Four thousand years ago a starship deposited four very different cultures, grown strange in the confines of the ship on a six thousand-year voyage, onto the terraformed world called Brezlun. The colonists no longer remembered where they came from or why. Each culture was given two androids, called Mediators, that could communicate with the ship and help them get started on the new world.
One by one the Mediators vanished, lost at sea or in accidents, some destroyed intentionally by the people they were sent to help, until there was only one left. Then that one too vanished, for four hundred years, until he suddenly reappeared in the home of a young woman named Miako, who as a child had wanted to travel the world but instead ended up as a census clerk with a hidden musical gift.
The Mediator is dying, and he wants Miako to help him reestablish contact with the ship before he does. To do that she must leave her small, comfortable life and actually live out her childhood dream: travel to each of the four nations and search through their relics for the parts the Mediator needs to rebuild his broken communicator.
So a timid woman finds herself on a terrifying quest, forced into becoming the most celebrated and important person on the planet. They seek out first the buried relics in her home country, the ritual-bound farmers that make up two-thirds of the planet’s people. They travel to a city built into the slope of a dead volcano, where the technology wizards that guard the stability of the world hoard their treasures and plan ahead for a thousand years.
On the continent where only women dwell, Miako is a living legend to the common people but finds herself ruthlessly interrogated by successive layers of the communal hierarchy, right up to the all-powerful queen. And their last stop is the continent of horsemen, polygamous warriors whose swords are forged by their wives, where the tribes follow a schedule of bloody battles to weed out the weak and to hone their skills.
As Miako collects friends and allies, she grows into the role the Mediator has forced her to assume. She will need all of her new-found strength and determination, and all of her friends’ help, when the future of the world is threatened by a band of fanatical assassins who believe that the Mediator’s quest is a blasphemy against their god’s wishes—and they’re willing to kill everyone involved to stop them from succeeding.