Ellena recounts the completion of the masquerade ball and the events that followed:
Towards the end of the ball, as I was patching up Rho, my old acquaintances Owen Daniels and, er, Duchess Cantemir showed up. The Duchess herself lent me needle & thread, and helped with the repairs on my favorite dwarf. Our hosts asked the remaining Prussians to leave. Fortunately there was enough liquor to subdue Rhododendron and enough bandages to properly stanch the wound.
Daniels helped drive off the ghosts and regaled the assembled VIPs with tales of his nautical adventures. (Being from the far side of the Atlantic makes him rather a celebrity.) In particular, while traveling on the Inner Sea, he was ship-wrecked in a strange storm, but managed to swim to an island. He reported a bright blue light on the horizon and some feathered dragons. He was on the isle for about three days before he could assemble a raft and continue his journey to a proper shore. Once back on land, he confirmed the island appeared on no charts. This sounded vaguely familiar, like I was remembering something, possibly something like a fae gate, and alarmingly reminiscent of Kelvin's description of what the Adversary was searching for.
Maru Giovanni approached me that evening as well, seemingly looking to join me (us?) for some sort of adventure. I… don't know how to handle that. It's not every day that a human child asks to be taken away from their homes by the fae… and the parents, especially noble ones, tend to object. I like the boy well enough, but what am I supposed to do with him?
He and some others seemed interested in seeing Rho's newest contraption, the Gyrosquid, so we resolved to meet up at his family's vineyard the next day. Lord Giovanni was also interested in ordering some more wine.
I'm still working for Fenton Harbinger, so accompanied him back to his apartment. During that walk, he told me that he, Mary Wharton and Rho had conspired to teleport Jutt Ludwig out of sight of her Prussian minders to the safety of the Austrian embassy. That explains why the Prussian lady was sufficiently angry to shoot her pistol, hitting poor Rho.
We found that the Duchess had arrived early at the vineyard, and had, with Rho's father's help, set up a lovely picnic. It was an incredible spread, with plenty of meats, breads, and cheeses. Of course there were several bottles of wine as well. I hadn't expected anything like this, and certainly hadn't done any work to deserve it. While the others were enjoying themselves, chatting, and touring the flyer, I snuck off to hunt some fresh game for lunch. It wasn't as good as I'm sure the provided food would have been, but even with helping to fix up Rho, I'm not sure how I could have paid off that debt in addition to the one from attending the party the day before.
During all this, I had a chance to talk to Maru's uncle. He seemed overjoyed at the idea that his son would be away from home, out from under his mother's control. (What is with humans? I'll of course try to keep Maru safe, but it's a dangerous world out there, and he's not even a score of years old. Owen and the others assured me that he was old enough to take some responsibility and risks of his own.) On board the Gyrosquid, Maru kept offering to do chores – physical labor like coiling rope and swabbing the deck. Daniels and the other humans encouraged this, but I was aghast. I had assumed I would be the one doing such work. Duchess Cantemir said I should treat Maru like a young brownie, teaching him to build and repair… but young brownies know instinctively how to do these things. She also claimed that my teaching him would count as labor for me, that I would still be providing a useful service to the 'squid and others upon it. I suppose that makes some sense, but it's very strange. I'll have to think on it more.
After Lord Giovanni left, Fenton, Noemie, and Owen revealed they each had various reasons for wanting to investigate the Russian embassy and some shipments it had been making to a valley in northern Italy. From their various contacts (both political and sorcerous), we knew the Russians were sending about one crate a month to the rural location, but didn't know the contents of the crates or the purpose of the shipments. With some information from the others about what to look for, I turned into a mouse to sneak into the building, then became ethereal to enter the crates proper. A little glamour gave me enough light to see what was packed inside: wine bottles. I gnawed open one of the bottles and verified the liquid inside smelled and tasted like wine.
Over the next few weeks, Noemie twice constructed reasons to intercept the courier taking the crates to Italy for the Russian embassy. On her first encounter, she was able to get the name of the town he was headed to. It's a small, backwater place, although it does have a fort. On her second encounter with the courier, she drugged him (with a potion developed by Fenton), and we were able to replace the crate with one I had manufactured the night before. This let us inspect the contents in detail and send the fake ahead. Opening the original crate, we found the wine was from Rho's father's vineyards. There was also a note inside, "Cabinet 86" or some such. I don't recall the number, and we weren't sure whether the note was instructions to the recipient, a packing list from the source, or just random packing material.
At this point, we're strongly considering taking the Gyrosquid down to Italy to do more investigations at the receiving end.