When the previous king and most of his sons were killed in the Eastern War, the surviving son decided to rule Bayern more peacefully. Instead of launching wars, the new king of Bayern invested his country into mining gold in the Bavara Mountains. These mountains marked the unofficial border between Bayern and the small kingdom of Kildenree, but the king claimed the majority of the mountains for Bayern so they could mine its promising gold deposits freely. Fearing that Kildenree would be defenseless should the powerful Bayern choose to invade, the Queen of Kildenree arranged with Bayern's prime minister for her eldest daughter to marry the king's eldest son in order to ally themselves with Bayern.
Shortly after Princess Anidori-Kiladra turns sixteen, she and her escort are sent on the months-long journey to Bayern's capital by way of the Forest Road. Although some trouble seems to surround her arrival, the king welcomes her with open arms and is pleased that she proves herself charming, witty, and "all that a princess should be".
Some weeks later, the palace opens its doors to supplicants so the king may address their grievances, as he does every market day. One such supplicant is a young woman who looks absolutely terrified. Nevertheless, the tired king's interest is sparked when she performs one of the most graceful curtsies he's ever seen from a citizen. He softens at her fright and gently asks her what her business is, but she replies that she's not sure. Realizing that the girl is new to the city, jobless, and lost, the king offers to find her employment. Although she mentions she's good with horses, there are no available positions at the stables, so she is given the job of goose girl instead.
On another market day, a young woman -who is thought to be a lost supplicant- is found near the horse stables and is brought before the king. He recognizes her as the new goose girl with the comely curtsy and asks why she was found near Princess Anidori's maddened horse. She explains that she wanted to see the royal horse and when she saw that the beast was out of his mind, she felt confident that she could help him. Unfortunately, she failed because he seems to be "beyond the place where human and animal share language". At that odd statement, the king looks at her strangely. Alert to the fact that there is still a long line of supplicants waiting to see him, the king merely states that one day, she will explain to him precisely what she means. In the meantime, he has to punish her for trespassing, lest the palace grounds be swarmed with citizens. Since she doesn't support a family in the Forest, he at first intends to fine her a month's pay, but realizing that that would consist of a single gold coin, he amends his fine to take a small portion instead. He not-unkindly dismisses her, but first she asks what is to become of the princess's horse. He sternly replies that he doesn't know, as he doesn't concern himself with others' horses.
Sometime after the Wintermoon festival, Princess Anidori reveals that her home country of Kildenree is plotting to attack Bayern. She explains that she was sent as a sort of decoy to pretend all is well and keep Bayern off-guard, but she has grown to like Bayern and doesn't want to be a part of Kildenree's deceitful ways. Outraged, the king prepares Bayern for war, deciding to crush the small kingdom in a preemptive strike as soon as the mountain passes are clear of snow.
The king chooses to hold his son Geric's wedding to Princess Anidori at Lake Meginhard, a grand manor where he held his own wedding and which has the added benefit of being on the way to Kildenree. A day or so before the wedding, word is sent that Princess Napralina-Victery of Kildenree is outside the gates with an escort, asking to see the king of Bayern in order to pay her respects and witness the wedding of her older sister, Anidori. For some reason she is instead taken directly to the princess, but the king soon calls her to his presence.
Napralina curtsies deeply before stating that she is not actually Princess Napralina. Before she can say more, the king signals two soldiers to take her away, but Geric stops them. Looking at her more closely, he recognizes her face and is stunned to see that she is Isi, the goose girl he had befriended some months earlier. Understandably confused, he asks her what is going on. Isi explains that she is truly Princess Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, and that the girl who has stolen her name is actually Selia, her lady-in-waiting. She claims that on the long journey from Kildenree to Bayern, Selia and half of her escort guard mutinied, killing the other half and attempting to kill her too so Selia could replace her as princess. Ani had escaped their slaughter and hid for months as a goose girl.
The princess artlessly laughs off the accusation, reminding the king that this girl calling herself Isi is the serving girl who ran away during the journey to Bayern, slipping away with one of her royal gowns and a handful of coins. The princess sympathizes with her former serving girl, but refuses to resign on her behalf, urging Isi to admit the truth. Still, Isi insists that she is who she says she is. She begs the king to listen to the testimony of a man named Talone, who survived the slaughter in the Forest, but the princess expresses surprise that such a fickle man would continue to work with her after all her money was spent.
The prime minister reminds the king both of the pressing matter of war and the fact that his younger son is growing tired from all this nonsense. The king sympathizes with his son's boredom and allows him to leave, but Isi, believing that the young prince is Anidori's betrothed, thinks he should stay, as this concerns his bride. The prime minister regards her with disdain, scornfully saying that this Kildenrean spy doesn't even know that the princess is betrothed to the elder prince, Geric.
