It's been seven years since Leetah & Cutter finally gave in to their Recognition and consummated their relationship. In the interim Nightrunner, Cutter's wolf-friend, has lost his place as the pack leader of the wolves that came with the WolfRiders from the Holt and is nearing his dotage. Cutter has been out hunting rabbits for his friend and as he returns to his home for the night his cubs, Ember & Suntop, greet him enthusiastically.
Their questions prompt flashbacks to their birth. Shenshen, as the village midwife, tried to bar Cutter from Leetah's birthing chamber, but Cutter (ahem) convinced her otherwise. Then shocked both tribes waiting by emerging with TWINS!
Suddenly, in the 'present', a "stingtail" (scorpion) alights on Ember's foot. Cutter contemplates how to get it off her foot without hurting her or it having a chance to sting her. Then a dagger knocks the scorpion away without killing it -- Leetah has learned knife-craft during the intermission.
Meanwhile at the rocks in the foothills near the caves where the tribe's elders have stayed, Strongbow, with his wolf-friend Briersting, is training his son Dart in archery. Suddenly, the wolf then his elf-friend catch a scent on the air they thought they'd never encounter again and call the alarm. All around the village the WolfRiders get the warning and converge on where Strongbow waits -- humans have come to Sorrow's End!
While gentle Woodlock startles his pack-mates with his savage death wish, Redlance tells Cutter he wants to hear the humans story -- and he deserves to hear it since he's the one who they tortured...
The Humans, Aro, his poor mad brother Dro and his mate Thaya, tell their story of how they came to be lost in the burning waste: the fires set by the Spirit-Man were much more destructive than anyone expected and after days of floating in the local lake finally the fires died out, leaving nothing but ash and death. The little family traveled for many days in the direction of sun-goes-down (West) and finally encountered another tribe of humans, but Dro's madness caused them to be driven out since Aro would not abandon his brother. Now, they're all dying.
Then Aro tells the tale of how the humans view the elves, as trespassers on the sacred ground created for humans by Gotara and coveted by the High Ones and when they Palace landed why the humans have tried to exterminate them for the thousands of years since...
Woodlock again encourages Cutter to kill them, to let him kill them, but when he draws his bow, he cannot kill the humans. At that point Dro collapses in death and Cutter tells the humans he'll let them leave, but to leave the corpse as a warning to any who approach that humans are NOT welcome here. So the humans wander off to die in the desert.
This enrages Strongbow, who feels that Bearclaw would have let him kill the humans and a challenge ensues. Quickly, Cutter defeats Strongbow in a battle of wills and Strongbow accepts his place, as is THE WAY.
Cutter goes to Savah for advice: if the humans are still going to come, is any place safe? And if these humans found OTHER humans, maybe there are more tribes of elves? So Cutter decides he's going on a quest: to see if he can find more of the children of the High Ones...