Seeking summaries of Will Wight’s Cradle series? Need a recap of each book? You’re in the right place! See all Cradle-related summaries available on my website here. Obviously, these are designed to have spoilers. Don’t read any of the summaries if you are hoping to go in to the series without being spoiled! If you haven’t yet read any of the Cradle novels, I have a no-spoilers review of the first two books.
Quick Summary of Ghostwater
Lindon, Yerin, and Mercy have joined the Skysworn. They are sent on a mission to Ghostwater, a facility formerly run by the Monarch Northstrider. Lindon and Orthos enter alongside one member of the Skysworn, who is quickly killed by the Truegolds already inside: Harmony Akura of the Akura family, Yan Shoumei of Redmoon Hall, Ekerinatoth of the gold dragons, and Ziel, a green-horned man with a shattered core.
Inside, Lindon advances to Truegold in his Blackflame core and Highgold in his pure core. He fights and kills Ekerinatoth, earning him the enmity of Sopharanatoth, who pledges to obtain vengeance for her death. Ekeri was her sister. After killing her, Lindon finds a void key to a pocket dimension that she had been carrying. Lindon also discovers a sentient construct named Dross. In his final battle in Ghostwater against Akura Harmony, Dross uses the water of the Spirit, Life, and Dream wells along with a droplet of mind-enhancing Ghostwater to merge with Lindon’s spirit and become a presence like Suriel’s. He offers to help Harmony leave Ghostwater, but he refuses. Lindon leaves and destroys the portal.
Outside Ghostwater, Yerin advances to Highgold and learns more about Mercy’s situation with her family. Harmony was her ex-fiancee. Mercy reveals her path. A Forged book of shining violet madra. The Book of Eternal Night. The Path of Seven Pages. The first page, Lowgold, has the central technique from the Path of the Chain keeper, Strings of Shadow. There are seven techniques and seven pages, all from different shadow Paths united into one. She holds the book in her soulspace as she’s bonded to it.
Eithan is offered back his position as Patriarch of the Aurelius family for having defeated Longhook, an emissary of Redmoon Hall, but he refuses it. He asks to join the Skysworn to train his disciples for an upcoming tournament of Underlords, which the Akura family will force the empire to be involved with. He is given a position within the organization, though Naru Gwei is still the leader.
Northstrider feels Ghostwater disintegrating, returns, and discovers that one of the Eyes has become an anomalous mind. He still considers it a failure, not realizing its success. Harmony begs Northstrider to save him. He refuses. He leaves, and the world collapses.
Detailed Summary of Ghostwater
After the Bleeding Phoenix self-destructed and scattered its Blood Shadows throughout the empire, the Skysworn finds itself cleaning up the fallout. In a small town, a Blood Shadow has taken control of a local. Lindon, now part of the Skysworn (albeit under close supervision), is part of the team that deals with the issues. After the mission, he and the rest of his Skysworn division return to Stormrock, the Skysworn cloudship.
They make their way to the Starsweep Tower, the Skysworn headquarters.He asks to see Yerin, but simply told to sit tight as he is still under strict observation. One wrong step and Renfei and Bai Rou, the Skysworn overseeing him, have permission to use lethal force. Yerin is currently being studied and questioned to ensure that her Blood Shadow is controlled. Mercy is simply cycling. After a brief wait, Bai Rou and Renfei gather the team. Renfei explains that they will be heading out on a mission to the Trackless Sea, seeking a pocket world created by the Monarch Northstrider. There has been a disturbance in the area, and it needs to be investigated.
When they reach the island, they find an unexpected surprise: the door to the pocket dimension is already open. Renfei, Lindon, and Orthos enter the pocket dimension while Bai Rou, Mercy, and Yerin remain outside.
Inside the portal lies the Ghostwater facility. It is a series of underwater bubbles, called habitats, lit by abstract, tree-like structures with glowing bulbs hanging from them. On entering, the team has their first encounter with Harmony Akura, Ekerinatoth of the dragons, Ziel, and Yan Shoumei of Redmoon Hall.
