“Yeah! If we fight a demon, then I definitely get one up on Kalbak and Erigo. They’re just chasing a priest. Unless the priest has a devil in his pocket. Then we might be even. But if he’s got a devil in his pocket, then we gotta fight this demon.” — Brosetta
The ride to Salvina Villa takes a little over half a day. Like many Maviolan estates, the villa is nestled into the open ground of a small vale surrounded on all sides by thick forest. The grounds are somewhat thick and overgrown in places, though it’s clear the estate is far from abandoned.
The group leaves their horses with the gatehouse keeper and walk up to the main building. A good-looking young man and a beautiful young woman play chess in a nearby gazebo; despite the summer heat, the young woman wears long gloves and exposes no skin but her face. The two regard the visitors coolly, then return to their game.
A young man with a mild Vanasian accent greets the group. He introduces himself as Annisar, one of the staff of the asylum. At their request, he guides them to the library, where they meet Halthron Stonefoot and the asylum’s director Halivar. Another of the villa’s staff, a small halfling introduced as Iris, gives Vittorio a peculiar stare before she departs to see to another errand.
Vesper takes the lead in the conversation, discussing both concerns: Massavio’s petrified associates, and the overall curse on Lucovol Villa. Stonefoot and Halivar concur that the petrification can be dealt with — it is a costly affair, but a known factor. The Lucovol curse is more difficult. They talk particulars, and Halivar reluctantly mentions that there is a Vargari in the Salvina keeping for exposure to that very curse. The patient, Valisar Vargari, visited Wolfstones in Lamosca some two years ago and came to Salvina shortly thereafter. When Vesper asks to meet him, Halivar muses on the wisdom of the interview, but finally agrees. Valisar is kept in secure quarters, after all, and the moon is not as unfavorable as it could be.
Halivar invites the visitors to the communal dinner served at the villa. Most of the other Salvina residents attend, with the exception of the woman they observed playing chess — she takes a tray of food back to her room to eat in private.
The others include: Orimas, the young chess-playing man; Estiella Crisandor, a girl in her late teens who wears a veil and hood; Toralis, an aged gentleman; Adrasta, a woman in the latter stages of pregnacy; Cilissa, a somewhat haunted-looking young lady, and much to Carenza’s surprise, her cousin Bozador Rovino. Bozador, who had left town under odd circumstance, turns out to be able to say very little. Not that he can’t speak — but when he forgets himself and say something, a living frog or snake or rat or spider falls from his mouth, and he quickly abandons his commentary.
A conversation with Orimas goes quickly to ruin, as it’s revealed his curse is truthsaying. The young man is incapable of concealing his own feelings sufficiently to indulge in the thousand little omissions and white lies that permit true courtesy. He is very resentful of others who still have the luxury to say what someone wants to hear, and of course cannot keep from expressing this resentment. Carenza escalates the conversation, arguing that the curse doesn’t mean he has to be a total ass. Vesper moves to part the two, and dinner adjourns shortly thereafter.
After dinner Halivar raises the topic of what the blades might do to aid Salvina Villa in exchange for their help with the curses. He explains that one of the recent arrivals is an explorer by the name of Antino Barusse. Barusse discovered an altar to one of the demonic Thirteen Kings — specifically Zomoch, the bestial demon prince of animal rage — and was possessed by an abyssal presence in the process. Stonefoot states that he can separate the possessing demon from Barusse’s body — but he cannot banish or destroy it, while the visitors might have that strength. The prospect of facing a demon is clearly sobering, and the group goes back and forth on their odds of success. They eventually agree, and schedule the confrontation for the morning.
The next order of business is talking to Captain Tolnaro. The Maviolan soldier relates a story of hearing about ogres, likely out of Lamosca, while moving through the town of White Hollow. He and his men went to Lucovol Villa to learn the truth. There they saw the ogres fighting amongst each other, driven by some form of bloodlust. Unfortunately, he also saw the wolf-grim at that point — a massive, unearthly two-headed wolf spirit that spotted him and his men. The wolf-grim attacked Tolnaro’s squad, biting several of them. The bites brought the blood-fever, and soon they were turning on one another. The captain, clearly mortified, relates a story of traveling by night when he could and sleeping away from settlements on his way back to Ladona. The fever being past now, he dreads drawing his blade again — but he has no better skills, and so he will report for duty to the Prince once again. The group offers him their best wishes, and then proceeds to the tower room where Valisar Vargari stays.
Valisar’s tower room is more spartan than most, and Vesper politely ignores the shackles hanging from one wall. The Vargari is a shaggy, lean man who gives the impression of a violent hermit. For all that, though, he converses with them calmly and offers what information he can.
He describes the ruin of Wolfstones in sparing detail. The curse came on them when he and his band were moving through the tomb and cemetery area. Blood welled up from the ground, and several ghosts arose, some of them bestial in form. But partway through the conversation Valisar seems to become wary of sharing some information about House Vargari. If Vesper already knows the secrets he’s avoiding, she doesn’t let on. Instead she asks about his future, and his response seems fully resigned to enduring the curse and remaining within the tower room.
“So,” asks Vesper, “you’ve given up hope of a cure?”
Valisar shrugs. “Sometimes things change.”
Vesper politely thanks Valisar for his time. Rosette offers that if he is released from Salvina later, the Vargari in Ladona would be certain to welcome him home. He looks at the half-orc somewhat quizzically.
“There haven’t been any Vargari in Ladona for a long time.”
Vesper nods at him. “Sometimes things change.”
They leave the cursed swordsman to his peace, returning down to the manor’s main hall. Rosette begins to openly speculate that Valisar is a little shaggy, but he might clean up fairly nicely and bulk out if he got more food and exercise.
“I think he already has a girlfriend,” comments Vesper.
“Whaaaat? Even if he’s been out here for two years? Ugh, I’m never going to marry into this house!”