The currently released sixth novel in the Cradle series by Will Wight.
A tournament approaches.
All around the world, great clans and sects prepare their disciples to fight against one another in a competition of young Underlords. Even the Blackflame Empire is drawn in, but their youth are not strong enough to compete.
On Iteration 986, the Abidan aim to protect a world from the Vroshir. Due to the disappearance of Ozriel, the Abidan have been stretched out across worlds. Suriel arrives and eradicates the Vroshir with her power, but there is much work to be done.
Akura Charity, the Heart Sage, attempts to save Akura Harmony from Ghostwater, blocked by the power of Northstrider. Noting that the portal was destroyed with the power of Blackflame, and needing for strong sacred artists serving the Akura family, she decides to apply extra pressure to Lindon- either he pays for his actions, or grows into a useful asset for the family.
Lindon, Yerin, Orthos, Mercy, Little Blue and Dross are piloting a cloudship heading back to the Empire. Searching for a nearby town where they can contact Eithan, they instead encounter Naru Gwei and the Skysworn. The party clashes with Skysworn Truegolds, and Dross reveals that he needs sufficient data from enemy combatants before he can run combat simulations. After holding off Naru Gwei, he agrees to hear them out at the Skysworn base. On the way, Lindon offers Yerin the resources he gathered from Ghostwater.
Charity visits Emperor Naru Huan of the Blackflame Empire and his court. Due to the upcoming Uncrowned Tournament, a clash between Underlords under 35, she wants to push forward a team composed of Underlords from the weakest Akura vassal territories, the Blackflame Empire and their rival Seishen Kingdom. In preparation, she offers them access to one of the Akura sacred training grounds, Night Wheel Valley, where treasure abounds and sacred artists are more easily able to advance. She will further reward them for each Underlord selected from their territory. They have two months to prepare before the portal opens.
At Skysworn headquarters, the party talks with Bai Rou and Naru Gwei, before Eithan pops in and takes over as party leader for Lindon, Yerin, and Mercy. He plans to train them as they carry out their Skysworn duties. Eithan discusses the three steps for progressing from Truegold to Underlord- mastering yourself, mastering the world around you, and then connecting yourself to the world. Mastering yourself opens a soulspace, mastering the world around you begins developing your storage of soulfire, and connecting yourself to the world links your driving motivation to the world and allows you to be reborn in soulfire. Eithan offers Yerin additional training in the form of dream tablets from the Sage of Red Faith, giving her guidance on making her Blood Shadow stronger. The team fulfills missions as Skysworn on their way to Blackflame City, the capital of the Blackflame Empire, where they meet with Cassius. Eithan refuses to teach Lindon more pure madra techniques until he acclimates to his recent rapid growth, in addition to needing Lindon's core to be even larger to actually take advantage of them. Eithan takes the party to a pillar of darkness, a portal that leads to the Night Wheel Valley, ahead of the other sacred artists.
Charity explains the rules of engagement to the gathered Blackflame Empire and Seishen Kingdom in their respective capitals. In the Seishen capital, the Overlord King Dakata plays up the strength of his elder son, Underlord Seishen Kiro, as his younger son Truegold Daji looks on in envy. The strongest Underlord of the Seishen Kingdom is Kiro's servant and gardener, Underlady Riyusai Meira, who holds fanatical loyalty towards him. Charity offers the members of the Seishen Kingdom an additional task- to challenge Lindon. She warns them that anyone weaker than Underlord would likely die against him.
Eithan splits up the party to gather treasures from the new land and encourage their training. They return to the portal to the Blackflame Empire, who have setup a temporary base near the portal, and he takes them to Fisher Gesha's workshop. Gesha has prepared 4 pills which, when amplified by the power of Lindon's Ghostwater, instantly powering his pure core to Truegold and taking both cores to the peak of it, and opens his soulspace, increasing it to the size of a bean. One is taken by Orthos, and two are taken by Yerin, one of which goes to powering her Blood Shadow. One pill is offered to Mercy, who refuses it. In the aftermath, Orthos leaves the party, claiming that he is falling behind, needs to go on a journey for his own advancement, and will be far below the heights Lindon will ascend to in the intervening years.
