The second book in the science fiction trilogy starts right where the first one ended.
Publication year: 1987
Page count: 253
Kesrith ended with the last two surviving mri terribly wounded and in the hands of the humans. Sten Duncan, who spent a little time with the mri, gained such respect for them, that he rescued them even against their wishes. The mri don’t want medicines or anything else from the non-mri races, but they are unconscious and unable to resist. Some of the humans hate the mri because the mri killed a lot of humans during the war but still they nurse the two aliens.
Duncan is in disgrace because he told straight what he thinks about the regul bai Hulagh’s actions. The bai is responsible for killing all the other mri who were on Kesrith. The human governor Stavros is playing his own game; he allows Duncan to return to the former mri holy place. There Duncan retrieves the mri holy object and records the place, too.
The human scientists examine the mri relic and determine that it’s a navigational item. Duncan is convinced that it will lead the two mri to the rest of the mri race, if any are still alive. Stavros agrees to give Duncan and the two mri an unarmed space craft to follow the navigational tape and see where it leads to. However, when they are already underway, Duncan realizes that Stavros has betrayed him and sent warships to track him to the possible mri home world.
First third of the book follows Duncan when he tries to preserve what he can from the mri culture. The two captives are kept sedated and they are wasting away in human laboratories. We also get a glimpse of bai Hulagh who is still deathly afraid of the mri whom he suspects will turn again the regul who betrayed them. Hulagh also seems to fear the mri simply because they are different.
The mystery around the dusei deepens, too. The huge bear like creatures are native to Keshrith but have formed a tight bond with the mri. They seem to be able to send emotions to the mri and mri can also send emotions to at least his chosen dus. Duncan also suspects that they are at least almost sentient creatures and might be able to even control others’ perceptions.
The voyage to their destination takes months and a large chunk of the book is set in that time. Duncan agrees to try to become one of the mri but it’s very hard for him. For example, the mri seem to be able to withstand the effects of the FTL jumps easily while humans can’t. However, it seemed that when Duncan focused his mind to a task, in this case the game the Niun taught him, he was able to withstand the jump better. I found this rather dubious. Surely, humans should have found out before that meditation helps with the jumps. I think the mri and Duncan both were also very lucky that they can eat the same food. Otherwise, Duncan would have starved. Or maybe the mri would have killed him outright.
Basically, this is Duncan’s tale of trying to become a mri. However, in the end, neither side accepts him anymore because of it. The mri lifestyle is very hard and unforgiving. They also scorn all non-mri things, like skills (although not food or space crafts so I find their way a bit hypocritical). The humans regard Duncan as a traitor. I hope he finds a happier life in the last book.
Except for the end, the plot isn’t action oriented. Instead it focuses on Duncan’s inner turmoil and the relationships between him and the two mri. We also get more information about the mri culture.