From the Back Cover of The Forbidden TowerEdit
This is the novel of four who defied the powers of the matrix guardians - fanatics who protected those powers so that the planet of the ruddy sun might never fall beneath the influence of materialistic Terrans.
The four who found themselves fused into a terrifying unity in that defiance were two men and two women.
The men were Damon Ridenow, a Comyn of the ruling caste, and Andrew Carr, the Earthman who had won for himself the right of clan-entry.
The women were Ellemir, betrothed of Damon, and Callista, who foreswore her vows to seek the love of the alien from the stars.
- Damon Ridenow - Husband to Ellemir and Keeper of the Forbidden Tower
- Ellemir Lanart-Alton - Wife to Damon Ridenow; twin to Callista
- Andrew Carr - Terran and husband to Calista Lanart-Carr
- Callista Lanart-Alton - Wife to Andrew Carr and one-time Keeper of Arilinn Tower; twin to Ellemir
- Dom Esteban Lanart-Alton - Lord Alton of Armida
- Desiderio Leynier -bastard son who helps Lord Esteban.
- Leonie Hastur - twin sister to Lorill Hastur and Keeper of Arilinn
- Domenic Lanart-Alton -son of Esteban gets killed.
- Kieran Ridenow
- Dom Lorenz Ridenow - Lord of Serrais and Damon's oldest brother
- Cathal Lindir
- Valdir-Lewis Lanart-Ridenow - Youngest son of Esteban Lanart-Alton and heir when his brother is killed
- Lorill Hastur - Regent to Prince Aran Elhalyn; twin brother to Leonie
- Danvan Hastur
- Dom Gabriel Ardais
- Lady Rohana Ardais
- Margwenn Elhalyn - Under-Keeper at Thendara, under Asharra
- Rafael Aillard - Telepath from Neskaya who back Leonie to challenge the Forbidden Tower
- Ferrika -midwife at Armida.
Damon Ridenow, temporary leader of the Guardsmen, rides towards Armida in the Alton Domain after the defeat of the Great Cat. Once he was a technician at Arilinn and loved Leonie Hastur, Keeper of Arilinn, in secret, but he was sent from the Tower for being too sensitive. Now he has rebuilt his life and is to marry Ellemir Lanart, daughter of the Lord of the Alton Domain, Dom Esteban. On his way to Armida he meets Leonie, who is deciding whether to release Ellemir's twin sister Callista from her vows as Keeper so that she can marry the Terran Andrew Carr who helped rescue her from the Great Cat. The Comyn are declining, and Callista is needed as Keeper, but she loves Andrew.
At Armida, they are met by Callista, Andrew, Ellemir, Dom Esteban and Desiderio Leynier (Dezi) who may be an unacknowledged son of Dom Esteban. Leonie summons Callista to speak to her; Andrew offers to come with her but she wants to face Leonie alone. Callista has been conditioned to be remote, unaffected by passion, a Keeper, and she cannot even touch Andrew. Leonie tries to persuade Callista to remain a Keeper, saying how much she is needed, but Callista convinces her that she truly loves Andrew, and Leonie releases her from her oath. Andrew, homesick for Terra despite his new love for Darkover, fears that the hold of the Tower will reclaim Callista but she reassures him. They kneel for blessing before Dom Esteban, who symbolically accepts Andrew as a son.
They decide to hold a double freemate ceremony, not marry di catenas, and the night before the wedding Ellemir and Callista talk. Callista is afraid that she will not be able to overcome her Keeper's training and Ellemir tries to comfort her by saying how, when she was fifteen, she lost her virginity to their sister Dorian's husband Mikhail, and it was no great matter, but Callista is still afraid. In the morning Damon and Andrew choose which suites they will live in and Damon explains to Andrew how hard it was for him to rebuild his life after being sent from Arilinn. Later, Callista tells Andrew that, although they won't be able to consummate their marriage until her Keeper's reactions have gone, she won't mind if he finds another woman. He refuses, and they agree to share the same room. Callista and Ellemir's brother Domenic, the Heir to Alton, arrives, greets them, and offers to stand as kinsman to Andrew in the ceremony. After the marriages, there is a party with all the neighbourhood and then a public putting to bed, which Callista and Andrew find rather a trial.
Over the next month, Andrew gets to know Callista better and Ellemir becomes pregnant, but with bad sickness. Ferrika, the Renunciate trained nurse and midwife, asks Damon to help her with some badly frost-bitten men. Some are so badly hurt that Damon realises he will have to try and heal them with his laran, although that is forbidden for one who has left Arilinn. He asks Callista to help but she refuses, having lain down her oath, so Andrew and Dezi, who was Arilinn-trained, help him. The matrix work is hard but successful, and Damon begins to rebel against the superstitions which restrict matrix work to the Towers, explaining this to Ellemir.
