The prologue describes how Prince Galloran sought the wisdom of an oracle in order to learn how Maldor, an evil wizard, might be prevented from taking over the land of Lyrian. He found that he was the only one who could save his world, but the prophetess warned him that the way would be fraught with hardship and death. His chance of success was small, but as long as he lived, hope would survive. Her final words warned that he would lose everything — his family, country and sight — but often people must be emptied before they are made full.
In our world, Jason Walker has returned home from Lyrian after a four-month disappearance. He hasn't told anyone about Lyrian and claims to have amnesia. He wants to find a way back to Lyrian to warn his new friends about the magic Word being unable to defeat Maldor. In Lyrian, Jason is known as a Beyonder.
Jason's friend Matt, who lives in the modern world, tries to help Jason fit back into his life. In a shoe box on Jason's closet shelf is the severed hand of a displacer named Ferrin. Displacers are a race of people in Lyrian who were created by wizards. They can pull apart their bodies without harming themselves.
Jason initially befriended Ferrin; however, his friend and fellow Beyonder Rachel learned that displacers were in league with Maldor. Ferrin admitted to working for the evil ruler, but he maintained that he was still their friend. Jason has taught Ferrin's hand sign language so Jason can keep in contact with what is happening in Lyrian. Unfortunately, on this day, Ferrin is too busy, or in danger, and can't communicate with him.
On the Internet, Jason finds Rachel, the 13-year-old girl he met in Lyrian. Rachel disappeared the same day as Jason. Her wealthy parents are offering $1 million for any information leading to her recovery. He wants to contact them but wouldn't know what to say to them. Frustrated, Jason returns to the place where he originally was transported to Lyrian, the zoo — specifically, the hippo enclosure. With his shoe box in hand, he jumps into the water, and the hippo swallows Jason. He is relieved to discover that the hippo is still a portal to Lyrian.
In Lyrian, a friend named Tark tells him what has happened since he left. Tark left Rachel with someone named Drake, and he went in another direction to confuse a lurker. Then Tark returned the seed of their friend Jasher to his family to replant. Jasher was a member of the Amar Kabal. When a member is killed, the person's seed can be planted, and the man will be reborn as a fully-grown human in weeks. Tark gives Jason a bag of jewels to hire a man named Aram as his bodyguard. Once Tark warns Jason about the giants in the woods, he leaves to warn the Blind King that the Word they thought would destroy Maldor won't.
The following day, Jason finds little people, not giants, in the woods — only the houses in the village are made for giants. Jason is invited to stay the night. During the night, the little people turn into giants. Jason crawls up a chimney and stays there so they can't kill him. The giants are about to smoke him out until a newcomer scares them away.
The newcomer is a figure shaped like a man but with no features. Jason later learns that this shadow figure is a lurker. It follows Jason, and that night, Jason has a nightmare. When he awakes, he finds the lurker standing over him. Every night the lurker gives Jason terrible dreams that keep him from sleeping. He can't survive much longer without rest.
Meanwhile, Jason's friend Rachel has been on the run with Drake, another member of the Amar Kabal. They are seeking refuge from the lurker, also called a torivor, that follows them. Drake has taught Rachel some Edomic. Edomic is the language of creation in Lyrian. She is now able to speak a word and light a flame.
Drake hopes that a charm woman he knows will be able to help them. Rachel demonstrates her ability to the woman, who immediately offers to take Rachel on as an apprentice, but only if she will stay under her tutelage for a year. As the charm woman can offer her protection from Maldor, and she may eventually be able to wield Edomic as a weapon against him, Rachel agrees. Drake is given permission to stay with the women as well, as Rachel's protector.
Close to exhaustion, Jason reaches a seaside village. Instead of helping him, the townspeople flee into their houses. When three men try to attack the shadow, it kills one of them. The woman from the tavern rushes forward to take the corpse of her brother into a nearby house. She tells Jason to help himself to whatever he can find to eat in the tavern.
Jason eats, and then hides in the tavern's pantry so he can communicate with Ferrin. Ferrin admits he is still on the run from Maldor. Ferrin reveals that the lurker will follow him until he reaches a large city. He also warns Jason that Maldor can track his movements through the lurker. That night, Jason has another nightmare, but this time, Jason tries to talk his way out of it. A lurker without a sword can only attack defensively, so Jason refuses to attack him.
The following day, Jason approaches a larger coastal village with deep tide wells along the shore called Ithilum, and the lurker leaves. Fierce animals live in the wells, and many of the wells intersect to form tunnels underground.
