Queen Victoria is on the throne when we find Hetty Littlewood, one of the few remaining wise women, tending her injured son Daryl who is the master of a canal narrow boat and a part-time prize fighter. Daryl subsequently fall's foul of gaming interests in the great industrial City of Manchester and returns home a fugitive from the law and a charge of murder hanging over his head. Fearful for her son's survival and possessing formidable occult powers, Hetty sends her son to seek refuge in a distant reality called the Water- Realm, until able to clear his name. Daryl, accompanied by his sister Myra and a homeless boat hand called George, begins a long and dangerous journey across the breadth of the Water-Realm to discover a way that will bring them safely back to their home. During the journey they encounter the frighteningly non-human Hix, navigate a river that flows in both directions and battle in an arena for the pleasure of the cruel Kaa-Rom; whilst overall lours the unfathomable legacy of an extinct super-race known as the 'Ancient Dead'. Meanwhile penetrating the lower strata of Victorian Manchester, Hetty circulates amidst the city's underworld of gin palaces and bordellos. Joining the household of a brilliant but fearfully dangerous millionaire and encountering the British Secret service in every attempt to clear her son's name ready for his return. Will the family finally be reunited and will the reunion bring happiness or grief?