“We can go to different bars!”
“A stroke of Iluni brilliance in our darkest hour!” — Ettorio Iluni & Vittorio Marvigliozzo
After their battle in the Tumbles and brief confrontation with the Vycalaca, Vesper, Carenza and Vittorio are in need of a rest themselves. They spend the rest of the day pursuing no particular agenda. Ettorio, however, continues to speak with the Black Veils about the possibility of vampiric blood in the city. He learns that they have also had an interest in a thief of Blaissa’s character, and he agrees to help them with any possible discussions of mutual interest.
Vesper rises early on the morning of the 3rd, and tells Kosvach that he has ten minutes to get ready and travel with her to the Sespech Estate, or that he can remain in Ladona. She is quietly pleased when he prepares to ride with her. The two of them reach the Estate in a few hours, Vesper telling her husband about the Vycalaca presence along the way. Once at the Estate, she meets with Arusta Sespech, the House expert on vampirism. Arusta is planning a trip via the Shadow Roads to Strechone, but she leaves Vesper with some recommended reading on the subject.
Vittorio spends the morning of the 3rd at the shrine to Kylir, meditating and playing music. Though the presence of so much paraphernalia of the Heavens is slightly disconcerting, he manages to attain a certain peace of mind. The afternoon and evening he devotes to buying drinks and gathering rumors. Most notably, he discovers that someone wearing a many-colored cloak rode out on the Serpent Road at about four bells past midnight, bursting past the night watch and riding hellbent to the west.
Carenza chooses to spend part of the day around the Vargari chapterhouse, keeping an eye out for potential trouble. She takes the opportunity to get to know Tarvana a little better. The fiery Vargari swordswoman is clearly a challenging prospect: she seems to have a portion of Kosvach’s stubbornness and Inyavka’s pride, married to a devil-may-care attitude that seems to match Carenza’s own. She also, of course, boasts the typical Vargari lack of care for proprieties. When Carenza flirts with Tarvana over dinner when the other Vargari don’t seem to be paying attention, Tarvana flirts openly back. When Carenza moves to kiss Tarvana in private, Tarvana takes her head and kisses back as though attempting to establish dominance. Carenza pulls away after a moment, and makes a surprisingly coy organized departure.
The Ladies tease her considerably on the event, however. Rabbit and Dua ask if maybe they could get Tarvana to train them in wrestling. When Carenza replies that they’d probably get Kosvach instead, she is irritated to find out that the thought seems appealing to a couple others. “There is no way to hold a conversation with you idiots! Outside! Crossbow practice! You’re not coming back in until I see holes in every bullseye!”
Having been informed that the vampiric blood had been drawn fresh from Ludovir’s veins, Ettorio continues his inquiries among the Ladonan Veils. Though the Veils have no recent experience with vampires, they have a modest amount of folklore regarding the undead threat. In particular, they have a notable story about poisoning one of the Vycalaca with holy water, and given that the holy water had no difficulties burning its way back out again, it was a notably effective technique.
On the evening of the 3rd, Ettorio, Carenza and Vittorio collaborate on sharing their findings. They decide to follow the trail of Iridios while Vesper’s away, making certain it doesn’t get too cold.
In the morning, the three ride out to the town of Duesti, and promptly lose the entire thread of their investigation. Distracted by new local varieties of alcohol and the distracting memory of Ludovir, it isn’t until after lunch that they focus enough on Iridios to get results. Ettorio learns from the guard who’d been on duty that no single riders of any description passed through town at the appropriate hours. They return to Ladona, arguing about whether or not Iridios made it to Duesti or not.
Vesper and Kosvach return that afternoon as well. They gather the rest of the party for a conference with the core of the Ladonan Vargari. The Duesti affair comes up, and all concerned agree it’s most likely that it was a false trail, and that the Iridios that rode down the west road was an illusion. Vesper explains the whole of the situation with the Vycalaca, including their most common bloodline traits (powers of blood, disease, polluted land and tainted vegetation), their likely weaknesses (holy water seems particularly effective) and peculiar tastes (in particular, for poisonous beasts like cockatrices or basilisks). Ettorio confirms these findings with what he’s learned from the Veils, and relates the tale of the poisoning. Carenza begins musing on ways to trick or force Ludovir into taking a long drink of holy water.
Vepser also details what she’s uncovered so far on the curse that lies on Lucovol Villa. She points out that the Vargari are in particular danger where the Vycalaca influence is concerned: they are particularly susceptible to the blood-fever curse, as Ludovir demonstrated when he had Tarvana poisoned with his blood. She argues that the Vargari should hold their ground and not attempt to challenge the Vycalaca directly until she can achieve some measure of protection against the curse. To that end, she proposes to go to Lucovol Villa and break the curse there — but Iridios must be their first priority. Not only is he dangerous to leave unchecked, but the group promised Prince Lazzaretta they would deal with him. The Vargari reluctantly agree with the wisdom of the plan.
The Ladies dispatched to spy on the Tower of the Heron return around midnight. They report that the Tower does seem to be occupied, and a boat from the nearby lakeshore village of Osta makes regular runs to the island at twilight. The party makes plans to set out the next morning. Vesper is particularly concerned when Kosvach and Tarvana seem to be less than content with remaining behind. Inyavka speaks quietly in private with the two of them, and then the siblings seem much more content and at ease — which raises Vesper’s concern to even higher levels.
The group leaves the morning of of the 5th. Travel is slow, with Vittorio’s “toilette” to be accounted for, and they reach Osta on the 6th. Even with Carenza’s map of the tower, the assault is a daunting prospect. They cannot reach the island without a boat, and there seems to be precious few ways in. Finally they decide to rent a boat from the villagers under false pretenses. Ettorio gathers some fishing gear and tackle, hands it to Carpa, and sets down into town. The itinerant Iluni and his manservant draw quite a bit of attention, finally speaking with the pipe-smoking matriarch of the Mesti fisherman family. Ettorio explains that he is simply there for some fishing, and is willing to pay very well for a very large boat. Farcical as the premise may be, the Iluni’s portrayal of an offhanded gentleman with far more money than sense is pitch-perfect. He winds up taking command of the Mesti vessel, a boat designed for four fishermen and with the capacity for more.
Unfortunately, Ettorio is not nearly the able boatman he claims. To his good fortune, though, Carpa demonstrates a remarkable talent for working the large craft, and is able to bring the boat safely around. The two pick up the rest of the group, and as the lake grows dark, slip across the water to the Tower of the Heron.