In a distant galaxy, a pair of bluish-white stars whirls slowly around each other, like two sisters in a perpetual dance. For binary stars, Nevron and Kelvron drift relatively far apart, their dance steady, serene, and almost unnoticed. An asteroid belt passes between them, sailing like the streamers of unseen gowns. And skirting each star, two sets of planets circle, their orbits forming halos around each twin. True, most of these orbiting spheres of stone, earth, and molten rock are uninhabitable. But a select few buzz with life, with a music quite unlike the waltz of the sister suns. One of these life-bearing planets, Zavenscikori--better known as Znski--rotates around the Nevron star. A warm world of vast oceans, great deserts, and lush forests, Znski bears many creatures. But by far its most advanced and most formidable is the Lizzardi race, a race technologically sophisticated, yet disparate. All Lizzardis find themselves separated not just by the gulf of oceans and continents, but by heritage, tradition, and age-old enmities. After centuries of ups and downs, two distinct spheres of influence have come to dominate Znski's many voices; the Voshiadda clan heads the western continents while the Clonce family rules the east. And these polar opposites act quite unlike the twin sisters dancing in the celestial heavens. Here on Znski there is no eternal harmony, no peaceful undulation. Only discord. And here the dancers move not with each other, but against.
Chapter One: The Menace
He smelled trouble. Or was it the scent of his sweat seeping between thick rugged scales? Or both? Regardless, too much tension. The old Alagor frowned, his long jawline furrowing at the corners. Could situations sour so quickly? Restless and uncomfortable, Caslimodi Voshiadda scooted his long scaly body atop the heated Soothe Stone, his short and stubby arms and legs vying for a new position. From head to tail, his body stretched over eighteen paw-feet. Faded yellow eyes gazed past three playful sons, into an unseen realm. Questions gnawed at him. Indeed, he had not felt this concerned since the days preceding the Great War of Velzar, nearly thirty hexints before. A whistle whined, and Caslimodi's pointed head jerked toward the doorway. A few heartbeats later, a curtain parted and a palace guard wriggled into the chamber on all fours. The guard spoke, his voice a blend of slurred hisses and clacks: "Sire, the Council of Elders is assembling. Your presence is requested at an emergency session." The old one nodded. Folds of scaly skin creased at the motion, yet his gaze held steady, unfazed. Meanwhile, three smaller Lizzardis ceased their play and waddled over to him. "What's wrong, father?" said the eldest, Staurbajianze. The three youths gazed up at Caslimodi, small eyes inquisitive. They looked upon him as the rest of the Western Alliance soon would . . . expressions bewildered, questioning, seeking reassurance. The old one said, "It's okay. Not to worry. We'll speak later, I promise." He paused, as if contemplating more. But was there anything else he could say to allay their fears without revealing his own discomfort? The guard intervened: "Sire?" Nodding, the old one turned from his sons--his eyes again distant--and then plodded out the doorway. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.