Rasennan Summer

53 - Double Bluff

Iridios brings in a new player to his game of deceit, but is himself deceived.

“Alright, everyone, line up, hup two three four, mock Ettorio’s penis.”
“I did that fan dance for you!”
“Oh, come on, you did it for yourself.”
“That may be true.” — Carenza Vega & Ettorio Iluni

Inside the Golden Hammer, Vesper, Ettorio and Carenza take stock of the situation. The corpses of the Yellow Wasps yield no particular clues as to their employer or his location, only gold. They give the coin to the frightened young girl Issida who’d guided them there and then escort her to a safe place to keep anyone from preying on a street urchin with far too much wealth.

Across town, the troubadour of fine repute, Vittorio Marvigliozzo, is enjoying the debate and gossip at the Venting Spleen. He finds himself approached by a gentleman of some elvish blood, dressed in pale clothes of subtly shifting color, who asks to join him and speak of interesting opportunities. The anonymous gentleman (whom Vittorio recognizes as the arcanist Iridios) speaks of a forthcoming event that would benefit from the publicity that a bard of Marvigliozzo’s stature could provide.

Iridios explains that very soon, Captain Quiccera is going to have a violent episode in which she will strike down one of her own men, then attempt to cover it up. Vittorio would be an ideal witness, thus ensuring that Quiccera cannot easily escape retribution. Over the course of the conversation, Iridios also alludes to this event stripping away the captain’s protection of a small group of dangerous elements, a group Vittorio easily recognizes by reputation. Iridios also notes that the bard’s help would be highly appreciated, perhaps even earning him a place in a rising House-to-be.

With a perfectly straight face, Vittorio agrees with each of Iridios’ talking points, and indicates his cooperation. The Miriadis adept is quite pleased, and tells Vittorio that the captain’s regrettable violence will take place tomorrow night at ten bells in the Plaza of Mermaids. Iridios then excuses himself with more pleasantries. Vittorio wishes him a pleasant evening, and then goes for a stroll to a particular guard post.

Captain Quiccera isn’t expecting visitors this evening, but that’s what she gets. First Ettorio, Carenza and Vesper arrive and explain the ambush they’ve recently suffered. They point to the trap having more of Iridios’ trademark illusion to it. Unfortunately, they have no evidence, not even a surviving Yellow Wasp to testify. “We self-defended them to death,” Ettorio explains.

The meeting is interrupted shortly thereafter, by a guard announcing someone on very important business. Vittorio Marvigliozzo enters the captain’s office. Vittorio smoothly explains that he’s privy to a plot that endangers everyone in the room — well, excepting the startled guard, whom Captain Quiccera tersely dismisses. He elaborates, revealing the core of Iridios’ plot. He further explains that he knows the three blades by reputation, and naturally took their side even as he allowed Iridios to believe otherwise. The group decides to see about interrupting the would-be “violent event.” Quiccera announces she’ll lay low so as to avoid being seen in two places at once.

The following day sees some preparations. Ettorio procures disguises for himself and the other two known targets — once again the disreputable Oirotte Bopilio reappears, along with a dark-haired blade (and ten of her closest drinking companions) and a red-haired young woman carrying a sword. That evening they choose to wait in one of the taverns adjoining the Plaza of Mermaids. Vittorio, as according to his arrangement, shows up to serve as a witness. He regales the local passerby with various songs and tales, including one of the ballads of “Shadowfox and the Bladed Banshee.” Ettorio is the only one to overhear this particular composition, and he doesn’t bring it to the others’ attention.

At roughly ten bells, “Captain Quiccera” and about half a dozen guards enter the square. The mock captain puts on a show of being in a terrible mood, turning on a subordinate who honestly doesn’t seem to understand what’s going on. She draws her blade, but doesn’t notice the disguised Ettorio slipping over to her until his dagger nearly enters her back. The strike would have been a good one, but “Oirotte” is surprised to find that her spine isn’t where he expected, and there’s some layer of magical protection about it. The false captain gasps in pain and surprise, and the illusion falls away — “Captain Quiccera” is in fact Iridios, and all the guards save the intended victim are clearly the hardest sort of Cinquedean gutter trash.

Vesper and Carenza charge to join in the attack, and Carenza’s girls reclaim their repeater crossbows to join in. But the startled Iridios isn’t easily subdued. He strikes Ettorio with a prismatic dart that dazes the Iluni, and conjures up several phantasmic shades to join the fray before he vanishes. The false guards are vicious fighters, and manage to strike down a pair of Carenza’s ladies and bloody Ettorio — yet the three have even more assistance. Vittorio infuses his music with subtle spells, and then when Iridios is gone, hexes his quarrels and sends them into the fight. Between the steel of Vesper and Carenza, the ghosts in Vesper’s skin, and the magical trickery of Marvigliozzo, the fight ends decisively.

The genuine Captain Quiccera arrives on the scene quickly thereafter. Vittorio is first among the many witnesses who can attest to the events — of how an illusionist was attempting to frame her. Unfortunately, Iridios himself is nowhere to be seen. No discussion is necessary for the group to affirm that they can’t leave it at that.

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