For young Prince Harpirias, the journey into the frozen tundra beyond Majipoor might well be a death sentence. But it's also the only way out of a petty bureaucrat's job in a provincial city. His mission is to rescue a lost party of paleontologists searching for the fossils of a fabled species of land-dwelling dragons. Setting out with a small band of soldiers and a wily Shapeshifter, who acts as both guide and interpreter, Harpirias will endure blinding blizzards, slashing ice storms, physical privation, and the attack of strange beasts.
But the worst is yet to come. For when they finally reach their destination, they come face-to-face with a shockingly barbaric culture ruled by a dangerous chieftain. One mistake, one minor violation of a custom or a taboo, and the prince and his companions will face instant death – or endless captivity.