The Ancient Race has ruled in Damaria for three thousand years, since arriving there from their old homeland in the south. Long-lived, yet not very prolific, the Kings of Damaria have brought several animal species to a point at which they are nearly human. A son, by one of these people, of the present King, Armor, was sent south for his education. On his return he foments a revolution against the Ancient Race, resulting in the deaths of all of that family except Riddle the Poet and his very young nephew Lute, as well as the theft of the Orb, an instrument that made possible manipulations of the different species in Damaria.
Riddle and his nephew flee to the forest, where they join with the Turnig, burrowers now hunted by the New People for their fur. Together, they hope to travel north and west to the City in the Mist, where they will be able to take ship for the Western Islands, refuge of many of the Ancient Race over the millennia. They are joined by Moonlight the Dreamer, and Gorhoz the Goremin, along with Kilelli, one of the primate-descended beings. Together the strangely assorted group of beings wins its way through perils, blizzards, and soul-endangering encounters before reaching their goal at last, though they pay a dreadful price before the journey is completed.
Ardath Frances Hurst Mayhar (born 1930) began her writing career as a poet when she was nineteen. She began writing science fiction in 1979 after returning with her family to Texas from Oregon. She was nominated for the Mark Twain Award, and won the Balrog Award for a horror narrative poem in Masques I. She has had numerous other nominations for awards in almost every fiction genre and has won many awards for poetry. In 2008 she was chosen by Science Fiction Writers of America as their Author Emeritus.
Mayhar has written over 60 books ranging from science fiction to horror to young adult to historical to westerns; with some work under the pseudonyms Frank Cannon, Frances Hurst, and John Killdeer.