Suppose that mammoths, sabertooth cats and other large ice-age animals had been transplanted to another planet long ago. Suppose further that the planet, Falaron, has developed an economy based primarily on guided tourism, including Challenge journeys recognized through much of the Confederation as adulthood trials.
Roi and his best friends from slavery are taking such a Challenge journey. They look forward to a vacation of dog sledding, hang gliding, horseback trekking, sailing, whitewater rafting and rock climbing—though friction is developing within the group.
Their guide, Penny, finds the four a refreshing change from her usual spoiled clients. She is worried, however, by the unusual number of accidents, even though Falaron is a wilderness planet.
But they aren’t all accidents. Roi’s half-brother Zhaim, a brilliant and malicious sociopath, has decided that the journey is an ideal opportunity to rid himself of his rival. He is capable of manipulating not only the weather, but affairs on distant planets, thus drawing the two adults who would be able to protect the young people far enough away they can be of no help. He has even managed to plant an unsuspecting agent in the party.
The journey has become a far more serious Challenge then any of them could have imagined.