Dresden Files: Venice
The Death of Love
The Death of Love
Gina Tortelli is minding the front of the Ponte Antico shop ’Malspina’s Masks’, whilst Dolores is in the workshop putting the finishing touches to a number of masks ready for the Spring Ball in two days time, when Inspector Luther Corrina enters, asking to see Dolores. When she emerges, he flashes his badge and shows her a handwritten reciept for a mask, asking if she recognises it. Whilst Gina gets coffee, Dolores mentions it was issued by her uncle to Signor Giovanni del Correafor the preparation of a mask for a lady, (enchanted to improve her ’’presence’’, but that bit stays unsaid). Dolores recalls that Giovanni is the owner of La Belle d’Venice and that he paid in advance for the mask, providing a head cast for it to be made to. She also recalls he is a white court vampire, and has been utilising the shops services for three hundred years, and that the head cast was provided a long while ago, but neglects to mention these last facts to the Inspector. Sipping his coffee, the inspector mentions Giovanni was found dead two streets away last night, a length of timber jutting from his chest. Dolores and Gina are suitably shocked but despite gentle questioning, neither can give any reason why someone would want him dead.
Once the inspector had departed, and after checking to see if he was about to re-enter with one final question, Gina Tortelliphoned Luca Porrinicryptically hinting at a mystery and asking him to drop in. A gentle stroll across the rooftops later he did so, just as the next round of coffee was ready. Whilst Gina briefs Luca on the Inspector’s visit, Dolores recalls there are about a dozen white court vampires in the city, some like Giovanni who manipulated lust and others who live of fear. Luca mentions that whilst strolling the city last night he noted several groups of vampires about, all of whom seemed to be on their guard. Making a few calls he finally gets hold of Mario-the-juggler who agrees to meet him in Salute at 5pm and brief him on the latest rumours.
Whilst Dolores Alegra Malspina settles back to continue work on a number of masks, and with Gina Tortelli watching the shop, Luca Porrini heads out to try and find the scene of the crime. It is not to hard to find, discoloured cobblestones and a discarded piece of police tape indicating an otherwise unremarkable street corner. Dropping into a nearby patisserie, the owner mentions that the incident slowed down buisness this morning except for a large man in a suit and dark glasses with a local accent, who bought five pastries. The owner suspects he was also interested in the murder Returning to the Ponte Antico shop with pastries for the ladies, Luca notes the Inspector standing at the corner watching the establishment.
After more coffee and pastries, and with more work done at the shop, Dolores Alegra Malspina and Gina Tortelli accompany Luca-Porrini to Salute to meet Mario-the-juggler. Luca slips into a booth with Mario whilst Gina and Dolores settle at the bar for more pastries and the first drink of the evening. Mario confides that Giovanni-del-Correa was over five hundred years old and had been resident in the city since the 1600’s. The only personal enemy he made was during the Napoleonic War, but that blew over generations ago. Mario suspects that the Jesuits are back in town, and that they are the reason for the paranoia amongst the local vampires, who otherwise are at peace with each other. He suspects the Big man seen at the crime scene was Boa an enforcer for Serpentine, the master Black Court Vampire of the city. Coffee and information done, he slips out the back door, claiming to have a date for the evening.
As they head out the front door the group are intercepted by Christy, a smartly dressed woman in dark glasses, who indicates their ‘taxi’ is waiting. Heading to the canal they are invited aboard a motor launch, in the stern of which Boa sits calmly.
Everyone is quiet as the launch navigates some of the lesser used canals, and finally slips into the basement of a non-descript house.Christy invites the group off the boat, and leads them upstairs, through a hallway lit by sunlight through windows, which Luca -Porrini believes to be simulated, and into an exquisitely decorated study. There, sitting behind the large ornate desk, is Serpentine, the master black court vampire of the city. Politely greeting them, he ‘requests’ that perhaps Luca needs to find the killer of Giovanni del Correa, something he readily agreees to. Serpentine suggests that the killer may try for the courtesans who worked for Giovanni next, and that the best place to find them will be the Spring ball. With several of his guests pointing out they are unlikely to get admittance to the ball, Serpentine smiles and calls for Christy who enters and walks over to Luca, handing him an invitation for the event. Meeting over, she then escorts the three downstairs and out through the front door of the house, just as the sun sets.
