Bjarne wakes up to Edaline sleeping by his side, who confesses to him that she is keeping secrets from him at the behest of Ernest Wheeler, the spymaster. Though uneasy, he reassures Edaline that he is willing to accept this, but later on tells Jordan about the burden of not knowing what’s on Edaline’s mind.
A few hours later, the Court of the Usurper King meet for their Fourth Sundered Table Council, where Edaline announces that most of the Lords of High Borough survived the inferno, and that despite thorough searching, the Thousand Knives’ spies were unable to locate the whereabouts of Ishmael Maxim. The crux of the council revolves around the fact that the Friends of Bloody Annie have been discovered to be hiding out in the Oldworld Bank, but the Court seems to disagree about how to face them, with some opting to rob them of their funds and others hoping to reach diplomatic peace. At the King’s behest, the Court agrees to send ambassadors to the Bloody Annies rather than adversity.
Once the meeting closes, the Court files out, and Bjarne stumbles upon Kaho Kibo, who urges the Daggerkin to look for a copy of the book she presented the Court during the last meeting. This time, however, she provides a location for the book: The Apothecary’s Tower in Dagger Rot. Distraught by the mention of the unsavory location, Bjarne tasks Kibo with finding an individual who could guide them there.
Meanwhile, Alastriona meets Grant and tells him she has noticed his sullen mood. She reassures him that she will lend him an open ear, and that he can sympathize with his loss of Amelia Amberdawn seeing as she had lost her mother a mere week ago. Elsewhere, Jordan confronts Gorgo concerning her demotion from the position of Commander General, which had been granted to Arnhelm instead. Lastly, Ernest is intercepted by Herman the Kid, who reveals to him that he had killed the defecting Wintermutes and captured one alive, whom he had hidden, foodless and waterless, in a barrel in the pantry. Though impressed by Herman’s initiative, Ernest is distraught by his drastic measures.
The Daggerkin reconvene at Bjarne’s behest, though, and together they discover that the person Kibo had found to guide them through Dagger Rot is none other than Clemence Eyesworth, who admits to have made several trips there in the past years. He warns the Daggerkin of the atrocities that occur there, but the Daggerkin do not weaken in resolve, and take three men with them to set up camp outside Dagger Rot should they not make it back before curfew.
Setting out, the Daggerkin brave a blizzard before finally crossing into the massive infrastructure of Dagger Rot, where the interconnected buildings blot out the wind and the cold. As they draw closer to the Apothecary’s Tower, however, they encounter a group of Hollow Ones as they pick on and eventually kill a civilian woman. Uneager to draw attention to themselves, they survey the situation from afar, but soon realize they are about to be spotted. However, they catch a glimpse of an old man who beckons them to his position. Hurriedly, they leave cover to join the stranger, but are spotted by the Hollow Ones and fired at from afar. With the help of a web spell from Ernest, however, they manage to escape successfully.
When they rejoin the old man further away from the Hollow Ones, he guides them into shelter in a dilapidated house, chastises them for not knowing how to better navigate Dagger Rot, and questions their motives. When the Daggerkin explain their goal of finding the book within the tower, the man, Richard Dross, admits to having once have been an apothecary themselves, and warns the Daggerkin that the Hollow Ones have made of the tower their base, and that the tower’s library is rather high up. He also informs them that the Hollow Ones have been abusing of a substance named Illusion Dust, which causes the user to hallucinate things and people, in most cases, deceased loved ones. They learn from Dross that the best approach to the tower would be to enter from as high as possible using a nearby building, and to work their way up. Given the stealthy nature of their mission, the Daggerkin agree to leave behind Clemence Eyesworth for fear of him alerting the Hollow Ones. They separate from Eyesworth and Dross, but not before Dross asks of them to find an amulet of his if they can. The Daggerkin agree to this and leave.
Entering the Apothecary’s Tower from the fourth floor, they ambush two Hollow Ones who they catch in mid-conversation. When questioned, the two individuals inform them that a large group of them went North after the death of Ishmael Maxim, forming the group known as the Friends of Bloody Annie. They also admit that the library has been sealed, with dangerous objects and specimens being locked inside, though neither of them is in the knowledge of what exactly was sealed within. The two men are taken hostage by the Daggerkin, and forced to accompany them to the 15th floor, where the library is situated. Along the way, many Hollow Ones show suspicion, and one even attempts to latch onto Jordan, resulting in him immediately punching him. Knowing they don’t have much time, the Daggerkin hurry and Grant begins to pick the locks of the chained library doors. This, however, alarms the Hollow Ones, who suddenly begin rushing in to attack them. By breaking off sections of the long, spiraling interior staircase and fending off their attackers, the four eventually manage to force the Hollow Ones into submission, and finish unlocking the door. They cautiously enter, leaving their hostages behind.
