The runners enter the Chambers, a series of polyhedral rooms connected by branching hallways, in order to seek the ancient and secret knowledges rumored to be contained therein. They find extensive expedition notes by a series of astral explorers throughout the ages, and confirm many of their suspicions/beliefs about the layout and connectedness of a variety of metaplanes. They also discover notes suggesting that Aztechnology has been heavily invested in uncovering the mysteries of this area, including a potential hidden faction, and have been spending most of their efforts in the Seelie Court here.
Finding expedition notes from a few explorers and comparing them to records left by an AZT employee also reveals the Horror’s location: across a deep and wide chasm at the far edge of the astral sea. Although Big D still guards the Bridge (in cyberzombie form), it is not the only bridge- others are under construction, here and there, trying to bridge the gap. Toff, after touching the writing, begins hearing persistent whispers offering knowledge beyond anything he could have imagined if he will only repair 1 of the bridges. They also find out that the chasm is shrinking, though not close enough the Horrors can cross unassisted as of yet. It seems to be tied to the magical cycle, as speculated previously.
The AZT employee’s hurried scrawlings also reveal that AZT has been working to develop a plan for defending themselves (& any paying customers) against the next Scourge, working to redevelop kaer tech, studying and learning blood magic as an offensive and defensive tool, and researching the Horrors themselves. Unfortunately, the Horrors corrupting power is too great for many mortal minds to ponder, and there is a pro-Horror cult deep within AZT that is actively trying to speed their arrival. This is the Smoking Mirror that the team had heard of before, who were backing the Righteous Province brujos, as well as Logos, as well as connections to the vampiric cabal within the Ordo Maximus. The AZT employee has become convinced that SM has sent spies along on their mission, and that they have been converting/corrupting others to their cause. Worried that they are next, the employee decided to secretly leave a record.
The team also finds 2 bronze heads in separate chambers, and is able to query them: they each promise the answer to a single question. The team manages to keep on task, and inquiries as to the location of, and how to secure, the cache. They are told that it is within the Labyrinth, and that the flowers are the key. They manage to make their way out of the shifting and treacherous chambers, and split up to research flowers in the libraries. They also finally look into what happened to Toast, and find that he was killed (or nearly so) in the arena, and that Niall O’Connor’s ally spirit managed to retrieve his head and some other bits. When they confront O’Connor, he tells them that he passed Toast’s still barely animate remains (in a magically stabilized state) along to Saeder-Krupp, as they promised to assist.
Chem and O’Connor also sent along the envoy from Comet to meet SK, as promised. O’Connor seems to have his own hidden agendas, but definitely not working for the Queen (or not exactly anyway). Toff thinks he will be a good contact for the Vigilia Evangelica, fulfilling another task. Fentin cashes in their munera debt with Gilik to have his arm removed to rid himself of Gwynplaine’s mark, replacing it with a clockwork contraption which he hopes will translate back to real cyber on the material plane. Hoping that this will at least prevent GP from easily tracking them whenever they return, they plan to blow off his jobs. Then, they meet up at the Labyrinth.
Entering, they find some sleeping benches near the front, where they minotaurs drop off the drugged individuals who have given up. They follow some clues in the stonework to choose an initial path, and head off. Moving through a series of chambers by analyzing the subtly different carvings of flowers, they make their way- they are not sure if the other subtle clues hidden in the rooms also lead to secrets or treasure, only following the path they have been told to follow. Eventually, they find a chamber devoid of any carvings, and looking around, are eventually able to find the cache, invisible and hidden high in the room. They manage to retrieve it, and decide to crack it open as promised to show to Thisbe Sorrel’s spirit, Walks Through Tall Grass. However, when they open it, they hear a strange sound, and reality rips open around them. They find themselves falling through the sky into the area near Yellowstone.
Taking some damage, but nothing lethal, in the fall, they are distressed realize that they are in wilderness, with almost none of their gear (weapons, armor, etc) as this was all left in their quarters in the Castle. They manage to get a call through to Frosty Jane, who seems surprised and delighted to hear from them- it’s been 7 months since they went into the fae realms, which they experienced as 7 days. Apparently the Atlantean Foundation had returned 6 and a half months ago, seemingly disappointed, from the fae realms and has been unable to find any further caches on Earth, so the team is declared the winner, once Jane scrambles a chopper to bring them safely in.
They examine the contents of the cache, and take their prizes/payout. WTTG, satisfied, makes his exit to seek passage back to the Seelie. Love gets a strange piece of blood magic called a blood crystal, effectively magical ’ware, and Chem finds another ancient symbiote, which replaces his eyes and ears with astral sense. Jane also informs them that what is being referred to as “The Yellowstone Incident” apparently occurred many months ago, with a portal opening in the sky long before the team fell out- so some sort of strange fae time manipulation must be in play. However, the portal has moved since the team came through, though it seems in general to signal a new connectivity with the Seelie Court, and crossing has become much more common, if not always easier.
Jane pays the team out for the Chal’han victory, and congratulates them. She says that given the info they uncovered about AZT and Horror cults, she hopes at least some of them will stay on to work with her on disrupting their work. She confirms that herself, Harlequin, and Bull MacCallister had destroyed a previous bridge in the making, but that many runners lost their lives in the process, so it will be dangerous work. She also reports that fovae have been detected in Aztlan by the Jackpoint user Elijah who was almost corrupted in the process. The fovae allow far easier access to the Horror’s chasm and bridges, and she worries this could quickly ramp up if not contained. Love and Toff seem interested.
SK offers Fentin full-time employment, having been quite satisfied with his work- they say they can always use runners with professionalism on the payroll. He is told that Toast should be back on his feet and with them soon, also. Which they are all a bit worried about, having seen the Toast clone in the SK facility in France. Fentin is also told that the team and SK have no bad blood, as they completed a sufficient number of the tasks assigned to them in the Court (specifically, finding someone skilled at crossing over, making an intro to a potentially friendly faction to ally with, and uncovering the origins of the Jewel of Memory, as well as significant further intel). Chem tries to adjust to his new sight/hearing, with much difficulty. Gethin ponders a return to Boston, or possibly the Seelie Court. Chessick, having finally gained access to his huge Boston payday, decides to go in for some major upgrades.
Jane, as promised way back at the beginning of the chal’han, releases all of the info and magical knowledge they recovered, in at least some form. Most of the magical stuff she puts out publicly, although she reserves some of the most intense blood magic and the Horror knowledge for Jackpoint and other selective forums, feeling that the public would not take this news well (though AZT is surely working on a way to break it to everyone someday via their massive PR engine.