Julian has won two of the Jewels and defeated the pirates, and in Laurelynn, the capital of Westria, the Council is voting on whether he should be king. As the delegates gather, Caolin is busy with bribes and blackmail, and sends an odd little man called Mañero to spy on Julian. The kites he brings to the party to celebrate Julian’s twentieth birthday cause conflict, and when Julian refuses to order his cousin Robert to marry the sister of Alexander of Las Costas, Alexander becomes his enemy. Rana realizes that Julian loves her, and runs from him. But Caolin has worse in store. His spell leaves Julian stupid and stammering before the Council and soon he cannot speak at all. A wrestling match with Robert that turns to a sexual encounter gives him speech again, but he has a long way to go.
Clearly he needs the help of the Wind Crystal, but no one knows where it is to be found. In his frustration, Silverhair gets drunk and yells at Piper, who decides that if he can find the Jewel everything will be fine and runs away to look for it, and Silverhair swears to touch no wine until he is found. Julian hears of a mysterious village of Wind Riders who may have information, and the companions prepare to seek them, but Julian, unwilling to lead his friends into yet more danger, slips away on his own.
Julian’s road leads him to the Crystal Caverns in the foothills of the Snowy (Sierra) Mountains, where he begins to understand the properties of sound. When he arrives at Stanesvale, the holding where he was fostered, he finds Silverhair, Robert and Rana, who is grateful that Robert can give Julian the love she cannot, waiting for him, accompanied by Mañero, who insisted in coming along. They pick up Piper’s trail and follow him.
Piper, in the meantime, has worked his way into the high country, where he is found by the Wind Riders, a village in which the art of hang-gliding has been preserved. Wind Rider children must be accepted by Eagle, Guardian of the Birds, and Piper goes with them. Eagle gives him the choice of speech or the way to the Wind Crystal, and he chooses to seek the Jewel. By the time he nears it, Julian and his companions are close behind him.
But Caolin has also been busy. He has brain-washed a boy who looks like Julian into thinking he’s the prince, and set him to rape and roister his way across Westria to destroy Julian’s reputation. Mañero has been keeping him informed about Julian’s progress, and he tricks Alexander of Las Costas into going after them to seize the Wind Crystal, maintaining communication through a quartz crystal that Alexander wears.
They all meet at a rock formation called the Wind Lord’s throne. As Julian and Piper climb it, Caolin sends a sorcerous wind to destroy them and Silverhair counters it with his music. As Julian gains the top and claims the Jewel, Alexander arrives and threatens to kill Silverhair if Julian does not give it to him. The power of the Wind Crystal resonates with the one Alexander bears and blasts him, and the backlash hits Caolin.
Neither, unfortunately, is killed. By the time the prince and his companions return to Laurelynn, the exploits of Julian’s double have made him more likely to be lynched than elected. Only the power of words can change the situation, and Julian undergoes a third initiation, to the element of Air, that forces him to face and accept his true identity. When he faces the Council again he is ready, and his eloquence confounds his opponents.
All but one. Caolin himself takes his place in the Council hall, and threatens to bring its timbers crashing down upon them. Julian confronts him on the roof of the hall, and the sorcerer summons a whirlwind to strike Laurelynn. When Mañero gets in the way, Caolin strikes him. Mañero’s shape becomes that of Coyote, one of the Guardians of Westria, who has been testing Caolin even as he pretended to serve him. Julian uses laughter to transform the power of the tornado, and it becomes a flood of rain.
Laurelynn is in ruins, but Caolin has gone to ground on his mountain, and Julian is now the acknowledged king. He attends the celebration of the College of Bards as an unofficial member, both soul and body now in harmony. And from that harmony he able to reach the boy Piper, and heal the trauma that stole his speech at last.