Shaliyah, birthplace of the Prophet, now has a new name: Mother of Victories. In the wake of the devastating battle before her walls, everything has changed: the East is rising, bringing equal measures of hope and despair to the magical world of Urte. For Elena Anborn and Kazim Makani, Salim's victory is a call to arms against the renegade spymaster Gurvon Gyle. For Queen Cera Nesti of Javon, it is a beacon as she seeks new ways to overthrow her husband, the usurper king, and reclaim Javon for her brother. For Ramon Sensini, trapped behind enemy lines with the shattered remnants of the Southern Army, it is more evidence of a world gone mad. And while the armies of east and west clash in ever-more-bloody conflict, emperors, Inquisitors, Souldrinkers and assassins all have their attention turned elsewhere as they hunt the Scytale of Corineus. This artefect is the key to ultimate power, and it's in the hands of the most unlikely of guardians: failed mage Alaron Mercer and market-girl Ramita Ankesharan, pregnant widow of the world's greatest mage. What they choose to do with the Scytale could change the world forever.