The Lamia’s detection picked them up as soon as they were out of the last microjump; Trask’s gnawing fear that Dunnan might attack in their absence had been groundless. Incredibly, he realized, they had been gone only thirty-odd Galactic Standard days, and in that time Alvyn Karffard had done an incredible amount of work.

He had gotten the spaceport completely cleared of rubble and debris, and he had the woods cleared away from around it and the two tall buildings. The locals called the city Rivvin; a few inscriptions found here and there in it indicated that the original name had been Rivington. He had done considerable mapping, in some detail of the continent on which it was located and, in general, of the rest of the planet. And he had established friendly relations with the people of Tradetown and made friends with their king.

Nobody, not even those who had collected it, quite believed their eyes when the loot was unloaded. The little herd of long haired unicorns⁠—the Khepera locals had called them kreggs, probably a corruption of the name of some naturalist who had first studied them⁠—had come through the voyage and even the Battle of Beowulf in good shape. Trask and a few of his former cattlemen from Traskon watched them anxiously, and the ship’s doctor, acting veterinarian, made elaborate tests of vegetation they would be likely to eat. Three of the cows proved to be with calf; these were isolated and watched over with especial solicitude.

The locals were inclined to take a poor view of the kreggs, at first. Cattle ought to have two horns, one on either side, curved back. It wasn’t right for cattle to have only one horn, in the middle, slanting forward.

Both ships had taken heavy damage. The Nemesis had one pinnace berth knocked open, and everybody was glad the Beowulfers hadn’t noticed that and gotten a missile inside. The Space Scourge had taken a hit directly on her south pole while lifting out from the planet, and a good deal of the southern part of the ship was sealed off when she came in. The Nemesis was repaired as far as possible and put on off-planet patrol, then they went to work on the Space Scourge, transferring much of her armament to ground defense, clearing out all the available cargo space, and repairing her hull as far as possible. To repair her completely was a job for a regular shipyard, like Alex Gorram’s on Gram. And that was where the work would be done.

Boake Valkanhayn would command her on the voyage to and from Gram. Since Beowulf, Trask had not only ceased to dislike the man, but was beginning to admire him. He had been a good man once, before ill fortune which had been only partly of his own making had overtaken him. He’d just let himself go and stopped caring. Now he had taken hold of himself again. It had started showing after they had landed on Amaterasu. He had begun to dress more neatly and speak more grammatically; to look and act more like a spaceman and less like a barfly. His men had begun to jump to obey when he gave an order. He had opposed the raid on Beowulf, but that had been the dying struggle of the chicken-thief he had been. He had been scared, going in; well, who hadn’t been, except a few greenhorns brave with the valor of ignorance. But he had gone in, and fought his ship well, and had held his station over the fissionables plant in a hell of bombs and missile, and he had made sure everybody who had gone down and who was still alive was aboard before he lifted out.

He was a Space Viking again.

Garvan Spasso wasn’t, and never would be. He was outraged when he heard that Valkanhayn would take his ship, loaded with much of the loot of the three planets, to Gram. He came to Trask, fairly spluttering about it.

“You know what’ll happen?” he demanded. “He’ll space out with that cargo, and that’ll be the last any of us’ll hear of him again. He’ll probably take it to Joyeuse or Excalibur and buy himself a lordship with it.”

“Oh, I doubt that, Garvan. A number of our people are going along⁠—Guatt Kirbey will be the astrogator; you’d trust him, wouldn’t you? And Sir Paytrik Morland, and Baron Rathmore, and Lord Valpry, and Rolve Hemmerding.⁠ ⁠…” He was silent for a moment, struck by an idea. “Would you be willing to make the trip in the Space Scourge, too?”

Spasso would, very decidedly. Trask nodded.

“Good. Then we’ll be sure nothing crooked is pulled,” he said seriously.

After Spasso was gone, he got in touch with Baron Rathmore.

“See to it that he gets as much money that’s due him as possible, when you get to Gram. And ask Duke Angus, as a favor to give him some meaningless position with a suitably impressive title, Lord Chamberlain of the Ducal Washroom, or something. Then he can prime him with misinformation and give him an opportunity to sell it to Omfray of Glaspyth. Then, of course, he could be contacted to sell Omfray out to Angus. A couple of times around and somebody’ll stick a knife in him, and then we’ll be rid of him for good.”

They loaded the Space Scourge with gold from Stolgoland, and paintings and statues from the art museums and fabrics and furs and jewels and porcelains and plate from the markets of Eglonsby. They loaded sacks and kegs of specie from Khepera. Most of the Khepera loot wasn’t worth hauling to Gram, but it was far enough in advance of their own technologies to be priceless to the Tanith locals.

