Mattimeo realizes that the slaves are headed South and will get no help from their parents who are following false trails - they must escape by themselves or not at all. It is the slow beginning of his transformation into a leader but not yet in time to save them from the treachery of SCURL the frilled newt who steals their few belongings for false promises of freedom. Way behind the slaves, The Redwall Pursuers meet CHEEK an alert orphan otter who, in return for food and kindness, sets them on the right trail - and joins the hunt under the wry protection of Basil Stag Hare. The group encounters and joins forces with Orlando the badger and a group of hedgehogs who have also lost young ones to Slagar. At Redwall Abbey, Abbot Mordalfus dreams of Martin The Warrior who tells him "to seek the founder in the stones, where the little ones go," and Constance, Cornflower, Foremole and others begin the task of deciphering the cryptic clue to the destination of Slagar...who moves southwards ...