The young Ranger Feredir, known as the Huntsman among the folk of the Bree-lands returns from an extended ranging to find that his promised position of protector of the Bree-lands has been awarded to his childhood rival. With his generally positive outlook, he vows to do his job right, and sets to work under his new superior. He is designated as the guide and liaison to the travelling herbalist and physician Nestaron Mistion, whom Feredir dubs Salabon, or “Herbs”. Herbs has sought out the Rangers of the North to learn of their ways, and to become closer to nature. City-bred from Southern Gondor, Salabon is more familiar with the streets of Minas Tirith than the wilds of Eriador. Unbeknownst to Feredir and the Rangers, Herbs is really a defector from the Black Númenoreans, on a mission to redeem himself of his evil legacy. Not long after joining Feredir, Salabon discovers that he is not the only King’s Man in Eriador.
The pair soon encounter a young Elf, Eldacar, and a Gondorian mercenary named Baran, and together the four defeat a small band of Orcs accosting a caravan. Eldacar is in reality Bragol Thriawath, an agent from Rivendell, on a mission to seek out and catch spies and traitors among the Dúnedain. Baran has travelled with the caravan all the way from Gondor, and as it arrives in Bree it is disbanded, leaving him idle. The pay, he learns, does not get him far, and together with Eldacar he decides to join Feredir and Salabon as they patrol the Bree-lands.
Feredir receives orders from his superior, Treadstone, to deliberately be too challenging to solve; firstly to deal with bandits in the Chetwood, and secondly to investigate the Midgewater Marshes for rumours of goblins. With the aid of his three new companions, they accomplish both tasks, and in addition help the bandits receive full pardons by being instrumental in clearing out the Orcish presence in the Marshes. The four become something like folk heroes, much to the dismay of Treadstone, who rewards him by assigning him pointless assignments in the South Downs.
Feredir travels up and down the South Downs looking for incursions of any kind. There is none, but he learns of movements far south, around Tharbad, and he recruits the itinerant Bejiabar Beoraborn, one of the former bandits, to accompany him.
The other three of his companions soon joing them, all three with different reasons for wanting to carry out the southbound trek.
In the ruins of Tharbad they discover a group of bandits, whom they quickly defeat. Bragol manages to turn the situation to his favour by recruiting the leader of the bandits to be his agent in Bree.
The group learns of a rumour of Wargs in the Angle, and follow the Glanduin to investigate.
In The Angle they find and deal with an invasion of wolves led by an evil Warg, and soon are joined by the Hobbit Martial Artist and inventor Jack Fleetfoot, having lost his home in the attack. The company is hailed as heroes, and is summoned to Fennas Drúnin, the only sizeable town of any worth for hundreds of miles. After having enjoyed the worth of their rewards at the Oak Grove, a luxurious guesthouse run by a feisty woman named Jayelle, town council leader Paetric invites them to undertake a special mission to escort a caravan to two forts suffering under heavy attacks from marauding Dunlendings, Southron men and Easterlings. They make it to the forts Thuin Boid and Harnalda, and soon join the cause, helping to vanquish the invasion, but learn that the whole campaign possibly is a red herring – the key being a spy in Fennas Drúnin and an old keep, Minas Brethil, north of the town.
Scouting out the old castle they find a force of Orcs and Hillmen working on a tunnel under the river Mitheithel. With the help of the Red Lances they manage to destroy the forces of Darkness and liberate Minas Brethil. But the agent in Fennas Drúnin, the Sand Serpent, still lives, and what exactly was the Enemy hoping to gain by creating the causeway under the Greyflood?
They return to Fennas Drúnin, and at the banquet celebrating their success Baran overhears the traitors conspiring. He confronts them, but is defeated and wounded. Enough uproar is caused, however, that the culprits are exposed, and soon the rulers of Fennas Drúnin has uprooted the conspiracy and the linchpin known as the Sand Serpent.
The Companions are offered Minas Brethil as a reward, but they all promptly decline, except for Baran, who is declared Lord of Brethil. Feredir learns of Salabon’s murky past, and feels a deep betrayal, leaving the group and returning to the Bree-lands. Jack and Beoraborn follow Baran to Brethil, and a crushed Salabon and spy-master Eldacar remain in Fennas Drunin.
The Company is no more.
Salabon confesses all to Eldacar, and explains that he has reasons to believe a former associate of his has infiltrated the Rangers. He provides Eldacar with a sketch, and then travels towards Minas Tirith to collect his sister and bring her to Fennas Drúnin. Eldacar immediately leaves for Bree to seek out Feredir
In Bree, Feredir is approached by Eldacar, who reveals himself and his mission, telling him he suspects a strange Ranger might in fact be a spy. This confirms suspicions Feredir has had regarding a strange companion to his superior Treadstone, and after seeing the sketch he recognizes a mysterious face he has seen before, on his 18 month ranging. The two begins suspecting Treadstone is in league with a traitor.
