Rasennan Summer

Epilogue: The Supporting Cast

Vestiri continues to gad about Rasenna and sometimes even beyond, enjoying himself and keeping an eye on almost everything. His mother finally surrenders any hope of him marrying and producing children for the sake of the Iluni. Prince Cortifo offers him the post of spymaster, but Vestiri declines, as it would cut down on his ability to travel. Eventually he amuses himself by writing plays of exquisite wit, and at least one opera of lukewarm repute.

Prince Gorsino has no choice but to execute Rofogarre Miriadis and his own son. He unravels bit by bit over the following years, and ultimately perishes in a duel with Prince Sescara’s champion. The populace of Garganta moves to elect Spardis Ironskin, former arena master, as their new prince. They become a bit more superstitious about infernal affairs, and develop a new festival based on the Morning of Darkness.

Kosvach remains with Vesper even as she rises through the Sespech ranks. He wanders away from the Estate to spend time with his family whenever her research or administrative duties grow too oppressive for his wolf’s blood, but always returns to her — or welcomes her when she slips away herself. He achieves no particular rank in House Vargari or in other institutions, but his becomes well-known throughout Maviolo as an honorable if frightening blade who is not to be crossed. Eventually he agrees to take some of his devotees as pupils, training them in the hours where Vesper is consumed with Sespech business. Only a scant few demonstrate the strength and quickness necessary to succeed at his singular brawling style.

Tarvana Vargari enjoys another few years of irresponsible behavior before a campaign gone sour leaves her severely wounded by a minotaur axe. She recovers from the blow, but returns more sober and aware of her mortality. She gives up her habit of debauching admiring young things, and enters into a long-term relationship with someone actually her peer.

Iliska Vargari claims to receive a vision, and vanishes for a year. She returns an initiate into the Wild Faith of Alvoran, more wolf than ever before. The woods surrounding Lucovol Villa become her particular charge. She eventually marries a ranger of comparable loyalty and ferocity, worthy enough to be called Vargari. Iliska’s child is the only one born to the three siblings, and Tarvana and Kosvach do their share as aunt and uncle to “toughen the cub up.”

When the Ladies-in-Waiting’s wait is fulfilled, and the queen who left them returns, Carenza’s particular band decides to strike out on their own. Captain Dua takes over the Firebird company once Carenza retires from the mercenary life, and sees modest success in various peacekeeping overtures.

Rabbit uses her cut of a singularly profitable prize to open a curio shop. She has particular success with oddments that are more than they seem, especially those that can be used for practical jokes.

Ambira and Alesci enjoy a year or two of romantic young love until the birth of their daughter. They have two children before she forces him to go to Canteria to have an operation. Ambira proves a passionate and kindly landowner, and Alesci becomes renowned among the locals for his fantastic tales of adventure in other lands.

Lestrata Vycalaca cannot leave well enough alone. Already half-mad, she succumbs to her desire to avenge her “brother” and “father” and attempts to kill everyone involved. Unable to find “Marcasso,” she searches farther afield. She eventually achieves suicide by Sespech.

Under Carenza’s guidance, Rasselo Rovino eventually rises to the position of House Grandfather. He does his level best to tamp down on the House’s penchant for macho idiocy, and is instrumental in helping them achieve a bit more sophistication and diplomacy. Like everything else challenging in his life, his eventual marriage is something pressed on him by others. He calls it “a bother I never asked for,” but he and his wife are privately happy all the same.

Bravadi Rovino is never heard from again. Rumors hint that he was spared execution and instead sent away to the terrifying penal colony of Togenshar.

The Borsari family enjoys a peaceful time of prosperity, and make excellent neighbors for the Chapelwoods. When Opilio vanishes, the ever-merry Andelac becomes prone to melancholy, and he and his wife finally retire from running the holdings. Their oldest daughter Ivella takes over, and is a competent counterpart to her best friend Ambira. Ivella never quite outgrows her taste for dashing swashbucklers. Alesci introduces her to an adventurous young Tyliel blade with no real House prospects, and the two quickly marry.

Brosetta Vargari rampages up and down the eastern principalities, her reputation growing with every scar. She continues to live large, squeezing everything she can out of life with an iron grip. She always comes home for Evernight in Ladona.

Erigo and Kalbak eventually earn their badges, and are inducted into House Vargari. Erigo becomes a Ladonan mainstay, one of the House’s more personable public faces, while Kalbak settles into the more remote post of Lucovol Villa.

