Last time, after returning to Florence with the gold, Stella revealed Niccolo’s new tattoo and demonic pact to Anatina. Anatina has set Stella to watch over Niccolo for the rest of the night. She sits in a chair, watching him pretend to sleep for a while. His tattoo moves a bit, as if swaying in an invisible wind. Seeing that he has no chance of escaping her vigilance, he falls asleep in earnest. In the morning, the pair are given a large delicious breakfast at the salon, and Anatina asks about Luciano and Hans. Niccolo and Stella tell what they know of the missing pair. It is decided that they will wait for news until tomorrow morning before sending people to locate Luciano and Hans. During the night, Anatina has done some serious research into Niccolo’s condition. She warns him of the dire danger to his immortal soul and suggests confession. Anatina also mentions that the returned gold will be counted the following morning and entered back into the logs. Niccolo hides his wand amongst some books in the salon. Anatina assigns a butler to escort Niccolo to the church. The butler appears to pass a bribe to the priest taking the confession. Niccolo is very very vague in his confession, and the priest leaves the booth for a few minutes before returning and assigning contrition. He also asks for the sinner’s name and the place he lives. Niccolo, perhaps wisely, provides false information. He spends the rest of the afternoon whipping himself and reciting the rosary.
While Niccolo is at church, Luciano arrives in Florence and heads to the salon, there he meets Stella at the entrance. She slaps him for disappearing on them, then sees what terrible injuries he has sustained and helps him inside. While Stella casts a healing spell on Luciano, he briefly informs her of his activities before passing out to rest for the remainder of the day.
Meanwhile, back in Padua, Hans is once again planning to sneak into the Zanetti mansion. At night, he approaches the general neighborhood but has some mysterious trouble locating it. After spending an hour and a half, he is finally able to locate it. Peeking over the garden wall, he spots two guards, one patrolling the perimeter, the other standing at the door to the building. Both are equipped with lanterns. A short time after the patrolling guard passes his location, Hans scales the wall and leaps to the other side without making a sound. He sizes up the guard who is walking away from him. He swiftly and silently approaches him and clobbers him on the back of the head with his quarterstaff. The guard is instantly knocked out, and Hans skillfully manages to catch the guard’s lantern before it’s crashing to the ground alerts the other guard. Hans drags the body back somewhat and shoves it into the bushes. Noticing the bizarre out-of-pattern behavior of his companion’s lantern, the guard at the door calls out “Hey, Giovanni, what’s up?” to which Hans replies “Everything is OK” in his Austrian accent, immediately alerting the guard to the trouble. He rings the alert bell and begins to aim. Unwilling to give up so easily, Hans ducks below some hedges and looks for an advantageous position. He tosses the lantern away as more guards appear. He watches them from behind the fountain at the center of the garden. Finally, he feels that the risks are becoming too great and decides to leave before being caught or killed. Before vanishing over the fence, he notices a window on an upper story open and a women scan the surroundings. She looks very much like Stella, only slightly older – perhaps in her 30s. With that, Hans leaves. He returns to his new friend at the Broken Pitcher inn and gossips a bit about the Zanettis before retiring for the night.
When she returns to her own home, Stella is greeted by her angry father. He demands to know where she’s been and to explain the rumors that she has been seen with a young man. Stella struggles with how to answer her father. Does she tell the truth and admit her covert dealings with the Medicis? Without a planned cover story, she simply goes with the story she’s been allowing other people to believe; that she is being courted by Niccolo. Her father demands to meet the young man, and dinner is arranged for that evening. Stella hints that Niccolo knows magic and possibly has some sort of ‘disease of the spirit.’
Back at the salon, Anatina mentions that the seamstress, Ms. Bamba, was involved after all – some of the gold is missing. People have been sent to deal with her and recover the gold. The team vouches for the seamstress’ innocence and convince Anatina to send a fast rider to call of the hit. Niccolo and Stella agree to “help look for the missing gold” at Festa’s workplace at the bank. Stella plants her stolen gold bars at the desk and is spotted by an observant guard, who says nothing. Stella asks for help looking for the missing gold and the guard quickly “finds” what was missing and is eager to have himself praised in the report, and is looking forward to a future meeting with Stella, presumably to blackmail her.
That evening Niccolo is introduced to Stella’s father at the dinner. Pietro Fiore turns out to be quite the protective and caring father, aside from being a crackpot outcast Sanctuarian. He reluctantly consents to the Niccolo courting Stella, and agrees to help Niccolo solve his demonic problem. He explains that Niccolo must refrain from all magical temptation and that eventually the evil inside him will run its course and he can heal. If he does not abstain, he could become a gibbering drooling savage beast. That does not sound too good to Niccolo, so he decided to sincerely try giving up the power offered to him by the Lady of the Wood.
After the dinner, Hans returns and Stella’s chaperone Ms. La Forte has an urgent request. She asks for the team to come to her home. On the way there, Luciano runs into Diego, a servant of the Albizzis he meant at the party when the team drugged Amina. Diego has been fired and beaten under suspicion that he stole some goldware from the Albizzis. This was actually Stella’s doing. Luciano is invited to attend a commiseration party and he agrees. Once at Ms La Forte’s, she reveals that she has taken prisoner one of the survivors of the carriage attack from a few nights ago. Luciano instantly recognizes the man as one of the henchmen who helped to kill his family. The group torments him for a bit to see if he knows anything of use – he doesn’t know much, other than that his name is Umberto and he’s pretty good at killing. He does remember meeting a Theresa Zanetti who looked like Stella once, but that’s about all he has. Dissatisfied with Umberto, Luciano ties him up and gags him. He sets him on a wheelbarrow and throws a tarp over him. He wheels him out to an open space near the river and sets him on fire. It was grisly, fiery vengeance, but left Luciano feeling hollow. He meditated for a few hours afterward, and Niccolo disposed of the body in the river.
The next morning, the team is all finally present and prepared to report to Anatina. After listening to our retelling of the events, she suggests we each recruit some additional assets for the Order of the Blue Rose. She also asks us to use our judgment in finding a way to deal with Romina, who knows a bit too much about the Order’s affairs- especially Luciano. She remains captive of the Paduan Master Zanetti. She also informs Hans that an unusual number of disappearances of prostitutes in Florence – including upper class escorts – may require his attention.
The appointed time for Stella’s meeting with the mysterious Dr. Alfonse has arrived. This is the handsome stranger who’s intervention assisted Stella with a certain favor she performed on New Year’s Eve. She meets him and he reveals himself to be a member of the Sanctuarians. He is asking for her help in dealing with what the order believes to be a rogue member. The oaths of the order forbid them from taking such direct action against another brother. The rogue in question is a Priest (in some nearby town? I can’t remember) who’s flock is mysteriously disappearing. In exchange for helping in this matter, he offers either information about her mother or a good word in with the Sanctuarians.