The former Blackharvest Chapel is purified at last. It never regains its former glory as a place of regular worship, but rather becomes a site for Chanethi pilgrims to visit, home to a hermit-priestess who speaks more to the land than to a flock.
The winters Opilio spends away, in the court of Xedravina, change him to some degree. He withdraws more and more from day-to-day life and governance, refusing to spend his limited time in the mortal world doing things that don’t make him and his loved ones happy. While he’s technically the master of the lands, he leaves their governing to Dechera, Ambira and Alesci. He spends his time in affectionate domestic reverie with his wife, playfully harassing Ambira about wanting to meet the first of his grandchildren, working both his lands and those of his tenants who might be having problems, and enjoying the results of the vineyards he worked hard to get established.
For all this effort, he continues to take on an increasingly arboreal demeanor, even with the birth of Ambira’s daughter and then son. Sometimes, he just stands and listens, the toes of his bare feet dug into the rich soil, just feeling the growth of the Chapelwood lands. His more treelike nature does not make him more passive, though — bandits or similar ruffians who veer into Chapelwood lands swiftly find this a grave mistake.
A little over ten years from the Garganta affair, Dechera is carried away by a winter fever that seems like just a small cold. She dies while Opilio is away, and when he returns, the loss breaks him. He kisses his daughter and his two grandchildren, and then flees with his grief back into the Overworld, staying there. The locals say that he reappears in the woodlands from time to time, seeming more treelike than ever, where he seems very concerned with the life of the woodlands – so much so that in time, folk speak of the “Shepherd of Trees” more than “Opilio Chapelwood.”
Ambira and Alesci have no such luxury of retreat, and they continue to watch over the lands, always close to their friends among the Borsari. Their daughter Yridia grows up raptly listening to Alesci’s tales of House Tyliel, and eventually decides to visit the enchantresses and witches to learn what she can from them. She learns some power of her own, perhaps gained by a fey pact, and forges a bond with her older Cousin Floressa.
Their son Donetto also feels the call of adventure when he comes of age. He chooses a more martial path, though, inspired by the story of Opilio’s youth as a failed Vanasian squire. He begs lessons from Uncle Kosvach when he visits, then travels to Cinquedea to train at the Iron Fang where Aunt Vesper learned swordplay, and then to Ladona to seek out Aunt Carenza’s school and to earn more lessons from the Vargari. Once satisfied with his ability, he leaves Rasenna for Vanas, aiming to win the knighthood that his grandfather once forsook.
One summer, much later, the Hairy Men come boiling out of the Witch’s Tangle again, driven by some hunger that compels their hag mistress. They overwhelm an ill-prepared populace, but the Shepherd reappears, and calls to arms the very trees of the Tangle to aid him in destroying them. He realizes once the fight is over that the brave young knight who fought beside him, working to see to the safety of the people, is none other than his own grandson, Donetto Chapelwood, and he departs the world again with a very proud smile upon his tree-like face.
Soon after, Yridia returns to Canteria. She claims a portion of the Witch’s Tangle for her own, driving out the hag’s last dark fey followers and inviting a Sespech companion to come and study the ruins they find there. Donetto accepts the responsibility of Chapelwood’s heir. He hangs his shield on the wall, and his parents teach him the ways of governing and nurturing the land. Once satisfied with his ability, Ambira relinquishes the office of Chapelwood’s master, and she and Alesci settle into a contented semi-retirement.