Plot Summary Edit
On the Isle of Ice - some time after the events of Dragon Champion - as AuRon attempts to educate his two young sons; Ausurath and Aumoahk, a wolf cry informs him that there are strangers on the island. AuRon seeks out the wolf who sent the message - a relative of his old friend Blackhard - and gets her to guide him to the strangers, who he finds are searching the old caves used by the dragon riders; searching for treasure owned by the deceased Wyrmmaster. After disarming a trap left at the cave entrance by the strangers, AuRon enters the caves and finds the strangers. As he attempts to prove to them that he means them no danger, a dwarf in the group remarks that his relatives were betrayed by "Wistala the Oracle". Realising that his sister may have survived, AuRon arranges a parley with the group; allowing the group to continue searching the caves in return for information on Wistala. Afterwards, AuRon returns to Natasatch and tells her he plans to seek Wistala out and bring her back to the Isle of Ice. Natasatch requests that he seek out gold for their children to eat while on his journey.
Unknown to AuRon, Wistala has been searching for him in the east, and is eventually finds her way to NooMoahk's cave with the aid of the blighters in the area. After some time spent reading the various texts within - some of which have been defiled by the blighters - under the light of the sun-shard, Wistala is approached by the blighters, who request that she help them in their battles with the Ghioz by flying over their encampment in a false show of force, which she agrees to do. Afterwards, Wistala learns that the extensive Ghioz forces agreed to retreat; supposedly due to their prospectors finding nothing of value in the land, but the leader of the blighters is suspicious at this truce, and reveals that he witnessed them guarding a large rock in the centre of their camp.
At the same time, in the Lavadome, Tyr RuGaard is informed about a recent victory by the Lavadome against the forces of Paskinix; the Deman-King of the Star Tunnel. Learning that Paskinix wishes to negotiate the return of those captured, RuGaard decides to go check on their prisoners - partly motivated by a desire to relieve his upset stomach with exercise. RuGaard is joined by his mate Nilrasha, and the two dragons make their way to the prison caves; passing and assisting many other dragons along the way who make various requests of them - such as Yefkoa; a young dragonelle who they send to join the Aerial Host so that she can escape an arranged mating with a far older dragon. Upon arriving at the prison caves, RuGaard manages to give orders to have the prisoners transported elsewhere, before becoming violently ill and falling unconcious.
RuGaard wakes and recovers some time later, and is told by Rayg that many in the Lavadome have fallen ill; a result of a toxic organism that has blighted their kern - a vegetable substance that contains vitamins that allow dragons to live entirely underground healthily - supplies. RuGaard begins sending orders to the healthy dragons, and Rayg formulates a way to get fluids to the unconcious dragons via injections through the "tailvent" - NoSohoth notes that this could make him unpopular amongst the families of the dead if Rayg's treatments fail, but RuGaard ignores this. RuGaard then seeks out the descendants of the bats he brought with him when he first arrived at the Lavadome - now sufficiently mutated by the blood they drank that they resemble gargoyles more than bats - and tells them to go to the surface and keep an eye on the kern, before seeking out Nilrasha, who he finds grieving over a dead hatchling - one who had sought their assistance earlier - with several other court dragons. Before taking the body to be buried with the Firemaidens, Nilrasha states her belief that they are being intentionally poisoned. Eventually, the sickness is halted - although some die, Rayg's method manages to save many sickly hatchlings - but Rayg is unable to find a way to remove the blight from the kern, which worries RuGaard.
Meanwhile, in the Upper World, Wistala decides to leave NooMoahk's cave, having become unsettled by the strange nature of the "sun-shard", which has shown her strange images and given her disconcerting dreams. Wistala makes two attempts to take several books away with her, only for them to disappear and reappear on their shelves once more. As Wistala begins to find evidence that she may have somehow been responsible, she is distracted by the sound of blighter alarms announcing the arrival of another dragon. Wistala heads to the surface and finds two dragons - a white and a green - and a Ghioz force attacking the ruins of Uldam; Wistala briefly does battle with the two dragons, but is eventually forced to retreat to the cave, where she tries to cover the blighters as they flee. A third dragon; DharSii, enters and suggests she leave until the Ghioz have finished their business. Wistala refuses and the two fight; DharSii trying to get Wistala to surrender while she questions his actions in serving the Ghioz. Ultimately, Wistala slips and falls into a deeper part of the cave; breaking her wing in the process. After checking her injuries, Wistala begins searching for food so that she has the strength to climb out, but she is captured by Paskinix and his Demen; who overpower her with an old weapon of Anklamere's, Mistaking her for a dragon of the Lavadome, Paskinix plans to use her in his negotiations with Tyr RuGaard.
