The others involved in the rescue operation at the Suzallo Palace were alerted to Rhyme’s disappearance. Firestone poked at the strange symbol carved into the table, and got a weird vibe from it, but was unable to pursue Rhyme. Firestone did, however, remember that Mount Safeco has a spooky subterranean horde of junk capable of opening mystical portals, and somewhat incoherently expressed a rescue plan for Rhyme. While Navarre sent a random Rocket Man (Alpo) to run back to Mizz Stockton reporting on Rhyme’s disappearance.
This precipitated the March of the Cygnet Committee. As they returned to Mount Safeco, they encountered over forty people following Cali marching to the Suzallo Palace to “help Rhyme”.
Navarre, Firestone, Beckett, Cass and Sunny briefed Mizz Stockton, and with the addition of Silver, they headed down to the mysterious Horde, where they found Smith puttering around. They described what happened to Rhyme, and Smith posited that Rhyme ended up either in whatever realm was associated with the three-lobed burning eye, or had ended up with whomever had carved the symbol and was using the Eye as a weapon. Either way, Smith indicated he could send them to wherever Rhyme was, and all she needed was a copious amount of Firestone’s blood.
After laying open Firestone’s arm, a hazy portal of blood was fabricated. Silver, Cass, and Firestone himself entered leaving Mizz Stockton, Navarre, Sunny, and Beckett behind. Mizz Stockton spoke more with Smith about speculations that the Eye had been carved by Visage, the ex-Academic who had been harbored at Mount Safeco, and gone on to join the Refined, and that perhaps Rhyme and the rest were now with that mysterious group. Mizz Stockton then went to inform Team Badass that they should step up patrols to look for the return of their boss and party.
Firestone and crew found themselves in a room full of vaguely macabre of lovely art and thick velvet wall hangings. It looked like a vampire-cultist’s wet dream. In the distance was chanting in a language Cass recognized as probably Latin. Visage entered the room and greeted them quite cordially. Cass recognized her as the renegade Academic who had stolen old occult books from the library before leaving, and pointed a shotgun at her. She tsked and pointed out that they were in the Needle, and would not be leaving without the say-so of the Refined.
They were all treated as guests, and led into a room where an unconscious Rhyme was sprawled, bleeding from multiple shallow cuts into bowls held by the Refined present. Visage took pains to explain that this was all done for Rhyme’s own good, that she had been saved from the Eye at the cost of her blood, and that she was free to depart. Cass and the others moved forward to wake Rhyme into consciousness. The Refined invited them all to dine, which they all refused, and to have something to drink, which all but Silver refused. Silver realized that they had real scotch whiskey.
In the subsequent discussion, Rhyme threatened the Refined over her lost blood. The Refined claimed not to have the blood anymore, having used it to secure Rhyme’s safety from the Eye. They indicated that Silver, and to some extent Rhyme, were always welcome to visit. They made it clear that they reciprocated Firestone’s animosity, and seemed more or less amused at Cass’s hostility.
The group climbed down the Needle and found a deranged tribe living at the base who communicated through ululation and strange gifts of teeth or makeshift makeup or bizarre grooming habits. They fled, and after a debate, opted to return home by skirting Queen Anne Hill and daring the bizarre Fremont gangs.
As they skirted Queen Anne Hill, they encountered four strangers. The leader, who called himself Hurricane, claimed to have had a vision of Rhyme, and they came to help escort them home. The others were a female scavenger who avoided attention to herself, a man dressed in clean military clothes akin to Beckett’s, and a strange man in a butcher’s apron and other accoutrements reminiscent of Smith. True to their word, they showed the travelers how to propitiate the Fremont gangs (lots of marijuana) and escorted them safely back to Mount Safeco, although not without incident, as The Surgeon (the guy in the apron) rather rudely read Cass’ mind and got a kick to the junk as a result.
While they were gone, the more martial crew encountered young Chin, who heard that something had happened to Rhyme and was very concerned. It came out that Chin considered himself in love with Rhyme, and thought them destined to be together. This prompted some very unusual relationship advice and intercession which resulted in a trip to the Supper Club where the assorted badasses tried to teach Chin a thing or two about relationships. During this conversation, Rhyme and company returned, and Silver dragged Rhyme and Chin to a back room to talk out the weirdness. Chin seemed to finally understand that Rhyme doesn’t understand sex, and has no interest in physical intimacy. This didn’t bother Chin as much as it might have. He professed his eternal love of Rhyme, and merely decided to get his sex elsewhere… by which he meant Sunny, who with a shrug, took the teenager back and taught him… a night’s worth of education.
Rhyme reported on the Refined, and expressed her desire to exterminate them all. She had a willing ally in Fleece. Eventually, however, it occurred to them to wonder what Cali and the Cygnet Committee had been up to all that time…
Rhyme spoke Tao’s name to the Madness, and sure enough, Tao arrived a half-hour later. She reported that Cali had, essentially, usurped the Academics, and was running things as a “co-leader” with the Provost under a philosophy that the old had been swept aside, and that the Academics needed to embrace the new. This caused some… consternation.
Rhyme spoke the names of Cali and Wisher Thomas into the Madness, and sure enough, both parties arrived. Cali didn’t seem particularly pleased, but had been forcibly escorted by Madame BBQ. They all sat down to an impromptu Summit with Mizz Stockton and Silver in attendance…