As the Elver/Marsten army marches back to Castle Marsten, many troops begin showing symptoms of the plague. One of the Marsten chirurgeons remembers stories of a similar plague almost a generation ago, in lands now ruled by the Barnell family. Trenton swears to find a cure for the plague, Lady Marsten offers her daughter’s hand if Trenton can save them. Trenton refuses the offer of matrimony, says he will undertake the quest for the good of the Kingdom.
Trenton, Rory and Jacob set out for Barnell lands, while a peaked-looking Armen stays behind with the Elver master or arms. Shortly after departing, they meet a messenger on the road from Elver hall… it seems Lord Wesley Elver has gone missing.
They decide to return to Elver Hall, as it’s not too far out of the way, and consult with Sebastyan the Senechal. They are suspicious that Wesley’s disappearance is linked with Lord Wesley’s ham-handed strategy to deal with the Tall Man.
They opt to split up. Rory and Sebastyan will go to the Executioner’s Stone at the Folly, while Jacob and Trenton head north to Barnell lands.
On the way to the Executioner’s Stone, Rory and Sebastyan encounter terrified farmfolk who insist the Tall Man is watching. Many have gone missing. At the stone, they find Lord Wesley hanging with about a dozen other smallfolk. As darkness comes, they decide to cut him down. Sebastyan will ride for Elver Hall with the corpse, while Rory builds a fire and waits to face the Tall Man. However, Sebastyan’s steed pulls up lame. In the darkness, Sebastyan meets a horrible death at the end of a noose. Meanwhile, Rory spends the night next to the fire, unperturbed by the Tall Man. When morning comes, Rory returns to the Executioner’s stone and sees Sebastyan’s body hanging alongside Lord Wesley’s. Rory pockets the Lord’s signet ring and rides north, hoping to catch Trenton and Jacob.
For the journey north, Trenton and Jacob decide to avoid dealing with House Frey and look for a river crossing that isn’t The Twins. Trenton suggests Maeylys’s crossing, a ford south of The Twins, on the border of Frey lands. They arrive at the crossing, discovering a Frey knight and his squires bullying some smallfolk. Jacob decides to teach the Frey knight some manners, hauls him off his horse, and pummels him with his fists of justice. Trenton gamely tries to hold off the squires and ends up on the wrong end of some blows from a polearm. The Frey knight yields the ford.
Jacob and a gimped Trenton finally arrive at Castle Grenward, the Barnell stronghold. Steward Farris Leed receives them, and is more than willing to send them on their way when he learns they have come in contact with the plague. Leed says the woods witch that lives in the nearby Godswood is the only person who might remember the plague.
They reach the edge of the woods by nightfall. A robed maiden meets them and leads them to a hut, where “Gammer,” an ancient crone, greets them. Gammer seems to know the Elver visitors by their scent, and offers to help them with the plague and the Tall Man if they can pay her price. Trenton is stumped for what to offer her. Gammer gives the Elver boys some stew, and they sleep.
Trenton has a dream about a battle. He’s at the foot of a hill, fighting under a black dragon banner with his father, brothers, and about 10,000 others. His father – who curiously doesn’t look like Lord Wesley, but he still knows it’s his father – is fighting a man in a gold cloak. Trenton knows this man too, and knows he used to be a friend. His father gives the man a terrible wound, and calls for his healers to tend the fallen knight. Trenton urges his father to press on to capture the hill, offering to lead the men himself. Father refuses, insisting they will all go together. Trenton then sees it is too late – his army has lost the high ground to another force led by a man with a red raven device on his shield. Arrows rain down, killing his father. Trenton takes up his father’s sword – he now knows this to be the Blackfyre sword – and leads what’s left of his army in a desperate charge up the hill. He meets the raven knight and fights him, wounding him in the face. The raven knight strikes Trenton down and mortally wounds him. As the Blackfyre sword falls from his fingers, the raven knight transforms into an actual raven with three eyes. As he hears the raven’s mocking cry, the dream ends.
Jacob dreams about punching things.
The next morning, Trenton wakes up with the maiden in bed beside him. She smiles and tells him Gammer has what she wants, and she will give the Elvers what they want.