Renfei attempts to disengage and retreat back through the portal, but Harmony intervenes. She is killed in an instant. Lindon manages to snatch up the sapphire she’d been holding – The Eye of the Deep – before Harmony resumes his attack. Orthos is badly wounded in the assault. Lindon sees Yerin trying to come through the portal to help him as he runs towards the portal. If she makes it in, however, Lindon knows she’s likely to die. He destroys the portal with Blackflame in order to keep her safe.
Harmony views Lindon as beneath his notice at that point and resumes cycling. Yan Shoumei and Ekeri, however, begin their own assault on Lindon. They attempt to avoid disturbing Harmony, giving Lindon a brief chance to escape. He sees another habitat in the distant water, and begins to make his way there. Ekeri follows him and wounds Orthos further.
Typically, several other factions would arrive in Ghostwater before the Truegolds begin searching the facility for treasure. With the portal destroyed, this timeline is sped up. Yan Shoumei heads off on her own to explore and get a head start while the others are distracted. Ekeri is simply angry that she can’t go all out with Lindon, as she can’t afford to disturb Harmony’s cycling lest he turn his anger onto her. She begins her treasure hunt, but decides to focus on Lindon to discover just what it is he’s carrying first.
Harmony has his own goals. He’s at the peak of Truegold now, just below Underlord. He intends to make the choice all Heralds and Sages face if they advance far enough: to stay and become a monarch, or to ascend. Akura Malice, Monarch of the Akuras, speaks to him from afar and tells him to begin his hunt as well.
Lindon has managed to escape Ekeri for the moment, though she is not far behind. He takes this opportunity to bring out Little Blue, who helps heal and cleanse Orthos. He begins looking for an entrance to the Ghostwater facility proper, hoping to find something useful inside that will allow him to leave the pocket dimension. Before he can, Orthos is attacked by a sacred beast: a giant, fanged fish. The fish cry to one another, and they fight in groups. Lindon finishes off the first fish, but hears the screams of more approaching in the distance.
Soon, a school of them appears and attacks. Before they can strike, Ekeri reappears and attacks the fish with her whip. Lindon’s Blackflame core is entirely exhausted, so he relies on his less efficient Pure core to help him drag Orthos away. Orthos’ shell is cracked, and he is in very bad shape. Fortunately, Lindon is able to use the Eye of the Deep to find a door that leads inside a tower. It opens at the sapphire’s touch. He locks the door behind him just as Ekeri arrives, and immediately collapses into sleep.
When he awakens, he’s hit by the severity of his situation and his delayed response to Renfei’s death. He’s worried about Yerin and disturbed to be away from her. Searching the facility for another exit or helpful constructs, he discovers a room with a well of glowing purple liquid. It is filled with constructs, but they’s too old and no longer function. Their madra dissipated long ago.
Suddenly, a bright voice speaks to him. It says the water is fine to drink. It’s designed to enhance focus, it says – it’s the Dream Well. Lindon thinks it’s a recorded message at first, but then realizes it’s actually a sentient construct. Originally a guide construct, it was tossed into the Dream Well as trash when the facility was being decommissioned. Sitting inside the water for so long has since enhanced its own intelligence and given it capacity to independently think and reason. When Lindon asks it’s name, it says people called it garbage, junk, trash, dross. And so, Lindon greets him: “Pleased to meet you, Dross.” This is the first conversation Dross has ever had with someone, and he’s thrilled. Dross says he was meant to be a part of a “grand work,” the original purpose of Ghostwater facility. Northstrider intended to enhance his mind using constructs.
Lindon at this point is deeply thirsty, and decides to risk drinking from the Dream Well. His thoughts instantly sharpen and his exhaustion is swept away. He fills as many vials of the water as he can to take with him. He helps Dross absorb the remains of the other memory constructs that had decayed in the room. With each absorption, Dross’s own mechanisms become more robust and complex. Dross has been awake for about five years, but was abandoned in the well about fifty six years ago.
