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