Summary: Before the Kings came, the People of the Land had an agreement with the Dragons. It was negotiated by the Dragon Priestesses, who could communicate with those fearsome beasts through their familiars, the Little Dragons. The Kings, however, knew only the way of the sword. In their war against the Dragons, they killed their smaller cousins as well, along with the Priestesses who cared for them. The revenge of the Dragons was disastrous for both peoples, forcing everyone to live their lives at night, when the Dragons sleep in their caves in the mountains.
Feeling her age breathing on the back of her neck, Mother Peg, a Senior Healer of the Earth People, is determined to track down the persistent rumours that some of the doomed Dragon Priestesses shared their knowledge with the Healers who sheltered them. On the other side of the Realm, powerful King Anglewart of the Westlands, as determined as Mother Peg to find the Little Dragons, sends a search expedition to the mountains.
Others become caught up in the quest: King Anglewart’s spirited wife, Queen Melisande, and their daughter, Liandra, apparently pregnant, although she denies ever lying with a man; Mother Peg’s servant, Maida, who dreams of becoming a Healer despite her origins as the daughter of a cheesemaker; Gleve, newly confirmed as a Healer and worried about what will happen to his beloved elderly teacher, Father Mallory, when he leaves; Keiran of Hanford, who survives the dangers of the King’s expedition to the Dragon caves, only to be beaten and left for dead by his own companions; Jessa and Ev, two lowly servants in the Women’s Retreat House, where young noblewomen commit themselves to craft and prayer, and widows retire to live out their days.
Danger surrounds each of these people—Dragons, of course, but also their antagonism towards one another. They cannot know that each bears a unique clue to the secret knowledge of the Dragon Priestesses.