Jim Dasher, realizing that an unseen enemy may be using the civil war as a distraction to shift armies away from where they are most needed, tasks Martin and Brendan with scouting the west between the Far Coast and the Grey Tower Mountains for signs of trouble. Jim assigns Hal to join Prince Edward of Krondor at the Fields of Albalyn where their allies are encamped to face the forces of Prince Oliver.
Meanwhile, Pug, Magnus, Miranda, and Nakor have to go to school to learn lessons about perspective, love, and risk, and self-sacrifice. Each of them is assigned a teacher or two. Pug meets up with his old teacher Kulgan, who has been temporarily reconstituted from the afterlife to remind Pug of the basics of magic. Miranda is similarly taught lessons on perspective by a Piper. Nakor meets up with reconstituted versions of King Borric, son of Arutha, and Jorna, his former wife. They remind Nakor of love of country and family then disappear. Next, Magnus reunites briefly with his old flame Helena who reminds him of risks and the consequences of inaction.
While Pug and the other 3 powerful magicians are being educated, Hal needs to find the best way to reach Prince Edward. Jim Dasher has set Hal up with some connections at Bas-Tyra, and Hal joins a squad of Bas-Tyra's elite soldiers as they attempt to deliver a message to the Duke of Silden. Hal is nearly ambushed by some thugs from Arthur, Duke of Salador but manages to stay alive. He confirms Bas-Tyra's support of Prince Edward with the Duke of Silden and eventually all of them join Prince Edward at the Fields of Albalyn.
Martin and Brendan discover the Taredhel city of E'Bar is being invaded by the Dread but the Taredhel Loremaster Tanderae and his magicians are holding the invaders at bay. Martin sends Brendan to the Sorcerer's Isle to get magical reinforcements as the Taredhel magicians are wearing out. Martin also sends his fiancee Lady Bethany to Elvandar to get assistance from the eledhel there. Martin himself goes to Prince Edward.
When Martin reaches Prince Edward and brings him news of the magical siege at E'Bar, Edwards dismisses the matter as trivial and says to let the elves and their magicians handle it. Edward is focused on waging war against his hated enemy Prince Oliver. Oliver is a foreigner and a bully according to Edward, so Edward will not let Oliver have the crown of the Kingdom of the Isles even if a major magical threat is about to explode over at E'Bar.
Thankfully for Midkemia, Lady Bethany is able to recruit magical allies at Elvandar and Brendan also recruits Ruffio and the other magicians and warriors at Sorcerer's Isle. Ruffio also gathers the magicians at Stardock and they all make their way quickly to reinforce the Taredhel at E'Bar. Two of the Taredhel, Gulamendis and Laromendis even go far north to get the assistance of the dark elf queen Liallan, who happily obliges to move her moredhel clans to assist those at E'Bar in order to save the whole of Midkemia.
Hal captures an important ally of Oliver, Duke Chadwick of Ran, after setting up an ambush for him at Sethanon then returns to Prince Edward as he finally clashes with Prince Oliver. Prince Edward is crippled in combat after his stupid horse is shot with an arrow and collapses on top of Edward. Hal then chases after Prince Oliver and incapacitates him in one to one combat. Prince Oliver is stripped and carried back by Hal to Prince Edward and the civil war ends.
Pug and his crew meet up with a reconstituted Macros the Black who brings them to the Pavilion of the Gods of Mikdemia who basically wish them good luck with the fight against the Dread. They learn that the Dread's goal is to collapse time and deny all existence so that Dread can remain in a perfect state of happiness and bliss. Pug and company finally return to Midkemia after being brainwashed and educated by the gods and they find themselves at E'Bar.
Meanwhile, Pug's old buddy Tomas says a final goodbye to his wife, the Elf Queen Aglaranna and flies off to fight his old nemesis Draken-Korin. Tomas discovers that he needs to allow the consciousness of Ashen-Shugar, the Valheru within him. Draken-Korin is decapitated by Ashen-Shugar again after Tomas allows Ashen-Shugar to take control of his body. Then Ashen-Shugar/Tomas flies off on a golden dragon to join Pug and the other magicians at E'Bar.
Pug's plan to stop the Dread invasion of Midkemia is basically to seal the rift at E'Bar with a ton of magic and rocks. He tells his son Magnus to gather up all the energies of all the magicians, spellweavers, shamans, and clerics in Midkemia and then pass those energies to Pug so he can close the rift. Tomas says one last goodbye to Pug as he finally dies and allows Ashen-Shugar to completely takeover. Ashen-Shugar engages in a wrestling match with the Dread King at the bottom of the rift pit. Pug then uses the energies gathered by his son Magnus to seal the rift and cause some massive earthquakes so that the Grey Tower mountains around him collapse on top of the rift site at E'Bar. Unfortunately for Magnus, Magnus dies due to the magical recoil or backlash of harnessing all the combined energies of the magicians and then having to sever that connection. Pug's fate was to watch all those that he loved die before him and his two last loved ones Tomas and Magnus have all died. He loses consciousness due to the chaos around him.
The landscape of Midkemia undergoes several changes as mountains are flattened and magical energies cause forests to grow up in minutes. Pug awakes to find himself in the Netherrealm. He is retrieved by the god Ishap and learns from the gods that he is in a state of suspended animation. The gods give Pug a choice of life or death, and Pug instead requests that they return his son Magnus to life, as he would be a more suitable protector for Midkemia. The gods agree but Lims-Kragma, goddess of death, has a surprise for Pug.
Pug is returned to the moment in time before the mountains collapse, and erects a magical barrier around his son Magnus and casts Magnus away so that the magical energy backlash won't kill his son this time. Pug, however, dies and gets crushed by all the mountains.
Prince Edward, Hal, and his brothers meet with the Congress of Lords at Rillanon to crown a new king after defeating Prince Oliver. Edward the Crippled surprises Hal and refuses the crown in favor of Hal. Hal agrees to take the mantle of king and is crowned. Hal makes his brother Martin Prince of Krondor and his other brother Brendan Earl of Rillanon. Jim Dasher and his grandfather Duke James have decided to retire so Ty Hawkins becomes Hal's new intelligence advisor. Hal, now King Henry, also marries Princess Stephané of Roldem.
The book ends with Magnus finding a reincarnation of his father at a beach near Crydee. The boy Phillip, who is gathering crabs and other crustaceans for dinner, is randomly nicknamed Pug by the other residents of Crydee. Magnus offers to train Phillip in magic and make him his apprentice and Phillip is delighted by the idea. Magnus knows that Phillip would be great at magic because he's the reincarnation of his father.