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. When a group of mysterious merchants arrives bearing gifts and hoping to strike a trade agreement, Reswen has his suspicions. Before it's too late, he must discover the truth behind the visitors' smiles, and allies himself with a beautiful courtesan-spy and a wayward wizard...whose rusty spells may be Niau's only defense against the sinister sorcery of the all-powerful Eastern Lords.