Destined to follow traditions he abhors, Asad, the Black Mane, prince and heir to the throne of the Great Valley, falls for Oona, the Swan, a slave from the far northern isles, and their story becomes legend.
It was the night of Summer’s Eve, the celebration of the hundredth meeting of the Seven Tribes, the feast where Asad, the Black Mane, eldest son and heir to the Panther’s throne, was to be betrothed to the Fox, a woman he despised. A betrothal and marriage that Asad was resigned to for the sake of his family and kingdom, until a woman of pale, ethereal beauty stepped out of the night’s shadows and took the stage to sing and dance for the gathering.
From the moment that Oona walked onto the stage, she was held captive by the Black Mane’s piercing amber gaze. And yet she felt no fear of him as she did his father, the Panther, a king known as much for the exotic collection of women in his Pleasure House as for the cruel bite of his whip. Captured by pirates while sailing the Mid Earth Sea, Oona, now named the Swan, and her younger sister, Lyrra, the Dove, were to be given as dowry gifts to the Panther at the end of their performance. Desperate to save her sister from becoming a Pleasure Woman to the Panther, Oona proposes marriage to the Black Mane, for in her homeland, she was the granddaughter of a great chieftain, a woman of rank and wealth, and in the Black Manes eyes she saw no cruelty, but a keen intelligence and heat.
Intrigued as Asad is by the Swan’s bold proposal, duty, his father, the traditions of the Seven Tribes, all forbid such a marriage. And though he must deny her publicly, secretly he vows to do for the Swan and the Dove what he cannot for himself, to help free them from their gilded cage.