The quest takes an unthinkable turn as Rayek sets himself between Cutter and Leetah in pursuit of his goal to prevent the High Ones' accident in the distant future.
(KOBW 1-9; HY 1, 3)
Rayek makes his way back to the Palace of the High Ones, with all the spirits of the dead Gliders inside of him, giving him almost unlimited magical power. The Wolfriders Clearbrook and Treestump accompany him, and when they near the Palace, Rayek flies them all there with his borrowed power.
When they arrive, some Go-Backs and trolls are battling in front of the Palace. The trolls had managed to capture the rockshaper Ekuar, and the Go-Backs are fighting to try to free him. Rayek is furious with the Go-Backs for not having kept Ekuar safe, and begins attacking them with the Gliders' power. He destroys the Go-Backs' lodge, not knowing that his baby daughter is inside it. The baby's mother and chief of the Go-Backs, Kahvi, rushes inside the falling lodge to rescue her, and is presumed dead. Rayek drives all the Go-Backs a considerable distance away from the Palace and then opens up a huge uncrossable chasm in the groud between them and the Palace.
The High One Timmain, in distress at her descendants' violence against each other, frees herself from her Preserver cocoon, transforms herself back into a wolf, and runs away from the Palace. When Rayek returns to the Palace the Gliders' spirits free themselves from him and fly into the Palace, making it glow with magic and power. Rayek then goes to rescue Ekuar, who is with Picknose, whose kingship was lost to him in a gambling game and whom the other trolls are now trying to kill. Ekuar makes a tunnel in the rock straight up out of the ground whereby he and Picknose's family can escape the troll caverns. Picknose and his mate Oddbit now have a daughter, Trinket.
With the power of the Gliders' spirits, Rayek is able to make the Palace fly. With him in the Palace are Clearbrook, Treestump, Ekuar, Picknose and his family, and Timmain in her wolf-form, whom Rayek forcibly drew to the Palace's magic as it took off into the air. Kahvi, who survived Rayek's attack and was able to save her baby daughter, watches the Palace as it flies away.
In the Forbidden Grove, the forest holt of the Wolfriders, the boy elf Suntop suddenly hears a strange mental cry for help inside his mind that will not go away. The Wolfriders are trying to decide how best to help Suntop and solve the mystery of the cry, when suddenly the Palace of the High Ones lands in a nearby clearing.
The archer Strongbow, who has not been able to forgive himself for having killed a fellow elf (the Glider named Kureel), enters the Palace to look for Kureel's spirit. He finds it and they reconcile. Clearbrook is also able to find closure in communing with her dead lifemate One-Eye's spirit in the Palace.
Rayek learns about the cry in Suntop's head and offers to help them by using the Palace to travel to its source. Everyone in the Forbidden Grove—elves, trolls, wolves and Preservers—decide to first travel together in the Palace to the desert sun village of Sorrow's End. The Sun Villagers are overjoyed to see them all, and old friends and kin are reunited.
Most of the elves decide to stay in the Sun Village, while some decide to accompany Suntop in the Palace on his quest to find the source of the “cry from beyond.” This includes Suntop's family (his parents Cutter and Leetah and his sister Ember), Rayek and Ekuar, seven Wolfriders, two Go-Backs, two Sun Villagers and the High One Timmain in her wolf-form. The troll Picknose and his family are also forced into the Palace so they don't cause trouble in the Sun Village. With Suntop's guidance, Rayek flies the Palace to a land far to the west, across the ocean, which is presumably the source of the cry. When they arrive, however, they find that no one has ever lived there.
Elsewhere, the Glider Aroree meets the Go-Back chief Kahvi (and her baby daughter) in the Forbidden Grove as they are both looking for the Wolfriders and Rayek. Kahvi convinces Aroree to fly her to the Sun Village, with the hope that the Wolfriders and Rayek will be there with the Palace. When they arrive in the village, the Palace has already left. Aroree and Kahvi decide to try to fly to the place where Rayek had flown the Palace, which according to Savah (who is now able to communicate with the Palace using a piece of it that Ekuar had shaped and given to her) is across the ocean to the west.
