“Well, you’re a bard. That’s what they do for a living. Froof.” — Vittorio Marvigliozzo & Carenza Vega
The group spends the rest of the day tidying up, replacing the sally port door and concealing the entrance, dragging together what corpses they can for burning or a more refined burial, and gathering some articles of plunder. Carenza is somewhat dubious about the motif of the manticore’s face, but takes the shield all the same. Vittorio takes a particular shine to the odd mottled hellhound figurine, and offers Vesper the medusa-haunted mirror from his pocket in exchange. They spend the night in the manor, over Brosetta’s mild protestations.
In the morning they prepare to leave, closing the gatehouse after them. Vesper gathers white clay and herbs to mix a pale gray paint. She daubs the Sespech eye on the closed doors as a warning. Then they return to White Hollow, where the residents are quite grateful to hear that the ogres are well and truly finished.
This leaves the problem of the bandits who took the rider from White Hollow on the southern road. It seems unlikely they’ll show themselves to the group if they didn’t before. So Vittorio offers to deal with the issue. He adopts the guise of a solitary wandering performer, and strolls a goodly distance in front of the others. They can’t resist the bait — when he reaches the rough area where they’d spotted the ambush before, quarrels land in the road before him and rough-looking men and women emerge from the brush, demands on their lips.
That’s when Vittorio drops his disguise, at the same time that he speaks the word of command to the Lamoscan figurine. Suddenly the bandits are confronted with a seven-foot, ebon-skinned devil with a horse-sized hellhound by its side. He bellows in laughter, drowning out the high-pitched cries of the scattering bandits. “THIS ROAD IS NOW PROTECTED,” he roars after them. Not one challenges his statement. Once the woods are completely quiet, the others catch up to him. Vittorio is quite pleased that the matter was solved without harming anyone. Vesper is the one to offer a counterpoint. “We know they’ve killed at least one person. We could have harmed them a little bit.”
They reach Ladona without further trouble, and choose to drop by the Vargari tavern/compound first. It’s the usual low-level ruckus there. Kalbak and Iliska are throwing axes at a target board, and Brosetta immediately heads in their direction with a raucous bellow to boast of her exploits. Carenza scans around for Tarvana — and finds her in a booth, getting a little familiar with a nicely voluptuous young woman.
Carenza keeps her reaction under control. With a firm smile, she throws the Vargari badge on the table for Tarvana, offers a sentence of “We did it,” then politely excuses herself. She heads out for the lower-rent inn where the Ladies-in-Waiting have been quartered. Her ambition to work through her frustration by setting the Ladies on more training is quickly derailed, though, when she finds that there are a few locals who are interested in signing on. She gives them a time to show up for tryouts, and spends the rest of the evening in the company of her company.
Vesper, on the other hand, gathers Rodivar, Inyavka and their children to relate what they found at Lucovol Villa. She describes their findings and the defeat of the grim in detail, and shares her plans to create amulets that would keep the fever at bay. This would allow the true-blooded Vargari to move to Lucovol should the Prince grant the bequest. It would also allow them to join in the hunt for the Vycalaca, though she leaves that latter detail implied.
In the morning, Carenza visits her father to discuss recent matters. To her surprise, he volunteers the information that not only are they increasingly proud of her, but that she would be quite welcome to sit by her uncle Cornabossa’s hand for a time and learn more of managing the local family. The news quite surprises her, awakening new flames of ambition. She mentions she’ll consider it, then excuses herself for her current primary mission. She rallies the Ladies, and begins preparing for their march to Brassado.
Vittorio decides to spend his morning wandering the city. As he walks the streets, though, he notices a number of strange twists of coincidence. A street game of dice he passes shows three remarkably rare throws in a row, which sparks accusations of cheating. A card game he observes results in two hands of equally ridiculous rarity colliding. Somewhat perturbed by these occurrences, he heads for the shrine of Kylir. He waits a while at the grounds, and is relieved to note that the odd coincidences seem to be absent on the grounds. Still, once he leaves, he notes a flock of starlings a block or so off. The birds momentarily assume a perfectly symmetrical flight pattern before flying further away and breaking apart.
Vesper attends her private audience with Prince Lazzaretta that afternoon. She explains that Lucovol Villa is now safer for occupation, should the Prince wish to have an extra settlement close to the Lamoscan border and the northern road. Lazzaretta thanks her for her efforts, but then asks about her ties to the Vargari. She coolly notes that Vesper may have some personal interests in the Vargari fortunes due to her marriage, interests that may go against her House’s overall will.
The young necromancer responds that she does indeed have a personal interest in Kosvach’s fortunes, and that she carries a Vargari sword at her waist. She clarifies that her intentions involving Lucovol predate her marriage, however, and that she believed having someone strong — Vargari or not — in the villa would be better for the province’s overall security. She also notes that she’s found that other princes have found the Vargari useful as a distraction — with other Houses worried if the “Werewolves” are going to devour them as well, they take on a share of the scrutiny that would otherwise be on a prince. Lazzaretta nods quietly at the observation.
That evening at the Vargari chapterhouse, Brosetta receives her initiation. The ritual and oath are as informal as one would expect, but that does nothing to dampen the sense of seriousness in the room. After her induction into House Vargari, they move to a celebration where Brosetta offers her encouragement to Erigo and Kalbak. Tarvana tries soliciting Carenza during the festivities, but is neatly deflected; the Rovino mercenary offers a very nice bottle of wine to Brosetta as a celebration and makes her exit early.