The King's Cavalla Academy has been ravaged by the Speck plague. Hundreds of cadets and instructors have been
lost to the disease, and even the survivors may never fully recover. Many have been forced to relinquish their military ambitions and return to their families to face lives of dependency and disappointment. As the Academy infirmary empties, Cadet Nevare Burvelle also prepares to journey home, to attend his brother Rosse's wedding. Far from being a broken man, Nevare is hale and hearty after his convalescence. Instead of growing rake - thin like the other plague victims, Nevare has put on weight. In fact, he just can't stop putting on weight, no matter how much he exercises or how little he eats. To make matters worse, his nights are haunted by dreams of the voluptuous Tree Woman, dreams in which his Speck self betrays everything he holds dear in his waking life. Has the plague infected him in ways far more mysterious than the merely physical? Despite his fears, Nevare will journey back to Widevale in high spirits, in full expectation of a jubilant homecoming and a tender reunion with his young and beautiful fiancee, Carsina. But his life is about to take a dramatic, unexpected and shocking turn; and soon he may be forced to choose sides, between civilized Gernia, his ancestry and upbringing and the magical, sensual world of the Specks.