Having survived the attack in the Lighthouse, the adventurers turn their attention to the magical apparatus near the living space of murdered librarian Eldamir Fallowcrest. Caleb and Spark (both experts on magical theory) determine that it is a teleportation circle, probably used to grant passage to the great glowing crystal at the top of the lighthouse, now jury-rigged to take travelers somewhere else. Caleb consults the crystal ball he borrowed from Jaris Cantar, which shows that the portal’s exit point is nearby – a great expanse of stone, dominated by a column of light, within which Miraan (leader of the Storm Hammers) and a gigantic fell taint are up to something. Seeing no alternative, the heroes gird themselves and activate the portal, stepping through a tunnel of seething energy and madness.
Throughout Stormreach, the vision circles project images of glaring light and mesmerising eyes, entrancing those who watch and emitting telepathic corruption in ever-growing circles.
The end point of the portal turns out to be on the enormous stone hands of the Emperor – a huge statue of a giant that stands above Stormreach Harbour, light pouring upwards from its outstretched palms every night. But now one of those columns of light has changed, energy bleeding out to form unstable portals to and through a plane of madness. Hundreds of feet above the city, the heroes do battle with Miraan and the fell taint – and with Master Áedan, who has been taken over by tendrils of dead-grey mist emerging from his chest!
The battle is fierce, but the precautions the heroes have taken protect them from the worst of the assault. When the giant taint is finally destroyed, Miraan and Áedan are freed from its influence; Miraan escapes and Áedan crumbles, grievously injured, warning that it was not enough – the portal to the plane of madness is opening, and the fell taints’ true masters are coming through! A membrane of telepathic slime widens in the column of energy, forming itself into a gigantic beholder that attempts to widen and stabilise the portal so that even worse terrors can emerge. Fortunately the creature is not truly materialised in this world, and Ash, Sláine and Kaddik are able to distract it until Spark and Caleb disrupt the Storm Hammers’ portal-warping apparatus. The monster dissipates!
Stormreach is saved from the Storm Hammer menace at last – and thanks to the vision circles’s telepathic broadcast, everyone in the city knows that it was these adventurers who are responsible. But the portal remains open, although reduced in size. Master Áedan warns that it will widen again as the denizens of madness press against it, and that it can only truly be sealed from the other side. Sláine prepares to throw herself through it, but Áedan takes her down with a nerve pinch – and then the mortally wounded master-monk jumps up and into the portal, which seals and disappears a moment later.
As the energy flow in the Emperor’s hands stabilises once more, the heroes make their way back through the portal to the city below – one of them leaving behind the only family she has in the world.