“We’re not hitting them there. That would be stupid.”
“What?” — Carenza Vega, Vesper Sespech & Rugo Cuscala
Ettorio vanishes into the night to see if he can perhaps learn some more about the Black Veils of Raspian, and how to better come into their good graces. Whatever he finds is uncertain: he isn’t present the next morning, when the group goes to meet Vestiri at the Vague Remorse. The tavern portion of the inn is mostly filled with people steadfastly ignoring one another, making it an unexpectedly useful place to discuss business.
Vestiri arrives in the company of a heavily-scarred mercenary in plate. He inquires after Ettorio’s absence, and the group explains it must be either business, something scandalous, or recovering from something scandalous. “I hope he’s well. How is his family doing, by the way? The last time I saw his mother, she looked as though she’d just had a wish granted by a smiling efreeti.”
Vestiri introduces his companion as Ser Rugo Cuscala, a knight after a fashion, and someone who’s lost a friend to a withering sickness very like that caused by the plague-apples of Blackharvest Chapel. They discuss potential means of gaining Prince Cortifo’s attention in a positive fashion, and Vestiri suggests doing what they seem to do anyway — finding some manner of trouble and getting involved on their own initiative. They discuss a number of rumors that suggest possibilities.
- Valisto Dusaam is rumored to be an infernalist.
- The Executors street gang is expanding quickly, devouring rivals and becoming a potent criminal element.
- Something is stirring up the crypt lords under the Sorrowgarden.
- A charismatic rabble-rouser is arguing for better treatment of workers, and people fear riots.
- Prince Gorsino is claiming he’s the target of an alliance.
- A killer with a crossbow is murdering people in the Downturn slums, perhaps for sport.
After discussing the options, they decide the Executors might be the best target for their brand of interference. Rugo joins them as a favor to Vestiri. They begin their investigations in Wheelrow, and soon learn that the Executors are an up-and-coming third party in Raspian organized crime — the other two being House Belladonna, and a mysterious cartel called “the Faceless House” that is reputed to be a genuine Great House acting covertly. Rugo is actually able to delve out a likely prospect for the Faceless House — the river-trade moguls of House Nemedian. The Executors already dominate much of the Gryphon Docks and Wheelrow, and are still expanding — though their lieutenants are being spread out thinner and thinner.
Their investigations move to the Scabbard after lunch. While Carenza is distracted with a recalcitrant informant, Opilio spots a familiar face — one of the thugs from Redoris that were part of Scorpis Rovino’s retinue. Asking after the fellow, Opilio finds he’s part of the crew hired by one Brino Ruvetti, a broker that’s purchased a tower in the Scabbard. Ruvetti apparently fended off a recent assassination attempt, and displays the charred skulls of the elven assassins in his tower to assist morale. When the four reconvene to compare notes, Vesper points out to Opilio that they now know where Bravadi Rovino is.
Opilio ponders for a moment before becoming chagrined. “Oh, I’ve been Ettorioed!”
The news of the assassins complicates things further; Vesper suggests that “Ruvetti” must now have a wizard in his service. They focus again on the Executors, and contemplate the dangers of the hideout — the gang operates out of an old shrine to Jaulckem. Rugo volunteers to further their move against the Executors by infiltrating them and providing information on their hideout. “I’m new in town. I need work.” There are no objections.
The scarred mercenary’s approach is direct and brutal: anyone who gets between him and the boss either backs down or winds up nursing injuries. He meets with Gorvo, the burly head of the Executors, but shrewdly notes that the real brains of the operations must be the bookkeeper Raccitelli. Gorvo sizes “Ogur” up and apparently is impressed by his skills — as well as his brass.
“What do I have to do to get a territory?” Rugo asks. “To be… baron to a king such as yourself?”
Gorvo sets “Ogur” the task of somehow dealing with the Drovers, a rival gang in Wheelrow marked for conflict or assimilation. If he can bring back a trophy from Josso Brokeyoke, the Drovers’ leader, then he can be deputized to rule the territory. Rugo accepts, and sets out to learn as much as he can about the Drovers. He doesn’t learn much with the remaining hours of the night, though.
Rugo visits Opilio an hour before dawn at the Hare and Pheasant, updating him on the progress and charging Opilio with using his impressive streetwise skills to learn more about the Drovers. He then heads for the Sespech grotto, pausing only to intimidate a clumsy Executors tail into reporting that all is completely on the up-and-up.
At the grotto he relays the information to Vesper, and requests breakfast and a place to sleep. Vesper has him fed, but then dispatches him to a nearby inn instead of a Sespech guest room. Vesper’s mother is clearly worried by the intimidating visitor, and not-so-subtly tries to determine if this brute is the Vargari suitor she’s so worried about. Vesper then heads out to collect Opilio, whose savantlike knowledge of the streets has clearly faded — she finds him attempting to wheedle information from actual drovers. She takes over the investigation, and learns that the Drovers have been viciously active of late. They no doubt have been attempting to look strong to deter Executor attention.
Rugo wakes up at noon, and then moves on to the next stage of his plan. He approaches the Drovers as a messenger from the Executors, demanding a one-on-one parlay be set up for Josso Brokeyoke. When a Drover lieutenant gives him trouble, he beats the man down — and then thrashes nine more men to prove his point.
Josso Brokeyoke makes his appointment.
The meet takes place in a quiet portion of Sorrowgarden; Rugo meets Josso alone, while Vesper and Opilio lie in wait to ambush Brokeyoke’s entourage should they try anything. Josso Brokeyoke is clearly reluctant to bend knee and turn over his territory to “Ogur,” even if he could stay on as a lieutenant. Rugo moves directly into doing things the hard way. Brokeyoke is able to handle a slaughterhouse hammer with some skill, but he’s not on Rugo’s level; he’s beaten down before he can genuinely injure the mercenary. His men move to help, but are quickly scattered when Vesper manifests her banshee vestige as an independent force. Those who are still on their feet after the keening flee Sorrowgarden at once. With Josso subdued and a guard patrol approaching, the group quickly leaves.
Late that evening, Rugo brings Josso Brokeyoke as a prisoner before Gorvo. Gorvo, much impressed, agrees to fulfill his part of the bargain.