Sophia reclaims the Spark.
"Cooperation is always something I will give, given the right people."
With no word from Braum, and Patches having set off with Kyoko to attempt to find Duke Granville, Sophia is left to work towards getting The Spark back from House Eiluned. Since Claude is out of the picture for now, the sidhe takes it upon herself to set out some sandwiches, and invites the new freeholder, Count Rene, out into the garden for lunch. She notes that his influence on the freehold is starting to manifest itself, with some of the lights dimming, but maintains her civility towards the man.
Count Rene informs her that the Duchess Eloyse will be arriving to the Spark that evening to help smooth the transition. Sophia panics internally: only a few hours to undermine the new freeholder and set a plan in motion? She charmingly suggests they hold a party for the Duchess (so that she can shine), but the Count politely shuts her down. He orders for Claude to return, and for Sophia to find a more "suitable" head of security for the event, with Sophia bristling at the idea that Incisor isn't worthy of the title. Sophia's anxiety is compounded by a call from the building manager, informing her that the building is being bought out, and she has 60 days to leave her penthouse before being evicted.
Sophia travels out to the east end of Montreal, finding Claude in the back room of a small home. She is greeted by a very pleasant looking woman working in the kitchen, who Claude informs her is his wife, Halleah, from whom he is separated. Sophia is shocked that Claude managed to hide this part of his life for so long, but Claude tells her there was a reason for it: "she's not a lovely woman". The boggan tells Sophia that his wife was a troll, but that she was revealed to be a spy fomenting revolt in Montreal, so he, under orders from the Red Branch, chimerically killed her. Claude refuses to return to the Spark, despondent about their chances, until Sophia convinces him to re-don his hero's mantle: "Claude, this breastplate was made for a hero — you."
On the car ride back to the freehold, Sophia receives a mysterious call from the Sapphire Eye: an unknown voice warns her to "keep an eye out for the Countess (Weyer)", and that she "shouldn't trust someone so careless". Sophia doesn't know what to make of all this, and seeks out Incisor. She details the next step of her plan: the redcap will convince Sir Xaeron to be the Spark's temporary "head of security" during the Duchess' visit, and Sophia will make sure that she can re-take her place as soon as they've evicted the usurpers. Sophia returns to the Exhaust to find two sidhe members of House Eiluned remodeling the common area, tearing down Zistor's machinery and tools adorning the walls. She is overly sweet towards the two, trying to maintain a degree of civility as they dismantle her freehold.
At that moment, Alnek arrives to the Spark, bringing news of the Duchess' imminent arrival. Sophia asks Alnek in confidence about the Duchess Eloyse's current state, and the eshu tentatively tells Sophia that he no longer feels "inspired" at the Chateau Frontenac, that she seems "unfocused". Sophia, now on edge, greets Sir Xaeron on his arrival. He agrees to take on temporary leadership of the Spark's security for the Duchess' arrival, and informs Sophia that Kaylie wishes to see her, but only in a week's time, much to Sophia's disappointment.
The Duchess Eloyse arrives via Wayfare, and is greeted politely by the new freeholder of the Spark. The Duchess asks for private audience with Sophia, interrogating her about Zistor Flexx's intentions. Apparently, the "common" Fae in Cross' Shadow are still balking at the idea of noble rule, but when Sophia presses her on her intentions in reclaiming the Spark, she simply responds that it isn't the commoners' right to rule. Sophia reiterates her concern that taking the Spark away will lead to more conflict, and in trying to learn more about the workings of the alliance between House Beaumayn and House Eiluned, suddenly sniffs jasmine on the air. A "gang" of four redcaps, armed and angry, walks in and inform Count Rene that they and a group of thirty other Kithain have surrounded the freehold, and that they are reclaiming it on behalf of Zistor Flexx.
Sophia fakes a panic attack in order to step out into the garden with Sir Xaeron. She attempts to shield Sir Xaeron so that he can engage their redcap guard, who notices and launches his lead pipe at Sophia. Sir Xaeron blocks the pipe but the redcap's cantrip causes welts to erupt on Sophia's shoulders as he tries to escape. As Sir Xaeron discovers the Exhaust is now filled with armed enemies, Sophia engages the redcap, Peter, trying to discover why and how he was coerced into attacking the freehold. She places him inside a Faerie Ring, learning that Fala persuaded them to take the fight to the nobility in the Spark; Sophia asks him to stay put in the ring so that they can talk more "once this has all blown over".
Entering the Exhaust, Xaeron and Claude are taking heavy fire from 15 attacking Kithain, while the Duchess Eloyse is backed up behind a wall of flame, and Count Rene lies on the floor, motionless. Sophia commands the scene, causing rain to fall from the roof and using it to create a strong feeling of calm in the room. Fala's enchantment is broken, and the commoners all leave as Sophia tries to command them to stay. The Duchess Eloyse is shaken, but unharmed; Claude's breastplate saved him from being killed in the hail of bullets. It would appear that the boggan was in fact the target of the attack, yet another attempt on the life of a member of the Red Branch. The Duchess Eloyse steps up to the unconscious Count Rene and stabs him through the throat, shocking all those in the Exhaust. The Duchess brushes off Sophia's demand for an explanation, calling her an "ant": now that the Count has suffered a "tragic end at the hands of commoners", Eloyse will probably have more of an excuse to crack down on anti-nobility sentiment in her duchy. Sir Xaeron refuses to let her leave: "She has committed murder here, Lady Sophia!" Wanting to avoid any more spilled blood, Sophia forges an oath with the Duchess Eloyse: she will leave the Spark and its denizens to their own devices for 1001 days, and Sir Xaeron will not cause her harm… although he swears his own oath of Crossed Blades with her.
Sophia looks around at the destruction, shaken, but safe in the knowledge that the Spark is theirs, once again.