Pre-Nuptial Arrangements: As the plans for his wedding to Bessari begin to take shape, Ettorio sits down with her and explains to her his involvement with the Black Veils. He omits his involvement with dealing with her father (and for whatever reason, she does not ask), and he doesn’t volunteer anything about his real motives the summer before he proposed. But generally Ettorio makes a clean breast of the situation. Although he is a liar, those are temporary, ephemeral lies — he won’t let her marry a lie.
Bessari is somewhat taken aback by this confession, but admits it explains a few things: the cloak, the alley-fighting, his association with mercenaries and necromancers. She asks if Carpa is one of their plants as well. She seems a little perturbed about the dangers of the trade, but ultimately demonstrates enough of a ruthless streak that “killing people for money” does not drive her away on moral grounds. If anything, she seems glad to discover that Ettorio has newfound depths, even if they are rather dimly lit.
Bessari also apologizes to Ettorio, confessing that their initial fling was in part a means for her to get out of an arranged marriage. She had meant for them to be discovered, so that she would seem undesirable to the (quite undesirable) groom her father had picked out for her. She had thought Ettorio would be a charming but harmless sort for her intrigue, but admits she’s quite fallen for him now that he’s demonstrated he has steel to his character as well as copious charm.
They set a date for the spring.
A Short Engagement: The day after Harvest’s Birth, Vesper tells her friends that she and Kosvach will also be married. She’s chosen Evernight as the date — the winter solstice, her favorite holiday — and Ladona as the location. She invites all her friends, emphasizing that she will not be offended if certain people cannot attend as it is somewhat short notice, and there is (understandably) some lingering resentment against Kosvach by the Cinquedea Rovino.
With only three months to prepare, Vesper travels to Cinquedea and Raspian, ensuring that the Vargari have no complaints with her impending nuptials. She has her mother help her with a wedding dress. When Vesper asks her mother to come to Ladona for the wedding, Istrella is unusually reticent at first. After 18 years, Istrella reveals the identity of Vesper’s father: Decillius Sespech, son of the House Grandfather Sadavari. He was already married and had a family at the time of his affair with the young Istrella (and as Vesper would remember, still does), and Istrella knew by the time she was pregnant that Decillius’ impotent ambitions were so important to him that he wouldn’t take proper responsibility if it meant it might undercut what little influence he had. Istrella finally admits that she has no real desire to see Vesper’s father again, but she’s willing to do so in order to see her daughter happily wed.
Father-Daughter Reunion: As winter draws closer, Vesper confronts Decillius on one of her visits to the Estate. Without ever calling him “father,” she makes it clear she’s aware of the circumstances surrounding the two of them, and the reason for his meddling in her affairs. She warns him that if he says or does anything to upset Istrella, Vesper may make him regret ever laying eyes on her to begin with. Decillius at that point is able to manage only a few weak protestations regarding Kosvach, at which point he runs into a wall of “Really? You want to question my life choices?”
The Wild Dog: While she’s in Raspian again, Vesper attempts to use her lessons in diplomacy to influence Carnis Vargari to play it a little cooler. Knowing what she does of the Vargari character, she avoids preaching or exhorting him to calm the fuck down: she simply lays out the political facts of Raspian and encourages him to figure out for himself that he may be doing his House more harm than good. Carnis, for his part, seems to have little respect for Vesper, but he does not openly scoff at her delivery. She takes the response as mildly encouraging.
Ambitions: Carenza begins a serious training program with the Ladies-in-Waiting, having successfully demonstrated the profitable benefits of traveling as adventurers and mercenaries. She starts focusing on larger-scale tactics, running drills outside the city walls so they can move beyond their specialization in city-fighting. She also begins promoting the company around Cinquedea, making sure that everyone knows about any recent adventures that make the Ladies look good.
City Life: Rugo settles in to enjoy some of the fruits of his labors. He spends some time enjoying his new apartment, but also works hard at sparring at the Goreadon temple and working the streets to maintain his connections.
Rugo finally asks Turthis Pulsciri about the money he’s still owed for his mercenary work. Turthis responds that he’s not authorized to make any such payments until some measure of reclamation has been made on the goods carried by the Wind’s Kiss. The head of the House, Umborio, refuses to be seen making payments to people who failed in their duty, and the loss of the Wind’s Kiss is registered in the Pulsciri books as a failure. Turthis recommends that Rugo travel to Cinquedea and take it up with Umborio, but the Raspian house’s coffers are sealed.
Preparing for Winter: With the events of Harvest’s Birth in mind, Opilio spends the autumn working hard to make sure the harvest will be fruitful for all concerned. He begins laying the groundwork for turning the best bits of land into vineyards for next year, a process that includes sending letters to attract an experienced vintner to come live on the Chapelwood lands and become Master of the Vine. When he can, he also spends what free time he can win with Dechera before winter. Ambira and Alesci gain some practice in managing the lands in order to assist their father.
The Wolf Returns to Maviolo: Kosvach and his sisters dedicate some of the autumn toward establishing more of a Vargari presence in Maviolo, in preparation to reclaiming some of the old House lands. As part of their ambition, they set out in search of a possible location to serve as a starting chapterhouse. They ultimately settle on the Last Ditch, a troubled Smoke Blocks inn that had served as a lair for a family of cannibals slowly turning into ghouls. With the family exterminated, the Vargari successfully claim it as their new base of operation. The proprietor, all too happy to be out from under the ghoulish thumb, is glad to stay on to run some of the building’s affairs. They hang out a new signboard featuring the two-headed wolf, and decide to keep the building’s tavern running in the meantime to help with bills while the Vargari presence is still skeletal. Vesper is not entirely impressed.