The elemental backlash of the Strondkard Lawstone, being so ‘hot’ and ‘dry’ overwhelms the sea-born veer, A’Kelah, who is a sorceress of the cold, watery Lurker. A’Kelah has fallen into a daze that even magic will not countermand. At Mytha Petraea, some of the mystic power there was encouraged to find a home in Aodh, and here again the Starhunters use their union to coax a similar power into A’Kelah—fearing the backlash has killed her and the power may spare her life. What this power is and how it might manifest, they do not yet know.
After realizing A’Kelah cannot be roused, Oksana is helped to her feet by Aelish. The two women have an abrupt conversation, but are cut short by encircling wyverns. These creatures, small as dragons go, but large by any other measure have appeared perhaps from the volcano, or else attracted to its eruption, or as a Titan’s response to the angel’s deific intervention. Whatever the case, they have drifted above like vultures before swooping down to attack. Monks from the adjacent castle arrive on the scene to defend their home, trapping the Starhunters outside with the wyverns and their poisonous tail-stingers.
Aodh is felled by a wyvern trying to carry A’Kelah (using his newfound stone-strength) to safety. Aelish saves him while Gage springs to defend all three of them. Fendrys too is brought down after helping Oksana (who looks to be adept with her famous sword) to drive one away. It looks as though all is lost until Air Elementals, summoned by the monks, aid the Starhunters in killing and dispersing the wyverns.
The monks are angry with the lot of them and demand that they surrender their weapons and speak with their ‘oracle’. Oksana herself and each of the Starhunters speaks with the mysterious man with eyes of black-glass and singed robes. He talks in riddles and bids them to speak with the Watcher-in-Flames. Leonidas and Aodh have only brief interactions. Aelish and Fendrys, however, each are treated to the mad, fiery visions of the Watcher who peers into the world from a seat of chaos and destruction…
A’Kelah, who was unconscious during the recent battle, finds herself revived in front of the oracle himself. She too peers into his glass eyes, but he chides her coward’s mind for not asking the right questions and sends her away.
Oksana it seems has placated the angry Slatewind Monks—who view them all as interlopers. The Starhunters all want to talk to her, but she is eager to speak with the ones who brought her here first. The would-be queen then uses magic, as A’Kelah does, to fly to the ship in the sky that has hovered nearby all this time. As arrangements to leave are being made, the Starhunters privately share their experiences with the oracle. Aelish and Fendrys both had a vision of a bejeweled skull being unearthed in catacombs under the capital Elansory. The sight of it slays Fendrys outright.
The fantastical air-ship, known as the Swiftlight is seen to lower, while Oksana returns saying they are welcome aboard. The captain, one Perren Sparrowhawk, is a half-elf wearing a careworn doublet. He greets them all enthusiastically and introduces his crew. They all look to be people of the desert from far beyond these mountains. The Eladric cleric Elaina and two other men, Sascha and Rashid, are all dark skinned and wear strange garments from those lands. Perren’s first mate, Hoff, looks to be a legionnaire of the Mythanian Empire and has the bearing to match. It seems they too were assailed by wyverns. Two blanche knights, Royal Lancers here with Oksana and an elven magus named Jaina were all killed in that attack. Jaina was a dear friend to the crew of the Swiftlight and the mood aboard is grim.
The ship, spared though it was by an angel, is damaged from the volcano. The Starhunters are in awe of the ship and see it as a boon in their race along the vast Meridian. Perren insists his ship is not going anywhere until it is repaired however. Four days pass and they all labor to repair the ship down at the foot of the mountain, beyond the fire ravaged area, where the local woods can lend resources. Jaina and the two knights are given what Perren calls a ‘burial at sky’. Jaina’s body is committed to the Traveler in a somber elven ceremony. The two knights are also cremated, with Gan and Eladriel invoked in equal measure.
With the ship ‘cloudworthy’ again, it is agreed that Oksana’s wishes will be met first—they will journey west to Lake Strovkel, meeting with a sage there named Goriseld. Perren though does agree to take the Starhunters to Hinturnal with all due haste; he is curious to see the university there. En route, A’Kelah trades thirteen of her red dragon scales in order to read from thirteen books and scrolls from the Swiftlight’s modest library. At Lake Strovskel they meet Lady Zita Nemeth, a Volodine, and her footmen. Goriseld eyes them wearily.