The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

When World War II hero Simon Tregarth finds himself the quarry of a manhunt, a mysterious scientist offers him a strange escape: passage into an alternate dimension through the Siege Perilous. Tregarth doubts the power of a magical stone, but it transports him to another existence, where he encounters a fugitive like himself, running from an equally deadly if much more primitive manhunt. This self-reliant young woman cannot speak Tregarth’s language, but she appears to sense his good intentions and accepts his help. Together they escape the pursuers and rendezvous with a party of armed allies. These Guardsmen, led by exiled warrior Koris of Gorm, escort Tregarth and his female companion back to her homeland of Estcarp.

In Estcarp, Tregarth learns that the power of this ancient land is founded not on the military might of its men but on the magical talent of its women. The fugitive he rescued is one of Estcarp’s “witches,” learned women who can combine mental powers with magic, providing they remain nameless and untouched by a man. Because of the fear these witches inspire, Estcarp finds itself besieged by its neighbors, Alizon and Karsten. To the west is a more ominous threat, the mysterious Kolder who have come from “oversea” to pillage the coast and make mindless slaves of its inhabitants. Tregarth gives his whole-hearted allegiance to the seemingly doomed land of Estcarp and becomes a Guardsman.

The fight against the Kolder...

(The entire section is 480 words.)