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In the beginning there was the CoDominium, an alliance of nations that hated each other, banded together to keep an uneasy peace. Under that peace many worlds were found and colonized: Sparta, Covenant, Friedland, Meiji, Frystaat, Sauron, Dayan. Then the CoDominium's explorers found Haven, moon of a gas giant planet circling Byers' Sun, a full year's travel from Earth by Alderson Drive. There the CoDominium sent Earth's human refuse: religious fanatics, the rebellious folk of inconvenient nationalities, the obstinate practitioners of outmoded customs, those who were in the way. Most died, for Haven was a harsh world of drought and thin air and endless cold. When the CoDominium fell—and Earth with it—three in every four on Haven died with the machines that supported them.

The kings of Sparta rebuilt civilization under the First Empire of Man. They found Haven of marginal usefulness, recruiting soldiers from its fierce and hardy peoples, sending them the Empire's exiles and criminals in return. For four hundred years the Empire's peace lay on Haven—usually very lightly, beyond the few cities—and there was as much prosperity as a grudging planet could support.

The Empire of Man fell in the Secession Wars; the folk of the planet Sauron, genetically engineered as the ultimate soldiers, led the rebellion. When it ended, civilization was nearly dead among the stars—and Sauron was wholly dead, blasted from space until the continents cracked down to the molten core. One shipload of the Soldiers escaped the destruction of their homeworld, fleeing in search of refuge. The refuge they found was Haven, and to make it secure they destroyed every remaining vestige of high technology on a world already poor and backward. Once more there was a great death, and in the midst of that dying the long war against the Saurons began.

Three hundred years later the struggle continued, with intervals of uneasy equipoise . . . .

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