In 2072 a mysterious disease that sweeps the world kills nearly everyone. Civilization collapses. A long Dark Age ensues. In the 676th year after the pandemic, Jack, an orphan boy, makes a precarious living in the city of Nelefer as the mysterious thief called the Shadow. At the same time wealthy brother and sister Samyel and Mikela Moer search for a cache of gold lost shortly after the pandemic. They believe clues to finding it are hidden on their collection of ceramic hawk statuettes.Potter Allegra Haas had made the statuettes in the 120th year after the pandemic. John Moore, leader of Clan Moer and Samyel and Mikela’s ancestor, hated her and her husband because he thought they knew the lost gold’s location. Yet, because of Allegra’s skill he commissioned her to make 100 of the statuettes for a dinner party.After Allegra’s death John Moore received a letter she had left for him. It admitted she knew where the gold was and that the hawks held clues to its location. No one had as yet deciphered them.Now, centuries after Allegra’s death, Samyel and Mikela have 66 of the statuettes.While Jack works as a message runner he delivers one of the missing statuettes to Samyel, who promises to reward Jack if he finds any more of the hawks. In fact, Jack knows one perches in the window of the Gallows Bird Tavern. A prank played on a policeman named Mucfeerz makes the cop an enemy and costs Jack his job. In a manner that adds to the Shadow’s notoriety, he steals the statuette from the tavern. Before he can take it to Samyel he wants to learn to speak as aristocrats do. An older girl, the beautiful Lilliyaana, agrees to teach him.Jack delivers the statuette to Samyel, who eventually figures out that Jack is the Shadow. Jack’s life becomes complicated but more comfortable. Samyel hires him to run errands and recommends him to other aristocrats. At the same time, crime boss Boss Blunt, pays him for information about upper class activities. The salacious Mikela pays him for services of her own.Nelefer folk believe scientists somehow caused the pandemic with arcane skills that they call tek. Fearing a resurgence of tek will bring about their final destruction, anyone suspected of dealing with it can face torture and death. Some citizens of the City, including Samyel and his friend Saul Berg, secretly preserve scientific knowledge and, in Saul’s case, conduct scientific experiments. Saul’s vindictive former lover, Tildee, steals information she believes to be tek from Saul’s office and takes it to the agency that investigates such activities, the Anti-Tek Table.Jack has not totally given up his illicit affairs. On one such nighttime venture he and a partner witness Saul’s arrest by Anti-Tek. Jack and his friend race to the Moers’ Great House and inform Samyel. Saul has been incarcerated in the City’s dungeon, the infamous Black Box. Samyel and Mikela try but fail to obtain his release by legal means.Because of the great respect Jack holds for Samyel he invades the Black Box to rescue Saul. The attempt fails. Jack is caught and beaten. Anti-Tek forces have already spent a day torturing Saul to try to learn the names of others involved teknal “heresies.” Saul, after witnessing Jack’s capture and fearing he’ll give up Samyel’s and other names during the next torture session, kills himself.During Jack’s captivity his enemy Officer Mucfeerz visits him to tell how he intends to disfigure Lilliyaana whom he believes is Jack’s girlfriend. Jack finds a way to kill a guard and escape. Though desperate to stop Mucfeerz from reaching Lilliyaana his injuries from days of abuse force him to rest for a long day. When he is able he goes to Mucfeerz’ route between home and work, lays in wait and, after he finds Mucfeerz has not yet harmed Lilliyaana, kills him. Then Jack retreats to a place no one can find him to fully recuperate.At last Samyel and Mikela find out where the gold has laid hidden for these many centuries.