The next morning, Yuriko manages to quietly ask her cousin why Grandmother Anzu thought Hana should hang out with Yuriko. Hana says it was because she was also going through the “change.” Upon further pressing, Hana allows that Anzu also said she has to stay in Portland until she “learns humility.” Hana tells her cousin that Anzu doesn’t “know everything.” Yuriko can’t help but wonder how she will ever help Hana conform to Anzu’s standards. Yuriko does admit that Dillon and Nick know what she is. Hana is surprised, their grandmother told them never to tell anyone, but Yuriko replies that they are her very close friends.
That afternoon, Jim calls Dillon and tells him that the meeting with Eaglestaff has been arranged. Dillon contacts Yuriko and Nick, and they all agree to meet at the NAYA Center. Upon entering the center, the three approach the reception desk and ask to see Elder Eaglestaff. It is not lost upon them that the young woman refers to him as “The Elder.” They are directed to a small, but nicely furnished office where a man in his 60s with long greying hair sits behind a desk.
Introductions are made. Eaglestaff tells the group that he is only seeing them because Jim recommended that he do so. Dillon briefly tells him about the writing found on the bodies. Eaglestaff somewhat stiffly tells them that he is not Cherokee. Dillon replies that the three of them are only seeing Eaglestaff because Jim recommended they do so. Apparently mollified, Eaglestaff agrees to see the crime scene photos.
After studying them briefly, Eaglestaff says that he thinks that whomever did this was trying to imitate some sort of ritual, but didn’t know what he was doing. In reference to the phrase “Seek the Gate,” Eaglestaff says that “the Lore” refers to gates to other places. Tricksters often go through the gates, tricking the guardians that stand sentry. Just then, another earthquake strikes. Eaglestaff tells them that he believes that there is something going on that is causing them to occur with such frequency. Yuriko notices that the Elder’s eyes keep flicking to Dillon, as if he is always trying to keep the man in his sight.
Continuing on, Eaglestaff says he believes that something has been tipping the balance of power in Portland. He and the other Elders work to maintain the balance between the trickster fae, the bloodsuckers, and the other creatures of the night, but it was been an uphill struggle as of late. The quakes have been coming from Mt. Hood, or Wyeast as it is called by the native people. Eaglestaff suggests that they talk to Killian Eris. Eris, a professor of anthropology at the University of Portland, was a protoge of Eaglestaff and is very knowledgable about the powers beneath the mountain.
The Elder tells the three that the mountain is “the source of balance.” He thinks that whomever is committing these ritualistic murders is trying to open a gate. If successful, this will tip the balance of power. As the group thinks about this, Yuriko finally asks Eaglestaff why he keeps staring at Dillon. Eaglestaff asks Dillon if he’s been touched by the spirit world. When Dillon reluctantly confirms this, Eaglestaff tells him that the “line between light and darkness grows ever thinner.”
The group says goodbye and heads to Yuriko’s apartment to look up information on Eris. Dillon finds his picture on the university’s website which lists Eris as an authority on the folklore surrounding Mount Hood, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Adams. It also indicates that Eris has just returned from a sabatical researching Thunderbird lore in the American southwest. Dillon does some more internet searching about the murders. He finds some articles that a reporter named Karla Tremain has written.
As evening approaches, Yuriko calls Hana and invites her to dinner with Dillon and Nick. Afterwards, the entire group heads to Forest Park. Dillon and Nick split off to re-investigate the abandoned house where Cather’s body was found, Hana and Yuriko head to a different area of the park into order to go running. While in fox form, Yuriko tries to keep an eye on her cousin as well as anything “odd” in the forest. The most she is able to find, however, is evidence that wolves have been in the park recently.
Meanwhile, Dillon and Nick discover that another homeless man is sleeping in the abandonded house. Dillon manages to cautiously not scare off the man, Gus, by assuring him they’re not cops. Gus agrees to talk to them for when Dillon offers him $10.00. Gus reveals that Cather’s father was in prison and that the rest of his family didn’t like him (the father) much. Since the murder, the “word on the street” is to watch your back. Dillon gives Gus his contact information and advises him that there’s always shelter at the church.
