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No human being had ever seen the Trisz, not even so much as a picture of them. They looked as the name sounds — Trisz, their appearance as illusive as wind rippling water. Yet the Trisz had conquered Earth and its peoples in generations past, and no one could escape their ever-watchful presence.
No one except the Scarlet Order of Men, the one planet-wide organization that Earth's elusive masters tolerated. Only the most favored of the People could enter the Institute, as children, to undergo rigorous training. Those unfit for the Order became Blue Brethren, servants and guides of the People, aiding and instructing them as loyal members of society, under the rule of the benevolent Trisz.
Few were the Students selected for initiation into the Scarlet Order. These few learned the scientific secrets behind the philosophy taught by the Blue Brethren, learned mental disciplines and psychic powers which enabled them to perform what would seem to be miracles. And Initiates learned the truth about the Trisz — that these seemingly benevolent rulers had not only destroyed the human civilization that existed before their coming, but were also looting the planet's energy.
For the Trisz fed on pure energy; and little by little, Earth was being robbed of all that made it habitable. Only a small fraction of its water still remained, and most of the planet was a desert.
Kor Danay had completed his nineteen-year course of training, and was ready for his initiation tests — tests which he, and the other five in his class, would either pass or perish in the attempt. Before the day was over, if he still lived, he would be a Scarlet Sage, ready to enter the secret struggle against the Trisz. The struggle would be long and bitter, for all his powers; the Men had succeeded in concealing their true nature from the Trisz, but were still far short of scientific knowledge and attainments needed to win Earth, and save what was left of its people. Kor Danay prepared to take the Oath of Manhood, elated with his success in mastering the "Fire Out of Heaven," a voluntary test which none had passed before. Then, to his consternation, he found himself required to take this pledge:
"I do solemnly vow...never in vanity or pride...to demonstrate my powers...to any living thing...nor to use my powers against any of the People...except that my life be in danger...nor against any of the Trisz. This I most solemnly swear...that I will face death before the Trisz...and will let my life be lost...rather than disclose the secret powers of the Men to them..."
What did this pledge mean? Why had he spent nineteen years in developing himself into the superb weapon that every Man was, if he must vow not to use his power? Here is an absorbing novel of the future; of the superscience of man; and of one, believing himself chosen to play the hero, who found he must plumb the depths of humility, with no hope before him other than a mean and ignoble death.