Meeting Gwen (neophyte / victor)
April 30th. We meet a young woman named Gwen, an Arab immigrant who is on her way to work at CIA Headquarters. She is having a surly teenager's phone conversation with her mother, described as if the two were in the same room and can see one another. A security guard named Rick eyes her lewdly, and she mysteriously reveals a secret that shakes him to his core. Something is definitely strange about her.
Guin Drake is awesome (victor / neophyte)
As she tries to find a parking spot at work, Gwen finds herself mystically compelled to let another woman take the spot she was closer to. The woman gets out of her car to come and talk to Gwen, introducing herself as Guin Drake. She is unexpectedly awesome.
Into CIA, meets Mort (romance / indifference)
Gwen makes her way inside for her first day of work. We learn that Gwen is here for a purpose: to find someone. A man bumps into her, sparking an overwhelming sense of recognition, but she doesn’t know him. A young colleague named Mort spots her and flirts with her, but she isn’t interested. In the hallways, she is intrigued by a flyer advertising a dog who needs a home. Mort continues to flirt with her until she shuts him down hard.
Gwen goes to work (racism / understanding)
Gwen’s job is to escort the cleaning lady Pat around the building. Relations are strained at first because Pat is a supporter of President Ronald Triumph, who has turned racial animus into a matter of identity politics. Gwen realizes that Pat knows a great deal about the people at CIA, which could help her mission. Pat comes to see Gwen as a person worthy of respect. Gwen has a near-collision with the same man as before, and he again triggers surprisingly intense recognition. As the day winds down, Gwen calls about the dog, and Guin Drake picks up. They agree to meet that afternoon, in the CIA parking garage.
Guin Drake is dead (life / death)
Gwen goes to meet Guin Drake, but finds her dead in her car. There's a mint tea and an empty four pill pack. Gwen freaks out and removes evidence from the scene, including Guin Drake's phone, containing a text message to "Rache". The dog, Cavill, is there, and immediately takes to Gwen. She leaves the scene, intent on coming back for Cavill, but he’s at her car when she gets there. Gets a call from Doyle on Guin Drake’s phone, telling her that she’s in danger and someone is coming to pick her up. Her car is disabled and won’t start; Doyle’s voice comes through the speaker when she tries, telling her that it won’t work and she should sit tight. Doors lock, but Cavill breaks a window and they escape.
Hide and seek, bathroom bust (freedom / trapped)
Gwen dodges a grizzled military-type (Sir Kay) as she tries to find a hiding place. No one notices the dog at all, and she’s wearing the stealth suit, so no one pays her any attention. She ducks into a bathroom and thinks she’s safe, but Vivian is there, waiting. (All Vivian knows is that Guin Drake is dead and this girl was on the scene.) Vivian is threatening, but Cavill seems charmed by her. Doyle’s voice comes through Guin Drake’s phone again (even though Gwen turned it off), ordering Vivian to keep her safe: the Red Headed League is coming for her.
Investigate Guin Drake's office (doubt / trust)
Vivian is shaken: was that Sherlock Holmes? If he's involved, things are bad. They retreat to Guin Drake’s office. Gwen tries to use Guin Drake's phone to send a message to her mother, but Vivian snatches the phone before she can send it. "Your mom? Really?" "She'd be angry. You wouldn't like her when she's angry."
People try to stop Vivian from going into the office, but they can't resist her. Once alone, Gwen comments on it, and Vivian asks her if it reminds her of anyone? Gwen remembers Guin Drake and how she was frozen. Vivian explains that Personae can enthrall people into their stories, and when in the presence of only Personae or thralls, can do anything their Persona could do. Guinevere could give commands.
Vivian's tricks don't work on Gwen, though she definitely feels the pull. Vivian challenges her, repeatedly. Cavill bristles at this, clearly understanding a threat to Gwen. Through verbal sparring, Gwen and Vivian come to like and respect one another. Gwen learns that Vivian is on the outs with most of Camelot: they don't trust her Persona.
Gwen wants nothing to do with any of this, but people keep saying that Guinevere killed herself, and in spite of herself Gwen can’t help but notice clues everywhere that confirm that Guinevere was murdered... and not by some faceless “league”: this was personal. She relays this to Vivian, who freaks out: Guinevere was the only one who believed in Vivian, and she’s going to have her revenge.
