Katsa makes her way through King Murgon’s dungeon in Sunder with the help of Oll’s map in her mind. She makes her way down a flight of stairs and takes out the guards. After determining the prisoner is the old Lienid, Prince Tealiff (father of Lienid king) they are looking for, she whistles to signal Oll and Giddon. She puts pills in the guards mouths and then tells Oll they have a quarter hour before moving on. She starts taking out the rest of the guards around the castle so no one can sound the alarm. She can’t let them know who she is, so her plain clothes and hood help hide that she is a woman. Her uncle, King Rand of Middluns, made a big scene about sending her off in the opposite direction, but he doesn’t know she is on this mission. Katsa remembers when she was younger and she found out what her Grace was when a cousin started to touch her inappropriately and she hit him so hard and fast that his nose was lodged into his brain. She went to Oll (captain and spymaster) for help and he had her train using dummies and prisoners sentenced to death. King Rand approved of her learning to control her abilities so that he could use her. In this particular mission, most people wanted her to kill all the guards, but she refused. She only kills when she has to. As Katsa is making her way to the wall to join the others, a man grabs her from behind. She tries to get away from him, but he is also Graced with some sort of fighting skill as well. He knows who she is, but she can only tell that he is a Lienid. He decides to let her past, but she still knocks him out and gives him a pill to be safe. She knows she is putting herself in danger by not killing him. She joins the others and they ride hard to get back to Prince Raffin, but the old Lienid is sick and they have trouble moving him fast enough.
There are seven kingdoms and Lienid (lead justly by King Ror) is an island separated from the rest. Katsa contemplates who could have kidnapped King Ror’s father, who is also the father of the Queen of Monsea (separated from the other five kingdoms by mountains). She doesn’t believe her uncle was part of the plot, but thinks the hotheaded kings of Nander, Estill or Wester could be. When their small party reaches Rand City, Oll and Giddon take Katsa’s horse and send her to the castle with Prince Tealiff still on his to make it look like a boy taking his grandfather. He knows who she is and asks if her beautiful eyes make baring the wait of her Grace easier. She says she rather be without both. She ends up carrying him up the stairs to meet Raffin and deliver him and then she quickly takes off for the woods.
Katsa makes her way to the Council meeting spot and is annoyed that the others don’t take as much care as she does to cover their tracks. She is furious when she arrives to find both Oll and Giddon sleeping. She reprimands them and then they start on their way to the Eastern border to accomplish was King Rand actually sent them to do. They make camp that night and Giddon mentions they were lucky the inn where they switched out horses became a friend to the Council. Katsa never imagined the Council she started would have friends in all seven kingdoms. She lies awake and thinks about how King Rand sent her to hunt down and brutally kill a discovered spy. Instead of tearing the man apart (as she was ordered not to use weapons), she snaps his neck. After that, King Rand started giving more specific instructions and Katsa reputation spread. She kept hearing about the horrible things that were happening around her, but King Rand would only respond to matters within Middluns. Katsa came up with the idea as a way to rebel against her uncle’s lack of interest in helping people. She went to Raffin, who instantly agreed it was a good idea. It took her some time to recruit Oll, but after that, the members and support continued to spread. She thinks about how fragile the Council really is and decides if she is ever discovered, she will run away to Lienid or Monsea and hide for the rest of her life.
The mission King Rand sent them on is to collect payment from a border lord who took more trees from the souther Middluns forest than he was contracted to. Katsa is also to punish him for violating the contract. Oll warns her there will be a little girl that is a mind reader. All Gracelings are sent to their royal court when their eyes become two different colors. If the king finds them useful, he keeps the child. If not, he sends the child home. King Thigpen of Estill sent this particular girl home because her grace isn’t fully developed and she made him nervous. Oll says the girl seems to be able to read desires. The idea of the mind reader being near her makes Katsa nervous. They change into proper attire and make the rest of the trip. They immediately storm into the border lord’s house and people instantly make way for Katsa. Giddon tells the man what he did wrong by taking the extra three acres of trees from King Rand. Giddon and Oll are taken to receive payment for the inconvenience and leave Katsa with the man. He begs for his life and Katsa explains his grievance only warrants a broken bone or the loss of a finger. He puts his arm out for his punishment and she appreciates his bravery. She knocks him unconscious and leaves him there. As she exits the room, she runs into the little Graceling girl. Katsa stares her down until she runs away.
