Be warned. Initial character exposition is rarely ever pretty.
Our intrepid Jenn Argent, formerly of the Rescuers, finds herself still coming to terms with the scattering of the group and the death of Eden Blu. She spends her time mostly in her library work and her underground newsletter, content enough that her riskier days are over.
Until the Winter King, Peter Boreas, rings her. Meeting over Chinese food, he asks about the newsletter. She nearly denies it at first, fearful she’ll be exposed. But his approach betrays his awareness, with no tone of anger or frustration. He is instead curious if she would be open to criticizing Summer Court and thus keep it on its heels in her paper. He insists that she take whatever editorial steps she feels are necessary while keeping the freehold’s internal conflicts from spinning out of control. To this she agrees.
He then extends an even larger request. He needs someone from Winter Court to lead an expedition force into the Hedge. The intent? To establish a freehold presence in the Hedge, secure diplomatic relations with the various areas of the Thorns and scout out possible outpost locations. To this she also agrees and asks for a list of recommended people.
In the shadowy office of an industrial district, we are introduced to Mick Sticker, a Razorhands/Mirrorskin Darkling and button man for his fetch Boss Donovan. After scaring Boss Donovan out of a few bucks and retiring to a local dive bar, Mick’s soon summoned by the Autumn Queen’s bodyguard.
Once there in the presence of the Autumn Queen, Mick’s instructions are brief but dire. He is to join Peter’s Bulwark Expedition team immediately and recover any tokens Autumn Court might utilize. He agrees to this arrangement and is told to meet with the others of the group at Sushi Zanmai that evening.
Joseph Soma, also formerly of the old motley, is dealing with past horrors in his own way; by slowing drinking himself into an opiate oblivion. Now a sawbones for the Westie Mob, Boss Donovan’s criminal enterprise, Joseph is left with only his stuporous state and occasional calls to the Spring Queen to keep him company. After examining the mob’s cathouse ladies and picking up the money due him, he dopes himself into a deep sleep and awakens hours later. Bleary-eyed he decides to have the scissors he stole from the Gardener weeks ago forged into scalpels. A short trip to the Pearl Street Underground and, for the sum of his cathouse profits, he has the scalpel he needs.
Somewhere past the flapping tents and hocked wares of the local Goblin Market, we find Mr. Wild, a dumb but generous creature that resembles Ludo from the movie Labyrinth. After bargaining a fair trade with a corrupt little hobgoblin, he returns to his ‘home’ in Boulder underneath a local bridge. There he finds a note from his ensorcelled friend Julie, a social worker who’s been working with Mr. Wild to rescue kids from the Hedge. He meets her at her office and is given an offer to join an expeditionary group, funded by the Winter King, that might result in child rescue operations. This suits Mr. Wild just fine. While Mr. Wild opts for getting their on foot (being terrified of cars), Julie drives to Sushi Zanmai.
On Diagonal Highway, fifteen year old Tetsu Draca is being driven by her foster mom to her weekly kendo class. Usually dour and sullen, the girl’s only highlight of her life are these evening. More at home in the Wyrd than in the mortal realm, Draca has spent nearly all of her life in Arcadia, taken at three years old and forced to endlessly fight on the plains of the Amarantine Battlefield. Having escaped to the mortal world, she was discovered by Mr. Wild and Julie and placed with her foster family, the Knutzes. While she will admit it to no one, Draca aches with a unsatiable desire to return to the Faerie world. She’s miserable here. Training under her teacher is the closest she can get anymore to the visceral delight of the battlefield.
Inside the pitch black dojo, she is confronted by an attacker and knocks him down. He is revealed to be her kendo teacher, a blind Beast kith swordsman with all the features of a boar, and her Court Grand Master: Mr. Zato Ino. Over tea he inquires as to her emotional state, knowing her alienation and isolation all to well. She confesses all of this and more and wishes very much for a life back on the battlefield.
After chastising her a little for not being as brave in peace as she can be in war, he extends an invite to Bulwark Expedition from Peter Boreas, under the condition that it will not interfere with her life inside the Knutz family. This is wonderful and extraordinary news and she accepts the offer without a moment’s pause. Tea ceremoniously ends and training begins. Once finished, they take the bus into Boulder from his dojo in Longmont, fearful they will not make the rendezvous in time.
Jenn, at home, is sent a dossier on Blood Moon Rising, Draca, Mr. Wild and Mick Sticker.
Eighteen year old Lola Iron Crow is just leaving her noon day class at Naropa when she gets a call. Max Roman, alpha of Silver Syndicate and boss to her own pack alpha, requests a meet up with her. At Applebee’s they discuss her recent bailout from jail from yet another barfight. Max puts her on notice. Unless she serves as his liaison to Peter’s Bulwark Expedition, she’ll soon find herself out of Boulder and the scholarship from Argentum Corporation dried up. Blood reluctantly agrees to this task. Grumbling all the while, she visits with her grandmother.
Her quiet time with her granny is soon interrupted by a call from Jenn Argent. Blood hangs up twice on Jenn, convinced it’s some telemarketer or weirdo. Already exasperated, Jenn contacts Max Roman, who informs her that he’s on his way to pick up Blood for the arranged rendezvous. Jenn, never informed of this meeting, gets a call from Peter. He’s running late but is on his way to pick her up.
It’s while wandering Pearl Street that Joseph gets an odd call. The Spring Queen demands that he attend the Bulwalk Expedition meet-up as her representative. With nothing else to really do, he decides to head that way.
Mick arrives first and has a difficult time with the seating arrangments (“Where are the chairs?”). Blood and Mr. Wild arrive (with Julie behind) soon after him. While Blood tries to get some booze out of the waitress and Mick Sticker determined not to sit on the floor, Draca and Master Ino arrive. Peter and Jenn follow suit. Drinks and food are ordered while Peter initiates the introductions. He informs them of the expedition’s intent and that each of them will be given sashes emblematic of the freehold.
By the end of the night Draca and Blood have met their match in one another and a confrontation has started outside the restaurant.