An ancient weapon has completely destroyed the Androfrancine city of Windwir. From many miles away, Rudolfo, Lord of the Ninefold Forest Houses, sees the horrifying column of smoke rising.
He knows that war is coming to the Named Lands. Nearer to the Desolation, a young apprentice is the only survivor of the city—Nebios sat waiting for his father outside the walls and was transformed as he watched everyone he knew die in an instant. To the south, Petronus, the Hidden Pope of the Androfrancine Order, also sees the column of devastation. He knows that he cannot turn away from his Order any longer. And within sight of Windwir sits Sethbert, the Overseer of the Entrolusian City States, gloating over what he believes is the triumph of his plan to dominate the Named Lands. At his side, though, is Lady Jin Li Tam—her father’s pawn in the game of statecraft, but destined to become her own Queen on the board. Soon all the Kingdoms of the Named Lands will be at one another’s throats, as alliances are challenged or collapse, and the hidden plots of many powers are revealed.