“I don’t want to capture a vampire. I want to kill one and go through his things for answers.” — Vesper Sespech
Before he meets the others for breakfast, Ettorio takes note of just how dedicated Bessari is to working with the Rovino books. He asks her about her family’s likely plans for the weapons they’re buying up. Bessari doesn’t need to think much about it. It seems to her that they’re probably preparing for a war. Gorsino is the type to crave battle, and if the rumors about tensions with Duatine or Bastinea are true, then an actual civil war would be a good time to have a heavy investment in weapons at hand. He thanks her, and leaves her to her clerical tasks.
Breakfast involves Vesper, Kosvach, Ettorio and Vittorio — Carenza has already departed to hunt down Vico and the Fisher Knights. They exchange the rumors of last night, and then depart to pursue more information. Despite Vesper’s admonition about traveling alone, Ettorio and Vittorio both cite their talents for disguise as reason enough to feel secure.
Vittorio’s information target is Cadmiro Zarocci. He learns that the merchant matches his reputation as new but shrewd money. He is reputedly distraught, having received word that his children were murdered in Maviolo. In fact, Vittorio learns that rumor has it the two were slain by some supernatural entity or persons who had close ties to the Prince of Maviolo, and therefore their deaths were covered up. The devil’s suspicion is further aroused by the news that Cadmiro has befriended a young adventurer named Larettio D’Oscura, a gentleman blade recuperating from wounds suffering on his last campaign. Larettio is described as a handsome, charming fellow with an eyepatch, who is often in the company of a young lady he rescued from slavery. The two are often found at the salons where Cadmiro entertains guests and furthers his social standing.
With Kosvach in tow, Vesper goes to the Citadel district. The only two notable Sorcerous House mages in Garganta are Tacitaris Verastin and Bronzarion Bascho, and she is more inclined to trust the Verastin. The older mage has tidy quarters high in the remodeled giant’s keep, and he is polite if not precisely warm. They discuss the disposition of the Prince’s recently disgraced arcane advisor, and Tacitaris states he’s certain she is not a traitor. Vesper is quite open with her suspicions regarding the conspiracy, and lets the Verastin know that there are vampires in the city.
Ettorio follows up leads on the missing master builder Rabuza. He finds that Rabuza went missing, and then a little while later some of his notes vanished from his home, though the place was not obviously broken into. Three of his former apprentices, now journeymen, had also recently left word that they would be absent for a time, and have not been seen since before Rabuza’s disappearance. The socially cunning Iluni manages to pin down Rabuza’s housekeeper, and from her he learns that some of the missing papers featured designs for a large statue of a bull, its joints designed with the articulation one might expect from a construct.
Vittorio spends some time at the House of the Lucky Shot, a Taltikkan temple in its upper stories and a gambling den in its lower levels (though admittedly the distinction is tenuous). He’s rather impressed by the priestess, an athletic and badly scarred woman with good cheer, but doesn’t strike up a personal conversation. He keeps a close eye on the tables for any more unusual coincidences, but none strike. All the same, he leaves with a nagging, familiar feeling that he can’t quite explain.
Ettorio, Vesper, Kosvach and Vittorio reconvene mid-afternoon for light snacking and drinks to share their current findings. Carenza still isn’t back, so they focus on the Vycalaca and how to target “Cadmiro Zarocci” in his salon.
The Vycalacas pose a couple of problems apart from the raw physical danger they present. Cadmiro’s quarters in the Citadel are likely very defensible, so some level of intrigue will be necessary to attain an invitation to one of his salons. Further, it may be difficult to contain the vampires should they choose to flee. Ettorio states he doesn’t quite understand, and Vesper explains how, when exposed in Maviolo, Ludovir dissolved into blood and seeped between the stones, while Lestrata conjured some massive plant to tear through the floor and abet her escape. She lays out a few of the vampiric weaknesses she’s aware of, including the Vycalaca frailty where holy water is concerned. Ettorio and Vittorio raise the possibility of smuggling holy water into the party disguised as alcohol, but Vesper argues that it might be somewhat blasphemous, and even pretending to drink from a hip flask of holy water could result in a very painful accident for Vittorio.
Ettorio leaps right into the discussion concerning Rabuza. “We also need to look for a giant bull with joints.”
Vittorio furrows his brow. “There are so many things I could say to that, but.”
Ettorio shakes his head. “You disappoint me.”
The topic of the bull — clearly some form of construct, possibly tied to the faith of Mal Zath — and the presence of a convict legion signify some form of offense. Vesper states firmly that the convict troops are ideal shocktroopers, used to take a target, as they’d make a poor home garrison. But until they know more, the group agrees to focus on the Vycalacas. They prepare to split up again, with the intention of finding a way to be invited to one of Cadmiro’s salons.
“And we should do so sober,” says Ettorio.
“And we should do so separately?” responds a quizzical Vittorio.
“Ah. I didn’t recognize the word!”
As Vittorio steps out into the street, he hears a faint melody in the distance, played on a stringed instrument of as-yet uncertain design. He muses that this composition seems to have been at the back of his mind all day. With a start, he recognizes it — a tune composed by no mortal, and a song that was first played in Hell.