The demoness banished by Aelish left behind the stolen armor she wore (its hallmarks and insignia indicate it belonged to Countess Deloda) along with two weapons: a longsword and a strange magic rope. The rope was seen to become a bowstring for a bow that formed out of nothing around it. When not a bow, the rope was seen to grapple and restrain Malgorztata’s enemies as a constricting snake might. Leonidas takes Malgorztata’s rope. Aelish takes the gorget from the armor as a trophy of her victory over the hussy.
Thyvalda is wary still of more fiendish tricks. It becomes clear the fiend Fendrys senses is tied to the stone hands of Aodh somehow. So Aelish anoints Aodh’s body with holy water in hopes it might cast out any malevolent possessors. Aelish resolves to exorcise the curse from Aodh’s body when she has her strength back. Thyvalda’s midshipman Olumide takes the rest of the demoness’ armor. Then the sailors and their captain later depart, heading south for Aletan.
The Starhunter’s reconvene with Aelish’s body and her sworn protector, Damir. Not long after talking with one another, the minds of the five wanderers are, by some force or quintessence, seated once again in the right and proper body. As the bizarre, out of body experience this leads to unfolds, each Starhunter is treated to the stolen vision—the ancient memory—Leonidas found in the Astral Plane.
Azdar later appears before them, using his magic to translocate in a ghostly form that can speak and hear, just as they had seen him in Myhta Petraea. He asks after ‘Hanezal’s ilk’, appearing relieved to hear either that Aelish is safe or that the fiend is gone; it is unclear which. During their audience with the enigmatic vizier, the Starhunters ask him about this memory they have. Aelish rightly presumes the memory to be Azdar’s own. This shift in subject alters the magus’ mood from haughty and coy to diffident and melancholy. With downcast eyes he asks where they might head next. They are coy with him in return. He departs.
Weary from their latest escapade, they decide to rest here in Forebridge, the town beside the toll station. A’Kelah is happy to be back in her veer body and sleeps in the Striton. An abandoned town is little better than the wilderness so Fendrys, Leonidas, and Damir agree to take watches.
In the dead of night during Leonidas’ time awake, a living shadow alike to those battled at Imia and Vorhon slips in silently and unnoticed, even to the half-elf’s keen nightvision. Inky black fingers lock around his throat, suffocating his cries for help. The touch of the shadow saps his strength, making the swing of his sword heavy and slow. Fendrys and Aodh awake to the sound of furniture skidding around in his struggle. Two more shadows spill in under cracks in the shudders. Leonidas collapses under his own weight. Aodh, also bereft of strength from his (body’s) recent captivity by these nightmare creatures, feebly crawls to toss a flask of burning oil at the intruders, even at the cost of burning the ranger too. Fendrys had shot awake and sprung into action to save his friend. Aelish, as before at Vorhon, casts one of the creatures away by brandishing her Figure of Eladriel. Fendrys dispatches the other.
In the silence that follows, a haunting cry from mid-river is heard.
Aelish steps out into the dim light of Embo and communes with a nightjar. She asks what the bird has seen. It talks of the shadows moving unnaturally. It flies off to reconnoiter while the Starhunters move to awaken A’Kelah and inform her they are leaving before more shadows find them.
Aelish is driven to exhaustion by the march in the night. Her waking hours are committed to prayers and mortifications to gain Eladriel’s blessings upon her body once more. They come to rest by the roadside. A’Kelah sticks to the river, blithely saying she will meet them in Aletan. At sun up, Aodh’s stone-handed curse is lifted by the prayers of a weary Aelish. Twin imps appear at the removal of the gloves inside a puff of rotten smoke. They descend on Fendrys, stealing his weapons and flying away amid curses as he shoots at them wildly. The imps vanish from sight as easily as they appeared. Later that day, as they head south, Aodh loses his directional sense of the ‘memory’ in Leonidas’ head despite the bard claiming he has not forgotten it.
In Aletan they learn the Lord Mayor is upset with them. The common folk desire their aid. And Lukiria Vanator has had her Prosecutorship revoked.