At the Palace, Timmain communicates through a wolf-send that the cry is actually the cry of the High Ones during their accidental landing on the planet, and the place where Rayek has taken the Palace is actually the place where the High Ones first intended to land before they were thrown off-course. After learning this, Rayek becomes obsessed with the idea of taking the Palace far forward in time to meet the High Ones as they are descending, before they get thrown off-course, so that he can prevent the accident which caused them to land in the wrong place and the wrong time. The others are all against this, because it would mean that all elves, trolls and Preservers who are not in the Palace at the time of its merger with the original Palace will have never existed and will in essence be wiped out. Cutter decides that he will have to kill Rayek if Rayek does not change his mind about this plan.
However, the evil elf Winnowill is dwelling in the ocean nearby, and sends to Rayek, encouraging him to carry out his plan immediately, saying that she will be waiting for him to arrive in the new time, eons into the future. Rayek, spurred on by her encouragement, immediately puts his plan into action, heedless of the consequences. With him in the Palace are Leetah, Suntop, Ember, Skywise, Ekuar and Picknose's daughter Trinket—but all the other elves and trolls are outside the Palace when he causes it to travel to a distant future time, and they watch in shock and horror as it disappears.
Expecting at any moment that their lives will suddenly be snuffed out, the elves and trolls left behind by Rayek start to make a home for themselves in the nearby forest. The treeshaper Redlance makes a new tree-home for them all, and the trolls go to live in underground caves.
Aroree and Kahvi almost drown when Aroree's bond-bird collapses from exhaustion while they fly over the ocean. Their frantic sendings for help are answered by Tyldak, who has been searching for Winnowill. Tyldak rescues them from the water, but then he and Aroree are ensnared by a sending-call from Winnowill who begins to drag them all down into the ocean where she is living beneath the waves. However, Kahvi's baby daughter, Venka, is able to block Winnowill's sending. Leaving a surprised Winnowill behind, Aroree, Tyldak, Kahvi and Venka manage to find the elves who are now living in the forest below where Rayek had originally taken the Palace. They all decide to stay there and live with the Wolfriders.
As hundreds of years pass, Cutter and the Wolfriders live in the forest, keeping to the Way. Clearbrook and Treestump become lifemates. Redlance and Nightfall have a daughter named Tyleet, and the children Venka and Tyleet grow up together. Venka guards the elves' holt from the prying sendings of Winnowill who is trying to find them.
After Venka is grown, her mother Kahvi decides to fly away with Tyldak to try to go back to her tribe in the frozen mountains. Kahvi has taught Venka all about Rayek, and Venka, whose magic is even more powerful than her father's, is ready and willing to “teach Rayek a lesson.”
Strongbow's wolf Lapshaw loses a challenge and is banished from the wolfpack. Strongbow is heartbroken and follows Lapshaw into the woods. Lapshaw gets attacked by a rabid creature and becomes rabid himself. When Strongbow finds Lapshaw he rabidly attacks Strongbow. The wolf-High One Timmain finds them and helps them get back to the holt, but the Wolfriders have no healer. They take Strongbow and Lapshaw to the trolls, where Old Maggoty is able to cure both of them of the “foaming sickness.” This time, Lapshaw is accepted back into the wolfpack (HY 1).
When she is grown, Tyleet finds an abandoned human baby in the woods, and decides to raise it as her own. The baby was rejected by its tribe because of a large birthmark on his face, and Tyleet names him “Little Patch.” He learns the ways of the Wolfriders, but when he is a young man, he decides to try to get accepted into the human tribe, knowing that if he does so he can never return to the Wolfriders. It takes time but he finally succeeds, because he is better than any of the other humans at hunting, protecting and providing for the tribe. Eventually he even becomes their chief. When he is a very old man and senile, he runs into the forest, seeking the Wolfriders. The humans, believing he has lost his mind, tie him up and leave him in a clearing. Tyleet appears by his side and sings him a lullaby as he dies (HY 3).