Some of these were learning simple machine operations, and a few were able to handle contragravity vehicles that had been fitted with adequate safety devices. The former slave guards had all become sergeants and lieutenants in an infantry regiment that had been formed, and the King of Tradetown borrowed some to train his own army. Some genius in the machine shop altered a matchlock musket to flintlock and showed the local gunsmiths how to do it.

The kreggs continued to thrive, after the Space Scourge departed. Several calves were born, and seemed to be doing well; the biochemistry of Tanith and Khepera were safely alike. Trask had hopes for them. Every Viking ship had its own carniculture vats, but men tired of carniculture meat, and fresh meat was always in demand. Some day, he hoped, kregg-beef would be an item of sale to ships putting in on Tanith, and the long-haired hides might even find a market in the Sword-Worlds. They had contragravity scows plying between Rivington and Tradetown regularly, now, and air-lorries were linking the villages. The boatmen of Tradetown rioted occasionally against this unfair competition. And in Rivington itself, bulldozers and power shovels and manipulators labored, and there was always a rising cloud of dust over the city.

There was so much to do, and only a trifle under twenty-five Galactic Standard hours in a day to do it. There were whole days in which he never thought once of Andray Dunnan.

A hundred and twenty-five days to Gram, and a hundred and twenty-five days back. They had long ago passed. Of course, there would be the work of repairing the Space Scourge, the conferences with the investors in the original Tanith Adventure, the business of gathering the needed equipment for the new base. Even so, he was beginning to worry a little. Worry about something as far out of his control as the Space Scourge was useless, he knew. He couldn’t help it, though. Even Harkaman, usually imperturbable, began to be fretful, after two hundred and seventy days had passed.

They were relaxing in the living quarters they had fitted out at the top of the spaceport building before retiring, both sprawled wearily in chairs that had come from one of the better hotels of Eglonsby, their drinks between them on a low table, the top of which was inlaid with something that looked like ivory but wasn’t. On the floor beside it lay the plans for a reaction-plant and mass-energy converter they would build as soon as the Space Scourge returned with equipment for producing collapsium-plated shielding.

“Of course, we could go ahead with it, now,” Harkaman said. “We could tear enough armor off the Lamia to shield any kind of a reaction plant.”

That was the first time either of them had gotten close to the possibility that the ship mightn’t return. Trask laid his cigar in the ashtray⁠—it had come from President Pedrosan Pedro’s private office⁠—and splashed a little more brandy into his glass.

“She’ll be coming before long. We have enough of our people aboard to make sure nobody else tries to take the ship. And I really believe, now, that Valkanhayn can be trusted.”

“I do, too. I’m not worried about what might happen on the ship. But we don’t know what’s been happening on Gram. Glaspyth and Didreksburg could have teamed up and jumped Wardshaven before Duke Angus was ready to invade Glaspyth. Boake might be landing the ship in a trap at Wardshaven.”

“Be a sorry looking trap after it closed on him. That would be the first time in history that a Sword-World was raided by Space Vikings.” Harkaman looked at his half-empty glass, then filled it to the top. It was the same drink he had started with, just as a regiment that has been decimated and recruited up to strength a few times is still the same regiment.

The buzz of the communication screen⁠—one of the few things in the room that hadn’t been looted somewhere⁠—interrupted him. They both rose; Harkaman, still carrying his drink, went to put it on. It was a man on duty in the control room, overhead, reporting that two emergences had just been detected at twenty light-minutes due north of the planet. Harkaman gulped his drink and set down the empty glass.

“All right. You put out a general alert? Switch anything that comes in over to this screen.” He got out his pipe and was packing tobacco into it mechanically. “They’ll be out of the last microjump and about two light-seconds away in a few minutes.”

Trask sat down again, saw that his cigarette had burned almost to the tip, and lit a fresh one from it, wishing he could be as calm about it as Harkaman. Three minutes later, the control tower picked up two emergences at a light-second and a half, a thousand or so miles apart. Then the screen flickered, and Boake Valkanhayn was looking out of it, from the desk in the newly refurbished command room of the Space Scourge.

He was a newly refurbished Boake Valkanhayn, too. His heavily braided captain’s jacket looked like the work of one of the better tailors on Gram, and on the breast was a large and ornate knight’s star, of unfamiliar design, bearing, among other things, the sword and atom-symbol of the house of Ward.

“Prince Trask; Count Harkaman,” he greeted. “Space Scourge, Tanith; thirty-two hundred hours out of Wardshaven on Gram, Baron Valkanhayn commanding, accompanied by chartered freighter Rozinante, Durendal, Captain Morbes. Requesting permission and instructions to orbit in.”

