The bleak medieval world of Candarigge is ruled by the Coadrix, a tyrant of vast cruelty and unwavering ruthlessness. In a bid for freedom, rebels plan an audacious and bloody Midsummer's Night's reprisal. But the unthinkable happens and the rebellion fails.
In the bitter aftermath, the rebellion's leader Tredegan is captured, tortured and left more dead than alive. He is rescued but his recovery is arduous – and incomplete. The torture-master Baericollis has left him physically and mentally scarred, a victim of mood-swings, flashbacks and nightmares.
The Coadrix has plans to further increase his power at terrible cost to Candarigge, and escaped rebel Ellearne urges Tredegan to start a new rebellion. She convinces him but Tredegan has changed – no longer an idealist, he is twisted by a lust for vengeance. This may jeopardise the rebellion itself... and bring a far worse fate to the world than anything spawned by the Coadrix.