The motley mounts a rescue.
"The funny thing about the Game of Life is that nobody ever dies. You make very few decisions… it's mostly chance."
Braum and Sophia go to rejoin Patches in the Exhaust, but not before the new High Queen of Concordia, Lenore, asks Braum to report to her soon about the Red Branch. The motley spends a couple of hours preparing for their mission to the Chateau Frontenac, discussing the possibility (or at least the hope) that the Duchess Eloyse's madness will leave her freehold vulnerable. Patches in particular is convinced that they will be able to slip through the cracks in security. Braum assembles Claude and Sir Xaeron for the mission while Sophia finds Alnek, still suffering from the cold grip of Banality but ready and willing to accompany them.
Alnek tells the group that while Eloyse certainly is definitely out for her own gain, she does care about those under her command, at least as an idea. The motley hopes that they can exploit this by threatening the safety of the freehold and those in it to draw out the Duchess. Alnek also tells them that the last-known location of Kyoko (as divined by the Countess Weyer) is a pool house on the grounds of the Chateau Frontenac. Perhaps she is being kept there so that she can be turned over to somebody else…? In an aside, Claude cautions Braum against putting his whole attention on getting Kyoko back: while that is their primary objective, she would want them to take down the threat rather than save her, if it comes down to it.
Driving up to the Chateau, it is eerily quiet: no lights, no guests, nothing. The use of Veiled Eyes on the freehold confirms to the group that the Duchess knows that they are gunning for her, and they decide to head straight for Kyoko's last known location. Braum and Sir Xaeron are dropped off at the side of the building so that they can distract the watching guards, while Patches renders the van invisible, and creates a portal through the fence on the other side, leading Sophia, Alnek, and Claude to the pool house.
Braum and Sir Xaeron are confronted by a huge redcap, fists wrapped in barbed wire and broken glass, and teeth filed into razor-sharp points. Braum tries to delay the brute to allow the others time to investigate, but eventually is given an ultimatum: walk away, or be killed. Braum, ever the warrior, turns around and rips a bench from the concrete, hurling it at the assailant, knocking him out. Braum and Sir Xaeron quickly dispatch the other guards that rush in, heading towards the Chateau proper.
Meanwhile, Patches tries to sneak up on the pool house, but leaps out of the way as the door bursts open, revealing a single nocker carrying a cold iron dagger, and no Kyoko. As Patches leaps out of the way of the nocker's wild slashes, Sophia summons the strength of the earth, encasing him in concrete. Defeated, the nocker drops the weapon and, wild-eyed, tells them he was just following orders. He was scared, he tells them, and that they should be too, before slashing his throat with a chimerical dagger.
The group find some of Kyoko's fur in the pool house and follow the trail inside the Chateau into a massive, stainless steel kitchen. The trail ends there, but with the meat freezer door slightly ajar, they venture inside, discovering a weak Baroness Akanthea and five unconscious Kyokos hanging from hooks! The Baroness informs them that the Duchess' madness has created this illusion: touch any of the "wrong" Kyokos, or her, and they will all suffer terrible consequences. Thinking quickly, Sophia dreamwalks into each in turn, discovering that the first "Kyoko" is a transformed nocker teacher, a trap. The second one is indeed Kyoko, whom Sophia finds in a hot yoga studio, begging her to "come back to them". Kyoko is wistful, hoping that King Meilge is gone forever and that one of the four candidates has been chosen as Queen of Concordia. "Do you think he forgives me, Sophia? Jorek?" Sophia is not sure who that is, but wonders if it is perhaps linked to the encounters they've had in other dreams lately….
Meanwhile, Patches and Braum receive a message from the Duchess herself over the radio: she is willing to parlay with one of them, no weapons. Braum refuses to leave Kyoko's side, so Patches heads out towards the atrium. She creates an illusion of herself that she sends in her stead, sensing trickery. The Duchess descends the stairs in the lobby of the Chateau, speaking to the nocker's shade. She demands from Patches that they let her leave Concordia for Hibernia, and that no one is allowed to follow her. She also requires one of the members of the Red Branch to swear to this deal as well, in order to seal it. Patches' guides her mirage out, transforming it into one of Sir Xaeron, who re-enters the atrium, vowing to destroy her. The Duchess then gives a final ultimatum: "I will kill Xaeron and leave the rest of you, or I will kill Kyoko, and all bets are off."
While Patches is frozen with indecision, she hears coming from upstairs the sound of laboured breathing. The real Duchess Eloyse, it would appear, has been afflicted with Countess Weyer's name of "Wheezy" in more ways than one….