Arobynn Hamel calls a meeting with his most trusted assassins - which includes Celaena Sardothien and Sam Cortland - in the middle of the night. He tells them that Gregori, another of the assassins, was captured by the King of Adarlan's guards, and has been imprisoned, and that Ben - Arobynn's second - was killed. Celaena is angry with them all, because they didn't bring back Ben's body to the Assassin's Keep. After Sam argues that there are too many guards to do that, Celaena leaves the meeting, vowing to bring back Ben's body.
Two months, three days, and about eight hours later, Celaena and Sam are in Skull's Bay, unwillingly working together after Arobynn sent them there to meet with Captain Rolfe, Lord of the Pirates. They believe they are there to collect financial compensation for three assassins that were murdered by his pirates. After Rolfe reads Arobynn's letter, however, it is revealed that they are there to supervise a trade agreement between Arobynn and Rolfe, involving slaves. Celaena is angry, but keeps her cool in front of Rolfe.
Back in their room at the tavern, Celaena confronts Sam about the trade deal, thinking he was aware of Arobynn's plans the whole time. Sam ensures her he didn't know.
Later, when they are dining with Rolfe and some other pirates, Celaena and Rolfe make digs at each other. After dinner, Celaena takes first watch, and Sam goes to sleep.
After a sleepless night, Celaena has decided that she is going to ruin the trade deal between Arobynn and Rolfe. She leaves the room alone to meet with Rolfe, and asks him questions about the slaves whereabouts, and guards, under the guise of wanting to make sure the trade deal goes smoothly. Rolfe offers to let her accompany him when he inspects a different shipment of slaves that evening, and she agrees.
When she returns to the room at the tavern, Sam has breakfast ready for her. He asks her what she is planning, and becomes frustrated when Celaena refuses to tell him.
Rolfe collects both Celaena and Sam from the tavern to inspect the shipment of slaves. When she enters the warehouse, she feels sick from the smell of unwashed bodies, waste, and the cramped conditions the men, women and children are in.
Captain Fairview and Captain Blackgold are standing by an Eyllwe man, who is skinny, bruised, and bleeding. They claim that everything is fine, he just fought back. They talk about how they will get more money for him because of it. Celaena asks questions regarding the slaves, such as what they do with the children. While Rolfe looks ashamed, he admits that while they try to keep the children with their mothers, once they get on the seller's block, it is out of their control. When Celaena asks who purchases the children, and he says that they are typically bought by the wealthy to be trained as scullery maids, or stable hands, but sometimes brothel madams purchase. When Celaena notices that Sam is silently raging over this piece of information, and Celaena absorbs it, she decides then that it won't be enough for the deal to fall through.
Celaena and Sam leave the warehouse. Celaena speeds ahead, and as she gets to an empty beach, she removes her mask, cloak, boots and tunic, while Sam yells at her and asks her what she is doing. She walks into the water, and Sam grabs her. They fight in the water, Celaena trying to attack Sam, and Sam trying to subdue her. When he gets her pinned, he begs her to stop, and she promises.
Sam asks Celaena to explain herself, and she tells him that Arobynn's plan to purchase and sell slaves disgusts her, and she plans to free them. Sam reminds her of the consequences of doing that, but ultimately decides to help her free them anyways. He suggests that if they make it through this alive, they should run away, to avoid Arobynn's wrath. Celaena refuses, because she doesn't want to spend her life hiding. Sam hints to Celaena that he suspects that Arobynn sent them both to Skull's Bay for a reason, and he thinks its because he was up to something in Rifthold that he didn't want them around for. He also suggests that he believes Arobynn was more involved in Gregori's capture and Ben's death then he let's on. Celaena doesn't want to believe this, so she chooses not to.
Sam leaves to go back to their room, and Celaena stays. A drift of wind blows towards her that smells of pine and snow, which smells of her home Orynth.
Celaena and Sam spend the morning roaming Skull's Bay, speaking with townsfolk and forming a plan around the information they gather. When they meet up with Rolfe, they watch as slaves are loaded onto the ship. Celaena asks if any of the slaves can speak the common tongue, and when Rolfe seems suspicious, she explains that if they can speak the common tongue, they will fetch a higher price. Only one of the enslaved men can speak it, a thin, older Eyllwe man named Dia.
Later that night, after Celaena and Sam let it known around Skull's Bay that they opened a tab to celebrate with the pirates a successful trade deal, they silently row out to the ships holding the slaves. Sam and Celaena use mirrors to communicate from the separate ships, indicating that they are ready.
Celaena knocks out the guard on her ship. When Sam communicates back that he has also taken down the guards, Celaena goes down into the hold where the slaves are chained, and asks for Dia. When she finds him, she unlocks his chains, and the person next to him, and instructs that person to unchain the others. Celaena asks Dia to translate for her. She tells them that she is giving them the chance to escape, but they need to follow her directions. She then asks Dia to row to the other ship, and tell the others the plan as well. Celaena and Sam meet up, and row back to the shore to unleash hell.
Celaena and Sam are at the tavern, pretending to get drunk with Rolfe and the other pirates. Rolfe tells Celaena that he likes her better drunk, and asks if he can ever see her face. Celaena tells him that if he makes Arobynn and her as much money as he promises, she will show him her face. When he glances at the magic map on his hand, Celaena asks him if the rumors are true, and he really sold his soul to the devil to get the magic map. He tells her that when she shows him her face, he will tell her the story of how he got the map. They shake on it. Celaena brings out a deck of cards, and asks Rolfe and Sam if they care to play Kings. For hours, they play, "drink", and tell stories and jokes. Celaena can't pretend that she isn't having a good time, and that Rolfe is funny. When Sam cleans house, Rolfe is in a bad mood. That is when Celaena trips a drunk man, into another angry, drunk man, and a domino effect of fights occurs.
