Symbol of Terra
1984

Plot
Dumarest begins the story on Lychen, not long after the events concluding Book 29, Angado.† He has ditched the stolen aircar and hiked the last hundred miles to Chenaultís estate.† Dumarest meets Chenault and his entourage of sensitives, mercenaries and former circus performers, who have customs reminiscent of the Terridae (or to a lesser extent, the Original People).† One of the sensitives is Govinda, a woman whose talent causes all who meet her to identify her with a person to whom they could never do harm.† To Dumarest she becomes Kalin, and he naturally falls in love with her.† Unfortunately, she canít pass this gene on because she is sterile and this has made her something of a manipulative nutjob, but Dumarest is blinded to her singleminded (and seemingly futile) obsession to bear a child.

Chenault has a talent for solving puzzles, and claims the clues Dumarest has gained so far (including the seemingly irrelevant personal log Melome helped Dumarest recover in Book 28, Melome) can locate Earth.† Dumarest senses something subtly ďwrongĒ with Chenault, and realizes that Chenault knew Earthís location even before Dumarest shared any clues, so he believes Chenault plans to cheat him. †The ensuing confrontation narrowly avoids becoming violent and reveals that Chenault is actually an incredibly old human, and the original owner of the circus of Chen Wei.† Chenault is on total life support, and the ďpersonĒ with whom Dumarest has been negotiating is actually Chenault's avatar - a lifelike android controlled by Chenaultís mind.† Chenault will give Dumarest Earthís coordinates only if Dumarest accompanies him on an expedition to Ryzam, another legendary place. Chenault has deduced the kernel of truth behind Ryzamís ďfountain of youthĒ legends is an advanced medical facility that can restore his youth, and cure Govindaís sterility.

Meanwhile, Cyber Avro is still incapacitated by the unchecked growth of his Homochon elements and has been hospitalized.† Mirza, the new head of the Karroum, wants revenge for the deaths of Angado and Perotto.† She compels Vaclav, the chief of police, to allow her to interrogate Avro before Cyclan agents can arrive and take charge of Avroís treatment. Kooga, the head physician, is also forced to assist her and despite Avroís condition they eventually learn that Dumarest can be found at Chenaultís estate.† In the process, Avroís brain scan reveals something of how the Cyclan communicate.† Kooga plans to use this knowledge to blackmail the Cyclan for a reward sufficient to guarantee his independence from the Karroum.† Dead man walking.

†Mirza leads an armed assault on Chenaultís estate.† Chenaultís companions and former mercenaries Shior and Massak hold off Mirzaís troops while Dumarest persuades Mirza that he killed Perotto because Perotto killed Angado (which she already suspected), and that starting a war to avenge Perotto just isnít worth it.† She agrees to let honor be satisfied by single combat. Dumarest clearly defeats Mirzaís champion but the man refuses to yield; Dumarest renders him unconscious and offers to finish him if Mirza insists (an act he would clearly find distasteful, but would just as clearly perform if required).† Mirza is impressed by Dumarestís savvy; he has avenged Angado, paid the debt of honor required by Perottoís slaying, and left her championís honor intact without further bloodshed.† Dumarest and Mirza part as friends.

Cyber Zuber arrives on Lychen, takes charge of Avroís treatment, and quickly realizes what Kooga is up to (before Kooga can even make any demands) and kills him with slow-acting, undetectable poison.† He destroys any data that could compromise Cyclan secrets, and goes after Vaclav next.† Vaclav, being a detective, realizes just a little too late what has happened and warns Mirza before he dies.† Mirza flees to Chenaultís estate and offers the use of her personal ship and any equipment for the expedition to Ryzam if they take her with them.† Ryzam turns out to be a region of strange forces on the planet Skedaka, where Mirzaís ship takes them.† Govinda and Mirzaís crew stay with the ship while the others head into Ryzam.† Ryzam has never been explored or mapped because navigation and propulsion systems will not operate in the energy field covering the region, and no previous explorers have ever returned alive.† It quickly becomes apparent why, even though Chenaultís party is armed to the teeth and as well equipped as Mirzaís enormous resources could supply.

Several expedition members are picked off by several varieties of huge, mutated insects not far into the affected region, and further in the survivors are beset by a roving, possibly sentient energy field that engulfs and disintegrates its prey (explaining the lack of any traces left by previous expeditions).† By the time the source of the legend is discovered, only Dumarest, Mirza and Chenault are still alive, and they are all dying (Dumarest and Mirza of wounds suffered along the way, Chenault because his life support box has finally broken down due to the bizarre energy forces within Ryzam).† Fortunately, the fountain of youth does seem to exist (in the form of yet another strange energy field) and Dumarest gets Mirza and Chenault into it before collapsing on the edges himself.† When he comes to, his wounds are completely healed just from being exposed to the fringes of the field.† Mirza is an infant (her Karroum tattoo, applied at birth, is evidence of her identity) and Chenault is a hearty young man.† Dumarest figures out how to distract the vampiric energy being, and although he is re-injured by the insect monstrosities at the border, they make it back to the ship.

Before we get to the punch line, Dumarest and Mirzaís crew later theorize that Ryzam is the crash site of an ancient alien starship, one whose FTL drive operated on a principle involving the warping of time, rather than the warping of space as used by human starships.† This explains the bizarre energy fields and unnatural geological formations in the region.† Dumarest even speculates that the energy vampire might have been nothing more than an automated alien janitorial device.† Now the punch line: Chenault has been restored to a time before he had met Dumarest or even begun searching for Earth, so he hasnít learned the coordinates yet.† Worse, while Dumarest was convalescing from his most recent wounds, Govinda has fallen for the newly youthful Chenault, and something about the alien energy fieldís effect on the infant Mirza has enabled Govinda to accept Mirza as her own child.† Thereís nothing left for Dumarest but to resume his search.

Clues of Earth
Dumarest learns the name of the merchant company which owned the ship on which he stowed away from Earth, but the coordinates elude him yet again.

The Cyclan
Cyber Avroís condition is deteriorating, and the reader isnít sure if his disturbing visions of the central intelligence are due to his own affliction or further degeneration of the gestalt minds.

The Journey
Dumarest begins book 30, Symbol of Terra, still on Lychen, and travels to Skedaka, where the story ends.

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