Picknose has many more children but still misses Trinket. Cutter and Picknose both want revenge on Rayek and find a measure of friendship through this shared goal. Cutter's grief over the loss of his lifemate, children and best friend never lessens. He keeps track of the passing of time by cutting marks into a tree, essentially abandoning the “now” of wolf-thought. When Cutter's wolf-friend dies, the immortal wolf-High One Timmain becomes his new “wolf-friend.”
All this time, the elves have kept themselves hidden from the humans in the area. But the humans have begun trying to catch Timmain for her white hide, and when Timmain gets caught in one of their traps, Cutter has to show himself to the humans in order to rescue her, putting aside his own fragile hope of staying safe until he can be reunited with his family. In the process, he is wounded and weakened and realizes that he will probably not live long enough to reunite with his family in the far-distant future time to which Rayek took them.
Far into the future, Rayek and the Palace reappear as a mountainous crag on top of a high cliff overlooking a medieval human city. The elves troop out of the Palace, and Ekuar can tell that the rock there is many thousands of years older than it was (about 10,000 years older). Leetah knows that the Wolfriders could not have lived that long. Rayek, excited that his plan worked, grabs Leetah and flies off with her to take her to meet Winnowill and finish the healing she had earlier begun. Rayek plans to take Winnowill by surprise and heal her so she will be “fit to stand before the High Ones.” Leetah, in deep anger and despair over the loss of Cutter, refuses to travel with him, and attacks him magically, putting him in so much pain so that he drops her over a human's hut.
She breaks her leg in the fall, and the human woman living in the hut witnesses her heal herself. The woman grabs her and takes her to a room in which a very ill young human girl is lying. Leetah heals the girl. The woman's husband wants to keep her captive and make money off of her healing ability. Skywise goes into the village and helps Leetah escape from the humans. Skywise then begs Leetah to remove the wolf blood from him, so that he will have unlimited time in which to find a way back in time to Cutter and the Wolfriders, and Leetah does so.
Rayek finds Winnowill in the ocean nearby; she has given herself gills and has been living underwater in the ocean for thousands of years. He brings the Palace to where she is, and they prepare to gather all of the surviving immortal 'pure-blooded' elves to the Palace before it reunites with its original self when it appears in the sky at dawn. Rayek manages to magically stun Winnowill with the hope that Leetah can finish healing her. But Winnowill awakens and uses her water-moving magic to forcibly fling Rayek, Leetah and Skywise into the wall of the Palace. They begin to drown, but are saved by three elves who have just arrived on the scene: Venka, Zhantee and Aroree. Rayek realizes immediately that Venka is his daughter. They go after Winnowill, who plans to flood the Palace with water and kill everyone inside it (Cutter's children, Ekuar and Picknose's daughter Trinket). Rayek and Venka render Winnowill unconscious and leave her on the ocean floor; her gills would keep her from surviving in the open air of the Palace.
It is revealed that after Cutter was wounded, he decided to turn his back on “The Way” and be preserved outside of time in a Preservers' cocoon so that he would live to see his family again. The Wolfriders, not wanting to stay without their chief, all agree to do the same. All of their wrapped bodies are faithfully guarded by Picknose and his large troll family for the thousands of years it takes for Rayek to reappear with the Palace.
Venka approaches the as-yet-unaware Rayek in the Scroll room and tells him that he had better say goodbye to Ekuar, who is not in the Palace. Rayek, surprised, goes to find Ekuar, and sees all the Wolfriders and other elves and trolls gathered outside the the Palace. He begs them to all come inside the Palace so they will survive the merging. But they, including Ekuar, refuse to choose survival while all the other elves and trolls on the planet are wiped out. Venka tells Rayek that she has the power to stop him from carrying out his plan, but appeals to his conscience to make the right decision. Realizing that by carrying out his plan he will wipe out every living elf there is (since none of them are now in the Palace with him as he had planned), Rayek does not go through with it. They all watch as the original vessel of the High Ones appears in the sky and then quickly vanishes.
The newly united elves make their home in the nearby forest again. The medieval humans in the area are no longer superstitious and regard the elves, whom they have never seen in person, as 'forest folk' rather than spirits. Suntop plans to go back to the Sun Village to be taught by Savah, and Rayek and Venka begin a mission to help Winnowill heal.
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