Though victorious, the battle against Midnight’s rebellion in the fall cost the mice of Lockhaven greatly, so that as winter drew on Gwendolyn was forced to send her best guard out on a dangerous mission to collect supplies. To one of her most trusted patrol leaders, Kenzie, she entrusted an additional mission: to make his way through Sprucetuck to retrieve medicine that might save the life of his fellow guardmouse and old friend, Rand, whose condition had only worsened since the wound he’d taken in the battle. With that pressure, Kenzie moved quickly, taking with him his best friend Saxon and their former tenderpaw Lieam. He also selected a skilled weather watcher with much experience on the snow named Finn to help serve as guide, Sadie, the guardmouse recently returned from Calogero who also had much experience in the winter wildreness, and Celanawe, the legendary Black Axe, revealed once again to the Territories during the rebellion last fall.
The patrol made their circuit and made their way to Sprucetuck with little time to spare. As they made haste to return to Lockhaven, though, the snow gave way beneath them, and Sadie fell into a deep, dark hole. In trying to rescue her, Celanawe fell in with her. When he realized that they could not rescue the two mice, Kenzie made the decision to split the patrol, ordering Finn to go down to stay with them while the rest of them returned to Lockhaven. Disobeying his patrol leader, Finn also slid down the hole, but there was nothing Kenzie could do about it then, and so he and Saxon returned to Sprucetuck with the supplies and the medicine that could save Rand’s life.
Meanwhile, the others sought some means of escape, and discovered that they had fallen into Darkheather. This came as a shock, since no one thought that Darkheather’s tunnels extended so far east below the Scent Border. They found that the tunnels extended even further east, even to beneath Lockhaven itself. They discovered evidence of weasel atrocities from the Winter War of 1149, but Finn also discovered evidence that the tunnels had been used more recently, by mice.
Kenzie and Saxon made it back to Lockhaven, but soon discovered that Rand’s condition worsened not of its own accord or his ill luck, but because his healer, Abigail, was Midnight’s consort, and had been poisoning him with hemlock to slowly kill him and so take her revenge. Saxon killed her on the spot, leaving Kenzie to wonder how far Midnight’s conspiracy might reach, even with its master exiled beyond the Scent Border.
Meanwhile, Celanawe encountered the bats that had taken to lairing in Darkheather and managed to both mount them himself and help his companions do likewise. They rode the bats back to Lockhaven, even as Isabel was preparing her hare friends to mount a rescue.