Elsewhere, AuRon manages to find his way to the Green Dragon Inn, where he is approached by Lada and Hazeleye, who tell him that Wistala is searching for him in the east. Hazeleye reveals that war is brewing between Hypatia and theGhioz, and notes that Wistala might be amongst the dragons serving the Red Queen. After getting Lada to lead him to Wistala's old cave so he can rest, AuRon decides to travel east and meet with the dragons.
In the Lower World, some time after her capture by the demen, Wistala learns from Paskinix that DharSii pursued her into the depths, but was bested by the demen - although he managed to escape before they could kill him. While talking with her, Paskinix reveals that he was once offered an alliance by one of the Tyrs of the Lavadome, but he refused it. Wistala offers to act as his ambassador, but Paskinix refuses; believing she is one of the Firemaids who will betray him. One night, Wistala wakes from dreams of DharSii and finds an overgrown bat clinging to her neck, which remarks it will inform others of her location before leaving. Not long afterwards, the demen are attacked by dragons. The demen attempt to kill Wistala, but she convinces them to spare her - noting the attacking dragons will be motivated to pursue the demen if they kill her - and they instead flee, save for Paskinix, who fails to get away in time. The dragons - Firemaids - release Wistala and make their way back to the Lavadome with her and Paskinix. During the journey, Wistala begins to pity Paskinix, and after reminding him of her offer to act as his ambassador, Wistala creates a distraction to allow him to escape - gaining the ire of Takea; the drakka who was guarding him.
At the same time, AuRon makes his way to the Ghioz capital - visiting the dwarves of the Chartered Company along the way - encountering DharSii along the way. AuRon convinces DharSii to land, and after learning he recently fought for the Red Queen - although he now plans only to fight against opponents of his choosing - AuRon asks him about Wistala; DharSii tells him that Wistala fell into a chasm which he was unable to rescue her from and is likely dead. AuRon next requests DharSii help him meet with the Red Queen - a woman whose entire body is covered with red fabric - so he can obtain gold for his hatchlings. DharSii obliges, and leads him to the Red Queen in the Ghioz capital; Ghihar - passing along the way a group of Rocs that DharSii reveals the Red Queen is breeding. After DharSii instructs him on how to address the Red Queen, AuRon meets with her and requests payment for the service he performed her in defeating the Wyrmmaster. The Red Queen reveals that the lands he was promised were held by Naf, who has since become an outlaw, and the counselor who arranged the deal has fallen out of favour. Despite this, she offers to satisfy his claim, and has food brought for him.
Meanwhile, in the Lavadome, RuGaard meets with Gigrix; one of Paskinix's captured generals, and discusses a possible truce between the dragons and demen, before returning to the Imperial Rock and recruits three bats - who he dubs Ging, Gang and Ghoul - to trail after the demen when they leave and return to him when they encounter Paskinix. Afterwards, at dinner, RuGaard learns from his thralls that Rayg may have been planning an escape, and so he summons Rayg, who explains he kept climbing equipment handy to make an escape if another Tyr come to power and put an end to his position. They continue to talk; Rayg revealing that SiHazathant and Regalia - relatives of the deceased SiDrakkon and Tighlia - have been experimenting with feeding pregnant thralls dragonblood. RuGaard tells Rayg he will put a stop to this and sends him away, later going to rest with Nilrasha; who spent the day pacifying the would-be mate of the young dragonelle they sent into the Aerial Host.
Back in the Upper World, AuRon is given a cave to rest in, and is soon visited by the Red Queen, who talks with him about empire-building - cryptically remarking that she is eternal; as she "simply can't be bothered to die" - before explaining that she wishes for him to travel to the Lavadome as her emissary, as they know little of the Lower World. In addition to this, she desires diplomatic relations with the Isle of Ice. After some discussion with the Red Queen and her court - which includes the dwarf Sekyw, who vouches for AuRon's loyalty - AuRon accepts, before asking about Wistala, only to learn that she never was a servant of the Red Queen. Shortly afterwards, the Red Queen gives him a sealed message to deliver to the Lavadome, as well as a crystal pendant to identify him as an emissary.