Catafarza’s Prismatic Players eventually settle in Raspian for a long engagement, and found a successful theater of their own. The plots of some of their popular works would seem particularly familiar to Vesper, Ettorio, Carenza, Opilio, and Vittorio. The identity of the patron who feeds them information is a secret Catafarza takes to the grave.

Carpa endures.

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Epilogue: Rugo Cuscala

The burly mercenary appears both inside and outside Rasennan borders for a time, eluding some of his pursuers and gathering allies and information. Reports drift back of him scuffling with Pulsciri muscle and Avicca diplomats, and of bloodier conflicts with corsairs and their kind. For a year, he’s rumored to be dead.

Eventually, after Rasselo rises to power within House Rovino, Rugo resurfaces. The mercenary marine uses his connections with Carenza, a formal and honorable duel with Calibar Rovino, and several coffers of mysteriously gained gold to settle his affairs with House Rovino. In return, the House formally surrenders all previous grievances with him. Rugo semi-retires to a comfortable upper-class lifestyle, keeping his hand in by acting as naval advisor to Prince Cortifo. With Rugo’s guidance, the Rasennan fleets are able to hand Scarpedran corsairs a number of embarrassing defeats. The dashing widower remains a minor celebrity among the Rasennan ports of call, although none of the ladies who vie for his favor ever match his beloved Elisibetha Rovino.

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Epilogue: Carenza Vega

Carenza’s ambitions carry her through another few years touring with the Firebird Company, working mostly to extinguish fires of dissent… for pay, of course. Her group formally breaks with the Ladies in Waiting, and Carenza arranges for a payout — and a few choice accidents for the Ladies’ local rivals — to ensure there’s no hard feelings between the Duchess and her crew.

Eventually she chooses to get out of the mercenary life. She leaves the Firebirds in Dua’s care and decides to explore her odds at becoming a player in House Rovino. Rather than pursue her own elevation or take over the Ladona branch, she chooses to settle in Cinquedea. Her magnetic charisma and head for impromptu strategy become invaluable assets, especially when tempered by Rasselo’s common sense. She becomes his captain and right hand, balanced by Bessari’s clever administrative skills on his left. Much to her distant cousin’s surprise, it is largely by Carenza’s drive that Rasselo becomes House Grandfather to the Rovino.

Though House Rovino never entirely sheds its penchant for macho belligerence, it becomes a tamer and shrewder organization in the years to come. It also enjoys an uptick in prosperity, particularly before rival Houses learn they need to take the Rovino a little more seriously. Carenza goes back and forth on whether or not she enjoys respectability and all that comes with it, but she keeps her portion of the House with sharp discipline for a good long time.

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Epilogue: Ettorio Iluni

“Sir, the children are eating my pies again.”

Ettorio sighed, pushing away the paperwork on his desk. “Carpa, I’ve told you not to leave the bag within reach.”

“But they are quite good at climbing, sir.”

“I meant your reach.”

Carpa looked crestfallen, his natural state in the household. “I will endeavor to place the bag outside of my own reach, sir.”

“Good.” Ettorio looked out the window of his office at the growing dusk, then at the paperwork again. After a second, he unceremoniously shoved it all off the desk, letting it fall on the floor. “Well, that’s done. Has Bessari returned?”

“M’lady is finishing the arrangements for the arrival of your brother and sister, sir. They shall arrive in the morning.”

At that point, young Vestiri ran into the room, his face covered in blueberries. “Father! Father! I reached the top of the cabinet today!”

“Vestiri,” Ettorio said in his gravest voice, “what did I tell you about climbing on the furniture?”

Vestiri scrunched his face up in concentration and thought for a long moment. Finally, he timidly said, “To do it quietly?”

“Exactly. Now try again while Father watches Carpa pick up his paperwork. Shoo.” He gently pushed Vestiri to the door.

“Shall I get your working clothes before I reorder your paperwork again, sir?”

“No need. I don’t think the cloak likes you.”

“I have done everything I could to placate it, sir.”

Ettorio looked at his valet as if he were mad. “It tried to strangle you, Carpa.”

“I attempted to make very satisfying choking sounds, sir.”

He waved a hand at Carpa. “I’ll handle it myself tonight. I need to make a stop on the way anyhow to pick up a gift for Marvino and Virillin.”

“Of course, sir.” Carpa backed out of the room and closed the doors. Ettorio smiled to himself as he heard the thump of Carpa’s body falling to the floor. Lapetra’s pouncing skills were improving, particularly for a five-year old.

He touched the corner of the black frame around a beautiful painting of his mother, Niladae. The frame oozed off and ran down his arm, forming around his neck and shoulders. Ettorio pulled the hood up, and a shadow fell over his eyes.

