-The book chronicles the recovery of the soul of Aliera e'Kieron from the Wizard Loraan, and Vlad's subsequent journey with Morrolan e'Drien to the Paths of the Dead to restore her to life. It also chronicles the first meetings between Vlad and most of his Dragaeran friends, including Morrolan, Aliera, Sethra, and Kiera, as well as Verra.
- See also Meta:Taltos (book).
Note: The "main story" of Taltos is intercut throughout with flashbacks from Vlad's youth and early career as an enforcer and assassin. At the beginning of each chapter, we also see Vlad performing a witchcraft spell of some kind, but exactly what it is is not made clear until the final chapters.
Meet a young Easterner named Vlad Taltos, only recently set up in business for himself. After several years spent working as an enforcer and an assassin in Adrilankha, Vlad is trying to make a name for himself, and prove he is capable of running his own area in the Jhereg Organization.
Much to his chagrin, Vlad discovers that one of his employees, Quion, has run off with about 3,000 Imperials, and fled to Dzur Mountain. Unwilling to travel directly to the mysterious home of Sethra Lavode, the infamous Enchantress of Dzur Mountain, Vlad arranges a meeting with Morrolan e'Drien, Duke of Southmoor, and the nominal liege of Sethra Lavode.
Upon meeting the Dragonlord, Vlad discovers that Morrolan in fact arranged the theft in order to get Vlad to come to Castle Black. Vlad, now irritated, agrees to accompany Morrolan to Dzur Mountain, where he meets Sethra Lavode herself—standing above the bloody corpse of Quion.
Vlad is flat-out angry at this turn of events, but is not quite reckless enough to fight with Sethra Lavode in her own lair. (He insults her enough to come close, though.) Instead, he listens to what she has to say...which turns out to be a job offer unlike any he has ever taken on before.
Vlad is tasked with venturing into the keep of an Athyra Wizard named Loraan, who has in his possession a staff containing the soul of Aliera e'Kieron, the rightful Dragon Heir. Loraan has been offered money and has refused to sell the staff. Vlad is sent to recover the staff, since as an Easterner, he might not be detected by Loraan's security spells. Seeing the amount of money that Sethra and Morrolan are offering, Vlad accepts the challenge.
Sneaking into the keep as a delivery of wine, Vlad and his trusty familiar Loiosh discover the location of the staff... Unfortunately, while Loraan is awake and in the same room. Morrolan teleports in to help Vlad, and a fight ensues between Loraan, his guards, and our heroes. Picking up a length of gold-colored chain, Vlad strikes Loraan, which somehow penetrates his defenses, but is then knocked down, losing full awareness briefly. Loraan appears to have been struck down by Blackwand, Morrolan's Great Weapon, and is apparently dead.
Escaping with the staff, Vlad and Morrolan return to Dzur Mountain, where Sethra and The Necromancer attempt to divine whether the soul inside is, in fact, Aliera's. Vlad returns home.
His reprieve is short-lived, however, as Sethra and Morrolan now require Vlad's assistance for another minor task—venturing with the staff to the Paths of the Dead in order to plead with the Lords of Judgment to restore Aliera's soul to her body.
Needless to say, Vlad is not a fan of this plan—no Dragaeran who ventures into the paths is allowed to leave alive. Sethra and Morrolan, banking on the technicality that Vlad may be allowed to leave since he is an Easterner, and thus does not belong in the Paths, convince him to make the journey. He finally agrees on one condition: Morrolan must accompany him. Surprisingly, Morrolan (who knows of no way in which he might leave the Paths alive) agrees to this almost immediately.
A series of trials and tests ensues, with Morrolan and Vlad having to overcome challenges both physical and mental. Eventually, they do reach the Halls of Judgment.
Here they meet with Verra, and the other Lords of Judgment. They agree to restore Aliera, and even to let Vlad leave the paths alive. Morrolan, however, must remain, since no dispensation of the gods can override the law of the Paths, which is somehow tied to his Dragaeran blood. Aliera, a fiery young Dragonlord now restored to her body, is unwilling to leave the Paths without her cousin Morrolan.
After a meeting with the spirit of Kieron the Conqueror, in which Aliera asks for (and receives) Kieron's greatsword, the trio sets out to leave the paths. Morrolan weakens, and Vlad realizes that there is perhaps one method to get him out of the Paths alive: witchcraft.
Here we discover that the spell Vlad has been casting in chapter-heading flashforwards since the first chapter is an attempt to retrieve a small vial from his home which he believes contains the blood of a goddess.
The spell is successful, and the blood is injected into Morrolan, but Vlad is psionically and physically drained, and has to be carried out of the paths by Morrolan and Aliera—yet all of the party survive.
Home again, Vlad finds that he has, in addition to a large sum of money, the gratitude of Sethra Lavode, Morrolan e'Drien, and Aliera e'Kieron; which is, in fact, priceless.
- Meeting a serious young Dragonlord named Morrolan.
- Meeting a not-so-serious Jhereg named Kragar.
- Paying off Sethra Lavode for nice "work".
- Loiosh alarm clock.
- Morrolan meets Loraan's men-at-arms.
- Seriously cramping Loraan's style.
- Dueling Dragonlords in the Paths of the Dead.
- Meeting Kieron.
(all copyrights Steven Brust, quotes for review and enjoyment only)
"I believe your name is Kragar?"
"I believe so, also. Since we both believe it, we might as well assume it's true."
"How can you tell?"
"Drop dead, Dragonlord. You may think this multiple duel business is some sort of cure game, but i don't care to be tested. They tried to kill us; they didn't manage. Thats the end of it."
"I greet you, lord. Iam Morrolan e'Drien"
"Good day. Iam Kieron."