Shen Tai is the son of a general who, 20 years before, led the forces of imperial Kitai in that empire’s last war against its western enemies from Tagur. Forty thousand men on both sides were slain beside a remote mountain lake. General Shen Gao himself died recently. To honour his father’s memory, Tai has spent two years in official mourning, alone at the battle site among the ghosts of the dead, laying to rest their unburied bones.
One spring morning, he learns that others have taken note of his vigil. The White Jade Princess in Tagur is pleased to present him with 250 Sardian horses—given, she writes, in recognition of his courage and of the honour done to the dead.
Tai sets out to the east, toward the glittering and dangerous imperial capital to face his own forever-altered life.