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Bayans struggles to hide his emerging elemental magic from his family fail spectacularly in front of a visiting imperial eunuch named Philo, and he realizes that there is a worse fate than becoming a mountain-dwelling Skycaller: the empire will claim him as a Duelist.
Before Philo can deliver Bayan to the Duelist Academy for training, bandits ambush their retinue and leave behind a mysterious trinket. While Philo tracks down its true importance through ancient archives and noble manors, Bayan struggles to fit in at the Academy, where his anger at his situation gets him into as much trouble as his outlander appearance. Worse, his rage poisons his magic, making him a threat to his hexmates.
Bayans dreams of escape begin to fade as he forms bonds of friendship. But when an assassin strikes close to home, a chain of events is set in motion, leading Bayan and Philo to uncover a deadly plot that could change the world as they know it. Bayans fate stands at a crossroads: one path leads to the destruction of all he has come to know, and the other to his own.