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On Darkover, it is the era of the Hundred Kingdoms - a time of nearly continuous war and bloody disputes between minor kings who seek to increase their power by usurping their neighbours' domains. A time when Towers are conscripted to produce terrifying laran weapons - weapons which kill from afar, poisoning the very land itself for decades to come. In this dark time, there seems no limit to the violence men are willing to wage against their adversaries in the name of power. But in this terrifying time of greed and imperialism, two powerful men have devoted their lives to changing their world and eliminating these terrible weapons. For years King Carolin of Hastur and his close friend, Varzil Ridenow have dreamed of a world without war. Now they petition the domains of Darkover to adopt a decree that they call the Compact. Their Compact, a law based on honour, will ban all distance weapons, thus forcing one who seeks to kill another to fight hand to hand and face equal risk. But while Varzil and Carolin continue their difficult campaign to bring peace to Darkover, another man hides in the alleys of Thendara, biding his time, and plotting the destruction of these two heroic men. For Eduin Delucido, the renegade laranzu who disappeared during the battle which nearly destroyed Hestral Tower, still lives . . . and lives only to see the demise of Carolin Hastur and his entire clan!