The evil Hooded One surrounds the walled city of Atheia and offers the trapped citizens of the valley two choices: "Surrender or Die!" Fone Bone and his friends desperately seek a way out so that Thorn can begin her search for the mythological Crown of Horns - an ancient weapon that can defeat the Lord of the Locusts!
Before long, word reaches the Royal Guard that Thorn and Ben are in the city, and they conduct a search for them. Meanwhile, Tarsil himself meets with the head of the city's merchants guild to discuss the embargo the Royal Guard has imposed. Word soon reaches him of the presence of the crown princess Thorn, and he orders more men onto the streets to find her and put her to death.
Meanwhile, Ted the bug brings Thorn word of activities outside the city; Lucius and the others are still alive, and will reach Atheia in two days' time, but Briar and her army will arrive sooner. We also learn a little about Thorn's mother Queen Lunaria (nicknamed Moonwort). Gran'ma Ben tells Ted to carry a message back to Lucius and his army, planning to trap Briar, the Pawans and the Rat Creatures in a pincer movement. That night, Thorn, Ben and the rest of the resistance hold a rooftop meeting to plan for the forthcoming conflict, and to discuss Tarsil's oppression of Dragon lore. However, the meeting is cut short when Fone Bone rushes in to warn everyone that the Royal Guard are closing in on their meeting place.
Hiding from the search party, the Teacher continues the meeting. He tells Thorn that she will soon be tested, and that the fate of the world rests upon her. He suggests taking her away from the old kingdom, as her presence is only worsening the situation. Fone Bone loses his temper with the Teacher, and lets slip about his and Thorn's journey inside the Ghost Circle. Thorn confirms the story, telling the Teacher how the spirit of her mother told her to seek the Crown of Horns.