“I was thinking of ways I could look like some random dumbass ready to be snatched up.”
“You’re fine.” — Vittorio Marvigliozzo and Vesper Sespech
Vittorio proposes that if they’re to travel together, given that he needs to bring his sizable toilette with him, they would be better off in some sort of caravan. He recommends moving with a troupe of traveling players. Vesper admits she feel some urgency to preventing Iridios from causing more trouble closer to her home, but she needs to remain another day until her nails are done — the karun tagli of Falcinos Verastin, to be precise.
The diabolic bard does some investigating, and learns that Catafarza’s Prismatic Troupe will be arriving in Cinquedea soon. He applies his charm to the troupe, persuading them that a trip to Maviolo might be better for them than staying in Cinquedea — at least once they’ve been properly compensated. With the group of blades purchasing various supplies for the Prismatic Players, and Vittorio promising to give them all the latest stories and plays from Cinquedea on the road, Donaria Catafarza eventually concedes to the plan.
The three make some preparations to leave over the next days. They notify Carpa of their departure, so that he can inform Ettorio of their movements. Carenza has another bolstering conversation with Rasselo, who wishes her luck in his own irascible manner. Vesper picks up the remainder of the karun tagli, and distributes them among her colleagues. And a couple of days later, the troupe sets out. Vittorio has hired a wagon to carry his artifact, and drives it himself. Carenza brings along five of her Ladies, dressed roughly as security. Vesper, though less than enthusiastic about a caravan’s reduced speed of travel, accompanies them as well.
The road to the Forspadan border goes by without incident. The group samples the famous sour chicken of Crizzi, and notes that the more rural citizens of Invicci are jealous of well-to-do visiting Cinquedeans, though of course quite happy to take their coin. A complication arises once they reach the border-town of Abbatore and its Forspadan neighbor Fort Crimson, where the lieutenant of the Forspadan troops is a little too inquisitive for everyone’s comfort. Vittorio is thankfully able to talk down Lieutenant Salumis before she conducts an investigation of his own wagon.
The Forspadan countryside provides some enjoyable, if a bit hot, travel. Each town has its own distinct special tastes to discover, both wine and cuisine. Vesper takes a particular liking to the goat cheese-filled “marrow bone” snacks local to the area.
In one village, however, the troupe arrives to discover some form of trouble in play. In the town square they find a pair of halflings, dressed in servant garb, begging for the assistance of the town militia. It comes out that the halflings, Umber and Lilac, are servants to the notable artist Rivo Moroposa, who keeps a country estate nearby. The estate was recently raided — harpies sacked the place and carried off Morposa. The militia seems hesitant to launch a rescue effort, and in all honesty, ill-suited to challenge harpies on their own. The group offers their services instead.
The grateful halflings lead them back to the Morposa home, where they also meet the servants’ daughter Coral. Umber is able to give the general direction in which the harpies left with his master. As the group sets out, though, Coral slips after them and offers to guide them the rest of the way. She says the harpies are in a very old abandoned tower that nobody visited since a basilisk lived there long ago. Impressed with the young halfling’s stealth abilities, the group agrees to let her lead the way.
The group draws close to the tower without alerting the occupants. One harpy, a creature with vibrant plumage and wild hair, sits atop the crumbled roof; the others aren’t in sight. As planned, Vittorio breaks cover and begins to wander to the tower, affecting the personality of a lost rustic singing to himself. This catches the harpies’ attention, and although they don’t seem to care for his first song, soon he has all four listening to him intently. With the distraction in place, Coral slips toward the tower, and is soon lost from sight. At Vesper’s direction Chiro flutters off to accompany her as she frees Morposa.
When Morposa arrives at the tower entrance (and is immediately pushed to his belly by Coral), Vittorio begins to negotiate with the harpies, who have begun arguing over whether to keep him or the painter. The troubadour first argues that both should be released, but the harpies are lacking in enough empathy to consider the artists’ needs. In the process of negotiation Vittorio asks one of the harpies to sing. The youngest of the four, a surprisingly fetching creature, chooses to oblige — and Vittorio hears the voice of a genuine siren for the first time. Unfortunately, so do the rescuers. Carenza and Rabbit succumb to the allure, and begin to walk, enthralled, toward the harpies. While the Ladies-in-Waiting are able to grab them and hold them back, the scuffle alerts the harpies’ attention.
The resulting negotiation is tense, but achieves a peaceful resolution. The heroes accurately play off the harpies’ appreciation for food and drink, and bring as much wine and liquor as the Prismatic Players were able to carry — drying out the troupe temporarily, somewhat to the players’ irritation, but winning the freedom of both Vittorio and Morposa without a fight. During the celebration, a couple covertly check the tower, and see a blocked-out mural that Morposa was working on oddly juxtaposed with the bone midden of the harpies’ meals and the stone form of a long-dead basilisk.
Rivo Morposa insists on feasting the group for his freedom. He agrees to return to Spardis for a time, until the harpies forget about him and move on as they tend to do. He shows some flirtatious interest in Carenza, but the mercenary politely avoids his advances despite the encouragements of her subordinates. Coral also shows interest in Carenza, but in a different manner — she’s not interested in a future as a house servant, and asks if the Ladies in Waiting have need of a scout. Carenza enthusiastically accepts.