“I’m perfectly fine.”
“You may be perfectly fine, but you’re not perfectly typical.” — Vesper Sespech & Ettorio Iluni
The bodies of the shadowy assailants dissolve into wisps of darkness that evaporate more quickly than smoke, leaving only dark garments behind. The opera can be heard continuing, perhaps a bit louder than before. And the well-dressed bouncers of the Theatre Penumbral quickly arrive to take stock. Before they can ascertain whether or not this is one of the duels where the survivors are too well-connected to take into custody, Vesper strides up to the man in the lead and demands to speak with the house manager. Said manager arrives shortly: Vittrigio Belasque, a gentleman with a mildly dramatic demeanor and a superb mustache. As Vesper informs him of the seriousness of the assault and the potential troubles with a ghost, he quickly offers to contact the theater’s owner.
They meet the owner, a frail-seeming winter elf woman named Chaedris, in one of the theater’s salons. Vesper explains that the ghost tied to the building is bound to a sword that was kept as a prop, and that it is important they find the matching scabbard, which holds a second ghost (the wife of the first, apparently). Someone took the scabbard in the last week or so The property master Katsa is sent for, and she admits neither sword nor scabbard has been used in the last season; she is not certain why it might be missing. It is revealed, though, that the theater had to release a troublesome actor named Mescetti recently; the fellow had ambition, a lack of discipline, and the loose ethics that could well point to him as the thief. Vesper advises that the theater engage the services of a Sespech shadow mage to assist them with these potential invaders from the dark, and the three depart. Vesper retires to the Pale Maiden, while Ettorio and Carenza engages in some of the low living common to seedy actors as a potential means of finding Mescetti. They fail to do so, but learn much of the underbelly of the Ladonan night life.
The next day, Vesper prowls weapon and pawn shops, in case Mescetti sold the scabbard. She has no luck on that front, though she does speak with an ironmonger who knows Mescetti, and is owed money by the errant actor. The weapon-seller says that he’s heard Mescetti skipped town, perhaps headed for the border, and he hopes the bastard is devoured by beasts.
Carenza and Ettorio, for their part, continue combing the “upper-seedy” side of the city. In a tastefully shabby brothel, Ettorio runs into one of the Prismatic Players, a zany who’s present for the “initiation into manhood” of one of his troupe. The actor relates that they encountered someone matching Mescetti’s description hanging around the Prismatics’ campsite, with a scabbard such as Vesper’s described, attempting to provoke some of their fellows into a swordfight. The fellow was keeping company with a man described as “something like an overmuscled vulture,” a bald, aquiline man with a fur collar.
The next contact with information is an old acquaintance of Carenza’s: the smith Balsar, who forged her coming-of-age blade. Balsar identifies the vulture-like man as Vorgasan, one of the Golden Hooks sellsword band. The Hooks have a reputation as body-sellers and opportunists; Balsar mentions that they drink at the Shredded Eel when in town. Deeming it likely that Vesper would like to visit this violent dive with them, they return to the Pale Maiden to collect her.
The Shredded Eel sits on a quay by the lake, and its sign depicts an eel that’s more cut into segments than anything else — not that the clientele seems to be of the sort to quibble over semantics. While the three distinctly stand out, they receive no trouble at first, and spot a fellow with a crutch whose vambraces sport backward-curving, gilded barbs. They move to a nearby table and practice not drinking the dubious beer while trying to overhear something. However, a drunken ruffian and his crew decide to cause trouble, the principal lout looming over Vesper and asking Carenza “How much?” He winds up paying dearly for his hostility in the ensuing brawl. The majority of his bullyboys are blown into groaning, broken heaps, slashed along their weapon hands, punched in open wounds until they pass out — merciful dispatches by compare. The would-be “romancer” is opened from groin to sternum by Ettorio’s masterwork cinquedea during the fight. Vesper says a few words over the man’s corpse as Ettorio and Carenza corner the wounded Golden Hook who was attempting to flee. From him they discover that Vorgasan has led the Hooks north, receiving an interesting tip on a plague-town called Dunsini Rise. With that information secured, they leave the Shredded Eel largely intact.