As might be expected, the Beowulfers finished their hypership first. They had started with everything but a little know-how which had been quickly learned. Amaterasu had had to begin by creating the industry they needed to create the industry they needed to build a ship. The Beowulf ship⁠—she was named Viking’s Gift⁠—came in on Tanith five and a half years after the Nemesis and the Space Scourge had raided Beowulf; her skipper had fought a normal-drive ship in that battle. Beside plutonium and radioactive isotopes, she carried a general cargo of the sort of luxury-goods unique to Beowulf which could always find a market in interstellar trade.

After selling the cargo and depositing the money in the Bank of Tanith, the skipper of the Viking’s Gift wanted to know where he could find a good planet to raid. They gave him a list, none too tough but all slightly above the chicken-stealing level, and another list of planets he was not to raid; planets with which Tanith was trading.

Six months later they learned that he had showed up on Khepera, with which they were now trading, and had flooded the market there with plundered textiles, hardware, ceramics and plastics. He had bought kregg-meat and hides.

“You see what you did, now?” Harkaman clamored. “You thought you were making a customer; what you made was a competitor.”

“What I made was an ally. If we ever do find Dunnan’s planet, we’ll need a fleet to take it. A couple of Beowulf ships would help. You know them; you fought them, too.”

Harkaman had other worries. While cruising in Corisande II, he had come in on Vitharr, one of the planets where Tanith ships traded, to find it being raided by a Space Viking ship based on Xochitl. He had fought a short but furious ship-action, battering the invader until he was glad to hyper out. Then he had gone directly to Xochitl, arriving on the heels of the ship he had beaten, and had had it out both with the captain and Prince Viktor, serving them with an ultimatum to leave Tanith trade-planets alone in the future.

“How did they take it?” Trask asked, when he returned to report.

“Just about the way you would have. Viktor said his people were Space Vikings, not Gilgameshers. I told him we weren’t Gilgameshers, either, as he’d find out on Xochitl the next time one of his ships raided one of our planets. Are you going to back me up? Of course, you can always send Prince Viktor my head, and an apology⁠—”

“If I have to send him anything, I’ll send him a sky full of ships and a planet full of hellburners. You did perfectly right, Otto; exactly what I’d have done in your place.”

There the matter rested. There were no more raids by Xochitl ships on any of their trade-planets. No mention of the incident was made in any of the reports sent back to Gram. The Gram situation was deteriorating rapidly enough. Finally, there was an audiovisual message from Angus himself; he was seated on his throne, wearing his crown, and he began speaking from the screen abruptly:

“We, Angus, King of Gram and Tanith, are highly displeased with our subject, Lucas, Prince and Viceroy of Tanith; we consider ourselves very badly served by Prince Trask. We therefore command him to return to Gram, and render to us account of his administration of our colony and realm of Tanith.”

After some hasty preparations, Trask recorded a reply. He was sitting on a throne, himself, and he wore a crown just as ornate as King Angus’, and robes of white and black Imhotep furs.

“We, Lucas, Prince of Tanith,” he began, “are quite willing to acknowledge the suzerainty of the King of Gram, formerly Duke of Wardshaven. It is our earnest desire, if possible, to remain at peace and friendship with the King of Gram, and to carry on trade relations with him and with his subjects.

“We must, however, reject absolutely any efforts on his part to dictate the internal policies of our realm of Tanith. It is our earnest hope,”⁠—dammit, he’d said “earnest,” he should have thought of some other word⁠—“that no act on the part of his Majesty the King of Gram will create any breach in the friendship existing between his realm and ours.”

Three months later, the next ship, which had left Gram while King Angus’ summons was still in hyperspace, brought Baron Rathmore. Shaking hands with him as he left the landing craft, Trask wanted to know if he’d been sent out as the new Viceroy. Rathmore started to laugh and ended by cursing vilely.

“No. I’ve come out to offer my sword to the King of Tanith,” he said.

“Prince of Tanith, for the time being,” Trask corrected. “The sword, however, is most acceptable. I take it you’ve had all of our blessed sovereign you can stomach?”

“Lucas, you have enough ships and men here to take Gram,” Rathmore said. “Proclaim yourself King of Tanith and then lay claim to the throne of Gram and the whole planet would rise for you.”

Rathmore had lowered his voice, but even so the open landing stage was no place for this sort of talk. He said so, ordered a couple of the locals to collect Rathmore’s luggage, and got him into a hall-car, taking him down to his living quarters. After they were in private, Rathmore began again:

“It’s more than anybody can stand! There isn’t one of the old great nobility he hasn’t alienated, or one of the minor barons, the landholders and industrialists, the people who were always the backbone of Gram. And it goes from them down to the commonfolk. Assessments on the lords, taxes on the people, inflation to meet the taxes, high prices, debased coinage. Everybody’s being beggared except this rabble of new lords he has around him, and that slut of a wife and her greedy kinfolk.⁠ ⁠…”

Trask stiffened. “You’re not speaking of Queen Flavia, are you?” he asked softly.

Rathmore’s mouth opened slightly. “Great Satan, don’t you know? No, of course not; the news would have come on the same ship I did. Why, Angus divorced Flavia. He claimed that she was incapable of giving him an heir to the throne. He remarried immediately.”

The girl’s name meant nothing to Trask; he did know of her father, a Baron Valdiva. He was lord of a small estate south of the Ward lands and west of Newhaven. Most of his people were out-and-out bandits and cattle-rustlers, and he was as close to being one himself as he could get.

