Those familiar with any of the previous installments involving Korbal Broach and Bauchelain will recognize some of the names hot on their tails: Mortal Sword Tulgord Vise from Blood Follows and Well Knight Arpo Relent from The Healthy Dead, and they are joined by the equally redoubtable Steck Marynd and the three Chanter brothers in their quest to exact vengeance on the necromancer duo for their foul deeds against goodness and decency. It's on the pilgrim path, the Crack'd Pot Trail, that we meet up with the heroes and the others making the trek through the harsh wasteland laying between the Gates of Nowhere and the Shrine of the Indifferent God. Aside from the above named there are amongst them a mysterious noblewoman who remains enclosed within her carriage the whole time, her manservant, a rag-tag collection of poets making their way to attend the Festival of Flowers and Sunny Days to vie for title of "The Century's Greatest Artist" awarded there each year, and one Sardic Thew who proclaims himself to be host of this erstwhile band of travelers.
According to the narration provided by one Avas Didion Flicker, under normal circumstances the trek across the desolate Great Dry would take 23 days and is eased by springs of fresh water and the welcoming camps of those called the Finders. Alas for our poor pilgrims, for the wells are fouled, the springs muddied, and the camps are all deserted this year. So the twenty-third day finds them barely halfway to their destination and their supplies depleted. It's the eldest of the Chanter brothers, the inaptly named Tiny (supposedly the result of his mother's tryst with a bear) who hits upon the solution of ensuring the Nehemothanai are fed by having the poets sing not to be supper. Each day the poets will strive to entertain the rest of the party and the first who fails to amuse will be slaughtered to feed the rest.
Those horses among the company are needed by our champions in their pursuit of Korbal Broach and Bauchelain, and you can't deny nobility their carriage so the noblewoman's mules are sacrosanct, therefore the poets are the only bodies going spare. Besides, as is so aptly pointed out by the Well Knight, poets are known for their licentious behaviour and for inciting subversive thoughts that would not tolerated in a moral society. Anyway, if they aren't capable of entertaining, they serve no useful function and might as well do something of service and keep their companions alive.