Trachoria’s treasury is empty after the loss of the brimstone colony on Marjura at the end of the first book. Its neighbours are readying invasion forces against the weakened state, whilst the tension between the emperor and a powerful merchant class is constantly rising. Praanz da Kaelve, now promoted to a General, wants to take back Marjura from the Cruer, a native group awoken from an eight-hundred year sleep who have occupied the isle. He is stopped by the empress, who has other plans for da Kaelve. At the same time the evil sorcerer Shagul has travelled to Trachoria to set in motion his plan; to harness the power of the fifth conflux through control of a religious sect of assassins.
In the alleys of the city the children sing a rhyme, ”All small butchers”, but few understand the hidden significance of the words, intimately connected with the devilish designs of Shagul. Will Praanz da Kaelve realise his fate and understand who his real enemy is?