“Baron Valkanhayn?” Harkaman asked.

“That’s right,” Valkanhayn grinned. “And I have a vellum scroll the size of a blanket to prove it. I have a whole cargo of scrolls. One says you’re Otto, Count Harkaman, and another says you’re Admiral of the Royal Navy of Gram.”

“He did it!” Trask cried. “He made himself King of Gram!”

“That’s right. And you’re his trusty and well-loved Lucas, Prince Trask, and Viceroy of his Majesty’s Realm of Tanith.”

Harkaman bristled at that. “The Gehenna you say. This is our Realm of Tanith.”

“Is his Majesty making it worth while to accept his sovereignty?” Trask asked. “That is, beside vellum scrolls?”

Valkanhayn was still grinning. “Wait till we start sending cargo down. And wait till you see what’s crammed into the other ship.”

“Did Spasso come back with you?” Harkaman asked.

“Oh, no. Sir Garvan Spasso entered the service of his Majesty, King Angus. He is Chief of Police at Glaspyth, now, and nobody can call what he’s doing there chicken-stealing, either. Any chickens he steals, he steals the whole farm to get them.”

That didn’t sound good. Spasso could make King Angus’ name stink all over Glaspyth. Or maybe he’d allow Spasso to crush the adherents of Omfray, and then hang him for his oppression of the people. He’d read about somebody who’d done something like that, in one of Harkaman’s Old Terran history books.

Baron Rathmore had stayed on Gram; so had Rolve Hemmerding. The rest of the gentlemen-adventurers, all with shiny new titles of nobility, had returned. From them, as the two ships were getting into orbit, he learned what had happened on Gram since the Nemesis had spaced out.

Duke Angus had announced his intention of carrying on with the Tanith Adventure, and had started construction of a new ship at the Gorram yards. This had served plausibly to explain all the activities of preparation for the invasion of Glaspyth, and had deceived Duke Omfray completely. Omfray had already started a ship of his own; the entire resources of his duchy were thrown into an effort to get her finished and to space ahead of the one Angus was building. Work was going on frantically on her when the Wardshaven invaders hit Glaspyth; she was now nearing completion as a unit of the Royal Navy. Duke Omfray had managed to escape to Didreksburg; when Angus’ troops moved in on the latter duchy, he had escaped again, this time off-planet. He was now eating the bitter bread of exile at the court of his wife’s uncle, the King of Haulteclere.

The Count of Newhaven, the Duke of Bigglersport, and the Lord of Northport, all of whom had favored the establishment of a planetary monarchy, had immediately acknowledged Angus as their sovereign. So, with a knife at his throat, had the Duke of Didreksburg. Many other feudal magnates had refused to surrender their sovereignty. That might mean fighting, but Paytrik, now Baron, Morland, doubted it.

“The Space Scourge stopped that,” he said. “When they heard about the base here, and saw what we’d shipped to Gram, they started changing their minds. Only subjects of King Angus will be allowed to invest in the Tanith Adventure.”

As for accepting King Angus’ annexation of Tanith and accepting his sovereignty, that would also be advisable. They would need a Sword World outlet for the loot they took or obtained by barter from other Space Vikings, and until they had adequate industries of their own, they would be dependent on Gram for many things which could not be gotten by raiding.

“I suppose the King knows I’m not out here for my health, or his profit?” he asked Lord Valpry, during one of the screen conversations as the Space Scourge was getting into orbit. “My business out here is Andray Dunnan.”

“Oh, yes,” the Wardshaven noble replied. “In fact, he told me, in so many words, that he would be most happy if you sent him his nephew’s head in a block of lucite. What Dunnan did touched his honor, too. Sovereign princes never see any humor in things like that.”

“I suppose he knows that sooner or later Dunnan will try to attack Tanith?”

“If he doesn’t, it isn’t because I didn’t tell him often enough. When you see the defense armament we’re bringing, you’ll think he does.”

It was impressive, but nothing to the engineering and industrial equipment. Mining robots for use on the iron Moon of Tanith, and normal-space transports for the fifty thousand mile run between planet and satellite. A collapsed-matter producer; now they could collapsium-plate their own shielding. A small, fully robotic, steel mill that could be set up and operated on the satellite. Industrial robots, and machinery to make machinery. And, best of all, two hundred engineers and highly skilled technicians.

Quite a few industrial baronies on Gram would realize, before long, what they had lost in those men. He wondered what Lord Trask of Traskon would have thought about that.

The Prince of Tanith was no longer interested in what happened to Gram. Maybe, if things prospered for the next century or so, his successors would be ruling Gram by viceroy from Tanith.