David Evans is working at Manchester’s cathedral when a woman comes in asking to have her confessions heard specifically by David. She reveals that she was sent to seek him out by Delilah (who has intimated that David will one day replace her). The woman is Angela Kim and she wants help finding her daughter Jade Kim.
Angela has already contacted the police, to no avail, and now in desperation has sought the aid of a psychic. The psychic in question – Delilah – passed her on to David, feeling that the priest has more to offer Angela. Angela is the wealthy widow of a local business magnate called Kim Kei Han, and while the police suspect criminals in Manchester’s triads are responsible, Angela does not agree.
Her reasons for this are simple. Jade was collected every day from her expensive primary school by a driver and two bodyguards. She was abducted from the car when the driver and both bodyguards all suffered fatal heart-attacks at the exact same moment. Angela feels certain that forces beyond the grasp of the police (or the Triads) are at work here.
David agrees to help her and contacts his friends Thomas O’Byrne and Terrence Pollard, both of whom who shared esoteric experiences with him recently. Esoterica, however, is the farthest thing from Terence’s mind. After running out of his already meagre funds, he has been evicted and managed to persuade Thomas to allow him to lodge at Thomas’ large home in Didsbury.
It is there that David meets them (after making his way through dreadful traffic caused by reconstruction work in the city following the damage caused by the “Red Word” entity from the previous chapter). They decide to pay a visit to the Kim home as well as the site of the adbuction, to see what they can learn.
While they are preparing to leave, Terence’s personal problems take another spike when he receives an irate phonecall from his estranged wife. Apparently their teenage daughter Victoria has run away from home and is determined to live with her father. Terence’s wife insists that he send Victoria back home if she puts in an appearance. Needless to say, the conversation does not go well…
At the Kim house, the mages talk with Angela Kim and her new boyfriend Joaquin. They become convinced that Jade has some strange connection to the phenomenon they have come to think of as the “Red Word” – an unnatural intrusion from a parallel timeline that seeks to usurp our own. The girl’s drawings (of highly gruesome subjects) and the aura of her room leave them convinced that this is the case. They take her favourite toy (a beanbag frog called Mr. Toady) as a way of locating her.
Also in the house, Thomas realises that the ghost of Kim Kei Han is still lingering on the premises. With the help of Timmy, Thomas is able to speak with Kei Han’s ghost and learns that Kei Han was murdered by Joaquin. The ghost is convinced that Joaquin is connected to Jade’s abduction but finds himself powerless to do anything about it. He claims to have met Holly and Ivy’ spirits and will help Thomas contact them if Thomas will recover Jade. Timmy confirms Kei Han’s claims, but reminds Thomas of the tarot reading and the dangers that temptation poses.
Leaving the house, the mages head to the site of the abduction: a main road passing by Manchester’s Southern Cemetery. There, Thomas contacts the ghost of a Victorian gravedigger, who confirms that Jade was taken away in a horseless carriage. Using her connection with Mr. Toady, they are able to locate Jade’s etheric aura, and use this to track her across town.
The trail leads into the grim neighbourhoods of Hulme and Moss Side, where a solitary derelict cinema stands amidst a plot of wasteland. Using their nascent skills to hide their car, our heroes deliberate what to do. They learn that Jade was taken into the cinema and that her abductors are still there. Jade, however, has somehow managed to escape. It would seem that she fled the cinema and gained access to a mystical pathway through the spirit world, along which she fled back into Manchester.
The mages’ surprise at Jade’s apparent magical abilities is as nothing when compared to their surprise at the attention that they draw to themselves. The spirit-world here is a haunted and terrible place, its inhabitants little more than fell spectres that are drawn to the mages’ bright souls like hungry moths. They attempt to feed on the mages, and our heroes decide that their time here has reached its end. They depart as swiftly as they can, and head into Manchester to find Jade.
En route, they notice that they are being tailed by a battered green Volvo. Thomas uses all of his skill at evasive driving and is eventually able to lose their pursuers in the maze of streets around Manchester’s canal district.
