|“|| No Black Company member has died in battle for four years. Croaker figures it can't last. He's right.
For, of course, many of the Company's old adversaries are still around. Narayan Singh and his adopted daughter—actually the offspring of Croaker and Lady—hope to bring about the apocalyptic Year of the Skulls. Other old enemies like Longshadow and Howler are also ready to do the Company harm. And much of the Company is still recovering from the fifteen years many of them spent in a stasis field.
Then a report arrives of an old enemy newly active again. It attacks them at a shadowgate—setting off a chain of events that will bring the Company to the edge of apocalypse and, as usual, several steps beyond.
–From the back cover
Four years have passed since the Captured were freed from the cave of the ancients. Sleepy has taken over the role of Captain of the Black Company who now reside in Hsien, or the Land of Unknown Shadows, another world linked to the plain of glittering stone. Here they have built up a town called Abode of Ravens where the Company bides its time amassing new recruits from the new world and recovering the riches buried under Shivetya's fortress with no name. This is all in order to eventually re-enter the homeworld and overthrow Soulcatcher's Protectorate.
However, the Company is in far from a perfect situation, as the ruling faction of Hsien, the File of Nine would prefer they leave, and demand the Company hand over their main bargaining chip Longshadow, who brutally ruled over Hsien decades before. Many of the old crew have long since died, including the resilient Otto and Hagop, which leaves Croaker isolated in a Company he now barely recognises. In addition, Croaker and his wife Lady are deeply concerned about Tobo, now a formidable wizard, who has almost magnetically attracted supernatural creatures called Unknown Shadows.
Events quickly escalate after an old enemy, Lisa Daele Bowalk returns to exact her revenge. Entering the Abode of Ravens at night she attacks finally killing her main prey, the venerable One-Eye before being repelled by Lady. Soon after the File and the leaders of the Company meet at the library at Khang Phi, to continue in negotiations. However, no resolution is met upon, and Sleepy reveals it was partially a ruse in order to attain knowledge from the libraries to reopen the Shadowgate. Infuriated, the File amass their military to fight the Black Company. This forces Sleepy to accelerate their plans to pass through the Shadowgate, preferring to preserve their numbers for the fight against Soulcatcher.