Dante steps out into a tall forest of thorny branches which they are advised by the Autumn Queen to avoid. Jack goes Dalu, all the better to smell and see things, and the two follow the Autumn Queen to a large and broad-trunked tree that looked like a mix between a boab tree and a normal forest one. With a gesture, the Queen causes a trapdoor to lift by its roots and they head down to a subterranean landing that overlooks a massive pit that drops down into nothingness.
The Autumn Queen steps out over the abyss and glowing tiles assemble a bridge beneath her feet, dropping away only a few feet behind her. Jack and Dante have to move close behind her, hoping that this wasn’t just a particularly elaborate death trap.
The raven shows its ability to speak and starts messing with Dante’s head, bobbing its head to look from Dante’s eyes to the abyss below, as though drawing his attention to it. Through menacing sign language, Dante lets the bird know that if he falls, his last swing will be for the bird's head. The bird then squawks "Friend," and gazes down at the Pit as though warning what might happen if they don't become friends. Dante cautiously agrees.
Nothing like a hopeless situation to bring out the best in a PC.
Finally they reach a landing and open a pair of large doors to gain entry into a large amphitheatre filled with sixty changelings of various persuasions. Instantly the conversation between the three seasonal monarchs stops as all eyes fall on the Autumn Queen and her two followers.
The three other seasonal monarchs sit atop three of the four thrones. The Spring Queen was an attractive elf-like male in robes who sat in an elaborately carved chair on a dais of flowers and fruit as offerings to his season. The Winter Queen sat in a boring and plain chair on a dais of snow with a goblet of water as an offering to her season. The Summer Queen had the pointed, tufted ears of a lynx and sat on an iron throne on a dais of sand with bracketed torches. The Autumn Queen took her place on a rather ordinary throne on a dais of autumn leaves and pumpkins.
Dante strode in with a confident air and smiled at the lad sitting in the stalls whom she had shot earlier. The winged lad seemed stunned to see him. The fact that he openly carried a cold iron gladius (since he had no sheath that would fit) also would have made an impression. Dante introduced himself as a witcher and Jack as a werewolf (since the kid would have doubtless already mentioned that bit).
The Summer Queen seemed displeased as apparently she wanted to take on the loyalists herself with her own forces. She didn’t see the need for human assistance. The Monarchs squabbled a bit. The Spring King asked to hold Dante’s sword briefly (which he allowed) and the Summer Queen stated they should keep the sword and force Dante and Jack to leave without it. That idea was quickly mooted as it went against the laws of hospitality. Dante and Jack were guests, after all.
The Monarchs also mentioned their interest in the Abjuration Stones which not only kept out demons in the real world but also fae from the corresponding patch of the hedge. The loyalists naturally wanted their destruction. The Monarchs wanted expansion – ideally through the construction of more stones. When the Autumn Queen referred to her as Nico Chetaine, daughter of the stone maker, the others expressed astonishment. Dante zapped himself with the rod to become herself, and then made herself a boy against so the outfit still fit.
The Winter Queen – who was currently the only one with a crown – ruled that they would hear Dante out especially after he gave his impressive resume of kills and rescues (including pointing out his level of insight by using the situation where Dante shot the ninja in the arm rather than the heart as an example of accurately gauging a situation).
The Monarchs withdrew with Dante and Jack into a back room where they revealed a map of the enemy’s location. Dante took a look and then hatched a plan. He would take Jack and two other stealthy types down the cliff and into the enemy’s camp to extract the hostages. Meanwhile the Summer Queen’s troops could mass their forces nearby to cause the loyalists to look outwards in the expectation of a frontal assault. In order to help make the case of the Summer Queen’s potency and a reason for her recklessness, Dante would let her borrow the cold iron gladius and they could give word of it within their day’s preparations to whichever gossip creatures they knew about.
Having the cold iron sword on the field would also have the added advantage that the true fae would be unlikely to show its face and would leave the situation to its loyalists to determine. The Winter Monarch assigned the Blue Spirit to the case and the Autumn Queen assigned Billy the Wing – the ninja kid. Apparently they had healed him up and that despite his sudden recklessness (which they felt must have been triggered by something situational) he was one of their best stealthy types. Dante went to meet the team.