On the backwater world of Ceocan, a suspicious shuttle crash has claimed the life of the governor and his eldest son. As a result, Ashielle Matkosen, Governor Ruprekt’s daughter and eldest surviving child, finds herself in at least nominal control of the planet. However, Governor Ashielle is not secure in her post: she knows that whoever arranged the assassination of her father and brother is still out there, and will want her to either play ball or suffer the same fate, and she’s near certain that the ultimate culprit is the Vaneisen family, whose matriarch Esilia serves in a sort of second-in-command role in the planetary government and who stand to take the Governorship should the Matkosen line perish.
This puts Ashielle in great danger – for her younger brother Hanrik, by virtue of having entered the service of the Adeptus Arbites (the Imperium’s interstellar police force), has disqualified himself from the succession. As a result, the only thing between the Vaneisens and the Governorship is Ashielle’s heartbeat – which the sadistic Tanzeg, eldest son of the Vaneisens, wastes little time in attempting to silence. As Ashielle flees an audacious assassination attempt, she discovers a hidden vault beneath her ancestral home of Darcarden, in which a sinister entity has been kept bound. For aeons, the rulers of Ceocan have had the right to command this entity, as a result of an ancient covenant – should they choose to exercise that power.
Ashielle isn’t stupid – she knows that to use this power would be considered heresy and anathema, and see her destroyed by the Imperium should any of its bodies discover she has used this gift. But with her life on the line and her world on the edge of falling into the hands of a family of sadistic criminals, can she afford not to call on the old covenants?