|The Pool of Fire|
| Preceded by|
The City of Gold and Lead
| Followed by|
When the Tripods Came (Prequel)
The Pool of Fire is the third and final book of The Tripods trilogy, published 1968.
Will Parker and Beanpole return to the hideout, which has been moved by Julius in case any of the athletes had their minds read. Scouts take the boys to the new location and they report what happened. Julius is pleased and unhappy at the same time, glad that Will learned so much but disappointed that he did not realize the danger of leaving his writings in the refuge.
He later sends Will out on a mission to gain new recruits. Will is surprised to see that his traveling companion will be Fritz. Fritz was delayed a time by his weakness, and had to recover before he was strong enough to escape the city. He took ill again after fleeing the city, and had been taken in and nursed by a woman whose son had gone vagrant. He finally slipped away and managed to return home.
Will and Fritz see parts of the Middle East during their trip. They are able to seed some resistance groups in the beginning, but as they move on, Tripods are seen less and less and they find themselves unable to get very many recruits. This is also partly due to the language barrier, and the fact that the Tripods are worshiped here in a religion not unlike Islam in some respects. The boys witness a Hunt, or execution, where criminals are set free to try and escape past the safety of a river boundary. However, the humans never make it, and the Tripods grab them and tear them apart.
When Will and Fritz return to base, Julius orchestrates the capture of a Master.The first attempt fails, and the Masters take the next Tripod through the area on a slightly different course to avoid another trap. The rebels resort to having Will dress in green,the Masters' color, and ride out on a green painted horse in order to distract the Master and capture him. The prisoner is taken back to base for tests and questioning, and he reveals that his name is Ruki. He appears not pleased with the use of human slaves, but shows no dislike of the Masters' plan for Earth.
Will is under the command of Ulf, the captain of the barge the boys traveled to the games on. Ulf has given up drinking, but is harsh and difficult. The more Will tries to please him, the more annoyed he gets. Julius indicates that he brought the two together in hopes that it would instill more discipline in Will. However, he says that he would not have permitted Ulf to come there if he had known of his foolishness during the journey to the games. Eventually, however, Ulf is sent to another place to help with his health problems. Just prior to this, however, he plays a prank on Ruki by putting alcohol in his food. Ruki becomes paralyzed and passes out, This leads to the realization that alcohol can be used against the Masters
Julius orchestrates a plan to send teams inside the Masters' three cities in order to introduce alcohol into the water supply. They strike in coordination in order to prevent the cities from warning each other about the plan. Will and Fritz's team is successful,although after the Masters are paralyzed, they have to keep the slaves from killing themselves by telling them that the Masters will soon wake up. They find the city's power source, the Pool of Fire, and shut it down. Unfortunately, the switch emits a dangerous type of electricity that kills Mario, the boy who pulled it. The group is enlarged now by some of the freed Capped, their Caps deactivated either by the generator being powered down or by the Masters being incapacitated. Sadly, a few have died and others have gone Vagrant, mentally troubled without the power of the Caps.
The boys choose not to escape by the river this time because they want to destroy the city before the Masters wake up. They try to open the doors manually and in the process crack the city's dome, releasing the Masters' air and killing them all. Unfortunately, they lose Carlos when the wind grabs him and pulls him through the crack. The boys must return to the Pool of Fire and re-activate it in order to allow an escape. They are able to avoid another loss because the switch can be thrown and contact broken before it is powered up and able to harm anyone. As the boys leave the city, they find another Tripod, but they later discover that when the city was shut down, the Tripods shut down as well, and the Masters inside died.
After returning to base, they discover that two of the attacks succeeded, but the third, the American city, failed. The boys, including Henry, had to flee after a Master ran away and sounded an alarm before they could deliver the alcohol to the water. Julius launches an attack by force, knowing the element of surprise is gone. Airplanes were built with information of the ancients which was found, and an attempt is made to bomb the city. Unfortunately, the Tripods disable the planes' engines and many crash. Many of the pilots that manage to land are killed by the Tripods on the ground. Henry survives, and manages to return to base and relay information about what happened.
The final attack is launched with balloons made from Beanpole's research. At first, it appears that this attack, too, will fail, as the bombs are either missing the target or bouncing off and exploding too high to break the dome. Henry solves the problem by landing on the dome and detonating the bomb he holds, sacrificing his life to deliver the final blow to the Masters.
Now free, humanity begins to quickly research and build, eager to regain the lost technology of their ancestors. Things like electricity and radio are brought back, but television is slower to return, because scientists want to ensure that it can't be used again to hypnotize humans. Fritz and Will try to return to something like a normal life, with Fritz becoming a farmer and Will exploring the lands now vacated by the Tripods, while Beanpole continues with his research.
Everyone goes on alert when the Masters' mothership appears in orbit. Naturally, it is feared they will bomb humanity and destroy it with force, but the only bombs dropped are on their own cities, likely to prevent humans from reverse engineering the Masters' technology. Hundreds of scientists working inside die, but humanity as a whole is spared and the ship leaves. Ruki, the last Master on Earth, howls and dies in his prison at about the same time. It is concluded that he and the Masters found dead in their Tripods were simply unable to cope with the despair of being conquered and defeated.
Julius holds a meeting in the White Mountains, the Conference of Man, with representatives from various nations. Sadly, nationalistic tendencies surface, with many countries arguing that other nations only care for their own interests. Some complain about the cold climate of the meeting place. Some want Julius to stay in power while others want him gone, seeing him as a war leader, a dictator. He is ultimately voted out. Several delegations, like the Americans and Germans, pack up and leave. Fritz, Will and Beanpole decide to step up and try to help the human race unite and answer the final question of the story:Having mastered the Masters, can humanity now master itself?