The motley heads to Tara-Nar and meet new friends… and enemies.
"Chess involves preparation. Opening moves, studying… But I'd rather test my wits."
It's a large group that arrives at the gate to Tara-Nar: the motley Ignite is accompanied by Kyoko, Claude, Sir Xaeron, Helena, Fala, Lord MacAllistar, mostly the remnants of the once-proud Red Branch. They are greeted by a delegation of Gwydion, Fiona, Liam, and nocker, eager to see them into the castle. Patches' meets a new contact from the Grand Bes Din, Gawain Waterwork, who tells her that they are at her command here (at the insistence of both the Bes Din and Zistor Flexx); Sophia is greeted with excitement by an elderly Liam Baroness, Lady Liex, who commends her on her role as Regent; Braum reconnects with Lady Rab, a Gwydion knight who informs him that the head of House Gwydion wishes to see him.
But it is Sir Xaeron who gets the grandest announcement, as the fast-talking, hip-hoppin', "best and coolest Fiona squire" Jasper makes it known that he'll be the one taking care of them. The three members of the motley each receive a gift pertaining to their essence, and retire to their rooms. Braum has a heart-to-heart with Fala, advising her to do what she feels is right. He only took her on as a squire because he felt like it was a just reward for them both, but that if she does not wish to join him on his quest to reform a version of the Red Branch, she can be freed from her oath to him.
Later that day, Patches is visited by Gawain, who reveals to her that Zistor did him a solid in the past, and hopes that he's happy now that Talus has returned. He invites her to a nocker gathering that evening so that she doesn't have to attend the "fancy dinner" at Tara-Nar; Patches gratefully agrees. Braum sets off to respond to the summons from Duke Allenion, and finds the head of House Gwydion alone in his keep, staring deep into an oversized hourglass. He is livid with Braum, as they both have history that they refuse to let go of. It seems that Duke Allenion has never forgiven Braum for letting Kay die on the mission to Abford Pharma, which the troll reminds him was to save her from Fae Death. Braum is on the verge of challenging the head of his house to a duel as Allenion insults the rest of his motley, mocking them as "Zistor Flexx's lap dog", and "a harp player", but is able to hold himself back. The Duke berates Braum for doing great deeds "not in service of House Gwydion, but only for yourself", and especially for not working Sophia harder to put a Gwydion on the throne.
Gawain arrives to take Patches away, but the nocker is suspicious of her companion's reticence to tell her where she's going, and why. When he eventually admits that he's going to drive her to another freehold, The Span, where many nockers have gathered for a sort of convention, she admonishes him for not being forthright. Unfortunately, Patches' unkind behavior continues when she fails to be impressed by Gawain's ride, but they set off to The Span nonetheless. Patches manages to make a good impression, and notes how many of the other nockers know of her deeds, but is relieved to meet some who don't; Patches likes a degree of anonymity, after all.
At High Queen Lenore's feast, Sophia manages to rouse Lord MacAllistar's spirits, telling him that his work with the Red Branch changed many lives, and that he still has great deeds ahead of him. While Braum has a bad night at the feast, physically tossing out a noble who was hitting on Kyoko, Sophia manages to impress everyone at the gathering with her music and personality, even bringing some degree of respectability back to House Liam, incredibly.
The next day, the motley are invited to meet Queen Lenore after court in her antechamber. She asks Patches to be her envoy at the Grand Bes Din when she goes to visit, and though Patches is hesitant to represent the crown, eventually acquiesces. Braum respectfully asks Lenore's permission to found a new organization dedicated to the pushing back of Banality and any threats to Kithain, but the High Queen refuses. She can't allow an organization to be formed with the blessing of the crown without it being tested, and she asks Sophia's help in creating a test for the members of the Red Branch. She then dissolves the once-proud Red Branch as a group, telling Braum that he'll have to prove his worth very soon….