From the book cover…
To honor the memory of his recently deceased father, a general who led the forces of imperial Kitai in it’s last great war twenty years before, Shen Tai has spent the two years of official mourning alone at the isolated battle site, burying as many of the unnumbered dead lying there as he can. The dead are equally Kitan an their Taguran foes: there is no way to tell the bones apart, and he treats them all reverently. At night Tai can hear the ghosts moan and stir, and occasionally , when one voice falls silent, he knows it belonged to somone he has laid to rest.
Both sides respect his solitary work and take turns bringing him supplies, and it is during such a visit from a Taguran officer that Tai learns powerful forces have taken note of his vigil. The White Jade Princess Cheng-Wan, seventeenth daughter of the Emporer of Kitai, sent west after this last battle to seal the peace with Tagur, is pleased to present him with two hundred fifty Sardian horses. Tey are being given to him, she writes, in royal recognition of his courage and piety and of the honor he has done the dead.
You give a man one of the legendary Sardian horses to reward him greatly.You give him four or five to exalt him above his fellows, propel him toward rank, and earn him jealousy, possibly mortal jealousy. Giving him two hundrend fifty is unthinkable – a gift to overwhelm an emperor.
Tai is in deep waters. He needs to get himself – and his own emperor – back to court alive. Riding the first of the Sardian horses and bringing news of the rest, he starts east toward the glittering, dangerous capitol of Kitai, and gathers his wits for a return to his forever-altered life.