As they make their way back to Rand City, the weather takes a turn and they are stuck at the inn where they exchanged horses on their way out. Katsa grows restless and Oll has to explain it would make them seem crazy if they travelled through a storm. The next day, a girl serves them and keeps staring at Katsa. Giddon introduces the girls and tries to explain that Katsa wouldn’t hurt her. They shake hand and then the young girl runs back to the kitchen. Katsa goes out to the stable to exercise and scares off a young boy. When she gets back inside, Giddon and Oll are sharing news about the theft of an important treasure King Murgon has reported. Some people say it was a Graceling boy, others a huge Graceling man. A Graceling fighter had been staying in the palace and they questioned him. No one mentioned where he was from. Katsa wonders why he didn’t tell the king about her. They discuss how the Monsean Queen has locked herself in her room to grieve for her missing father. Katsa thinks about it and doesn’t understand the reaction. Giddon tells her they will be able to continue traveling soon.
Raffin is there to greet Katsa when they arrive in Rand’s grand courtyard with marble floors. Katsa is surprised to see Raffin’s hair is blue and he explains he tried an odd headache remedy that made it happen. She asks about Tealiff, but Raffin says he hasn’t woken up yet. He also tells her the seventh son to King Ror of Lienid, Greening Grandemalion, is visiting to look for Tealiff. Raffin hasn’t revealed anything to him. He takes off as a steward comes to tell Katsa that King Rand has requested she dress for dinner. Raffin calls down to her from a balcony to tell her to come see some of his new discoveries before dinner. She starts to grab her bags, but notices someone watching her and looks up to meet Greening Grandemalion’s gaze. She is held by his one silver and one gold eye. When he starts to smile, she decides he is cocky and arrogant. She collects her things and goes to change.
Katsa remembers when she first met Helda. The old woman had a Graceling child gifted with swimming and then started working in the nursery. Helda came to Katsa one day in the training room when Oll was out of town. She tried not to be too nosy, but asked if Katsa knows about menstruation or sex. Katsa was clearly confused, but insisted she didn’t need a woman servant. Helda didn’t want to contradict her, but told her that if she ever wanted to get away from her uncle’s dinners, she could dine with her. Katsa was intrigued by this because she hated the way the people would stare and avoid her at dinner. Helda helps Katsa brush out her hair and pick out a dress for dinner that night. Katsa is sat between Giddon and Lord Davit. Initially, the lord is reluctant to make eye contact or get to close, but eventually warms up to Katsa. He tells her he needs to speak to the Council. Katsa grabs Giddon’s leg so that he will hear their conversation and set up the meetings. She tries not to look across the table at the other Graceling that has been watching her through the meal. She hears King Rand say her name and assumes he is telling a story about something he made her do. She becomes furious and has to leave right away before she looses her temper. When she stands up, so does everyone else in the room. She apologizes and explains that she has to leave. She goes out to the courtyard and takes down her hair. She tosses her earrings in the fountain, but thinks better of it and wades in to get them. She takes off her shoes and starts running.
Katsa ends up in the practice room shooting arrows at dummies. Prince Greening arrives and he asks her if she can only wound with arrows or if she can kill. She strings two arrows and lets it fly at a dummy to strike the head and heart. He is impressed and explain his own Grace only allows him an advantage at close combat. He asks her where his grandfather is, but she refuses to acknowledge that she has him. She excuses herself to go to her rooms, but he stands in her way and tells her he won’t let her pass until she tells him. The two Gracelings start fighting and find they are pretty evenly matched. Katsa is surprised that she is actually challenged by him. By the end of their sparring, they are both laughing. She asks why he trusted her and he says it is because she didn’t kill him when she could have. She agrees to take him to his grandfather. He tells her to call him Po.
Once they reach Raffin’s lab, he takes them to a secret room where he has been hiding Tealiff. Po rushes to his grandfather’s side immediately, but he is asleep. Raffin takes his assistant, Bann, with him to get ice for Po’s bruising face. Tealiff wakes up briefly and is surprised to see his grandson. He thanks Katsa for saving his life and she tries to give the credit to Raffin. He asks why he would save a Lienid. She says he seems nice and he falls asleep again. Raffin returns and points out that for the first time, Katsa looks like she has been in a fight. After bathing, Katsa gets ready for the Council meeting in the room she uses to store her weapons. People start to arrive, including Po. When Giddon arrives and sees the scratch on Katsa’s face, he puts his hand on his sword like he is going to attack Po. Po apologizes, saying he should’ve been careful not to hit her face. Giddon seems to accept this and they shake hands. Katsa is furious until Po mouths his apology. Oll comes in and laughs heartily at Katsa having found her match. Lord Davit Tell them his sources tell him King Thigpen and King Drowden were not involved in Tealiff’s kidnapping. This narrows down their list to just King Birn of Wester, but will have to double check on the information. Raffin asks Po to keep his grandfather’s location a secret until they know more and he agrees. Giddon makes a comment about Katsa feeling better and she thanks him. Raffin, Oll, and Giddon lead the others through the secret passages to keep them from going through the halls. Po is left for Katsa to sneak out. Po says he would like to stay in Rand City under the guise of training with her. He can make trips to Nander and Estill to keep up pretense of searching for his grandfather and use the Middluns as a sort of central base. She agrees and is excited by the idea of getting to train with him regularly. He apologizes for his behavior around Giddon, explaining he doesn’t want to make an enemy of him. He also points out it must have been one of his rings that scratched her face. She takes him back to his own rooms.
