With the overthrow of Castle Macindaw by Keren, Orman's traitorous cousin, Will Treaty needs to find men to help win back the crucial northern stronghold. Will seeks out a group of shipwrecked Skandians, which he hires as mercenaries. Halt, Will's former mentor, and Crowley send Horace to help Will, and together, they manage to take prisoner MacHaddish, a Scotti general, in league with Keren. They manage to find out that Keren has made a deal with the Scotti and is allowing them access to Araluen's northern fiefs in return for a portion of their plunder.

Alyss has been held captive by Keren who has been mesmerising her and pumping her for information that may be of use to him. Will sends Alyss a stone to help thwart Keren's attempts to control Alyss' mind however and she is able to deceive Keren for a while. Alyss and Will send messages using the code taught to all members of the Ranger Corps and Diplomatic Service and are able to relay messages.

They make a wheelbarrow-like machine to wheel over to the castle. It collapses, according to plan, and the Skandians pretend to run away. Keren tells his men to try to "set that thing alight", but failed in his attempt and the castle defenders, murderers and bandits, quickly become uninterested in the strange machine and are easily distracted by a show of lights and strange hallucinations to the south. While that happens, Keren asks Alyss for her hand in marriage, however she refuses.

When all the focus is away from the west wall, Will and Horace, who had been under the machine, put ladders up onto the wall. Later, the Skandians run and manage to climb the ladder. They slaughter the defenders and quickly gain a foothold in the castle but Will runs to the central tower, carefully, to avoid defenders' attacks, to rescue Alyss. There, Alyss is mesmerised by Keren. Keren tells her to kill Will if he hurts him in any way. Will doesn't want to shoot Alyss, but he knows that he has to kill Keren. Will tells Alyss "I love you", the spell is broken and Alyss is shocked at what she was about to do. A fight between Keren and Will ensues. With a smaller saxe knife, Will quickly is overpowered by Keren, until Alyss splashed acid into Keren's face who reels backwards in agony and falls to his death out of the window.

Later, many soldiers of Norgate come to Macindaw to help defend and go to the north to ensure the Scotti invasion force turned back, leaving the Skandians to defend Macindaw. When he returns to the "Healer's Clearing", he decides to give Shadow to Trobar. Will goes back to Seacliff Fief and falls into a peaceful but unfulfilling lifestyle and becomes depressed, until he receives a letter from Alyss which says that she loves him. Will hurriedly saddles Tug and begins the trek to Redmont.

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