The winds of Gath is the first of British Sci Fi author EC Tubb's long running and charmingly formulaic series on the wanderings of space gladiator and searcher Earl Dumarest. Earl was born on Earth, in his far future time, a world ruined by wars and depleted and occupied only by scavengers and, at its core, by a huge secret order called the Cyclan whose members' brains have been surgically altered to be capable only of logic and not emotion (1967, the year Tubb published was the year Star Trek, the original series with its unforgettable, logical, unemotional -but decidedly not evil- Mr. Spock became popular). The Cyclan comprised thousands of disembodied brains in a huge installation deep within the earth (Triskelion anyone?) and monk like cadres -who had not yet earned the reward of disembodiment- wearing red robes and traveling the settled universe establishing covert control over human inhabited worlds.
Earl, as a destitute 10 year old child, stowed away on a ship that violated the Cyclan proscription of the world, and Earl promised the captain who let him live never to reveal this secret. Earl came to belong to a class of humans called travelers, people with special skills or strengths that travel from planet to planet in steerage (where they risk a 15% death rate in a drug induced form of cold suspended animation) landing on new planets and working to earn another ship passage. Earl had done this for several years when he awoke at the end of one trip to find the ship he was riding directed to Gath, a world where rich tourists traveled to hear the voices of their departed in hallucination inducing storms beside a particular mountain range two days march from the space port.
Earl had hoped for a more practical destination, but after he had been placed in suspension, the ship had been commissioned by Gloria, the Matriarch of Kund, a planetary ruler in a system where a matriarch passed power on to another matriarch of her choice. She wanted to hear the counsel of a lost lover before choosing a successor and resigning her position. In fact matriarchs of Kund were not supposed to have offspring or lovers, but were to be surgically altered to make offspring impossible. Secretly, Gloria had had a lover and a child before she underwent this. She took Seena, her ward and likely successor (and known only to her, her great grand daughter) and Dyne, a member of the Cyclan ostensibly hired in her service with his acolyte retinue, plus Melga her doctor and a retinue of amazon guards.
After arrival, Dumarest, left the ship and discovered Megan, a fellow traveler from the past, stranded on Gath. Dumarest also discovered Sime, an odd traveler toting the coffin of his wife together with an old woman and a traveler boy they had met on their ship. Sime apparently hoped he could hear the "Last Trumpet" (an old Earth legend) and resurrect his wife. The only local food was ocean fish obtained at terrible risk or earned by hire as labor for tourists.
Megan went to the Church of the Universal Brotherhood, a Franciscan like order of post Christian monks (on the most minimal of speaking terms with the Cyclan) obtained food and received the light of Benediction (which eased his mind but made it impossible for him to kill). Dumarest declined the Brotherhood's offer of food and light but supported them.
The Prince of Emmened, a vain, sadistic but dangerously intelligent, planetary ruler had come to Gath with his courtier Crowder and his champion Moidor both to enjoy the storm of Gath and to find out what the Matriarch was after - he rightly suspected she was concealing something. Before the journey to the mountains Emmened had Moidor take all comers for the price of a first class passage. Earl killed Moidor with tremendous speed and skill. This interested Gloria who had Melga cure Earl's battle wounds. While recuperating, Earl met Seena who was quite taken with him. Before they could make love, an assassination was attempted which Earl prevented. To avoid another attempt, Gloria left for the mountains early. Earl was too curious about Seena's relationship with Gloria and was expelled from Gloria's retinue. Earl found Megan wounded by Crowder's poison. He went to Emmened and offered to help him kidnap Seena if Emmened would give Megan medical treatment which he did. The storm hit, Earl went out in it and was attacked by Sime's old woman. He heard voices of the dead he had known and lost consciousness.
Awakening after the storm he found Sime's coffin empty. Realizing what had happened, he went to Gloria and showed her that Seena had been switched for a "twin" that Dyne and the Cyclan intended to use to control Kund. Seena had been kidnapped by Sime but taken from him by the now insane Emmened. Earl chased them to the dark side of the planet, under Slowtime which rendered his movements several times normal speed, rescued Seena and killed Dyne. Dyne had also been working with Melga on isolating special telepathic tissue in the brains of indigenous animals that the Cyclan hoped to use probably to create controlling telepathic links with a Symbiote (cf. Kalin). This, Dyne's acolytes succeeded in taking with them. Earl decided the time had come at last to retrace his steps to Earth.