Katsa and Po start training together and find they have to set some ground rules after Katsa’s boot hit Po in the head too hard. They generally have an audience when they spar and afterwards, they eat together in her room, with Raffin and Bann, or with Tealiff. Katsa constantly has questions for Po and he tell her about Lienid. He tells her about how his father’s city is high on a peak. Most people takes the road, but there are also stairs (his brothers and he race up) and a rope lift for large shipments. He goes on to tell her each son of Ror has his own castle. Po’s is the smallest, but he loves how beautiful it is overlooking the sea. Tealiff wakes up and helps Po tell Katsa more about Lienid.
One day after fighting, Po asks Katsa what she will say when Giddon asks her to marry him. She is shocked by this questions. She leaves to ask Raffin if Giddon is in love with her. He thought she already knew. That night at the Council meeting, Katsa makes sure that there are two people between her and Giddon. They have decided they don’t believe King Birn of Wester is involved in the kidnapping. They now think King Murgon of Sunder is at least partly responsible. Po brings up that no one has suspected the King of Monsea. Katsa is interested in getting information from Murgon, but it is decided that questioning anyone would tip off their involvement in Tealiff’s rescue. Oll points out that Po can do what he wishes, but asks that he let them know what he decides before he does anything. He agrees. As they continue to talk about the Council’s accomplishments, Katsa stares at Po, whose mind is elsewhere. When he returns and looks at her, she scowls and looks away. She is glad when Raffin pulls her aside to talk after the meeting.
Katsa and Po are training like normal and working on a specific move. King Rand comes to watch them and makes a comment about Katsa having trouble fighting Po. Katsa is infuriated from the moment her uncle arrives and even more so after he tells her he has a job for her and to see him when she is done. Po refuses to fight her while she is angry. They stop and go to eat in Katsa’s room. He asks about the jobs Rand gives her and she tells him how he is a bully. Po points out that she is the main reason he has the power to be. She thinks Rand makes her savage, but he points out that Rand can’t physically force her to do anything. She goes to punch him and pulls back at the last minute when she sees he doesn’t plan to block it. He flies from his chair and she rushes to help him and apologize. He accepts her apology. She tells him the Lienid people have strange reactions. When he asks her what she means, she mentions his aunt, the Queen of Monsea, locking herself in her room. He says this is odd behavior for her and starts thinking. He says he has to think some things through, but wants to talk to her when she gets back from her errand for Rand.
Rand tells Katsa he was trusted to arrange a marriage for an undesirable Nander lord in a dangerous area. He demanded Lord Ellis, one of Giddon’s neighbors, give one of his daughters and Rand was to collect the dowery. Lord Ellis refused. He is now sending Giddon to plead with the man and Katsa to convince him if that fails. Oll is also going. When they get to Giddon’s castle, they stay the night there. Katsa can hear the conversation between Giddon and Oll about how they don’t want to punish a man that doesn’t deserve it. Katsa decides she will not punish him. The next day, they are taken to Lord Ellis’s office and she tells him to excuse the guards for their own safety. He does and Katsa tells her why she is there, but that she isn’t going to hurt him. She tells Giddon and Oll they will have to tell the king they tried to make her go through with it, but she refused. Lord Ellis is grateful, but Katsa doesn’t think she deserves his gratitude for not hurting him when he has done nothing wrong. They stay at Giddon’s castle again that night. Katsa goes to the archery range to calm down. Giddon joins her there. He wants to protect her from Rand and offers to marry her to keep her away from him. She refuses even after he continues to insist. He starts to get angry and thinks she is saying no because of Po. He tells her he is a opportunist and a thug. She remembers Po saying the exact same thing. She asks if Giddon has said these words to Po or anyone else. He tells her he hasn’t. Katsa suddenly realizes Po lied about what his Grace is.
