A fantasy story set in the modern world. Two secret, conflicting orders of powerful magicians. Two ex-lovers — one in each order.
The Star Mage order is filled with idealistic zeal and a vision of utopia. Its adepts have worked in secret for six thousand years under the guidance of the Star, a sentient talisman whose goal is to create world peace, universal prosperity, and universal enlightenment.
The Crystal Mage order is consumed with selfish ambition. Five thousand years old, its adepts are empowered by a sentient talisman of their own, the Crystal. For the Crystal Mages, hidden power is an end in itself, and the Star’s utopia a pointless exercise in futility.
Correl Brannigan and Karla Jasovich are ex-lovers. She ended their relationship ten years ago, and now he’s a Star Mage while she is a Crystal Mage.
The story opens as Karla renews her contact with Correl to inform him of a strange thing she has found in the Background Realm of visions and dreams: a great stairway going who-knows-where, made by the combined efforts of the recently-retired leaders of the two orders, with a mysterious intent that Karla doesn’t trust. After seeing the stairway and sensing its danger, neither does Correl.
As if that weren’t enough, it soon becomes clear to Correl that Karla is also interested in renewing the relationship that she ended ten years earlier, despite the conflicts in their respective allegiances. His own feelings about this are decidedly mixed, but he finds her difficult to resist.
This discovery embroils the Star and Crystal orders in a terrible conflict splitting both the orders internally and forcing enemies to become allies and allies to become enemies. The outcome of that conflict could advance the Star’s utopian agenda significantly — or plunge the world into a vicious tyranny without end.
And on top of THAT, under the conflict between the Star and the Crystal is revealed a hidden cooperation for a common purpose, which may — or may not — be what the Star has assured its adepts about for thousands of years.
Follow the mystical, magical journey through layers of hidden plots and sorcerous intrigue, in which nothing is ever what it seems at first glance. What is the final truth behind the agenda of the Star and the Star Mages?
Contains the full text of The Stairway to Nowhere, The Child of Paradox, and The Golden Game.