Tamar, Water Maiden of the village of the Three Faces of the Moon, is next in line to become the Lady Mother and leader of the Golden People. When a tribe of gazelle hunters comes from the desert and settles near the Village, Tamar is fascinated by a tall, dark-eyed man among the new people.

The desert folk are very strange: they cover their bodies, and their women remain hidden and mute. The sacred verses of Tamar's people enjoin friendship with all tribes; however, the nomad queen Atir devines a prophecy from the dread omen of the serpent, a vision that she and Tamar both share unbeknownst to one another.