Katsa storms through Rand’s castle and bursts into Raffin’s lab to demand to know where Po is. She is surprised to find him there. She yells at him for lying to her. He tries to explain that he has hidden his Grace from everyone except his mother and grandfather since he was a child. Katsa is so angry that she storms out to keep from letting her anger get the best of her again. Raffin comes to see her in her rooms later. He explains to her that Po has been hiding his Grace his entire life. He knows that people will not trust him if they know the truth. He tells her to listen to him and says he will send him to her before he leaves. When Po arrives, Katsa refuses to look at her. Po explains he has hidden his Grace to allow him to have a life. He can only sense people and their thoughts relative to him. Katsa sympathizes because she was not able to hide her own and her life has been solitary because of it. She asks about the range and he explains it is further for people he knows. He could sense her anger as she approached the castle. She asks if he can sense plants and animals and he says his Grace is always changing and he has been able to get small senses in recent years. He tells her he is leaving the next day. He thinks he missed something in Sunder. He also thinks there is something going on in Monsea because his aunt’s rumored reaction seems strange. He asks her to go with him. A steward comes to tell Katsa to go see Rand immediately. She starts to panic and Po tells her to go in there and concentrate on not doing anything she would regret. He points out that she has the power and can do whatever she wants. She points out she can’t stop him from knowing her thoughts. He says she could kill him, but she thinks he would sense it and run away. He says he wouldn’t stay away from her.
When she enters the throne room, Katsa looks around to see the 200 archers and guards Randa has called in for this occasion. He asks her why she didn’t bring back a woman to give to the lord he promised her to. She explains that she didn’t agree with his order. He starts to tell her that her mind is worthless to him. He threatens to have his men throw her in the dungeon for disobeying him. She informs him his men wouldn’t be able to contain her or get her to the dungeon. They also would not be able to prevent her from killing him if she chose. She warns him to let her leave as she is through with that court and expects not to be hunted by him. She decides against killing him (Raffin would become king, but would have to kill her for murdering his father). She walks out keeping alert for any attacks.
Katsa says her goodbyes to Raffin and Bann before she takes off with Po. As they ride, they follow their map and stick to places that are friends of the Council. Katsa asks if Po plans to stop in Murgon City to question the king, but he tells her the king made it very clear he wasn't welcome back. At night, they end up camping and Katsa hunts while Po makes a fire. She is back quickly with a skinned rabbit. Katsa finds she doesn’t know how to act around Po now they are completely alone and he can read her thoughts about him. He asks how he can make it easier for her. She suggests he tells her what he thinks about her when he does. He agrees and starts telling her things. Katsa is amazed at how organized his mind is and thinks he is more intelligent than her. He points out that she started and ran the Council, which helps a lot of people for no reason other than they need it.
The next morning before they get ready to continue traveling, Katsa asks Po to cut her hair off. He asks her to wait until they get to a place where a woman with some experience might be able to do it instead and she agrees. As they ride on, Katsa decides to experiment with Po’s Grace. She distracts herself from thinking about him and then suddenly screams his name in her head. He is startled and she laughs at his reaction. She continues to practice quietly communicating with his thoughts as they keep riding. That night, Katsa lands in a pond when she catches and kills a goose with her bare hands just to see if she could. They allow the goose to cook and start to practice fighting each other. Po finds he is more of a match for her when the sun has completely set and there is no light for the starts or moon. Katsa is thrilled for the challenge and insists they fight like that more often. They stop when Po trips over a branch and lands in the river. He takes off his shirt to dry off and this gives Katsa the opportunity to notice the bands he has dyed on his arms. She overcomes her embarrassment and asks him about them. He explains they are meant to be attractive for the woman he will marry. Katsa explains she had discussed marrying Raffin, but refuses to have children. If she would have married Giddon, she would have planted seabane in the garden to eat and become infertile. As they get ready to sleep, Po tells Katsa the story of King Leck of Monsea. He was an orphan with a missing eye. The previous king and queen took care of him and ended up raising him because they couldn’t have their own children. A week after he was named heir, the king and queen died. After Po falls asleep, she calls out to him aloud and then in her mind to see if he can sense her, but he continues to sleep. She goes to bed herself.
The next night, Katsa and Po arrive at the inn. Katsa is infuriated with a group of men that are picking on the inn keeper’s daughter. She stands up to attack them when they grab the young girls arm, but Po stops her. The men leave the girl alone. When alone in her room, two more of the inn keeper’s daughters come and cut all of Katsa’s hair short. After Katsa goes to sleep, Po knocks on the door connecting their rooms. He tells her they will have people coming to sell them information soon. When the men arrive, Katsa is not happy to see the men from the dining room. They demand payment before they say anything, but Po insists he will pay them for what the information is worth or they can leave. They tell him King Birn in Wester is responsible for the kidnapping. Po says he will send people to investigate, but they are going to Monsea to visit for other reasons. The men insist King Leck isn’t responsible for the kidnapping of Tealiff. One man noticed the people there are sickly. Another starts talking about how the animals in the king’s shelter all have cuts on them. When the men start to joke about raping women, Katsa gets angry and Po has to stop her. When they joke about Katsa in bed, she has to stop him from attacking them. He allows them to leave with their lives as payment for the information. He tells Katsa he knows Leck is behind his grandfather’s kidnapping. The men all believed Leck innocent, but know that he is not. They speculate if the Monsea king has a Grace to alter people’s perception of him and it is hidden by the loss of his eye.
