Ling is hated because his birth killed his mother. He hopes that testing will ease his troubles—either his rank will be so low that everyone forgets about him, or it will be so high they'll be forced to respect him. What he doesn't expect is to walk out of the testing chamber with an egg emblazoned on his back. Laughed out of the Monastery, Ling hides himself in Altnoia, where he becomes embroiled in a plot to overthrow King Edan and the Oracle who supports him.
The ringleader behind the plot is Prince Damarion, son of the evil despot who forced King Edan to flee in the first place—but his motives are not anything that Ling could have anticipated. Neither could he anticipate a friendship, or what that friendship could become, and the choices it would force him to make.