In the Lower World, Wistala and the Firemaidens reach the Star Tunnel - which Wistala muses may have been built by trolls - and Wistala has her broken wing set in a brace to heal. During their journey, Ayafeeia approaches Wistala and requests she use her skills gained in the Upper World to aid the dragons of the Lavadome. Ayafeeia also adds that the Lavadome may be Wistala's ancestral home, revealing that several groups have fled the Lavadome over the years, and noting that Wistala shares their dialect and her mother had an Anklene name. In time, they reach a bridge, only for demen to ambush them as they cross. In the chaos, Wistala's leg is injured; preventing her from running, but the Firemaidens refuse to abandon her and work together to overcome their attackers. In the aftermath, as Ayafeeia sends several drakkas after the fleeing demen, Wistala asks her how she can join them as a Firemaid.
In the Lavadome, RuGaard and his court go over a vast map of the Upper World - a creation of SiDrakkon's - and discuss the movements of the Ghioz Empire, who they suspect to be subtly taking action against them - and also to be responsible for the blight on the kern, in order to force the Lavadome to buy their supplies with dragonscale. After proposing the possibility that they form an alliance with Hypatia, RuGaard ends the meeting and goes to eat, before going out for a short flight. As he does, a red dragon attempts to assassinate him; calling him a "killer of hatchlings", but the griffaran guard best him, and he mortally wounds himself before the griffaran can kill him. Later, RuGaard meets with Nilrasha and learns that a group of Anklene dragons were overheard stating that they believed he had intentionally poisoned the kern to force the Lavadome into another war. As Nilrasha attempts to comfort him, she tells RuGaard about the dragonelle - Wistala - found by Ayafeeia; revealing that the dragonelle has friends in Hypatia, prompting RuGaard to request that she be brought to Imperial Rock.
In the Upper World, AuRon runs into difficulties in finding the Lavadome due to a poorly drawn map, and follows a group of rocs in the hopes of getting them to guide him on the right route, only to watch them launch incendiary weapons at a forest to the west of the Red Mountains. As they leave, AuRon sees men from within the forest emerge and douse the flames, and recognises their leader as his old friend Naf. AuRon lands and meets with him, and enquires about his status as a renegade; Naf tells him that he briefly became governor of Dairuss, only for the Red Queen to remove him from this position when he failed to rule the country to her liking. His replacement heavily taxed the people of Dairuss, leading to them revolting in Naf's name, which forced him to flee. After some discussion about AuRon's position as an emissary for the Red Queen - during which time they note the similarity of his pendant to the crystal in NooMoahk's cave, which AuRon suspects may be the reason the Ghioz attacked the blighters - Naf requests that AuRon do what he can to find out what happened to his wife - Hieba - and daughter - Nissa - when he next meets with the Red Queen, before helping AuRon find his way to the Lavadome. In time, AuRon reaches a bridge guarded by several Firemaidens and requests they take him to the Lavadome.
In the Lower World, Wistala and the Firemaidens reach the Lavadome, and Wistala is taken to Halfhollow Hill, the location where the Firemaids were originally established, where she takes the first oath to repay her debt toAyafeeia and the others. Although Takea protests that Wistala hasn't been properly trained, Ayafeeia disagrees and makes Takea recite the oath for Wistala to swear, before getting her to aid Wistala. Later, as they eat dinner, Nilrasha arrives and summons Wistala to meet with RuGaard once she has finished her meal and had her scales treated by body-thralls. Ayafeeia takes Wistala away to be tended, and allows Takea to accompany them to Imperial Rock.
Meanwhile, at the Imperial Rock, RuGaard learns from one of his "gargoyles" that Rocs with riders have been poisoning the kern supplies; suggesting the Ghioz were indeed responsible. RuGaard muses about how to act, and notes that since dragons are too selfish to put others above themselves, they'll need to adjust the world to suit themselves. Later, RuGaard travels to his throne room to formally announce to those present - including Wistala, who recognises him as her brother when she gets a better view of him - the end of the war against the demen, before meeting with an unexpected visitor; DharSii, who reports that the Ghioz are about to invade Hypatia. The assembled dragons begin arguing over DharSii's loyalties - revealing that he was once the commander of the Aerial Host until becoming an exile; supposedly due to the work of Tighlia - and Wistala goes to talk with him, revealing her true identity to all those present in the room - who recognise her ancestors as former dragons of the Lavadome - shortly before AuRon arrives in the throne room.
