For three hundred years history has been frozen like a fly in amber. There has been change, as there has always been change throughout history, but change more in form than in substance. But now the whole world holds its breath, awaiting a new century, a new millenium, and -- perhaps -- a new era. In China, that most ancient of nations, the Ouyang Dynasty, which came to power in a blaze of blood and fire, now drifts into twilight decadence, while the mercantile cities of the northeast, calling themselves "free", tread a narrow and careful path between the mandarins in Zhongjing and the shogun and his minions in Edo across the narrow sea. Some feel that neither Ouyang emperor nor Ishihara shogun have long to rule. Far to the south, the Moguls and merchants of Java, carrying the word of the Koran ever eastward and at the same time feathering their own nests, are nourishing Javanese and Balinese colonies along the west coast of the new land of Sumbaya. That Sumbaya is a whole new continent they are only now discovering; and that others, too, have come here, has yet to sink in on them. In Eurasia, the Russian Metropolitan Kingdom crouches, waiting, guarding against the Ouyangs to the southeast, the mighty Osmanid Empire to the south, and -- most carefully -- the Holy Empire of Europe to the west. In their turn, the Osmanli and their relatives and fellow celebrants in the religion of Mohammed, have turrned their attention south, solidifying their grip on the Bharati subcontinent, now free of the resistance of the Moguls and Englishmen who preceded them here. Those followers of Krishna and his relatives who refuse to convert to the crescent are dying en masse in great bonefires. The followers of Shiva the Destroyer and those of Durgha the Black Mother will not go so easily to the flames. In Africa, the great empires of the north -- Tomboctu, Songhai -- are collapsing after the renaissance of the last century, their deaths the result of natural forces over which neither they nor anyone else has control. Drought is killing these empires of the Sahel. New empires will someday rise on their ruins, perhaps, as at Meroe to the east or Zimbabwe to the south, hardly realizing that these latter-day nations ever existed. And in the Holy Empire of Europe, Richard Six Stuart sits the Pearl Throne at Versailles -- and at the same time stands astride the narrow world, to use the words of the Bard of Europe. For three hundred years the Emperor of Europe has held his position at the pleasure of the Order of Europe -- though he must be a Burbon, a Habsburg or a Stuart, within those constraints the election of the Emperor is the prerogative of the Order's High Council, as the Pope is elected by the College of Cardinals. Richard is still young, as such things go, but already he is scheming to bring about a consummation that none of his predecessors have attained: to ensure that his own blood will succeed him on the Pearl Throne. More: when Richard Seven Stuart sits the Pearl Throne, his younger brother, Arthur, will be the very first Stuart to occupy the Papal See. The Holy Empire will be a Stuart fiefdom, truly united for the first time in history. Perhaps Richard Six's plans will succeed. Perhaps they will fail. And perhaps, though he cannot possibly foresee this, they will do both. The Holy Empire sprawls across Europe, from the Mediterranean in the south to the Arctic Ocean in the north, from the southwestern tip of Ireland in the west to the marshes of White Russia and the Asian shore of the Bosporus in the east. And Imperial domains fill the now-old New World, from Tierra del Fuego in the south to the Canada Sea in the north -- except for a small area in the center and west of the northern continent. In the center, the settlers of New Moravia and New Sweden have come up against the intransigence of the Americans, a race of copper-skinned men divided among many tribes and languages who have learned -- with help from others -- to resist their incursions. Could he do so, Richard Six would wipe the savages from the face of the earth. Instead, he smiles and treats with them -- while it suits his purposes to do so. And in the west, on the sunrise shore of a sunset sea, waits the pivotal point in the change that is coming: the Pirate Kingdom: Albion.