Jason finds Aram, and he agrees to meet the boy later that night. Jason falls asleep at the inn's table. Later he learns that Aram has stopped a thief from robbing him. Jason asks Aram to guide him to the town of Potsug. Aram refuses, but he insists Jason accompany him to his house. Aram lives with his mother, Moira. Moira asks Jason about the shrinking giants, so Jason recounts his dealings with them. Moira promises to keep Jason's secrets if he will keep hers: Aram is half-giant. He grows larger after sundown.
Meanwhile, Rachel has aided the charm woman in making a doll using her own locks of hair and coins she has carried since arriving in Lyrian. The doll is meant to confuse the lurker. Rachel must speak an Edomic word to the doll, giving it permission to act as her substitute, which she does. The charm woman is impressed with Rachel's abilities.
The charm woman tells Rachel about torivors. An ancient wizard is believed to have summoned the creatures from another world. No one knows how many lurkers still exist. Drake returns from scouting the area to inform them that the lurker has brought soldiers with it to hunt for Rachel. Drake takes the doll of Rachel south. Its charms, as well as the protective charms cast on the real Rachel, should confuse the lurker enough to follow Drake. Rachel and the charm woman head north.
The charm woman tells Rachel how she uses Edomic to influence animals to do her will. Since animals have intelligence, she uses words that invite them to do her will, but she doesn't force them. The charm woman warns Rachel to be careful of being seduced by the thrill of power as she wields Edomic. Rachel gets to choose a name to call the charm woman, and she picks Elaine, the name of her favorite stuffed animal back home.
Ferrin's hand reveals that Ferrin is also in Ithilum and that he can help Jason escape the city. When Aram meets Ferrin, he is a small man. He pretends to be his own brother, Burt. Since he has decided to go with Jason,
Burt tells Ferrin to find three horses and meet the men with them at a distant location. If he can complete this difficult task, they will accept the displacer as a friend.
Ferrin makes arrangements for them to sneak out of the city by way of a smuggling tunnel. The tunnel is one of the underwater wells Jason had seen entering the city. They must swim underwater, finding air in barrels spaced out along the route. Aram goes first to ward off any underwater predators. Jason follows, and they make it safely out.
They reach a barn where a friend of Aram's has horses and weapons ready for them. Before they can escape, Jason's lurker appears, scares him and then leaves to get reinforcements. He and Aram gallop away, hoping to evade capture.
They travel through the night to meet Tark at a rendezvous point, but they continue on because Tark has not arrived. They convince a ferryman to take them across a river under the cover of night, with Aram acting as a "hauler" to help pull the boat across.
As they reach the middle of the river, Ferrin splashes aboard the boat. He warns Jason that an ambush waits for them on the other side and forces the ferryman to cut the rope that serves as the boat's guide. As they row down the river, Ferrin tells the others how he tracked them to this place.
Since they were unable to meet with Tark, Jason believes they must now travel to the Blind King themselves. He is unnerved when Ferrin guesses the Blind King is really Galloran. They abandon the ferry once they arrive close to where Ferrin left the horses.
The three comrades flee on horseback but are pursued by soldiers and conscriptors. They take refuge in a mountain pass when they are attacked. Ferrin defends them with arrows and his sword, while Aram throws boulders at their enemies. Jason can only pelt smaller stones. They manage to beat their enemies, but as dawn approaches, Aram shrinks in size. The three must hurry away before new soldiers arrive.
Jason and his friends arrive at the castle of the Blind King. It is eerily quiet and in even more disrepair than at Jason's last visit. In Galloran's quarters, they find Nedwin, a former servant of Galloran. He had been gone when the castle was attacked. They find a secret passage that takes them to the gatekeeper of the castle. Since Tark is with Galloran, Ferrin and Aram meet with Tark while Nedwin and Jason meet with Galloran.
Galloran is pleased to reunite with Nedwin and Jason. Nedwin is able to restore Galloran's memories that Maldor had blocked. The Blind King was able to recall where he hid the various syllables to the Word and hoped to bring the keepers back to his castle for safety. One of the keepers, a young woman named Corrine, is actually Galloran's daughter. He hid her with her great-aunt, the Pythoness, for her protection as Maldor killed the rest of Galloran's family, including his wife and son.
When Jason talks with the Blind King alone, Galloran relates how Nedwin had been taken prisoner as a young boy and tortured by Maldor's minions. Since Tark revealed that the Word was powerless to stop Maldor, Galloran had been devising another plan to overthrow the emperor. He hopes to reunite the few kingdoms that oppose Maldor's rule.
