When someone sent distress signals to outer space from the planet Tschai, it was Adam Reith's misfortune to be sent from Earth to investigate. Because when his ship came close to Tschai, it was torpedoed - and Adam escaped to the surface with his life and nothing else.
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Marooned on the strange planet Tschai, Adam Reith agreed to lead an expedition to return the princess Ylin Ylan, the Flower of Cath, to her homeland halfway around the globe. Monsters of land and sea lay before them, as well as beings both human and alien who might rob, kill, or enslave them. Tschai was a large planet - an ancient planet - where four powerful alien races struggled for mastery while humans were treated as pawns; nothing would be easy for Reith on this journey.
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Getting back to Earth from the planet Tschai involved either stealing a spaceship or having one built to order - for Tschai was home to several intelligent star-born races, and so they had spaceyards. But Adam Reith's problem was not so simple. He'd already been lucky to escape the Chasch and the Wankh and a dozen different types of humans, and now his course led directly to the Grand Sivishe Spaceyards in the domains of the Dirdir.
The Pnume were an ancient race of the planet Tschai, living underground in a vast network of caverns with their human slave species, the Pnumekin. The Pnume were the historians of Tschai, collecting its past with ruthless and scholarly dedication. Surface dwellers never saw the Pnume - if they were lucky. Adam Reith was not so fortunate. The Pnume had heard rumors of a strange man claiming to have come from the planet Earth, and they wanted him for Foreverness, the museum of Tschai life.