I am myself. I am canny, brutal, experienced. I laugh at the gods. I delight in life. My foes meet death swiftly.
I am a master-assassin, with a soul cursed by morality. I am short and swift, with dark hair and pale complexion. My knowledge of mechanics and clockworks is without equal — a fact that can be readily inferred from the devices of death I carry.
I have come to the fetid, lovely Jeweled Swamps because I touched a dark crystal that cursed me with morality. If I were to find it and shatter it into thousand pieces, my conscience would go away and I could be an assassin again.
Boikolo Rai is a lithe youngster of the whistling phou tribe, a “scout” – a hunter in training. His is an innocent love for powerful warriors, approved in his tribe; he is open-hearted about admiring the powerful and the exotic, and he is knowledgeable in the ways of manly love, as is the custom among his people.
Having recently lost his mentor Kurava to mindless murder, Rai is at loose ends and vulnerable to being cast out of the hunting troop, the central social organization of his tribe. Still unable to claim his place as a hunter, yet burning with the will to avenge his mentor and prove himself, Rai has to choose how much he is willing to place in the hands of a dangerous, compelling stranger.
Pale Urgaur is an ancient shaman of the whistling phou, a man taken to the form of a beast; it kills lightning-fast, deceitfully like a crocodile or a hunting snake. It is a savage, lonesome beast, yet cunning and pregnant with human evil. Bovine in shape, yet comfortable in the waters of the swamp.
Pale Urgaur became a gaur-beast after thorough indoctrination into the spirit-arts of the Shalmali, learning to set aside the tools of humanity. The price of these arts only becomes clear to the whistling phou when their spiritual warden becomes the tool of conflict in an ancient struggle of inhuman sorcery.