For fifteen years, since the events that shattered his old life, FitzChivalry Farseer has lived in a self-imposed exile, assumed to be dead by almost all who once cared about him.
A bastard with royal Farseer blood, he has retreated to an isolated cottage far from the intrigues and dangers of the capital. Now he believes himself content to exist in obscurity, raising his adopted son, Hap, and sharing his solitude with his faithful wolf bondmate, Nighteyes.
Despite the rumors he hears of savage reprisals against those posssessing the Wit magic, he is determined to remain aloof from the conflict. After all he has served his kingdom, sacrificed what was dearest to him, and he deserves his peace.
But all that is about to change when destiny comes seeking him once again. High summer brings visitors to his door, and with them his past. Jinna, a hedge-witch, foresees that a long-lost love will return to him. Chade ? court assassin and Fitz?s mentor from his own assassin days, now growing infirm ? has reasons of his own for desiring Fitz to return to Buckkeep Castle.
And when the Fool, the former White Prophet, reappears as the wealthy and charming Lord Golden, he beckons Fitz to take up his duties as Catalyst, the one who enables others to be heroes and change forever the path of time.
To all of them Fitz says no. He has done his duty ? more than one man should be expected to do. But then comes the summons he cannot ignore.
Prince Dutiful, the young heir to the Farseer throne, has vanished from Buckkeep Castle without a trace. Whether Dutiful has been kidnapped or has fled his impending arranged betrothal is unclear. What is clear is that the Prince is rumored to be Witted at a time when public superstition is running high against those possessing that ?beast magic.?
Endowed with both the royal Skill magic and the despised Wit, FitzChivalry may be the only one who can retrieve the Prince before his betrothal ceremony ? thus sparing the Six Duchies profound political embarrassment ... or worse.
But even Fitz does not suspect the web of treachery that awaits him. Everyone seems to have an agenda for the young Prince, and soon FitzChivalry is plunged into a situation where his loyalties to his Queen, his Wit partner Nighteyes, and those who share his magic will be tested to the breaking point.