The Plot

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 567

Kinnall Darival is the second son of the septarch of Salla, an important province on the planet of Borthan. His father is killed unexpectedly, impaled by a hornfowl while hunting. According to tradition, Kinnall’s older brother, Stirron, inherits the position of septarch. Not only must Kinnall find something else to...

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Kinnall Darival is the second son of the septarch of Salla, an important province on the planet of Borthan. His father is killed unexpectedly, impaled by a hornfowl while hunting. According to tradition, Kinnall’s older brother, Stirron, inherits the position of septarch. Not only must Kinnall find something else to do with his life, but he also must take special care not to aggravate the culturally ordained paranoia of the new septarch. To ensure his own security, Kinnall flees his native land, and his voyage of self-discovery begins.

Several years working underground and below his station in society in the neighboring province of Glin give Kinnall increased strength and maturity. He also begins to question the mores and social customs accepted on Borthan almost universally. The workers and peasants with whom Kinnall associates in Glin are not nearly as strict as the upper classes about their denial of self, the first rule of social behavior on Borthan. This denial is so intense that even the various forms of the first-person singular pronoun—I, me, my, myself, and mine—are forbidden. They are considered vulgar, and using them in polite conversation is a serious social offense.

Eventually, Kinnall makes his way to Glin’s main seaport and manages to get work on a ship headed for Manneran. His bondsister, Halum, lives in the capital city there, and her father is the High Justice of the Port. He likes Kinnall and employs him as his chief assistant, a position with immense potential prestige and power.

Kinnall flourishes for the next fifteen years. He becomes wealthy, marries Halum’s cousin, Loimel, and has five children with her. Even the septarch of Salla is happy to renew his old family affection for Kinnall. Stirron is more secure in exercising his power now: He is not threatened by any possible challenge from his younger brother.

This period of serenity is shattered, however, by the appearance of a trader from old Earth named Schweiz. He is an unorthodox seeker after firsthand knowledge of the gods, and in his explorations he has become interested in a native drug. It is made from the powdered root of a plant that grows in the jungles found on the southern continent. The drug does not reveal the gods, but it does expose souls and true selves. Those who partake find themselves sharing a heightened, mystical awareness of one another.

Kinnall begins using the drug, even though it is illegal, and he is transformed. He decides that everything he has been taught about denying the self and hiding it in shame is wrong. The more the self is expressed and shared, Kinnall comes to believe, the better. He sets out on a campaign to convert the rest of Borthan, by means of the drug, to his new point of view. Unfortunately, before long he is betrayed to the authorities and forced to flee Manneran.

A fugitive once again, Kinnall returns to his home province of Salla to stay with his bondbrother, Noim. Halum comes to visit. After hearing about the effects of the mysterious drug, she decides to try it. Overwhelmed by the flood of new sensations and awareness, Halum has a negative reaction and commits suicide. Kinnall must flee again, this time to a cabin in the burned lowlands. The police of the septarch, his brother Stirron, track Kinnall down and finally take him into custody.

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