The story opens with one of the major characters, the Flagman, ruminating about revenge. He says,
"It was a moment to seize power, your god was victorious, theirs was defeated and humiliated, every act was worship, the assaults were sanctified, the plunder was sacred, every pain was consecrated, every act was worship."
The Flagman's morality at the beginning of the story stands at this point. How he reached that place of religious violence from his beginning as a university graduate student forms the content of the mythic adventure he and his companion Alysa experience.