Using his Soulsmithing skills, Lindon helps link Dross to the damaged Eye of the Deep, repairing its functions and giving Dross a better vessel.
Outside the pocket dimension, Yerin is furious that Bai Rou stopped her from getting through before the portal closed. She doesn’t yet realize that Lindon is the one who closed the portal. She begins fighting him, and in her anger her control over her Blood Shadow slips. It emerges, a mirror image of her, and begins fighting Bai Rou as well.
Mercy breaks up the fight, and points out that they have a bigger issue: they’re surrounded by enemies. Fortunately, there is a nearby Akura stronghold where they can seek shelter. At the stronghold, Mercy is initially thrilled to see someone she knows: Old Man Lo, whom she was close to previously. However, he rebuffs her attempt at a happy reunion. He is unsure what Akura Malice would consider to be aiding Mercy, and he can’t take any chances. He clearly feels awful about it, but there’s nothing he can do. Abruptly, a dragon wings overhead. The dragons, too, want to know what happened to the portal and who the interlopers are. Lo reveals that he is an Overlord, and tells them that they can wait to hear about the results of the Akura investigation.
Yerin and Bai Rou are taken inside to meet the Sage of the Silver Heart, Akura Charity. Mercy must wait outside. Charity tells Lo to take Bai Rou for separate questioning while she speaks to Yerin. Charity explains that after Northstrider abandoned Ghostwater, six of the great Heralds of the world gathered at the pocket dimension. They stripped it of its greatest treasures, and bound their spirits into a truce. Every ten years, all six faction would be allowed to send a promising young student inside to hunt for treasure.
After learning from Charity that Lindon intentionally destroyed the portal, Yerin realizes it was to stop her from getting in. She is not at all pleased by this. Given Yerin’s response and the fact that the Ghostwater excursion is occurring a year early due to the Bleeding Phoenix, Charity determines that Yerin, Mercy, and Bai Rou are likely innocent of any wrongdoing. They’ll be free to go. She also reveals that a larger competition is on the horizon, a tournament.
Yerin is released back to Mercy, who reveals that Harmony was her former fiancee. He called it off, however, when Mercy bested him at battle. The public humiliation of losing to her was too much for him. Yerin questions this, as Mercy is a Lowgold while Harmony is a Truegold. Mercy makes a cryptic comment that whether she’s only Lowgold “depends on the competition.”
Now that Dross is bound to the Eye of the Deep, he can function as a guide within Ghostwater. There’s another portal on Northstriders personal quarters; Dross is confident he can get inside. Unfortunately, the only way to reach it is back out through the water. Ekeri is still waiting for Lindon, and they are all out of food.
Orthos helps Lindon learn to veil his core so that he can sneak out beneath Ekeri’s notice. He’s only good enough to veil his pure core; veiling Blackflame is above his ability, so he can’t change cores while outside. He’ll need to catch and kill one of the Highgold level sacred fish using only pure madra. He nearly succeeds, but is forced to draw on Blackflame when a second fish arrives. Ekeri immediately notices him and attacks. Orthos saves him, but they barely make it back inside with their lives.
After seeing Dross independently open the door to Ghostwater, Ekeri’s certainty that he is the key to finding the real treasure is reaffirmed.
On attempting to eat some of it, Lindon discovers the sacred fish he’s caught is, in fact, poisonous. He cycles, battling against it whole also taking sustenance from the meat to refuel his cores. He trains with Orthos before leaving the facility again to hunt for food. He catches a fish with no complications this time, but Ekeri catches him again. They fight briefly, much more effectively on Lindon’s part after Orthos training, and he retreats inside once more.
Orthos determines that it is time for Lindon to master the Void Dragon’s Dance. They work for two weeks; it’s all the time they can spare. Little Blue and Dross both have nearly exhausted their madra, and will not last much longer. Further, Lindon’s madra channels are taking damage from too much Blackflame.
