|Into the Darkness|
|Cover artist||Bob Eggleton|
|Followed by||Darkness Descending|
Beginning of the war
The novel begins a generation after the Six Years' War, in which the Kingdom of Algarve was defeated and forced to accept the humiliating Treaty of Tortush by its neighbors. Under King Mezentio, Algarve has regained its strength and is ready to avenge its humiliation.
The death of Alardo, ruler of the Duchy of Bari, gives Algarve the opportunity to regain the province, which had been established as an independent state by Algarve's victorious enemies. Despite the Barians' desire to be reunited with Algarve, the neighboring kingdoms of Forthweg, Valmiera, Jelgava and Sibiu all declare war upon Algarve, citing concerns over Algarvian strength. The Derlavaian War has begun.
The three mainland kingdoms all invade Algarve while the island kingdom of Sibiu wages war with its navy. At the same time, in far western Derlavai, Gyongyos is waging two separate but simultaneous brushfire wars. In the Ilszung Mountains, Gyongyosian soldiers battle those of their giant neighbor Unkerlant over the precise boundary of the two kingdoms. Out in the Bothnian Ocean, the Gyongyosians have taken the island of Obuda from Kuusamo and hold it against a desultory counterattack.
Forthweg's incursion into northwestern Algarve is driven back and the kingdom swiftly falls to simultaneous assaults from Algarve in the east and Unkerlant in the west. Meanwhile the Valmieran and Jelgavan invasions make little progress, partly due to Algarvian fortifications and resistance, but also due to the outdated tactics and poor leadership exhibited by their exclusively noble-born officer corps.
King Swemmel of Unkerlant makes peace with Gyongyos and turns his attention to reclaiming Zuwayza, a former province which broke free when Unkerlant was torn by the Twinkings War. The Unkerlanter army suffers heavy losses from the desert terrain and Zuwayzin camel riders, but under better leadership from Marshal Rathar eventually forces Zuwayza to the peace table. Zuwayza's foreign minister Hajjaj is able to salvage his kingdom's independence by contenting Unkerlant with territorial concessions.
Algarve manages to conquer Sibiu through the innovative use of sailing ships to transport its invasion fleet. Confined to ley lines like all modern navies, the Sibian navy is bypassed and the islands are swiftly conquered. However, the larger and more powerful kingdom of Lagoas responds by joining the war against Algarve and sending an expeditionary force to Valmiera.
The Algarvians strike at Valmiera next, sending their behemoths through the heavily-wooded hills in northern Valmiera and bypassing the main Valmieran army. The Valmieran capital Priekule is taken and Valmiera swiftly occupied; the Lagoan expeditionary force escapes but loses most of its behemoths and heavy equipment.
Jelgava is the last of Algarve's mainland enemies to fall. Algarvian dragons airlift soldiers over the Bratanu Mountains and cut off the Jelgavan army in northeastern Algarve. Jelgava falls as swiftly as Valmiera, as the commoners in the Jelgavan army desert en masse and King Donalitu flees to Lagoas.
Buildup to a new war
Having occupied all four of the kingdoms that declared war upon her, Algarve now settles down to consolidating its gains and planning its next moves. The occupied kingdoms for the moment are fairly quiet, while Lagoas, situated on the other side of the Strait of Valmiera, is unable to carry the war to Algarve in any meaningful way.
Kuusamo makes a new and more determined assault on Obuda, successfully landing troops on the island and driving the Gyongyosians into the hills and forests. Both sides funnel more ships, dragons and troops into the fighting, but by the end of the novel Kuusamo is clearly gaining the upper hand.
With no other powerful rivals left on mainland Derlavai, Unkerlant and Algarve both prepare to strike at one another. The small kingdom of Yanina, sandwiched between the two giants, joins with Algarve and allows Algarvian troops to enter the country. Striking from Yanina in the south and occupied Forthweg in the north, Algarve catches Unkerlant off-guard and begins a new phase of the war.
Throughout the novel Algarve begins a cultural war against Kaunians, particularly its own and Forthweg's Kaunian minorities, though Jelgavans and Valmierans are also treated with contempt. Arising from feelings of historical animosity and cultural inferiority, this persecution lays the foundations for a grimmer fate in the sequels.
King Penda of Forthweg manages to flee to Yanina ahead of Algarve, where he is held prisoner while King Tsavellas of Yanina decides whether to turn him over to Mezentio or Swemmel. The Lagoan mage Fernao successfully rescues Penda and escapes with him to the Land of the Ice People, where the sour-tempered monarch and the sardonic mage make their way to Lagoas' colony there.
- Bembo - Algarvian constable
- Cornelu - Sibian leviathan rider
- Ealstan - Forthwegian student, Leofsig's younger brother
- Fernao - Lagoan mage
- Garivald - Unkerlanter peasant from the Duchy of Grelz
- Hajjaj - Foreign minister of Zuwayza
- Istvan - Gyongyosian soldier
- Krasta - Valmieran noblewoman, sister of Skarnu
- Leofsig - Forthwegian soldier, Ealstan's older brother
- Leudast - Unkerlanter soldier
- Pekka - Kuusaman professor of theoretical magecraft
- Rathar - Marshal of Unkerlant's armies
- Sabrino - Algarvian dragonflier
- Skarnu - Valmieran army officer, brother of Krasta
- Talsu - Jelgavan soldier
- Tealdo - Algarvian soldier
- Vanai - Kaunian girl in Forthweg