Yerin and Lindon struggle to find their revelation of self, required to make the leap to Underlord. The Seishen Kingdom prepares for an all out attack against the Blackflame Empire, planning to drive them out of the Valley and reap the rewards for themselves. Lindon clashes with Kiro, holding him off as he returns to his party, while Mercy and Yerin fight with Meira. Yerin empowers her Blood Shadow, enabling her to drive off the pair of enemy Underlords, but suffering an attack from Meira's weapon has cut through her lifeline. She awakens in the tent with two months to live unless she can reach Underlord. Eithan helps Cassius fight off a Seishen Underlord, but the Blackflame Empire has been driven out of the valley.
Mercy meets with Charity and discusses recent events, and Charity offers her a favor due to the unfair pressure she has applied. Eithan takes Lindon to Gesha, empowering Dross so that he can simulate soulsmithing to create greater products with an increased success rate. Yerin threatens her Blood Shadow into compliance. Eight weeks pass, with Lindon using Dross to soulsmith many products. Mercy offers some advice about following his fear that allows Lindon to reach his revelation- he wishes to prove that he isn't useless, pushing forward so that he feels like he's worth something. Mercy interrupts his advancement so that he can do it in Night Wheel Valley, where advancement will take minutes rather than weeks. Naru Gwei informs Lindon, Mercy, and Yerin, that the Empire is withdrawing from the Tournament. They have half a dozen new Underlords, but most Underlords in the Empire are above the age limit. but they propose a direct assault on a hoard of Charity's treasures in the Nightwheel Valley, which Charity tacitly approves as her favor to Mercy. Charity approaches the Seishen Kingdom and warns them of the impending assault, including the specific location where Lindon, Mercy, and Yerin to which will slip away during the clash. Even with many new Underlords, including Daji, she tells them that their actions have not yet changed her decision- she has one Underlord from the Empire, one from the Kingdom, and an empty third slot.
The Seishen Kingdom cuts off the Blackflame Empire's assault. As predicted, Lindon, Mercy, and Yerin slip away to Charity's vault of treasures, where they are intercepted by Daji, Kiro, and Meira. Once again, Lindon clashes with Kiro and Yerin clashes with Meira, with Mercy drawing Daji away. Lindon uses his Soulsmith constructs and Dross to gain an advantage over Kiro, driving him into a room full of dream madra treasures that temporarily disable him. Mercy holds off Daji for a while, but is killed and revived by her mother. Having lost her bet, she speaks with her mother, the Monarch Akura Malice. She regains her body and power as a peak Truegold. Using her previously known realization that she practices the sacred arts to impress her mother, she progresses to Underlord and disables Daji. Lindon takes the brief reprieve to progress to Underlord. In the process, he uses Hunger madra from the Archstone to empower his prosthetic Remnant arm. As he tries to assist Yerin, Kiro emerges from the dream madra room. Lindon activates Harmony's axe to destroy him in a single attack. Yerin holds off Meira with her own power and the Blood Shadow, deactivates the protective binding around the sword madra room, and uses that to empower her Endless Sword and defeat Meira. She then advances to Underlord, and Charity appears to reward them- they can take all the treasure they can carry from this vault.
At the site of the clash between the Seishen and the Blackflame, Charity announces the results of this training opportunity. All three Underlords for the Uncrowned tournament will be chosen from the Blackflame Empire, and they will be rewarded with many scales and a Archlord level defensive construct. As they leave, however, she informs Lindon that he will not be selected as one of the members for the teams from the vassal territories. Instead, he will be part of the main Akura team, to pay off his debt for killing Harmony. She teleports him away in the shadows.
In the epilogue, Suriel rushes through the way to Iteration 943, where she finds it cleanly cut off with the power of the Reaper's Scythe, Ozriel's power. In the Blackflame Empire, the vassal team is composed of Yerin and Naru Saeya, younger sister of the Emperor, with Eithan as the team leader. Meanwhile, the Monarchs prepare their Underlords for the Uncrowned tournament. Back in Sacred Valley, Wei Shi Kelsa has stolen some apples from the Fallen Leaf school. She runs into Orthos, who laughs and prepares to overwhelm her pursuers.