“Our congratulations on a splendid performance. Give our regards to Iridios.” — Vesper Sespech
The Highsun evening festivities go well and without major incident. Carenza, somewhat affected by the exhilarating mock-battle with Tarvana Vargari, acquires drinks and begins flirting with the Vargari swordswoman. The sight slightly perturbs Vesper, who is not sure she likes the implications of Carenza potentially becoming “extended family,” and Kosvach, who is apparently expecting another relationship disaster from his sister. Vittorio, on the other hand, decides to assist Carenza by playing appropriately romantic music from a respectable distance. The two swordswomen part ways before the night is over, but it seems to have gone well enough by Carenza’s estimation.
The following morning, Vesper, Carenza and Vittorio gather together in preparation for their meeting with Prince Lazzaretta. Ettorio, claiming political difficulties thanks to his interactions with the Prince’s grandson, declines to participate in the audience. Vestiri joins the others at Vesper’s invitation to offer his own insights. Over the course of explaining his expectations for Prince Lazzaretta and her reactions to the diabolical revelation, he emphasizes how curious he would be to see how it plays out. Vesper takes the hint and invites him to join them.
They meet with the Prince of Ladona late in the afternoon, claiming the spot of her final appointment for the day. The meeting room is a large gallery filled with high mirrors and statue-bearing alcoves; it is remarkably acoustic compared to the sound-muffling private meeting rooms of Cortifo and Bellostia. Two advisors attend Prince Lazzaretta: the silver-armored Captain Argonest, and the elegant ritualist Odrianna. Argonest stands at attention the whole time, his hand firmly around the haft of his partisan.
The initial introductions take place, and the Prince acknowledges their prior visit. Vesper steps forward to speak, but Vittorio interrupts her.
“Please,” he says. “You’ve had to explain my situation enough times already. Allow me.”
And the stringed devil launches into his tale — the unanticipated death of his summoner, the influence of the Salon of Enigmas, the years spent roaming the land, the motivation to linger on in this world, and the desire to aspire to something greater with the help of Kylir. He produces the golden lyre pendant at the close of his explanation.
Prince Lazzaretta, unruffled, responds that she can tell he’s telling the truth about some things at the very least. She indicates a mirror behind the group. In the mirror, Vittorio’s reflection is that of his true self — tall, obsidian-skinned, horned and spurred with silver. She then asks her advisors for their insights. Argonest states that the devil may be a good liar, but that he’s fairly certain he’s telling the truth; Odrianna agrees to that.
The group then points out the difficulty with Iridios: that the illusionist can dispel Vittorio’s disguise with a word and gesture, that he has set manticores loose in a public setting as an assassination attempt, and that he is likely to remain dangerous. Vesper brings up his association with the Miriadis, and the complications inherent in identifying and neutralizing him.
Lazzaretta contemplates for a moment, then begins to explain the delicacy of the situation. Publicly supporting Vittorio and allowing him to travel openly as a devil would erode her support both among the Houses and the populace. She cannot be seen to take action in this matter. However, she notes that it would be dishonorable to betray the group’s trust by eliminating Vittorio’s free agency, so she releases the group to do as they may — and to deal with the Iridios problem as quickly as they can. Thus dismissed, the four politely take their leave.
The group decides that they need to watch their enemies and wait for a proper opportunity to arise to identify Iridios. Carenza dispatches her girls to go keep an eye on some likely candidates. Two go to shadow Ludovir Zarocci, and two more prepare to set out for the Tower of the Heron. Vesper recommends that the group visit the Dracoleon to watch Avistella’s performance, and see if Iridios is anywhere nearby.
Vestiri regards the Sespech quizzically. “Did you just parlay the plan into going to the opera?”
That evening the Dracoleon’s performance of The Decline of the Pirosi, a historical piece, is somewhat lessened in attendance — to be expected on the night following a major festival, perhaps. But Avistella delivers a truly impressive performance, and the rest of the show works intently to keep up. The various woes of shifting managers don’t seem to have sabotaged the play at all. The four are duly impressed. Vesper makes a point of sending a bouquet of flowers to Avistella, congratulating her on the show and name-dropping Iridios in the process.
Soon after they leave, though, Vil comes racing up to the group, clearly out of breath and agitated. She reports that there’s been some sort of trouble. Ludovir Zarocci attempted at one point in the evening to make a pass at Tarvana. She rejected him out of hand, of course, but a few hours later Tarvana went berserk, brutally beating a city watchman.
The group races to the scene of the incident. Kosvach is already there, demanding answers and action from a group of fang-helmed guardsmen who are themselves becoming increasingly hostile to the Vargari. The group moves to intervene, and Vittorio’s silver tongue quickly defuses the situation somewhat. The guards indicate that Tarvana has already been taken to the Iron Crypt, a particularly secure city prison, and Captain Argonest has taken charge of the case. While they can’t guarantee he’ll see them, a pair of guards agree to escort the group to the Crypt.
The Iron Crypt is part of the extensive catacombs and tunnels running through the grand Empire Hill of Ladona. To reach the prison, the party travels down through a series of winding catacombs, until they reach a section of ancient stone, a dungeon forged from old Dysian fortifications. There Captain Argonest agrees to see them, though he makes it clear that this case is based entirely on Tarvana’s actions and not influenced by their earlier deal with the Prince. After some argument, he allows them to see Tarvana.
The Vargari has fallen into a fever dream, not entirely coherent yet not exactly wasting away. Vesper recognizes the symptoms — the flushed skin, the dark red veins. Tarvana is suffering from a blood fever that is very similar to the blood-curse laid on the Vargari lands. The prospect disturbs Vesper greatly, and she inquires about the symptoms of the similarly infected Captain Tolnaro. Argonest admits that Tolnaro had spent time in the northern woods around Lucovol Villa.
Argonest agrees to allow Iliska as a visitor, based on her healing ability, though he is clearly wary regarding the infamous Vargari loyalty in the face of other pressures such as the law. He then ascertains the group’s plans regarding Iridios. Their conviction is clear. He nods, and dismisses them.
“You know where the boundaries are,” he says. “Do what you do.”