The year is 1774, and Empress Catherine of Russia has given a woolly mammoth to King George III of England as a gift. It’s more than just a large animal; it’s a relic of history that shouldn’t belong in this time, and it’s attracted attention. The King is preparing to hold a hunt as part of the celebrations, and in attendance are representatives of the American colonies and of Faction Paradox. Mother Francesca and her associate are in fact the last two members of the Faction left alive after the War, as far as they know, but for obvious reasons they don’t wish anyone to know that their power base has been so drastically diminished; however, Francesca suspects that Cleeve, the representative of the American witch-lodges, knows more about their current situation than he’s saying. Cleeve and Francesca make a ritualistic wager; whoever wins the hunt will win the rights to the future. However, Francesca then learns that the Americans have brought a special “hunting animal” -- a Polynesian warrior from the time-sensitive Mayakai tribe, which was primed for the War and is supposed to be extinct.
In the palace kitchens is a young serving girl named Isobel, who may have a closer connection to the War than she knows. Mr Snaddon, the keeper of the animals, knows the truth about Isobel, and suspects that it may be merciful to kill her; he also intends to kill the Mayakai warrior, who has been ritually pinned inside a circle of point-stones. Unfortunately, a servant named Hogbatt, who doesn’t really understand the nature of ritual, takes a sort of rough pity on the “creature” and tosses her a scrap of a dead monkey to chew on. The warrior woman is able to use the monkey’s leg bone as a ritual focus, and when Snaddon enters her cell to kill her, the woman points the bone at him, causing him to suffer a heart attack. Isobel learns what Hogbatt has done too late, and rushes to the cellar to find Snaddon lying half-dead on the floor, while the warrior-woman steps out of the circle, which no longer has the power to contain her.