Rasennan Summer

69 - Interlude in Stone

Vesper and Vittorio learn that the rumors surrounding a famed sculptor are both inaccurate and accurate.

“It’s a medusa ghost, so be careful.”
“They come in ‘medusa’?”
“They come in ‘ghost’?” — Vesper Sespech, Brosetta, and Vittorio Marvigliozzo

The Ladonan shrine to Kylir was once a forum in the time of the Dysians. Now it is a mostly open-air place of informal worship, where artists and poets come in hopes of soaking up prominent inspiration or meeting a potential patron or model. The alcoves are filled with various statues and other art offerings, banners in seasonal colors stretch across the upper pillars, and the massive oak shading the shrine is set about with lanterns of various hues.

Vittorio Marvigliozzo, in preparation for the trip to the Salvina Asylum, wanders the shrine with just such an interest in inspiration. His reverie is somewhat interrupted when he can’t help but overhear an agitated conversation between a supplicant and the priestess. The visitor — a dark-bearded man of intense mien that Vittorio recognizes as the renowned sculptor Massavio — is explaining that he fears his studio has been haunted by some sort of spirit. His model has suffered a fate he is loath to describe. When the priestess Dessamori asks about seeking the help of the Sespech, Massavio admits he is afraid of the necromantic Great House. He’s familiar with the young prodigy, and wants that merciless gaze nowhere near him.

At this point, Vittorio politely interrupts and volunteers to help. Massavio cannot help but be slightly suspicious, but he quickly accedes and thanks the bard for his potential assistance. He agrees to meet Vittorio and any others at a wine shop near his studio that evening.

Vittorio wanders over to the inn-turned-Vargari-compound to find Vesper. The common room is at a lull of activity, with its principal members out on an errand. The young Sespech is eating lunch with the half-orc prospect Brosetta, and stressing the necessity for discretion during the Salvina visit. Rosette seems to be completely convinced of her capacity for discretion; Vesper less so.

Vittorio excuses himself, and explains the difficulties that Massavio has found himself in. He notes that the sculptor seems alarmed about the prospect of Sespech involvement, and Vesper hazards a guess that the reason is Savaquin in particular. Vittorio says that Massavio will meet him this evening, and if Vesper would be willing to help, it would be greatly advantageous.

“He would like us to be discreet,” Vittorio clarifies.

Brosetta slams her palm on the table, loud enough to make Vesper and Vittoro jump. “Then let’s do it!”

Vesper regards the Vargari prospect carefully. “This is what we were talking about.”

They meet Massavio at the designated wine shop, not far from his studio on Empire Hill. As the sculptor leads them to his home and workplace, Vittorio plays a tune to invoke his arcane sight.

Massavio’s studio is a large space, itself perhaps once a Dysian forum not unlike the structure that now houses the shrine to Kylir. The large space is supported by several columns, with works in progress and stone blocks in the shadows at the periphery. A number of mirrors are propped against the columns surrounding the center space. They reflect two works in stone: the half-finished sculpture, and the petrified form of the model, who appears to responding in alarm.

Massavio calls out for his apprentice, Hilos, who is nowhere to be seen. As he searches about, Vesper lights a taper in a peculiar lantern with green glass. She and Vittorio note a peculiar residue on the mirrors. As they move to investigate, Massavio cries out in alarm. He has found Hilos — and his apprentice is petrified as well.

By the light of Vesper’s ghost lantern, they can see a spectral form flitting into one of the mirrors. Vesper approaches to examine further. A ghostly feminine face swims up from the shadows in the mirror, its eyes closed. Then its hair writhes and uncoils into snaky forms, and its eyes open. Vesper inhales and averts her eyes before the curse can take full effect. She feels a stony weight pressing on her limbs. The ghost is real — the remnant of a medusa.

Thinking quickly, Vesper invokes a spell to transfer the curse back onto its caster. Vittorio launches a bolt at the mirror, knocking it to the ground. As he does so, the ghost leaps from the mirror into a polished chisel lying on Massavio’s workbench. Vittorio yells for Massavio to take cover, and the sculptor hides behind the petrified form of his apprentice.

The chisel flashes, and the half-sculpted form of the memorial statues begins to move. It reaches out with its more finished arm, to swing at Vesper. Rosette leaps into the battle, almost delighted to have something clear to swing at. She aims a pair of solid blows at the statue, though it is too durable to be badly damaged even when targeted by someone of her strength. Vesper steps up to aid the would-be Vargari.

Vittorio has other ideas. As the two women fight the animated statue, he surveys the workbench. The ghost hasn’t seemed to have moved from the chisel yet. The devil bolts for the workbench. With a deft flourish, he snatches up the chisel, narrowly avoiding the gaze of the medusa ghost within. He twirls it once, then places it in one of his many extradimensional pockets. The animating force gone, the statue grinds back into immobility — though Brosetta doesn’t quite notice in time, and smashes off one of its ears before she catches on.

Vesper and Vittorio speak to Massavio about the situation. He agrees to explain as much as he can to the captain who will surely be along to investigate the situation. For their part, the group intends to submit their own observations on the event, and seek the help of Halthron Stonefoot. With luck, the dwarf advisor will be able to break the curse of stone on Hilos and Graccio the Golden.

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