“So you’re saying if I kill him I can never drink again?”
“I’m staying here.” — Ettorio Iluni & Opilio Chapelwood
A week passes in Cinquedea. Carenza spends part of her time catching up with her relatives, Rasselo in particular. He mentions that he’s aware that a confrontation with his father is inevitable, and although he doesn’t particularly want to see his father dead, he isn’t going to fault Carenza if the unavoidable happens. When not visiting the Rovino tower, Carenza continues to work for the Ladies-in-Waiting’s benefit. Although she doesn’t manage to win the goodwill of the Veins’ Captain Breggatira, she does mastermind several clever plans that damage all the Ladies’ rivals and expand their territory. With the demands of this expanded territory, Carenza plans to take only five with her: Dua, Rabbit, Cattri, Lette and Vil.
Ettorio catches up with Marvino; the return of the Coral Tiara has put his father-in-law’s business back on track. He also spends some time flaunting his relationship with Bessari in front of her relatives, to their smoldering anger; a scandalous night visit adds the icing to the cake.
Vesper spends more time with Kosvach, dining at the Vargari household and simply enjoying her new relationship. She does have a difficult time attempting to keep from him that they’ll be headed to Raspian to hunt down Bravadi: she emphasizes she plans to visit her mother instead. She also visits the Tyliel estate to catch up with Ambira, who in typical forthright fashion admits far too much about her flowering relationship with Alesci. Vesper gives her the present of the Suran al-Qalir early, and Ambira is surprisingly already familiar with the work.
Opilio is content to spend time with his family. He gives Dechera a purse of 500 reganti, and encourages her to purchase the furnishings for their home that she’ll be happy with. He also speaks quietly with Alesci and Ambira, each in turn, emphasizing that although he’s happy their relationship is strengthening, that they should let this be a “solitary incident.” Neither corrects him.
Before they set out, the group meets for dinner at the Bridesmaid’s Tear, where they discuss the difficulties lying ahead. Carenza mentions that Bravadi likely isn’t in good with the Raspian Rovinos, who are allegedly more cunning than most.
“They are the sharpest knives in the Rovino drawer,” says Vesper.
“Which means they’re good against bread but not a tomato,” offers Carenza.
“There may be some tomato knives in this particular drawer.”
The metaphor continues for some time. “You come from a family of surgical tools,” Carenza expands to Ettorio at one point.
“Did you just call my family tools? Racist.”
The conversation eventually drifts into a more serious tone as Opilio addresses Carenza and Ettorio, stressing that he doesn’t want either of them to strike a killing blow against Bravadi. Though it may be a folk superstition, he explains, terrible things tend to happen to kinslayers. He wouldn’t want Ettorio to have to live with keeping that secret from his future wife, no matter how skilled a liar the Iluni might be.
The next morning, the group prepares to board the Mother-of-Pearl for their trip to Raspian City. Ambira, Alesci and Dechera come out to see Opilio off; more awkwardly, Rasselo and Bessari come to bid Carenza and Ettorio farewell, but are a bit on edge thanks to the presence of Kosvach. Carenza does what she can to distract them, so Ettorio can say goodbye to his fiancee. Bessari explains to him that although she’s powerless to prevent him from any scandal that may come from his attending Vestiri’s debaucheries, she would prefer to be the source of his scandal — but she will forgive him all the same as long as he doesn’t openly humiliate her. Unable to express the real reason for their trip (“We plan to kill your father!”), Ettorio fumbles for words until he finally says “I love you,” and then retreats to the ship while she stares in confusion.
Kosvach and Vesper’s parting takes a differently awkward turn. “Though I don’t claim to be all that clever,” he says, “I’m not dumb.” She pauses for a moment, then replies with “I’ll be back in a couple of weeks.”
They sail through a few bursts of rain, but reach Raspian City by evening. The garrulous and somewhat maternal Captain Oresca relates many folktales regarding the massive stone sea-gryphon statues that guard the harbor. As they disembark, the four are greeted by the true diversity of Rasennan trade — ships from Ossenland, Vilessa, Chelindor, the Grey Coast, even a Kheran trader with a bestial Nemekhari shouting orders at its workers.
While they begin to discuss their first night’s disposition, a young boy approaches them and offers to act as their guide. “Scouts and touts,” he proudly recites. He’s not easily dismissed, and eventually they agree to let him lead them to the Sterling, a good inn in the Shadeway. But something’s odd about his demeanor, and gradually they pick up that he’s sending signals to other children tailing them. Vesper frightens one away with the Sespech mark, and then they interrogate him. The boy, Dosta, explains that he was meant to lead them into an ambush. The children’s boss Grocci gave the order. The group agrees to let him continue.
“So there’ll still be an ambush?” Dosta asks?
“There’ll still be an ambush,” Vesper assures him. “The question is just who’s doing the ambushing.”
Grocci’s ambuscade is set in a small courtyard with a well: many men, some along a small wooden footbridge ten feet up and with loaded crossbows. Opilio springs the trap by lunging forward and driving a cart against a wall, pinning the two men that were using it for cover. But the crossbow fire is withering, and the ambushers’ offensive puts Opilio and Carenza on the defensive. Vil is struck down, though Carenza’s voice keeps her in the struggle. And things become even more intense when a pair of basement doors bang open, and a nine-foot ogre erupts into the fray.
But the band is canny as well as powerful. Vesper collapses the snipers’ walkway with a ruinous phrase, eliminating their advantage. The Ladies rally with their crossbows, weeding out the chaff. Ettorio, Opilio and Carenza focus on the ambush’s leader and the ogre, and are able to slay the ogre. With an insightful improvised feint, Ettorio sends the leader tumbling into the well.
The fight being over at that point, they throw down the bucket to the would-be commander who is having difficulty staying afloat. They interrogate him then, and he admits that Bravadi gave him the order. He was to drop off word at the Cripple’s Crutch, a tavern in the Scabbard whose barkeep is Bravadi’s contact.
The group prepares to head out for the Scabbard, leaving the thug to climb out of the well. Rabbit volunteers to put a bolt in him, but Vesper shakes her head. “He’s broken; once you break someone, it’s easier to do it again.”
“But if you kill him, then you don’t have to break him again at all,” protests Rabbit, before Carenza silences her. The mercenary captain takes Rabbit aside and tells her not to question orders — and gives her a gesture to remain behind. If Opilio, Vesper or Ettorio notice that Carenza has only four followers before Rabbit catches up, or that there’s one fewer bolt in her crossbow’s magazine, they say nothing.