Traveling along the Trunk Road towards Li Heng, Dorin Rav reflects on why he is on the plains. He had taken a job as a caravan guard, but when Seti raiders had not been spotted for the first week of the journey, the caravan's leader terminated the guards' contracts. While the rest of the guards had grouped together, Dorin had gone off ahead on his own and had easily outrun the caravan.
During the second day of his journey to Li Heng, Dorin spots smoke to the north and heads off the road to investigate. He finds a wrecked caravan, all those accompanying it presumably dead. After observing the scene, he concludes that the attack was the work of Ryllandaras. Walking around the wreckage, Dorin is startled when a guard he had assumed dead gets up. Dorin asks if the man saw anyone pass by and the man says he heard a man pass by whistling but did not see him. Before Dorin can leave, the man confronts him, asking him to help see to the dead. Dorin declines and the man draws his sword, but his injuries cause him to double over in pain, unable to fight. He claims to have fought Ryllandaras through the night, but Dorin does not believe him and tells him to tell a more plausible lie. Departing, Dorin realizes that his quest for revenge against Wu stems from the same root as the guard's attempted assault on him, a perceived insult.
Dorin recalls having grown up in Tali, and how the city had been larger than Li Heng but very disorganised and with distant sections. As Dorin travels the last day in his journey towards Li Heng, the city's walls occupy the horizon. Farms and fields fill the area to the sides of the road. Stopping a girl carrying baskets of manure, he asks what the strange stone piles in the fields are. She fearfully tells him they are for hiding in if Ryllandaras comes, and when Dorin asks what the manure she carries is for she tells him it is for burning as fuel. After thanking her and departing, Dorin continues onward until he is within sight of the city walls, where he walks along with a merchant cart until he enters the city. He pretends to have no idea where to go until a man approaches him and offers to take him to get a drink. The man leads him through a maze of alleyways until stopping him in a small dead-end alley, and a group of four thugs armed with sticks come forth.