From the Coiling Snapdragon, the road to Canteria is uneventful, if somewhat crowded: many people are traveling to the capital for the three-day festival of Highsun. As the small party nears the northern gate, they note that a small group of the Prince’s riders seems to be leaning on a group of traveling players who are attempting to park their wagons in a nearby field. Opilio bristles at the sight — particularly of the lieutenant’s predatory fixation on a young actress — and the group decides to engage. They convince the lieutenant, one Gastardi, to send some men to escort them to the prince; then Ettorio feigns some acquaintance with the players, implying to Gastardi that House Iluni would be displeased if the actors were inconvenienced any further. The lieutenant leaves them be, promising to send word of them to the prince.
The group takes the prisoners to the prince’s manse, where Opilio watches over Crevant, Potifol and Dorego in their cell as Carpa comes with them. After an hour’s wait, the prince’s attendant escorts them into Prince Temagli’s presence. Temagli reads the letter from Borsari, asks a few questions, and then calls for the captives. They appear (alongside Lieutenant Gastardi, who makes an unconvincing excuse for not having gotten word to the prince sooner), and Potifol dirties his knees as part of his confession. Prince Temagli has them taken to the prison to await trial after the festival.
Following their audience, the group splits up. Ettorio heads to Alicorn Pillars, the Iluni home within the walls, taking Carpa with him. Along the way he meets his flamboyant cousin Vestiri, who insists on seeing Ettorio’s “man” properly dressed in livery.
Carenza, in search of a place to stay, heads to the Giant’s Hammer, an inn particularly favored by military sorts and sellswords. There she discovers an old colleague Cabrino, a former quartermaster who now arranges jobs and hirings for his bread and butter. Cabrino listens to her story of the Scarhawks’ fall, and agrees to put her up for the festival and keep an ear out for potential jobs. Cabrino also mentions that there’s been some talk of a potential military coup, but that he doesn’t know nearly enough to share.
Vesper and Opilio head to the Sespech tower called the Gnomon (or “the Shadow Tower” by locals). There Vesper sees to the securing of Secordis Osomont’s body, and quietly keeps out of the way of the tower’s mistress Tenumbra. Opilio, unwilling to let Vesper travel on her own in the city, stays with her in the Gnomon, though he is ill at ease there.
The next day, the group reconvenes for the debut performance of “The Siege of the Stocking,” an exclusive to Catafarza’s Prismatic Troupe. The farce is a raucous success, and Ettorio is much more enthusiastic during the audience participation parts than Vesper is. Ettorio does notice that Vestiri is also present (and enjoying himself immensely), but that he seems to have drawn the antipathy of a Tuderi youth and his friends. Once the play has ended, Ettorio warns his cousin of the potential danger, but Vestiri laughs it away by stating that Lusaddo Tuderi wouldn’t be foolish enough to try anything himself.
As Carenza mentions the possibility of a plot against Prince Temagli, the group decides to split up again, this time to go gathering information.
Ettorio moves among the House social strata, where he learns that Lusaddo Tuderi seems to have ties to one of Canteria’s local gangs, the Thirsty Men. This raises a troubling possibility, as the Thirsty Men could well exact vengeance on Vestiri without invoking the Tuderi name. The gang in question is reputed to have a warren on Red Bantam Row.
Carenza makes her inquiries among martial circles. Although few people are willing to say much, she’s able to get a few choice bits of information: apparently Lieutenant Gastardi has been one of those making inquiries about potential recruitment, and he’s even talked to some of the Head-Takers gang. The Head-Takers are known to have their primary lair in Lampblack Alley.
Vesper moves directly among the classless, drawing on her former life as a street rat. The people she speaks to know little about the coup in question, but have many superstitions to share. Most notably, Vesper finds out that one of the places that people in the know go to have surreptitious meetings is the ruined Dysian arena outside the city wall. The place has a bad reputation, and is not patrolled by the Prince’s guard. It makes a good place for meetings because everyone knows that anyone who interrupts the wrong meet out there has a long way to run and nobody to answer cries for help — it’s very easy to silence quickly someone out there.
That information in hand, the group begins to reconvene.