“That vampire threatened my brother and sister, old friend. Shall we deal with her?”

OF COURSE, the cloak said in his mind. I AM ALWAYS YOURS TO COMMAND.

Ettorio spun a dagger around his finger, and stepped into the shadows.

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Epilogue: Robarto Donaudi

The Bascho alchemist travels far and wide across the nation, preferring to remain unconnected with the Potifol Whiteknees incident. He is eventually contacted by Miriadis headhunters, who invite him to sign on with their burgeoning House with the promise of greater status. Robarto accepts the offer, moving into the small chapterhouse the Miriadis had established in Carcador.

Three months later, the Carcador chapterhouse burns to the ground. An investigation reveals no corpses in the wreckage. Donaudi is not sighted in the principality again. One rumor places him sailing south to the Khavayish deserts, where “accidents” are less likely to ignite the local sand and stone.

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Epilogue: Opilio Chapelwood

The former Blackharvest Chapel is purified at last. It never regains its former glory as a place of regular worship, but rather becomes a site for Chanethi pilgrims to visit, home to a hermit-priestess who speaks more to the land than to a flock.

The winters Opilio spends away, in the court of Xedravina, change him to some degree. He withdraws more and more from day-to-day life and governance, refusing to spend his limited time in the mortal world doing things that don’t make him and his loved ones happy. While he’s technically the master of the lands, he leaves their governing to Dechera, Ambira and Alesci. He spends his time in affectionate domestic reverie with his wife, playfully harassing Ambira about wanting to meet the first of his grandchildren, working both his lands and those of his tenants who might be having problems, and enjoying the results of the vineyards he worked hard to get established.

For all this effort, he continues to take on an increasingly arboreal demeanor, even with the birth of Ambira’s daughter and then son. Sometimes, he just stands and listens, the toes of his bare feet dug into the rich soil, just feeling the growth of the Chapelwood lands. His more treelike nature does not make him more passive, though — bandits or similar ruffians who veer into Chapelwood lands swiftly find this a grave mistake.

A little over ten years from the Garganta affair, Dechera is carried away by a winter fever that seems like just a small cold. She dies while Opilio is away, and when he returns, the loss breaks him. He kisses his daughter and his two grandchildren, and then flees with his grief back into the Overworld, staying there. The locals say that he reappears in the woodlands from time to time, seeming more treelike than ever, where he seems very concerned with the life of the woodlands – so much so that in time, folk speak of the “Shepherd of Trees” more than “Opilio Chapelwood.”

Ambira and Alesci have no such luxury of retreat, and they continue to watch over the lands, always close to their friends among the Borsari. Their daughter Yridia grows up raptly listening to Alesci’s tales of House Tyliel, and eventually decides to visit the enchantresses and witches to learn what she can from them. She learns some power of her own, perhaps gained by a fey pact, and forges a bond with her older Cousin Floressa.

Their son Donetto also feels the call of adventure when he comes of age. He chooses a more martial path, though, inspired by the story of Opilio’s youth as a failed Vanasian squire. He begs lessons from Uncle Kosvach when he visits, then travels to Cinquedea to train at the Iron Fang where Aunt Vesper learned swordplay, and then to Ladona to seek out Aunt Carenza’s school and to earn more lessons from the Vargari. Once satisfied with his ability, he leaves Rasenna for Vanas, aiming to win the knighthood that his grandfather once forsook.

One summer, much later, the Hairy Men come boiling out of the Witch’s Tangle again, driven by some hunger that compels their hag mistress. They overwhelm an ill-prepared populace, but the Shepherd reappears, and calls to arms the very trees of the Tangle to aid him in destroying them. He realizes once the fight is over that the brave young knight who fought beside him, working to see to the safety of the people, is none other than his own grandson, Donetto Chapelwood, and he departs the world again with a very proud smile upon his tree-like face.

Soon after, Yridia returns to Canteria. She claims a portion of the Witch’s Tangle for her own, driving out the hag’s last dark fey followers and inviting a Sespech companion to come and study the ruins they find there. Donetto accepts the responsibility of Chapelwood’s heir. He hangs his shield on the wall, and his parents teach him the ways of governing and nurturing the land. Once satisfied with his ability, Ambira relinquishes the office of Chapelwood’s master, and she and Alesci settle into a contented semi-retirement.

