Salah didn’t like loose ends. He headed back to the castle to look for James, but could find no sign of the assessor. The mortal’s tracks led from the castle to the church, and then with a quickened pace to the stables. It appeared as though he had taken a horse and run off. The only other witness to the massacre in the castle had been Dora, a serving girl at the Maid of the Mist Inn. Conall had killed her while feeding from her. Not because she was a threat, but because the mood struck him.
Not caring where James had run off to, Salah instead gathered the corpses of the Count of Scarmilgione and Federico, dragging them to the ruins of the village church. The sun would destroy the bodies, and it would appear as though they had burned with the rest of the village. The Masquerade would be safe. More importantly, no one would know what he had done. Conall was the only witness to his diablerie.
Hitching their horses to the count’s carriage, the coterie returned to Gabriel’s haven in Verona. Rigotto left the humans in the care of the priests in the Basilica of St. Zeno above Gabriel’s labyrinth lair. The boys looked in awe at the majesty of the basilica, particularly its large bronze doors which depicted the acts of St. Zeno. Compared to the simple village church they were used to, it was amazing. Juliana sat quietly in a pew, still in a fugue state.
In Gabriel’s sanctum, the elder vampire asked how things had gone.
“Over all, the town is now in the hands of Venice,” Rigotto replied.
“Were there complications?” Gabriel asked.
“Ravenna was involved, as you know. Cainite Heretics were also involved,” he answered.
“Do you know which branch? Prince Narses, as Archbishop of Nod, is the head of the largest faction of Heretics. It would complicate things if you crossed him.”
Conall took out one of the silver rings, inscribed with the number VII, showing it to Gabriel. A look of disgust crossed the elder vampire’s face.
“The Venetori,” he explained. “They are demon worshipers who seek to corrupt the word of God to their own ends. They are both subversive and fanatical.”
“One of their members met his end,” Conall informed Gabriel.
“Congratulations. Many in Venice will be impressed. What of Ravenna?” Gabriel asked.
Rigotto answered, “One of their agents was married to the boy-prince. He had also been turned. They’re dead now.”
“That could be troublesome. Livia da Ravenna will want answers. How did they meet their end?” Gabriel inquired.
“Violently,” Rigotto admitted. “The boy was killed by his father, who he had turned and tried to control.”
“Remus, the lead Heretic, killed the wife,” Salah lied, pinning Catrina’s death on the Venetori.
“Messier than I would have liked, but you still succeeded,” Gabriel said. “Ravenna could still be an issue. Knowing more about their plans would be in everyone’s best interests. I know a man in Venice who is adept at information gathering, who might be able to help you learn what Ravenna knows. He runs a brothel in the Rialto. The merchant-princes are promoting the practice in an effort to prevent the worse sin of sodomy. You can tell a Venetian prostitute by the yellow scarf she wears. The contact’s name is Balthazar Gelt.”
“It might be wise to contact your agents in Venice and have them send someone to Scarmiglione to re-establish a town,” Conall suggested.
“You were busy,” a shocked Gabriel stated.
“The boy-prince decided to lock everyone in the church and burn it to the ground. Perhaps we should pin the murders on Ravenna,” Rigotto said, unaware that it had been Remus and the Venetori who had murdered the town.
“It’s not like them to be so forward,” Gabriel said. “It seems in these trying times that they’ve decided to cross lines they wouldn’t normally cross.”
“This Balthazar, is he to be trusted?” Conall asked.
“He is a friend,” Gabriel replied.
That was enough for Conall. ‘Friend’ was how Gabriel had described them as well.
“I’m told you had a carriage with you when you arrived. Did you come alone?” Gabriel asked.
“I have some people that I feel the need to look after,” Rigotto answered.
“Kindred or kine?” Gabriel asked.
“Kine,” Rigotto replied.
“They’re not with you,” Gabriel pointed out.
“They’re in the basilica,” Rigotto said.
“They will be safe. The priests of St. Zeno are used to taking in the less fortunate,” Gabriel said.
“Is the priest in the know?” Rigotto asked.
“Father Coronato knows as much as he needs to know. Just enough to keep the secrets he needs to keep,” Gabriel replied.
Rigotto thanked Gabriel, heading back upstairs to the basilica. He told the Vaccaro family that they would be spending the night at the church, and that they would be safe. He also cautioned the boys not to break anything. Rigotto then returned to Gabriel’s haven so that he spend the day away from the sun.
