Muddy and blood-drenched and frightened half mad, the Starhunters rush into the dark woods of rural Zormava for as long as Aelish’s daylight can allow. They rest and wash, re-gathering their strength inside the confines of Leonidas’ mystic shelter. Azdar appears this night as a raven and coos to Aelish. He explains that he has spoken to the fiends and the risen dead of the mound, “they will not harm you”. The vizier and his silver-haired crow speak outside over the halfling’s quavering, wasting little body. Aelish demands to know why he has shown himself. Azdar demands Aodh be kept safe. And then he is gone.
The Arch Guardian need not be prodded to save her companion, however. She spends the night in deep prayer, making pleas to her goddess, Eladriel, on behalf of the dying Aodh. Killed once already and brought back from the brink, Aodh nearly rots away into dust from the touch of the undead. Aelish demonstrates once again the might of Eladriel is greater than even death—and there is no darkness or hatred that cannot be abolished by her grace. At the cleric’s touch, the rotting curse of Huyaba’s grave wardens upon the halfling is undone. The light of the sun (Holophy) returns in the morn.
Shaken but undeterred by the events of the burial mound, the Starhunters set off, as they always have, with an enigmatic object of power destined for one of Rynas’ lost Lawstones. Aodh is still too weak to walk under his own power and is thus carried on a stretcher by Damir and Fendrys which slows their progress.
They march on in the taiga amid brush and brambles. Skinny birch and aspen trees stand aside boulders that loom like grey ogres. After two days time, Fendrys’ ultra-keen senses notice a sourness to the wind and a faint agitation among the wild things. He knows a fiend is near. Is this some new devilry or do the terrors of the grave mound track their course? The ranger warns the others; Damir wishes to investigate. The Starhunters all talk him down from this plan.
Two more days pass. Leonidas is able to observe in the stars: they have lost very little time, despite the strange darkness that came over the land while in the turtle shell. Then they encounter a troop of men being led by a Knight of the White Feather—a devout warrior monk like Sir Damir. These men carry torches at midday and they creep carefully through the woods, over-wary. They seem to be caught in a private darkness and hunting a beast. Once more, Damir is eager to hail a fellow brother in arms and once more the Starhunters urge caution. The knight and his men are abandoned to whatever strange plight has befallen them.
On Bringwater, six days out from the burial mound, they cross a lonely dirt road and head into a countryside of dense willow thickets. A’Kelah, never very sure footed on land, trips over a sun-bleached caribou skeleton. The aspen and birch trees begin to share their soil with evergreen firs and spruce needles.
On the following evening of Stonemark, Leonidas hears a familiar wolf-call, a howl he last heard long decades ago. He and Fendrys move for a closer look at the creature as Embo rises with a full face. The wolf is an elf-friend, a soldier that carries a sword in its jaws and he tells the bard it searches for wayward elven children. The beast does not trust Fendrys, though, and bids him to leave. Leonidas soon learns, as he moves in closer, the wolf is a spirit; it rushes to the camp where it leaps into the skull they carry. One of the eye sockets of the skull now houses a dim glow. All this while, Aelish has removed herself from her friends. She fights away the urge to transform under the full moon with the steel resolve only a cleric-elect could maintain.
The full moon of Em is four days. For the next two nights, Embo’s curse proves too great and Aelish succumbs to her moon-madness. Her body is transfigured and she runs wild into the night, unaware of her actions. She awakens in strange, wild places, alone and cold. Many hours are lost while Fendrys seeks her out in the mornings. On the fourth and final night again she staves off the curse. Aelish is gradually learning to temper the animal rage that plagues her blood.
Eventually, with many miles of wilderness behind them, Fendrys follows old byways and game trails to an ancient stone bridge. It is half-collapsed, but sturdy enough to bear them all over a rushing river. There are no trolls at this bridge, just a lone statue of Myrnoch, pock-marked with lichen and worn by the elements. Aodh offers a dagger to the collection of rusted weapons left in times long past. Perhaps it is the halfling’s recent and daring use of the Flare-Pestle of Lost Lokken, but he actually earns a wink toward glory from the god of battle.
Beyond the river they come across fields of scarlet paintbrush, purple columbine flowers and a massive herd of caribou. A’Kelah’s esoteric geography locates a place of power and she guides Fendrys that way. Fendrys is moved to find a tree of the Old Ways, like those once venerated in Stonehollow. A tender dryad, an immortal spirit of the forest, may still call this mighty oak her home. He sends the others away as he knows the presence of outsiders could scare a dryad away. Fendrys, perhaps longing for what was lost at his home, resolves to prepare an offering as his people would have. The rest agree this is a fine opportunity to take a day and rest from their long journey. The tree is indeed home to a dryad and Fendrys’ offering is cherished. The spirit of the dryad, ineffable like that of the wolf, also abides now as a faint glow within the other of the skull’s eye sockets.
Just a day’s journey from the dryad tree, the Starhunters arrive at the edge of the wasteland of Imris. The place is a desert of silt. It is warm and still under an ashen sky. The only landmark is a large rock formation in the distance. On the way to it, shadows cast by statues unseen are discovered. They learn the statues are not just invisible, but untouchable as well. After various magical experimentations on the phantom shadows, Aelish’s daylight is seized by a sinister force. They are all rapidly plunged into darkness and as before, day turns to night. While the sun plummets to the horizon, they are offered a glimpse of the world changed before them. In the dead land of Imris, shadow reveals what light can hide.
The distant rock formation is actually a church at the base of a Night-twist tree of legend (but the stories say all of Huyaba’s roots were torn up). The sickly black giant’s branches are bound up in a titanic mess of spider webs. The church is surrounded by a shallow, dingy marsh. Then the sun is gone completely and a blackness like the depths of the ocean prevails. A’Kelah’s lights still do not behave her command. Aodh lights his lantern, Fendrys a torch. Through a nearby tunnel of dark vines, the souls of the familiar dead bear solemn witness to their march. The church is guarded by skeletal sentries which the Starhunters blast through with hammer strokes and sword cuts and spell-bursts.
They enter the Shrine of Votive Jars.