It came to me then, like a chilly draught from an unseen gap, that I had always known in my deepest heart that it would be like this, a slipping away from a life full of people I had come to love, in a place I had helped to shape, in a land I had helped to free. The time has come at last for Elspeth Gordie to leave the Land on her quest to find and stop the computermachine Sentinel from unleashing the deadly Balance of Terror arsenal. But before she can embark on her journey, she must find a lost key. And although she has long prepared for this day, nothing is as she anticipated. Elspeth’s search will take her where she never thought to go, and bestow upon her stranger companions than any she ever imagined. It will lead her far from her destination to those she believed lost forever. And it will test her, as she has never been tested before . . .