“One of two things have happened. Either I did a very large amount of drinking, or I was attacked by a werehorse. To be fair, I think the drinking was more likely.”
“Well, I guess we’ll see on the next full moon.” — Ettorio Iluni & Vesper Sespech
With the affair with Kagall settled, thoughts begin to turn towards a return to Calvera. Blackharvest Chapel continues to weigh on Opilio and Vesper’s imaginations. Only a few last bits of business remain to be resolved.
Vesper receives a letter from the Estate, requiring her presence at the Tuo Tenumbar. Opilio, refusing to let her travel for a half-day alone, escorts her there. In the meantime, Carenza resolves to go make certain things are settled with her family, and to stress Ettorio’s involvement (just to make sure that there are some Rovinos who are aware they owe him a debt).
At Bastion Acre (aka “the Blockhouse,” or the “Bastacker,” depending on who you ask), Carenza and Ettorio meet with Cornabossa Rovino, as well as Carenza’s father. Carenza explains the basics of the struggle, pointing out that she did it with the assistance of Ettorio Iluni, Goodman Opilio of Calvera, and Vesper of House Sespech. The names seem to confound and impress her relatives. They confess they are quite in Carenza’s debt, and that they even got some of Kagall’s spoils before the watch was alerted. Cornabossa is somewhat surprised to hear that Carenza won’t be staying in Ladona after her reconciliation, but wishes her well — as does her father, though her father seems to have gotten the impression that Ettorio is her lover.
Along the way to the Estate, Vesper explains to Opilio that she’s not a Sespech by birth, but was adopted for her talent in Sorcerous House tradition. She also admits that she hasn’t received formal permission to endanger herself, which Opilio bristles at hearing. Once at the Estate, the two descend to the lowest vault of the Tuo Tenumbar, where the House Grandfather Sadavari awaits Vesper. He invites her to walk with him, and she relates the details of her travels as the two climb the stairs, Opilio respectfully behind them. Along the way, Sadavari stumbles once and seems to feel his age; he explains that his time isn’t too far off, and speaks of politics with her before he resumes his climb. At the top of the tower, he invites her to contemplate the view, speaks once more of balance, and then formally pronounces her an Adept of the House. He shows her a dagger and pin that were waiting for her, but noting the pin of Secordis Osomont and the blade Styriax, he confesses he’s impressed she did not wait. As a final gift, she’s given an extra ritual book and a peculiar note: “There was one survivor of Dunsini Rise. He may prove signficant.”
While Vesper opts to remain at the Estate that evening to study, Ettorio and Carenza find themselves commiserating over the various ways in which their families have been somewhat less than ideal support. It leads to drinking, and eventually to the decision that if Carpa will be around to take care of them, there’s no reason not to drink as hard as they can. Second thoughts eventually emerge when Carenza wakes up in a high-class stable the next morning, wearing the dress of a commedia actress.
“Carpa, did I kill an actress?”
“Did I make out with an actress?”
“You were… encouraged to.”
A chain of discoveries follows: Ettorio is in the hayloft, as is the actress; Ettorio is wearing Carenza’s pants, and the actress is wearing nothing at all; the rest of Carenza’s clothes are draped over a stable barrier as if it were a changing screen; Ettorio’s cloak is hanging like a bat from a rafter, and it has Ettorio’s clothes within it; there is enough gold left for Carpa to go purchase a cloak, breakfast and a restorative; if the actress is in fact a werehorse, Ettorio cannot find any odd birthmarks to confirm it upon her sleeping, nude form; Carpa is far too considerate to enumerate the events of the evening. The two return to the Pale Maiden (though Carenza insists that Ettorio keep her pants), where Ettorio waits for Opilio and Vesper while Carenza goes for a walk. Once reunited, Vesper goes to do some research to find out about the last child of Dunsini Rise. The last night in Ladona ends with a fine meal, and Carpa (under orders from Ettorio) recounts some events from last night’s debauch, including Carenza’s apparent ability to perform dialogue from The Alchemist’s Daughter after some personal coaching.
The near-fortnight trip back to the Borsari Estate goes largely without incident. In Canteria, Ettorio almost provokes a small band of Vanasian templars headed for Cinquedea, but thinks better of it in the end. The group is well-received back at the Borsari Estate: the constable is careful to ask if Carpa has been properly behaving, Ivella Borsari is apparently still quite taken with Ettorio, and Carenza receives full hospitality after a tense moment. Opilio meets with his wife and secrets some of the spoils going toward his daughter’s future, and Vesper inquires about sword lessons with Ramilante.
A feast is held in the group’s honor, during which Opilio attempts to deceive his wife about the amount of danger he’s faced, with awkward assistance from his companions. Afterwards, Ettorio and Carenza spend time sparring with Ramilante, and Opilio confesses everything to his wife. He takes her out to the fields to demonstrate a portion of his gifts, conjuring the spirit that has been with him since Dunsini Rise. But it delivers a strange omen, pointing in the direction of Quercinnara’s tree and losing a single leaf from its arm. It speaks a single word: