Two-thirds of the motley try to stay ahead of catastrophe.
"Sometimes a scramble ensues to not just win, but to try to get the frontrunner to lose…."
Braum and Sophia dive into the tunnel beneath Claude's basement, with a cowed Sir Kenwyn bringing up the rear. It's a very small tunnel, hand-dug over time… and ending in a dead-end. They must have been Wayfared away! Backing out to the basement, Sophia turns on Kenwyn, declaring that the sidhe is loyal to no one but himself; the sidhe come backs at her with a veiled threat. "It would be a shame if something were to happen to anyone else…"
The two members of Ignite investigate the house. Braum isn't sure what the cold iron nail could be used for, other than perhaps sealing something away? Sophia uses Willow Whisper to speak to the home, learning that Claude had been in the emptied office before "falling down", and that Halleah had been in before, removing the furniture herself. Upstairs, some invisible force overcomes Kyoko, forcing her to speak in hard opposites. It is only after a young man arrives at the door, obsessed over Sophia that the trio realize that there must be some sort of enchantment on the home to highlight Kithain frailties!
Rushing back to The Spark, they inform Talus, Incisor, and Zistor about the kidnappings. The nocker is driven to cold fury, vowing to go out and search for them immediately, but Talus provides the voice of reason, urging him to stay. The satyr informs Braum and Sophia about the Red Branch's history with Broken Flight (the source of the butterfly seal): an extremist group wishing to overthrow the Parliament of Dreams, Helleah had been won over by their arguments and eventually begin providing weapons to the group. After an attack in Pacifica and on Queen Laurel herself in Winnipeg, the Red Branch took action. Helleah's execution had to be carried out, but since Claude had also sworn an oath to protect his wife at all costs, the compromise had to be that he kill her chimerically, and keep her safe (and ignorant) as a mortal. She was once quite powerful, Talus warns, and if she is indeed back, they might be in for a fight.
Kenwyn returns to the Spark, laptop in hand: he informs the assembled group (minus Kyoko, who had stepped out to try to help track him) that there is a video call incoming for them. Helleah herself asks to speak the Baroness Sophia, informing her that both Patches and Claude are currently safe. When Sophia tries to point out their prior relationship, the troll snarls that they have never met: "What you met was a shell." She then lays out her demand: as the High Queen Lenore's advisor of Dreams, she must use her influence and position to force the dissolution of the Parliament of Dreams. Tell anyone, fail to do so, or attempt to rescue their friends, and they will disappear forever. Braum forces her to swear to uphold her end of the bargain: she will do what she can to ensure no harm will come to Patches and Claude if her instructions are followed faithfully. Kenwyn also provides another envelope at that moment: recent photos of Kyoko, Xaeron, and Patches' father….
Ultimatum received, Sophia slams the laptop closed and cracks Sir Kenwyn across the face! The sidhe both burn with incandescent fury in their standoff, the Liam believing the Ailil is not acting in good faith, the Ailil having lost face in front of his peers. Kenwyn tells Braum to keep Sophia "on a leash", as they apparently don't "respect the word of Law". Outside in the garden, Incisor helps Sophia to take a breath, even if she too wanted to punch Kenwyn: "Your feelings matter right now." Back inside, Braum lays out their options, and they settle on defying Helleah's orders. Suddenly, Sophia receives a call: it appears that Kenwyn is delivering a similar message to Cog, complete with photos of himself with the High Queen as blackmail.
With the knowledge that Helleah's network extends much further than they thought, Braum places two calls, jeopardizing the hostages by not acting in good faith. He calls Seven to ask about a certain troll, Sasha, who had been on the High Queen's security detail the night before: the sluagh immediately starts to take actions to sequester the High Queen, recognizing the threat to her safety. He also calls Lord MacAllistar to try to obtain Claude's records on Broken Flight, whilst Sophia discovers that Claude had been keeping his wife's love letters for years.
It is at this moment that all hell breaks loose. Sophia arranges to get Cog picked up and moved to safety, and Braum receives a text that simply reads: "I'm disappointed." A phone call comes in: two men have been struck down in a shooting, Xaeron and Kenwyn! Sophia and Zistor rush to the hospital to see them, but Xaeron is being prepped for surgery. Ignoring the Banality of the place, Sophia soldiers on, finding Kenwyn in a room, looking worse for wear. He is unapologetic, but tells Sophia that it appears there are others who "do not respect the rule of Law". He then asks Sophia if she will take care of the remainder of his deliveries, motioning to his satchel, before feigning sleep. As Braum and Kyoko race to pick up Cog, Sophia goes to see to whom the remainder of the messages need to be delivered….