The returning mercenary Crimson Guard are sworn to oppose the Empire. Some elite Avowed scheme to open paths to power. Ascendants, ancient powerful entities, seek to exploit all sides for gain. "Traveller", a swordsman, and his companion Ereko, confront successive enemies until the last from which none have returned. "Old Hands", generals and mages from the previous Emperor, direct civil war. But Empress Laseen may draw out survivors for final elimination.