Brandon vlith-Arkad is safe on Ares, the Panarchic Navy's HQ. The sole heir to the Phoenix Throne must now fight a battle of symbols and deadly political intent, if he is to win the power to order the Navy into battle, to rescue his father, and win back the Empire now usurped by Eusabian of Dol'jhar. With him in this prison of velvet ropes and poisoned gifts is the crew of the Telvarna, the Rifter pirates whose loyalty Brandon has won in battle. Meanwhile, Brandon's father, the Panarch of the Thousand Suns, is being transported to the prison planet Gehenna. On board the ship he is fighting his own subtle war with his former fosterling, Eusabian's son, Anaris. If Gelasaar can discover any hint that Anaris can rule as an Arkad would, the captive Panarch will aid Anaris to overthrow Eusabian himself.