Knowing that A’Kelah, trapped in Aodh’s halfling body, is also doubly trapped by Małgorzata, the four Starhunters discuss how to rescue their friend. She is being kept in a dark place, so Lukiria’s scrying offers little information to go on. They decide to make for the area south of Pallenever, which Aodh confirms, with Aelish’s lips, to be his last known whereabouts.
It is decided Lukiria will teleport them to that area. The Prosecutor feels this is only fair as it was she who brought them all here—to Thyvalda’s home in Ibeadra—to begin with. Since Thyvalda is unable to sail at present, due to poor financial conditions brought on by the war, she is convinced to join in this excursion. She summons her two most trusted sailors, a pair of Silques from the Orc lands of Bazshdul named ‘Segun’ and ‘Mide’, for additional aid.
The intended destination is a coaching inn named the ‘Blue Rose’ which is of course just south of Pallenever. Lukya’s teleportation does not succeed, however, and the group finds themselves instead standing in a fountain within Elansory’s ‘White City’ in the dead of night. What is more, Aodh feels as though some force or presence watches Aelish’s body while in mystic transit. Aodh disobeys Lukiria’s request and opens Aelish’s eyes. He sees a glimpse of Aelish and Vallon traveling on horseback.
In the capital, Lukya uses her magic to transform Aodh-in-Aelish into a small, Myhtish child to disguise her. The group splits up between parties headed by Thyvalda and Lukiria to wait out the night. Frustrated, Lukya will make a second attempt the following day at noontime. Unfortunately, the second attempt also fails, taking them to a familiar inn at Aletan. Aodh again uses Aelish’s eyes during the transit and is treated to a new vision of Aelish and Vallon. Lukiria is furious and ashamed now and stalks off after a short talk with her wife. It is decided Aletan is close enough since they have indeed traveled hundreds of leagues in just two nights. The Starhunters head north along a familiar stretch of the Upperthrone guideway, where in fact Małgorzata was first in their lives.
They encounter peasants and other common folk fleeing south away from troubles and danger near Forebridge. They talk of moving shadows near the count’s castle. Aelish blesses a pregnant woman before they press on. With grim determination, the group is heedless of the warnings. After a day’s travel, when they know they are close, Fendrys and Thyvalda work together to pick a path through the marshy ground toward Forebridge. On the outskirts of the small town there, they find three dead bodies which have been torn apart by dogs. Aodh-in-Aelish speaks with the crows gathered and confirms the dogs that did this are in the nearby toll station.
The Forebridge toll station is nearly a furlong away on an island in the middle of the Striton river. Damir escorts Aelish’s body away to best hide her from Małgorzata.
By mere happenstance, in a stroke of great luck, Akelah-in-Aodh makes a daring escape from Małgorzata’s captivity using the dwarven ‘Fists of the Stonebreaker’ bonded to Aodh’s body. The magic of the gloves opens up holes in the walls that contain her. This is a feat Małgorzata must have been unaware of.
The dogs spoken of by the crows chase her, and one even escapes through the second hole she makes beyond the outer wall of the toll station. These are no ordinary dogs. Leonidas bravely ‘doors’ over to her—whereupon A’Kelah has a bizarre and heartening reunion with her body, out-of-body. The rest of the group, unable to jump the river so quickly with magic, scramble to find a boat. That plan is quickly cancelled, though, as Thyvalda uses her theurgy to control the waters of the Striton into a walkable bridge.
Leonidas with his charm and chicanery tries to defuse the situation with the dog, but it appears deaf or dumb to his magic. Everyone runs across the water-bridge. Fendrys, even at such a distance, even while dashing upon a flowing river, unleashes a storm of arrows with sublime accuracy, slaying the dog.
Małgorzata then appears at the roofline, felling Leonidas with some expertly shot arrows of her own. These arrows deliver poison into his veins and the bard’s world goes black. Malgorzata alights down to her quarry, tossing Leonidas into the river like a piece of refuse and retrieving her prisoner. The bard is fortunate to be in A’Kelah’s veer body as its water-breathing is all that holds him at bay from Vela’s grasp. Fendrys races to the shore and dives in after his friend. Leonidas is revived, healed and even able to use his own elven magic to cure his poisoned blood.
The Starhunters and the succubus then trade shouted words before she falls back to the castle. The crew gathers near the front gate and devises a plan. Throughout this ordeal, Małgorzata has continued her demands for the ‘spider jar’. They will use their current predicament of switched bodies to their advantage.
The fiend does not seem to know Aelish is actually present (inside the ranger’s body), so Fendrys-Leonidas and Aelish-Fendrys strike a false bargain in which they will enter with a claim to offer up the jar. Within the castle, the dwarves Thagnak and Halmuthra (once sworn guardians of the Crown of Rynas) have been recast as figures in bronze, their hair ablaze, just like the inhabitants of Lost Lokken. They are supplicant to Małgorzata now. Between the dwarves stands Murmur, the spy and trickster from Aodh’s crown adventure that happened here in this same castle. Murmur too is in fiendish thrall—perhaps he was all along? These three she calls her ‘emissaries’ and they await to take the jar.
With their entrance made, the ruse is barely given time to prosper as Aelish clutches the Figure of Eladriel hanging about Fendrys’ neck as soon as the goddess allows for it. The symbol flashes as the cleric’s commanding utterance of the Aquilan Verses recalls times of yore: when pestilential fiends such as the one before them—a plague upon Em—were sent screaming down into the furnace pit of the Watcher’s domain by the holy hosts. Małgorzata’s chiropteran wings crumple around her like so much rapidly burning paper. The space that contained the concubine of Gnost is diminished into nothingness, leaving behind a puff of sulfurous smoke and an echoing scream. Her emissaries remain, however, and they move in for an attack. Murmur quits the scene—vanishing from sight—almost immediately when Fendrys silences him from casting a single spell. A battle of fire and spattering poison ensues with the two bronze dwarves and another hell hound. Thyvalda and her sailors join the Starhunters in keeping Aelish safe while she focuses on holding Małgorzata at bay long enough to finalize her eviction from this plane. In the end, the Starhunters are victorious. The dwarves are buried in a hole in the ground. The Lokken Flare Pestle is recovered along with Małgorzata’s magic bow.
As the dust is settling, Fendrys senses the presence of one more fiend at hand. It hides on or about the halfling’s body…