Exploring the library in groups of two, Jordan and Ernest discover unidentifiable animal bones before finding the book they were looking for. On their side, Bjarne and Grant find curious old world objects before eventually stumbling upon Richard Dross’s lost amulet. However, they hear chains moving behind a row of books. Retreating, they realize that one of the creatures locked in the archive had survived, and encounter an emaciated troll, which immediately gives them chase. Warning the others, they run out of the library, with the creature in pursuit of the four of them, and the tower denizens in panic.
In an attempt to get out of the creature’s line of sight, they enter a study room, only to have the creature burst in through a window, grab Grant, and seemingly throw him off the tower to his death. As the three remaining Daggerkin engage in the creature, which is wrapped in an old world chain capable of slowing and even deflecting projectiles, Ernest realizes that he cannot engage the creature, for fear that a fireball would both be deflected and set the whole tower aflame. As Bjarne and Jordan struggle to keep the creature at bay, the three of them realize that they are fighting a losing battle.
Meanwhile, Grant crashes through a glass ceiling and falls into a densely cushioned area, where he is immediately surrounded by intoxicated Hollow Ones in the midst of a drug-induced orgy. A few gather around him and blow illusion dust into his face, forcing him to confront vivid visions of Myla Eyesworth, Enzo Jones, and ultimately Amelia Amberdawn, who torments him over his inability to save her. Despite knowing that the visions are drug-induced, Grant speaks to each individual, and accepts that Amelia remain with him, even after death. He is broken out of the illusion, however, when he realizes that a group of Hollow Ones have decided to hang him. Struggling to breathe, with the rope at his throat, he issues a knife and cuts himself lose in the nick of time, and flees before the Hollow Ones can catch him again.
As they are fighting the troll, the rest of the Daggerkin realize the creature’s ability to regenerate its wounds. In an attempt to destabilize the creature and strip it of its makeshift armor, Bjarne latches onto the creature’s chain and throws himself out the window, but the creature proves too heavy. However, Grant rejoins the group and, with the use of a Heat Metal spell, causes the chains the sear the troll’s flesh, unaware of Bjarne hanging from the other end of the chain. Though Bjarne makes a leap of faith and manages to crash through a window on a lower floor, the aggravated creature launches Ernest off the tower. Blasted by Grant’s powerful thunderwave spells, however, the troll, too, soon finds itself hanging from the window ledge. Though Ernest manages to recover and latch himself to the tower wall with web, he soon realizes that, with Jordan gravely injured and he and Bjarne unable to join Grant, the creature may still recover and defeat the lone halfling. With this in mind, and knowing that the exterior wall of the tower is of stone construct, Ernest launches himself off the wall to throw a final fireball at the beast, vanquishing it at last. However, unable to steady himself in his fall to cast a spell that can save him, the sorcerer plummets to his death.
Regrouping, the Daggerkin locate Ernest’s corpse, and, after delivering the amulet and joining Clemence, travel back to the Den in a grim procession.
As they re-enter the Den, however, they find Marietta Mariette in the throne room, and soon realize that her men have crossbows to the back of each member of the Court of the Usurper King save for Felicius Jet, who appears at Marietta’s side. Whimsically, Marietta expresses disappointment at having been located by the Thousand Knives’ spies, and tells the Daggerkin that many of the members of the rebellion have no desire to be lead by them, and have agreed to follow her lead instead. She orders the elves to aim their bows at them, and offers that only one of them need to be sacrificed in order to cement the Bloody Annies’ ownership of the Thousand Knives. Broken, Bjarne accepts to be sacrificed, but at the moment Marietta orders the archers to fire, they instead shoot at her men, as Jet immobilizes Marietta with a Holding spell. Now at the mercy of Jet and the Usurper King, a myriad voices erupt in the room, protesting what to do with her, with Corderoc urging mercy so as not to start a war with the Bloody Annies. After Bjarne delivers Marietta a beating, he leaves her at the mercy of the Court, and Grant immediately seizes the opportunity to stab Marietta in the leg, before being stopped by Jordan, who reprimands the Court for acting savagely. Shamed at the error of his ways, Bjarne resigns his title, and declares Jordan to be the new Usurper King of Daggerheim – a chant echoed by the other members of the Thousand Knives. As Marietta is escorted into imprisonment, Grant hears Amelia’s voice once more, revealing the drug’s damage to his psyche.