Baran starts rebuilding Minas Brethil, and soon angers all of Fennas Drúnin as he offers incentives to attract artisans, and starts draining the city of its workforce. Jack and Beoraborn build their forge, until Beoraborn leaves to seek out Feredir. Jack discovers a giant, magical anvil that has been the answer to his dreams of becoming an artificer.
On his way south Salabon befriends the charismatic Adamar the Easterling, who takes Salabon to see his master Saruman at Orthanc. Saruman considers Salabon to be a potential tool for him, especially with his connections to the Rangers. He encourages Salabon to return to the Rangers, making the healer determined to do so.
Bragol and Feredir encounter a benevolent giant named Tom, who later meets Beoraborn in the South Downs. They hold counsel at Rivendell, and are given orders to catch Threadstone at any cost. They reunite with Beoraborn at Bree, and add Bragol’s agent Mabs to their party.
They track Treadstone to Fornost Erain, where they are beset by animated corpses, and finally come face to face with a dread Wight, lord of the tainted citadel. They almost lose Bragol and Mabs, but the Elf’s courage and Beoraborn and Feredir’s battle prowess defeat the fiend.
Meanwhile, Baran and Jack are summoned to Fennas Drúnin to deal with an incursion of Orcs. The results are disastrous. Baran’s plan is immature and ill-conceived, and the failed attack on the Orcish bastion sees the ranks of the fabled Red Lances, of which he has held command, decimated, and Jack taken prisoner and tortured. While under torture, Jack sees visions of Feredir, and realizes that his path is wrong. He must reunite with his friend. Unbeknownst to him, Feredir shares the vision. Neither knows that there is a mystical bond between them due to an artifact both have had contact with.
Feredir, Bragol, Beoraborn and Mabs return to the Lone Lands, where they meet the Ranger Wolf’s Bane and apprentice Ranger Puck. Bragol is too wounded to move, so Wolf’s Bane has him put up with some farmers living nearby, and they leave Mabs to watch over him, while the rest pick up the trail of Treadstone.
They cross the Oiolad, and have a nasty encounter with trolls, before they confirm their track, to Cameth Brin, and make camp to wait for Mabs and Bragol. Reunited, they approach Cameth Brin, just to spot two men travelling away from the keep. They are unable to discern if the two are their quarry, and Wolf’s Bane, as senior Ranger, decides to follow the two, with Mabs and Puck, while Feredir, Bragol and Beoranorn are to scout out Twisted Hill.
The three infiltrate the old keep, which is infested with Orcs, and find definite proof that there is an intelligence behind the movements of the Orcs. One Orc manages to escape with some sort of book, and the three follow him down the river until they come across a company of mercenaries operating out of an old fort in the woods of the Trollshaws.
Sneaking up, they see that Mabs and Isig are captives, and they create an ambush, freeing their friends and fleeing to safety. They are mortified to hear that the mercenaries killed Puck; the other two are wounded. They find out that their quarry is headed for Tharbad, so they return to Rivendell, and are instructed to follow, and seek out the ruins of the Great Library before the villains.
They travel by boat through the Angle, and reunite with Jack and Salabon, who has returned from the East with his sister. Feredir and Salabon are nothing but civil toward one another, but it is clear that both are relieved to be reuinted. Leaving Salabon’s sister in the company of Jayelle, the Companions’ contact in Fennas Drúnin, they make haste downriver with a full crew. Assailed by giant river crocodiles on the way, Jack and Beoraborn barely makes it away with their lives, and the boats are ruined, forcing the Companions to finish the journey on horseback.
In Tharbad they discover that the villains have a whole host of grim mercenaries, and are methodically searching the city. They sneak in unseen, but Jack is ensorcelled by a magical artifact calling to him, and the Company is detected, forcing them to flee in a wild hunt across the flimsy roofs of the ruined city. They barely make it out, and lay low while Eldacar manages to sneak close and spy on Treadstone and the false Ranger, gleaning their final location as Annúminas.
When the mercenary army has left Tharbad, the Companions locate the library, and find proof that the villains are searching for lost Palantíri. They also come across the legend of the lost blade Aeglin, the companion blade to Orcrist and Glamdring, and Feredir declares that when this quest is over, he intends to seek it out – in Angmar.
Traveling north, the Companions choose a more difficult, but faster, route than the mercenaries. While camping in the Tyrn Hyarmen they are beset upon by Wargs, and a legendary creature – a Werewolf! Once again, Jack is enthralled by an evil force, but Feredir manages to slay the terror. They resume their trek, and arrive at Nirmolian, where they stir the Rangers of the North to action. Days ahead of the villains, they arrange a deadly ambush at Annúminas, Jack’s engineering skills allowing them to rig entire streets to collapse on the intruders.
They spring their trap, and realize too late that the false Ranger has been possessed by a Wight! A deadly fight ensues, but the fiend is finally broken, and a wasted Treadstone, drained of life-energy, is found remaining, the mercenaries all put to the sword. After a failed attempt to enter the locked library of Annúminas, they repair to Nírmolian, where they agree to give the now-mute Treadstone into the keeping of the Rangers, and also receive the blessing of the Rangers to travel to Angmar to reclaim Aeglin. Feredir forgives Salabon and names him brother, and the Companions reforge their close-knit bond of brotherhood while looking forward to this, their next, formidable quest.
