The chameleon is the sign of the house of Suth of which the leading character is a son. Additionally, the Stone Dance of the Chameleon itself is a megalithicstone circle, an embodiment of ancient law and the social structure of the Three Lands, the imperial polity in which these novels are set. It is a slave-owning civilisation of bizarre customs and dazzling beauty, in which the keynotes are an obsession with blood (lineage as well as sacrifice) and the casual exercise of cruelty. The Chosen are this world's narcissistic, ruthless hereditary nobility, and the entire enterprise of society exists to sustain them in their sybaritic, self-indulgent lives. The protagonist Carnelian is a member of this aristocracy, though brought up at a sufficient remove from it as to find its discovery as repellent and fascinating by turns as the reader.
As the series opens, Carnelian must journey with his father Sardian to Osrakum, ritual capital of the Commonwealth, at the difficult occasion of the imminent death of the current God Emperor and subsequent election of his successor from among the Chosen; an individual who will embody the Twins, the double deity of their theology. This duoform divinity represents the dark (stormy) and green (vegetal) aspects of the rainequation upon which the success of the harvest and hence the fabric of society hang. To this end, the Chosen of the Imperial House have bred selectively with females predisposed to produce male monozygotic twins; for each double candidacy, while resulting in successful apotheosis for one child, condemns the other to death at his brother's coronation.