The ruling class within the Eastern Empire is governed by a council comprised of members from the original Ten Families. Each family controls a specific region within the empire. The emperor can be a male member of any family, but once a ruler is cursed with no male heir, then upon his death the other Nine Families will put forth a Challenger to compete for the Throne in a contest decided upon by all parties.
At the time of the ascension of Vivienne to the title of Guardian, Adal of the Family Fisal is emperor of the East. His son is Crown Prince Zhan, a strong contender for his father’s throne. But dissension is growing among the families lead by General Yuan and his Family. A lesser House, it has been seven generations since the Family Yuan ruled the Empire and the general is anxious to change the future. But to challenge Adal is to bring the other Families into open warfare.
In a bid to force a new competition for the Empire, Yuan approves the assassination of Adal and his son Zhan. While the emperor is killed, the crown prince escapes. Mortally wounded he makes his way to the Priory of Cassandra where he meets Kai, daughter of Family Heret. Kai is the only virgin daughter in the Ten Families; her fate is to be married to the next Emperor.
Zhan has known Kai all of his life; their fathers are best friends. For most of her twenty-four years it has been assumed Zhan would be her husband. Now with Yuan’s treachery spreading rumors of Zhan’s fratricide, only a miracle will save the young prince’s throne and love from being ripped away and given to a lesser Family. Forced to flee the empire to save his life, Zhan promises to return for Kai.
But General Yuan has an ally none of the other Families have met, a druid exiled from his place at the Druid Fortress, a man whose attempt to wrestle control of the Books of Forbidden Knowledge has already toppled one kingdom and brought unimaginable power forth in the person of the Guardian. Alastyre has survived and intends to unleash the full might of the Eastern Empire upon the other four Kingdoms.
At the time of Vivienne’s conquest of the Pinnacle Valley, the Families are firmly divided into two camps: those who support Family Yuan and those who support Family Fisal. They are as follows: For Family Yuan is: Yuan, Asan, Shaud, Landa and Bechts; For Family Fisal: Fisal, Heret, Pavan, Vasra and Tshen.
So the stage is set, for a world war encompassing the Five Kingdoms. For the Prophecy of Aedan still stands hanging over the earth, awaiting the touch of purifying fire to gift the land with the promised second rebirth. The path of destiny has been set.