Prince Istan is outraged that his successful campaign in the East is constantly overlooked by Emperor Jorqel who appears more concerned with the West. His wounded sense of pride sends him into a moody self-exile in his fortress in Rhan, and he neglects his duties as Prince of the East, allowing the insurrection in Bragal to boil up.
This, however, allows Amal, witch and former lover of Argan, to impose herself in the Bragalese capital, Zofela, and begin her rule as princess of Bragal, directly challenging the fundamentalist rebels, led by Klandesi, half-brother to the Koros princes.
While Bragal rumbles into yet another civil war, Jorqel begins the next phase of his own dream of restoring Kastania to greatness, by invading Tybar-held Amria and thus resuming the war with their western neighbours.
Istan’s lethargy encourages Venn to send in agents and spies to Bragal to support the insurrection which endangers the eldest daughter of Amne, Kola, who is on a mission to secure agreements with as many eastern kingdoms as she can.
When the Venn-backed rebels of Klandesi threaten Zofela and Kola, Amal has no choice but to send out a badly-prepared force to meet the rebels head-on, neither side knowing that Kola has secretly learned the arts of war from Lalaas, her adoptive father. It leads to a battle that will decide the futures of Bragal, Kola, Amal and Klandesi in the wilds of that province.