Once again, the Gears combine archeological findings with a tale of action and mystic hoohah (People of the Sea, 1993, etc.)--and here, unfortunately, billows of talk. This time, the people are those whose remains and artifacts were discovered in Florida--people who lived about 8,000 years ago and were raiders, with darts the weapons of choice, who staked their dead in pond bottoms. Gentle Pondwader, a revered teenaged albino (dubbed the Lightning Boy), has a heavy burden. The seer Dogtooth has told him that inside his chest is a hatching Lightning Bird that will grow up and out. Obviously Pondwader has quite a future. But watching, and plotting to capture Pondwader, is cruel Cottonmouth--of the prime raiding tribe--who believes that the boy has the power to kill the Four Shining Eagles that will bring destruction on the world. Meanwhile, Cottonmouth also burns with desire for the woman he loved, the great warrior woman Musselwhite of another clan--the clan, he believes, that killed their little son Glade. Cottonmouth's warriors capture Diver, the woman's husband (thought dead at first), and use him as a magnet to attract Musselwhite, now married to Pondwader. Plans are made, alliances between clans sealed, and the stealthy creep to rescue Diver begins. Along the way, Pondwader does brave warrior things and has some first-class visions featuring the Lightning Bird and a doll once belonging to Glade. The characters are a talky bunch given to zingers like ""Great Muskrat Above"" and ""seagull dung!,"" or to sermonettes like this one from Cottonmouth to Diver: ""To be is to be related . . . Separateness is an allusion we create to justify our wrongdoings."" Beyond such highfalutin expostulations, there's some nasty work with darts and sexual doings with Black Rain, Pondwader's naughty mother. Mythic fantasy, some action, and tiresome chat: not the Gears' best.