While Dominion and Breen commanders exult in their sneak attack, their supposed ally — Cardassian leader Damar — secretly plots to free his homeland from Dominion occupation. Meanwhile, on Bajor, Dukat tells Kai Winn she must release the Pah-wraiths — the non-corporeal enemies of her people's gods — from the planet's fire caves by reading the ancient forbidden text of the Kosst Amojan.

Ezri Dax and Worf discuss Ezri's attraction to Bashir, and she wrestles with telling Bashir how she feels. Ignoring the warnings of her assistant Solbor, Winn opens the Kosst Amojan, and is surprised to find blank pages inside. Dukat thinks it's a trick, but Winn believes the words are just hidden and she must determine how to reveal them.

At Quark's, Bashir asks Ezri why she's been avoiding him since her return, but he's called away before Ezri can confess her feelings. A short time later, Sisko receives word that the Breen have launched a counteroffensive against the Federation's lone foothold in Dominion territory: the Chin'toka System.

Sisko and his crew depart on the Defiant to rendezvous with Federation ships in the Chin'toka System. Winn is upset that she still hasn't found the answers she needs in the sacred texts, while in Damar's quarters, he makes final preparations for the Cardassian offensive. The Female Shapeshifter and Weyoun head to the Chin'toka System to observe the Breen-Federation showdown.

During a fierce battle with the Breen, the crew is forced to abandon ship. Although they escape unharmed, the Federation loses its Cardassian foothold — and the Defiant is destroyed. Back on Bajor, Winn murders Solbor after he exposes Dukat's true identity and their devotion to the Pah-wraiths. When drops of Solbor's blood fall on the pages of the Kosst Amojan and reveal Bajoran writing, Dukat urges Winn to seize the power the Pah-wraiths are offering her. The crew monitors a transmission by Damar, who announces that Cardassian rebels have attacked Dominion outposts. Sisko knows that the Federation must help Damar, who could be the key to saving the Alpha Quadrant.