After Johnny says there’s a bomb on the boat, the three duchesses open up a Hollow door on each deck, allowing the people of Holy Cross to file in. The door leads to the oceanic hedge, with slides allowing the passengers to slip out quickly.
Anthony grabs onto Maribel and tries to flee with her, but she stays to help the various humans who don’t know what’s going on. Anthony quickly loses track of her, but she is found by Vincent, who helps her down the slide into the icy cold water. The dark waters are rather sugary.
Nevermore the Autumn Duchess summons a lifeboat by dropping blood in the water. Changelings eagerly scramble aboard. They all row away from the cruise ship, waiting for the explosion that would destroy them all.
And wait..and wait… and wait some more.
Nothing occurs. The only sound is of waves splashing against the boats.
The Summer Duchess Alkaina stands up at the prow of the boat, gazing intently at Johnny (who has tried to blend in with the crowd, and failed…), “Did he actually SEE the bomb?”
When no answer came, The Waif yells out, “Row back to the boat”
KJ sees an enormous jellyfish swim by. Inside the translucent jellyfish are tiny disembodied eyes. It swims towards the triple-decker yacht with about a dozen people are still aboard. The jellyfish plucks someone from within itself, a hooded figure in a dark green cloak with stringy nets of hair coming down to almost the floor. KJ can see its ugly trollish bear feet. The figure walks with a staff, the head of which is covered in sea glass.
The figure walks over to the Hollow gateway and touches it with its staff, forming a caul around the entrance.
The yacht becomes surrounded by jellyfish, which lash out with their tentacles, almost gently, caressing people, who instantly fall to the floor in a seizure.
We near the ship in time to see jet skis coming out of the ocean darkness. Pale Eel arrives, docking with the ship and leaping onto its deck, followed by his privateers.
They shoot anyone who resists the caress of the tentacles.
KJ rushes ahead and hears Gretchen, who stayed behind on the ship to get people to safety, yelling out with authority at three of the privateers bearing down on her with guns, “In the name of Mother, what are you doing here?! You’re countermanding my orders!”
They yell out, “the Annis!”
Gretchen tricks them into calling the Annis over. She sees the hag knock out a tiny hobgoblin spy, putting it in her pocket as she says, “Everything is being preserved. That’s all I need from you.”
Gretchen demands answers, “Aren’t you a changeling!? Why are you doing this?”
Annis responds, “I am a problem solver. I solve problems. They’re not where they should be. Now go downstairs, there are many people who would give you a good home.”
Gretchen yells back accusingly, “You’re just like The Others!”
Annis slams her staff onto the deck. “I put people where they belong! Others are monsters! It is not I who thinks it. It’s the book. Everyone comes back and they say, “Auntie, you made my life better.” Annis continues to ramble.
Gretchen tries to talk to her, convince her that she should ask them before she takes them, that otherwise they…
A shotgun blast rings out in the air, slamming into Gretchen, shoving her away from the Annis. Gretchen falls to the floor, killed on impact. Pale Eel climbs on the structure, emptying his shotgun into Gretchen’s torso.
Annis runs over, rambling, “I don’t see why he did that. We had a perfectly civil conversation. This isn’t what’s supposed to happen. There was so many homes, and so many things she should have been…” The Annis continues to mutter and stutter. She reaches down and says something under her breath that causes the stiff body to relax.
KJ watches all this in horror. She yells at Annis, trying to break through the caul, yelling louder and louder. Annis twists around, “Oh you shouldn’t have seen that. Go on go about your things.” The Annis’s hand is visibly trembling. The magic of her staff seems erratic. The caul blacks over.
The Motley sees the carnage happen. As KJ tries to break through the door, the yacht disappears, causing KJ & Tony to fall back into the water.
Everyone begins talking at once, trying to figure out what just happened. The working theory is the privateers’ plan was to be spotted, to cause some panic and have everyone abandon ship, then descend on the stragglers.
We all recognized it was the Annis who slowed our descent when we first broke through the Hedge. Pale Eel came right out after us.
