In the seventeenth century, in an alternate universe, much of Europe, Asia, and the New World are part of an Empire ruled from England. The Order of Crown, Shield, and Dragon is a legion of special agents for the Crown: special emissaries in time of peace, and invincible warriors in more violent times. They carry special weapons: swords, each of which contains the soul of someone of great power. Even in the hands of a knight of the Order, even wielded in the cause of righteousness, a red sword is terribly dangerous to its owner and all around him. In less virtuous hands, a red sword is the most dangerous and powerful weapon known to mankind. Now, three knights of the Order have just tracked down a previously unknown red sword which was found on a Grecian shore, and which shows all signs of having been recently forged. Worse, the mind encased in the sword remembers that it was only one of many which were cached in the hold of a mysterious sailing ship, origin unknown.