He sets out after a pep talk from Orthos. He is going to kill Ekeri and her two attendants, Highgold or not. After a brutal fight, he uses the void dragons Dance to weaken her, an empty palm to disrupt her, and finishes her off with a small stream of Dragon’s Breath. But she escapes, barely, using a jade construct to leave Ghostwater instead of dying to her injuries there. He’s won. Before she ported out, a necklace with a small key fell off her neck; Lindon scavenges it.
Ekeri reappears outside in front of her sister, Underlord Sopharanatoth, broken and bloody. She dies in Sophara’s arms. Sophara is furious and immediately wants revenge. She recognizes the Blackflame aura, and roars her intent to avenge her sister.
On activating the necklace construct, Lindon discover that it is a void key to a tiny pocket dimension that can be used for storage. There are jars of water, rations, and some expensive art pieces inside. Lindon fills the jars from the Dream Well. After two days of preparation and cycling, they begin to make their way to the exit once more. Lindon is anxious to find Yerin again outside.
Unfortunately, the open water between the habitats is home to more than the sacred fish. It’s infested with Diamondscale Sea Drakes. Originally bred for Ghostwater experiments, they now live wild in the ocean. Naturally, one attacks. Orthos does battle with it while Lindon moves towards the nearest bubble, containing a dream tablet library. He enters and comes face to face with Ziel, the green horned man. Strangely, he does not attack Lindon. Instead, he kills the Sea Drake, saving Orthos and Lindon from it. He leaves after, only giving his name when Orthos asks, before continuing to walk. They make it to the Spirit Well and drink, renewing their spirits. Lindon is now at the peak of Lowgold. The Spirit Well is surrounded by ethereal Sylvan Dreamseeds. Unlike Little Blue, they are underdeveloped and have no mind or solid body.
Ziel is also at the Spirit Well. He reveals that his core has been shattered and partly repaired. His madra channels are twisted and knotted. He is stuck at Truegold, but was certainly much more powerful in the past.
Lindon allows Dross to enter his core to gain the benefits of the Spirit Well water.
With the Spirit Well, Lindon reaches Highgold in a mere two days.
He begins studying the dream tablets in the library, trying to develop an enforcement technique for his pure core, specifically geared towards enhancing movement. Ziel directs him to a dream tablet: “The Script Lord, Archlord on the Path of Whispering Wind: the Creation of the Seven Principles.” In it, he finds insight to direct his pure madra correctly for a full body, movement based enforcement technique.
Eithan, meanwhile, seeks an audience with the Emperor. He wants to join the Skysworn to keep track of Yerin and Lindon – and to have a shot at scooping up Mercy to boot. Naru Saeya agrees to help him if he finishes off the last of Redmoon Hall’s Underlord emissaries.
They begin their hunt and run into Longhook, whom Eithan battled in Skysworn. They battle, but Eithan has set a trap: a construct he made with Fisher Gesha that blasts him into the sky. Despite the construct’s power, Longhook is still alive. Eithan goes after him. This time, he battles without an audience. For once, he doesn’t have to hold back. He uses a technique that causes his pure madra to spin around him like a hurricane, taking hold of Longhook’s blood madra. Eithan Forges stars of pure madra in the air, but Longhook destroys them. He has armor of pure madra, blocking all spiritual attacks. Longhook is sure it will falter soon, as it would require frankly obscene amounts of madra. But it doesn’t.
Longhook is pushed into a corner. He devours his Blood Shadow for an edge, knowing he may never recover. He launches one last all out attack. Eithan obliterates it… And uses pure madra to shatter Longhook’s core.
Eithan destroys him with a final, soul-rending blast of pure madra.
Mercy and Yerin continue making their way towards the second Ghostwater portal. They’re dodging dragons and Redmoon Hall emissaries along the way. Unfortunately, they reach a barrier: a great, blue wall of madra. They’re forced to take shelter in Mercy’s tent construct until the barrier comes down, as they are being stalked by dragons.
When the barrier finally comes down, they find they are still unable to make progress. Dragons keep showing up whenever they peek their noses out from the ten. Yerin is intensely frustrated, and her Blood Shadow nearly slips it’s leash, threatening to act on its own. She decides to take the initiative, fighting a dragon alongside Mercy.