The next evening, Rigotto returned to the basilica to check on the mortals. Father Coronato informed him that Juliana had been very restless and had woken up several times screaming. Rigotto understood. She had been through quite the ordeal. Coronato also told the Toreador that the humans had been fed a basic meal.
While Rigotto dealt with the mortals, Conall asked Gabriel if they would be able to keep the horses he had given them. Gabriel agreed, explaining that they would need to periodically feed the horses vitae in order to keep them ghouled. The Ravnos also asked Gabriel if had a driver who would be able to drive their carriage for them. The coteries’ riding skills were minimal, and just getting to Verona had been challenging enough. Fortunately, Gabriel had an employee who needed to get to Venice and would be willing to drive their coach for them. Rigotto rode in the carriage with the humans, while Conall sat up top with the driver. Salah rode the remaining horse.
The trip back to Venice was uneventful. They stopped first at Vetrina. Rigotto instructed his retainer Francesco to find reputable work for Juliana. Given her experience running her farm, perhaps she’d do well on one. He also wanted Francesco to find something to do with Pietri, Paulo, and Simone. He was concerned about having the boys in the store, worried they might break the artwork given their young ages. Francesco assured his master that the humans would be taken care of.
With the Vaccaros taken of, the coterie headed for the Rialto to find Balthazar. They easily found a number of women wearing yellow scarves, standing outside a business. In addition to their yellow scarves, they stood out as being northerners. Rigotto approached one of harlots, introducing himself. “I’m looking for someone,” he stated.
“You’ve found someone,” the woman, Ilsa, pointed out. Her accent suggested she was from the Kingdom of Germany.
“I’m interested in finding Balthazar Gelt. Would you know someone who knows him?” he asked.
“He hangs out at the bar, inside,” Ilsa indicated that building behind her, Nordic Fur. “He is a short man with blond hair.”
While Rigotto was talking with Ilsa, Connal’s kleptomania compelled him to steal from one of the women. Unfortunately, for him, the harlot noticed his larceny. She slapped him hard across the face. “Get lost, creep. Pikeys aren’t welcome here.”
Salah saw Connal get slapped, but wasn’t certain why. He knew the Irishman looked out of place. He gave his companion a couple coins before they headed into Nordic Fur.
Connal used his illusion powers to change his appearance, making his clothes look less like rags and more like he belonged. The bouncer at the door warned him that they’d be keeping an eye on him. Gypsies clearly weren’t well liked. The bouncer also warned Salah to be on his best behaviour, telling him that his weapons would need to be checked before he entered. Rigotto frowned at the bouncer, displeased with the man speaking to his “servant”, and not him.
Salah was visibly uncomfortable. While he was an apostate Muslim, culturally, he was still uncomfortable with the skin, and sin, on open display around him.
Nordic Fur was set up like a Roman brothel. Rigotto found a relaxing area in the lounge, taking a corner seat so he could watch the room. He was brought a sour grape drink that vaguely resembled wine. He set it aside, his Cainite physiology incapable of consuming human food. He slipped the serving girl a coin to relay a message to Balthazar. He wanted to meet. The serving girl passed the message on, Balthazar motioning for the coterie to join him at the bar.
“What can I do for you on my night off?” Balthazar asked.
“A ‘friend’ mentioned we should speak to you regarding Ravenna,” Rigotto replied.
“What do I have to do with Ravenna?” Balthazar asked.
Salah, looking his most convivial, eyed up Balthazar’s bodyguard.
“It seems Gabriel thinks you might be able to help us gain some information,” Rigotto answered.
“Gabriel, you say?” Balthazar asked. “This seems like an interesting place for him to send you to meet me, but beggars can’t be choosers.”
As the resident beggar of the group, Connal begged to differ. He always chose his targets carefully.
“What information are you looking for?” Balthazar asked them.
“It seems as though a collection of unfortunate events has taken place in Scarmiglione,” Rigotto replied.
As the ‘unfortunate events’ had just happened the night previous, Balthazar’s agents had yet to relay the information to him. He disliked not knowing everything. “Oh? What unfortunate event has occurred?”
“As you know, the count has taken ill,” Rigotto began.
“Yes, too bad. He was a charming fellow, and an excellent customer,” Balthazar interjected.
“His son was set to take control,” Rigotto continued, “We were sent as an envoy to ensure that Venetian interests were looked after. Unfortunately, the son happened to be married to some…interests from Ravenna. Interests similar to our own, if you catch my drift.”
Balthazar caught his drift. “I take it the strange looking fellow traveling with you solved the problem. He looks like he wants to solve some problems right now.”
“As I said, it was a collection of events. The church was involved; not standard denomination.”
