“I’m not going to let someone get assassinated just so you can preserve your reputation with your terrible family.” — Vesper Sespech
While Ettorio and Vesper spend the day negotiating with the Black Veils, Opilio and Ambira continue their preparations for a processional feast. Ambira bonds with Virillin, though Opilio notes that the young Iluni seems to be practicing some deception regarding her emotional investment with Ambira, if in a harmless fashion. Lapetra discusses potential partners for the feast, discussing the necessity and drawbacks of pairing with either the Avicca or Pulsciri. Opilio decides to throw in with the Pulsciri.
Carenza goes on patrol with several of her fellow Ladies-in-Waiting, checking the borders of the territory for potential troubles. She sows tales of glory in battle, priming the younger Handmaiden pledges in particular for a potential move. Hacker Lil keeps a close eye on her, but does not challenge her.
That evening, she goes to the Rovino tower to ask about affairs. Bravadi, Scorpis, Quinta and Bessari are all missing, with only the irritated Rasselo as a personal contact remaining. Rasselo complains that nobody tells him anything, but he has overheard a few things: Bravadi’s off with an attack of religion, seeking a personal audience with a priest; Scorpis has headed to the Thornshields, now of House Miriadis, to discuss things; and Bessari is off talking to the Crisandor. Carenza begins further inquiries that night, and is able to uncover even more interesting information. The priest Bravadi has been secretly visiting is Morsca Bane, the scarred veteran turned bull-priest of Mal Zath. Further, it seems likely that Quinta is attempting to set up a meet to hire assassins.
Finally, Opilio and Carenza catch up with Vesper as she works her way through Bitter Regrets at the Bridesmaid’s Tear. They join the young necromancer for drinks, and Carenza corners Carpa and ensures that the lackey will deliver the precise details of her findings to Ettorio. “This would be a bad time to go all dumb servant on me,” she emphasizes, and the ex-bandit gravely concurs. Vesper explains her and Ettorio’s operation to Opilio, and supplies a few facts about wererats at his urging.
The next morning, Opilio meets Vesper outside the Iron Fang school with fruit and pastry, and announces his intention to hunt the wererats before they strike more viciously. He recommends visiting a silversmith; she instead opts for an alchemist. They call on Brandaborius, the Bascho adept in Cinquedea, who is polite enough about the call and arranges for them to purchase some liquid alchemical silver, enough to coat weapons and harden with exposure to sunlight. She also sends a message to Kosvach Vargari: “Rovino may be hiring assassins. -V.S.”
Carenza has breakfast with Bravadi, and manages to insinuate herself into his counsel. He admits to planning a “thunderbolt strike,” crippling one of the Houses presumably aligned against the Rovino. At present he is marshalling allies and contacting assassins — “sometimes you simply have to spend some bloody coin,” he says. He advises Carenza to potentially find friends in low places that could provide a riot. The ultimate target? Bravadi claims the Vargari aren’t numerous enough to send a message, much as he’d love it to be them — so the best choice is the Tyliel. Cutting the head off a witch, as he puts it.
Again, Carenza, Opilio and Vesper meet for lunch to compare notes. Carenza’s news takes clear precedence; with the revelation that Bravadi is a loyal follower of the Blood Bull, it seems clear that he’d be willing to set the city on fire to deal a blow to the imagined conspiracy against him. “Now you see what happens when you act like Ettorio?” Vesper asks Carenza at one point.
The potential assassination now a critical point, Vesper and Opilio hire a coach to take them to the witchwood. (Carenza remains behind and spends more time with the Ladies-in-Waiting, unwilling to be openly seen visiting the Tyliel.) Along the walk from the coach to the mansion, Ambira engages Vesper on the topic of marriage and children, speaking of her own expectations (and how they’ve changed) soliciting the young Sespech’s thoughts on the affair. Vesper calmly admits it is not a concern for her, and suggests that Ambira not think of marriage and children as a necessity for her own goals. Opilio remains very quietly out of the entire conversation.
At Kircinos Manor, they’re met by Alesci Tyliel, who chats pleasantly with them as he brings them to the local House head. Vesper cuts to the quick with the topic of the Rovino plots. The conversation continues as they enter a parlor where Viriscia Tyliel, the lead adept of the local witch-House awaits. Mistress Viriscia listens to the story, and states she’ll send a letter to Bravadi Rovino implying that she has become aware of his plot through oracular means. Alesci theorizes that the assassins are probably Red Tithe, and therefore near-implacable, if they’ve been hired yet; he explains away his knowledge as a trademark of traveling in swordsman circles.
The visitors are invited to stay for dinner. Vesper and Viriscia discuss the Miriadis problem over dinner, and the Tyliel adept seems to share Vesper’s concerns. Alesci shows some signs of more-than-polite interest in Ambira, who admittedly seems very little like the average Cinquedean girl. He also leaves the grounds with them when the Tyliel coach carries them back to the city, stating that he needs to talk with his friend Kosvach about these troubles.
On her own, Carenza spends time with her gang. She talks with the Duchess in particular, warning her of the possible attempts to incite rioting and how this would be trouble for the Ladies. The Ladies-in-Waiting leader continues to express some suspicion in Carenza’s surprising utility, yet admits that she’s willing to remain open-minded about it all, or at least until she has a clear idea of where all this is going.