Forthweg has been lost to the Algarvian and the Unkerlanter soldiers. Not satisfied to share the plundered Forthweg, Algarve invaces Unkerlant and begins its march on the capital during the harsh Unkerlant winter. Away from the front, Algarvian soldiers corral Kaunians to send them west, toward the front, to work camps. The Kaunians left behind are worried about what the camps might mean, but are assuaged by Algarvian lies. In Kuusamo, scholars race to find the relation between the laws of similarity and contagion, while the patient warriors of Zuwayza weigh the merits of siding with either the Algarvians or the Unkerlanters. Rumors abound about the Algarvian work camps, rumors most cannot believe are true. But the mages know, for they can feel the loss of life in their very souls. The characters take on their own lives as the reader sees the war from all sides and understands how the death and destruction benefits no one, not even the victors. In this world, the battle escalates and people tremble under the darkness descending.