Balthazar looked around the room. “Perhaps we should speak in private. Follow me.”
He led them upstairs to a private chamber with large windows overlooking the Rialto.
Rigotto conveyed the information they had learned on the Venetori involvement in Scarmiglione, as well as Ravenna’s agent, Catrina, being married to Federico. Balthazar was already aware that Federico was married to a favoured companion of Livia Da Ravenna’s.
“’Was’ being the operative word. She’s dead. He’s dead. The count’s dead. Several dozen people were burned alive in the church,” Rigotto reported, matter-of-factly.
“Why did you burn the town?” Balthazar asked. “That’s not cost effective.”
“The friends of Ravenna burned the town,” Rigotto replied. “You can see the predicament we’re in. Venice has come out on top, and Ravenna will be displeased. So the question is, how much do they know, and how are they going to deal with it?”
“I will have to send out inquiries to my network,” Balthazar told him. “It could take a couple of weeks to hear back.”
Rigotto was fine with that. He gave Balthazar his contact information, directing him to Vetrina. Balthazar gave Rigotto his contact information at his scribery business. He also offered the coterie a place to stay within the brothel while he waited for his contacts to report in. Salah and Rigotto thanked him for the offer, but as they had their own havens to return to, they would not need to stay.
Their meeting concluded, Rigotto wanted to check in at Elysium. Salah followed. They had done a favour for Venice, and Salah wanted to make sure the proper people knew. Balthazar decided to join them. Conall, however, decided to use the time to scout out Rigotto’s business. He wanted to know more about his new traveling companions.
Prince Narses wasn’t at Elysium this evening. Instead, his lieutenant, Guilelmo Aliprando, was overseeing things. Rigotto grabbed his attention.
“I bring word from Scarmiglione that I felt was important to reach Narses’ ear,” Rigotto began.
“I had heard that there were other forces trying to influence the area,” Guilelmo said.
“Yes, Ravenna was interested in it, but it’s been dealt with,” Rigotto said.
“I don’t need to know how,” Guilelmo smiled.
“Perhaps what he would be more interested in, is that the Venetori were also interested in claiming the situation for themselves. They had a lot of numbers. More than you would expect such chaotic rebels to have,” Rigotto reported.
Rigotto was correct. As Archbishop of Nod, the head of the Cainite Heresy, Narses would be quite interested in other Heretics mucking about.
“They’ve been dealt with?” Guilelmo asked.
“They have,” Rigotto replied.
“Your prince is thankful for your service,” Guilelmo said.
“It’s only just of me to note that my companion Salah, and my ally Conall, were also involved,” Rigotto added.
“Your prince thanks them as well,” Guilelmo said.
“I believe that there is a good path forward. Ravenna destroyed the church and several citizens inside,” Rigotto said.
“The church will frown upon their actions. Politically that was unwise of them,” Guilelmo stated.
“Whatever they were trying to achieve, it’s ludicrous. It does, however, give Venice an opportunity to send a message that we are here to look after Scarmiglione. We will rebuild the church and give them a sense of purpose and security moving forward,” Rigotto said.
“I will pass on your ideas to his Lordship, as it presents a fine opportunity for the city to grow,” Guilelmo said.
“And the Church,” Rigotto added.
“I’m sure he will appreciate that.”
Rigotto thanked Guilelmo for his time and took his leave. Salah waited outside. Elysium was never his scene. He made his appearances and that was enough for him. He wasn’t interested in being social like Rigotto.
While part of the coterie attended Elysium, Conall was prowling around the San Marco neighbourhood where Rigotto lived. He wanted to find a cellar to crash in. Somewhere close to the others. Just in case. While both Rigotto and Salah’s domiciles were built on the water, Conall was able to find a nearby house on the island with cellar access. He broke in, preparing to make it his new home.
Rigotto and Salah wondered how much to trust Conall. They knew little about him. They also had to consider their next move while they waited for Balthazar’s spies to report in. Salah wanted to know more about Narses and Guilelmo. He felt Rigotto was too trusting of the elder vampires. It was a potential weakness. Both Conall and Balthazar were information brokers. They could be useful to learn more. The Assamite offered to pay the Ravnos to dig up dirt on Guilelmo. He wanted to know the habits and acquaintances of the lieutenant.
Conall agreed to the job. His first stop was Nordic Fur. He saw the perfect opportunity to make some extra money. He offered a deal to Balthazar: in exchange for money, he’d share information on Salah and Rigotto with Balthazar. The deal was agreed to.
End Session 3.