Some days later, Ellemir collapses and has a miscarriage: she and Damon are too closely related to safely have a child. Andrew and Damon ride out to Serrais and Damon explains to Andrew that Callista's nerve channels, which in a normal woman are used selectively for laran and sex, have been fixed by her Keeper's training to laran only. When they return, Dezi taunts Andrew that his marriage is not legal yet, as it has not been consummated, and this prompts them to attempt it that night, in inadvertent rapport with Damon and Ellemir. Suddenly Andrew hears Callista scream and he is flung across the room, losing consciousness. When he wakes, Damon and Ellemir are there. Damon stitches his forehead, explaining that what happened was a Keeper's reaction: Callista didn't mean to hurt him, but the psi force could have killed him and she took the backlash through her own body. Callista's channels are blocked and the nerve channels are trying to carry laran and sex at once, making her ill. The next day Callista is still ill, and she has begun to menstruate. Damon is shocked to hear that this is the first time ever, that Leonie fixed her channels before she had matured to that stage. Andrew feels guilty about Callista's suffering and a voice in his head seems to tell him to go, that he is not wanted. He wanders, half-dazed, into a snowstorm and collapses there.
Damon, trying to extract the laran-enhancing drug kirian from kireseth flowers, realises that Andrew has gone. Questioning Dezi, he finds that Dezi used his Alton gift of forced rapport to send Andrew into the storm. They find Andrew, and when he has recovered, Damon faces Dezi and demands his matrix so that he can't misuse it again. Dezi resists, but using a telepathic damper Damon takes his matrix and hides it. In the morning Dezi is gone, to Domenic at Thendara. Damon now knows that Dezi is truly Dom Esteban's son, his gifts show him to be full Comyn.
Callista does not recover from her illness and Damon warns her that her channels must be cleared, but she refuses because that would restore her to her conditioned state as Keeper and again, she wouldn't be able to touch Andrew. Callista goes to Leonie in the overworld and demands to know why Leonie fixed her channels so that she can't decondition herself. Leonie asks her to return to Arilinn but Callista refuses, and reaffirms her wedding vows to Andrew. Damon goes to Leonie and asks if there is anything to help Callista and she tells him she will search the records, and he must come back another time.
In Armida, Callista goes into convulsions and Damon tells her that she has no choice now: she must clear her channels or die. Callista agrees and takes kirian to help her. Meanwhile, Ellemir offers herself to Andrew, saying that it would be easier for Callista is she didn't have to feel his need, and Andrew accepts. When Callista wakes, the pain has gone but her Keeper's reflexes have returned full strength. She goes to talk to Andrew in the garden and he tries to keep up a line of communication between them by asking her if she minds sharing him with Ellemir. He reminds her that it is her he truly loves and that he loves Ellemir in another way.
A few weeks after this, Callista discovers that some of the dangerous kireseth flower has gone missing and Damon tells her that he took it but won't tell her why. Damon warns Dom Esteban that they will need to carry out some barricaded psi work soon. Damon and Andrew share a dream which somehow connects the kireseth flowers with Callista's situation, but Damon can't work out why. The next day, with Callista as monitor, he travels through the overworld to meet Leonie, passing the Tower which their psi work has built at Armida. Leonie tells him that he must go on Timesearch, back into the past when such things were known. She admits that she sent him from Arilinn only because she loved him and Damon, torn by his old love, agrees to return at Midwinter when she can guide him in the search.
At the Midwinter Festival, Damon gets drunk in fear of what he will have to do, but he senses Callista's grief and despair and resolves to go through with it. Leonie guides him up through the levels of the overworld until she can go no further, then Damon continues alone until he finds himself at Neskaya Tower, centuries ago. A young man greets him as tenerezu - Keeper - and introduces himself as Varzil, the legendary Varzil the Good who set up the Compact of Darkover. Varzil tells Damon to remember the Year's End Ritual which will help Callista, then returns Damon to his body before his strength runs out. Damon resolves to search the records of all the Towers for the Year's End Ritual.
Near Spring Ellemir tells Andrew that she is pregnant with his child and although he is pleased, he wonders how Callista will take the news. Callista and Andrew ride out to gather kireseth flowers and she tells him that she is glad about the baby because she is not ready to bear a child yet and he wants to be a father. The kireseth flowers affect them, and Andrew is able to kiss Callista without her withdrawing. However, when Damon monitors Callista back at Armida, her channels are clear and he tells her that she must have had a hallucination.
