Koumbi is a poverty-stricken city ruled by an emperor, the master of the universe. To bring back prosperity the priests of the emperor must perform the customary human sacrifice in which the people have no faith.
Sia is designated for the sacrifice. She is, however, engaged to Mamadi, a valiant army lieutenant who learning of this, rebels and saves her from the sacrifice.
The power changes hands, though the lies that sustain it remain. Sia is aware of this, she who has been raped by priests, and adopts the words of Kerfa, an old fool who is wise and subversive.
Unexpectedly, instead of wearing the imperial crown offered by her fiance Mamadi, the new master of the city, she takes to the road as Kerfa had done before her, to spread the words of peace and justice.
The words bring forth a kind of anathema on the city and its residents who haven't been able to learn from history.