The result of the contact with the Moon Presence at Arsam releases a discharge of magic energy at the Imia Lawstone. In other words, a great ‘aethersnap’, a wild flux in magic occurs. The many wondrous items carried by Starhunters see their properties enhanced or fundamentally altered by the mystic reverberations that emit from the Imia Lawstone. The Starhunter company are too crazed by their own behavior to notice, however. Damir and Aelish flee from the rogue frenzy that has taken the minds of all others save the half-elf, Perren Sparrowhawk.
And with intact faculty Perren calls back to Aelish. His cries turn her ear, and the ever brave and selfless Aelish returns to see what help she might offer. There before the treasure-hunter, hoving over the snow is what a terrified few know as a ‘Mind Flayer’. A face-writhing thing, vaguely person-shaped. Its flesh pulsates with a color out of space and it is garbed in shreds of reality. An invisible force it commands floats two objects into its grasp: the Rod of Rulership and one of A’Kelah’s witch-candles. As this happens, the tenor of its outward thoughts—amplified by the stolen rod—hums on the air like an unseen storm. This storm resonates with the minds of those who look upon it (even the elven knot of Perren’s mind is unraveled), leaving them enthralled.
The Mind Flayer drinks the thoughts of those it has stupefied; Damir and Perren. Aelish’s face goes unswallowed, for that ‘dish has already been supped’. Suddenly, Aelish hears others coming. There are voices calling out amidst the pine trees down the hill. She scurries to see if any danger is posed to her impetuous new master. Indeed, the Mind Flayer—who licks up her thoughts as she forms them—becomes spooked at the danger any newcomers pose. It expends the stolen candle to quit the scene and return to whatever blind eternity it calls home.
The departure of the Mind Flayer brings a calm to the mystic turmoil that preceded it. Aodh and Fendrys and A’Kelah slowly rise to their senses, unaware at first what is real and what is dream. Then warriors of the white petal people arrive. They are human men clad in doeskin and woolen fibers. Leonidas uses his magic to parley with them. He does his best to maintain his dignity and assert the importance of their confederacy. The white petal warriors see a traumatized, strange talking lot with outlandish, blood-stained clothes and even wilder gear. They mistake Aodh for a dwarf. They stare in wonder at A’Kelah’s color and shape. They mistake them all for gods, like their fertility idol ‘Deleathil’, who have transited to this plane by way of the Lawstone.
The white petal people take the Starhunters in, seeing that even gods need shelter and care in times of great need. The white petal people tell them of their ways. They mention that recently a star in the sky has fallen and landed in the land of the Daughters of Huyaba, the gold-hemmed witches of Elansory. Their chief, Kroggil, ‘the tiger-taker’, summons his ‘stonesage’, Vossom. The sage examines their souls and observes what is amiss. Vossom takes them to the ‘Burnflower’ where they will speak with the Watcher-in-Flames.
But the illumination of the Watcher’s fire draws many eyes. So instead, Hanezal, the Dowager of the Vagrant Flame appears before them as a shadow on the wall as later she will in the dwarven halls of Lost Lokken. The echo and opprobrium of her voice fills the chamber of the Burnflower. Hanezal bargains. She offers up the body of the Lord Pariah if Aelish will go to Elansory and, in the witches’ care, propagate for her a girl-child.
‘Flesh for flesh, a body for a body.’
Aelish manifestly rejects this proposal with her righteousness of voice and deed. Ruefully they all leave the Burnflower and then take their leave of the white petal people.
The Starhunters ponder venturing to Elansory in search of the fallen star and how best to find the throat-oil from a dragon’s mouth. With those two reagents they might fashion an ‘artefact’ that A’Kelah theorizes could rescue them all. Alternatively, Leonidas and Perren discuss with their companions the benefits and costs of going many, many leagues to the east to find the elven Godking of Minegoth in his palace upon the great island of Aervalay. For the Godking can grant wishes and has the power to help them. What is more, A’Kelah still has one of the witch’s candles looted from the scene of the Night-twist tree. Just as they used a candle to rescue Damir, they could use this last one to take the body of Azdar, if indeed Hanezal possesses it.
It is this last prospect on which they settle. First, Aelish is granted the godly sight of Eladriel who sees into many places from her high seat in the sky. She scrys upon Azdar and sees the whole of Rynas from a perch high in firmament. This strange vision perplexes the Starhunters. Then she attempts to reach her voice out to Azdar—something she has never before tried—and curiously it is Fendrys who is party to the sound. Even though Eladriel can carry the voice of Aelish where she will, across the whole of the tapestry of the world—where ever Azdar might be—it is in Fendrys’ mind, just paces from her own, that the message arrives.
In spite of all of this arcane confusion, still they use the candle. Azdar’s body is locked in an iron sarcophagus in the darkness of Carceri; the candle’s magic opens a portal to this sight. Then the power of the candle-gate tips the sarcophagus from its placement atop a high pillar, but A’Kelah holds it fast, levitating it with her magic. A demoness, like Hanezal, with many arms and a serpent’s body in place of legs appears to stop the theft. The demon teleports through the gateway (arriving right behind Fendrys), eliding a magic trap lain for it by Aelish around the mouth of the gate. Fendrys’ prowess is enough to hold all six sword-wielding arms at bay, but he is no match for the constriction of the snake-tail around his body. A’Kelah darts inside the protected ground of Aelish’s magic circle to secure the body of Azdar. Leonidas rushes to Fendrys’ aid and rescues him with some teleportation magic of his own. The demoness summons a twin sister to lend six more hands against the Starhunters.
The hellacious will and iron-hard skin of the two fiends is so mighty that most of the Starhunter’s magic fails utterly or is diminished. Even so, the Starhunters bring to bear all their might in steel and spell in a fierce battle. For the first time, with his faith absolute (for he knows it will mean his death), Damir invokes the holy power of Eladriel and he charges, his sword aglow. The radiance of Eladriel’s glory sears the flesh of the fiends and in retribution they kill the knight where he stands. Aelish then falls in battle beside her love and it looks as though she will die too. Aodh also is being crushed to death in a snake-coil. All could be lost, but again it is Leonidas who saves Aelish from a coup de grace while Fendrys, Perren and A’Kelah finish off the fiendish viper-women. At death their terrible naked bodies crumble to ash, leaving behind only their wicked blades and the strange gold bangles that had adorned their twelve arms.