Earl begins the story on Tynar, still a member of the crew of the free trader Topheir.  Despite the trading vessel’s seemingly random movements, it must still carry cargo to meet expenses. Dumarest realizes the Cyclan knew what cargo they carried upon leaving Chard, and can extrapolate his probable movements from the available cargoes and local demands on each world where they could have landed since.  When he kills three men who try to kidnap him, he knows the Cyclan are closing in.

He quits the Topheir, says goodbye to Branchard, and charters the cheapest ship available to take a course of his choosing, the destinations selected at random by throwing dice.  Unfortunately, before they reach their first destination the captain figures out that Dumarest must have a pretty price on his head if he can afford to charter an entire starship to take a random course with no cargo and no possibility of profit.  The ship’s resident minstrel/palm reader/card shark Arbush warns Dumarest that the rest of the small crew is going to go back on their deal, capture him and turn him in for the reward.  Earl is ready when they try to subdue him, but in the resulting struggle Dumarest kills the captain and with no one at the helm the ship encounters a warp and is thrown halfway across the galaxy.  Dumarest and the remaining crew manage to crash-land the ship on the nearest world, but only he and Arbush survive.

With supplies salvaged from the wreck, Dumarest and Arbush trek for days across barren ice and mountains.  For a minstrel, Arbush isn’t a hindrance, and in fact proves more competent and resourceful than many of Dumarest’s previous companions who have called themselves adventurers.  He saves Earl’s life at least once, Earl returns the favor at least once, and a combination of clever thinking and good fortune bring them, on the verge of death, to the city Instone.  Instone is a totally self-contained, self-sustaining utopia controlled by the AI called Camolsaer, and a virtual prison.  They meet Eloise, a fellow traveler stranded here 5 years earlier, and apparently the only outside factor Instone has ever known until now.  Camolsaer has tolerated her presence because she has made a cursory attempt at adapting to the culture’s expectations, and perhaps because it wants to test how the other inhabitants adapt to this unknown factor.

Eloise tells them there is but one other city on the barren planet, the place to which she originally traveled and to the residents of which Instone is no more than a myth (a myth that she and her companions investigated, resulting in their deaths and her capture).  The other “city” is little more than a mine, a slum and a spaceport, but it is to there they must escape before Camolsaer realizes what a threat the three outsiders combined present to Instone’s static society.  And quickly, because Camolsaer maintains a stable population by a combination of selective breeding and a periodic culling called “The Knelling”.

Three days prior to “The Knelling”, Camolsaer assigns every resident a number based on their relative value to society, and if the number you are assigned is lower than the total number to be culled (not revealed in advance), you become fertilizer.  The catch is, you have three days to subtract from that total by killing people yourself, thus reducing the number Camolsaer must cull and increasing your chances of survival.

This is Camolsaer’s way of ensuring that survival traits are not bred out of the otherwise complacent residents.  Naturally, those with high numbers band together to protect themselves from those with low numbers, and those with low numbers prey ruthlessly on each other and on any stragglers they might encounter.  Just as naturally, Dumarest’s friends are all assigned very low numbers.  Dumarest is assigned the number 1.  Although Camolsaer seems to be tipping its hand quite a bit, they realize that it has only dealt with the survival instinct of a population that has been conditioned from birth to believe Camolsaer is a kind of mechanical god.  On the other hand, Dumarest and friends have seen genuine crazed mobs aplenty, and even the most antisocial of Instone’s residents are no match for them.  And, while the mob of residents might kill a few of each other, the thought that they might directly attack Camolsaer or it’s robotic security “Monitors” is totally foreign to them (and to Camolsaer).

Dumarest and his companions have no such conditioning, and have little trouble causing so much genuine anarchy amidst the otherwise well-organized rioting that they manage to gather supplies, steal anti-grav harnesses and make their escape.  Eloise, who has been “in love” with Earl since she met him, finally manages to bed him (now that her blatantly obvious ulterior motive of securing an ally to help her escape no longer applies), and finally admits to herself he was telling the truth that he would leave her as soon as they reached the spaceport and he found a ship to take him off-world.

Dumarest genuinely cares for them (well, at least for Arbush), and won’t let them accompany him off-world because of the danger they would be in from the Cyclan, so he seeks passage alone.  We now realize (if we hadn’t noticed 50 pages earlier) that Arbush and Eloise actually have a lot in common and could live happily ever after (off-screen, of course), in what is an altogether uncharacteristically happy ending for a Dumarest story.

Clues of Earth
None, although Dumarest regrets escaping in such haste that he failed to query Camolsaer’s extensive data banks about it.

The Cyclan
Except for the first chapter, told from the point of view of Nequal, the Cyber Prime, and included to provide the backstory on who Dumarest is and why he is running from them, the Cyclan otherwise don’t figure into the story at all.  In that chapter, however, we learn the fairly significant detail that the older brains in the gestalt mind that comprises the Cyclan Central Intelligence are deteriorating and the Cyclan have no idea why.  We also learn that the search for Dumarest is being significantly intensified.  Fortunately for Dumarest, a freak accident throws his ship halfway across the galaxy midway through the book, so the Cyclan have no way to extrapolate his movements and once again have to start their search over from scratch.

The Journey
Earl begins Book 12, Eloise, on Tynar.  the Cyclan deduce his destination upon leaving Chard would have been Eriule, from there to one of several agricultural worlds, then to Gokan, from where he would have gone to Narag or Guir, and from either one of those worlds, Tynar.  We can presume their deduction of the intermediate steps was accurate, since we know he started on Chard and ended up on Tynar.  From Tynar, Dumarest goes to Camollard, where he remains at the end of the story waiting for a ship.

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