Keystone. Gate. Crossroads. Catalyst.
Having been resurected from his fatal tortures in Regal's dungeons, Fitz has once more foiled the Prince's attempts to be rid of him.
Now, restored to his own body, Fitz begins the painful, slow process of learning to be a man again. He must learn to cast off the wild ways of the wolf and return to the human world: a world beset ever more by the relentless Red Ships Raiders who are now free to plunder any coastal town they please. But more immediately, a world in which Fitz finds he is utterly alone.
Regal has stripped the kingdom of its riches and retired to the inland city of Tradeford. Of Verity, on his quest to find the legendary Elderlings, there has been no word; Molly, Kettricken and the Fool have all vanished.
Unless Fitz can find Verity and help him in his quest, the Six Duchies will perish and there will be no safe place to live.
FitzChivalry Farseer is raised from the dead with Wit magic, becoming more wolf than human. Only Burrich and Chade know he survived his tortures in Regal's dungeons. They help Fitz regain his humanity and heal his body, but he must face the deep trauma inflicted by Regal and Will on his own. Fitz decides only a personal quest to kill Regal will bring him peace. Before departing, he is attacked by and kills Forged Ones. Burrich later finds the remains of a Forged One who had stolen Fitz's clothing. Believing him dead, Burrich cares for Fitz's pregnant lover, Molly, while Chade and Lady Patience lead what resistance remains against the Red Ship Raiders.
Fitz travels to Regal's opulent inland place in Tradeford but fails to assassinate him thanks to the Skill power of the remaining coterie, Will, Carrod, and Burl. Verity aids his escape and, in the process, imprints the command "Come To Me" into Fitz's mind. Unable to disobey, Fitz embarks for the Mountain Kingdom, following the path of Verity's quest to find the Elderlings, mythical allies of the Six Duchies. During this journey, his bond with his Wit companion, Nighteyes, deepens and changes as they become more similar. The wolf begins to think abstractly and plan events while Fitz starts to gain noble wolf qualities, like living in the present and a fierce loyalty to friends 'in his pack'.
Fitz and Nighteyes meet a minstrel named Starling, who recognizes Fitz and insists on traveling with them. They meet an old woman named Kettle, who is travelling to the Mountain Kingdom seeking the White Prophet, and they foil an attack by warriors under the command of King Regal. Fitz reaches the Mountain Kingdom barely alive and is tended back to health by the White Prophet, also known as The Fool. Kettricken is shocked to learn both Fitz and Verity, who had been presumed dead after the remains of his travelling party were found, are alive. Fitz learns Verity and Kettricken's child was stillborn, and so his own daughter is the only remaining Farseer heir.
Kettricken is determined to find Verity, but her father King Eyod, cannot spare resources since Regal has turned his ambitions to conquering the Mountain Kingdom. Fitz, Kettricken, the Fool and Starling set off to find Verity, followed by Kettle, who is not as frail as her age supposes. Using a copy of the map Verity followed, the group encounter a road leading to a ruined city, both constructed of a black stone imbued with Skill. The road is perilous for those sensitive to the Skill but without sufficient training, but Fitz survives thanks to the guidance of Kettle and his Wit bond with Nighteyes.
They eventually arrive at a garden full of intricate stone dragons Fitz senses as alive with his Wit. Beyond the garden is a quarry of the Skill stone where they find Verity, frail and obsessed with carving a dragon of his own. Kettle reveals she is the last remaining member of a former royal coterie. She has great knowledge of the Skill, though her own Skill ability had been taken from her. She instructs that the stone dragons had been carved by Skilled kings and coteries, by Skilling their own memories and emotions into the stone. Fitz acts as a catalyst, using his Skill and Wit to help Verity and Kettle restore each other's Skill strength and complete the dragon. However, Verity does not have enough power left to bring the dragon to life, and refuses to allow Fitz to sacrifice any more than he already has. Instead, he and Fitz's minds switch bodies, allowing Verity to share one last night with Kettricken and providing the final surge of emotion and memory needed to wake the dragon. The Fool inadvertently wakes another incomplete dragon, while Fitz wakes the other dragons sleeping in the garden by calling to them with the Wit after they had been doused in the blood of soldiers Regal had sent to stop them. The risen dragons devour the remaining soldiers and mortally wound Will, and are then led by Verity-as-Dragon to drive the Red Ship Raiders away from the coastal Duchies. With his coterie broken, Regal has no defense against Fitz's Skill. Instead of taking his revenge by killing Regal, Fitz instead imprints him with fanatical loyalty to Kettricken and the people of the Six Duchies. Regal restores Buckkeep and ensures the legitimacy of Kettricken and Verity's heir she is left pregnant with, Prince Dutiful. Fitz retires as royal assassin into anonymity and travels for several years. To protect his daughter, he leaves Molly and Burrich to raise her while only Chade, Kettricken, Starling, and The Fool know he lives.