For years the land of Ar has lived at peace. Here the catlike mrem rule by duty and honor. Now, from the East, their legendary enemies have risen again, and only the outcast, dark-furred Talwe, Princess Sruss and the Council of the Three have the magic to battle the Eastern Lords' evil sorcery.
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Under the careful guidance of the catlike mrem, the city of Niau has grown into a prosperous trading center. It lies, however, far to the east - on the very edge of the kingdom of Ar - ever vulnerable to invasion by the mrem's legendary enemies, the Eastern Lords. Ordered to guard Niau from an attack that may never come, the mercenary Reswen - a veteran of the great battle at Cragsclaw - accepts his king's will. Working undercover, he rises to become chief of the secret police, aware of all the city's intrigues.
Counseled by an evil sorcerer, King Talwe has allowed Ar to fall into a fatal decadence. He has exiled his faithful lieutenant Paralan, and banished the concubine who is bearing his child to the barbaric outpost of Pleir. Now years later, the young herdsman Falon sets out on a mysterious mission to the border city of Tizare, accompanied by a would-be wizard and a half-wild child. Their quest is all that stands between Ar and an eternal nightmare of tyranny.
The evil sorcerer Khal has at last escaped Kazerclawm and reclaimed the cursed gem called the Third Eye. Even the Three cannot defy him, and the fate of the mrem depends upon Branwe, a traitor's son; Sruss, the powerful queen mother; and Srana, the White Dancer, granddaughter of Khal's greatest enemy.