Mercy reveals her path. A Forged book of shining violet madra. The Book of Eternal Night. The Path of Seven Pages. The first page, Lowgold, has the central technique from the Path of the Chain keeper, Strings of Shadow. There are seven techniques and seven pages, all from different shadow Paths united into one. She holds the book in her soulspace as she’s bonded to it.
The dragons herd them to the Underlord, Sophara. Mercy uses her book to briefly reach the second page technique, blocking Sophara’s strike – barely. When the dragons realize that they are facing an Akura and a Sacred Artist with a Blood Shadow, Sophara is stopped by one of the other dragons, as if she kills them it will be viewed as an attack on the Akura family and Redmoon Hall. It would be an invitation for the other factions to destroy the dragons.
After nearly being obliterated by Sophara, Yerin and Mercy are taking a brief breather to heal up with elixirs inside Mercy’s tent. They try to escape after a rest, Yerin using the opportunity to practice her Endless Sword.When an Underlady dragon shows up, she throws herself into battle, relying on her Master’s spirit to guide her to get out of this no-escape corner. A flash of insight later, she advances, unleashing a wave of sword aura. Mercy uses her book to blast the Lady out of range for the moment.
Ziel abruptly appears from the forest. Yerin asks if he’s there to pick off the winners, but he says no. The underlady reappears. Ziel approaches, and states he is the Beast King’s witness to a Lady attacking two Golds. If she does not fall back, the Beast King will intervene. She continues her attack despite Ziel’s warning. A giant mammoth rises above the trees: the Beast King. Sophara and her retainers flee, though she shouts she will come for them again later.
Dross consumes some of the Sylvan Dreamseeds around the Spirit Well with Lindon’s help and becomes a full spirit with a madra system and core.
Ziel warns that he should leave soon, as the pocket dimension has begun to crack further. He provides him with jars of spirit well water before seeing him off. He distracts the Diamondscale Drakes to give them a path to the next habitat. He uses his gatekey to exit as the Drakes converge on him. He returns to his patron, the Beast King, who asks if the Spirit Well water worked to restore his spirit. Is the Lord of the Dawnwing Sect back? Sadly, the Spirit Well was ineffective. The Beast King sends him to assist two Golds who are being attacked by dragons outside of Ghostwater.
Lindon, Dross, and Orthos resume their journey. They’re heading to the Life Well, which is located directly above Northstrider’s personal quarters – conveniently, that is also the location of the second exit portal. Yan Shoumei, however, is already at the Life Well when they arrive. She hisses at Orthos: “Tell Anagi that he was too late! I have everything I need. I have all the blood I need! I look forward to seeing your bodies buried beneath Hearthway.” Lindon is unsure what it means. They write her off as crazy. Shoumei uses her gatestone and leaves. The cracks expand after she leaves, signalling the end of the pocket world. They must hurry.
Lindon drinks from the Life Well and finds it has little impact on him. He’s young and healthy. Orthos, however, bellows in pain and collapses when he tries to drink. After some time, it heals his still-damaged shell and rejuvenates him. He has the body of a young turtle again. Lindon takes Dross into his core so he can also benefit from the Life Well. Dross develops a more advanced body, with eye, mouth, and teeth. His skin is purple, and he now has little tendrils.
Before they can examine Dross in depth, Akura Harmony emerges from the shaft to Northstrider’s quarters. He drinks from the well before confronting Lindon over the now broken eye of the deep, demanding to see what he’s done with the construct. Harmony takes Dross and jumps down into the hatch to Northstrider’s quarters, locking it behind him.
Orthos presents a gatestone he found in a dreadbeast nest. Lindon has a choice: stay and fight for Dross, or leave. Lindon chooses to stay. He won’t leave Dross behind. Orthos helps him quickly advance to Truegold using his own power so they can fight Harmony on equal footing.