Katsa and Po decide to take the quicker path through the dangerous mountains rather than taking a slow boat to Monsea. Katsa comforts herself about seeing Leck by reminding herself that Po will protect her mind from him. That night they camp under a tree in the rain. Katsa skillfully makes a fire and Po hunts a rabbit he sensed in a hollow tree. She is very pleased knowing she can live anywhere on her own. Katsa wakes up that night thinking Po is gone and has to check to make sure he is still there. In the morning, she is angry because she didn’t plan on wanting anyone’s company the way she does Po’s. He keeps calm as they travel on, but it infuriates Katsa even more. She ends up running off and jumping into a lake to calm herself. When she returns, she realizes how beautiful Po is and tells him she doesn’t want it. They go on their way and Katsa repeats that she doesn’t want a husband constantly in her head. She is silent when they stop again and Po tries to get her to talk to him. He admits that he loves her and is too afraid of her hating him to tell her what he wants. She goes off into the woods away from him to think without him in her head. She knows she cannot marry him and resigns herself to heartbreak. When she returns to Po, he tells her he is willing to offer himself in anyway she is willing to have him, even if it isn’t marriage. She says she will have to think about it and waits for him to fall asleep before she considers becoming his lover.
She spends the next few days thinking about it as they continue to travel and the road becomes a small path. She complains about how slow the horses are moving and states her preference for walking without them. Po points out her Grace is probably more than what she thinks it is considering how hard it is for her to tire. She continues to think, but her mind is a whirlwind. She asks Po to fight her to help clear her head. He agrees and they start fighting. She stops when she tastes blood and realizes it is from his hand. He is more concerned about her mouth, but holds back from touching her. She decides to be his lover and they have sex. He tells her there is seabane in the medicines Raffin packed for them. Afterwards, Katsa is surprised at how she is still so comfortable with Po.
Katsa continues to work with Po to communicate with him and keep her thoughts to herself as they ride towards the inn where they will leave their horses. One night for dinner, she catches fish in a stream using her hands. Po laughs at her and points out that her Grace allows her too much for it to only be killing. He tells her to compare herself to others. She does this and realizes her Grace is more likely surviving. She tells Po and he agrees.
When they finally reach the inn, Katsa and Po enjoy a night of luxury knowing they will be uncomfortable in the mountains for a while. They leave behind the horses and much of their equipment and only take what is necessary. They start walking and Katsa gets Po talking about his Grace and his brothers. He admits that his brothers and especially his father couldn’t be trusted with the secret because they are too ambitious and would try to use him. Katsa thinks of King Leck’s daughter, Bitterblue, and worries for her. She thinks of the cut up animals and the two children that have died. They increase their pace. After a few days, they reach the top and Katsa is impressed with the view. They start heading down the mountain. Po is able to sense winterberries and gets some for Katsa. She is worried about his expanding Grace and that it is making him slightly dizzy. He makes her promise to do whatever he says the entire time they are in Monsea. She agrees. They both become more tense as they get closer and Po makes her continually promise to do as he says.
When they get near the tree line, Po looks at Katsa and tells her to hurry. They run out of the woods to see a woman screaming and being chased by a one eyed man and his men on horses. The man, King Leck, shoots his the woman. Po tells Katsa to shoot him, but King Leck calls out that a terrible accident has befallen his wife. She can’t believe Po is asking her to shoot the grieving man. He tells her to run and to cover her ears if she hears anyone calling out. She agrees and they take off quickly. The men on horseback follow after them and shoot their arrows. Eventually, Po and Katsa are able to loose them in the woods, and Po points out a tree with a hollow spot high up. He climbs the tree and Katsa follows. When they are settled, Katsa is confused why they are hiding instead of fighting. He explains to her what happened and how easily Leck took over her mind. The king knows Po is immune to his Grace and wants him dead. He wants Katsa for his own use. Po is positive Katsa isn’t ready to face Leck again. Katsa gives Po all of her blades in case Leck tries to turn her against him. Ashen, Leck’s wife, was trying to get her daughter, Bitterblue, away from Leck. Po thinks she is also hiding in the woods.
Po leads Katsa through the woods to look for the place Ashen had shown him she left Bitterblue. They have to be careful to avoid the soldiers that are looking for them. They follow a stream west thinking the princess must have walked through the water to avoid leaving tracks. They find her hiding in a hollow fallen tree. Po asks Katsa to talk to her because she is afraid of men. Katsa sees the knife the girl has and offers to teach her how to use it. Bitterblue comes out and is frozen. Katsa gives her and Po’s coats to the girl to warm her up. They move as fast as they can, but the mounted soldiers catch up. Katsa puts Bitterblue behind a tree. She and Po agree to kill on first site to prevent their words from messing with Katsa’s mind. After killing fifteen soldiers, Katsa goes back to check on Bitterblue. The princess is impressed with Katsa’s abilities and tells her she will have to kill her father to stop him from chasing them.
