All that was left of Obernewtyn was rubble, and it looks like a firestorm had hit it. Strangely it looked as if it was a ruin that was years old, not weeks/months. Gahltha seems unfazed and asks if she wants to continue on and go to the barud. Elspeth doesn’t want to go to the ruin, but wonders whether anyone survived the storm, surely they could not be all dead. As she started to head into the valley, she saw smoke and then a small settlement, so someone must be there, alive. They both go to investigate, and as they approach, they stay hidden spurred on by Elspeth’s instinct to wait and see who is at the settlement. Looking on she saw that it was a settlement, home to soldierguards. The pass must have already thawed, and they are here to investigate Obernewtyn. But why are they still here, it is obvious that it is a ruin. By some cruel fate the lie that they had used to protect Obernewtyn, ultimately ended up becoming fact.
Gahltha suggests going to Obernewtyn to find out what has happened, but Elspeth wants to have a closer look at the settlement. Elspeth suggests that they will be able to stay in the Tecknoguild caves, if it comes to that. But before they can do anything, three soldierguards approach them, only to stop short to sit on logs and complain about the cold. They mention that Rushton wants to stay and rebuild Obernewtyn to its former glory, they think that he is crazy. They have been here three days, trying to see if Obernewtyn had really been burnt and whether there was any Sedition in the area. For many of the soldierguards it was obvious from the first second that Obernewtyn was destroyed, but there are others that aren’t quite so convinced.
As the three complain further and talk of Ariel, their captain came over and caught them slacking off. Behind him, was Rushton. Once the group left, Elspeth and Gahltha head back into the valley, this time closer to Obernewtyn. As they were walking, a person approached and talked to them. It was Daffyd. Gahltha didn’t know him, and reacted aggressively, but Elspeth quickly restrained him. He is so surprised to see Elspeth again, they had all thought she had died. And Elspeth, once again, quickly comes up with a story that she coerced him to think that her feet were really worse than what they were, so he would go to Obernewtyn and warn them. But what she really wants to know is what has happened to Obernewtyn while she has been gone.
This sends Daffyd into uncontrollable laughter. He exclaims that it must be a powerful illusion if it can convince Elspeth, the Farseeker guild-mistress, and that they did say that Dragon was as powerful as Elspeth. It quickly dawns on Elspeth, that all of this is an illusion. There was no firestorm, there is no damage. It is all Dragon and her powerful imagery! It explains everything, including why Gahltha was so confused with Elspeth’s behaviour, Dragon cannot beastspeak. The majority of Obernewtyn are at the Tecknoguild camp, and there are some at the settlement, mostly empaths and farseekers. As an insurance policy, the coercers are at another camp near the pass incase anything goes wrong and they need some ‘soldiers’ of their own. Though this news makes things awkward for Elspeth, because she was not seen by them when she came here (obviously she didn’t go that way, but it is the ‘only’ way into Obernewtyn) and she must explain that she was being really stealthy to avoid detection.
Dragon has been holding the illusion for three days, which is a huge effort, even though she had been training all winter. She doesn’t keep the illusion up at night, the moon is new so Obernewtyn is not visible, which allows her to rest. Daffyd takes the two to his camp, to give them some food, which they have been wanting for days! Daffyd was going to return to the White Valley and see if anyone had survived from the Druid’s camp, but snow had prevented him leaving. Then suddenly Roland came running to them, looking for Matthew to farseek the camp because they have lost contact. And then he sees Elspeth, and stops dead in surprise. Matthew is not there, but Elspeth is more than capable of doing the job.
It took some time to locate a mind, but eventually she found Ceirwan, his ‘signal’ was very weak. Obviously he was shocked to hear from Elspeth, but she made him concentrate on what was going on. The soldierguards drugged them all, because they began to believe that they were hiding Sedition in the ruins. All of them are unconscious, and Rushton wanted him to make sure that they stopped the soldierguards getting to the ruins. It might mean they need to fight, but Elspeth wants to avoid that, and asks Gahltha to go and fetch a coercer, preferably Gevan. And then they will round up whoever they can and meet at the ruins. Her real plan, hidden from us for the moment.
It was dusk when the soldierguards appeared (why did it take them so long?) and the captain stopped when he saw Elspeth and Gevan. When Elspeth did not respond to his commands, the Captain sent someone to tie them up. But the soldier was hesitant to go any nearer to them when he could see their faces. And then Elspeth acted as if she was ill and needed help, she had black blisters on her face and lips. This sends them into a fright, and they assume it is the plague. And the Captain decides it best for them to all leave, and report to the Council that everything is as Rushton said, there is little more than ruins and nobody was alive. They would never be able to live if people found out they were exposed to the plague. They plan on leaving no witnesses, and want to burn those drugged back at camp, but they didn’t even check to see if they were still inside, just as Elspeth had hoped.
All of them were safe though unconscious, and Roland had never seen this type of drug before. And when Rushton opened his eyes and saw Elspeth (still in a drugged state) he said ‘Ah, Elspeth, love.’ So all was well, and the soldierguards finally left. Dragon’s illusion had worked, and Elspeth was back home. There is only one chapter (and an epilogue) left, before Book Two is over!