“I will try to make less sense in future.”
“I am comfortable with our relationship as it stands.” — Ettorio Iluni & Opilio
While the others are at the opera, Ettorio spends the evening making inquires, as Ettorio, about the various odd deaths and what role Fair Clyressa might have played in them. He is intercepted at the Hanged Rake by a pair of actors who feign recognition, then secretly warn him that he may be better off with more subtlety. The actors (who do not introduce themselves) explain they’re friends of the Prismatic Players, and are therefore interested in Ettorio’s welfare. They mention that Fair Clyressa is probably reselling the apples to interested parties, and that the Phouthite priest Calcarro has secretly met with her on some occasions.
Ettorio returns to the Glowing Poker. There he meets with the party returned from the performance of The Khavayish Clockmaker. They discuss a variety of things, including Ettorio’s findings and the nature of the opera. When Ambira asks if they will be visiting the matchmaker the next day, Ettorio glumly agrees it must be done. He orders Carpa to clean his livery, and the lackey takes a subtle revenge by setting out Ettorio’s most flamboyant pantalones for the next day.
Vesper is the earliest up the next day, taking a ferry from the Quiet House to the Iron Fang school and practicing her lessons until she meets the others. They take a coach to Eveningstones, where Carpa announces them to the family butler Togiro (not-so-subtly alluding to his time as a bandit in the process). As they move into the foyer, Ettorio points out that Opilio will need an estate name to be properly dignified.
“Oh no, you probably have a few minutes.”
Everyone decides to pitch in and help Opilio name his new lands (as he refuses to take the name Whiteknees). Unfortunately, the suggestions are less than helpful: Carenza favors weapon names even when inappropriate, Ettorio takes the process not seriously at all, and even Vesper has difficulty with rural euphony.
“Opilio of Sheep Butt.”
“You’re not helping.”
“Vine… Things?” offers Vesper.
“Vine Things?” boggles Ettorio. “I’m bad at making things up?”
“I… don’t know what vines actually do.”
Finally, Ambira suggests “Chapelwood” with a faint sense of desperation, and the name sticks — just in time for the Iluni to begin arriving. Ettorio’s sister Virillin is first, a fey-seeming young lady. His parents Medescar and Niladae are next. Each of the Iluni are elegantly polite to their guests, yet each has a different undercurrent of emotion and inquiry running below the surface. Ettorio begins to play the family game, carefully avoiding some specifics of his adventures and negotiating the conversational orrery with a bit of uncharacteristic awkwardness.
At lunch, they are joined by Lapetra Iluni, head of the household and Ettorio’s aunt, and Marvino Iluni and his cheery wife Angesta. Ettorio takes full advantage of his father’s assistance in seating the family and guests in appropriate groups — in particular seating Vesper by the head of the table, where she can distract Aunt Lapetra, and placing the Chapelwoods by Niladae, Marvino and Angesta. The game unfolds in full over the meal, with a number of interesting ramifications:
- Niladae begins the first and lightest part of the interview phase.
- Marvino seems troubled, and Ettorio guesses that it may be money issues.
- Vesper feigns respect for Ettorio exceptionally well, and gets along famously with Lapetra.
- Discussion of the group’s assistance for Prince Temagli proves inevitable, and Carenza helps cover for Ettorio underplaying his part. He doesn’t seem to fool his parents or his sister, but Lapetra and Marvino are sufficiently distracted to accept the story at face value.
After lunch, Niladae and the Chapelwoods remove to an atrium to discuss matchmaking in more detail. Vesper goes with them, to look after Ambira’s interests, and Carenza is shown around the estate by Medescar. Lapetra speaks briefly with Ettorio, assuring him that the Rovino affair seems largely forgotten — the girl was not with child, and the Rovinos have found others to fight with over the summer and are likely distracted. She also speaks approvingly of his friendship with Vesper, and is happy that he is “working toward a potential alliance”.
Niladae reviews several of the most eligible bachelors in the city with the Chapelwoods. The four she believes are most promising are:
- Giacador Andredi, a cousin to Andelac Borsari in his mid-30s
- Turavo Avicca, a rich man who has set aside his first wife and is looking for a woman who can bear him an heir
- Alesci Tyliel, who has had a processional feast but has yet to choose a lady
- Nemore D’Ambergia, a wealthy young poet.
She also mentions that the Verastin adept in Cinquedea is a young prodigy by name of Falcinos, but that he does not socialize and is therefore a difficult prospect. Vesper inquires after the Vargari, asking if the gentleman she met was somehow unavailable. Niladae explains something of the House Vargari history, and why they might not be an advantageous match — further, the gentleman in question, Kosvach, has not had a processional feast despite having passed the appropriate age. It’s uncertain why — either he may have some form of flaw or affliction, or perhaps the Vargari are simply disrespecting tradition.
Finally, they agree to begin planning a communal processional feast, and the group takes their leave; Ettorio makes arrangements to have his things brought around to stay at Eveningstones for a while. The group visits The Last Glass to compare notes, including Ettorio sharing the news that his aunt believes he’s courting Vesper. Vesper notes that this is perhaps fortuitous, as his family may leave him alone, and certainly it will never happen. Carenza announces her interest in perhaps recruiting some troops from the Ladies-in-Waiting, and Vesper says she can arrange for a visit to the Tyliel estate that Ambira could perhaps use to meet Alesci Tyliel a second time. Opilio decides to send for his wife Dechera, and Ettorio proposes to also send for Vestiri as well, that he can escort her (and perhaps be of further use). The two send letters that afternoon, as Carenza keeps her ear to the ground and begins to learn something of inter-gang rivalries (the Ladies-in-Waiting having particular issues with the brutish Barbarians, the hardened Salt Knaves, and the intimidating Leechmen).
These affairs settled, they begin investigation of Fair Clyressa in earnest. Ettorio has Carpa purchase some sleep potion, dons his Oirotte Bopilio disguise, and disguises Carenza as well as the exotic “Aznerac,” Oirotte’s bodyguard. The two head to the Golden Orchid, as Opilio and Vesper set up in a cafe across the street to keep watch.
Once inside, the two note Clyressa holding court, but do not approach her. Carenza takes Ettorio’s Ferraregante dagger and waits in a small salon with other bodyguards and such; “Oirrote” chooses a small girl likely to have little constitution, and arranges for a 30-gold stay on the third “heaven” of the establishment. Unfortunately, it seems to be policy for the working girls not to accept drinks from guests, and it takes a lengthy story about deserts to finally pique his companion’s thirst enough that she takes a drugged glass of water. Once she’s unconscious, Ettorio locates a secret door with a peephole, and moves into a corridor that runs outside the various rooms. He knocks a guard out, and moves down to the ground level where he finds a secret door into Clyressa’s quarters.
The Iluni discovers a secret compartment in Clyressa’s desk with a small key and ledger. He pockets both as he hears people approaching, and unsuccessfully attempts to hide under the desk. When the two guards draw their blades and prepare to escort him “down to level nine,” Ettorio bluffs and flees. He is able to lose them by feigning a dash down to lower levels, and then moves up to his third-floor room and prepares to walk out, feigning some embarrassment. He almost gets away with it — he even meets with “Aznerac” before the shouts of “There he is! Get him!” ring out.