Feredir decides to learn as much about dragons as possible. He instructs Salabon, Bragol and Beoraborn to return to the library in Tharbad and do research there, and meanwhile he and Jack will travel to the heart of the Shire to interview the Hobbit Frodo Baggins. His uncle, Bilbo, is renowned for his part in the slaying of the dragon Smaug, and can offer unique insight. Jack Fleetfoot manages to upset and disturb Frodo to such a degree that he throws them both out, with the conclusion that all Rangers must be vagabonds and scoundrels – but not before having let Feredir peruse Bilbo’s own writings from his ordeal.
Meanwhile, Bragol, Salabon and Beoraborn travel to Tharbad, where they research all they can on dragonkind in the Great Library. Their mission to the Shire over, Jack and Feredir rejoin their friends. Feredir has decided to go to Edoras to hear the tales of the Rohirrim progenitor, Fram, who famously slew the dragon Scatha a thousand years ago. They hire canoes from a nearby fishing village, and sail down the Sirannon, at Jack’s behest. Eldacar has told tales of Ost-in-Edhil, and the Company has reluctantly agreed on the detour to visit the fabled citadel.
In the dark of the citadel, they discover an ancient, withered Elf held captive by a trapped dragon so weakened and maddened with hunger that its skin is translucent. The pair have been trapped for thousands of years. By cunning design, the group manages to trick the dragon and slay it by Eldacar striking it from a hidden position. Unfortunately, its weight crushes Eldacar, and his life is forfeit, until Hunter and Herbs manage to heal him. Unbeknownst to them, Eldacar has a vision wherein he has to give up his immortality to return to his body – and his love for Mabs. They rescue the weakened Elf, who is so feeble that he can barely speak, let alone give his name. Salabon has heard tales of a village of healers not too far into Dunland, and Beoraborn and Feredir set out to find this village. They find a deserted hall and town Cillien, and return to spirit the comatose Eldacar and the weak Elf here to heal.
While Salabon tends to the wounded with Jack and Beoraborn’s help, Feredir travels alone to Edoras. He returns with not only the tales, but Eadyth of Edoras, a spirited Rohir spearmaiden who seeks to reclaim her family’s honour on behalf of her cowardly brother.
They winter at Cillien, and Feredir traverses Methedras in the southern Misty Mountains in search of the Great Eagles. He finds the Eagles, as well as the grave of Elendil. His great awe for the remains of his distant ancestor gains him the respect of the Eagles. Later, he goes north and into the Angle in search of Baran, but nothing of his friend does he find in Minas Brethil apart from a large company of strange soldiers who have taken over.
Jack leaves the Companions and goes into the wild, protected by Feredir’s wolf Grey Cloak. He befriends a group of Elves belonging to a Wandering Company, who teaches him to find his inner peace, and his solution to his Path of Redemption. He carries on into the Angle and what he believes to be the source of his corruption: The magical anvil in his forge. He is refused entry to the fort, despite being one of the Stewards of Brethil, but sneaks in, and manages to crush the evil anvil.
Wounded and hurt he stumbles into Fennas Drúnin and finds Jayelle and Salabon’s sister, who take him in and set him up, before insisting on traveling with him to Cillien. Meanwhile, Salabon has travelled to Bree to fetch Mabs, whom he discover is heavily pregnant! He helps delivering the baby, and they, too, make their slow way to Cillien.
All through winter Beoraborn and the Elf they rescued, a fabled, ancient Artificer, work in the forges of Cillien. As spring approaches, Beoraborn emerges, the Elf gone West to the Grey Havens. Together they have crafted magical spears – two of which are made to slay dragons, an ornate coat for Salabon, and an eerie, otherworldly armour for Feredir.
After their reunion, the Companions start making their preparations to travel North, when a surprise visitor arrives: Gandalf!
Gandalf endorses the Quest, and agrees to escort them as far as Rivendell (which they will avoid, knowing Elrond will forbid the Quest).
North of Rivendell and into the badlands they are accosted by a horde of Orcs, and have to ride hard to cross into the Nan Angmarrim, their goal in sight.
They leave their mounts, and stalk ahead toward the dragons lair, but Salabon and Eadyth are discovered and captured by the beast. Feredir, Jack and Beoraborn infiltrate the lair, and Feredir finds the legendary blade. They confront the dragon, who cannot see Feredir, and it is clear that the enchanted armour makes him unseen by dragons. Armed with drake-slaying weapons and their well-rehearsed tactics, the resourceful group soon has the Wyrm cornered. But then disaster strikes. Seeing no end but his own, the Great Wyrm Colargon flees into the night, wounded and desperate.
The Companions stare into the darkness of night-cloaked Angmar, where the Wyrm Colargon has escaped, wounded and raging, unleashed on the world. Stoic Feredir is silent for a while, before his lips pass a single sentence:
“What have we done?”