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…
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.