The Conclave of Shadows have two problems: the final destruction of Leso Varen and the neutralization of the thousands of Talnoy discovered by Nakor in Novindus. Acting as the go-between for the Conclave and the Great Ones on the world of Kelewan whilst they study the alien Talnoy, Magnus realises that creature is acting as a rift 'magnet' - attracting the same dangers as it did on Midkemia, and could easily provide a doorway for the terrible Dasati to invade and decimate Kelewan. In Novindus, Nakor is ambushed by a small band of bandits. Fortunately, Tomas accompanies the small Islani, and he defeats the outlaws with ease. But, one of their number fights with such ferocity that Tomas suspects him to be more than human. After several near-disastrous conflicts Kaspar, Talwin and Amafi uncover the new nest of Nighthawks plotting against the royal house of Kesh. But when they attempt to warn the Emperor, it becomes clear that many of the truebloods - nobles related by birth to the Emperor - are already Varen's slaves, both willing and unwitting.