They take Bitterblue west on horseback until they are far enough that King Leck isn’t likely to reach them that night. Po gives her the last of their food and Katsa goes out to find more. After eating, the young princess tells her story. Her mother would suspect something wrong with Leck, but his Grace would make her forget. His words affect people even when spread by others. She tells them he likes to hurt things weaker than himself. When Ashen refused to let him spend time alone with Bitterblue, he hit her. The bruise on her mother’s face reminded Bitterblue why she didn’t want to be alone with her father. Leck tried to use Tealiff to lure them out, but it didn’t work. Leck started sending in cut up animals. One day, he sent a girl in with their food and she was cut up. They used the bedsheets to climb out the window and started running for the woods. Ashen twisted her ankle and sent Bitterblue ahead. She tells them about Leck’s defenses he will have traveling with him. Katsa and Po both know Po will have to go alone to kill Leck. She tries to convince him to let her help with the guards, but they both know it is a bad idea. Katsa is to wait for him, but if he doesn’t return by nightfall, she has to take Bitterblue far away.
Katsa is anxious while Po is gone. She wants to do something (like exercise or teach Bitterblue how to use her knife), but doesn’t want to draw any attention. She lets the princess sleep and keeps watch. When the sun starts to go down, she packs up the horse and wakes Bitterblue. They get ready to leave and head to Lienid with one of Po’s rings when he starts coming up the path on his horse. He has an arrow in his shoulder and the horse has several in his neck. They slip on the path and fall into a body of water. Katsa rushes to the edge and dives in after Po. She cuts his foot free from a stirrup and brings him to shore. He coughs and vomits water, but his head is fuzzy from hitting the water. Katsa pushes until he tells her he wasn’t able to kill the king. She patches him up the best she can and puts him on the remaining horse. She puts Bitterblue behind him and tells her they will be moving as fast as she can run.
They continue west, but Po is in bad shape. Katsa ties him and Bitterblue to the horse so they can sleep in the saddle. He refuses so he can keep her informed on anyone following them. He finds them places to stop where they can build fires and Katsa can take a few minutes to rest. He tells Katsa that she needs to leave him behind so she can save Bitterblue. He knows he will not heal while they are traveling and he is slowing them down too much. Katsa realizes he is right and cries over leaving him behind. He comforts her and in the morning, they find a place to hide him. Po promises he will come find Katsa and Bitterblue in Lienid when he is better.
Po leads them to an abandoned cabin, but Katsa points out it isn’t a good hiding place. He says he hears running water and leads them to a small body of water with a waterfall. He says his brothers and him found a cave under one like it back home. Katsa dives under and finds Po’s cave. She brings back fish for him to cook and eat. He insists they leave right away, but Katsa is uncomfortable leaving him unprepared while he can still barely walk on her own. She catches a few rabbits and gets supplies to tell him how to make a bow for hunting when he is well enough. She fashions a basket out of branches and uses it as an underwater cage to store fish. She wants to make Po crutches, but he tells her she has to get Bitterblue out of there. She begs him to come with them in her mind, but he knows he cannot. He suggests they find a way to disguise themselves and warns them not to trust anyone from Monsea. Katsa cries as she hugs him goodbye and then takes off on the horse with Bitterblue.
Katsa keeps them moving constantly knowing they will have to find their own way through the mountains to avoid being caught by Leck’s men. She takes out the maps and finds Grella’s pass. Bitterblue explains the man, Grella, died trying to get through the mountains, but Katsa decides it is better than facing Leck. Katsa takes the furs from everything she kills to make a fur hood for Bitterblue. When they get to a point where the horse cannot travel, they set him free. They find a cave and Katsa goes to find food while Bitterblue gathers firewood. Out of the corner of her eye, Katsa sees an odd movement. She is suddenly attacked by a mountain lion. Katsa kills the large cat with only a few scratches to show for her effort. She takes it back to Bitterblue. They eat the cat steak while wishing they had vegetables and bread. Katsa makes the pelt into a coat for Bitterblue.
