Two years after Lordlake was razed by her Sun Rune, Queen Arshtat dispatches her son the Prince, her sister Sialeeds, and their royal bodyguards Lyon and Georg Prime to inspect the state of the ruined town. The Prince sees the grim state of the dried-up town and report on it, but Arshtat scorns this; she declares that Lordlake's citizens deserve their desolation for stealing the Dawn Rune. Arshtat's husband Ferid pulls her back to her senses, and she dismisses the inspection party with a whisper.
The next issue of contention is the Sacred Games for Princess Lymsleia's hand in marriage, being held somewhat early for the ten-year old Lymsleia. The two main contestants, both representing themselves with a champion, hail from rival noble houses: The foppish Euram Barows, and Sialeeds' former fiance, the charismatic Gizel Godwin. The royal family, however, favors the mysterious outsider Belcoot, as a neutral option less likely to cause strife; the Prince attempts to aid Belcoot quietly with Ferid's approval. However, Gizel successfully rigs the Games to his advantage, and his champion Childerich defeats a drugged Belcoot while the Barow's champion is disqualified.
However, Lord Marscal Godwin, Gizel's father, is less than impressed with Gizel's activities, thinking that he has made an enemy of the Prince and the royal family as a whole with his plotting. Additionally, the royal family took Zegai, the Barows champion, into their own personal custody, who could perhaps help reveal the Godwins cheating and offer an excuse to annul the engagement. Thus, the Godwins launch a preemptive attack at the engagement ceremony in Sol-Falena, Falena's capital. Arshtat and Ferid had anticipated and prepared for the attack, but not the involvement of the elite Nether Gate assassins, who overwhelm the palace's defenses. The struggle culminates in Arshtat and Ferid's deaths, while Lymsleia finds herself a captive. The Prince Ardil, Lyon, Georg, and Sialeeds are forced to flee.