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Summary by Steve Wilson
Princess Kristin of Tasavalta refuses to loan Woundhealer to the Crown Prince Murat of Culm so that he can take it to heal his mother, the Queen’s, lover. She has it has to stay in Tasavalta so it can heal her own people. Anyone who needs it has to come here.
The next morning, Kristin is told that Woundhealer has been stolen from the White Temple with the aid of Coinspinner. A drunken beggar saw it happen. The delegation from Culm is also gone. General Rostov and the wizard, Karel, take Stonecutter and Sightblinder and lead the chase after the Culmians. Prince Mark and Ben are away at the moment.
Meanwhile, Prince Adrian (now age 12) and his companion, Trilby (age 14) is on a mission for their magic teacher, Trimbak Rao, to enter the mystical City of Wizards and retrieve an object for their year-end examination. Prince Murat is fleeing Tasavalta. He has Coinspinner and has sent Woundhealer on ahead.
Lieutenant Kebbi, Murat’s cousin, hanging back to check for pursuit, now catches up to them. He says they’re half an hour ahead of their pursuers. As he turns to go back again, Murat gives him Coinspinner to keep him safe. Kebbi, jealous of his cousin’s position and now seeing his opportunity, takes Coinspinner and rides off, abandoning the group.
Soon, General Rostov catches up to Murat and his men. He is holding Sightblinder and appears to them as their Queen. The Tasavaltans capture Murat in the confusion, and Murat tells them about where both Swords are. Rostov gives Stonecutter to his men and sends most of them after Woundhealer while he, Karel, Murat, and a few soldiers go after Kebbi. The next day, Kebbi comes to a dilapidated, but pleasant enough inn. When he wins a dice game against a cheater (because of Coinspinner’s magic), he is very nearly attacked, but two newcomers (a man wearing another Sword, and a woman) enter and ask to play. The man has a large sapphire that he says he will wager against Kebbi’s Sword.
Kebbi accepts and wins. The stranger offers two more gems for a second try. Kebbi loses. Coinspinner was somehow defeated. The two strangers leave and we learn that the man is Wood. With Coinspinner in hand, he begins working some spells against Prince Adrian. In the City of Wizards, the spell makes Adrian and Trilby distracted and lazy. When Adrian wakes up, he is separated from Trilby and surrounded by evil beings. He summons an Earth elemental that destroys the magic that summoned them, but then realizes that he has no idea where he is. The river has carried him far away from the City.
We then learn that Wood’s female companion is Tigris and that the way he was able to defeat Coinspinner’s luck and win it from Kebbi was with Shieldbreaker, the other Sword that he carries. Having used Coinspinner in his spell against Adrian, Wood is about to use Shieldbreaker to destroy Coinspinner, so that it can’t disappear and be used against him. Just as he is about to strike, however, Coinspinner does disappear.
The next morning, Talgai the woodcutter finds Coinspinner sticking in a tree. He has never heard of the Twelve Swords, but is impressed with the make of it and thinks he might get a reward for finding it. The local innkeeper identifies the Sword for him just as he receives word that his brother, Buvrai, has been imprisoned in Simm and is going to be executed. Hearing this, Talgai sets out to rescue him, armed with the Sword of Chance.
Meanwhile, Trimbak Rao arrives in the City of Wizards, looking his two apprentices, and sends a flier to tell Princess Kristin that Adrian is missing. Adrian himself is able to use his magical abilities to tell him that Wood is the one who was attacking him in the City of Wizards, and that Coinspinner is somewhere ahead of him on the unknown river. The river does have some dangers, however. Adrian passes a head-hunting primitive village and believes he hears the howls of carnivorous apes following him on the shore. When he comes to a waterfall, he is forced to leave the water.
General Rostov, Karel, and Murat arrive at the inn where Kebbi lost Coinspinner. He is still there, being held as a slave by the innkeeper. He tells them his story and they realize that it was Wood with Shieldbreaker. They then receive a message by bird about Prince Adrian. They take Kebbi with them and head to the City of Wizards to try to track Adrian.
Adrian is attacked by a pack of carnivorous apes as soon as he gets out of the water, but is saved by a very large dog. Adrian probes the dog’s mind and sees that it has human memories and that it heals quickly from the fight. The dog, however, does not speak or act human in any way. Soon after Adrian and the Dog set out on the River again, they meet Talgai and offer him a ride. Adrian introduces himself as Cham rather than give his real name. Adrian tries to think of how to get Coinspinner from him, but can’t bring himself to steal it.
When Talgai disembarks, Adrian is attacked by Wood’s followers, who have caught up to him on the River. Adrian raises a water elemental and escapes from them, but then realizes that the Dog is missing. The Dog has followed Talgai into town. Talgai finds his brother in the prison and shouts to him through the window. Buvrai is accused of cheating in a gambling game at the Red Temple and killing a man. He says it’s not true. Not knowing what else to do, Talgai throws Coinspinner through Buvrai’s window and is then arrested himself.
The Sword causes an earthquake to collapse the jail, freeing Buvrai. He then frees his female companion, Amelia. Meanwhile, the Dog tries to dig Talgai out of the rubble. Buvrai assists and sees that Talgai is either unconscious or dead. Knowing that the authorities will spot him soon, Buvrai leaves Talgai and flees with Amelia.
When Adrian sees Buvrai and Amelia running toward the River, armed with Coinspinner, he sees the family resemblance to Talgai and offers them a ride. He knows Buvrai is a convict and doesn’t have any reservations about stealing Coinspinner from him. He just needs to find an opportunity to do it. Buvrai and Amelia ask Adrian to take them downriver to the city of Bihari. This is the first time Adrian gains an understanding of how far he’s come on the River.
When they pull up on shore for the night, Adrian goes to look for food and meets the Emperor, his grandfather, for the first time. He tells Adrian he’s doing well. The Dog is also with him and he tells Adrian that the Dog is Draffut, but that he’s lowered himself for a time after killing someone unintentionally. He says Draffut will get better in time. Tribak Rao, Karel, Rostov, Murat, and Kebbi find Trilby in the City of Wizards. The two wizards then plan to visit the Red Temple in the City to make the demons frequenting there assist them in their search for Adrian. Meanwhile, Buvrai plans to use Coinspinner at the gambling tables in the Red Temple in Bihari. Ameilia is afraid that he’s going to get them caught and/or killed again.
Draffut comes back to Adrian and runs along shore with the trio’s canoe. In the City of Wizards’ Red Temple, the party is attacked by Wood’s demons. They are not the regular demons of the Temple, but ones that have come to try to track Adrian, just as the party is doing. In the confusion, Kebbi and Murat both escape, but not together, and emerge from the Red Temple to find themselves each transported to Bihari via the magic of the City of the Wizards.
Inside the Temple, General Rostov uses Sightblinder to make the demons think he is Wood and so end their attack. Murat spots Prince Adrian and follows him and his older companions to the Red Temple, hoping to make up his theft of Woundhealer by returning the Prince to his mother.
Kebbi, Karel and General Rostov, and Wood and Tigris all arrive at the Temple as well, each tracking Adrian separately. Meanwhile, the priests of the Red Temple begin to get suspicious of Buvrai’s winning streak.
Adrian then spots Wood with Shieldbreaker and attacks him barehanded, knowing that Shieldbreaker won’t harm an unarmed person. Seeing this, the others spot the prince and move to assist him. In the fighting, Wood and Tigris escape, Buvrai is arrested, Amelia escapes with Coinspinner, and Murat and Kebbi escape empty-handed. Karel and Rostov then escort Adrian back home.
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