Moving as fast as she can, Katsa pushes Bitterblue to move and climb as quickly as possible, but still has to slow her own pace to keep the girl from tiring too much. She makes herself a bow and several arrows so that she can kill wolves and large cats before they get too close. She uses the fur to cover Bitterblue and keeps a wolf fur for herself as it gets colder. When they are close to Grella’s pass, Katsa tells Bitterblue she will have to stay alert in the pass. She fashions a harness out of the leftover pieces of the horse’s saddle and snow shoes from small branches. She gives Bitterblue her fur and straps her into the harness on her back. Katsa takes off running and occasionally questions Bitterblue to make sure she is away. When she sees the setting sun, Katsa realizes they have crossed over the top and are now descending into Sunder. She thinks Bitterblue is freezing and it takes her a minute to realize the princess is warm. It is her that is shivering fiercely. She takes off for the trees and has Bitterblue gather firewood nearby. After several attempts, Katsa gets a fire going and they warm themselves. Katsa tells Bitterblue they have made it across Grella’s pass.
The next morning, they come across an inn, but Katsa knows they can’t stop there because Leck’s words are likely to have reached those inside. She leaves Bitterblue in the trees and sneaks out to steal some eggs and a pumpkin. A few days later, they go to a small town where Raffin has noted a store owner is sympathetic to the Council. They wait for all the windows to go dark before they approach the back door and knock. The store owner answers the door and she asks about news from Monsea. When he says he has none, she reveals her identity. He welcomes her in and he, his wife, and a few of his older children help take care of Katsa and Bitterblue. Katsa tells them their story and leaves out where they are going. She tells them Po is dead in case Leck’s men come and confuse them. As they lie in a bed, Bitterblue sleeps and Katsa considers places she’d rather go than Lienid. She knows she can’t involve her friends and risk their safety, so she decides they will ride to a port and take a ship to Lienid.
When they reach Suncliff at night, Katsa immediately starts looking for a suitable ship. They see one with a few Lienid sailors, but keep moving. They pass several with Monsean men aboard. They come to a ship that appears to be leaving soon and has a Lienid man sitting on the deck. Katsa takes Bitterblue to the man and (after making sure Leck’s words haven’t reached him) asks for passage. The man, Jem, tells them they don’t have any positions open for them. Katsa offers him gold to see the captain. Jem agrees and leads the way. Another sailor has a large man named Bear join them for the captain’s protection. When they get to the captain’s cabin, Captain Faun is not impressed with them. Katsa pulls out Po’s ring and three men attack her. Katsa easily disables them and the action reveals who they are to Captain Faun. The Lienids don’t believe that Po gave her the ring. Bitterblue speaks up and insists Po gave it to her. She tells Captain Faun to explain the significance. Faun tells Katsa that she has taken Po’s place as royalty. Usually, the ring is only given by dying people. After assuring Faun that Po is healing, Katsa is furious with Po for not explaining the meaning of the ring. This lets Faun know that Katsa did not steal it and agrees to take her wherever she wants to go. Katsa asks to be taken to Po’s castle. Captain Faun goes on deck to start the process of their departure.
It takes Bitterblue a little while to get used to the ships motion, but when she does, she joins Katsa above deck more. Katsa enjoys the freedom she feels when she climbs up the mast. She asks Captain Fuan to stay at sea as long as she can after they are dropped off to give Po a chance to kill Leck. Faun’s entire crew will know where Bitterblue is and that could endanger them. She agrees in return for compensation for loss in trade. Katsa starts teaching Bitterblue how to be comfortable with her knife and then how to use it. Some of the crew members, Jem, Bear, and Red, help out.
As they near Lienid, Katsa is stunned. Patch is aware that they will be stranded out at sea for a while. Katsa apologizes, but he knows it is Leck’s fault, not hers. They get closer to Po’s castle and Captain Faun tells her they will dock on the other side and Katsa will have to climb a very steep hill to reach it. Katsa helps Bitterblue up the hill to the small castle. They are welcomed hastily and brought inside. The servant tells them his master has just arrived and has been waiting for them. They enter follow him to see King Leck before them.
Katsa is instantly confused by Leck’s words. He has gathered Po’s entire family in what he has convinced them is his castle. Bitterblue begs Katsa not to listen to him and refuses to let go of her. Even when her aunt (Po’s mother) tries to comfort her, Bitterblue refuses to leave Katsa’s side. Even when Leck tells her to give him his child, Katsa refuses. Leck asks about Po and Katsa admits that he is alive. He searches for more information and wants to confirm Po’s Grace isn’t what he has been claiming. Katsa remembers that Po has a secret and doesn’t want it to get out, so she throws her dagger and kills Leck. Po’s family starts to go after Katsa, but Bitterblue stops them. She tells them Katsa just saved them all and starts telling them the truth. Po’s mother agrees with Bitterblue and Ror has everyone sit so they can discuss. Bitterblue disarms Katsa to ease the rest of their company. Everyone starts remembering what actually happened and become infuriated. They are pleased with Katsa and ask about Po. She tell them he was hurt and she will go back to help him. She tells Bitterblue she will leave and first light. The new Queen of Monsea can stay behind and wait until a better season to return to Monsea. Bitterblue insists on going with Katsa to find Po. Katsa is relieved to have a travel companion. She says they will find Captain Faun first, resupply her ship, and then have her take them back to Monsea. Bitterblue goes to take a bath and Katsa keeps seeing Leck’s corpse in her mind, disgusted with what she has done without even being able to think about it.
