About the BookHigh in the mountainous Hellers, Coryn Leynier, adolescent son of a minor nobleman, wakes from a nightmare of a raging forest fire, only to find that the fire is real. Running to the fire lines to help his kinsmen, Coryn fights to suppress waves of nausea and dizziness - feelings that have become more and more frequent over recent months. As all the inhabitants of Verdanta lands, noble and common alike, struggle hopelessly to contain the worst fire in memory, Lord Leynier sends a desperate message to his nearest neighbors, the Storns, with an appeal for help and for safe passage through Storn lands to Tramontana Tower. Despite the tradition of fire truce, Lord Storn refuses aid to the Leyniers because of an ancient feud. When all seems lost, and Verdanta seems doomed by uncontrollable flames, help arrives unexpectedly in the person of Rumail, laranzu of Neskaya Tower. At his summoning, Tramontana send fire-fighting chemicals carried by air-glider, and the fire is contained.
But Rumail has not come to Verdanta on an errand of mercy. He has come with the intention of testing the Leynier children for laran potential, and he quickly realizes that Coryn is suffering from threshold sickness, a potentially fatal illness that accompanies the awakening of powerful laran. He offers to monitor Coryn and arranges for him to enter Tramontana Tower for training. During Rumail's examination, Coryn senses something terribly wrong - he knows that something evil has been implanted deep within his mind - but when he wakes, he finds he cannot speak of it.
Unknown to the Leyniers, the powerful King Damian Deslucido has enlisted the help of his half-brother Rumail in his plans of conquest - plans that have already been put into brutal action. Rumail will stop at nothing - not even unethical use of his laran - to help his ambitious brother. Damian's aim is to unite all Darkover under one rule - his own - and before he is done he will threaten the greatest and most powerful of all Darkovan dynasties: the Hasturs of Thendara.