Scott and Barnett's (previous collaboration, the paperback The Armor of Light, 1987) medieval fantasy world has two suns; magic works here, as does astrology. In Astreiant, the time of the Midsummer Fair approaches, heralding the ""starchange,"" a crucial astrological conjunction that bodes a reordering of the royal succession. Children, however, are mysteriously disappearing, and ""pointsman""--a medieval policeman, sort of--Nico Rathe is assigned to find out why. The suspicions of the powerful Butcher's Guild focus on the Old Brown Dog inn, whose owner, Devynck, and protector (""knife"") Philip Eslingen, are both ex-soldiers and Leaguers--the League having fought a war with Astreiant 25 years previously. After Philip is forced to kill a hotheaded young Butcher, Nico finds him another job with the merchant Caiazzo; maybe Philip will also spy for Nico. But then Nico discovers that some of the missing children have been seen in the company of certain unfamiliar black-robed astrologers. The children, so Nico and Philip eventually learn, have been enslaved by a megalomaniac ""magist"" who, by accumulating ""magistically"" active gold, intends to remake the world to his own desire. Reasonably persuasive overall, but slow--the authors dawdle through entire chapters where a sentence or two would have sufficed--with a rambling, unbalanced plot. Still, readers in no particular hurry will find plenty to divert them.