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Far in the future, the craftsmen of the distant planet Halma create goods which are the wonder of the galaxy. But they know little of this. Their society is harshly regimented, its religion austere and unforgiving, and primitive – to maintain standards, even the most basic use of automation is punishable by death.

When Amiante, a wood-carver, is executed for processing old documents with a camera, his son Ghyl rebels, and decides to bring down the system. To do so, he must first interpret the story of Emphyrio, an ancient hero of Halman legend.