The king, having had just about enough of all this, asks the princess what the punishment for treason is in Kildenree. She informs him that it is to be placed naked in a barrel full of nails and dragged through the streets by four white horses, much to Isi's horror. Nevertheless, the king declares that Isi will be thrown in the dungeon until the war with Kildenree is over and he has time to judge her case, despite Geric's protests that there is no proof that she has done anything criminal. At Geric's suggestion, the king decides to leave Ani alone with her countrymen in the hopes that they will achieve a suitable resolution.
As a child, Geric used to play in a secret corridor concealed behind the manor's throne. He convinces his father to hide within this secret place so they can eavesdrop on the Kildenreans and discover the truth. They overhear from the Kildenreans' own mouths that Isi is truly Princess Anidori, and the girl whom they thought was the princess all this time is Selia, the treacherous lady-in-waiting. Selia is triumphant that the king is unquestioning, but concerned that the prince seems to doubt her. Selia's closest personal guard and lover, the Kildenrean traitor named Ungolad, threatens to kill Ani unless she obeys Selia and agrees to give up her title, but the true princess refuses. Selia, knowing that it's useless to threaten Ani since she's so clearly in love with the prince, tells Ungolad to cut her so they can kill Ani by claiming she attacked Selia. Unable to stay hidden at these words, Geric interrupts them by bursting through the tapestry behind the throne along with the king and a handful of soldiers.
A panicky Selia tries to cling to her claims of being the true princess, but quickly accepts that it's hopeless. Even so, the king still treats her with kindness and courtesy, believing that she herself did not kill anyone directly. He advises her to tell Ungolad to release Anidori so they can all be judged fairly, but Selia demands they take Ani with them as guarantee that she and her fellow traitors will not be killed. The king is willing to discuss it, but Geric declines her request, accurately guessing that they'll just kill her once they're far enough away.
Suddenly, a windstorm swirls into life around Ani, who appears to be controlling it somehow, awing everyone in the room with her mysterious power. Ungolad finally loses his patience with Ani and breaks the spell by swinging at her with his sword. The blow is knocked aside by the wind, but as he prepares to swing again, Talone bursts in the nick of time, distracting Ungolad by challenging him to a duel. The Kildenrean traitors rush into battle against Ani's fellow animal workers (who were pretending to be Napralina's escort) and the Bayern soldiers.
The king fights skillfully alongside his soldiers and the tide of battle turns in their favor, but he soon becomes aware of his son's brutal fight with Ungolad. Although Geric is a skilled swordsman, his skills have never left the training grounds whereas Ungolad is an experienced killer. The king is worried for his son's safety, but knows that it is the boy's first battle and if he or his soldiers intervene, it would dishonor the prince. Although he can't order his soldiers to protect his son, the can command them to protect Princess Anidori.
Ungolad manages to stab Geric in the side, but the pain seems to give Geric strength until he at last delivers Ungolad a deathblow. The king symbolically snaps a discarded javelin in two and hands his son a sword, marking Geric as a man. In the calm after the storm, Ani realizes that Selia appears to have vanished in the chaos. Furious that they've let a murderess escape, the king swiftly gives orders to his men to secure the estate and allows his son to be gently lead from the room to heal from his injuries. As they wait, Ani asks the king to give all the Forest boys who joined in the fight their javelins and shields which will mark them as members of the community, a rite which has been long denied them due to city prejudice. Suddenly, they hear screaming from the secret corridor and the king orders the tapestry to be lifted, revealing the goose boy Conrad dragging a struggling Selia along the ground. Soldiers quickly subdue her and hold her before the king, who declares that the punishment for treason has been named herself. Seized with panic, Selia screams and thrashes as if the nails are piercing her already as she is carried out of the room.
The next day, the king holds a meeting in the conference room to discuss the matter of war with Kildenree and his council has argued fiercely by the time Ani is summoned. The king courteously but sternly asks her to provide a reason to believe Kildenree is not plotting against Bayern. Aghast that there is still talk of war, Ani swiftly and soundly disproves the evidence Selia provided of Kildenree's false intentions of war, and even calls them out on the prejudice and ugly truths she's seen in the city, making the king and his council feel utterly foolish. They do listen to her, however, and agree to call off the war.
Later that day, the king arranges a celebration feast to formally welcome Anidori into his family as well as to honor her for revealing Selia's treachery and stopping a war before it could even start. Once they return to the capital, the king is present at Geric and Anidori's marriage held in the Thumbprint of the Gods, a public square in the city where nobles and commoners alike can attend the wedding.
- "This girl announces herself as Napralina, then she says she's Anidori, then you call her Isi, then she's Selia. It appears that she's also the goose girl who curtsies so prettily and was found spying around the royal stables last winter. Whoever she is, she'd better decide quickly so we know what to engrave on her tombstone. I smell treason."
- "We heard your entire conversation, I'm afraid, so let's skip the declarations of innocence and move on to bargaining, shall we?"
- "Go on, son, you're not doing me any good by bleeding."