Our tale begins to the south of Chiaroscuro. The mercenary Shadow Edge has been tracing a strange bauble which he recognizes from a past life; his contacts in the Guild tell him, that it was found in a ruined university recently uncovered by the shifting sands.
Shadow Edge hitches a ride with his friend Faqir, and finds – to his great surprise – that the university holds more than just memories – in it, he meets Rakios of the Sun-Searing Fist, the reincarnation of General Gao. Rakios greets him, and explains he feels a strong connection to his First Age incarnation and remembers a great lot about it – including that Shadow Edge was once Janira Baccaran, the clever thief.
In the ruins of the old university, he has discovered a sealed box that once belonged to her. Shadow Edge opens it, to find it contains an ancient weapon, left there by Janira for the local savants to study. Pleased with having discovered two old friends – General Gao, and the sword-bow he wielded in another life – Shadow Edge invites Rakios to come with him back to Faqir’s camp. On the way, he tells Rakios that he is searching for his sister, who is in the clutches of a dragon-blooded slaver.
Once back in the camp, Shadow Edge and Rakios learn from Faqir that there is a Wyld Hunt on the move towards the South, looking for an Anathema. Rakios wishes to save this fellow Solar or Lunar; Edge is hesitant at first, but changes his mind when he hears Tepet Lisara is marching with the Hunt, for she knows where his sister may be found.
Together, Shadow Edge and Rakios venture across the scorching desert. They face many dangers – the Dune People, the ghosts of the desert, and an inbred demon-worshiping cult in the village of Afshar – but they also make friends with a group of Varangian refugees, who claim to have been attacked by a flamepiece-wielding devil.
Eventually they arrive in Camp Zalim, where they meet a third old friend – the reincarnated form of Takeshi the Poet, who is now Sahlak Keemia, a merchant-woman of the Guild. She explains that the Dune People are moving north, and attacked her caravan; she Exalted trying to save her fellow Guildsmen, mere weeks ago. They made the trek to the oasis at Zalim but can go no further, lacking enough horses and camels. She sent a man named Jafaar for help, but since the Wyld Hunt has been alerted, she guesses he must have betrayed her.
The three heroes find themselves forced to outmaneuver the Hunt – they cannot fight them openly, and they cannot just run away from them because of Shadow Edge’s plight. Furthermore, their task is complicated by how Keemia’s retinue of Guildsmen need to be saved from the desert as well. Eventually, it is decided that Shadow Edge will spy on the Wyld Hunt and see what can be done, while Rakios recovers from his injuries.