The Harper party led by the warrior Swiftsword leads the heroes across the fen even after sunrise. By midmorning, the tired men and women reach dry ground.
Owain points to a clearing in a thicket ahead and directs the group to an ancient standing stone that has broken over time in two from top to bottom. The druid speaks, “The Cloven Stone is your quickest way to Alaron. This will take you to a bald hill near Stagford, north of Aithe. From there, you’re on your own. Beware- they will doubtless be waiting for you.”
A bard steps forward. “Between the stones all of you. Touch another until all are linked together”, he orders. Once everyone is in place, the Harper stands facing the Guardians of the Past, Darga, and Volo. He removes a harp from his pack and begins playing a haunting tune, and then releases the instrument as it plays on its own. The Harper bard reaches his hands out and touches each half of the Cloven Stone.
The bard looks at Corthen and his companions and says, “You must fight on for us, Harpers.” Blue-white flames begin to envelop his body. Looking into his eyes, the party is horrified to watch as flames rise and begin to blacken his flesh. White mists rise up from around the stones and blot out their view of the dying man. His last words come as a deathly rattle, “Do not fail us!”, he gasps.
White mists cover everything the party can see. They are briefly disoriented; someone shouts, then a hail of arrows fly out seeking their lives. The party shakes off their stupor to see themselves ringed by an armed band of twenty human archers. The bowmen have some success as several arrows strike Volo Geddarm. He is sorely wounded and soon he disappears from view.
Corthen, Erith, Ayremyr, and Darga charge out to put swords to the archers. They engage several of them and kill a handful but the remaining bowmen are persistent. Uldred grows tired of them and uses his helm to release a Wall of Fire spell. Most of the archers are either caught in the flaming circle or on the outside of the roaring wall of flames. Three bowmen are trapped inside with the heroes. They quickly drop their bows and shortswords and beg for mercy. Darga is rather unlucky. He was caught in the dwarf’s flames and dies.
Corthen accepts the surrender of the men. He questions them about the Dark Druidess. The men profess they are soldiers of Lord Blackstone and it was he who left them here to guard the hill from meddlers on Gwynneth. Corthen asks if Lord Blackstone is in league with the Dark Druidess to which the men claim no knowledge of. The elf asks if Lord Blackstone is in Blackstone and they inform Corthen that their Lord has ridden south to siege Aithe Keep.
Corthen asks Volo how many days travel it is to Caer Callidyr from their current location. The geographer tells him it is nine days to the capital by horse along the north coast road that travels near Blackstone along the way. He tells Corthen that the trip south to Aithelar and through the Dernall Forest is equally as long by horse. The party begins discussing what to do. Corthen urges that the group travel to Aithe to aid Lord Cauldyth and his family against Blackstone. Tellazar disagrees and urges traveling north past Blackstone and on to Caer Callidyr. The archers agree to serve the party wherever they go and swear by Chauntea to do so with honor.