Nick takes off for home, while Dillon waits for Yuriko to call once she is no longer in fox-form. He escorts them back to Yuriko’s apartment, where she offers to let Hana spend the night. As Dillon heads back to the church, he gets a call from Tom. There’s been another murder. The two men agree to meet at Darla’s.
Over a cup of coffee, Tom passes a set of crime photos to Dillon. It’s a woman’s body. Her body also bears markings, but they are different than the ones found on the previous victims. Tom tells him that she was Gale Torino, a prostitute. He asks if Dillon has been keeping the details of the murders quiet. When Dillon assures him that he has, Tom sighs and says that he’s afraid that this is a copycat killing. Dillon asks to keep the photos so he can have his sources check into the markings. Tom agrees. Dillon passes along the information about Cather’s father being in prison. Tom was not aware of this fact, but will look into it. He tells Dillon that Cather’s mother is in a mental institution in upstate New York.
The two men leave Darla’s together. Out of the blue, Dillon hears Tom say “what the hell?” and then a loud gunshot and then the sound of squealing tires. He turns to see Tom hit the ground, bleeding from his shoulder. Between teeth clenched in pain, Tom manages to get out that it was the gruff. Spinning, Dillon chases after the car, but only manages to glimpse part of its license plate before it is lost to the night. Returning to Tom, Dillon finds that most of Darla’s clientel of off-duty cops have spilled out of the restaurant. An ambulance has been called and one of the officers takes Dillon’s statement.
As Tom is taken away, Dillon calls Yuriko and tells about her the situation. While on the phone, Yuriko notices that Hana has crept near to listen. After hanging up with Dillon, Yuriko explains to Hana that one of her acquaintances, a police officer, has been shot. Hana remarks that she has very interesting friends.
Dillon starts for the church for the second time that night. As he nears the block, a car pulls up beside him. A window rolls down, revealing Gordon behind the wheel. He asks Dillon to get in. Dillon does so, reluctantly. Gordon asks Dillon if he’s made any progress. Dillon tells the enforcer about the recent attack on Tom. Gordon remarks that he thought Dillon was supposed to be protecting the cop. Gordon also tells Dillon that there is a pixie by the name of Peep in the Alberta Arts District that he should talk to. Peep has contacts in both the Summer and Winter Courts, so he may be able to help provide more information. Bring him beer, Gordon says, preferably a microbrew. When Dillon incredulously asks where he is supposed to find a pixie in the Arts District, Gordon tells him to check the alleys and bars. Dillon gets out of the car and heads home.
The next day, the group agrees to meet at the University of Portland to talk to Eris. Dillon catches his friends up with all the events of the previous night. At the college library, they read some of the professor’s articles about the legend of Mount Hood. Wyeast was one of two sons of the Great Spirit. Both sons fell in love with the same maiden, Loowit. When the two quarreled, the Great Spirit grew angry and turned them all into mountains. Wyeast became Mount Hood, Klikitat became Mount Adams, and Loowit became Mount St. Helens. Dillon also takes this time to show Yuriko and Nick the pictures from the latest crime scene. Nick believes the symbols are alchemical in nature. He knows someone, a woman named Kendria, who lives in the Alberta Arts District that might know what they mean.
They head to the professor’s office where they find a fit, slightly intense-looking, Native man in his late 30s sitting behind a desk. Even though they are not students, he agrees to speak with them. When Dillon starts asking questions about Mt. Hood and the balance of power, Yuriko notices Eris’s eyes go a little wide. Eris insists that all of the stories and legends of the mountain are just that … stories. As a last resort, Dillon tells him that Eaglestaff sent them, hoping that will cause Eris to open up. However, it seems to make little difference. Eris tells them that the legends say that the mountain is a marker over Wyeast himself, and that old men like Eaglestaff belive their rituals help keep the balance. In their belief, time, the inattention of worshipers, or the intercession of a more powerful party could lead to a shift in power. He concludes by telling them that the myths say that if the balance is broken, it will bring about the end of the world.