Ror and Skye join Katsa and Bitterblue on their journey back to Monsea. Ror will help Bitterblue take control of her kingdom since most of the population will think Leck was a kind, generous king and she is sick. Katsa spends most of her time in the riggings and Skye joins her. He asks if she is Po’s wife because some people on the ship call her “princess.” She shows him the ring Po gave her and explains she didn’t know what it meant and plans to give it back to him. When they arrive in Monsea, Katsa is frustrated with how long it takes Ror to explain the situation before the guards understand what has really happened. Ror insists their party take guards to explain the truth as they travel. Eventually, Katsa agrees and they are given the fastest riders and horses available. Bitterblue trusts Ror to take care of things while she goes with Katsa and Skye to find Po. One of the inns they stop in has guards already inside and one fires an arrow at Skye immediately. Katsa tackles him to the ground. Their own guards come to explain that Po is no longer to be executed on sight. Katsa continues to push them hard into the woods. They are close when Skye starts saying one of their horses is lame. Po appears and Katsa tackles him to the ground in greeting. Bitterblue joins them. Skye helps them all up and embraces his brother. They go to Po’s cabin.
Katsa tells Po their story with Bitterblue interjecting details along the way. Katsa notice that Po isn’t really paying attention and seems unhappy. He asks to show her his bow and they go out. She asks him what is wrong, but he insists he is fine. He asks her not to talk to him in his head because it makes him dizzy. She gives him back his ring, but he says she should keep it. He plans to stay there and be alone. Katsa refuses the ring. He walks off with the bow. Katsa is at the cabin when Po returns with several rabbits. Po apologizes and acts normal, but later that night, Katsa notices the anguish again. She decides she will get the truth out of him before she leaves him alone in the mountains. Bitterblue and Skye both notice Po’s strange behavior. Skye points out that Po’s eyes are different. Katsa rushes outside and catches up to Po. She asks him to look at her. When he only does so briefly, she asks if he is blind. He collapses and admits that he is.
Po tells Katsa that his vision was going when she left and then went away completely one day. He stayed lying in bed not wanting to do anything. When Leck’s guards started getting close, he almost didn’t realize that he was stumbling towards the pond. The cold water woke him up and he realized he was being selfish. He started working around his blindness and with his bow to kill Leck. Katsa realizes their news that Leck was already dead took away Po's reason to live. He is overwhelmed by how much his Grace shows him. Po works with Katsa to make it look like he is actually looking at someone in order to keep Bitterblue from getting anymore suspicious. Bitterblue asks Katsa to train her to use a sword and Po runs off to catch the guards that are about to return to Ror to inform them of the queen’s request. Bitterblue says she will not leave until she is convinced Po is okay. Katsa goes out to find Po by the pond. He tells her that he has stopped trying to blur out everything and just focus on what he needs to. Now he is less dizzy and things just fade into the background naturally. Katsa tells him it is time for him to start fighting again, starting with Skye. She notices he is wearing his ring again.
Katsa teaches Po and Skye drills to work on as she starts teaching Bitterblue how to use a sword. The guards also start asking questions, and she gives them advice. Skye continually beats Po, but he improves until he finally beats his older brother after half an hour or wrestling. Bitterblue has to leave in the early spring to prepare for her coronation. Skye leaves shortly after when he is summoned by his father to help. Po and Katsa make their way down to Leck City (soon to be renamed) just before the coronation. Po is all grins knowing Katsa is about to receive a visitor. She is floored when she opens the door to see her cousin Raffin and Oll have come for the ceremony. They catch up during the actual ceremony, but end up causing a distraction. Bitterblue excuses the attendant’s mistake and the ceremony continues. Katsa asks about Giddon and Raffin says he mopes mostly at his own estate, but has devoted himself to the council. He asks about her plans and she tells him she plans to return to the mountains with Po.
Katsa and Po make their way to the cave under the water in the pond. Po leads her to the sandy beach and they have sex. Afterwards, they start discussing their plans. Po will return to Lienid to tell his mother that he is blind and take care of things there. Katsa will travel the seven kingdoms and teach girls how to defend themselves. She will be starting in Monsea in order to keep an eye on Bitterblue. She promises to go to Lienid next, but will have to make a stop in the Middluns first to face King Randa. She wants to show him she can’t control her and she won’t be treated like a criminal. She wants to be able to visit Raffin. She also wants to send Helda to Bitterblue. Po says he will look for her after she faces her king.