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Epilogue: Vesper Sespech

Vesper returns the cenotic cask to House Sespech, where she’s celebrated for its recovery. In the following months, she watches the scandal at the heart of House Miriadis unfold. Many of the Miriadis’ pyromancer recruits vanish from the would-be Sorcerous House, fleeing the country or going into hiding, and it’s revealed that Rofogarre was secretly a scion of the infernalist House Torccerna. The Miriadis keep several of their holdings, but it becomes clear they need major restructuring if they aren’t to vanish completely, and their dreams of being the sixth Sorcerous House are extinguished. That winter, Vesper also welcomes her new baby sister, and shows as much of her nurturing side as she possesses.

The following year, Kosvach takes Vesper north to Lokva for the summer. She learns much while in the distant north, and the two return with many stories.

Vesper continues to study the cenotic cask. Already well-established as a rising power in House Sespech, she gains even more renown with her “thesis project” — she manifests a vestige of Sespech the Shadowed herself, drawing on a remnant of the House founder. She develops increasing popularity with her colleagues as she continues to distinguish herself.

Despite the political drawbacks of her marriage to a Vargari, Vesper receives ever-increasing internal support, including, eventually, the loyalty of Savaquin Sespech. When House Grandfather Sadavari finally passes on, Vesper is elected the youngest House Grandmother in Sespech history. She still makes time to travel now and again, and if she and Kosvach ride strange darkling roads to call on their friends in Canteria and Cinquedea, they are too polite to call attention to it.

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Epilogue: Vittorio Marvigliozzo

Several decades later:

It started with Ettorio. His death, and the simultaneous death of Bessari, stirred a deep suspicion in the spymaster Vestiri. As Vestiri investigated the circumstances of his cousin’s death, he found a trail leading to Vittorio, now drowning his sorrows entirely. Vittorio had received word that Radiant Murder, the stringed she-devil last seen in Garganta and Vittorio’s former paramour, has claimed credit for the deaths. Her letter asserted that she will slay all of Vittorio’s former companions, and he has their friendship to thank for it.

Vestiri, swearing cold vengeance, rallies Vito into action. They go in search of Carenza but find her gasping her last, crumpled among the corpses of many, choking out a last bit of blood. With a gurgling chuckle she smiles up at the two of them, “Don’t you boys just look dandy together? Tell your ex… hello for me.” As she expires, a raggedly broken length from one of Radiant Murder’s horns rolls from her grasp and onto the ground.

In perhaps Vito’s most human and soulful moment of an eternal and infernal lifetime he unleashes an aria of love and anguish… anger and fear… and collapses into the arms of a Vestiri whose eyes have gone as cold as only his own reflection has ever seen… “We need to contact Vesper.”

…after an epic battle with a vastly more powerful Radiant, who has brought with her several of her own powerful minions, Vestiri & Vito escape with little but their lives thanks to the sacrifice of a Kosvach who sees them safely away, only to turn and wade his way back into the fray to his wife…

…sorely wounded, they are transported to a safe house, which they find they share with a lost Vycalaca vampire. The vampire seems to have been captive for some time, but after a short conversation that takes place between the leech and Vestiri three things become very clear. One: Vestiri is in far worse shape than he let on. Two: he and this vampire have some preceding connection. Three: Vito himself is seriously wounded and is overcome by his wounds.

…he awakes to a light but insistent slap from a velvet gloved hand, “Come along, love, we’ve business to be about. Vesper is likely already rolling in her grave, not that she was likely to stay put anyway.” …a glare, lighting Vestiri from behind, silhouetting his figure as he leans in, a bit of dark, too dark, blood still dripping from his chin, Vestiri, the Most Beautiful Vestiri that he could be… the crows feet, gone… the hair, thick and lustrous, a Vestiri from the days of old… and the husk of the Vycalaca propped primly in the corner “It’s time to go find that bitch!”

Over the next several decades, the quest for vengeance continues — though not without its lulls. The two companions “adopt” a young mother and daughter from the streets of Cinquedea (the mother speaks of her own mother, who went off play at games of war in some women-only mercenary band, never to return). The two run the affairs of the companions’ house, dignified but with more than enough moxie to handle our eternal duo. Eventually the daughter has a daughter of her own: Doña Vittoria Vesperanza Vega Marvigliozzo III, the publisher of A Devil’s Tale: Memoirs of a Meddling & Mirthsome Miscreant. Dona Vittoria herself becomes mother of twin daughters, both dark of hair and eye, with the faintest of points to their ears, their father rumored Iluni: Oriotta; pale, thin, and prone to a sharpness of tongue, and Bessara, buxom, vivacious, and deft wielder of feminine wiles from early womanhood. Only with help of spanning generations of the ladies of House Marvigliozzo do our Sherlock and Watson finally see vengeance well and truly served, cold as the heart of darkness lying now dormant in Vestiri’s chest…