Celaena fights her way out of the pub, and is happy to see that the fights have spread out onto the streets of Skull's Bay. She meets Sam in the alley. They figure enough time has passed that the change of guards should have happened already at the watchtower, and they should be good to disable Ship-Breaker, and the catapults. Just as they are to leave the alley, Rolfe intercepts them.
Rolfe tells Celaena and Sam that he saw her trip the drunk man that started the fighting. Rolfe draws his sword, and asks what they are up to. They try to deflect, but he knows that Celaena has been looking for a fight for days now, and he doesn't trust her. Despite trying not to look at the ships holding the slaves, when she see's them start to row towards Ship-Breaker, Rolfe notices her looking, and he see's the slaves rowing the ships. He vows to kill her. Just as he is about to shout out a warning to the other pirates, Celaena does the only thing she can think of to distract him - take off her mask and reveal her identity. She tells Sam to go, and he does.
Rolfe is shocked by her age, and insulted that Arobynn sent a child to do his bidding, but Celaena reminds him that despite being 16, she is the best assassin on the continent. His shock wears off, and he calls a warning to the pirates. As the pirates stop fighting amongst themselves and go to the docks, Rolfe and Celaena circle one another. As they fight, Rolfe asks Celaena what the plan was. He suspects they were stealing all the slaves to sell themselves. When she tells him she is freeing them, he calls her a fool, because freeing 200 slaves means nothing when there are 1000's in the world. He manages to get a hit on her, and cuts her arm. He tells her that if he doesn't kill her, Arobynn will. Celaena manages to knock him out with the pommel of her sword just as a large group of pirates comes around the corner. She runs through alleyways and manages to lose them, as many of them are still drunk.
Celaena is slowed down by the injury on her arm, and blood loss. She takes satisfaction in watching the pirates storm the docks, discovering most of their ships have been disabled. Celaena is annoying to see that some to manage to find rowboats, though, and are filled with pirates with weapons, heading towards the slave ships. She knows if they can't bring down the chain so the ships can sail out, the slaves will die - either by the ships being broken by the chain, or by the pirates.
In the far distance, she see's Sam running towards the watchtower, with a dozen pirates on his heels. With mere minutes to disable to chain and catapults, Celaena knows she won't make it. She is too far away. As she runs, she watches Sam make it to the watchtower, and kill the two guards. He races up to the level where the chain connects to the watchtower. As he tries to push the lever, Celaena realizes just as he does that the chain is impossible to lower without multiple people. At this point, the dozen pirates have reached the watchtower, and Sam hears them. Just as she thinks that everyone is going to die, Sam jumps down a level to the catapults. She watches him turn the already loaded catapult around, towards the wall of the watchtower that the chain is connected to. As the pirates spill out onto the landing, Celaena shouts out a warning when she see's one of the pirates throw a dagger at Sam. In that same moment, Sam cuts the rope on the catapult, and blasts the boulder through the watchtower wall, taking out the watchtower, catapults, and chain.
Celaena makes it to the tower just as it crumbles and the chain lowers. The ships holding the slaves are able to leave. Just as she begins to look for Sam through the debris, refusing to believe he is dead, Rolfe comes up behind her, and holds a knife to her throat.
Rolfe tells her not to move, or he will kill her. He wants to take his time killing her, for the money she has cost him. She manages to disarm him though, further injuring herself, and turns the knife back on him, along his throat. She pulls out two letters, and tells him he is going to sign and seal them with his stamp.
She ignores him, and tells him what each letter says. Both are writing by Celaena, posing as Rolfe. The first one is to Arobynn, telling him that the deal is over, and that if Rolfe catches Arobynn trying to enter into the slave trade with anyone else, he will bring his whole armada to punish him for it.
Rolfe tells Celaena she is insane.
The second letter is a proclamation, that he, Rolfe, will never, ever sell a slave again. If he catches another pirate selling or transporting slaves, that he will hang, burn, or drown those pirates himself. It also declares that Skull's Bay is forevermore a safe haven for escaping slaves from Adarlan's clutches.
He still refuses.
Celaena then tells him that she memorized his signature, and shows him that she has already stolen his signet ring. If he refuses, then she will just kill him, and sign them anyway. She will bury him off the side of the road, and tell the pirates that he left to chase after the slaves, and knowing that, they wouldn't expect him back in Skull's Bay for at least 6 months ... even a year. She tells him that he should take her giving him this opportunity as a favor, as she should really kill him.
When he asks her why she is fighting for the slaves, she tells him that if they don't fight for them, who will? He then asks how she will know he is keeping his word, and she tells him she has many sources as Adarlan's Assassin.
He tells her that if she ever enters into his territory again, her life is forfeit before picking up the pen. He asks, sarcastically, if she has any other requests. She says a ship home would be nice. He glares at her as he takes the papers. After he has signed and sealed each one, she knocks him out again so she can look for Sam.
As she goes through the rubble and bodies of the ruined watchtower, she calls his name, and there is no response. Sam emerges from the other side of the landing, dirty but alive.
They hug and decide to go home.