“The Shadow King”

In the last year of her life, Marion Zimmer Bradley began work on a new Darkover novel set in the time period between The World Wreckers and Exile’s Song. It focused on one of her favorite characters, Regis Hastur. Regis first appeared in one of the early novels, The Planet Savers (1962) as a young Comyn lord. Very little of his personal life was revealed in that story, for it centered on other characters, most notably Dr. Jay/Jason Allison. By the time Marion wrote The World Wreckers (1971), she had created more depth and complexity in Regis’s personality: his gift for leadership, his conflict between personal dreams and the political leadership that only he could furnish. In The World Wreckers, Marion introduced two other characters, Danilo Syrtis, Regis’s paxman and dearest friend, and Linnea Storn-Lanart, a young Keeper who touches Regis’s heart and later becomes his lover. The exact nature of Regis’s relationship with Danilo was not specified, although it was clear how deeply they cared for one another.

“I am your most loyal–” the boy’s voice suddenly shook, “you know my life is yours to keep or spend, vai dom cario; but do you really know what would become of this world or your people with you dead?”

Bredu.” Regis used the word which meant not only friend but sworn brother and reached out with both hands for Danilo’s; a rare touch in a telepath caste. He said, “If this is true, my dearest brother, why should seven assassins want me dead?”

In The Heritage of Hastur (1975), Marion set out to create a gay protagonist who was both sympathetic and admirable. She went back to Regis’s early life, to his days as a teenager in the Cadet Guards. Through a plot that involved crucial events in Lew Alton’s life and the raising of the Sharra matrix, she wove a story of love, honor, and coming to terms with one’s own sexual nature. At the end of the story, it was not clear whether Regis and Danilo had become sexually intimate, but the undeniably passionate aspect of their love was established.

Marion further developed and clarified the relationship between Regis and Danilo in Sharra’s Exile (1981) and a short story, “The Shadow,” in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover (1993). Exile’s Song (1996), written during a time when Marion was exploring working with various other writers, maintained the emotional intimacy shared by Regis and Danilo, while downplaying the sexual aspect and showing Regis happily married to Linnea.

Marion often portrayed characters comfortable with bisexuality and non-monogamy. Perhaps her most noted work involving these themes was The Forbidden Tower (1977). A discrepancy arose between the devotion shared by Regis and Danilo in The Heritage of Hastur and Sharra’s Exile, and any genuine commitment Regis might make to a woman, even one as extraordinary as Linnea. How did such a change come about? What did the characters have to resolve in themselves and each other? How could this triangle possibly work in an emotionally honest way?

This then was one of the stories Marion began in a novel she called The Shadow King. The love triangle was woven into other events, unfolding interstellar crises, kidnappings, rescues, and a daring political coup–in other words, a typical Darkover adventure.

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