Gwen confirms that pennyroyal tea is present in both Guinevere’s office and was what she was drinking in the car: Guinevere was using a old wives’ tale to induce an abortion. Vivian reacts strangely: “it would only work on stories? Red Headed League be damned, we need you to read the book." She’s supposed to keep Gwen safe, but they need to get down to the Library. Sir Kay is waiting outside, and puts up token resistance, but nobody can say no to Vivian for long. "Gosh, I wonder why they don't trust you." Kay appreciates Gwen's snark - she feels like he gets her.
Before they leave, Gwen spies a name scrawled on a piece of paper: Raskolnikov.
Attacked by Red Headed League (safety / danger)
Vivian has Gwen close her eyes and pick a book at random. Gwen flips through the pages, stopping at random, and plants her finger in the middle of the page. Vivian is taken aback: the queen?
The Red Headed League attacks as they are getting their bearings, led by Mort. He seems genuinely regretful as he tries to kill Gwen “before she becomes too powerful”. Sir Kay dies during the fight. Looking bad when the attackers are annihilated by a pincer move from Lancelot and Doyle. Vivian realizes Gwen is the new Guinevere.
Doyle names the Queen (Guinevere's death a suicide / Guinevere murdered)
The Camelot people seem afraid of Doyle... everyone knows what happens when Sherlock Holmes enters the field. Does he follow Death, or is it the other way around? No one's ever seen him before, but they know stories...
Lancelot asks how they could have beaten a knight, and Doyle walks through it: the League must be composed of bit players, so a Persona's abilities and plot armor wouldn't work. Doyle and Lance had glamoured up before joining the fray, so they had a few seconds before anyone had time to skepticize them. Someone is weaponizing bit players against Personae, someone who knows they can only use their characters' abilities in front of other Personae or thralls. Lancelot grumbles that it takes time to lay a glamour, and Doyle agrees that's precisely the point: to kill them before they are anything other than ordinary men. Gwen points out that in the Sherlock Holmes story, the "Red Headed League" is just a red herring to distract from a more serious crime. Doyle seems to notice her for the first time.
He kneels and calls her "Highness". The others do likewise.
Doyle explains that Guinevere killed herself, and Gwen was a secundus: someone whose story strongly aligns with a Persona. Sometimes, proximity is all it takes: she was nearby when the old Guinevere died, and the Persona jumped to her. Gwen points out that this has to look bad... especially given that she stands to benefit by being the new queen. Doyle says it's inconceivable that someone could have gotten the drop on a Persona as powerful as Guinevere, until Lance points out the Red Headed League apparently exists to do exactly that. Doyle confirms Arthur is aware of the situation and agrees that it's concerning. Until they can sort this out, Gwen is to be kept away from the affairs of New Camelot, until her motives can be shown to be pure.
Gwen knows that it's inviting trouble, but she just can't let the murder slide. She realizes that, if she's going to get her own mission accomplished, she had better find the real murderer: if they do any real sniffing, they're going to figure out it was murder, and then she'll get locked down even more by New Camelot. She knows it wasn't her, but until she can prove it, they won't trust her. And she needs access to New Camelot.
While Doyle and Lancelot make plans to squirrel Gwen away, she pulls Vivian aside: Guinevere was murdered, it wasn't Gwen, and she can't get pushed out of New Camelot. She reveals to Vivian that her brother was murdered, and she's sure that someone in New Camelot knows why. If Vivian will help her out, Gwen will make sure she gets first crack at Guinevere's murderer. A deal is struck.
Vivian drags Gwen back to Doyle, insisting that it's too convenient that she just shows up like this. They have to take the possibility that Guinevere was murdered seriously. There was this weird message on Guinevere's phone: "Rache". Doyle examines the phone and observes that there's an address book entry for Senator Rachel Rance, who's heading up the Senate hearings today... the ones Gwen's father is also involved in. Gwen sees the pattern: King Reince attacking Leodegrance, the original Guinevere's father - this means her dad is in danger. Doyle says they'll take care of it, but Gwen gives an impassioned speech about clearing her name and it's not even Camelot business: it's Guinevere's business. Doyle relents. Meanwhile, it's clear to reader that Gwen's true motive is to question Rance, but she hides this from the others.
