The book begins with a prologue showing the last seconds of The Fire Chronicle, but from Emma's point of view. The first chapter begins with Emma being imprisoned in the fort of the Dire Magnus, with no contact to the living world. She desperately protests and fights, and is defiant, before she discovers Michael's sacrifice to bring Kate back: the return of the Dire Magnus. After coming to terms with this and feeling another surge of love with her brother, she quickly is forced to come to another realization-the Dire Magnus is building an army. Meanwhile, Kate and Michael are desperately looking for their parents and sister and spreading the news of the return of the Dire Magnus. After a series of unsuccessful trips, Kate and Michael are forced to travel to Loris and they reunite with some of their old friends. Dr. Pym, who is with them, informs them that they are setting up a council to develop a strategy to fight against the Dire Magnus, and then escorts them to their rooms. Once alone, Kate confronts Michael as she feels that he is hiding something from her. Michael finally admits that through the Chronicle he saw Kate's love for Rafe, the Dire Magnus. He leaves Kate saying that she had to choose- she could only save her family or Rafe, but not both. Gabriel, immensely worried for Emma, is traveling to his old village. After meeting old friends who give him and Pym support, he reaches Granny Peet. There, he finally relaxes, and admits to Granny Peet that he is worried about something Rourke, a faithful servant of the Dire Magnus, told him. He informs her that according to the prophecy that once the three books are brought together with their keepers, they will die, and he admits that he feels betrayed that Dr. Pym knew this. Granny Peet reassures him that Pym wouldn't let anything bad happen to the children.

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