VARIAN having discerned the imminent eruption of the volcano, the party is forced to leave the secret sanctuary in search of better shelter, taking the despairing nymph NERISSE in tow with them. After becoming lost on the difficult journey through further worsened ashfall, they are finally able to locate an isolated shrine to Apollo, all but buried under the blanket of ash, now several feet thick.
They are able to enter through the rooftop door of the shrine, in which they soon deduce that at least one priestess was buried or suffocated in her chambers by an inundation of ash that had managed to enter her rooms. The shrine is otherwise deserted except for the rather unwelcoming spirit of what seems to be the god himself (sensed only by Varian), as well as an unidentified holy object in the shape of an ornate box.
Although most of their companions are dead set against the idea, CATALINA and Varian secretly hatch a plan to try and use the box to petition the god’s aid. All prayers prove in vain, however, as the lava flow reaches the shrine and the group comes closer than ever before to dying.
Fortunately, they are saved through the forbidden intervention of their shards, led by the defiant Ossis Potior. With the aid of the other ‘accomplished’ shards, the personification of the Bone Collector manages to recover the missing Sanomagus shard and force the completion of those close to accomplishment, including the Aduromagus, thus adding to the strength of their collective.
Despite Aduromagus’s vituperative objections, the assembled shards manage to preserve their mounts, channeling their various abilities through the sacrifice of the Vitualamen Ex Vesperis. With the exception of the unfortunate Nerisse, the party awakens—soon learning how their survival was accomplished—in a shrine entwined inside and out with ivy, emerging later into a sunlit environment finally free of the malignant ashfall.
All is not quite rosy, however, as MARTA soon spots some sort of massive serpent tunneling through the fallen ash. The group attempts to retreat into the shrine, only to realize that they will be trapped if the serpent—which was apparently drawn there by its appetite for the ivy—falls asleep or, worse, dies on top of the shrine.
Accordingly, they choose to attack the serpent, Catalina stunning the creature through the use of her abilities as Parvulus Mentis. The others are thereafter able to deal with the serpent, as well as the second one that soon appears in its wake. They are all wondering what to do next when they spy a sailing ship moving through the sky.
The ship comes to meet them, and they make the acquaintance of its captain, ROGELIO, a lone shard bearer who was abandoned by his three companions and thereby left shorthanded, particularly in the matter of his commitment to acquire the Eye of Pluto and deliver it to the Diamond Coast of Attica, or face death. The party comes to an agreement to help Rogelio with his predicament in exchange for transport to Brianna’s palisade and one other destination of their choice thereafter.
Rogelio proves an amiable host, and not only feeds the group but offers to sell them certain supplies that he has managed to accumulate. Discovering that the captain is a Minder like herself, Catalina learns some details concerning his erstwhile comrades’ betrayal, which leads to a certain feeling of kinship between them and his generous agreement to help DUMAS in the matter of his daughter prior to Rogelio’s own concern. The eight bearers and the sentient ship therefore set sail for Brianna’s palisade.