Among the native people of Darkover, even those outside the rule of the Comyn, certain taboos are strictly forbidden. In this society of telepaths, none must use their mental powers in order to shadow, or take over the mind and body, of another individual. Drastic times call for drastic measures, however, and the situation at High Windward, the outlying Castle of Storn, is indeed drastic. The stronghold has been breached and the family of Storn virtually imprisoned by a gang of ruffians. The oldest son and de facto head of the family, Loran, lies in a deathlike trance inside the high walls of the castle, protected by a magical force field; blind since birth and thus virtually powerless to stop the storming of the castle, he is not without magical recourse in his trancelike state. Eldric, his younger brother, is imprisoned in the dungeon. Allira, his timid sister, has been forcefully taken as a wife by the leader of the gang of bandits, but the younger Melitta has been given, at least temporarily, limited freedom of movement inside the walls of the castle. Alienated from the families of the Comyn on Darkover, Loran Storn has no one to call upon for aid. Taboo or not, his only hope is to search out another mind and engineer some kind of rescue mission through that person. The mind he finds is that of a Terran named Dan Barron.
Barron, after five years of unblemished service as a dispatcher at the Darkover Spaceport, finds himself in serious trouble after his dereliction of duty almost results in the crash of a landing spacecraft. He cannot tell his superiors what actually happened - that he had suddenly found himself lost in a vision of a world he did not know. Rather than being deported, he is assigned to teach lens crafting to a delegation of Darkovans, and so he ventures into the world outside the Terran zone for the first time. These sudden, all-encompassing visions continue to hit him without a moment's notice, and he begins to feel as if two people reside within his brain, as he seems to know things about Darkovan language and culture that he cannot possibly know. Eventually, this other person inside Barron takes full control of his mind and body, sending him on a desperate mission to a city he has no knowledge of; at the same time, Melitta follows the instructions of her entranced brother, escapes from the Castle of Storn, and makes her way to that same city. In this desperate rendezvous of sister and "brother" lies the only hope for the rescue of the Storn family. Dan Barron, as you might expect, takes on a less zombified role in the drama before all is said and done. Still, with no allies to call upon or available mercenaries to hire, Loran Storn's desperate gamble to save his family seems destined to fail until a most unlikely savior comes up with a plan, one involving the breaking of yet another Darkover taboo.
This relatively short novel stands alone quite well, but it also has its place in the context of the entire Darkover series. We meet Star of Danger's Larry Montray, in a relatively minor role here, and Desideria, an important character in the story of The Second Age of Darkover, makes her first appearance (in terms of the Darkover chronology) in these pages as a heroic young lady. Winds of change blowing in the kingdoms outside Comyn hegemony portend the sweeping changes evoked in the land as The First Age of contact with the Terrans draws to a close. Perhaps most significantly, we are witnesses to the rebirth of one of the forbidden weapons from the earlier Ages of Chaos, as the forbidden powers of the fire goddess Sharra are called upon for the first time in centuries.