Upon recognising his brother, AuRon announces to those present that RuGaard betrayed their family to dwarves, but Wistala defends him; stating she has no grudge against him and that she suspects he didn't expect the dwarves to kill their family. RuGaard then lists his own grievances against them both, before requesting the message from the Red Queen. Mysteriously, AuRon finds his body being controlled by the Red Queen, who speaks through him and informs RuGaard that she will rule the Upper World and he the Lower World, before suggesting he kill AuRon. The Red Queen then speaks to AuRon, revealing she now knows where Naf is hiding thanks to him. She then makes him leap towards RuGaard, but Wistala pulls the pendant from his neck and restrains him, before convincing the others not to attack him; suggesting that the Red Queen was controlling him through the crystal. RuGaard forgives AuRon, who promptly leaves to go and aid Naf, and gives the crystal pendant to Rayg before announcing to those present in the throne room that he plans to remove the need for kern by shifting dragons back to the surface. As Wistala notes that an alliance could be formed with Hypatia, which will need allies to survive the Ghioz, RuGaard successfully convinces the other dragons to back him and declare war.
With Ayafeeia showing him a quick route out of the Lavadome, AuRon returns to the Upper World and heads for Naf's encampment - avoiding two Rocs along the way - where he warns him and his men that the Red Queen knows of their location . AuRon reveals the crystal pendant he wore was being used by the Red Queen to see through AuRon eyes, and a quick search of the camp results in the discovery of a bracer with another crystal set into it. As Ghioz forces approach, AuRon comes up with a plan to mislead the Red Queen by taking the bracer and creating a false trail for her forces to follow. This works, and Naf's men manage to ambush and defeat the Ghioz forces. In the aftermath, Naf learns from his spies that the Red Queen has declared war on Hypatia, believing they aided him in defeating her army. Naf asks AuRon to bring his family and fight with him in the hopes of overthrowing the Red Queen - dismissing her claims of immortality, stating she instead uses doubles - but AuRon doesn't want to risk them and refuses. As a parting gift, Naf and his forces give him coins for his family to eat.
In the Lavadome, Wistala is summoned to Imperial Rock during a lesson with Takea, and meets with Nilrasha, who asks her whether she thinks Hypatia will respond to their alliance proposal; in response, Wistala asks whether the Upper World can trust dragons. Despite this, she agrees to go as an emissary with the Firemaids, and soon leaves with a large group - fourteen dragonelles and twenty-eight drakka; including Ayafeeia and Takea, and also several bats sent with them. After some travel, they reach Hypat, and Wistala goes to speak with the city librarians, who she eventully manages to convince to take her before the Directory. Wistala tells them of the Lavadome's desire for an alliance, but the Directory rejects it, not wanting to have to take sides against the Ghioz. As Wistala goes to leave, she is approached by Thane Roff - the son of Vog - who offers to accept the alliance as his lands are being attacked by Ironriders, and tells Wistala to meet him and his forces at the ruins of Hesturr. After their forces unite - and Wistala briefly visits Mossbell - Wistala explores the area to the east, and finds that the Ironriders are invading Hypatia; upon return to Hesstur, she and the others formulate a plan to attack the Ironriders along one of the Red Mountain passes. As they prepare to move, Ayafeeia sends one of their number; Angalia, to deliver word of their impending attack to RuGaard, and Wistala gets another Firemaiden; Yefkoa to travel to the Isle of Ice - giving her instructions left at Mossbell by AuRon - and get him to join their forces, and to protect those at Mossbell if she dies.
In the Lavadome, RuGaard talks with his court about their next move - noting that the Red Queen is likely waiting for them to launch the entire Aerial Force against her. When word arrives from Ayafeeia about their current location in the mountain pass, RuGaard sends orders for them to retreat. In the mountain pass, Ayafeeia responds to the orders and retreats, but as Wistala is unwilling to leave, she allows her to remain with the most experienced of their number. Three days later, Wistala and the others are overwhelmed by the arrival of roc-riders. After escaping, several dragonelles propose they flee, only for Wistala to motivate the others to stay and break the brace on her wing; preventing herself from leaving. The next day, Wistala comes up with a new plan; to block the pass by causing an avalanche; this works, but Wistala gets caught in the avalanche and falls unconcious. When she wakes, she finds herself cornered by rocs and Ironriders, but the Firemaids soon rush to her rescue and overwhelm them - although losing Takea, who gets shot through the throat with an arrow. At the same time, in the Lavadome, RuGaard learns his bats have found Paskinix, and he sends the Drakwatch to capture him and bring him to Imperial Rock. When Paskinix arrives, RuGaard proposes peace and co-operation between their peoples - the Ghioz being an old enemy of the demen - before asking whether the demen know of an underground passage that would allow the dragons to reach Ghioz in secret.
