While the bloodsucking Piri fight the one-eyed Ocular, the aquatic Merks exploit their cousins the Markene and the Sirene, and the Trulls fight among themselves as they, like the other races that unwillingly share the world after having been thrust there by a fate they don’t understand, battle for survival.
But amid the chaos of the ravaged earth there are signs of hope for a brighter future. Jepp, a woman- a human woman- is about to be carried off by two pug-ugly Mandraques who think she’d make a cool battle prize. But Karsen Foux, one of a motley tribe of bottom-feeders, can’t bear the thought of what would happen to her if she’s captured, so he gathers his courage and saves her, much to his own surprise.
Jepp joins the tribe, to the delight of Karsen and the chagrin of Zerena, the tribe’s leader. Leading a precarious existence and making bad deals with unscrupulous and powerful people, the bottom-feeders manage to survive, until they are forced to return a favor once done for them by Nagel, King of the Ocular. It seems simple enough. They must find and bring to him the legendary Orb of Light, fabled to be the key to the world’s salvation. Jepp and Karsen are somehow sure that there is a better way, if only they can unite all the peoples of the world. But they can’t even think about their own needs until they do what Nagel asked.
But as their quest for the Orb begins, none of its seekers realize that the fabled Orb, once known by a much more ominous name, could lead to the utter destruction of the only world they’ve got...