… and on that morning, The Morning After, the world is no longer a place for these two. Having attended to their various affairs long before this day, it is for them to find their way to a quiet spot, perhaps overlooking the Saanwater, to sit… in each others arms… and drink in a sunrise… that takes away all of Vestiri’s sins… and a lone figure stumbles away, trailing the ashes of his lost love, mumbling a curse about woodwinds, coaxing a dirge from an instrument never meant for such sorrow, summoning a distant rumble from clouds thick and dark. A flash in the far distance and and the sky begins to chuckle, graduating quickly into a full on belly-laugh and to his amazement a chorus begins to laugh raucously alongside. Another flash… and Vito is falling… falling…

backwards tumbling from a chair across which he’d languidly draped himself, sprawling on the rough stone floor of the establishment in which the blades have gathered to enjoy a bit of libation. An oppressively humid Summer on the Saan, in combination with the potency of the refreshments, have caused Vito to slip into a somewhat coma-like state, rocking lazily, chair reared back on its hind legs. At least he’d had the good sense to set his drink on the table first…

Glancing around, Vito realizes how many they have become these days, how many friends he has, how much Family. Carenza and her closest and dearest Ladies; Vesper & Kosvach, and the surprisingly welcoming arms of the Vargari (and the perhaps somewhat less welcoming arms to be found with the Sespech); The cousins Iluni, Ettorio, with his lovely spitfire of a Rovino, Bessari, and Vestiri…

…Vestiri…

…ashes…

Vittorio leaps up and grabs his mug from the table, the burst of laughter over his tumble having faded back into the comfortable buzz of conversation that suggests good friends and strong drink freely flowing. Looking down into the amber liquid, he sees not the devil that he is but the man he wishes he could be. With a vast gulp he downs the sweetfire ale, and slings the emptied mug to the ground amplifying its shattering with his magics. In a frozen moment, every fiber of Vito’s being relives each and every vibration from his fever dream… no, not a dream… a power left long dormant, sleeping as all dragons should. A true taste of the vast web, a trickle in the streams of fate, but powerful nonetheless…

EVERYONE! There is work to be done! As much as I love and cherish you all, I can say only this… I have seen the Darkest Timeline, and it cannot be ALLOWED!”

A feather crashes headlong into a cloud. Laughter erupts all around. Vito sags against the table and feels an overlarge hand clap against his shoulder, the tune is encouraging but the words don’t quite seem to penetrate. The world swims a bit around him, but he manages to focus a dire imploring look, casting it forth, hoping to set his line somewhere… anywhere.

Vestiri angles his sardonic smile. “My friend, you do not look…”

“Ashes, Ves, ashes!! And I think I loved you, but we lost… everyone. WE LOST, even though we won in the end. We got her, we got the bitch… but she’s here, somewhere here, NOW! We can turn the trickle! WE CAN PLUCK THE STRINGS!”

Another feather, another cloud. The silence this time, a bit more uncomfortable, stretches itself languidly towards a far more uncomfortable cough.

Vestiri sighs. “I believe this devilishly unsavory rapscallion has been overcome by the day’s festivities. Perhaps we should allow him an opportunity to bow out gracefully and retire for the day.”

Uncomfortable silence is quickly broken by the mirth of those who have bled together in combat, cries of lament, half-mocking chase the two away as Ettorio slips in to support Vito opposite Vestiri.

Ettorio quietly, “Cousin, something very odd seems to be happening with our companion. I have never seen him indulge in a drink that didn’t agree with him.” Vestiri’s raised eyebrow parries the Shadowfox’s rapier wit.

“Never stopped to research the stringed devils, cousin?” Vestiri’s voice is light and cool, like a porcelain saucer. “The maestros among the vibrezu are reputedly far more than functionaries in the lower bureaucracy. To quote Cambresa: ‘They taste the strings of a man’s fate; they hear the Universal Melody; the heady musk of life and death itself fills their lungs; they are Seers who caress the loom and web of a million million souls, not just influencing but twisting and tuning it, believing themselves capable of altering any path.’ According to my research, Vittorio had to sever his connection to the Infernal Orchestra and the Universal Melody to escape Hell. I think he may be dreaming echoes of the snapped, jangling strings…”

A block away, on a high balcony, an unkindness of ravens take particular notice of the three Rasennans. As fiddle, pipe, and drum seem to take up an atonal note and stuttering cadence from nowhere in particular, the ravens collapse in on themselves, and on into the dancing shadows of the darkened room behind.

