131. A Question of Scruples

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The aftermath of Mazer's attack leads to a new kind of challenge.

"I always really wanted to play a Game of Scruples: where do you draw the line?"

The immediate aftermath of Mazer's destruction is desolation: Braum returns to Xaeron's side to find him in a bad way, and Sophia chimerically dead. Xaeron is weak and unable to stand; Braum uses his Arts to chill the sidhe, slowing his heart rate. Sophia awakens as her mortal self, surprised to see Braum and her injured husband, George (Xaeron)! Demanding answers, she orders Braum and Patches bring Xaeron up to her penthouse to rest until they are allowed to leave the building.

Zistor sends Sayley up to tend to the injured after Sophia refuses to let Braum stay by her side. The freeholder then takes Patches downstairs to the workshop to forge some rings, superheating the balefire using Mazer's corpse. Up in the penthouse, Sayley tends to Xaeron and advises that Sophia sleep so that she and Xaeron can both "reawaken" as themselves. She promises not to lie to Sophia, and reveals that the fire that swept through the building was, in fact, Sophia's doing. The young woman is shocked to learn of her actions, but even as a mortal, Sophia's connection to the Dreaming is strong, and she realizes that there's something special about her….

Later, Braum and Patches visit the two sidhe and brew some glamour-infused tea to re-enchant Sophia. The sidhe screams, reliving her last moments with Mazer, before vowing to destroy his memory. "No end is good enough for him," she hisses. Re-enchanted, Sophia is able to re-start the Well of Life around Xaeron's heart keeping him alive before marching down to the Exhaust to "fix it". Braum stays with Xaeron for a moment, and the sidhe passionately declares his love for Sophia.

Meanwhile, Sophia enters the Exhaust with grim determination. She broke the freehold, she tells Patches, so she must be the one to fix it, by any means necessary, including unleashing her Arts! Patches holds her friend back while Zistor asserts his authority: he is happy that Sophia is back safely, and that she, the new Countess of Cross' Shadow, will help in the rebuilding of The Spark. However, there will be no Unleashing, and the freeholder demands that it be rebuilt differently from before, setting the architect Patches to the task.

Two weeks later, Patches is ready for her trial to gain entry to the Golden Braid. Braum summons her to the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Montreal, where the Golden Braid (and Sophia) await her. Braum dismisses the rest of the group while he briefs Patches on her task: with the majority of the Braid's resources available to her, she must steal Braum's best friend's most prized possession. Once done, she is to return to the field behind Heart's Light.

Quick as a flash, Patches follows Xaeron outside, asking him what his most prized possession is. The sidhe tells her, with suspicion, that it would probably be his sword, Brushstroke, hanging in his closet at Heart's Light. Patches Flicker Flashes to the freehold and starts rummaging through his cupboards for the treasure. As she is about to slip out the window, one of Heart's Light's guards, a troll named Nyange, enters the room to stop her. Nyange warns Patches about the possible political ramifications of her actions, not to mention their legality, but Patches is off like a shot, calling back over her shoulder that she'll explain everything later.

In the field, Braum is quick to disappoint: Xaeron isn't really his best friend. Patches asks him if it's Kyoko and, receiving confirmation, tries to track her down. Kyoko stands Patches up when she invites her out for tea, but Patches eventually tries her home. The pooka is there, weeding, but Patches refuses to ask for her assistance, believing her to be "part of the enemy forces" in this exercise. Kyoko makes reference to her ring, but Patches is at a loss: she could take the ring, but how does she know if that's the item that will satisfy Braum? She turns to the troll to ask for his help. "The majority of the Braid's resources includes me," he smirks, and he leads Patches to Kyoko's office while he goes to distract his wife.

Under Kyoko's desk is a drawer with a false bottom, easily picked and opened by Patches. Inside is a letter to Kyoko from Kay, which Patches stops reading, wanting to preserve her privacy. She returns to the field behind Heart's Light and presents the letter to Braum. "Now, part two," the troll says, "destroy it."

Patches is immediate in her denial: if entrance to the Braid requires her damage a friendship purposefully, it isn't worth it. Braum and MacAllistar both remind her of what they've all had to sacrifice to create the Braid, but Patches is adamant: it isn't a sacrifice if it isn't yours to give away.

The Braid confers, and invites Patches back. By turning to Braum for help and then refusing his order, Patches has shown her mentality to be different from the other members of the Braid, and they extend a formal invitation to her!

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