Having got safely back to the Ponte Antico shop, Dolores-Alegra-Malspina starts work on masks for the ball in two nights time, whilst Gina Tortelli contacts her sister Rosa Tortelli to arrange to borrow a dress suitable for the occasion, and get it altered to fit her.
With the ladies busy, Luca-Porrini heads out on the streets to look up his contacts. From them he learns of unusual activity in the Canareggio district so heads there to investigate. Arriving in the area he hears a scream and rushes to investigate, coming upon three Jesuit monks, one an albino, about to stake a young girl. Stepping in to the rescue, there is an altercation, and Luca suffers bruised ribs and a fractured cheek before he leaves them flat footed, grabs the girl, and changing form leaps into the sky with one flex of his mighty wings. Realising she is seriously hurt he flys back to Dolores Alegra Malspina‘s flat where Gina Tortelli lets him inside. Gina diagnoses that the girl has a fractured skull, probably from a mallet blow, and starts preperations to heal her magically. This takes several hours, but by the time dawn has arrived, the girl now has little more than concussion and Luca’s ribs are also on the mend. Dolores-Alegra-Malspina comes upstairs having finished the first sky blue mask, for Gina, just in time for the girl, Nina-DaCosta, to regain partial conciousness. Everyone is somewhat surprised, when as well as talking to Luca and the girls, she also talks to Dolores’ Uncle-Guilio, whose ghost is also present. It seem’s he was murdered by the man in the panama hat and white linen suit who was asking about the treasure of the last doge Ludovico-Mannin. Something that at the moment means nothing to Dolores.
With Gina Tortelli in desperate need of sleep and with Luca Porrini having dozed off in the armchair after Gina bandaged his ribs, Dolores Alegra Malspina spent the morning working in her shop, serving customers, and crafting a mask for Luca, to go with the evening suit she had found for him at the back of the shop. Late in the afternoon, Gina finally awoke and took over shop duties, whilst Dolores completed Luca’s mask. When the girls finally closed the shop around 6pm, and headed upstairs they found Nina DaCosta cooking dinner whilst Luca slept on in the chair. The four settled down for dinner during which they found out a little more about Nina, who also borrowed the phone to call her boss and explain her absence from work. She then headed home, to her apartment in the ghetto district, discretely followed by Luca, who was given her phone number before she left.
With Dolores Alegra Malspina taking an early night and Gina Tortelli going home to finish getting her dress ready, Luca Porrini headed out into the city to search for information relating to the monks he encountered the previous night. He managed to find out that there was still a Jesuit convent in the Canareggio district attached to the church of Santa Maria Assunta, and that they had been seen there recently. Taking a stroll around the area, he found the steps leading to the entrance to convent but decided not to investigate further. Instead he made enquiries about Nina DaCosta eventually arranging to meet Mario the Juggler at 6am in Salute.
After a few hours sleep Luca Porrini meets Mario the Juggler at Salute for breakfast. The waitress is just putting out the metal chairs outside as they settle down at a booth. Asked about Nina DaCosta, Mario confirms she can talk to the dead, and hints that he and her where once an item, although she baulked at his lack of exclusivity. He mentions that she spends a lot of her time on San Michele and indicates that Luca should take her phone number as an invitation. With breakfast over Luca strolls back to the Ponte Antico shop and Mario heads to St Marks square to start work.h3. Part Three
With Dolores Alegra Malspina working on a mask for herself for the evening, Gina Tortelli minds the front of the shop, which is very busy with the last of the orders being collected for tonights summer ball. Luca Porrini takes the opportunity to catch up on some sleep, expecting it to be a busy night. The three meet up at the shop after closing to change for the ball (which is to be held at the hotel Ponte Antico barely 60 yards away) and then walk down to queue for entry, Dolores has the mask Giovanni del Correa commisioned in her bag.
