Eleven year old Bethany and her family leave their refuge on Cedar Haven island to prepare for battle on the mainland. Considered too young and rebellious to take part, Bethany is sent to visit the Western Fisher Folk. She chafes against their discipline and leaves them for her Eastern Fisher Folk cousins, where she learns about her natural father. She stows away in a fishing boat to claim her heritage, but when she reaches Brent she is beaten by her half brothers and thrown into prison.
Janet, Riven, and Bethany’s mother Clare, young women in their twenties, establish a base in the Piney Woods. Clare’s husband William, her mother Margaret and nineteen year old Rory try to scale the Cliffs of Doom, but William’s safety rope snaps. Though Rory and Margaret pull him up, he has suffered a concussion and broken ribs. They join Clare and her friends in the Piney Woods where their company is completed by the arrival of Hutchin, a former slave who was born in the Delta.
The Delta Company detours to Brent, where they rescue Bethany. They take her to the formidable miller at Beaver Mill, where she must prove herself trustworthy.
William parts from Clare and returns to restore Dunlin, the farm where he grew up.