Rasennan Summer

11 - The Heat of the Matter

Confessions are made, some mock fights prove more serious than it would seem, judgments are rendered, a loose end hangs itself, the Prince is grateful, and reasons to press on to Ladona multiply.

A moment of prelude:

An hour or so ago, Opilio finally extricates himself from the knot of revelers who were still celebrating his victory at the wrestling portion of the festival. Deciding to look for his friends but still heady with wine, he manages to go into precisely the wrong portion of town: Thirsty Men turf. The unpleasant gang soldiers who find him are about to start expressing their territoriality when a runner arrives, telling them that something’s gone wrong with their attack on “the fainter” and at least five are dead. Opilio uses the opportunity to slip away, navigate himself directly back into Thirsty Man territory, and finally escape a second time.

He does manage to pick up a trail of sorts, first discovering the scene of carnage where many of the Prince’s guard (including a sour-faced Gastardi) are cleaning up the bodies of the Thirsty Men. There are few hints to his friends’ direction from that point on, but the smell of wine draws him to the street where Furare and Lyria are speaking to his friends.

The corpses of the Black Veil assassins produce few clues. They’re wearing clothes that apparently can be quickly altered from civilian to assassin look, and each carries about 50 gold reganti in a pouch (perhaps for bribes), but they’re regrettably short on personal identification.

Lyria Redstockings continues to appear quite the innocent in all this, though nobody apart from Furare believes a word of it. She claims to have been hired by what she took to be two soldiers attempting to play a prank on the Fury. Shortly thereafter, she identifies two of the dead assassins as her employers. The group offers to escort her home, while Furare goes to tell the Prince of what’s been transpiring. Along the way to the courtesan’s home, the four (Vestiri having slipped away) start levying some pressure on her to share her part in things. Vesper in particular stresses that they know she was probably afraid for her life, and that may afford her some leniency. Lyria then agrees, and confesses that Gastardi is the culprit. She offers to show them a letter she’d kept from him.

The four take her to her house, a well-appointed place off Half Moon Square. While the other three wait downstairs, Ettorio escorts her to her quarters, where she offers him wine and goes through her correspondence. The wine is quite good (Ettorio being sure to drain both glasses), and twenty minutes later she is ready to go to the Prince.

At the palace, the group finds Prince Temagli in Furare’s company. They explain what they have found or suspect, and Lyria offers the letter in her keeping. With Gastardi implicated, Temagli agrees to have him brought in for questioning. Furare, for his part, announces his intentions to knock the ambitious Caribaldi down at the grand duel tomorrow. The four are invited to stay the night in the prince’s palace, and accept.

In the morning, Ettorio sleeps late, and the other three drift down to witness the mock battles. Opilio and Carenza develop a desire to participate in a full-contact battle, and join the Orange banner in a four-way fight for Allanzar Square. Opilio is a daunting figure, and is able to push forward while Carenza leads a difficult and stalled pincer assault. Just when things are looking grim, the two rally their Orange team, join forces through the remains of the Greens, and surge forward to claim the center of the square. Ettorio and Vestiri join them afterwards, gossiping about the events of the night before.

Everyone assembles at the grand plaza for the dueling competitions. When it’s his turn to fight in the quarter-finals, Captain Caribaldi steps forward and makes a brief speech about how he devotes his fight to the gallant Furare, ignobly targeted by assassins. (Vesper and Carenza, watching the Captain carefully, suspect that his speech is altered from a planned eulogy for the fallen Fury. Ettorio notices little but the lush form of the young lady that has attached herself to him.) However, the moment is slightly ruined for Caribaldi when Furare appears and announces himself as the Manticore captain’s opponent. Vesper notes that Furare seems particularly agitated, and spies the signs of wolf’s heart on him: the Fury has indulged in an alchemical “advantage” for the fight that may endanger his heart. She quickly moves to find an Evrelite healer to be ready.

The fight between the two is remarkable, with Caribaldi’s deadly skill barely overmatched by Furare’s drug-fueled strength and speed. Furare takes several hits that would fell a weaker (or purer) man, and ends the fight with a hard smash to Caribaldi’s jaw before he topples. Opilio and the Evrelite are quick at hand, and manage to save Furare’s life. Suspecting more foul play, Vesper looks around for the Manticore wizard Grimorio, who Opilio spies on a second-floor balcony. Vesper realizes he’s working a ritual, and lays the eldritch eye of Sepech upon him. The disgraced Dusaam recoils, and abandons his working. Laurels of victory are offered both to Furare and to the champion who would have faced him, the first twin victory in Canteria for some time.

The Prince gathers the group that afternoon, after the festival, and tells them that Gastardi was found hanged in his cell, allegedly by his own hand. He thanks them for their assistance, and mentions that he plans to give the Manticore Company something to do by giving them a Lamoscan contract (with the help of some Tuderi funds). He agrees to hold the trial of Potifol Whiteknees soon.

Over the next two days, the trials take place. Potifol is stripped of lands and wealth, and made a pauper. His gamekeeper is sent into indentured servitude to a local farming family. Crevant is sentenced to prison to await execution “or a change in the prince’s mood.” Finally, Carpa is pardoned and sent into the service of House Iluni.

The four also receive rewards from Temagli:

- Ettorio receives a fine suit of elegant Canterian leather armor, worked with images of horses and horseshoes. Something of the spirit of the thoroughbred seems to reside within it. (+2 skybound leather armor)

- Carenza is given a suit of brightly polished chain mail, treated alchemically by Bascho craftsmen, and a warning about assassins besides. (+2 chainmail, resist poison 5)

- Opilio receives an old copper amulet with a ram’s head, covered in verdigris, that the prince feels would make a lucky talisman for him. The amulet was a gift from the temple of Chaneth. (+2 “cloak of resistance”)

- And at the prince’s request, Tenumbra Sespech gives Vesper a gift from the Gnomon: a suit of grey leather that seems to strengthen her bond with her vestiges, allowing her dead protectors to guard her even further. (+1 deathcut leather)

The parcel for Prince Lazzaretta proves to be a small, ornate coffer. Its lock is shaped like a hand, the fingers keeping the lid closed, with an eye motif on the hand that features a keyhole in the pupil.

Finally, the group prepares to head down the Serpent Road to Maviolo. Ettorio and Vestiri abandon their sparring for a genuine farewell (though Vestiri can’t help pointing out that Ettorio is really courting trouble, outdoing his previous Rovino escapade and Vestiri’s own provocations by sleeping with Lusaddo Tuderi’s sister Amabella). Opilio sends a letter and some more money home. And then, it’s off east to the City of the Dragon.

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