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A young cousin she has never met becomes a pretender to the throne and mobilizes roving armies of the poor and dispossessed, which causes the priority of her loyalties to become even more suspect. However, Ehli-nikkalu discovers a terrible secret that could destabilize the present regime if the pretender ever learns of it.
With the help of a kindly scribe, her brave young ward, and an embittered former soldier trapped in debt and self-doubt, Ehli-nikkalu sets out to save the kingdom and prove herself to her father. And along the way, she learns something about love.