Galloran accepts Aram's and Jason's help with his task, but for Ferrin to remain with them, he must agree to take the credit for any harm the company does as they make their way through Lyrian, making it known throughout the land that the displacer has betrayed Maldor. As a final assurance, Ferrin must remove part of his carotid artery and give it to one of Galloran's servants for safekeeping. If Ferrin betrays them, Galloran can kill him in an instant.
First they leave for the Sunken Lands to free Corrine from her guardianship and also to find a stockpile of prize orantium. Orantium is an explosive mineral that can be wielded like a grenade. If they are successful with these quests, they will proceed to the Seven Vales, home of the Amar Kabal, and try to enlist the Seed People's help in their rebellion.
Rachel and Elaine are reunited with Drake. Elaine asks for an object that belonged to Jason in order to locate him magically. She asks Rachel to call Drake's horse using Edomic. After a few tries, she does. In the saddlebags, Elaine touches the ring Galloran gave Jason to prove he was the lord of Caberton. It has a strong enough connection to the boy that she should be able to make a charm to find him.
With Elaine's help, Rachel finds Jason. They attack the bridge together, and Jason and his comrades arrive safely on the other side. Drake leads the group to a cottage on an island. He is one of the few people who knows the secret path to get there, so the company should be safe for the night. The island amplifies Edomic power. Galloran believes Rachel was called to Lyrian to become a powerful weapon against Maldor. Galloran vows that should they survive the rebellion, he will help them find a way back to their homes. For now, he commands that another woman tutor Rachel in her Edomic abilities while Jason trains with Ferrin and Aram to learn how to use a sword.
Nedwin's scouting uncovers an ambush waiting for them at their next destination. Ferrin looks at each person for a grafting. Displacers often take one of their eyes or an ear and graft it onto another person so they can spy on them. After much searching, he finds a displacer's ear and eye on Nedwin. They let him keep them initially so they can give their enemies false information about their plans. At a swamp they must cross, they remove Nedwin's grafted ear and eye.
The Sunken Lands are filled with swamp hazards. The company escapes with only one fatality, but Aram has been poisoned. When he shrinks to normal size, the poison incapacitates him. Nedwin gives him medicine to help him survive. The company splits up. Nedwin and Drake set out to free Corrine. The others go to the Drowned City to get the orantium spheres.
The Drowned City is home to one of the most dangerous predators, a creature named Orruck. He was once a wizard, but was cursed by his master to mutate into something like a walrus without tusks. He helped Galloran once before because of his hatred of Maldor. However, Galloran does not believe Orruck will aid them again without some effort. He plans on having Rachel demonstrate her Edomic abilities in hopes Orruck will think she can eventually battle Maldor. Also, the Word that everyone believed would kill Maldor was actually one that will kill Orruck.
They find Orruck, who is furious that Galloran has not yet defeated Maldor. Orruck throws giant slabs of rock at their canoe in order to kill them, but Rachel is able to push them away. The creature is impressed. He gives her the Edomic word to transform an object into glass, and she is immediately able to perform the action. Orruck retrieves a small supply of orantium globes. He promises to let Rachel go free if she will scorch the ceiling of his cave with lightning. The beast won't promise the same for Galloran and his servant. Galloran attacks the beast. Rachel speaks the Word and, in a flash of light, Orruck is reduced to ash. They go back to get their friends so they can retrieve a hefty supply of orantium.
Tark, the former horn player, is able to hold his breath for a long time. He is able to search Orruck's underwater caves for hidden orantium. When he returns to the surface with a giant globe called a gatecrasher, Ferrin decides to join in the search. He removes his nose and gives it to Jason so he will be able to breathe air while underwater.
Drake and Nedwin bring Corrine with them. Galloran asks if she still has her sword, and she draws the magnificent blade from its sheath. Ferrin identifies it as a Torivorian blade. Maldor can use a Torivor two ways. One is as a scout, to track people and enter their minds. The other is to duel. But a lurker can only be ordered to duel once. If he wins, he is given his freedom. The company is shocked that Galloran defeated a lurker.
After gathering all the orantium they can hold, Jason and his companions leave the Sunken Lands to head toward the Seven Vales, home of the Amar Kabal. Galloran hopes the orantium will motivate the Seed People to join in the rebellion against Maldor.
As they travel, the find that Tark has been infected from the Sunken Lands with lungrot. He will die unless he arrives in time for the healers of the Amar Kabal to save him. Corrine, who was kept a virtual prisoner in the swamp since she was 4, finds the world full of wonders and dangers.
