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Admiral Adam Max MacBride served a degenerating empire and wanted to retire to his own realm. Empress Juliana was something less than an empress, and her consort, Prince Wylan ap Dylan, was worse. According to legend, the prince was a direct descendant of the original Arthur Pendragon who came from a mythical place called Earth through an improbable place called Caer Pedryvan, the revolving castle. MacBride didn't believe the stories of Earth and the revolving castle, but he knew that Arthur had been real enough because his own family was also descended from the Pendragon.
He respected the Druids — the chief religious leaders in the empire — and when a druid, Cynddew, chaplain on the Thunderer, requested to see him on a matter of the utmost urgency, he consented. Cynddew brought a prisoner, a coxswain who he believed was possessed by a polymorph.
The druid was admitted, accompanied by four seamen and a master-at-arms. In their center was a young man, obviously the prisoner.
Adam strode across the room and stopped in front of the coxswain. He couldn't be much over twenty...but...Adam picked up a candelabra and held it so that he could see into the prisoner's eyes. The eyes tried to close, although their owner didn't flinch. The closing wasn't in
time; Adam saw what he dreaded to see. There was nothing in the eyes at all, not even the tiniest gleam that would normally have been present in the most unintelligent of men.
Cynddew was right. This was no longer a human being; this was the body of a man, possessed by an intelligent form of slime which could invade and take over the body of any higher form of life.
"You remember Verunda, of course," the druid said.
MacBride remembered. A beautiful land and a worthy nation that had been completely taken over by polymorphs. MacBride himself had led the fleet against the place, and the battle had raged until every undead soul thereon had been destroyed.
This was what threatened the empire, and, in fact, the entire planet. No one knew from where the polymorphs came, or if they could be destroyed — but they had come again, now, after the massacre on Verunda.
The night MacBride went to the palace to present his resignation to Juliana, he held a candle up to the eyes of Prince Wylan and knew part of the answer to the spreading chaos and degeneracy throughout the empire.
He could not retire; he had to accept Juliana's plea to become virtual dictator in order to deal with revolt in the city of Avalon and invasion from without. The fleet was already on the verge of mutiny. And then he answered a summons to attend a special druid ceremony and learned something about a mysterious power within himself...which could not be contacted, it seemed.
Here is a suspenseful novel of worlds beyond time and space, and the heritage of King Arthur, by the author of “The Forgotten Planet.”