“I just wouldn’t advise marrying into that House. I may have to destroy it later.” — Vesper Sespech
A few days pass after the excitement with the Red Tithe. Nothing more is heard from the Zamallan assassins, nor the wererats for that matter. Bravadi Rovino was spotted boarding a southbound ship, the Eagle’s Pride. Vesper trains her swordsmanship further, Opilio is absorbed back into planning for the processional feast, Carenza spends time visibly among the Rovino, and Ettorio dallies at the Bridesmaid’s Tear, conversing with his loose associates in the Black Veils.
One afternoon at the Tear, the harlequin Giancapri invites Ettorio to go for a stroll. They wind up in Sufferthorn Square in Templeguard, and have some refreshments at a roadside cafe. As they do so, cries break out, and Captain Velistir staggers into view — staggering, laughing, thrusting at unseen things in the air. He lurches into the path of a coach, and the frightened horses run him down. As the coach barrels away, cries for a doctor ring out, and the doctor that arrives — a figure Ettorio recognizes as the Black Veil known as Corveri — pronounces Velistir already gone. It’s not long before Captain Quiccera is on the scene in remarkably timely fashion, taking charge of the investigation and publicly discovering odd black apples on Velistir’s body.
Giancapri and a stunned Ettorio are joined by the herbalist Rutesse, who alludes to giving Velistir a kiss before his unfortunate accident. The two assassins chat for a bit with no real signs of remorse. Ettorio takes his leave, and sends messengers to gather his friends for a meeting at the Last Glass that evening.
At the gathering, Ettorio explains the events of the afternoon. The Iluni is clearly still quite rattled, and admits that he was taken aback by the casual manner in which the Black Veils invited him to watch the assassination and the offhanded way that they discussed it later. Vesper points out that Ettorio has taken many lives, and Velistir deserved to die as much as any. The philosophical discussion goes on for a bit longer before it’s interrupted by Vestiri and Dechera, in Cinquedea at last. Complicated discussions follow, wherein the four attempt to discuss recent events without tipping their hand in every scandal. Vestiri and Dechera regretfully prove too perceptive for them. Later Opilio comes clean to his wife, and Ettorio explains further to Vestiri.
The evening of the processional feast finally arrives. The feast is held on a wooden pavilion built out over the bay from a Diadem pier, adorned with decorations depicting merfolk. Opilio meets early with the other priseri (Ninetta Pulsciri and Donifar Jadesailor) and their parents, and in time the celebration begins and the guests begin to arrive.
The romantic intrigues are perhaps less dangerous than the recent months facing assassins, cults, spiders, ghosts and apes. They still command the attention and dread of the adventurers. The sweet but somewhat hapless Ninetta Pulsciri immediately develops a crush on Alesci, to Ambira’s subtly concealed frustration. As Rasselo and Bessari make the rounds, there are clear tensions between them and the Vargari, but the Rovinos seem dedicated to making it appear that they are willing to get along.
Other tensions arise over the course of the evening. Veparre Pulsciri seems inclined to test himself against another young blade, possibly Kosvach, or his clear rival Tanila “The Hawk” Avicca. Nemore D’Ambergia arrives with his pet cockatrice Emeraude on his arm, and after Opilio’s urging gives it to his manservant to handle. Turavo Avicca seems interested in Ambira, much to Opilio’s dissatisfaction. Crestir Miriadis pays particular attention to Vesper and Floressa Tyliel, perhaps seeing if either of them could be persuaded to change their House — Vesper attempts to play along, but cannot conceal her contempt for the Miriadis philosophy. And according to some observers, a rivalry develops between Floressa’s ermine familiar Saltarello and Chiro, though it’s uncertain what discussions the two may have had.
The greatest social thunderbolt, however, comes from Ettorio. The ummarried Iluni spends time watching Bessari, evaluating her motives. It appears clear to him that she has always felt that their liaison was harmless enough and the Rovino reaction unwarranted, and she seems to be enjoying the ability to meet with him openly. It appears to be a sign of her empowerment. And discerning all that, Ettorio moves to open negotiations to marry her.
The reactions, however, are not quite what he expected. Rasselo is too concerned with not falling into old rivalries to outright deny the concept. Bessari seems overwhelmed by the idea. When Ettorio goes to speak with Vestiri about the affair, he explains that he made this opportunity as a delaying tactic and is surprised they haven’t immediately rejected the idea. Vestiri points out that in the wake of the Prince’s edict, a political marriage may be more appealing to Rasselo as a move to establish his primacy — and that Bessari may be entertaining fantasies that Ettorio has been so taken with her that he thought about her all summer and now has the opportunity to propose. Ettorio realizes that he is in dire trouble, and drinks more. Carenza attempts to help, but goes from recommending against the marriage to speaking well of Ettorio to Rasselo in roundabout fashion. She argues with Ettorio over the affair until their voices are sufficiently raised to attract Dechera’s attention — who wants to know what could possibly be so troublesome on Ambira’s special day.
But the dancing portion of the evening comes and goes, and eventually the processional feast ends without anyone having been stabbed, mauled, petrified, or thrown into the bay. The feast is declared a great success on those grounds alone.