Twenty one decades ago Jorma's good friend Leand had a fiery daughter named Tdeshi, who stayed with Jorma for a year of passionate bliss. But then Tdeshi slipped off to the great city of Kassidor Yakhan where she was soon taken by a powerful drug.
Now a woman returns, claiming to be Tdeshi's clone daughter and an important sorceress at the Kassikan. Jorma fears that distant lair of powerful wizards, but is determined to win her back in hopes of restoring his friendship with Leand. To do so he must journey with her to the Yakahn and investigate the circumstances of Tdeshi's loss, a loss that may have involved foul play. He must face his fear of the Kassikan and his denial of the role he played in her loss.
As soon as they were near the field where the starship landed, Kulai had a much better appreciation for the problem. Even with the high walls, every place with any view of the ship or even the field that held it was packed with noisy crowds. There were women screaming to them, baring themselves and offering themselves. All the old superstitions and religions were represented in the crowd, many beliefs that had been discredited for centuries had resurrected themselves and had shamen here proselytizing to the crowds or conducting ceremonies. Cooks and kegmen and entertainers were set up everywhere they could squeeze in. Purveyors of every charm, trinket or talisman hawked their wares from all sides. The local residents must have evacuated because it would have been impossible to carry on life in this bedlam as huge crowds pressed in to try and catch a glimpse of the starship.
The starship had landed in the closest field to the Kassikan that was big enough to fit it, and even so, it was fourteen miles on ever-smaller canals to get here. The ship was unable to land in the water and pull up to a dock and it could not hover silently like a floater at tether. It had landed like a dactyl he’d been told, with a great wind and thunder. It had been down on this field thru a whole dark now. All thru Nightday it had remained closed while the people aboard said they were going thru a decontamination procedure before opening their portal. It wasn’t til this Morningday that they were finally ready to emerge.
If it wasn’t for this tunnel thru to a boat stop on the little Feeb Marda Canal, little more than an irrigation ditch, it would be impossible to get thru the gates. The Kassikan sent cargo thru the main gates of this field with great difficulty, using big locked wagons as a ruse. It kept the crowd’s interest away from this stop. This stop was not the closest to any of the farm gates that could access that field, but even so it was busy and they had to mill around the tunnel’s unmarked entrance until they could duck in unobserved.
The way from the station was a circuitous route thru planked-over alleys and basements. It was going to be difficult transporting patients over this. For a second he wondered if getting this assignment wasn’t going to be such a privilege after all. Sure he wanted to be a part of the greatest event in modern times, but if was going to be nothing but drudgery, he could be just as happy to read about it.
Kulai didn’t get to see the starship itself until they were inside the compound at the far end of the entry tunnel. The starship, up close, drowned out the noise of the throngs outside though it was as silent as dawn in the deep desert. Its presence blocked his ears. It was more impressive than the ever-present news articles about it could convey over the decade and forty it took to approach. The thing was as long as a large deep-water vessel, but was standing on three huge telescoping legs made of very thick and shiny metal. It flies, but it is made of partly of brick, but mainly of alloys who’s denominations he couldn’t even guess. One of the rods that extended to lower a platform with the patients on it looked like it outweighed the whole world’s heavy money supply.