The Emperor of Hebalon dies a dramatic death, taking a terrible legacy with him to the grave; for it is widely feared that the Zeriths, the Hebalonians’ arch-enemies, have fanned new heat into the embers of the murderous enmity that has existed between the two nations from time immemorial. Martial Law is declared, and the heavy gates in the city of Hebalon are locked firm. No outsider can gain entrance.
The Emperor’s young and untried son, Hal Tara, who is now the heir apparent to the throne, is charged with avenging his father’s death. Disguised as a common slave, he leaves the protective confines of the palace, and, armed with his father’s sword, fares forth to seek out the implacable Zeriths. A warrior is about to come of age.
But Hal is unaware that his kingdom is threatened from within, where traitorous and malevolent elements are planning to overthrow him; nor is he aware that he has abandoned his court and his beloved sister to a cruel and perilous fate behind the city’s iron-clad gates.
Hal’s companion is his friend and squire, the warrior Erito, and in the marshes outside the city he is confronted for the first time by the terrible legacy of his kingdom’s past history. In this no-man’sland, men who have their lives to the service of the Emperor eke out a blighted existence, crippled and reduced to misery after many years’ of benighted and exhausting warfare.