With Brychan in the grips of the worst winter in living memory, Berengar and the Knights are finding fighting back against the DeÁine invasion has problems they could never have anticipated, not least being how to move around when every road is snowbound. Could the Ancients’ pathway solve all their problems, and can they find it in time?
Yet for all their powers, the leading DeÁine also have problems in Brychan, and some of them come from within their own ranks! What are Quintillean and Masanae up to? And have they found the means to elevate themselves above the rest of the Abend? Why has Anarawd been uncharacterisitcally quiet, and is he planning to join with the other Abend, or is he against them too? As Quintillean stumbles through snow-locked northern Brychan with hostages Wistan and Kenelm, his scheme exacts a higher toll from him than he expected. While for Will and Sioncaet, hard on his trail, Quintillean is still powerful enough to test them to their limits, but in his arrogance he makes a mistake which Will can turn to their own benefit – one which will come back and bite him!
On frozen Celidon, Maelbrigt has a very different problem to deal with. He now has the Islander Sword, a massive weapon which requires him to relearn all his fighting skills, and with it comes Squint, the strange creature who will link him to the Sword’s power when needed. However as Maelbrigt and the Celidon Foresters continue on to try and retrieve the DeÁine Gauntlet, they run into trouble in the unlikely place of an isolate island off Celidon’s coast, and the high price they pay for overcoming it shocks them badly. As the battered men return to Celidon, they cross paths with Ruari bringing the Islander Shield there for safe-keeping. In the refuge of Sarne Castle. Ruari tells of his strange mission to venture to the uninhabited island of Taineire in the north to attempt to revive the ancient allies of the Islanders. Trapped in a frozen cavern and entombed in strange devices which preserve their life essence, these Ancients could well hold the key to defeating the DeÁine, but not unless Ruari can get them free once more. Together he and Maelbrigt travel north with Squint, going away from where they want to go in the quest to save more lives.
Yet Squint was not the only one of his kind, and to the Islanders’ horror they realise that others like Squint have been abandoned in a strange world between worlds. A wholly different kind of challenge for them will be how to rescue these creatures from their living entombment, for failure there will have repercussions beyond the matter of conscience.
Meanwhile on Rheged, Matti and Kayne discover that all was not as it seemed – have they accused Osbern wrongly? While on Prydein Master Hugh struggles to unravel cryptic messages, and young King Ivain discovers that he may yet have a larger role to play in the retaking of the Islands than he could ever have dreamed of, although news of his wife, Alaiz troubles him deeply. She is heading towards the DeÁine in the company of Talorcan and his men, and when she meets with Cwen and Swein on Brychan, the news they exchange forces them into seeking a most unlikely ally.
Sithfrey, the DeÁine scholar, also discovers friendship in unexpected places as he and Andra undertake a quest of their own in the company of Foresters, to travel across the mountains of Ergardia and Celidon. For two such unlikely heroes, what they experience will change their lives forever. However, across on the other side of the Islands, it’s not the future but the past which is testing Labhran as he guides Oliver, Hamelin and the others deep into DeÁine territory. Can he overcome the ghosts which haunt him, and will they rescue Masanae’s hostages in time before she joins with Quintillean and makes sacrifices of the innocents they hold?
Across the Islands it’s a race against time to reach their targets. Can they reverse the tide of events, or are the DeÁine forever one step ahead of them?