"Barfinnious the Fake. I can't do it because I've never done it. And if you're suddenly this great investigator and tracker, then why haven't you figured out by now that my stories are. Not. Real."Barfinnious and Hup
None of them. Nothing I've told you is the truth. Nothing. And I can't help you save your friend because the one true story I told you...didn't end the way I told you. I've never saved anyone. I've only been saved. Only been a victim and a story-spinner."
"So the princess...saved you? And that shames you? You're right, you aren't a hero. A real hero lifts others up, doesn't push them down. I'm going to help my friend, because it matters what I do. Not what I say I do.
After some hard time on the road, Paladin-turned-bard Barfinnious and his noble Podling squire Hup finally get to relax and enjoy their hero's welcome at a festive Spriton village. But a mysterious beast is lurking in the shadows, threatening the lives of the Gelfling villagers. What should be a simple fight for a former Paladin soon turns dangerous, and the truth behind Barfinnious' grift begins to emerge.
In Sami Thicket, Barfinnious tells Vortina of an incident in which he was attacked by a masked assailant. The assailant had masked his scent with a battleground stilmulant derived from the silk of the Arathim and used in the Arathim Wars. Barfinnious deduced that the assailant could only be one person, but Vortina does not know whom he is referring to. Barfinnious states that it was a chemist mentioned at the beginning of his story, but she questions how it relates to the beast that attacked her the previous night. He tells her that the point of the story was to illustrate that he has a knack for observation.
Barfinnious consults Hup and Veara, who examining the tracks left behind by the beast. Hup speculates that the beast could be a mounder, but states that there may be more than one creature and there is evidence of features that mounders do not have, such as many teeth and fingers for breaking and throwing. Barfinnious suggests that they present a mounder that escaped during the attack as the beast. He tells the village elder that the mounder is feral as a result of being afflicted by blud-rage. Veara and Vortina suggest that this is not the case and are proven right when the mounder arrives and displays no abnormal behaviour.
Veara collapses from exhaustion, having expended much of her energy treating Vortina's wounds. The others put her to be and Vortina watches over her while Hup and Barfinnious speak with the village elder. Hup asks if anyone has seen the beast and if there has been a pattern to its attacks, with Barfinnious patronising him by asking the same questions. The elder informs them that the beast only comes at night and its attacks do not usually take place on consecutive nights, but it has been growing bolder of late. The villagers can tell when it is approaching, as the ground rumbles when it draws near. As they converse, the beast (an enormous humanoid creature with glowing blue eyes and covered entirely in fur), smashes through a wall and snatches Veara out of her bed.
Vortina informs the others that the beast has taken Veara and is heading for the north woods. The village elder is shocked at the beast's attack, as there was no rumble. Hup and Barfinnious saddle Marengax and prepare to ride out after the beast. The village elder offers to provide them with better weapons that Barfinnious' broken sword and Hup's spoon, but Barfinnious replies that their weapons have yet to fail them.
As they ride out, Barfinnious plans to ride back to the main road, believing that there is no chance of saving Veara. Upon learning this, Hup prepares to continue on foot until he spots a Sifan bloom, which do not grow in the Endless Forest but on the coast of the Silver Sea. He deduces that Veara has left them a trail to follow. They follow it and reach the mouth of a cave. Barfinnious is terrified and finally admits to Hup that he is a fraud and his stories are lies. The only one with an element of truth is when he entered the nest of Silk Spitters, but he did not rescue the Vapran princess. Instead, the princess escaped from the webs that bound her and killed the Spitters, who would have killed Barfinnious had she not intervened.
Hup is disgusted by Barfinnious' fraudulence and his shame at being rescued by a princess. He declares that Barfinnous is no hero, as a true hero lifts others up instead of pushing them down. Hup makes his way towards the cave mouth and states his intention to save his friend, affirming that it is what he does that matters, not what he says he does. As Hup enters the cave, he comes face-to-face with the beast.