The youngest son of Prince Arutha, Nicholas is sent to Crydee to be toughened by his uncle Martin who choses to make him his squire. The Far Coast is attacked by Durbin slavers and pirates from the Sunset Islands. Nicholas's cousin Margaret; a girl Abigail, with whom Nicholas and his cousin Marcus are infatuated; and many young people are taken while he, Martin, and Marcus are out hunting. Admiral Trask manages to survive the attack and returns to Crydee where Pug learns that the attack is more than it seems and he cannot follow without endangering everyone taken. Amiral Trask decides that returning to his old profession of piracy is the best disguise to follow after the taken. So they set out after Nicholas manages to overcome his physical handicap. They go to the Sunset Islands where they discover further clues and follow the true captors to a new, and previously unknown, continent. Only a fraction of the pursuing crew survives after a storm that sinks their ship and a trek through a desert. They make their way to where the captives were taken, the City of the Serpent River, and pose as mercenaries with Nicholas as the Captain. They discover that the Pantathians were behind this, and the plot was to introduce a virulent plague in the Kingdom. They save the captives and manage to seize a ship to escape and return to the Kingdom in pursuit of a second ship containing the infected clones of the captives. They in turn are pursued by a necromancer. In the Bitter Sea they have a battle with both enemy ships and they manage to burn, and sink, one. However, the other ship manned by the undead controlled by the necromancer is hard to destroy. At this point, Pug appears on a dragon and destroys it. Nicholas returns to Krondor, people are rewarded, and Nicholas decides to be a sailor.
Note This is a prequel to the Serpentwar Saga.