A decidedly feminine hand with decidedly inhuman nails settles gently against the door frame, “Oh yes little devil, you’ll play again…”

Vittorio continues his quest for epicurean delights, the beauty of the mortal world, and perhaps a touch of redemption. His morbid vision proves largely inaccurate; the actual events of his quest eventually come to light with the publication of A Devil’s Tale.

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93 - Hell Breaks Loose
All the populace bears witness to the devils of Garganta.

“I mean, obviously we came back to chaos and you two glowing with happiness.” — Carenza Vega

Previously:

Ettorio’s delay in rendezvousing with his companions can be laid to the complications of assisting his fellow Black Veils. The assassins spent some time scouting Nivrotto’s men, the better to keep an advantage in the espionage wars. One success from their meddling was the retrieval of the enchanted hat that Vittorio lost to his ex-paramour. Ettorio sends it in a parcel to the Clarion Call before returning to business. He completes his errand with the satisfaction that the Black Veils are well-armed with information, but he finds he is too late to travel to Prince Gorsino’s celebration with his friends.

Not one to be daunted, Ettorio acquires another potion of gender change. He resumes his ladylike aspect as “Ecaterina” and travels to the party. Before he actually enters, though, a guard intercepts him — Vittorio, as it turns out, still in disguise. The two share their information, then begin gathering more. It seems that something went wrong at the party, and many guests are now leaving…

Meanwhile, Vesper and Carenza discover that the Prince’s “protective custody” is at least more than a token gesture. House Miriadis’ accusers are placed in a pair of guest suites: “Cravino” and his entourage in one, Carenza and the Vargari in another. The suites are actually quite comfortable, but of course have only the one exit into a guarded hallway. Vesper spends some time coaching Vestiri on the infernalist knowledge he may require for a formal trial, while Carenza is stuck with a group of growingly restless Vargari.

Vittorio and Ettorio, having gathered the knowledge that their friends are now stuck in the Citadel, contemplate their possible courses of action. If Prince Gorsino wasn’t sufficiently swayed by the actual plan, they decide, he’ll need outside pressure. And although the task is a very daunting scale, they decide that public opinion is the way to go. By the end of the night, the Prince will have to address the rumors of infernalism at the highest level.

Or at least, such is the plan. They find it more difficult to enact at first. An attempt to throw around rumors in the Citadel district gains no purchase — apparently the Duke’s agents are locking down such rumors among the upper crust as quickly as they can.

But the scoundrels are undeterred. They move to the Colosseum district, where a fire-show is entertaining many late-night revelers. Their rumormongering finds more purchase here. Once they’ve planted a sufficiency of unease, they move to the Sword Forum district. There they also have some luck in stirring the locals’ general distrust of the uppermost classes (and of the visiting mages in particular). Vittorio inquires if the Black Veils could further help their efforts, but Ettorio notes that the assassins are tied up with keeping Helsperia’s intelligence network contained.

The next few hours see more success. The tales of infernalism infect the Pugio, the Artisan Ward and the Armory district in succession. It still doesn’t seem quite enough, though — the current is flowing in the right direction, but the water isn’t foaming yet.

The two then plan an even more ambitious incitement. Vittorio assumes full diabolic form, and the two stage an “abduction” right between Prince’s Mount and the Colosseum district. Dozens of startled wee-hours onlookers see a terrible devil pluck a voluptuous, lovely woman from the streets, throwing her over his shoulder with a booming laugh. The devil shouts out “We will claim the prize promised us by Gorsino’s child!” And with a burst of sulfur, the two are gone.

But Vittorio doesn’t stop there. He then enacts an arcane ritual to conjure the illusion of a similar devil. Inspiration floods him as he completes the incantation, and the devil leaps to false life. It goes careening for many blocks, terrorizing the populace before someone eventually snuffs it out. Even as the phantom rampages, Vittorio conducts a second ritual to call down a haze of gloom. A second time, the artistic inspiration flowing through him is comparable to a visitation from a Kylirran muse, and he performs the ritual with magnificent results. The gloom descends not on a few city blocks, but on all of Garganta. As more and more of the city wakes to find itself in this troubling shroud, the exhausted scoundrels decide they have earned several rounds of drinks.

Not that the other blades are in any mood to rest and wait. Vesper carefully goes over the suite they’re in, suspecting that it’d be very helpful for their captors to have secret entrances and exits in the stonework. Sure enough, her instincts are good, and she finds a secret door in the fireplace. It leads to a hidden corridor tunneled into the giantish wall. Another door in the passage leaks faint sounds that turn out to be the Vargari armwrestling to pass the time. Carenza and the Vargari join Vesper and the rest of the “D’Ambergia retinue” in the secret passage, and the group commits to an escape.

