A small party of a dozen centaurs and half that many elven nobles on suspiciously horn-equipped horses quickly outpaces the bulk of the faerie army. As they catch up to the party, Tristan and Mark wheel away to meet them, drawing their swords. Mark’s Warden blade runs through a centaur and drops him quickly. Tristan’s is a strange, long blade with a decreasing-radius curve. With one heavy blow he entirely severs the “man” section of another centaur from its “horse” body. The battle proceeds from there. Aeryn nukes the entire oncoming party, killing one centaur outright and wounding almost all of the rest. Crichton attempts the same, with less success. Rygel throws a glamour over several of the centaurs, making them appear as Outsiders and causing some friendly fire. Things don’t go quite so well from there. Blows are traded for a while, but soon Tristan falls, then Mark as well. Rygel first draws attention to himself, then surrenders, tying up several of the attackers in rounding him up and hauling him back to the enemy camp. An elven caster first blinds most of the party, then ties Crichton and the rangers up in living thorned vines. Finally, the party wins in a battle of attrition. The last elf’s parting shot nearly takes Aeryn between the eyes, but with a Herculean effort D’Argo shoves Aeryn out of the way and takes the arrow himself. Rygel is seen being carried over the ridge down to the camp before the party rides away, carrying Tristan and Mark as they wake up.
They ride to the forest and make camp. Medical attention is given all around – Mark gets his boot in on Crichton after getting some foul treatment – and the party rests. They make plans to wait for and join with the approaching human army, organize them to build siege and anti-infantry weapons, and approach the camp with the intent to hold or break them there. Mark quickly sketches plans for several easily-constructed siege weapons, a few of the usual trebuchets and ballistas, but one a very interesting design for an emplaced repeating crossbow, which he says he learned in his Army days. Crichton begins to wonder just what army Mark was a part of, and when.
Rygel awakens in a canvas tent, his hands free but both hobbled and tied to a post by a vine. He attempts to remove it, but as he does, it binds itself tighter and tighter to him. After some time a Summer noble enters with a tray of food which he tosses on the ground. Rygel contemptuously kicks it over and demands better treatment, respect, information, etc. They trade words for a while. Rygel manages to convince him, or at least worry him, that he’s allied with Mab. The noble leaves Rygel abruptly. He’s fed again later in the day, but that faerie says nothing at all. The next morning, the first faerie noble is back, with bronze manacles and a pair of orcish guards. Rygel is bound by the manacles and cut free of the vine. They march him through the camp to a great silk tent, where he’s shoved inside to meet a half-dozen noble halberdiers, a pair of ten-foot-tall Gruff bodyguards, and the general of the faerie camp. It seems Rygel is to be held for ransom against the party’s return. The conversation begins frostily but Rygel’s social skills gain him a measure of respect, and eventually even convince the general to let him talk privately. They agree to each answer one question asked by the other. Rygel asks where the gate at Stonehenge leads. The general replies that it leads “to Summer in midsummer.” The general asks about Rygel’s prior statement that there is some kind of cataclysmic event coming, specifically what he believes the outcome or results of that event will be. Rygel replies cryptically that it involves the weakening of the barriers between worlds and will be disastrous, and that he should not speak more of it, but that the general knows what he means. And indeed, it appears he does. The general resummons his guards and dismisses Rygel, but with orders that he be better fed.