Young Willadene of the city Kronengred, having lost her parents in the recent plague, toils as a scullery maid in the disreputable Wanderers Inn. Her secret gift is an extraordinarily sensitive and discriminating sense of smell, a talent she hopes will prove useful to the wise Herbmistress Halwice. One day at Halwice’s shop, Willadene stumbles across an unconscious young man, while Halwice sits nearby locked in a magical trance. Using her wits and her talent, Willadene frees both victims from the trap. The man, Nicolas, a spy known as the Bat, works for Duke Uttobric; the Duke’s chancellor, Vazul, has a ferret-like familiar, Sssaaa, and is training Uttobric’s comely daughter, Mahart, to meet the challenges ahead—which will center on Uttobric’s enemy and rival, the Lady Saylana. With her spoiled-brat son Barbric, Saylana is scheming to seize the dukedom by way of a secret pact with a Dark Old Power. Uttobric and Vazul hope to tempt King Hawkner’s son, the warrior Prince Lorien, into an alliance via marriage to Mahart. During another mission, the Bat is severely wounded, and Willadene must not only nurse him but defend him against evil-magic attack. Then, as Lorien arrives at the castle, the conspirators abduct Mahart and convey her to a place of ancient evil where her life force will be consumed in rejuvenating the foul Old Power that has already ravaged Saylana from within. Can Willadene, with her expert nose, help the Bat and Prince Lorien track Mahart down and defeat the Power before her soul is devoured? Sturdily constructed, fetchingly rendered: a top-notch outing for the grandmasterly author of The Mirror of Destiny (1995), among countless others.