The Terridae

On Shard, Dumarest is robbed, tracks down his assailants, kills them and retrieves his property.  His wounds are tended by Carina, a traveler, painter and physician, who is assisting monks of the Universal Brotherhood to pass time while she awaits a ship to take her off-world.  She convinces Earl to let her paint him, and while in her room he notices that in the background of one of her paintings is a box decorated with the signs of the zodiac.  Carina based the painting on an object she saw on Caval, so it’s off to Caval they go.  There they discover the box is a self-contained stasis chamber that can keep its occupant alive more or less indefinitely, and that they are built here on commission for mysterious clients whose home world is unknown.  Someone tries to kidnap Earl in broad daylight, and knowing it must be a Cyclan agent to whom the local authorities will give aid, or at best turn a blind eye, he goes to ground.  As the dragnet tightens, he stows away in a stasis casket that is ready for shipment.

He is awakened and released from the casket on Zabul by Kusche, an acquaintance from his investigation on Caval.  Dumarest is skeptical of Kusche’s paper-thin cover story from the first, but is forced to cooperate with him because they are now “guests” of the Terridae.  The Terridae’s spokesman, Voldoya, gives Dumarest three minutes to convince him they deserve to live.  Grasping at straws, Dumarest connects caskets decorated with the zodiac and the possible root of the word “Terridae” (Terra), and tells Voldoya he is from Earth, therefore one of the Original People, recites their creed, and demands not only life but hospitality.  Voldoya is stunned and takes Earl before the Terridae council.

It turns out the Terridae is a secretive and paranoid sect that shares Earl’s mission: to find Earth.  They have been awaiting “The Event” (the discovery of Earth) for thousands of years.  As they age they spend more and more of their lives in their caskets, the oldest only awakening for short periods every few decades, to prolong their lifespan until The Event occurs.  Some, particularly the young, believe Dumarest is a herald of The Event, while others (particularly those in power) are not so eager to see The Event arrive (as it would mean a disruption of the status quo).  Dumarest, fearing the Cyclan will eventually track him to even this secret refuge, and knowing the powers that be will never let him leave, sows discontent and builds bombs (all those horrible experiences as a miner and a mercenary finally pay off).  Althea, his “handler”, falls in love with him and with her aid he learns that Zabul is not a planet, but an artificial world in deep interstellar space.

As insurance, Dumarest tells Kusche about the Affinity Twin and gives him the sequence (fake, of course, but Kusche doesn’t know that).  If Kusche betrays Dumarest, the Cyclan will kill them both (after enough torture to discover who has the real sequence).  Lo and behold, Kusche admits he has a homing device on his person, which Dumarest destroys.  But it’s too late; a Cyclan ship arrives and Cyber Lin demands the Terridae hand over Dumarest or they will ruin the front companies scattered around the galaxy that provide income for Zabul’s maintenance.  Dumarest’s allies cause enough trouble that he has time to spacewalk and place a bomb on the Cyclan ship.  However, the Terridae council is more than happy to let the Cyclan take Dumarest off their hands, and Voldoya’s men eventually capture him.  During the chase, however, Dumarest manages to hide his knife in Althea’s casket.

There’s a flurry of activity in the room where Dumarest awaits transfer.  First Kusche tries to kill him with a laser Duamrest has seen previously (before Dumarest can tell the Cyclan that Kusche knows the secret too).  Carina (who has secretly been on Zabul all along, and was working in concert with Kusche and the Cyclan to capture Dumarest) kills Kusche (who stole her laser, not knowing she had a spare).  She mentions that the Cyclan had scattered thousands of copies of her painting around the sector knowing if he saw it, it would lead him to her, and she would lead him to Caval, where he could be captured.  Since he escaped the trap on Caval, they’ve been improvising.  Dumarest has been doing some improvising too. When Althea found the knife Dumarest left in her casket, she hid it in the room where she knew he would be held, and Dumarest recovered it while awaiting transfer. A knife?  Against a laser?  On an artificial planet with internal sensors and no wilderness in which to hide?  With a Cyclan ship hovering a few kilometers away?  But… remember Book 23, World of Promise? Earl has a copy of the Affinity Twin hidden in the hilt!

He uses it on Carina before two acolytes arrive to take them both to the Cyclan ship.  Dumarest (now in Carina’s body) explains "Dumarest" became violent (a claim supported by Kusche's death) and "she" had to use a tranquilizer on him. The acolytes bundle his comatose body into a life support sac for transfer.  There is an incident in the hangar bay which seems to be a minor hull breach, with lots of noise and debris flying around, but it only causes a momentary delay and soon Dumarest (in Carina’s body), along with Dumarest’s real body and the acolytes are safely aboard the Cyclan vessel.  However, Cyber Lin, upon seeing the state of Dumarest’s body, and noticing that "Carina" doesn't seem to be quite herself, almost immediately deduces that Dumarest has used the Affinity Twin and is in Carina’s body.

Lin (and the reader) are puzzled by how blatantly futile Dumarest’s plan was.  Sure, Dumarest knew the Cyclan would quickly betray Carina, and that his mind would resume control of his own body once her body was dead, but what good would that do if his body is on the Cyclan ship?  And suddenly, Lin sees the light.  He knows Dumarest is in Carina’s body.  He knows Dumarest can only get back into his own body if Carina’s body dies.  He knows Dumarest made a bomb.  He knows there was a distraction in the hangar bay.  He knows Duamrest has allies on Zabul.  His logical conclusion is that Dumarest’s body is still on Zabul, and the “body” lying there on the cargo bay floor is actually a simulacrum containing a bomb! He immediately boots it out the hatch, life-support sac and all, and proceeds to torture Dumarest (still in Carina's body) into revealing where his real body is. Lin needs both, because if Dumarest’s real body dies, so does his mind, and Carina’s mind will resume control of her body.

Dumarest resists the interrogation long enough for his body to float to a safe distance, and then tells Lin the real body is hidden in a casket on Zabul.  Lin fires up the engines to go retrieve it, the drive field sets off the bomb Dumarest planted strategically on the hull earlier, and the ship implodes (all that horrible time spent stranded in space helping engineers repair field generators damaged by jealous lovers and saboteurs finally pays off).  With Carina's body vaporized, Dumarest awakens in the life support sac and is rescued by Althea and his friends from Zabul.  They want to challenge the council and let Dumarest lead them to Earth.  The End. 

WHAT?!?  THE END?!?  Not since Book 16, Haven of Darkness, has a Dumarest novel ended leaving the reader hanging this badly.  Yes, we know it’s a series, but there had damn well better be a sequel!

Clues of Earth
Dumarest discovers the Terridae, a fanatical sect that seeks Earth and awaits “The Event”, the discovery of Earth’s location.  The Terridae are aware of the Original People, but do not appear to be directly related to them.

The Cyclan
Dumarest destroys a ship belonging to the Cyclan.  All hands perish with the ship, including Cyber Lin and the crew of numerous acolytes.

The Journey
Dumarest begins Book 25, The Terridae, on Shard, travels to Caval, and winds up on Zabul, where he ends the story with no immediate plans to leave. 

Dumarest Home