Vivian is going to come with, but Doyle tells her she can't. She resists, and he basically threatens to tell Arthur that she's not toeing the line about his wife's murder. It seems arbitrary and weird. She relents. She does return Guinevere's phone to Gwen, and it's got a hidden message: "I can read men, know what they want. Doyle's going to try to pin Guinevere's death on you. Don't trust him."
Arrival at the Capitol (trapped / freedom)
Gwen and Doyle bicker their entire way to the Hill, almost like siblings. Neither quite has the upper hand on the other, and they misunderstand one another constantly. There's a moment when they are both perfectly awkward with one another in a sexually suggestive way, and they mutually recoil, and then laugh. Then he asks her a veiled question about Guinevere's death, and she tenses back up.
There is a colorful protest going on both outside and inside the building. Gwen and Doyle debate about where Gwen will wait while Doyle secures her father. Doyle presents her with a dress suitable to attending a Senate hearing, and gets her to agree that she'll wait long enough to put the dress on, claiming that it won't take any longer than that to make sure he's safe. Doyle leaves her in her father Leo’s office, where they’ve just missed him.
After he leaves, Guin starts stripping in the middle of the office, pulling a quick change into the dress he got her and has her makeup done in seconds flat, with the help of several staffers who've clearly done this before. (The chief of staff is scandalized but again, he's used to it.)
Rance (Guinevere murdered / Guinevere killed herself)
Gwen immediately leaves and talks her way into Senator Rance’s office. (She tells Cavill he can't accompany her: Rance is allergic.) They greet each other with familiarity but not special affection: we kind of hit the reader over the head with the fact that there's backstory they don't know.
When Rance resists being questioned, Gwen wastes no time: I've studied your case. Did you know that your successor has been acting strangely at Jenny's? Might have murderous intent, and you know what'll happen if he spills blood on a Hallows. You might be closer to being a secundus than you think. We could reunite you with the Persona you lost...?
R: You're a bitch. Guinevere wanted to know the same thing that you did: how I lost my Persona. She wanted to avoid it. (There is clear affection on Rance's part for Guinevere.) She was happy, in such a good place, so strong, but she worried about how he would react when she told him...
There's a strange sensation, like the universe getting goosebumps. Rance shakes her head. "She was so depressed. It's a tragedy, what she did to herself."
Gwen calls her on the change of tune, but Rance insists that Gwen was terribly upset. Gwen doesn't see any deception - something happened. Someone did something, and now the story has changed. She bids Rance farewell, calling her “Raskolnikov”.
Rance heads out the door and is handed a briefcase by her assistant. Gwen is unsettled. She's convinced Rance has no intention of an attack on her father, but the sudden change in tune bothers her. She lingers a moment, searching the room with her eyes for a clue as to what happened. Then she's tased from behind by the assistant, Kay, who whispers, "Can't have you swooping in to save the old man..."
Rescue by Doyle (danger / safety, trust / mistrust)
Kay ties her up and leaves without a further word, in a hurry. Doyle busts in seconds later and frees her. He scolds her for leaving the safety of her father's office, and tells her that Sir Lamorak is dead and Sir Geraint is missing. The security that was here, isn’t.
[They leave Rance's office, with a small, spherical rolling drone of Doyle's leading the way. He periodically stops and directs them down different hallways, evidently leading them around people who he can't cross-reference to Congressional staff databases.]
Then there's the question of what she was doing here, how she knows so much about Personae, and how she knows the former Raskolnikov. There's the question of why Kay didn't kill her. Doyle knows Gwen hasn't been on the level - for a moment, he looks at her and wonders aloud if he did the right thing by untying her.
"I can't trust you. But I may not have a choice: Arthur's security detail is dead or missing, and the woman who got the drop on you seems to think you could do something to disrupt her plans. That leads me to conclude that either she's a fool, or I am. I can't trust you. Your father's life is in the balance. Can I count on you?"
Gwen retorts that Doyle knows an awful lot about her whereabouts and conversations: she knows the dress he gave her is bugged. "So what's changed? You didn't trust me before. But you can count on me. You can count on me never to let someone surprise me twice. She's not after my father: she's after Arthur. And she can't have him."
Doyle prepares to send a drone into the hearings when Gwen steps up to a security guard and hugs him. "Room for one more?" He squints at her, but smiles and tells her he'd do anything for Senator DeGrace's little girl, after how the Senator helped straighten out his son's benefits. "Can't get your boy in, though - it's packed in there." Doyle looks ready to protest, then hands her an earring and walks off.
