They were still high on the slopes, and he could see past Thendara to the spread-out spaceport itself. A distant sound, like a faraway waterfall, made the ground vibrate like thunder, even where he stood. A tiny toylike form began to rise far out on the spaceport, slowly at first, then faster and faster. The sound peaked to a faint scream; the shape was a faraway streak, a dot, was gone. Regis let his breath go. A starship of the Empire, outward bound for distant worlds, distant suns … Regis realized his fists had clenched so tightly on the reins that his horse tossed its head, protesting … His throat felt tight. He wished he were not too old to cry, but the heir to Hastur could not make any display of unmanly emotion in public. He wondered why he was getting so worked up about this, but he knew the answer: that ship was going where he could never go (Marion Zimmer Bradley, Heritage and Exile, 17).
I am Regis Hastur, heir to the Comyn and the Seven Domains of Darkover, and I want nothing to do with that exalted heritage. I wish to travel and see the stars and the worlds beyond as the Terrans do. But duty binds me here to Comyn: to serve in the guards and prepare to be the next Regent to the royal line.
My childhood friend Lew Alton knows the yoke of duty too. I think Lew would have been happier in a matrix tower, using his powerful Alton telepathic strength to run our relays and mine metals and do the thousand and one other useful tasks that mind-power (laran) does for the domains. Oh, yes, we may be a world that drags its feet and refuses to join the Terran Empire. Some say we foolishly retain our swords, our Honor, and our Compact instead of following the path of common sense and adopting blasters, vehicles, and space ships.
However, my grandfather, the current Regent, will have nothing to do with the Terrans. Foolishness, really, if you ask me (which he never does!). Does Grandfather think the Terrans will just pack up and leave their useful spaceport if he ignores them long enough? He really does seem to thinks so. That can’t be the right way for us. Yet, I can’t agree with the Terrans (and some of my own kin) who say we of Darkover are just ignorant barbarians. We have our own science – that of the mind and matrix-stone. They say in ancient times, it was the equal, and more, of Terran science. Or was that just Grandfather and others’ nostalgia speaking?
Myth or true, I am a poor representative of that heritage. Worse than a mere physical disability, I lack the telepathic talents of our cast. I am a mind-cripple destined by birth to rule a world where all nobility are telepaths. I can only hope that someday my children may inherit the abilities I lack. Yet, I have no desire to do my duty, to marry and serve as some prized stud to sire children for the good of my royal line.
Only three more years! That was my bargain with Grandfather. I will serve three years in the Guards as all young men should. Then, if I still wish, I may go and seek a different destiny in the world of the Terrans.’ The guards work is not as bad as I feared. I like the sword lessons and learning to keep the peace in the streets of Thendara. It’s mostly escorting drunks home and breaking up a few fights between idiot Terran spacemen on leave who think they can insult men of the city without taking responsibility and then settling the quarrel. Must they hide behind the walls and impersonal laws of their zone? Can’t they settle insults like men and handle a fist-fight?
True, it can be lonely here. In the Guards, I have few friends, only perhaps Danilo, for few commoners here dare to befriend one of the Comyn. And, even Danilo seems wary of my friendship. There are moments when I think we are getting close, when I can almost sense his thoughts – the pressure he’s under and a sadness and fear I cannot understand … yet, this can’t be laran, the mind-talent, can it? The healer said I had none.
If only Lew were here, he might know. We were fostered together as boys on the Alton estate and had been closer than brothers. He was one of the few who I called bredu as young men do. Yet, Lew is too far away to help with my own problems. He has gone to attempt peace talks with Aldaran. We Hasturs and the other Six Domains have never trusted the renegade Seventh Domain: that of Aldaran. All too friendly with the Terrans at their small spaceport of Caer Dom and, they say, also all too eager to stir up old matrix-weapons best left buried from our own Darkover Ages of Chaos.
Well, if anyone can do it, perhaps Lew can talk some sense into them. It hasn’t been easy for Lew, being born a bastard, with an esteemed Altan father and a half Terran-half Aldaran mother. He was only, barely, accepted by our ruling council. Yet, this may be the one time when his mixed-lineage does him some good. We do need the strength of Aldaran, of a united Seven Domains, or I fear our world may well go the way of the Terrans and their Empire. As much as I wish to leave and seek my own destiny, I would not wish the manufactured, uniformity of the Terrans and their lack of honor on my people. There must be some better way.
Want to read my full story? Look for:
Marion Zimmer Bradley, Heritage of Hastur (USA: Daw Books, 1984).
Marion Zimmer Bradley, Heritage and Exile. The Heritage of Hastur and Sharra’s Exile (USA: Daw Books, 2002). This omnibus has both this book and its exciting sequel.
Check out the GoodReads link to learn more about this novel and about other exciting books in the series!