Meanwhile, on the Isle of Ice, Yekfoa manages to convince the majority of the dragons on the island to join their battle. AuRon is reluctant to go, but Natasatch eventually manages to convince him to join the forces, and they set out for the old dragontower at Juutford - where several dragon-riders and dragons still live. Upon arrival, AuRon seeks out the treasure-hunters who told him of Wistala, and motivates them to fight the Ironriders by pointing out they'll be able to raid gold from them as they attempt to cross the Red Mountains by the pass of the Wheel of Fire. At the same time, Wistala and the surviving Firemaids decide their work is done and return to Hypatia. At Mossbell, Wistala learns that Hypatia is now mustering troops to attack the Ghioz.
In the Lavadome, the dragons make preparations for their assault on Ghioz, even as their Upholds begin to fall to them. During this time, Rayg discovers that the Red Queen's crystal pendant can be worn and used to sharpen a person's mind, and RuGaard manages to use it. When a passage is at last found that leads to Ghioz, RuGaard gives orders for the Firemaids - save for Nilrasha, who promptly protests that she should lead them - to Hypatia again to distract the Red Queen while he leads the Aerial Host to Ghioz, which he does after announcing this to the inhabitants of the Lavadome. After he and his force leave, Nilrasha uses her authority as Queen to lead the Firemaids to Hypat. Elsewhere, AuRon and Natasatch reach Naf's forces, and discuss their own planned assault on the Ghioz. As they discuss the possibility of killing the Red Queen, or at least one of her doubles, AuRon wonders if there is more they don't know about her.
Underground, RuGaard's forces clear a blockage along their route, and end up encountering NiVom and Imfamnia - sent to check on what the Red Queen believed to be an approaching force of demen. NiVom is captured and brought before RuGaard, who offers him the chance to join their forces before instructing him to warn the people in Ghioz that they will shortly be under attack and to paint their rooftops white if they wish to surrender. Shortly afterwards, RuGaard's forces break through to the surface, and he releases both the demen and NiVom - who he sees being pursued by roc-riders as he leaves - before leading his dragons towards Ghihar.
At the same time, Naf and a fraction of his rebels make their way towards Ghihar - planning to rescue Hieba and the other hostages of the Red Queen and flee - while Natasatch - disguised as AuRon - flies to the west and back to make their opponents think another army is following them. At Ghihar, Naf's forces begin assaulting the gates, and AuRon goes to protect them from above, only to notice a tell-tale light emanating from a prominent landmark. Going to investigate, he encounters the Red Queen, and attempts to bargain with her; she calmly refuses all offers, so AuRon kills her, only to witness a blue light rise from her body and disappear up a stairwell. AuRon gives chase, and finds himself in an ancient chamber containing a vast tree, upon which new bodies for the Red Queen appear to be forming. In horror, AuRon sets the tree ablaze and flees the chamber, heading outside to aid Naf's forces. Elsewhere, Wistala heads south and encounters a group of retreating thanes - who tell her that Hypatia has surrendered - and convinces them to aid the dragons from the Lavadome, before meeting up with Nilrasha and the Firemaids. United, the Hypatians and the dragons defeat the Ironriders, although during the battle Nilrasha falls through the roof of a Hypatian Temple; crippling her wings. In the aftermath, Ayafeeia sends Yekfoa to bring RuGaard to Nilrasha.
In Ghioz, the Aerial Host and the griffaran guard do battle with the roc-riders, and soon manage to overwhelm Ghihar. In the aftermath, AuRon finds the crystal from NooMoahk's cave - which strangely appears bigger than he remembered it - set up in such a way that the Red Queen could use it to spy on others. After AuRon summons RuGaard and several other dragons to see it, RuGaard decides to have the crystal brought to the Lavadome so they can study it. Later, as RuGaard muses about the future, Yefkoa arrives at Ghihar and informs him of Nilrasha's injuries; prompting them both to fly to Hypatia, where he finds that Nilrasha is alive, and will recover from her wounds.
Some time after the conclusion of the war, Hypatia and the Lavadome formally establish a "Grand Alliance". As Wistala and RuGaard participate in the ceremonies as representatives, AuRon and Natasatch - accompanied by their children, who are already set to join various parts of the Lavadome - talk; AuRon revealing he doubts the alliance will work out. Despite this, Natasatch convinces him to relax and enjoy the festivities.
- A small continuity error occurs towards the end of the book, when Yekfoa is sent to inform RuGaard of Nilrasha's injuries. Oddly, Yekfoa and RuGaard are amongst the dragons who observe the sun-shard following the defeat of the Ghioz Empire, yet she doesn't deliver her urgent message until far later in the day, where it is implied in the text that she only just arrived at Ghihar.