I'll be hanging around off and on, and am happy to answer any questions!
Imho the "dark web" means those parts of the web not publicly visible, ie not indexed by search engines and/or places not accessible to the public. Most hidden services are indexed and are publicly accessible ... so they are not by definition dark.
(a) is the client supposed to get a copy of the consensus to start with?
(b) what if direct access to all DAs are blocked?