Skrona is the transshipment port for the greater part of Iskander’s manufactures; every speculator, crook and get-rich-quick businessman in the world has flocked to it. Every nation has sent their best spies to learn what they can of Iskander’s modern technology. The city is the home of most of the Lubitz colonists who used to rule this part of Tarnland…they are now outnumbered by the Tarnlanders who have returned to the city that used to be theirs. The city is governed by Iskander with a mandate to keep the peace between the two factions who hate one another. It is Gisel’s job to prevent out-right genocide.
The story takes place during the last weeks of her pregnancy. Everyone expects all hell to break loose when she goes into labour…when the cat is away the mice will play. She knows she must devise a really effective ‘Wildcat Trick’ this time to keep the lid on, but she doesn’t even have enough troops to control the whole city. Someone will have to be sacrificed, but who?
The Iskander-Felger partnership lives in the governor’s mansion most days, but Yohan has an office in the dockyard and is often called away to Lubitz to deal with the other cornerstone of their business. He has to visit the coalmines in the Novrehan Mountains (Sudetenland, it used to be on Earth) that they must buy to keep Iskander’s steelworks going; he has to manage the shipping on the Lubitz river; and the new railway under construction to move their exports further into Wasbia. In Skrona he has the ethnic troubles between the two groups of workmen as well as the proscribed Worker’s Brotherhood’s unheard-of social ideas that he feels are being encouraged too much by his wife. Some times he feels she gets to govern a bit too much in their marriage.
Some old enemies of Gisel’s find their way to Skrona. Although the war between Tarnland and Whonmark is on hold while the peace treaty lasts, no one expects hostilities are completely over. The King of Whonmark has sent a spy to learn the secrets of the Tarnlish troop mobilization plans if war resumes…a man who has a very big grudge against Gisel. The Empire has sent Zagdorf to learn military secrets and to begin a new covert operation that will steal secrets in the Partnership. And then there are the Scathians who demand too much, but whom Iskander must soothe and continually appease in the event they may need them as allies should the Empire decide to make war again.