Lindon uses the gatestone to disrupt the scripts around the hatch and drops down. Northstrider has left a message. He had been trying to create a Presence like Suriel’s, a mind subordinate to his own to manage some of his powers. The Eyes of the Deep were part of that research. Unfortunately, he never completed his grand work.
Below, Harmony is at Ghostwater’s center. He has his own Eye of the Deep. In order to use it as intended, Eyes must be carried about on the surface to absorb information that can be returned to the main tree in Ghostwater. In return, the tree grants the bearer two gifts: the answer to any one question, and a drop of Ghostwater. The drop grants a few moments of highly increased mental aptitude, giving them an enormous edge in any combat scenario. It is temporary, but can be used again after it has had time to replenish itself in one’s spirit.
He attempts to offer up Dross for a second question and Ghostwater droplet, placing him gently into the cage that houses the Eyes. Lindon, however, takes this moment to appear.
Harmony and Lindon fight. Harmony is far above Lindon due to his superior training opportunities as an Akura. Lindon sees Dross among the tree branches, jumps up, and disconnects him while Orthos keeps Harmony distracted. Fortunately, Dross wakes up almost immediately. He’s absorbed knowledge from the tree, and he has an idea to get out of this situation. There’s a droplet of Ghostwater released due to Dross, and Lindon goes for it. Dross stops him, telling him to get samples from the other wells from his void key. While Dross works on that, he rejoins the fray with Orthos and Harmony.
Finally, with the help of Little Blue, Dross completes the combination of well waters. Northstrider had also stored a small bit of his own soulfire at tree base. The last ingredient. The grand work will soon be complete. He calls to Lindon to let him into his core. He tells Lindon he can take the Ghostwater, now enhanced, or give it to Dross and complete Northstrider’s project. Lindon gives it to Dross, hoping a monarch artifact will turn the tide of battle.
Dross guzzles the madra… And merges with Lindon’s mind and soul. He creates a battle plan and report for Lindon to follow. Dross simulates the battle, and Lindon acts it out just as he’d just practiced virtually.
He disables Harmony and tells him they are leaving. He offers to take him with them, as a gesture of goodwill to the Akura family. Dross activates the portal.
Harmony attempts one more escape, pulling out a gatestone. Lindon snatches it and destroys it. As Harmony has refused their assistance, he leaves him to make his own way back. They step through the portal, and Ghostwater crumbles around Harmony.
Eithan and Fisher Gesha approach the emperor, Naru Huan. Gesha is gifted scales to take her to Truegold in reward for serving against the Bleeding Phoenix and Redmoon hall. She asks if she can give them to her family instead, but is refused. Those scales are for her alone. However, her family wasn’t forgotten. A separate box of scales and treasures is for her grandchildren.
Eithan is offered back his position as Patriarch of the Aurelius family, but he refuses it. He asks to join the Skysworn to train his disciples for an upcoming tournament of Underlords, which the Akura family will force the empire to be involved with. He is given a position within the organization, though Naru Gwei is still the leader.
Lindon meets up with Yerin and Mercy again outside of Ghostwater. Yerin is immediately surprised by his advancement to Highgold in one core and Truegold in the other. Dross introduces himself, much to Yerin and Mercy’s shock.
Sophara is rebuked by the dragon Monarch for Ekeri’s weakness. The Monarch states that Redmoon Hall succeeded in obtaining what they wanted and that he believes the Akura family did too, as they hid Harmony’s fate from him. He tells Sophara she has one more chance on a grand stage to compete. She will only regain her standing if she obtains overwhelming success in the upcoming tournament.
Northstrider sits atop a mountain on another world. He has killed a dragon the size of a city. He feels Ghostwater disintegrating and decides to go salvage what he can. He steps out of space, blue currents around him, and back into Cradle – into Ghostwater – via a Way portal. He stabilizes the world temporarily with a single word: Hold. He finds Harmony inside.
He uses a more advanced memory construct to download all the information stored in the tree. He discovers that one of the Eyes has become an anomalous mind. He still considers it a failure, not realizing its success. Harmony begs Northstrider to save him. He refuses. He leaves, and the world collapses.