The Artifact Competition is over. Jav Holson has won the Kaiser Bones, and just in time, too, as invaders arrive to assault the Root Palace. Somehow, these Gun Golems are the perfect foil for Shades, exacting a terrible toll on the Empire in an embarrassingly short time. Using the Eighteen Heavenly Claws and backed by the Kaiser Bones, Jav quickly proves his worth, dispatching a number of Gun Golems himself--an impressive feat considering the invaders' origins and purpose.
The Shades rally to meet the Gun Golems' onslaught, but success brings no respite. With the Root Palace in transit between star systems and cut off from the rest of the Empire, a series of impossible crimes further rocks the Palace and threatens the Empire's future. On an unalterable course, six months from planetfall, Shades and Artifact Competition finalists are being picked off one by one by an unknown force that stalks the Palace, deadly and unseen. Is there a traitor in their midst? Or have they picked up some malevolent passenger? No one knows, but trust is a luxury and nobody is above suspicion.
Alone, Jav can do nothing but support his fellows, particularly his friend, Ren Fauer, the newly appointed Director of Imperial Police, and be ready to pit his mastery of the Eighteen Heavenly Claws against whatever it is hiding in the Palace shadows--but will it be enough?