Their exit is slightly awkward, of course. The secret passage ends in an equally secret watch-room, where a pair of secret police are surprised to see the party emerge. The agents flee in two different directions. The group resigns itself to speed rather than stealth, and begins finding their way free of the Citadel. They do run into more clandestine agents and secret police enforcers as they navigate their way out, but Helsperia’s people are no match for blades of such heroic stature. The blades leave a scattering of punishingly subdued agents behind them as they finally reach the main corridors. There they are challenged only once by a band of guards, but Carenza’s presence overpowers the patrol, and the intimidated guardsmen meekly allow the group to pass.

They get out of the giants’ keep into a city that is in a state of moderate chaos. It takes them no time to realize that this is likely their friends’ work. With a little bit of street savvy, they find Ettorio and Vittorio throwing back drinks in one of the taverns that’s still open. A few congratulations are exchanged, but nobody feels particularly safe yet.

Ettorio — still “Ecaterina,” actually — goes to see if Bessari is safe. He finds Carpa nervously guarding their quarters, festooned in a preposterous number of holy symbols and very unsettled about the whole “devils running amok” thing. But inside the quarters, Bessari has been sleeping, unaware of most of what’s been going on. Carenza finds and gathers up her Ladies, who have been on high alert. Vestiri helps Vesper and Kosvach change their disguises again, before everyone snatches a few hours of sleep.

The next day, the conjured gloom finally dissipates a little after sunrise. Prince Gorsino wastes little time in making a public appearance to reassure the populace. He openly condemns the infernalist Miriadis, though he introduces Grunestia as a heroic mage who helped root out the diabolists in the House’s midst. It seems clear that the city’s coffers have been spent on plenty of bribes to keep witnesses calm and reassured to boot. Rofocarre and his accomplices are condemned to Gargantan justice — likely execution in a Colosseum special event.

Not that the blades decide that they have the luxury to stay and watch, satisfying as it might be. They quietly sneak out, disguised one final time, on a riverboat that Vestiri has chartered. Happy to quit the city of Garganta, they set back downriver, eventually to Raspian and then to Cinquedea, or Ladona, or who knows where? The ambitions of the Miriadis have taken a beating, such that they might not recover from. A cabal of Vycalaca was revealed, with one of the most vicious of their number slain in full daylight. The blades have made their names known to some princes, and come within a knife’s edge of sending another crashing down from his throne.

All in all, it has been yet another busy Rasennan summer.

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92 - The Torccerna Gambit
The blades carry out their plan to expose the infernalist Miriadis.

“Kosvach, jog his memory.”
(sound of impact)
“Well… that’s where he keeps his memory.”
— Vittorio Marvigliazzo and Basilcar Vargari

Ettorio still hasn’t arrived by the time to depart. However, as the group is preparing, a parcel arrives addressed to Vittorio. It contains a hat box, holding his magical hat. There is no signature, so the group simply hopes that Ettorio or another friend is responsible. Vesper, still disguised as a Magran barbarian accented with yellow plaid, attaches herself to the retinue of “Cravino D’Ambergia.” Carenza and a newly disguised Vittorio take Kosvach and the Ladies along, meeting up with Angisera, Basilcar and Venetta Vargari along the way.

Carenza and Vittorio’s team reaches the large corridor outside the Miriadis guest quarters. Vittorio notes that a couple of civilians in the area have subtle cues identifying them as lookouts, possibly for the Prince’s spy network. One casually detaches and wanders off, and Carenza dispatches the Ladies to run him down and put him somewhere safe. The other lookout plays the part of the surprised innocent, but it doesn’t stop Kosvach from decisively subduing him.

They opt for the servant’s entrance into the Miriadis quarters. The staff working in the kitchen is somewhat alarmed to see a group of heavily armed blades enter, but Vittorio gives them a cheerful speech about how it’s all fine, and the servants are immediately caught in his silver tongue. They move through the dining room without a peep, and in a large living area catch a pair of thick-necked Miriadis playing cards. The former Thornshields realize they’re overmatched, but one is conspicuously loud as he asks “What are you doing?” This draws the attention of a small group of mercenaries — likely hired security to replace fallen Miriadis muscle — and the Vargari quickly move to engage and overpower them. Carenza and Vittorio take a set of stairs up to a study, where they find another pyromancer, who quickly closes his book as he sees them coming.