The earring has a bone-conductive audio system, and Doyle clearly has eyes inside every camera in the room. He starts to dictate plans to her when she hears a familiar throat clearing: her mother is there!
Mom grills her while Doyle tries to get her to answer his questions about what's going on in the room. Meanwhile, Gwen realizes that Arthur is giving testimony to the Senate panel led by Rance and her father, addressing allegations that he is involved in a campaign to undermine President Ronald Triumph.
There are three simultaneous threads going on: a whispered and nonverbal fight with her mother, covert with Doyle while talking to her mother, and Arthur's speech in defense of his actions to defend democracy and America. Gwen is accusing her mother of wanting to forget about someone who died, Doyle can't find the bomb, and Arthur basically spells out how Triumph (aka Trump) is evil incarnate.
Lancelot arrives and seats himself behind Arthur, but not before spotting Gwen and giving her a "what are you doing here?" look.
Gwen's mom essentially tells her, "I didn't want the past to ruin your life, but if you think you can put this ghost to rest, you do it." Arthur has the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand as he invokes his wife's suicide in his announcement that he is running for President on a platform of making Triumph answer for his crimes. Gwen feels the universe shudder again, only to hear Doyle shouting in her ear, "do you hear me, I found the bomb! It's in Rance's briefcase!"
Gwen's father, Leo, praises Arthur, but Rance makes a veiled threat. Arthur and Lancelot rush the podium, tackling Leo. Gwen sees Kay enter the room and an explosion rips the chambers apart.
Gwen's father is utterly unhurt. Arthur is saved by Lancelot, who dies; Rance has been hit in the neck by shrapnel. Or so it seems: Gwen sees Arthur palm a blood-soaked pen from where her body lays.
She meets him, and it's electric, like fate and battery acid. She offers her condolences for his loss, and he calls it a tragic suicide. She feels the universe shudder.
There are no other casualties, just some minor injuries. Cavill shows up, and Gwen begins bouncing theories off of him. It's clear to Gwen that the explosive was precise and aimed at her father... but it didn't go off until Kay entered the room. It wasn't for her father: it was for Arthur, a trap laid by someone who knew he'd expect Rance to go after Leo because that's what happens in the stories. A mundane attack: the Red Headed League.
Kay has red hair.
Pursuit of Kay; Doyle vs... Sherlock?
Gwen sees Kay in the room, eyes meet, and Kay flees. Gwen chases.
Doyle is waiting to intercept, and berates her for betraying his trust again by trying to chase Kay by herself. Gwen's inner Sherlock plots multiple ways to take him out (do we see her do the time rewind thing here while planning her counterattacks?), but she doesn't. He seems genuinely concerned for her safety, and they spar over her ability to take care of herself. Finally he says it: this is Moriarty we're talking about, and Guinevere can't take him.
At that point, Gwen holds up the microphone and battery from the dress he'd given her, and tells him to try to track her position. There's no signal... because she flattened the transmitter five minutes ago.
"That 'conversation' you heard with the dog... do you really think I was talking to the dog? He's pretty, no doubt - whosagoodboy? - but not exactly a rocket surgeon. That was for you, to keep you from noticing that I'd crushed your GPS transmitter. You were focused on what I was saying, not what I was doing."
She walks him through what actually happened after she talked to Arthur, which is that she saw Kay leaving the room and took off in hot pursuit. [We drop back into the same tense as the rest of the novel, as if we're watching it happen instead of her retelling it.] As she trails Kay through the fleeing protesters, she pulls a variety of quick changes using items she pilfers from people in the crowd. She winds up looking like a page, and opens the door to Kay’s cab in time to hear Kay ask for D.O. Jenny's Club.
"You're not Guinevere," he whispers incredulously.
"And you're not Sherlock Holmes," Gwen answers. "He was the one Persona I knew you couldn't be."
He gives her his Sherlock coat, and admits that he's Merlin. He tells her that the text that had been on Guinevere’s phone has disappeared. He can find no evidence of it, and WATSON claims that there never was such a text. Instead, there’s a goodbye letter to her husband. Gwen remembers Arthur’s insistence that it was a suicide.
Vivian shows up and they race off.