At dinner that night Dom Esteban has a flash of Alton precognition and starts to worry about Domenic. The next day news comes that Domenic is dead, killed accidentally by a blow to his head during sword practice with his sworn brother Cathal Lindir. The family, with Ferrika to look after Ellemir, go to Thendara for Domenic's burial. Also, the new Heir to Alton, Valdir, is only twelve and Dom Esteban is ill, so a regent must be appointed. In the chapel at Thendara, Cathal is grieving over Domenic's body. He says that Domenic was alive but unconscious when he left to get help and that Dezi was with him. Damon, horrified, begins to suspect that Dezi may have killed Domenic by taking his matrix from his body, but has no proof. At the burial, everyone pays tribute to Domenic, who was well-liked, while Dezi stays with Dom Esteban. In Comyn Council, Damon is proposed as Regent to Alton should Dom Esteban die before Valdir is of age. Damon begins to swear the oath of allegiance to the Alton Domain but suddenly Dezi challenges his right to be Regent, saying that Damon tried to kill him. Damon explains why he took Dezi's matrix but Dezi reveals that Andrew is a Terran and there is uproar. Lorill Hastur calms them and promises that a judgement will be made in three days time.
Callista is now convinced that Dezi killed Domenic and Damon asks Margwenn Elhalyn, under-Keeper of Comyn Tower, to check the monitor screens for Domenic's matrix. It is still alive, proving that Dezi took it for his own use. When they tell Dom Esteban he collapses with shock and lies seriously ill. Damon confronts Dezi but Dezi has the Alton gift which can kill, and Damon falls to his knees. Callista steps between them as Keeper and takes Dezi's matrix. Dezi teleports to Armida, where his old matrix is, but doesn't realise that it is in a box and dies, his head cracked open. Callista goes into hysterics because she has broken her vow and is forsworn but Damon slaps her. He realises that he, not Callista, is Keeper of the circle they have built up and is responsible for them all.
A couple of hours later, Leonie, Margwenn and some other telepaths demand an audience with Damon and Andrew. Leonie accuses Damon of working an illegal circle and demands that he dissolves the new Tower. Damon refuses, saying that the Arilinn way of training telepaths is corrupt and shouldn't be restricted to the Towers. He and Callista, although sent from Arilinn, should be free to use their powers. Leonie leaves, promising to lay the matter before Comyn Council. The penalty for Damon's crime is to have the psi centres of his brain burnt out. Damon is terrified and Andrew tries to comfort him, realising at last the four-fold bond between them.
Three days later they are summoned to Comyn Council and formally accused of misusing their powers. Lorill tells Andrew that he will be returned to the Terrans; Callista will return to Arilinn as Keeper and Damon will have his psi centres burnt out but Ellemir is allowed to go free for her child's sake. Ellemir refuses to go, wanting to stay with Damon, and starts to explain how laran should be used. Rohana Ardais listens to her but is overruled. Damon invokes the ancient challenge: he has established his Tower and will test its right to remain by duel. Leonie agrees and Lorill declares that the duel will begin at sunrise. Back in their suite, Damon realises at last how kireseth is connected to the Year's End Ritual. In the old days, it was used to release Keepers whose channels had frozen as it breaks down inhibitions. Callista must be able to tell the Council that her marriage has been consummated or it will not be legal, and so they decide to carry out the ritual that night. Inhaling the pollen, Callista feels her inhibitions fade but is still afraid. Ellemir shares her memories of her first sexual experience and reassures Callista. Slowly the rapport builds and they soon lose any sense of separateness.
When Callista wakes she knows that she has conceived a daughter. Damon has a vision that a daughter of his own (Cleindori Aillard, daughter of Jaelle n'ha Melora - see The Bloody Sun) will be murdered for trying to spread the knowledge they have just gained. At sunrise they move into the overworld and wait for the attack. Leonie and her Circle attack them with lightening and slime but the Tower remains strong. Leonie creates a dragon which burns down the Tower but they rise like a phoenix and soar victorious over Arilinn. Damon calls for a truce and meets Leonie. Leonie is horrified to see that Callista is now a woman but can still use her powers, and Damon realises that Leonie neutered herself after she fell in love with him to remove temptation. Leonie acknowledges Damon as Keeper and then leaves them alone.
Some days later they prepare to return to Armida. Dom Esteban is better and Damon knows that he will not be needed as Regent. Leonie comes to bless them, knowing that she will not see them again. As they ride, Callista looks forward to the birth of her child and a new life with Andrew, and Damon looks forward to developing new science of matrix technology on Darkover.