For Migda Sagan, mother of the rival claimant, remains just beyond his reach at her fortress in the foothills of the East Wall, the towering mountains that border this cold land. From there she plots to free her son, Bregdan, and to summon her warriors - to renew the war and throw off Symon's yoke.
Unknowingly, Migda calls on the help of one of the most hated sort of people in the land, a witch capable of all sorts of mischief from picking locks to starting fires to changing his appearance into any human shape he desires, in order to free Bregdan from captivity.
That witch is a distant cousin named Ref Sagan, the dispossessed son of the former Lord of the North. When Migda learns Ref's secret, she prevails on him to assume Bregdan's identity, for Symon has dispatched assassins to kill her son, so that final victory comes within her grasp. And only this subterfuge can keep Bregdan safe.
Ref is meant to act as a mere figurehead for Migda's army. But he becomes more than that. In the desperate struggle for control of Forst, he becomes Lord of the North.