When they learn that 40 enemy soldiers are pursuing them, they sprint to a mountain pass and use the orantium to sabotage the soldiers. A torivor appears and frightens away their horses, but when Galloran challenges the unarmed lurker to a duel, the creature flees. Galloran, Corrine, Tark and Rachel ride ahead to the gate to start negotiations to allow them all to enter the Seven Vales. The others stay behind and guard the pass.
Once inside the gates, Galloran insists the Captain of the Guard, a man named Halak, send aid to their comrades in the pass. At first, Halak seems reluctant, but once he can speak alone with the Blind King, he informs him that his soldiers are already standing by to render aid. Halak had to act in a way to persuade those who seek to pacify Maldor that the city had not willingly allowed Galloran to enter, but was forced to because of their laws. Tark is taken to a healer. Galloran instructs Rachel in telepathy and soon she, Galloran and Corrine are conversing with their minds.
The Amar Kabal Conclave is made up of the eldest member of the Amar Kabal, followed by the next two eldest men and next two eldest women. Although any member of the Amar Kabal may give council, the five members of the conclave will make the final decision as to whether the Seed People will aid Galloran or turn him over to Maldor.
Farfalee, Drake's sister, serves on the Conclave. Naman, the spokesman for the Conclave, argues against going to war with Maldor, especially since Galloran cannot guarantee success. Galloran asks that they seek knowledge from the oracle at the Temple of Mianamon. Naman charges Galloran of using this new quest as a way to stall his extradition to Maldor. Galloran and Naman duel. Though blind, he uses his mental connection with Corrine and Rachel to "see" his opponent. He wins, much to the surprise of the Amar Kabal. The remaining Conclave members agree to protect Galloran and his company.
The Blind King and representatives of the Amar Kabal will journey to the emperor's fortress at Felrook so Galloran can face the charges against him. The others, as well as several more of the Seed People, will travel to Mainamon. If the oracle sees a way in which Maldor can be defeated, the Amar Kabal will consider joining the rebellion.
The following day, Galloran speaks with Rachel and Jason to request that they be in the group traveling to Mainamon. If the oracle does not see their involvement in the rebellion against Maldor, Galloran will do all he can to keep them safe. He warns them, however, that the way will be very difficult. They will have to travel through Ebera, the Forsaken Kingdom. Years earlier, the area fell victim to a plague that transformed most of the inhabitants into the walking dead. Although it is death to go through the Forsaken Kingdom, it is the only way to Mainamon. Without hesitation, both Beyonders agree to journey to the oracle. One of the additions to their company is Nollin, the nephew of the man Galloran killed. Nollin shares his uncle's belief that a revolt against Maldor is futile. Farfalee is the chosen leader of the group.
Ferrin warns Jason that he has played too many games throughout his life to be fully trusted. As much as he wants to change, he's not sure he can. He gives Jason a piece of his artery as a failsafe measure for the rebellion. If Ferrin betrays them, Jason has the ability to kill him instantly.
Near the Forsaken Land, they find a woman limping their way. They suspect she is one of the undead. Ferrin has heard rumors that worms transmitted the plague. When the woman won't stop, they put three arrows through her head. They discover that her body is filled with worms. They burrow under human skin, eating everything inside until nothing is left.
Throughout the night, the group must fight zombies. Rachel uses her magic until the effort causes her to fall unconscious. The rest of the company manages to fight off the zombies. Nedwin locates the three zombie leaders. He kills two of them and arranges a truce with the third.
The group continues their travel until they see three horsemen. The strangers are dressed like soldiers. The strangers are infected with the plague, but have managed to keep their reason. They patrol the land and try to keep the mindless and hungry zombies separate from those that are still sane. The law of the land forbids the soldiers to allow this company to leave the country. Jason and his friends will be used by the infected who still have their reason. The mindless and hungry will be drawn to the scent of their blood and can be lured into deadly traps. Farfalee draws her bow and readies to shoot the soldiers in order to escape, but the infected each grab a handful of plague worms and threaten to toss them at the company. Their hands ignite in flame, as do the pouches containing the worms.
Rachel spends the next several days in severe pain. She knows that using her powers caused the physical damage to her body. By the third day she is feeling better. Although she reignites her headache, she is able to convince an entire herd of horses to join their company. A few days later, they reach the Silver River that acts as a border. The infected won't cross as they hate water, cold and daylight. Before the company can cross, a host of 100 soldiers bears down on them.