They locate her in an odd pocket of lost time located at Dewey Docks – an area of the city long-buried, much like the Edwardian ruins where they faced the Red Word entity. The Docks, however, have managed to survive on the peripheries of the spirit world, and the mages cross over into this forgotten fragment of the city’s past.
There, at a floating market on the docks, they find Jade and persuade her to trust them. While they are becoming acquainted, however, another mage enters the docks. Calling himself Ayman Loufti, he confirms that he was one of Jade’s abductors. He claims allegiance to something called the House of Helekar. He reveals that Jade is the reincarnation of a mage who was infected by the Red Word in a previous life. Now, each of his successive incarnations must be given a ritual “Good Death” in order to eventually cleanse this taint. Jade is just one in a long line of such Good Deaths. And if she is not thusly slain, the terrible infection that the Red Word brings will only spread. Even now, Loufti says, it has started to taint the mages. And even if the mages best him, Loufti says, the House of Helekar will only send more powerful agents to do its work, not least someone called the Phoenix in Pearl.
Things go rapidly south from there. Initially overjoyed at meeting their first fellow mage, our heroes realise that – despite their shared outlooks – they are on opposite sides of this conflict. And conflict it is. Rotes, spells, and naked willworking erupt. When the dust settles, Ayman Loufti is dead, Jade has fled under the protection of one of David’s angels, and our heroes have first blood on their hands.
The mages catch up with Jade at Manchester Cathedral, where David’s angel has led her. Although they are reunited, David’s superior, Father Bertram, has strong words for David, as well as questions regarding his activities in the cathedral’s crypts. When David tries to brush him off, Bertram responds by telling David that the crypts (and thus David’s node) are out of bounds, and David is put on notice. Unsurprisingly, David has more pressing concerns.
The mages head for Thomas’ house to deliberate on how to proceed. En route, however, they are intercepted by well-armed men in black SUVs. A fight breaks out on the “curry mile” in central Rusholme, and once more David calls upon angelic aid. His prayer runs amok, however, and some among the unAwakened begin to witness holy sights, as an avenging angel descends from the firmament. With the other mages lending their own wills to the battle, all are able to escape, leaving their unidentified assailants behind.
Arriving back at Thomas’ house, the mages find Terence’s daughter Victoria waiting for them. She has tired of her mother’s new boyfriend and decided to seek out her father. Terence – hardly a family man at the best of times – finds it extremely difficult to deal with his daughter, and Victoria starts to worry for her father’s sanity.
Thomas calls on Timmy for aid, but the ghost seems reluctant to aid his medium, apparently furious at Thomas’ desires to follow his own instincts over the instructions of his guide. Timmy displays a far darker side when he promises that Thomas will suffer for his rejection.
With great reluctance, David calls on Emaline d’Anjou and asks her for help. Emaline readily agrees, and tells the mages that they might be able to cleanse Jade of her taint by taking her deep into the spirit world and immersing her in nothing less than the Well of Souls, whence all spirits spring. David suspects that Emaline is leaving something vital out of the equation, but faced with few other choices, he agrees. Emaline tells him that they can cross over into the spirit world more easily in a place where the barriers are thin, and the mages select the sunken Edwardian ruins where they faced the Red Word entity.
They reach the place easily enough, but realise that they have been pursued. True to Loufti’s prediction, the Phoenix in Pearl has been sent against them. A terrible magical battle breaks out, with our heroes struggling to open a gateway to the spirit world, protect Jade, and fend off the fearsome Phoenix in Pearl at the same time. They are succesfull in all three endeavours, but not without a cost.
As they flee into the spirit world, it falls to Thomas to seal the gateway behind them. He is able to do so, but not before the Phoenix in Pearl deals him a mortal wound. Thomas dies on the perphery of the spirit world… and his ghost rises from his body. Aware, and filled with unliving power, he looks upon the Other Side for the first time with his companions, and knows that his road down into death is only just beginning…