We learn that Pale Eel was a freeholder in Santa Cruz who went rogue and is now a very well known privateer.
The behavior of the Annis reminds us all of a powerful, yet delusional changeling.
Dil takes point and leads us out of the hedge. He learns that the jellyfish are natives of this particular area, and that if enough of the sugary water is swallowed, you will see the world as if you were looking through a mirror.
As we row to shore, we see an airship in the distance, in the shape of a baleen whale with tusks, carrying a large wicker basket filled with privateers, skidding along the clouds. It swoops down, seeing the vast number of changelings still behind, and heads towards them.
After several hours, we see Santa Cruz’s city line.
As soon as we land ashore, the Alkaina arrests Jonathan. I attempt to speak on his behalf to the the other Duchesses, but they refuse to listen.
Meanwhile, Anthony is to prosecute his duel with Belvedere. I think this is a good thing, considering how much anger Anthony is feeling at the time.
With a little bit of help from Dil, Anthony steps into the proverbial ring.
The rules are thus: When one party is unable to battle, their side will be considered unjust. Fight with honor. Fight with your honor. Fight for the freehold.
The Waif throws a single snowflake into the air, and when it wafts down, the fight begins!
And Anthony beats Belvedere to a bloody pulp, first with a gut punch and then a KO. Anthony roars into the sky, the prone body of the Fairest laying at his feet.
The Winter Court quickly picks up Belvedere and carries him off before we can interrogate him, which is somewhat the point of all this.
I attempt to talk to Nevermore, plead our case, but I soon realize this is my fault for neglecting to spell out the proper terms of the battle. Damn my miserable hide. I have all the smarts of an academic, but the political savvy of a drunken sailor. This is something I must rectify if I am to continue carrying this crown.
KJ speaks with Maribel, who reveals in confidence that the Darkling physician called Doc Manual is typically part of the dutchy’s interrogations, and that she typically heads back to her room soon after.
Jonathan is taken to a makeshift jail, apparently using his… winning personality… to keep the Summer Courtiers entertained on the ride over. The Summer Duchess walks into his cell. She is attractive for an Ogre. She sits across from Jonathan and asks, “Did you do it?”
Jonathan, perhaps not wisely, responds, “Depends… what’s “it?”
“Are you in league with Privateers?”
Jonathan laughs at the thought, “Are you serious?”
“I have to ask.”
“Tell me what happened.”
Jonathan does so, telling her everything, including how he believes Pale Eel was trying to frame Maribel.
The Summer Duchess sits back. “Pale Eel was one of mine, in my court, before he went rogue. He’s been a black spot on the honor of the Summer Court ever since.”
Jonathan uses this opportunity to accuse Staghart of being the one behind the whole mess.
Alkaina ponders this a moment, then says, “Instinct tells me you didn’t do anything other than sound the alarm. But given what happened last halloween, and rumors that there’s more than a few privateers spies in the Quatrine, I’d be foolish to dismiss anything out of hand. I have nothing to hold you. You are free to do what you will on your honor, and what I assume is pursue Pale Eel.”
Jonathan shrugs, “I guess?”
She continues, “If you find him, if you remand him back into my custody, your motley will be rewarded, and you’ll be cleared of any suspicions.”
Jonathan stands up, “Whoever is holding his reins, the guy we’re interested in, they should be very afraid.”
The Summer Duchess joins him in standing. “I hereby grant you my parole as to a time that you’re clear of charges.” Jonathan turns and walks out the door.
Meanwhile, Dil and I decide to go see about Jonathan, while Anthony checks in with KJ. They both decide sparring will help clear their heads, and I imagine, followed by alcohol.
Dil and I arrive in time to see Jonathan walking out, a free man. At least so it seemed. Jonathan tells us about the Dutchess’ requests, about turning in Pale Eel, and that all charges would be dropped as soon as we do so.
Before we return to the others, Dil asks both of us for a favor. Dil says his fetch lives in Santa Cruz, and he would like to confront it. We escort him to the neighborhood where the creature that stole his life.