The Sakar, an emissary of the Seed People that had been sent to the drinlings, guide them to an area where several drinling representatives wait. The drinlings are a stocky race with golden brown skin and copper eyes. Their leader offers to confer with the approaching zombie soldiers on their behalf. Farfalee explains that the drinlings are the only Lyrian race immune to the plague worms. They play a pivotal role in patrolling the border along the Silver River. Unfortunately, drinlings only live for about two years. The drinlings have always been enemies of Maldor, and their leader has pledged his people's aid if Galloran succeeds in starting a rebellion.
Io and Nia, two younger drinlings, act as interpreters for their father, a drinling leader. They explain that they have negotiated the company's release. They will be allowed to cross the river under the drinlings' careful guard. If, after three days, no one shows signs of infection, they will be allowed to go on their way. Halco confesses that he is infected. The drinlings allow him to choose whether to be burned or return to the soldiers and offer his help. Halco chooses to ride with the sentinels to guard the borders. Nia and Io will also join the company on their journey to Mianamon. This will allow the oracle to give a more accurate prophecy as the more representatives are present, the clearer picture of the future she can decipher.
The drinlings arrange for a ship to take the company across the sea and away from the Forbidden Land. After a week, the ship makes for land and the company begins to trek to the Last Inn. After that, they will make their way through a dangerous jungle to the oracle of Mianamon. The creatures that live within the jungle were created by a wizard and have never ventured beyond the area. The company arrives at the Last Inn, a huge sprawling building of wood and stone, but is worried because Galloran hasn't arrived yet.
Soldiers attack the company at dawn and take all but Nedwin and one of the drinlings prisoner. They intend to give them to Maldor. Through a displacer's eye and ear, Maldor tells Jason that Galloran knelt to him. With Jason's capture, the rebellion is over. Next, Maldor speaks with Rachel, whom the soldiers have gagged. He asks her to become his student or die. She longs to learn all she can about the magic, and Maldor will torture her friends unless she agrees to join him.
Rachel is returned to the main lobby to wait with her friends while Maldor questions Farfalee. Galloran speaks to Rachel's mind and asks her to survey their surroundings. He promises to get everyone out of the inn. A few moments later, an old man totters into the lobby. The guard warns him the inn is closed, but the old man (Galloran) tears off his blindfold, pulls out a gleaming sword and kills the soldier. Rachel is shocked to realize that Galloran has the eyes of a displacer and can see. Galloran's bodyguard, a reborn Jasher, and Nedwin also invade the inn and help the former Blind King decimate their enemies. Nedwin frees the bound company, and Rachel uses her Edomic abilities to send tables hurtling into enemy soldiers. Maldor, still speaking through his servant, warns that Galloran is foolish in continuing to resist him. He can see everything Galloran does through the displacer's eyes. Galloran counters that Maldor will only be allowed to see his empire crumbling piece by piece. The king replaces his blindfold.
The company begins their long trek through the jungle and is overcome by jungle vines and some kind of drug in the air. They are carried to the temple of Mianamon. Jason is surprised to see humanoid creatures covered in moss, leaves or bark when his blindfold is undone. There are also large ape-like animals. Galloran keeps his blindfold on so Maldor cannot spy on their location. Ulani, daughter of the prophetess, welcomes the travelers. Ulani informs them that the oracle has been preparing for their arrival for many weeks and seeking the future for them. She will give them the prophecy on the following day. Today, however, she wishes to speak to each of the company, alone. She chooses to speak with Jason first.
The ancient woman admits to having called Jason and Rachel to Lyrian as the ones who could help them succeed against Maldor. When it is Rachel's turn to meet with the oracle, the woman suggests Rachel could one day take her position as oracle because of her power. Rachel wonders if she will ever be able to go home, and the oracle tells her the time in the future when Lyrian and the Beyond will be aligned, if Rachel desires to go home.
The following day, the company gathers around a circular pool within the temple. The oracle lies on a slab within the fluid. She tells them that the path to success is precarious, full of death and probable failure. The company must split and follow two quests. Galloran, the Amar Kabal and the drinlings must raise an army and march on Maldor's fortress, Felbrook. Rachel, Ferrin, Nedwin and Tark must go with him. Jason must seek the last home of Darian the Pyromancer. The only way to find him is through information gathered at the Celestine Library. Ferrin whispers that the library is inaccessible. Farfalee adds that Darian must have died centuries ago. The oracle commands that Jasher, Farfalee, Drake, Aram and Corinne travel with Jason on this quest. Many of those present will die, but both paths must succeed if Maldor is to be defeated.
The oracle leaves them with one more riddled clue. She warns of a treasonous servant and a secret from the past that can ransom the future. She also says that their hope is black like the tunnels of the earth and white like an explosion of orantium. Before they can ask any more, the oracle dies.