“Let me see. If I were my cousin, and I were bored in Ladona, where would I go and what would I do? …Ah. We need to move quickly.” — Vestiri Iluni
While the others are in their audience with Prince Lazzaretta, Ettorio decides to begin investigating the status of the Ladonan Black Veils. He locates Faustina Belluna and has a chat with her over afternoon coffee. She seems initially surprised to learn that he is attached to the Cinquedean Veils, but Ettorio begins to suss out that she may have gotten news of his involvement earlier, and is simply feigning ignorance.
Over the course of the conversation, she lets him know the status of the Ladonan Veils. Since his intervention and the exposure of Filescar, the organization has been tilting itself back towards an ideological center; those who agreed with Filescar have either renounced their former positions or departed. Currently the Veils also know of the Salon of Enigmas, and are carefully keeping an eye on them in case they show some signs of abuse.
Back at the Iron Crypt, Vesper dispatches Vittorio and Vestiri to go find Ettorio, while she returns to the Vargari compound to talk Kosvach down from taking any action. Carenza armors up as well, and brings her remaining mercenaries to attention.
Vestiri manages to anticipate Ettorio’s frame of mind swiftly, locating him at the specialty libation shop called the Woozy Alchemist. Though he’s able to bring Ettorio around swiftly enough, he loses a small battle when Vittorio becomes entranced by the many liquors never before seen. The devil can’t resist trying something gnollish, a brutish and alarmingly potent distillation that apparently translates as “troll-killer.” When they head back for the Iron Crypt, Vittorio is already partially inebriated from just the one drink.
Vesper also has her work cut out for her at the Vargari compound. Talking Kosvach into staying put and taking no action proves difficult enough, and worse, Inyavka is also ready to start taking heads. Vesper carefully points out both the political necessity of remaining calm and the dangers of the blood curse. Fortunately for her, Rodivar is on her side, and he is able to calm his wife and son. Vesper then borrows the three prospects Kalbak, Brosetta and Erigo, with the intention of having them escort Iliska back home once she’s finished caring for Tarvana.
They reassemble at the Iron Crypt. Tarvana regains some lucidity while they’re there. She describes a feeling like a bee sting a bit before she lost consciousness, but can’t identify where she got it — she’d thought at the time she had back into a poorly-sheathed blade at someone’s waist. The sting took place at the Broken Moon wineshop, hours after her meeting with Ludovir Zarocci. Vil confirms that she didn’t see the sting.
The blades leave Iliska and the Vargari prospects to look after Tarvana a little longer, and head to the Broken Moon. Their remarkable shared ability to suss out rumors helps them out, as Vittorio swiftly finds a somewhat disagreeable dwarf who saw Tarvana brush up against a young woman in gray and blue whom he recognized. The girl was a Cutter’s Way resident, likely a pickpocket of some sort who went thieving away from her home.
The next step is a visit to Cutter’s Way. It’s well past midnight when the group, Vestiri and Carenza’s ladies still in tow, arrive at the Tumbles street. There they manage to find a friendly witness who doesn’t mind informing on the cutpurse, a girl named Blaissa who apparently keeps an eyrie in a half-broken tower.
They find that they aren’t the first ones to come calling on Blaissa. When they arrive, quietly and unobtrusively, they find a number of men in half-cloaks and bandannas spreading out around the tower. One, a large man with a two-handed sword under his cloak, gestures at another to enter the tower, and then draws his thumb across his throat.
And then they move.
Vittorio offers a song to send Ettorio flickering in and out of the world, and the Iluni races to the base of the tower, vanishes, and reappears on the third floor while the cutthroat below is still moving for the stairs. As his friends begin their assault on the shadowy murderers, Ettorio attempts to explain to the alarmed thief that there are men here to murder her and he is here to help. Unfortunately, as he looks over his shoulder, the only words that seem to make it through to her are “here to murder you,” and she breaks for it. She leaps from the third floor to a nearby rooftop away from the entrance. Ettorio curses and gives chase. He makes the leap as well, and then calls on the fragment of shadow in his blood to snare her and pull her back to him. Blaissa is clearly stunned from the experience, and he catches hold of her. Scooping up the light young thief, Ettorio leaps down, kicking from wall to wall until he hits the alley floor and then races away from the melee.
Carenza pushes into the thick of the fight, and it’s a dangerous place for her. Perhaps a bit night-blind, she has difficulty catching the band of murderers with her Uromni blade. Vesper locks swords with one of them for a moment, then when the swordplay is inconclusive, darts back and begins to call on her ghosts. Vittorio offers support as they go, sending tiny malevolent curses singing into the fight with each bolt. Even Vestiri joins in, striking carefully at outlying targets.
The enemies put up a fight as though they can’t afford to flee. Some are clearly outmatched; others are fiercer. The greatsword-wielding leader is the evident greatest threat among them, fighting with a careful technique despite a slightly unsettling aura of bloodthirst. But his skill becomes the group’s ally when Vittorio enspells him momentarily. The greatsworder turns on his ally, and nearly cuts him in half with an expert strike. By the time he regains control of himself, it’s already too late.
When the last one falls, it’s clear that the brawl’s noise — particularly the banshee shriek — have wakened and alarmed enough of the Tumbles residents that the guard will arrive shortly. The group prepares to flee the scene, with Vesper quickly starting a search of the bodies for any sort of incriminating evidence.