Former soldier, Mark Armstrong, finds himself in a strange new world where the dangers are from things he could never have imagined!
Along with his new-found friends, Mark has escaped from Al-dushara palace and the strange beasts hunting them there. So at first their biggest problem is what to do with the traitorous Duke Gabor and his spoilt daughter, Lyris. From the start there’s conflict in their group – Elias and Teryl are in love with Lyris, and even when she’s wrong and causing friction they won’t abandon her. Yet they’ve barely left the shores of Dushan when bigger trouble strikes! Olwine, Teryl and Lyris are betrayed by their own and end up in the hands of Narwal Horde slavers. Then when the others free them it’s only to find that their deadly enemy, the Khol-Reyne, can reach further afield with the Gift than anyone thought!
Fleeing deeper into Dhaspara province of the Jastrovian Empire, they believe that their best chance is to ally with Emperor Jeno, who is fighting a mysterious force from the north in a desperate bid to avoid being overthrown. Can they convince Jeno that the Khol-Reyne are behind all of their problems? Yet they discover another worrying development when the regent of neighbouring Triqlinia, Duke Imry, is found on the run by Mark and Teryl. Are the Khol-Reyne encircling them, and why? What is their motive? What spurs the Khol-Reyne on to such destruction? Yet after decades of imprisonment and torture, the Khol-Reyne are no longer wholly sane, and what drives them is something no-one else would guess!
With Mark’s experience now key, he persuades his friends and allies that they must find out more about the dangerous Gift, how it works, and who can wield it. And that information is most likely to survive in Dhaspara’s ancient capital of Irtysh from back in the days when it was part of an older kingdom than the empire. But Irtysh is fraught with dangers! The Gift is here and it seems to be wild and uncontrolled! Hiding in empty houses to avoid detection by the network of watchers, the eight of them search desperately for any information which will help them combat the Khol-Reyne, but the Khol-Reyne themselves have found their way back into the heart of what was once their kingdom, and a secret place in Staer-Dushan which amplifies their Gift.
Even as they find books which might help them, and a strange new ally, Mark and his friends are forced to flee Irtysh as the stone gryphons, gryphes and chimaeri once again hunt them with lethal intent!