After a grueling year, the fifth patrol was given an early reprieve on return to Lockhaven to recover from their losses in the fox war. However, Gwendolyn confided to Rowan that a message has arrived from Walnutpeck, attempting to ransom Kenly’s life in exchange for food and medicine for the winter. After long consideration, the matriarch determined that she was not content to leave Kenly in certain peril as a prisoner of the Walnutpeck mice, and requested that the fifth patrol attempt to rescue him from the city.
Thorn and Rowan attempted to infiltrate the city through a series of tunnels which connected Walnutpeck to the Darkheather and enabled the city’s original fall during the Winter War—however, the Walnutpeck mice vigorously patrolled these tunnels, and the two of them were captured and discovered. They were taken before the leader of Walnutpeck—Byron, a mouse styling himself as the Second Axe—who locked the two of them away alongside the starving Kenly. Rowan managed to conceal the fact that there were two other members of his patrol, however, allowing Finn and Garrow to make a rescue attempt.
Garrow and the tenderpaw decided to fill the Walnutpeck tunnels with burning leaves, using the smoke as cover to access the city covertly. They managed to sneak through the tunnels while the guards were distracted with the fire (fearing a weasel attack), and were able to locate the stocks where the guardmice were being held. However, the guard was being actively interrogated by Byron when the two arrived, resulting in a fight. Finn bested Byron and was about to kill him when the Walnutpeck mice surrendered, agreeing to come with the patrol as prisoners.
Once back in mouse territory, Rowan explained that they now had to release Byron, as the law of the territories prevented the guard from interfering in the cities. However, the captain successfully manipulated their captive into following them to Lockhaven of his own free will, in order to plead to rejoin the territories instead of attempting to extort from them.