Mika emerges from the forests near Honeythorn, richer by a few salves made from the gleanings particular to the Miskan woods. She learns that the others have moved on to Perska, and follows after them.
She finds Anfisa and Gennadiy in the Silver Fishhook, a cheap riverside tavern on south-bank Perska, eating a lackluster fish-chunk stew. Anfisa catches Mika up on recent events, and mentions that Kazimeer still has his nose in one of the boyar’s books. Gena chats with the barwoman, dropping a few questions about the Double Venom distillery. The Fishhook’s proprietress mentions potential marital troubles for the Amfissans, the family who run the distillery. She also talks about a caravan rolling through town. A couple of laborers watch Gena towards the last part of the conversation. He purchases another bottle of Double Venom from the Fishhook, buys Gullet’s next drink in advance, and the bogatyrs leave.
They meet Kazimeer in the main street of Perska, and discuss their next steps. Gena wanders off for another drink before they settle on investigating the Double Venom distillery. The group heads for the large brick building overlooking the river. They find a teenage girl and a large mastiff watching over the front; Anfisa immediately befriends the mastiff, Vise. Gennadiy chats a bit with the young lady, professing his appreciation for their illyist, and asks if they might have a tour. She agrees.
The Amfissan daughter leads the bogatyrs into the main room of the distillery, with alembics along the walls. There they meet Buryalt and Ilomi Amfissan, the family heads and Double Venom owners. Buryalt does the talking while Ilomi sees to work. Gena surreptitiously looks about for anything suspicious; he notices a trap door subtly concealed in the floor, but the corks in a nearby bin don’t have the astrological mark. Buryalt mentions that their neighbors the glassblowers are the ones who do the cork purchasing.
Kazimeer hangs back and carefully observes the Amfissas as Gena talks to them. After a brief and very effective moment of analysis, he decides that Ilomi is probably addicted to illyist or some other substance. The sources of her grief isn’t immediately evident, but he suspects from the tensions on display that Buryalt is likely cheating on her. Unpleasant as the circumstances may be, they seem more harmless than affiliation with the cult of the Mad Star.
Anfisa, for her part, continues to pay attention to Vise. The mastiff tells her she’s doing an excellent job of scratching her neck, then pauses and murmurs that he wasn’t supposed to let it slip that he can talk.
They thank the Amfissans for their time, and Gennadiy purchases some extra bottles of Double Venom. The bogatyrs then move next door to the glassworks where the Double Venom bottles are made. The summer elven proprietor, Votarryn, greets them and asks how he may be of service. Gena starts with a story that moves into a meaningful stress about how much he appreciates stargazing. Votarryn narrows his eyes, and says that maybe the group should come into the back.
The bogatyrs follow him into the main workshop, where a young half-elf — seemingly Votarryn’s daughter — and several sturdy apprentices regard them with some curiosity and suspicion. Gena brandishes the cork fragment, asking if they could burn the same glyph for them, and if it would be “meaningful.” Votarryn’s replies are elusive at first, but he gradually begins to crack, particularly when Kazimeer enters the conversation surrounded by an empyrean authority. Votarynn’s daughter nervously toys with a bottle at her belt as Gena keeps an eye on her.
Votarryn admits that he gives out the marked bottles as “passports.” They allow free passage on the Ninth Wish, a riverboat and gambling establishment run by a fellow believer named Irikya. The elf also admits that the Miskan head of their secret brotherhood is Wotanfel, a name Kazimeer immediately recognizes as the former soothsayer to Tsar Govroska. Wotanfel was the one who brought in Votarryn, not long after the glassblower’s wife died. When the Doomstar comes, Wotanfel explained, the gates to the Underworld can be opened and Votarryn will be able to get his wife back.
“You damn fool!” explodes Kazimeer. “Such a thing cannot possibly happen…” and he pauses. “Or perhaps… hm. Wait. If the conjunctions were correct…” The star-sorcerer trails off, lost in the riddle of possibilities.
Gennadiy and Mika tell Votarryn they won’t reveal his poor decisions, though they also warn him that Wotanfel and Irikya are likely to be on the losing side very soon. In return, Votarryn promises that he and his cell will not speak of the bogatyrs, barring any compulsions that are beyond them to resist. With the information about the dwarf soothsayer and the Ninth Wish in hand, the bogatyrs leave the glassworks in peace.
The next thing they do is inquire about the crafter Tirafir. The owner of the local general store says that the crafter mostly makes weathervanes, and the occasional tinker-oddity such as a crank-turned crossbow. This intrigues the bogatyrs enough that they decide to visit.
Redshield Keep seems almost entirely deserted — grass grows from some of the looser-fitting cobblestones, and a few deeply faded banners still hang from the turrets. A number of quintains stand in the courtyard, showing some signs of various abuses. Smoke rises from the forge attached to the keep, and the bogatyrs approach the door. As they do, a bell rings, and the door opens.
Tirafir, a slender, pale-haired elf of indeterminate gender, looks over the bogatyrs, noting Anfisa’s cloak in particular. They ask her where she got it, and when she replies that it was a gift from Hetman Tarska the Slayer, Tirafir nods and invites them in.
The interior of Tirafir’s workshop is filled not only with weathervanes, but also a variety of clockwork and other tinkering oddments. The elf shows off some of the various projects in assorted stages of completion. Gena asks if there’s anything that would allow for long-range communication. Tirafir looks puzzled, then attempts to demonstrate the scientific principles behind a pair of cups connected by a wire. As a show of respect, they also hand a peculiar device to Anfisa, an explosive cannister for spreading caltrops.
They converse for a while longer. Tirafir is willing to help the bogatyrs, but doesn’t have a tremendous array of devices particularly useful for their circumstances. They also mention a pair of visitors that came by, very curious about the keep. The two visitors — a somewhat twitchy woman with a crossbow and a pair of blades, and an immaculately groomed man with a well-tended mustache — poked about the portions of Redshield Keep that Tirafir never visits. They also, says the elf, apparently returned that night — they ran afoul of some of the crafter’s security devices, and left a little blood behind. By all accounts, they were likely attached to a caravan of foreign goods that must have come over the bridge from the east. The caravan apparently left for High Miska the following day.
With that, the bogatyrs decide to call it a day themselves. They thank Tirafir for the hospitality, make their farewells, and return to the East Wind inn.