Loved by some tolerated by many, hated by a few—the foundling brought great gifts and the fear of even greater horrors.
A new birth—or another decline?
Eleven hundred years had passed since The Time of Fire, and civilization was slowly returning to what had been the Mississippi valley.
The male-dominated plains nomads had begun to settle peacefully around the citadel of Northwall, where they freely married with townsfolk. A new culture was evolving.
But all was not well. Pelbarigan's conservative families longed for the old times: when their city led and Northwall followed; when plainsmen and citadelfolk were enemies... when women ordered and men obeyed. But the conservatives were powerless to act until the coming of a strange young woman who told of her people, their odd ways—and their awesome pre-Fire weapons...
Tor felt a rush of heat and saw red light through his arm and eyelids as the weapon bloomed up and out in a sudden, huge ball of roaring white fire that set the center of the valley ablaze, instantly roasting the crowd, the assembled Peshtak, and the Domesman.
Tor looked up, stunned. Turning, he found the guards by the shelter had been blinded by the flash and were standing in burning grass, holding their faces. Tor raced through burning leaves and grass and felled the seven guards with swift strokes of his new axe. The front of the shelter was smoking and flaring, and he could hear a shrill voice inside screaming. He dashed around to the back, encountering three Peshtak, killing all three in a whirling flurry.
He ripped mats and bark from the rear of the shelter, hacking through saplings and bindings. Diving in, he felt a knife bit into his right arm. He whipped his axe around again in the smoky dark, felt it slice deep, and resheathed it. In the smoke he saw a woman lying bound. He slipped his arm under her shoulders and ran out the hole in the rear of the shelter.