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Long ago in their intraspecific conflicts a violent, technologically sophisticated life form, the Kurii, destroyed their native world. They now seek another. Between Earth and Gor, or the Counterearth, and the power of the imperialistic, predatory Kurii, now ensconced in the Steel Worlds, a number of satellite colonies concealed amongst the debris of the asteroid belt, stands only the defensive might of the Priest-Kings of Gor. Tarl Cabot, once of Bristol, England, laboring in behalf of the Priest-Kings, once managed to foil a Kur attempt to set the stage for an invasion of Gor. In that venture he encountered a worthy foe, the redoubtable Half-Ear, or Zarendargar, now fallen from favor in the Steel Worlds. The Kurii, unforgiving and relentless, have sent a death squad to Gor seeking Zarendargar. They seek the assistance of Cabot in this enterprise, but he declines to be of service. A decorated piece of hide, bearing strange symbols, tells a story, which may or may not be true. It suggests that Half-Ear, or Zarendargar, whom Cabot believed dead, may yet live. The death squad will seek Zarendargar, but, so, too, will Cabot, to warn him, for once, long ago, and faraway, in the polar north of Gor, each with the other had shared drink, a gesture of warriors, a cup lifted amongst foes. But to pursue this mission Cabot must enter and traverse the Barrens, the vast Eastern prairies of the primary Gorean continent, lands contested by tribes of warring savages, lands forbidden to strangers.
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