Great Harry is dead, and England is ruled by a dour Protector for 10-year-old Edward VI - a Protector intent on keeping total control over the young king, and no friend to Lady Elizabeth. In the great lenses that hold Visions of the future for the elves of the Bright Court and the Dark, the images change and waver. A pale, thin girl sometimes wears a crown and sometimes has no head: King Edward and his Court grow misty as he changes from boy to stripling. The fires of Mary's reign still burn bright as they swallow writhing men, women, and children. But if she ever reigns, a red-haired queen brings a burgeoning of art and joy.
Elimination of that possibility for England is Vidal Dhu's prime purpose, but he has been forbidden by King Oberon to attack Elizabeth. Other means to remove her from the succession to the throne must be found. When Elizabeth goes to live with her stepmother, Queen Catherine, Vidal seizes the opportunity to use Thomas, Catherine's amoral husband, to stimulate Elizabeth's awakening sexuality. An affair would disgrace her; rendering her unfit to rule.
And if his plan to involve the young prince in a poisonous scandal should fail, Vidal has still more twisted plans to eliminate Elizabeth once and for all.