Queen Ariane, Longswordsman Corin an Fol and friends, having narrowly sprung the trap in Crenna, sail south in pursuit of the lost prince, Tarin and missing fragments of the crystal crown - the Tekara. Zallerak, a mysterious Warlock/bard, has joined their cause, informing them that Tarin is bound for the Permio Deserts, to seek the blind Smith-God who will re-forge the crown to redress his earlier crimes. Corin doesn't trust Zallerak although the bard's trickery has helped them twice. Despite Corin's misgivings, Ariane believes their only hope now lies in taking the bard's advice, and overtaking Tarin before Caswallon's ally, the Sultan of Permio catches up with the prince.

Meanwhile Rael the Assassin of Crenna is hot on their tail again. Furious at being fooled in his own castle, Rael has vowed to slay them all, except the queen who he will deliver in chains to Caswallon. Corin, for his part, has sworn to kill the Assassin and avenge the death of a friend. In Permio Ariane's confidante, the merchant Silon, meets with a desert chief in secret. Together they plot the downfall of the despised sultan. Silon knows that with Permio onside they can bring the fight back to Caswallon. But the usurper is informed of their various plans by his goblin spymaster, Gribble. And once again Caswallon's net closes on Queen Ariane and her increasingly desperate desperados.