The Emperor of Hebalon is dead, apparently murdered.
The Hebalions’ hereditary foes, the Zeriths, are chief suspects, and martial law is declared. The gates of the city are locked, and no outsider can gain entrance.
Encouraged by his uncle, the young Prince and heir to the throne, Hal Tara, swears to avenge his father’s death and, disguising himself as a slave, sets forth with his squire Erito to seek out the Zerith stronghold.
Hal is shocked when, emerging from the heart of his father’s empire, he discovers that Hebalon is not the happy land of his imagination. Years of warfare have left the country devastated; people cheer to hear of Hal’s father’s death, and widely regard him as a despot and a tyrant. As Hal and Erito near the Zerith camp, Hal’s fear and hatred grow – a web of treachery surrounds him, and he can no longer tell friend from foe.