The party for the prince’s son, Gorvari, takes place on an upper story — a ballroom-sized balcony that looks out over the giants’ throne room. The guards accept the mock-D’Ambergia and let his retinue through as well. Vesper and Vestiri survey the gala, and note plenty of potential adversaries and perhaps allies:

  • The Prince, his wife Bellacava and son Gorvari, and his brother Galvasso
  • Patrios Divaldi, the arcane advisor Azilro, and Helsperia
  • Grunestia, Rofogarre, and one of his pyromancer apprentices
  • Tacitarus Verastin
  • Brightfather Antolio of Kaeal
  • Spadio Ironskin
  • The renowned courtesan Quillanessa
  • Captain Occorro Drakeshand, attended by an unfamiliar woman of subtly sinister bearing

Vesper whispers to Vestiri to get her closer to Tacitarus. She then bobs along in the faux-D’Ambergia’s wake, and exchanges a few words with the Verastin. He agrees to dispel the illusion on the woman, and will wait for the sign from Vesper. With that, she directs Vestiri to bring her close to Rofogarre. He does so with aplomb, engaging the Ruby Seat with a convoluted inquiry about keeping basilisks magically cooled for transport. As the Miriadis attempts to make sense of the tangled conversation, Vesper taps one of her
iron nails to Rofogarre’s cane and says “Vicusi.”

In the Miriadis study, the pyromancer glares at the intruders. But before he can pronounce an arcane syllable, Vittorio blasts him with a wave of infernal presence. “Sit the fuck down,” says the bard, “and wait to be tied up.” The stunned pyromancer obeys, and before he can shake off the compulsion, Kosvach and Basilcar have him in a pair of painful joint locks. The binding and gagging is effortless after that.

Carenza and Vittorio lead the search for infernalist evidence. They find a coffer holding ingots and billets of a greenish steel (recognizable as something derived from Hell’s smelters), a locked box that radiates magic, and paraphernalia in keeping with offering materials for Vaiskathion.

They’re getting the materials assembled when they hear the voices of guards below demanding an explanation. Captain Diandra makes a show of being drawn to the disturbance but with no real forewarning. When she sees the assembled evidence, she smiles and nods.

At the party, the nail does its work. The illusion falls away — Rofogarre has been leaning on a branding iron, one worked into the same pattern found on the skin of the pyromancers and the devil-sworn guards. Immediately Tacitarus invokes his spell, and the woman on Drakeshand’s arm is suddenly revealed as a black-skinned, red-haired, silver-horned devil. She shrieks, and immediately flees. An arcane bolt from the Verastin is just too slow — she leaps over the balcony and falls to the floor below as the bolt smashes out a portion of the rail.

The party, of course, immediately erupts into confusion. Vesper seizes Rofogarre’s branding iron and arm. She’s not strong enough to hold him entirely, but she does delay him until the gnoll “Mustard” can lock him in a hold. The female pyromancer with him reflexively throws a searing spell at Vesper, but doesn’t strike a vital blow. The Sespech responds with a banshee wail that rocks the pyromancer back. Then Gorsino’s voice thunders over the chaos, demanding explanations.

Vestiri, as Cravino, does much of the speaking. He describes his coming into the knowledge that the Miriadis shelter secret diabolists, and that some of those are the very ones “teaching” Gorsino’s son magic. They show him the branding iron, and Vesper tears at the dress of the pyromancer apprentice — but her skin is bare, at least in the place where they’d seen the brand on the other pyromancer. Spadio urges Gorsino to send a group to investigate the Miriadis quarters. The Prince grudgingly agrees, dispatching Helsperia and some guards. While they wait for the findings, Rofogarre tells his side of the story, about how the Miriadis have been hounded by jealous agents, themselves likely diabolists, who are attempting to frame them. He receives little help from Grunestia, as the Topaz Seat is quick to claim that she knew of none of this.

Meanwhile, Helsperia and her guards arrive at the Miriadis quarters. She is not pleased to find that a group of freelancers have already invaded the place, subdued several guests, and accumulated a pile of literally damning evidence. With all the servants as witnesses, she has no choice but to accept Carenza and Vittorio’s explanation.

Eventually Helsperia returns to the party along with Carenza and the Vargari, as well as the captive Miriadis. Vittorio uses the opportunity to slip away, not particularly wanting to inadvertently give Rofogarre extra evidence for his counter-charges of infernalism. Gorsino’s famous temper is on full display when he receives the evidence. He orders Rofogarre, the pyromancers, and the branded muscle into custody. However, he also takes the “D’Ambergia retinue,” Carenza and the Vargari under “protective custody” as well. The blades — with the exception of the absent Ettorio and Vittorio — settle into their spartan quarters to await Prince Gorsino’s decision.

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