Jane, a human changeling, is a child laborer in a grim factory in Faerie, where dragons, which are huge, sentient war machines, are manufactured. Her companions there are supernatural beings lead by Rooster, a Puck-like figure who plots to use witchcraft to kill their cruel overseer, Blugg. While attempting to steal Bluggs nail parings from his office in order to carry out the murder, Jane finds and takes a grimoire containing the specifications for a dragon. Jane begins memorizing the grimoire in order to take power over a dragon who is mentally contacting her.
During a test of new equipment, both Blugg and Rooster are killed. Jane forces the dragons true name, Melanchthon, from him, and together they escape from the factory. Finally free, Jane lives secretly with the dragon, attends school, and learns shoplifting from Rat-snickle. Melanchthon desires that she become educated so she can become an engineer and complete his repairs. She must remain a virgin in order to work on him.
Jane meets Peter of the Hillside and Gwenhidwy the Green, the Wicker Queen. At years end, Gwen is to be a human sacrifice and Peter will be castrated, but in the intervening year she can do or have anything she wants. Peter, although he loves Gwen, cannot have sex with her; he must remain a virgin in order to be her “sin eater,” vicariously suffering Gwens pain and guilt during her final year of life. Because Jane loves Peter, she seduces him and keeps him from the sacrifice. She also discovers that, like Rooster, his true name is Tetigistus.
(The entire section is 641 words.)