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Shannivar is a young warrior, skilled in horsemanship and archery and raised by her uncle, the clan chieftain. When all the other young warrior-women have set aside their bows and arrows for husbands, she still dreams of glory.
Desperate to resist the imperialistic arm of the nearby growing empire, all of the clans of her nation are gathering to propose an alliance with each other and nearby, still-independent countries. As Shannivar and her fellow delegates travel to the meeting, they encounter a stranger, Zevaron, heir to the magical Seven-Petaled Shield. Zevaron also seeks to halt the empire’s expansion on behalf of his own fallen lost nation and joins forces with Shannivar. Shannivar has never met anyone like Zevaron, with his aura of power and quiet assurance.
Soon the clan gathering is ready, except for the mysterious absence of the clan from the far north. When the ragged band of the missing delegates finally arrive, they tell strange and ominous stories of wolves running mad, reindeer turning cannibal, and man-sized, upright lizards, called stone-drakes.
Zevaron, bestowed with the ancient central petal of the mystical Seven-Petaled Shield, feels a great emanation of danger from the north upon learning this news. Together, he and Shannivar set out on a journey to discover the source of these dangers?a quest even the prophets believe will fail.
Eons ago, a great king used a magical device—the Seven-Petaled Shield—to defeat the forces of primal chaos, but now few remember that secret knowledge. When an ambitious emperor conquers the city that safeguards the Shield, the newly-widowed young Queen, guardian of the heart-stone of the Shield, flees for her life, along with her adolescent son. As one land after another falls to the empire, they become separated and her son fears the emperor has executed his mother. Consumed with grief and vengeance, he transforms himself into the agent of chaos, a ravening destroyer who threatens all the living world. The only ones standing in the way of annihilation are the mother he thinks is dead, a dispossessed enemy prince, a demented prophet, and the nomadic horsewoman whose love alone can heal the heart of the heir to the magical Shield.
Millennia ago, the planet Darkover, a cold world orbiting a giant red sun, was settled by a lost colony ship from the Terran Federation. Alone on a new world, survivors interbred with the native chieri, psychically Giften alien humanoids. The children of these matings were Gifted with telepathy and other psychic abilities, and their descendants, the aristocratic Comyn, forged a civilization in which the arts of the mind were cultivated and cherished.
When the Terrans rediscovered Darkover, the seven Domains of Comyn struggeld to maintain their unique culture and independence, often at a terrible price. More than once, assassins and environmental saboteurs from the Terran Empire attempted to bring Darkover to its knees and erode the native culture for the benefit of the Federation -- seing Darkover as nothing more than a port of call for Terran military and trade. Eventually, a vicious interstellar war forced Federation forces to withdraw from Darkover, but Darkovans knew that it was only a matter of time before they would return.
Prince Garth Elhalyn has grown up in the shadow of his legendary grandfather, Regis Hastur, one of the greatest leaders Darkover has ever known. But he is also haunted by fear of the insanity that is prevalent in his Elhalyn family line. His world has become an unbearable counterpoint of meaningless aristocratic frivoloty and dangerous political schemes -- plots in which powerful lords attmept to use him to further their own ambitions. He tries his best to better himself through the study of languages, swordplay, and training his psychic laran with his grandmother, Linnea Storn-Hastur, Keeper of Comyn Tower. But Gareth cannot stop dreaming about a future without fame or family.
In a desperate attempt to remove himself completely from the restricted life of the Comyn, Gareth confesses his desire to his powerful grandmother, and with her blessing, disguises himself as a simple trader and travels to Carthon, on the border of the barbarous, warklike Dry Towns. The Dry Towns do not live under the rule of the Comyn, and no one in this isolated part of Darkover will recognize a Comyn lord.
In Carthon, protected by his guise of anonymity, Gareth overhears rumors of deadly, illegal Terran blasters being used in the barren lands beyond Shainsa -- one of the main Dry Towns. If the Federation has returned and is now arming the bellicose Dry Towners with banned technology, it will mean a disastrous conflict for the Comyn of the Domains, who have long sworn themselves to the Compact, an oath of honor that forbids the use of distance weaponry. Venturing deeper and deeper into the desert lands, Gareth stumbles upon a terrible reality no one could have suspected and he is ill-prepared to deal with.
But in fact, Gareth holds the key to protecting his world, if he can only stay alive in the deadly Dry Towns long enough to discover what it is....
The Children of Kings follows The Alton Gift and Traitor's Sun in the Darkover timeline.
A never-before-published fantasy novel set in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover universe.
The world of Darkover, a unique, isolated, and protected world, has long avoided becoming part of the technologically advanced Terran Empire. But things are about to change. Regis Hastur, lord of the most powerful of the seven Domains in Darkover, learns that the Empire is about to become a Federation, and is extending an invitation for all of the worlds to join. While the offer seems tempting to his people, Regis knows that Darkover would become little more than a military base, used for its unique planetary position, and will be sapped of its resources. He must now stop at nothing to save his world.