“Are you of local repute?”
“…Yeah. I have a huge repute.” — Larettio D’Oscura & “Marcazo”
The forged invitation unfortunately fails to pass muster. The disguised Carenza and Ettorio bluster, argue, invoke “Marcazo’s” reputation (having allegedly served with the Ruby Band condotierri), make a few threats, insinuate a few things about Brassado, then turn apologetic. A bit of wheedling and bluffing does manage to plant a seed of doubt in the butler’s mind. Just as crucially, Ecaterina manages to catch Larettio’s eye, and the dashing swashbuckler instructs the guard to let the couple in.
Before too long, the majority of the guest list has arrived; the only ones missing are Donatessa and her escort, the disguised Vittorio. The newcomer guests split up and mingle, while the extra muscle stands conveniently near conversations for a little inconspicuous eavesdropping.
Ettorio chooses to attach himself (or herself) to the conversation between Larettio and Velanter. “Ecaterina” plays up the image of the young lady with an interest in dashing young men, and listens intently while projecting a sense of less than total comprehension. The two rakes discuss the finer points of swordplay, but it’s clear Larettio is mostly being tolerant rather than interested in Velanter. The most interesting tidbit of conversation is when the incognito vampire mentions a desire to fight in the Garganta colosseum, to enjoy the glory of a fight held before a cheering audience.
Vesper stations herself near the conversation between Grunestia Miriadis and Tilanna Nemedian. The Topaz Seat alchemist is easily drawn into “modest” boasting of the importance of her work, and lets slip that she’s working on Garganta’s non-functional lightning-forge. Vesper also picks up that her apprentice Fabria Miriadis seems rather unhappy with her mistress, the situation, or both.
Carenza hangs near Captain Occorro, who spends some time speaking with Patrios Divaldi. There’s talk of the Firedrakes being dispatched to the northern border. The Prince’s confessor speaks of how a faithful heart will be carried on the horns of victory, a reference Carenza misses at first. In the condotierre’s defense, she (as a he) spends a bit of time reinforcing her cover by flirting with Divaldi’s pretty and rather bored daughter Nania
When conversations end and the clusters of guests reassemble into new configurations, the disguised blades shift as well to search out new bits of information. They cross paths, reconnect, and briefly exchange information. Ettorio speaks with Carenza for a moment, in the guise of a couple reconnecting. He reveals that “Larettio” would dearly love the excuse to kill someone in the arena, and follows up by proposing that the group draw him out by inciting a duel.
“One on one?” Carenza is unimpressed. “None of us can take him in a fair fight!”
“It’s not going to be a fair fight. I’m going to cheat, he’s going to cheat, it’ll be fine.”
“Ecaterina” drifts near a conversation between Captain Occorro and Cadmiro. The two act as old associates might, though they drop not even an oblique reference to the Salon of Enigmas. Instead they talk of more social affairs, in particular an interesting note that “Larettio” is now in search of a bride.
“Marcazo” chooses to mingle with the ladies, particularly Larettio’s admirers, the fair Lachrysia, and the Miriadis apprentice. Unfortunately, the group is bereft of truly meaty discussion.
Vesper takes up position near Grunestia again, who is now speaking with Larettio. The Miriadis discusses her house business openly, mentioning that Rofogarre has brought three of his pyromancers with him. When Larettio inquires as to whether or not Prince Gorsino’s son shows promise, Grunestia says that Rofogarre will offer him “the bargain” shortly.
The evening comes to a head when Carenza and Ettorio decide to initiate their plan. After “Ecaterina” hangs on Larettio admiringly for a bit, the slurred and apparently drunk “Marcazo” grows very offended. He chastises her for flirting with another man, even raising his hand against her. When Larettio seizes his wrist, it’s with an inhumanly strong grip. “Marcazo” recoils a bit, and once released, draws himself up against the other blade.
“Satisfaction!” he shouts.
The disguised Carenza openly challenges Larettio to a duel. The vampire retains his composure, but the bloodlust is starting to flare in his eyes as he accepts. Larettio agrees to send a courier with the appointed date and time. Carenza names the Shield and Crown Inn at random, and put on a show of great anticipation.
That settled, the hired muscle is compelled to eject the quarreling couple. The disguised Kosvach and Vesper refrain from taking actual enjoyment in the action. With that, Carenza and Ettorio are set to head quickly for the inn where they are supposedly staying, arrange for quarters, and figure out how best to deal with a one-on-one duel with a duel-thirsty vampire princeling.
And still there was no sign of Vittorio.