“He was kind of an idiot anyway.”
“We don’t judge.” — Carenza Vega & Dr. Halivari
Vittorio awakens the following morning to notice a young woman in the room. The halfling Iris is watching him carefully. She announces calmly that there will be a communal breakfast. Vittorio inquires just what he’s done to earn her attention and possible disapproval. Iris replies that he is clearly not what he claims to be. She remains evasive through the remainder of the conversation.
Breakfast is less tense than was the previous night’s dinner. It seems to help that Orimas is not present, and therefore unable to provide a reprise of his unwilling honesty. Following breakfast, the visitors gird themselves for battle and follow Halthron Stonefoot to the villa’s wine cellar. In one corner of the cellar a man is chained to the wall, largely insensible, with a magical circle drawn on the floor around him. When the group signals that they’re ready, Stonefoot begins the ritual.
The chained prisoner begins to vomit as the cleansing ritual reaches its apex. He regurgitates a thick, tarry mass that keeps coming, gradually forming itself into a bestial shape. A dark-furred ape-like demon with leathery wings uncurls itself and snarls at the people watching it. Halthron Stonefoot retreats upstairs to bar the door as the blades leap into action.
The apelike demon is swift and agile. It uses Rosette as a stepping stone to vault across the cellar, smashing Vittoro to the floor. Carenza responds by calling out a charge, but her own strike doesn’t draw blood. As she continues to coordinate attacks, Rosette seizes the demon and attempts to beat it into submission. She nearly pins it, but the demon is even stronger than she is.
The blades rally. Vesper strikes deep with Styriax. Vittorio and Carenza orchestrate an attack with one part military precision and one part elegant composition. They open wounds in its abyssal flesh, spilling tarry fluid onto the wine cellar floor. It breaks free of Rosette’s grasp a second time and vaults away, aiming for Vesper — but Vittorio sends a bolt its way in mid-air, guiding the necromancer’s parry. The demon staggers away, and with the guidance of her comrades, Brosetta strikes the killing blow. The Zomochian fiend begins to dissolve into tarry sludge.
They give the signal to Halthron, who lets them out of the cellar, and dispatches staff to see to the weakened but now possession-free adventurer in chains. Halthron praises their ability. Carenza is less than sanguine about the experience; “I don’t. Like. Apes,” she stresses. Though welcomed to stay to dinner a second time, the four make their farewells and ride back to the City of the Dragon.
It’s raining heavily when the group returns to Ladona. They make for the Vargari chapterhouse, there to find food and a chance to dry off. Vittorio amuses himself by playing a song about Rosette’s triumph over the demon. Unfortunately, she takes to the song delightedly, and insists he play it over and over. The devilish musician is becoming weary of the performance by the time the Vargari priest-hunting expedition returns.
For the most part, the young Vargari resemble a bedraggled pack of wolves more than ever. Kosvach and Tarvana are soaked to the bone, and Tarvana seems somewhat resentful that Iliska had the foresight to take a weathercloak. Rosette is first to intercept them, quick to boast that her group vanquished an actual demon. She is chagrined to learn that, by Erigo’s account, that the priest had a devil bound to him as well.
Kosvach detaches from the group and arrives to greet his wife. After a few words about the success of each of their missions, he heads upstairs to change, and she follows.
No sooner is Vesper out of sight than Carenza approaches Tarvana, asking if they can talk in private. Tarvana nods, and the two secure a booth. There Carenza becomes as direct as she’s ever been about their flirtation.
“Look,” says Carenza, “I really like you, but I need to know if I’m wasting my time here.”
Tarvana looks faintly vexed. “Every time you pull away I’d say you’re wasting both of our time.”
Carenza presses on, perhaps more seriously than Tarvana is entirely comfortable with. The Vargari remains fairly evasive on the topic of an actual relationship, missing or evading Carenza’s more subtle allusions. She does, however, make it clear that she finds Carenza interesting and attractive. Finally Carenza asks “Or is this just lust?”
Tarvana shrugs. “Eh. We can just start with that and see.”
The Rovino swordswoman agrees, and the two go upstairs.
Considerably later, after arranging marital events to their mutual satisfaction, Vesper and Kosvach talk about the findings in the Salvina asylum. As Vesper is laying out the possibility of curing Valisar and bringing him home, they hear Carenza’s laugh through the walls, in the direction of Tarvana’s room. “Well,” says Kosvach. “I guess there was no point calling it an inevitable disaster if there was a chance it wouldn’t happen.”