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Esther and Ion are on a cargo airship approaching Byzantium, the capitol city of the Vampire Empire, and Esther is impressed by its beautiful skyline. Equally impressive is the lapis lazuli wall, a barrier of small particles over the city that filter out the ultraviolet rays and allow Vampires to be out and about during the daylight hours. Although Ion, known in Byzantium as the Earl of Memphis, is happy to see his city again, what he's really looking forward to is seeing his grandmother Mirka, the Duchess of Moldova and Head of the Imperial Secret Council.

Grandmother Mirka lives on a grand estate, surrounded with beautiful gardens tended to by automated groundskeepers, but the carnage that awaits Ion inside the house is devastating. The servants have all been slaughtered and hacked into pieces. Three Death Hunters surround Mirka's bed. Ion dispatches two of them, but the third corners him with his ax. Fortunately, Esther enters the room just in time to shoot the creature. She is followed by Abel, who notices a C3 self-destruct device on the belt of one of the creatures and jumps out the window with Ion and Esther just as the bomb explodes.

As they sit on the ground mourning Mirka's death, Abel realizes that they are surrounded by a number of heavily-armed men. Ion identifies them as Janissaries, elite members of the Empress's Palace Guard. When Lord Baibars, head of the Janissary, steps forth, Ion runs to him. Rather than aiding Ion, however, Lord Baibars arrests him for murdering Mirka and destroying her home by arson. Luckily, Abel took one of the C3 packs off the belt of a Death Hunter. He tosses the pack in the air and shoots it. The pack explodes, providing them cover during which they escape from the Janissaries. Taking shelter near the wall of a building, they are approached by Government Inspector Astharoshe "Asta" Asran, who demands an explanation of their intent...until she recognizes Abel. Instead of arresting them, she invites them to dinner.

While Esther enjoys a scented bath, Abel sneaks into the Empress's Palace and steps out from behind the throne. Although the Empress is willing to talk with Abel, he feels there is something mysterious about this lady with the veiled face, even though she identifies herself as Empress Augusta Vradica, the one and only ruler of the Vampire Race, which she calls "the True Race." Just then, Lord Baibars enters the chamber to report an intruder in the courtyard. When he sees Abel, Baibars rushes him, but the Empress stops him.


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