The continent of Rossiya has been divided up into smaller kingdoms for generations and generations now. Tielen, on the western peninsula, has been at war with Muscobar across the straights for a very long time. Only a treaty of defense that Muscobar has with the wintery, barbaric northern land of Azhkendir has prevented Tielen from moving through the edges of Azhkendir's wastelands to move on Muscobar by land.
Muscobar and far-southern Smarna do not truly believe in magic, as such... but Azhkendir breathes it. Magic, they know, is a dark and bloody thing. The northern clans fight in wars which have lasted for generations, but primacy is held by the Nagarian family, who rule Azhkendir with the title of Drakhaon. But even magic has its weaknesses, and Lord Volkh, the Drakhaon, is slain. His warriors set off to find his eldest and only son, heir to his bloodline and power, who was taken away as a child by the Drakhaon's wife, Elysia.
In the south, a young commoner painter named Gavril lives with his mother Elysia. Gavril has begun to make a name for himself as a painter, and painting a portrait of the young daughter of the Muscobar royal family is his proudest moment yet...though it leads him into trouble, when they develop feelings for each other. Especially as the painting he's making is a betrothal portrait, for her to be shopped around for prospective husbands of breeding. Gavril begins to have dark dreams of a man being slain in a northern hall, seeing the face of the man's murderer... and then troops from Azhkendir show up and simply abduct Gavril, who they have not seen since he was a child, and take him home to claim the throne he inherited from a father he doesn't remember...a heritage he had no idea was his.
Meanwhile, Tielen makes plans to move at war on Muscobar, and Elysia -- with the aid of the Muscobar royal family, who fear for the treaty, and the young lady who fears for her gentle-eyed painter -- tries to track down where her son has gone, as they believe he might have been taken by Tielen to destroy the treaty Volkh made all those years ago.
In Azhkendir, there are struggles far more subtle than the usual open warfare at work. Ancient pacts, old grudges, and secret plans are slowly emerging into the open, in the aftermath of Volkh's death. Gavril has to negotiate these threats as the unwilling ruler of this land, even as he tries to learn more of his own past and history. When Lord Volkh began to change from a warm, kind man into something different and darker -- fits of temper, of rage, bloodthirst and savagery -- was when Elysia left him, taking Gavril and fleeing southwards out of Azhkendir...with Volkh's own agreement. But Volkh's changes were not natural, nor were they only reflected in his personality...and while Gavril, untrained in politics or ruling of his new and unforgiving land, has to hunt out traitors and murderers who conspired to take his father's life, his greatest danger may be from within himself. Even as he reads his father's notes detailing his struggle to control the Nagarian magic which Gavril hardly believes in he, too, has begun to change as his father did. For the Nagarian family's bloodline is not wholly human, and he finds himself the unwilling subject of the same changes.
Drakhaon means dragon.