“Is me going with you going to be problematic?”
“For whom?” — Carenza Vega & Faustina Belluna
A few nights back, in Ladona, while Vesper and Vittorio were dealing with a sculptor’s woes:
Somewhat unexpectedly, the new recruit Coral asks Carenza for some assistance. The halfling explains that a relative of a friend is having trouble, and Carenza is “stalwart and intimidating.” The captain asks her to explain further, and Coral reveals the problem is an extortionist. Carenza agrees to help. Coral thanks her, and takes her off for further briefing.
They visit the Seven Arches Plaza, a place familiar to Carenza thanks to its proximity to the Cranequin tavern. There Coral leads them to watch a puppet show. During the show — a fairly lowbrow slapstick — a young woman in black-lacquered chain mail with a halfling maidservant arrives and watches the puppets next to Carenza and Coral. The two halflings greet each other discreetly, and engage in a short conversation in some form of bewildering cant. As the show comes to a close, Coral introduces the newcomers as Faustina Belluna (a name Carenza recognizes as an opera singer of some repute), and her servant Wren. Wren makes introductions in turn, and Faustina seems to recognize Carenza’s name.
“You’re one of the Iluni’s associates.”
“Ettorio?” replies Carenza. “Yeah. I mean, he’s married to my cousin. But not quite family. I’m good with ‘associates’.”
They retire to a wineshop with some neatly private booths to discuss things further. There Coral and Wren explain the difficulty. Recently a halfling racketeer named Sinker Tallymark has become something of a security risk. Tallymark has been seeing leaner profits of late — he used to associate with the more corrupt Black Veils before the assassin order cleaned up shop, and he also had ties to the smuggler Kagall. With both of those associates no longer in play, he has been exploring other avenues to maintain himself in the style to which he’s been accustomed. At present it seems he intends to sell “family secrets” to outsiders. Wren names his potential buyer as Mirona Calummis, a ruthless and paranoid local blackmailer. Given House Calummis’ ties to House Nemedian, these secrets would rapidly cause no end of troubles for the halflings of Rasenna.
So the two propose a solution: to make the deal seem unfavorable to either or both parties. Carenza and Faustina can demonstrate that disapproval can come from unforeseen quarters. And if the racketeer and blackmailer become aware that they might be making enemies they hadn’t accounted for, it may convince them to back away. The human women resolve that the plan seems sound enough, and agree to help.
Sinker Tallymark is first on the list. The racketeer makes his home in the mix of docks, rafts and tethered boats that is commonly called “Lakerat” territory (at least by bigoted sorts such as many Rovinos). Faustina and Wren separate to slink quietly around the side, up to the back door of Tallymark’s houseboat. Carenza, with Coral in tow, goes right up the dock to knock on the front door. A rather rude halfling opens up the viewing hatch to glare out at her and demand her business. At first he doesn’t find her elusive answers satisfying.
“You’re not here to sell, you’re not here to buy? What do you want, a meat pie? Go on back to the mainland for those!”
Carenza is not impressed. She begins to lay into the doorman with her best commanding voice, intimidating him and giving him the new name of “Meatpie.” The cowed halfling opens the door and lets her in. The front room is adorned with several unique treasures apparently dredged from the lake bottom or shipped in from other lands, including a strange humanoid automaton made of bronze, dating possibly back to the Dysian empire. Sinker emerges from the rear of the house, somewhat chagrined that his guard was overcome so easily.
Carenza points out to Sinker that a great many people are unhappy with him, many of whom he doesn’t know. The halfling racketeer goes on the defensive, even threatening to have the mercenary “disappeared.” She laughs off the threat, pointing out she has too many friends to vanish without a whole lot of trouble following. His nerves running increasingly away with him, Tallymark activates the old automaton, which steps up to menace Carenza. She remains completely unimpressed.
While this confrontation plays out, Faustina and Wren finesse the lock on the houseboat’s back porch. They slip into Sinker’s personal quarters. Faustina leaves his possessions be, but draps a black veil across his bed.
Finally the racketeer gives in. He agrees that the deal is probably a bad idea, and has “Meatpie” show Carenza out. Her last glimpse is of Sinker beginning to become extremely agitated after discovering Faustina’s calling card.
The next stop is Mirona Calummis. Faustina makes a brief stop by her apartments, choosing a dark dress and veil for anonymity’s sake. They then move to Mirona’s home. The Calummis townhouse has a side portion that is reputedly Mirona’s own, a place to do business. Carenza notes that the bodyguards she keeps are from a disgraced mercenary unit, the Vulture Swords.
One of those bodyguards answers the door. Faustina, without actually lying, projects an air so convincing the guard clearly believes she’s one of Mirona’s desperate “clients.” He invites the group in, offers them refreshments, and bids them make themselves comfortable in the parlor. When Mirona arrives, though, the tone of the conversation changes completely.
Faustina takes the bulk of the conversation in hand, with Carenza offering mostly silent backup. She encourages Mirona not to make the purchase, because there are far too many people who would become quite unhappy with her. The Calummis blackmailer becomes more and more nervous as the conversation continues.
“I am very much at a disadvantage,” she says, nervously attempting to fish out Faustina’s name.
“And you will continue to be so,” replies the veiled guest.
At last Mirona acquiesces, utterly defeated. Faustina rises to leave, having discreetly left a black veil on her seat. She and Carenza depart in full confidence; if she enjoys the look of incredulous confusion on the bodyguard’s face, she doesn’t betray it.
Coral and Wren seem well satisfied with the results, and thank their employers. The two groups part on good terms. Carenza invites Coral to a round of celebratory drinks or three. During the alcohol-induced haze of the evening, she even promotes Coral to an official corporal rank, though she doesn’t remember doing so in the morning.