There is a rot at the heart of the Empire. Malspire, a cripple known as the Undertaker is the bitter twin of the perfect Imperial hero and yet it is Malspire who is fated be the one who can save the world. What he must decide is whether or not he cares. When his beloved brother vanishes, he makes his choice. More
The air is dry, the heat unbearable, and Lord Malspire Ronsteim is being flogged. Fractious and rebellious they say, yet he considers himself just craven and weakly, the crippled son of a Lord Admiral and pale twin to the heroic Ajator. His bent body is tied to the frame where he is lashed to within an inch of his life. The spiteful and bitter Captain Crosp, wants Malspire's life.
His wounds heal and Malspire befriends the crew who teach him the ways of the sea. Crosp is enraged and seeks yet another opportunity to rid himself of the cripple. Malspire is called upon to rescue a merchant from pirates. The fight is desperate and Malspire can tell that they are losing when he spies the enemy captain. He challenges the man to a duel. Although vastly out-skilled, Malspire is lucky or fate has a greater plan, for he survives and saves the beautiful Veinara with whom he falls in love. He knows he is bent and ugly but she seems to like him and offers him the hope. Malspire is not to win her heart however as his brother, Ajator, is awaiting him at port. When the perfect Ajator and Veinara's eyes meet, Malspire knows he has lost her. Out of loyalty and pride, the heart broken Malspire keeps his feelings to himself.
The Wraith Deep is the name of the steam frigate taken as prize and given to the now newly promoted Captain Malspire. The ship is a wreck and the ragtag crew he is given hardly enough to even set sail let alone fight the rebellion, yet Malspire is elated and high on dreams of adventure and discovery.
Malspire puts to sea in his new ship. The rebels are amassing a fleet for an attack on the Empire’s western most port, but the Empire needs more intelligence. Malspire plans to take a rebel codebook. With the ship of a privateer the plan is simple: Sail into a rebel port in disguise and snatch one from under their very noses. Madness perhaps, but Malspire has little to lose and much to prove.
Through cunning and luck, Malspire and his ship make it to the rebel port where he tricks a rebel officer, assumes his identity and steals aboard a rebel battleship. Here Malspire is forced to kill in order to take the book. Trapped and out of options he climbs over the side of the ship and swims for safety and comes within only a single breath of drowning. He has a copy of the codebook, so the Wraith Deep makes full speed for home but not before witnessing the rebel armada about to launch its strike.
Pushing the ship and crew beyond all tolerance, Malspire takes the news directly to the High Admiral aboard the flagship, the Grand Oak, who together with the enigmatic secret agent of the Emperor, Lord Mornight Pavantu, orders Malspire to capture a rebel watchtower so that the Imperial Fleet can ambush the enemy.
With the aid of a dainty beauty more deadly than arsenic, Malspire and his men overcome the watchtower. Malspire however is not satisfied, and decides to join the fleet. The night-time, epic battle that follows is a thunderous vision in black and white of hell and fire, and sees Malspire and his men make the ultimate sacrifice by using their ship as a battering ram to stop the rebel flagship from destroying the Grand Oak. Victory is theirs.
Malspire, now a hero, and his victorious crew return home where fate twists and turns its unjust course. He is instantly placed under arrest by Lord Mornight Pavantu! The crime however is not Malspire's but his brother's. Ajator has attacked the master of the Secret Servants. Ajator is called a traitor and Malspire is now under the burning scrutiny of the feared Secret Servants. Pavantu however does not suspect Malpire, and helps him escape.
Malspire is close to panic. His beloved brother, the great hero, is being called a traitor. Not only this, but Veinara arrives in the hope that Malspire will search for Ajator.
Together with his crew and the now pregnant Veinara whom Malspire still secretly loves, they set off in search of Ajator. He must find his brother before the Empire does!