AD 1081: Vast empires struggle for dominance. From the Normans in the north to the Byzantines in the south, battles rage across Europe and around its fringes. But in the east, an empire still mightier stirs, wielding a weapon to rule the world: gunpowder. Seeking the destructive might of this 'fire drug', the mercenary Vallon is sent by the defeated Byzantine emperor on a near-impossible quest to the far-off land of Song Dynasty China. Leading a highly trained squadron, Vallon is accompanied by the physician Hero, Wayland the English hunter, and a young upstart named Lucas. All have their own reasons for going, all have secrets. It's a quest that leads them across treacherous seas and broiling deserts, and into the uncharted land of mountains and plains beyond the Silk Road. Many will die...but the rewards are unbelievable.