place at the seat of righteousness and discover what you've lost." Confused but understanding she may have information about his past, Braum accepts her business card and shows her out.

In the meantime, Sophia and Patches agree that The Spark is no longer safe for Little One, and that the best course of action is to find Zistor before the group from the Kingdom of Willows finds the dragon. Patches shrinks Little One down to an eighth of her normal size in order to transport her out of The Spark, and back to her home. She leaves Braum and Sophia to learn what they can at the freehold while she checks her home for any signs of surveillance.

Convincing Incisor to open Zistor's office, Sophia and Braum are unable to discover anything of value in relation to his whereabouts, though they do come across a letter from the Duchess Eloyse to Zistor. When compared to the search warrant brought by Fala, they notice a discrepancy in the signatures: did the duchess actually write the letter, or was she maybe under duress? As the questions keep piling up, Braum takes his leave of Sophia to bid farewell to Talus and Claude. On his way, he takes his leave of Kyoko, who asks him for a promise: "When you return, you must promise to all return happy and healthy… but mostly that you return." As Braum leaves, Sophia searches the office for a file on the troll, and Incisor suggests that she ask Kyoko to access Zistor's secret digital files.

Braum bids adieu to Talus, who suggests having Zistor call him if the nocker is unwilling or unable to return; he also asks Claude for advice in regards to Kyoko's seeming obligation to the motley, to which the boggan recommends he talk to Kyoko himself. Thinking they are leaving the city for a time, both Braum and Sophia put off their questions for Kyoko.

The motley meets up at Patches' place. Discovering Little One asleep in the fridge, Patches asks Braum to give the dragon an ice bath. Braum leaves a message with his wife to cancel their "usual meetup", and plays with Little One. Patches attempts to call Duke Granville in order to let him know about having moved Little One, but does so in code. Sophia reaches out to Markus to learn what he knows about Zistor's whereabouts, and the sluagh agrees to meet at a nearby bar, Grumpy's.

The motley, leaving Little One alone, heads down to the hole-in-the-wall bar in the middle of the afternoon. Markus greets them with absinthe, of which only Braum partakes, with Sophia and Patches both ordering cider. Markus offers them the information he has in exchange for a favour: the opportunity to take one object of his choice from Zistor's workshop. Sophia, knowing his information to be less valuable than the possibility of ruining Zistor, drives a hard bargain, demanding he ask for something else. He turns to Patches, offering her a different deal: she need only let a small spider of his go free in the bedroom on the west side of Heart's Light in exchange for his knowledge. Patches readily agrees, thinking that even if Markus is intending to spy on Duke Granville, that may give him plausible deniability. Markus tells them that Zistor has been at a freehold in a rough neighbourhood in New Orleans for the past while. While he hasn't been staying there, he has been entering it to make use of the trod so that he can meet someone in the Dreaming. The freehold, known as "Easy Whiskers", is owned by a redcap named Nash.

Patches and Sophia take their leave of Markus with the bottled spider in tow; Braum stays behind briefly to finish his drink. In that short span of time, Markus threatens Braum, telling him to let the other two "go about playing their games", but that he should stay away from Zistor Flexx. Braum, taking it in stride, crushes a shot glass under his thumb and suggests the sluagh not threaten him again, but that by doing so, the troll knows he's on the right track.

Leaving the bar, the motley plans their next move: should they head down to New Orleans in the hopes of catching up with Zistor? At that moment, a group of rowdy college students walk into the bar, and walk out a moment later propping up Markus. While mortals may not be able to understand, the motley can immediately see that somehow, in that brief moment, Markus was killed chimerically! While the three debate confronting the youths, a clurichaun appears from the group, advancing on them. He politely drops the knife at their feet, and introduces himself as Padraic. He offers them advice: if a changeling is unwilling to swear an oath (as Markus was), perhaps they are untrustworthy. Furthermore, Padraic tells them, he was sent by Zistor Flexx….

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