“Velistir, that captain of hers, is a complete dick.”
“Well… not for much longer.” — Carenza Vega and Vesper Sespech
Carenza argues with Rasello after the revelation of the Vargari as targets. She spends a few minutes stressing that he needs to have a plan to stop Bravadi from doing any more damage to the House, then leaves in haste with one final warning for him to stay sober. She makes for the Bridesmaid’s Tear.
At the Tear, Vesper catches Opilio up on events, including the suspicious informer who went directly from the Prince’s court to the Stiletto. Carenza finds them there, drags them to a private area, and immediately begins to explain about the Red Tithe being sent after the Vargari. Vesper speculates that Kosvach and Alesci are probably in particular danger, as they may be prone to seek out the trouble on their own. The three quickly set out to the Vargari house.
The Vargari live in a former military post, converted to a very defensible manor. The house is on alert, with massive guard dogs of a more northern breed and very cautious guards. They don’t let the group enter until Alesci arrives from a nearby watering hole. He agrees to take the message in for them, and the guards let him pass. The group is then able to relax just a bit and discuss their next plan — before Kosvach and Alesci approach them from the street.
Opilio nearly vaults over the massive Vargari gate and opens it from within, much to the alarm of the guards. Kosvach calls them off, and the group moves quickly into the house in search of the false Alesci. Though their quarry apparently moved upstairs, he isn’t to be found near the house heads, Rodivar and Inyavka. Kosvach orders Alesci to remain with his parents, and then leads the others downstairs to one of the house’s hidden access points.
The basement holds a cell area once used to house prisoners, now acting as something of an armory. A small canal runs through the basement. They find the false Alesci here: the guard that was stationed to watch the canal is dead, and the grates that sealed the canal removed. They move to subdue the impostor, but he is impossibly quick. His shadow splits into three, an echo of the experience with Salzar. Then the spy leaps at Kosvach: and then there are two identical young Vargari swordsmen side by side.
The invader is quick and lithe, and an expert at directing simple attacks to strike the real Kosvach instead of himself — but Carenza calls down an attack order that cannot be entirely evaded. Kosvach hurls his duplicate to the ground with a furious Vargari technique, and Opilio breaks him with a ferocious strike that calls down the power of the sky and earth as one. The shadows attack Kosvach and Opilio, blending with their own shadows to hide, but it does them little good; their attack is quelled, and they are disrupted.
The three adventurers propose installing the grates, but Kosvach refuses: he wants the other assassins that have been “invited in” to accept the invitation, so that they can pay for this death. They remove the bodies — including the impostor’s body, which has reverted to the gray-skinned, peculiar form of a doppleganger — and lie in wait. Vesper, Carenza and Kosvach retreat to the relative cover of the cells, while Opilio climbs partway up the wall and suspends himself from a pair of sconces with remarkable strength and endurance.
Several minutes later, the assassins make their appearance. There are six of them; Vesper recognizes two trios of veteran, journeyman and initiate. The journeymen and initiates wear mostly black with occasional red highlights. The veterans are more peculiar. One wears a complicated armor of many straps, in an almost weblike pattern; his weapon of choice is a chain weapon with a grapnel at one end and a knife at the other. The second wears a full leather mask with glass lenses, and carries some odd weapons resembling more murderous fishing gaffs. The Red Tithe members quickly realize that an ambush has been set, and Carenza leads the attack.
The initial strike is full of supernatural fury. Vesper calls up the banshee’s wail into her own voice, wounding the Spider and his journeyman, and slaying his initiate outright. The second trio is blasted by Opilio’s primal thunder, and the second initiate falls. The heroes press their advantage quickly.
The two practiced assassins quickly realize the trouble they’re in. The Spider wounds Carenza, and then as the journeymen begin to fall, he and his brother begin to work on Kosvach. The gaff-wielder takes a brutal blow from Carenza as he risks her blade, tearing away his mask to reveal a tangle of burn scars, but is able to reach his target. The Vargari defends himself as best he can. Unfortunately, it isn’t enough. Kosvach hits the ground, but Carenza’s voice keeps him from slipping away.
Then Vesper unleashes the fury of one of her ghosts, manifesting it in a more forceful way than she’d ever managed before. She levels her aged sword, and Styriax appears. The ghost that stands protectively over the beleaguered Kosvach wears armor of a style seen only in old art and statues back in the days of Rasenna’s founding, and the two-headed wolf is on his breastplate. With a furious strike, Styriax’s ghost runs the scarred assassin through.
The Spider decides he’s had enough. Using his grapnel weapon to swing free from his assailants, he dives into the canal and attempts to escape. Carenza and Vesper are hot on his heels, though. Vesper freezes him in his tracks as her banshee vestige screams again through her. Then Carenza takes the struggling assassin’s head and forces it underwater even as he gasps for breath. When she pulls him out again, half-unconscious, it’s quick work for her Uromni weapon to pour itself into the form of a dagger, and she neatly cuts his throat.
They replace the grate with the assassins gone. “Sespech,” says Kosvach in some wonder, “is that what you meant when you said it was interesting to meet a live Vargari?”
“Yes. I already know a few… older Vargari.”
Kosvach sees to the respectful treatment of the dead house guard, then the group meets with Rodivar and Inyavka Vargari, as well as their Tyliel guest. Opilio, Vesper and Carenza share some of the story with them, and where the Tyliel and Vargari may have been targeted by the paranoid Bravadi. Rodivar thanks them for their help, expressing that he had not known the Vargari had such friends in the city. Though the House has fairly limited coin and influence, they are willing to repay the heroes’ kindness with loyalty.
The assassination plot largely foiled for now, Carenza turns her thoughts back to Bravadi. She borrows pen and paper, and begins on a letter to Rasello.