On the insignificant island of Ortelga on the outskirts of the Beklan Empire, Kelderek the hunter encounters a huge bear, identified by the high priestess (Tuginda) as the manifestation of Shardik, Power of God. A prophecy states that a man and a woman will reestablish God’s will through their association with the bear, and the Tuginda believes that she and Kelderek are those selected.
An ambitious baron, Ta-kominion, imprisons the Tuginda on her sacred island and persuades Kelderek to use the bear as a figurehead to lead the reconquest of Bekla by its ancient founders, the Ortelgans. With the help of lesser priestesses, Kelderek transports the drugged animal to the battlefront. Its wheeled cage shatters, and Shardik charges ferociously into the Beklan army, killing its three highest officers within minutes.
The Ortelgans storm an unsuspecting Bekla and reclaim their old capital. In the meantime, Kelderek tracks Shardik and arranges to have him brought to Bekla, where he is caged in a large palace overlooking the city. Ta-kominion having been killed in the first engagement of the brief war, Kelderek, by virtue of his mystic connection to Shardik, becomes the priest-king of Bekla. While he daily risks his life and seeks revelation of a great truth by entering Shardik’s cage, a brilliant general of the former ruling class wages a debilitating civil war with the capital, cutting off almost all normal trade routes. The only lucrative trade...
(The entire section is 498 words.)