Twenty years after the "Ichani Invasion" the Guild has witnessed some major changes. Talented children from all social ranks are now accepted into the Guild even though tensions arise between the various groups. Upon learning the secrets of Black Magic the Rank of Black Magician was created. However, there are some restrictions since the guild is afraid a Black Magician might abuse his or her power. Sonea and the second Black Magician, Kallen, are thus supposed to control each other. Sonea now runs the Hospices which offer free healing to all (as seen at the end of "The High Lord"). Her son Lorkin has graduated and does not yet know what to do with his life. He is intrigued when reading Dannyl's records of old, forgotten magic. Dannyl however wants to visit Sachaka as the Guild's Ambassador and so Lorkin decides to join him which brings tensions to the Guild, some of the members fearing that sending the son of the man who killed so many Sachakans may be seen as an insult. After long discussions Lorkin is allowed to leave with Dannyl.
Meanwhile the Thieves have broken their truce and no longer work together leading to a greater rivalry than before. Even worse, someone starts killing off Thieves; one after the other. When Ceryni's family is killed while he is at a meeting with Faren's successor Skellin, he takes a personal interest in finding the culprit. Upon learning that the "Thief Hunter" uses magic he informs Sonea of the rogue. They decide that if Cery can find her Sonea will trap her and bring her back to the Guild for investigation. They also decide not to inform the Guild fearing a similar unsuccessful manhunt as seen in "The Magicians' Guild".
In Sachaka, Lord Lorkin and Ambassador Dannyl have difficulties adjusting to the fact that there are only slaves and no servants. Lorkin tries to befriend a female slave called Tyvara to learn from her. The Advisor to the King Ashaki Achati introduces them to many important people, some of whom have a lot of information about the history of magic, the Guild and the Sachakan war (which are of great interest to Dannyl and Lorkin). One night, Lorkin wakes up to a woman bedding him and thinking it is Tyvara (to whom he has struck a liking) lets her be. The woman is then surprised and killed (with Black Magic) by Tyvara. Lorkin finds out that there is a mighty rebel organization called “The Traitors” (of which Tyvara is a scout) who are led by women. Fearing further assassination attempts they decide to flee to the “Sanctuary,” the Traitors' headquarter in the Sachakan Mountains to the North. During their travels Lorkin finds out there are two factions of the Traitors which do not agree what to do with him. Twenty-five years previously, Akkarin had learned Black Magic from the Traitors and promised to teach them healing magic (of which the Sachakans have no knowledge). After killing Dakova he fled and thus broke his promise, which led to the death of the Queen’s daughter. This was the reason for one faction wanting to punish Lorkin for his father’s actions, the other wanting to learn healing magic from him. Dannyl, thinking that Lorkin has been kidnapped, decides to follow him and learns a lot about Sachakan culture from his companion Ashaki Achati.
Meanwhile in Imardin Cery has informed his estranged daughter Anyi (from his first marriage) that she might be in danger and has taken her as his bodyguard, so that he can keep an eye upon her without anyone knowing of their relationship. He finds the traitor who to his surprise is a woman of the same race as Skellin. He informs Skellin of his progress and receives a tip on where the woman might be. After informing Sonea and Regin (with whom Sonea is now on speaking terms) they set out to capture the woman, only to realize she is not the rogue they originally discovered. Anyi, who watches the action from a distance, observes the original rogue and informs Sonea who (with the help of two other magicians) manages to capture her. After reading both womens' minds, Sonea discovers that the real traitor is Skellin’s mother and the Thief Hunter. The other woman was blackmailed and set up to be caught by Cery. At the hearing, Anyi and Cery were also questioned and Anyi recognizes Black Magician Kallen to be an accomplice of Skellin’s, setting a new mystery to be investigated in “The Rogue”.
In Sachaka, Tyvara and Lorkin meet Speaker Savara and travel to Sanctuary with her. Dannyl and a group of Sachakan Ashaki gain on the Traitors. Dannyl gets deliberately separated from the group and talks to Lorkin, who convinces him to give up since the Traitors would otherwise kill Dannyl. Lorkin then continues on to Sanctuary, where he speaks upon Tyvara’s behalf in the trial held against her for murder. Thanks to Lorkin she is found as not guilty but is confined to Sanctuary. Lorkin, as an outsider, is also confined but is committed to help in some way. As a twist of fate they send him to the sick houses to heal. Lorkin hopes to arrange a deal with the Traitors involving trading some old forgotten magic (like Storestones) for healing magic.