In the depths of time a group of travelers, wielders of great Power, left the Plains of Heaven to establish a kingdom among the Reed Plains of the material world. The descendants of the leader of this expedition, the Heavenborn Grandson of the Queen of Heaven, became the Monarchs of this realm of Ashihara, serving as the High Priests and High Priestesses of the Heavenly Powers that were their kin and as the centers of the web of treaties and rites that bound the Powers of the lands and seas into the fabric of the realm. High Priests and Priestesses of Heavenborn lineage were also appointed to honor the Powers of Death, Transformation and Judgment, which were unknown among the Plains of Heaven but could neither be bound nor avoided within the limits of the material world. And mages who shaped the five kinds of earthly Power: Earth and Water, Air and Fire and Life, gathered at the Monarchs' court ...


The eighty-sixth Monarch, an Air Mage whose personal name was Kanetari, showed a total lack of interest in anything outside his own capital and reign. After the death of his only son, Inatari, he refused to face the problem of announcing an eventual successor, and the position of Throne Prince remained vacant for many years. Many other ancient rites and ceremonies were abandoned or changed to suit the convenience and tastes of the Monarch and his courtiers, as Kanetari and his companions devoted their time to games of politics and Power, ignoring the rest of the realm as much as possible, except as a source of tax revenues.


In year of the realm 2294, the thirty-fifth year of his reign, a plague swept through Ashihara, killing the Heavenborn Monarch Kanetari and many of his closest associates. Three years later, much had changed ...