Frustrated at the lack of real information, the group leaves the professor’s office and heads to the Alberta Arts District. Along the way, they pick up a few bottles of beer and a package of marshmallow Peeps. Dillon also calls Tom to check on him. Tom is in the Oregon Health and Science University Hospital. He will be okay, but Manheim will be taking over the case while he is recovering. Dillon tells him to be careful. Somehow, the Gruff knew that the two men were at Darla’s that night. Dillon thinks someone around Tom may be spying on him.
Once in the Arts District, Nick leads them to a shop called New Horizons. The air inside is thick with incense and other smells. A lot of the items clearly seem to be for the casual tourist, but Yuriko gets a strong vibe that there’s a lot of energy in the shop. A young woman, Kendria is clearly pleased to see Nick. She takes the three friends into a back room where a table sits with an elaborate set up of burners, flasks, and tubing. Nick explains the situation and Kendria agrees to take a look at the photos. She concurs that the symbols seem to be completely random. Not only are they not on any “power points,” there is also no pattern to their meaning.
Everyone thanks Kendria, then they head back out into the darkening streets of the Arts District. The beer is brought out and each person takes a Peep. Dillon and Nick shove the marshmallow candy onto the bottlecaps, while Yuriko decides to jam hers into the neck of the bottle. Then the three split up in attempt to cover as much ground as possible. Yuriko is behind a bar called Dungran’s when she hears a voice say, “Hey, lady!” She turns to see a small, winged pixie in a newsboy cap flying in midair. It’s Peep. Yuriko gets out her phone and within minutes, Dillon and Nick are there. Peep says that they can talk inside Dungran’s but he needs to be snuck inside so no one sees him. He asks Yuriko to let him hide inside her shirt.
Once inside at a secluded table, Yuriko tells Peep to get out of her shirt. While not interested in Yuriko’s now-flat beer, Peep pulls out a small mug in order enjoy the other two bottles. Between demands to “Beer me!,” the pixie seems willing to answer their questions. As far as the murders go, Peep indicates that the more important question is who wouldn’t want the murder solved. It wasn’t until Cathers was killed that the Winter Court seemed to care. He also tells them that Verikai, the summer envoy, didn’t send the Gruff and is angry that there is a rogue running around causing trouble for the court, trouble he can’t afford. Peep’s theory is that the Gruff is a contractor for someone else. He tells the three that if they bring him a case of beer, he can get word for them to the Summer envoy.
The pixie reveals that Edgefield is considered neutral group according to the Unseelie Accords. No fighting is allowed there. Gordon is actually a goblin with a glamour placed upon him to look human. Goblins are usually enforcers for the Winter Court. Peep also suggests that they talk to Aleister since he was a Warden before he retired.
Although it is growing late, the three friends thank the pixie and head to Powells to find Aleister. Yuriko finds him in the coffee shop and asks if they can all speak privately. Once behind some remote stacks of books, they tell Aleister that Peep sent them. The older man is not completely pleased that Peep was speaking so freely, but, when asked, does tell them what he knows about Cathers.
Aleister knew Cather’s father, by reputation. Trevidian is currently imprisioned in the Nevernever, sent there by Queen Mab. Before that, he had been the Winter envoy. Aleister explains that this meant that Cathers was a changeling, not yet having made the choice of which race to belong to. Aleister shakes his head. Cather’s father “was not a nice man,” known for being “creative” in his cruelty. Trevidan was sent to prison for siring a son “without permission.” While he was envoy, however, he did have a rival named Hubbard whom Aleister has not seen in many years.
Aleister also tells them that Gruffs are vulnerable to cold iron (not alloys). They are also rumored to have a particular weakness right above their hooves. The three say goodbye to Aleister and head back to Yuriko’s apartment to process all of the new information they received and determine their next plan of action.