Szodrin awakens in the Nexus, likely dead...or about to be.
Xander wakes up in Astlin's care aboard an unknown ship. Damus enters, and attempts to convince Xander to resume the working relationship they once had with Thurif. Xander refuses, severing his relationship with Damus rather than letting Thurif control Astlin.
Damus conveys Xander's answer to Thurif. The rogue Steersman describes the souldancers as portals to other worlds and the cause of the Cataclysm. He intends to trade Astlin to those who might have use of her power. Thurif then guides the stolen Kerioth toward Irminsul, the Great Tree and home of Shaiel's navy, passing the Serapis in the process.
Sulaiman (and his hidden companion) arrives at the ruined Guild hall. He sees a form shadowing the nearby mountains.
Tefler peers into a water basin, and sees images of Xander and Astlin in its reflections. This vision is replaced by a void silhouette blotting out all the star - and all life. He then has a vision of a rose fog, a cable, and a feminine form. He is startled out of his trance by his friend Cook. Tefler must convey the news of Kerioth's arrival with a souldancer to Hazeroth himself.
Inside their cell, Xander and Astlin struggle to contain her Flame once again. Void priests of Shaiel enter, and rip Xander out of Astlin's arms.
Hazeroth meets with Thurif, who quickly offers offense. The demon prince murders him. But Thurif continues his conversation from another body. After a quick agreement on proper manners, Hazeroth reveals that he is attempting to free his lord from its prison inside a souldancer. When Thurif claims to have made all the souldancers, Hazeroth offers to trade one of his captured souldancers for Astlin.
Astlin is introduced to Hazeroth's souldancer servant, Zan, who leads her away from danger.
Xander is thrown into a cell with Damus. Tefler and Cook walk in and free Xander, but leave Damus on his own. Before Xander leaves, he crushed the blood vial that symbolizes the oath between him and Damus.
Serapis is trapped in a Great Tree. Tefler and Cook lead Xander out onto its branches. The two sailors resent Hazeroth's claim to the Serapis, and remember Elathan's birth at the end of Nethereal, when the god bit into the ship and cast it down to the planet below. Serapis crashed into the tree, and was eventually recovered by Shaiel's navy from Cadrys. Zan brings Astlin to the priest sailors, who plot an escape. Shaiel must not be allowed to collect all the souldancers.
Souldancer is now tying into the events of Nethereal. Serapis was Malachi's vessel during the final chase of Jaren, and only ceased in its pursuit when the god Elathan broke free from the shell of the Exodus. Tefler, and Cook recall the two dead men that went from Hell to Exodus's crew to Serapis's. If this is correct, Thera's resssurection scrambled their memories so that they don't remember much before Elathan's release. And the rose fog, cable, and feminine form seen in the aquamantic scrying point to Elena, the vessel of Thera's resurrection in Nethereal.
Szodrin's appearance in the Nexus suggest that Thera did indeed patch around the soul trap of Hell when she revitalized the White Well. The souls of the dead were originally intended to do so, losing their personalities along the way in a manner more Eastern than Christian.
Did I really once say that Souldancer started with a resemblance to shounen manga tropes? How foolish I was. Not only has Xander not really made any allies beyond his souldancer squeeze, those who should have been his allies have betrayed him with clockwork regularity. Souldancer isn't shounen, it's what happens when shounen tropes are forced to play Diplomacy (the destroyer of friendships) with each other.