After queuing for a short time, the ticket Luca Porrini was given by Serpentine grants them access to the ball, and they head inside, collecting drinks and canopies as they take a stroll around the ballroom which is slowly filling up. As they pause Gina Tortelli is approached by a well dressed man in a gold devil mask (later identified as Chesko Barbini), who charmingly asks her to dance, after getting Luca’s permission. She agrees, and the two engage in a gentle waltz, his hand placing a little more intimately than their brief acquaintance would warrant. Their dance completed they adjourn for drinks, and as they do so are approached by an elegantly dressed, beautiful woman in a renaissance costume with an ornate mask. She complements Gina on her outfit, readily adientifying the work of the Malspina family. Utilising the power of the mask Dolores made for her, Gina identifies her as a ‘’White Court Vampire Courtesan’’. Gina confirms her mask was made by Dolores Malspina, and discovers the woman is Isabel. With the two obviously a couple (at least for the evening) Gina takes her leave to find the others.
Meanwhile Luca is pounced upon by a woman in a gown of many layers of blue schiffon, her mask a swirl of blue and aquamarine. Both he and Dolores recognise Nerina, her presence at the ball faciliated by the mask Dolores made for her. Luca escorts her out on to the floor to dance, and whilst doing so discovers she attends many of these events. Thus he takes the opportunity to probe her for information on some of the guests. She readily identifies Don Joseph Tormelli and his companion Vivienne, Serpentine who has come dressed as the ‘Phantom of the Opera’ accompanied by Christy whose appearance is striking in her black gown and full face mask decorated with small diamonds, and the rather enigmatic Baron Samedi. Questioned further on this Nerina notes he has arrived this season and she thinks he might be the real thing. Standing quietly to one side, Gina obseves Christy, convinced now she is more than human, perhaps some form of warped creation.
Left somewhat on her own, Dolores Alegra Malspina is approached by a gentleman in an electric blue suit and swirling red and black mask Damaskari. He escorts her onto the floor, and the two waltz across the room in the most breathtaking of fashion. Most of the dancing comes to a halt to watch the couple, and Gina takes the opportunity to point out Dolores to Isabel, who is standign with another woman wearing a black dress and white top hat. Eventually the music fades away and the two leave the floor to a ripple of applause. Collecting a drink, Dolores is surprised when the man offers her a token, a small old silver coin. She takes it, barely supresing a shudder as her assesment of him indicates he might be a ‘’Fallen Angel’‘. Also taking a rest, Luca notices the woman in the white top hat and with the aid of his mask identifies her as a ’’White Court Vampire Courtesan’’, something that Nerina confirms.
With ten o’clock approaching, Luca Porrini and Nerina cut in on Dolores Alegra Malspina and her latest dance partner (she has a queue of them after her performance earlier) and Luca escorts her to the balconey for a rest. They are joined almost immediately there by Cossette (the woman in the black dress and white top hat). She charmingly asks Dolores for her mask and after removing her mask to reveal her face and confirm it was made for her, Dolores hands it over. The whispered comment and wanton look she gives Luca as she leaves, leaves him ‘’severely enchanted’’ by her.
Gina Tortelli‘s initial verbal sparing with Baron Samedi proves inconclusive, the exchanges revealing little of the man’s character, although Gina’s assesment of him as a ‘’Master Necromancer’’ puts a certain slant on proceedings. It does not however stop her accepting his invitation to dance and despite there waltz being close to a Paso Doble, it passes without incident. Exiting the floor, the Baron excuses himself, bowing low, a move mirrored by Gina, which gives both him and the pair of men standing a half dozen places behind him a very interesting view! The Baron then heads across the room to meet Delilah a woman, whom Luca Porrini had observed entering, her long flowing black dress, black mask and headress effectively leaving nothing of her showing but her eyes. The two are soon in a deep and fairly amicable conversation.
