“To be fair, a bar is a perfectly appropriate place to try to kill me.” — Ettorio Iluni
The death of the manticores doesn’t immediately settle the guests down. Opilio takes charge of seeing that the injured guests receive medical attention. Lapetra and a few other Iluni begin the work of crowd management, calming guests to wait for the guards. Ettorio, Vesper and Carenza eye the nearby Corventira Tower where the manticores emerged. They leave Vestiri in charge of explaining away Ettorio’s absence to the guards, and set out. Unfortunately, the manticore attack has drawn so many witnesses that it’s impossible for anyone Ettorio to approach the tower discreetly. Carenza begins shouting back, causing a distraction so that Ettorio can climb up to the roof unnoticed.
The roof of Corventira is empty, save for chains that seem to have been formerly attached to the manticores’ collars. Ettorio deduces that the chains were loosed on purpose. He then descends through the trapdoor into the large studio that occupies the tower’s top floor. The place is barely lived in, thick with feline musk and with obvious signs that the manticores were kept here for several days. Their dung is oddly sweet-smelling, though, and Ettorio doesn’t know quite what to make of that.
Carenza and Vesper knock on the tower door, and the dwarf that answers is the nephew of the tower’s owner. They’re quickly joined by said owner, Drosseltar Lathemark, and a squad of guards that want to investigate the tower. The two ask just who had rented the upper apartments, but the answer’s surprising: Rasselo Rovino. Lathemark’s description matches Rasselo (“about so tall, lighter hair, sour expression”), and he mentions that his renter had mentioned wanting to arrange a surprise for the wedding, even renting cranes to bring large crates up the tower.
Ettorio moves quickly away to warn Rasselo. Unsurprisingly, his new brother-in-law finds the whole idea preposterous. When Captain Quiccera arrives to make inquiries, the group finds the goodwill they accumulated during the Velistir affair aids them with the no-nonsense officer. They argue that it would make no sense for Rasselo to take these actions under his own name if it were really him, and Vesper stresses that it’s likely a doppelganger or illusionist was the responsible party. Quiccera finally accedes to their logic. She tells Rasselo he’s free to return to the Rovino tower, though he’s not to leave the city until the investigation is more settled. She gives the others a similar freedom. “I don’t want to make you wait on your wedding night,” Captain Quiccera tells Ettorio.
“It’s all right,” replies Vesper, in a faintly judgmental tone. “They didn’t.”
In the coach ride back to their apartments, Ettorio and Bessari are finally able to discuss the events of the reception in private. Bessari holds together very well, though she is very angry — she hadn’t expected a perfect wedding, but she didn’t expect manticores, either. She calmly keeps her fury suppressed as she evaluates possible motives and enemies. Ettorio doesn’t attempt to deflect her concerns; instead, he dismisses Carpa for the evening. Bessari does the same for her maid Cassa shortly before arriving at their new apartments and dealing with the unctuous landlady, Mistress Digretti. The two celebrate their wedding night in defiance of all the stresses surrounding the attack.
Carenza and Vesper meet for a few drinks at the Bridesmaid’s Tear, and go over possible suspects. Though a doppelganger or illusionist seems most likely, Vesper is disinclined to believe it’s the Morafir of the Elaborate Lie striking back. Partway through their discussion Carpa arrives to deliver the message that Ettorio will meet them tomorrow morning, and offhandedly suggests that perhaps it is Prince Bellostia that hates them, given that Ettorio and Carneza were the two who had the audience with her firsthand. He then offers each of the ladies a savory pie, and vanishes dramatically into the night, emoting softly about having to find a place other than at his master’s side.
The three gather together to discuss their options the next day. As they mull over the possibility of Bellostia as an enemy, Vesper mentions that there was a person in the gallery who took great interest in Ettorio and Carenza’s long-ago audience with the Invicci Prince. She followed the suspicious character back to the Stiletto, but he eluded her from there. The three decide he’s as likely a starting place as any. They begin making inquiries, and Ettorio learns with astonishing speed that the fellow, one Mulgo, is a professional informer who rooms at the Pike-Gaff in the Veins.