We arrive in a quaint part of town, and stake out the home where Dil senses his fetch lives in. Soon, a gentleman parks in the driveway. The door to the home opens, and an older looking Dil appears. Older, dressed neatly, and in shape. He embraces his partner Brett in the driveway. The partner calls the Fetch William.
William stiffens and seems to sense our presence. He ushers Brett in, and steps out, almost in a trance. Jonathan attempts to engage him in conversation, but Dil walks up behind him. I take the better part of valor and sneak my way behind William, just in case.
Dil extends his hand to William, which WIlliam declines to take.
Jonathan attempts to explain the World of Darkness to William, who gets more and more tense, as if bracing himself against an attack. Dil interjects, saying, “Long story short, creepy horrible stuff happened, we split, and that scratching you feel at the back of your neck? The recent thing, yeah, I feel it too.”
“I want you to know, to make sure you know, I am here, I am not a scary monster in the dark, I am aware of you, just as you are aware of me.”
Jonathan continues trying to speak over Dil, bringing up something about “Total Recall.” I didn’t know Jonathan knew anything about how memory works, nor why it would be relevant to this conversation.
I notice the fetch’s shadow beginning to change, its hands turning into claws. William backs away from Dil, away from me instinctively, and heads back to the his home. As he gets closer to his home, his shadow reverts to normal. William shuts the door, and locks it.
I peer through their window, just to make sure nothing happens to Brett. Or William for that matter. Brett asks who he was talking to, William tells them, “They..they were Lost. Just…Lost.”
Dil leaves William a note, saying how he’ll never contact him again, but that he can be reached at this number (Pitch), and if he ever wanted to talk, to leave a message for him. We get into the Jonathon mobile and drive away.
After their sparring match, KJ and Anthony get breakfast. They see the Darkling Doctor rushing past them, with a suitcase. KJ leaps towards the doc, causing her to run face first into her.
The doctor cries out, saying, “I don’t want to do it again. I hate it. I hate it, it’s not why I became a doctor!” It is heavily implied that her Keeper did the same to her, but that she does it because of her sense of duty to her court.
KJ and Anthony convince her to talk, to tell them what she learned in the interrogation of Belvedere. She opens up and spills the beans.
Belvedere said he’s been working with the privateers for two years, on and off. His only contact has been Pale Eel. They used to be friends before Eel left the summer court. Pale Eel blackmailed him. Belvedere’s mortal, religious family didn’t know he was gay, and Pale Eel said if he wanted it to stay that way, that he’d have to help him out.
Belvedere’s been giving them the location of where Mortals go to get drunk without telling people, high school & college parties, raves, the kind of thing one or two people disappear from. Every once in awhile he’s told them about new changelings, those who could go missing and others would assume they just didn’t’ like the freehold. . Eel was his only point of contact. He admitted to having Maribelle taken, or tried to.
The Doctor doesn’t know what they’re going to do with Belvedere. The Winter duchess doesn’t like executions. She’ll probably have him go on a “quest” that would allow him the chance to redeem himself. It’ll be the next best thing to a suicide mission.
“Belvedere said Pale Eel finds him, he’s never found Pale Eel. He’s a spector, whenever there’s privateers around, he’s usually involved. He’s associated with the hag, The Annis. An Annis is a term for a hag or witch.”
“The Waif asked one question, while I had to ask the rest. “Where is The Annis?” Belvedere knows she keeps hideouts along the waterfront, where human trafficking often occurs. He knows of 3 or 4 locations where she might be hidden.”
The Doctor breaks down, crying into her many fingered hands. “Why do we have to act like them to keep them away?”
I tell myself that I must learn about the politics involving giving a Changeling of another kingdom the chance to relocate. Our kingdom may not be perfect, but I would make sure that The Doctor would never have to…interrogate…anyone ever again.
KJ updates us when we arrive about what she and Anthony have learned.
Jonathan claps his hands together. “Well Alright, let’s go finger that Annis.”