Gina Tortelli meanwhile takes a closer look at her two new admirers, both of whom are dressed in 18th century style and accompanied by a beautiful woman similarly attired. Taking a glance around the room, her vision heightened by the magic of the sky blue mask, Gina identifies the beautiful woman standing with her admirers as the third ‘’White Court Vampire Courtesan’’ Sylia. Before she can move away, one of the men approaches and offers his hand, she accepts and he leads her out to dance. He is Matthew Duke of Vienna and by Gina’s reckoning a ‘’Red Court Vampire Noble’’. There dance concluded the two retire for drinks, which seem not to have the effect on Gina that Matthew was hoping. The other man (Markus Schlender) remains with Sylia.
Across the ballroom, Luca Porrini notices two non-descript men talking conspiratorially, he sidles towards them but cannot overhear what they are saying. When they split up, he discretely tails one to the buffet table where the man meets and has another discrete conversation with a guest in a red frock coat and white mask whom Luca and Dolores Alegra Malspina noticed arriving earlier, whilst they were waiting for Cossette on the balcony. There is some gesturing both in the direction of the dancefloor, and to one corner of the ballroom, before the two go their seperate ways. Luca takes this opportunity to find Dolores and update her on the situation. As they watch, the man Luca followed approaches a waitress, whom both Luca and Dolores are surprised to see is Nina DaCosta, and after a short conversation she leads him out through a servants entrance.
Suspicious of what may be happening, Dolores Alegra Malspina ‘Veils’ herself with magic and accompanied by a stealthy Luca Porrini, follows. Through the door and ten yards along they corridor they come across the two non-descript gentleman who have cornered Nina in an alcove. One is waving a stake at her in a very threatening manner! Luca confronts them, and they turn on him. Its only at this time he recognises them as two of the Jesuit monks he encountered in the alley a few days earlier. As Luca tries to disarm the one with the hammer, the other drives the stake deep into Nina DaCosta‘s abdomen. Acting from her concealment, Dolores gives the stake an illusion of being a snake, causing the man to back away as Nina slumps to the floor; whilst Luca continues his struggle with the hammer weilder. As Nina’s eyes roll back in her head, Gina Tortelli who is still in the ballroom notices Baron Samedi, Damaskari and Christy react, heading for the door the others left through. She is very impressed by the speed which Christy moves given the impediment of her floor length gown. Another indication perhaps of her non-human nature. Meanwhile in the corrider a third assailant arrives, the man in the red frock coat and white mask Mathew, who turns out to be the albino monk from the alley. He refutes Luca’s claim that Nina is innocent, slamming Dolores into the wall, causing her magic to fail temporarily, and her to slide to the floor. It is at this point that the guests from the ballroom arrive. Baron Samedi steps froward, his gravly voice informing the monks they are not welcome here. One feints and the other takes a step backwards. Mathew simply laughs and removes his mask to reveal a horrid, demonic visage. He claims that no one present can banish him, and is surprised when the remaining concious monk experiences a change of heart and does so, causing him to explode into dust; at least for now. Whilst Damaskari helps Dolores to her feet, Baron Samedi pulls the stake from Nina, commanding that she will not die here, it still hurts however. Gina takes the chance to ask Christy about the Baron, she comments he is a man ‘’possessed by the God of Death’‘. The corridor clears as medical attention is summoned for Nina, and in the confusion the concious monk has fled with his comatose friend. Damaskari escorts Dolores to the dancefloor and Gina is left to face the arrival of Inspector Luther Corrina. He accepts her version of events, although she leaves ’’Under Moderate Police Suspicion’’. It is late, or early depending upon your point of view, when Luca escorts Gina and Dolores home.
Barely two hours later, Dolores is woken by Christy knocking on the shop door, dressed back once again in her smart suit and sunglasses. She says that Serpentine is most grateful for the service they have done the city, and her message specifically for Luca Porrini is that “”/wikis/serpentine" class=“wiki-page-link”>Serpentine owes him a favour".