Mulgo clearly recognizes them as they appear, and doesn’t take much convincing to give up some information. He says that the man who bought the manticores from the D’Ambergias was a half-elf in odd clothing that seemed to change color — and that as far as Mulgo knows, the half-elf works for the Miriadis. The group leaves Mulgo be, to go into hiding or skip town as he sees best, and goes searching for more information.
Ettorio is the first to discover an interesting point. Thanks to the Iluni habit of keeping track of various elves and half-elves, he uncovers the name of Iridios, a half-elven adept that the Iluni courted for a time in Palaterra. The name is familiar to Vesper, who knows it from her study of mage sigils and notable adepts. She confirms that Iridios is known as an illusionist.
During their investigation, a young girl — one of the many urchins of the Veins — approaches Ettorio with a letter for him. Somewhat taken aback that he was detected so easily, Ettorio shares the contents of the message.
You must have realized that you have been targeted by assassins. I fear it is likely they were hired by a Prince. I am loath to say more. May we meet in person? I will be at the sign of the Golden Hammer this evening. My courier will show you the way.
— A Fellow Persona Non Grata
The young girl says she’s supposed to be their guide, and Ettorio agrees to meet her at one of the bridges into the Veins shortly before the meeting time. He spends the rest of the afternoon carefully attempting to lose any tails or spies that might have tracked him.
That evening the three meet the young girl, who takes them to a rundown tavern that apparently closed, but came under new management. The Golden Hammer seems to be anemic, with only a few isolated patrons drinking alone in the dusky, cramped main room. The girl gestures toward one table in particular.
As the group moves toward the table, the bartender catches Carenza’s eye. He continues to polish a mug, and stare at the door with the same suspicious expression that he gave them as they came in. Even as she stares at him he doesn’t look away. She doesn’t quite have time to voice her concerns to the others.
The bar, bartender and back wall all shimmer like a mirage as a volley of crossbow bolts flies through them. Carenza raises her shield, Ettorio is in motion as soon as he hears the twang-and-whistle, and Vesper’s ghosts rise up to shield her — all three avoid lethal strikes, though none of them are unscathed by the scything bolts. The illusory wall fades entirely, as do the few people sitting at tables. The interior of the tavern is indeed larger than it initially seemed — and the space between the false wall and the real wall is filled by a dozen mercenary crossbowmen protected by the actual tavern’s bar and a small group of six halberd-wielding mercenaries. Carenza quickly recognizes their colors: the Yellow Wasps, who are looking even leaner and hungrier than they were when last encountered almost two years ago.
One of the Wasps gestures at the small girl who’d acted as courier as he reloads his crossbow. “No witnesses!” he shouts.
Carenza draws her Uromni weapon and snaps out a war cry. Ettorio and Vesper move quickly to follow up her attack, Ettorio taking cover behind a table to snipe at the Wasps with his wedding present, and Vesper placing herself between the child courier and the crossbowmen. Carenza slices open one of the halberdiers, but is in a bad position to receive the answering volley of bolts. Vesper, too, is wounded even with the protection of her shadow.
But even with the many flesh wounds cut by the Yellow Wasps’ quarrels, the three blades are not crippled — and they are angry. Carenza begins hacking her way through the halberdiers in a disciplined rage, shouting to Ettorio and Vesper to hold together. Vesper calls on the vestige of her banshee, and with a horrible wail stops the hearts of five Wasps, breaking a hole in their line. The Iluni picks off another pair of mercenaries with his own crossbow, then draws his dagger and then slips through that gap to join Carenza for some expert knifework.
Carenza continues to cut her way viciously up the line; when a Wasp’s hauberk stops her blade, she pushes even harder in a surge of fury, ending his life with brute force. Ettorio dances around her, flanking and then executing other soldiers. The last Yellow Wasp standing in the corner tries to leap the bar, but in his panic he catches his foot on the edge and tumbles hard to the ground. Even as he stands up, Vesper ends him with a word.
Silence falls over the ramshackle tavern. The group loot several coin purses from the Yellow Wasps, give them to the young girl, and send her along with a warning to stay safe. They then begin more carefully examining the corpses for any clues that might give them another lead on the elusive Iridios.