High Priest S'Rak has vanished into the woods in company with madness himself. Captain Jisten, Prince Jethain and the dark servants seek to find him before the chaos mage Sura kills his soul-bonded dragon, Scorth. It seems that fate is stacking the odds against the lovers, for no sooner have Rak and Jisten found each other, they become separated once more.
To make matters worse, Jisten finds himself endlessly reliving that one horrible incident that nearly shattered his soul, and he questions his own love for the strange creature that is the Loftoni High Priest of the Storm Lord. Can their love survive Jisten's breaking when all the Lythadi on Ydron are attacking?
They are watching me, Rak realized. He paused, pretending interest in the pattern of the bark before him but really straining to catch a glimpse of the watchers from the corners of his eyes. They were out there, he was certain of it. He could sometimes glimpse them, when they thought he wasn't looking, slim figures hiding behind the branches of the trees. Ah-ha, he thought, focusing his attention on the wispy figure barely visible between two gnarled oaks. Dryad? No, it didn't have the feel of the tree-soul, and a dryad would know he meant no harm.
Whatever this was, it didn't trust him. It didn't like him. It didn't want him here. It wanted to hurt him. Rak turned his head to get a better look, and it vanished like the illusion of water in the desert. He sighed in frustration and picked his way over to where it had stood. Perhaps this time it had left some trace of itself.
It seemed to him that he'd been living here forever. It was peaceful. There was plenty of food, fresh, clean water so cold it made his teeth ache and a blessed solitude. If it hadn't been for the watchers, it would have been an ideal arrangement. Rak reached the place between the gnarled oaks and carefully studied the ground. There was no sign that anything had ever trod there, much less done so recently. In the corner of his eye, a wisp flickered between a different pair of trees.
Biting back a curse, Rak began anew, trying to study his adversary without letting it know he was on to its nefarious plans. A death hound padded into view, tongue lolling as it panted, apparently oblivious to the danger of the watcher in the woods.
"Morth," Rak whispered, "Beware." The death hound nudged him, and Rak curled his fingers into the thick, short grey fur. He glared at the place where the wisp had been this time; it was long gone, of course. He wondered if Morth had frightened it off. Rak sat down on a half-rotted log and rubbed Morth's floppy ears.
A snort caused him to glance up, and he smiled. "Vyld." Rak stood and rested a hand on the avtappi's shoulders. He quickly shared the images of the watching wisps, warning the avtappi of the danger.
Vyld snorted again and sent a return image of Rak riding him out of the woods and into the army camp.
Rak shrank back, shaking his head. His stomach knotted itself as ice crept down his back, between his clenching, quivering wings. "Ix, ix. Vyld—I cannot."