“Nice family he’s married into. A credit to the dignity of the throne.”

“Yes. You wouldn’t know this Lady-Demoiselle Evita; she was only seventeen when you left Gram, and hadn’t begun to acquire a reputation outside her father’s lands. She’s made up for lost time since, though. And she has enough uncles and aunts and cousins and ex-lovers and whatnot to fill out an infantry regiment, and every one of them’s at court with both hands out to grab everything they can.”

“How does Duke Joris like this?” The Duke of Bigglersport was Queen Flavia’s brother. “I daresay he’s less than delighted.”

“He’s hiring mercenaries, is what he’s doing, and buying combat contragravity. Lucas, why don’t you come back? You have no idea what a reputation you have on Gram, now. Everybody would rally to you.”

He shook his head, “I have a throne, here on Tanith. On Gram I want nothing. I’m sorry for the way Angus turned out, I thought he’d make a good King. But since he’s made an intolerable King, the lords and people of Gram will have to get rid of him for themselves. I have my own tasks, here.”

Rathmore shrugged. “I was afraid that would be it,” he said. “Well, I offered my sword; I won’t take it back. I can help you in what you’re doing on Tanith.”

The captain of the free Space Viking Damnthing was named Roger-fan-Morvill Esthersan, which meant that he was some Sword-Worlder’s acknowledged bastard by a woman of one of the Old Federation planets. His mother’s people could have been Nergalers; he had coarse black hair, a mahogany-brown skin, and red-brown, almost maroon, eyes. He tasted the wine the robot poured for him and expressed appreciation, then began unwrapping the parcel he had brought in.

“Something I found while raiding on Tetragrammaton,” he said. “I thought you might like to have it. It was made on Gram.”

It was an automatic pistol, with a belt and holster. The leather was bisonoid-hide; the buckle of the belt was an oval enameled with a crescent, pale blue on black. The pistol was a plain 10 mm military model with grooved plastic grips; on the receiver it bore the stamp of the House of Hoylbar, the firearms manufacturers of Glaspyth. Evidently it was one of the arms Duke Omfray had provided for Andray Dunnan’s original mercenary company.

“Tetragrammaton?” He glanced over to the Big Board; there was no previous report from that planet. “How long ago?”

“I’d say about three hundred hours. I came from there directly, less than two hundred and fifty hours. Dunnan’s ships had left the planet three days before I got there.”

That was practically sizzling hot. Well, something like that had to happen, sooner or later. The Space Viking was asking him if he knew what sort of a place Tetragrammaton was.

Neobarbarian, trying to recivilize in a crude way. Small population, concentrated on one continent; farming and fisheries. A little heavy industry, in a small way, at a couple of towns. They had some nuclear power, introduced a century or so ago by traders from Marduk, one of the really civilized planets. They still depended on Marduk for fissionables; their export product was an abominably-smelling vegetable oil which furnished the base for delicate perfumes, and which nobody was ever able to synthesize properly.

“I heard they had steel mills in operation, now,” the half-breed Space Viking said. “It seems that somebody on Rimmon has just reinvented the railroad, and they need more steel than they can produce for themselves. I thought I’d raid Tetragrammaton for steel and trade it on Rimmon for a load of heaven-tea. When I got there, though, the whole planet was in a mess; not raiding, but plain wanton destruction. The locals were just digging themselves out of it when I landed. Some of them, who didn’t think they had anything at all left to lose, gave me a fight. I captured a few of them, to find out what had happened. One of them had that pistol; he said he’d taken it off a Space Viking he’d killed. The ships that raided them were the Enterprise and the Yo-Yo. I knew you’d want to hear about it. I got some of the locals’ stories on tape.”

“Well, thank you. I’ll want to hear those tapes. Now, you say you want steel?”

“Well, I haven’t any money. That’s why I was going to raid Tetragrammaton.”

“Nifflheim with the money; your cargo’s paid for already. This,” he said, touching the pistol, “and whatever’s on the tapes.”

They played off the tapes that evening. They weren’t particularly informative. The locals who had been interrogated hadn’t been in actual contact with Dunnan’s people except in combat. The man who had been carrying the 10 mm Hoylbar was the best witness of the lot, and he knew little. He had caught one of them alone, shot him from behind with a shotgun, taken his pistol, and then gotten away as quickly as he could. They had sent down landing craft, it seemed, and said they wanted to trade; then something must have happened, nobody knew what, and they had begun a massacre and sacked the town. After returning to their ships, they had opened fire with nuclear missiles.

“Sounds like Dunnan,” Hugh Rathmore said in disgust. “He just went kill-crazy. The bad blood of Blackcliffe.”

“There are funny things about this,” Boake Valkanhayn said. “I’d say it was a terror-raid, but who in Gehenna was he trying to terrorize?”

“I wondered about that, too.” Harkaman frowned. “This town where he landed seems, such as it was, to have been the planetary capital. They just landed, pretending friendship, which I can’t see why they needed to pretend, and then began looting and massacring. There wasn’t anything of real value there; all they took was what the men could carry themselves or stuff into their landing craft, and they did that because they have what amounts to a religious taboo against landing anywhere and leaving without stealing something. The real loot was at these two other towns; a steel mill and big stocks of steel at one, and all that skunk-apple oil at the other. So what did they do? They dropped a five-megaton bomb on each one, and blew both of them to Em-See-Square. That was a terror-raid pure and simple, but as Boake inquires, just who were they terrorizing? If there were big cities somewhere else on the planet, it would figure. But there aren’t. They blew out the two biggest cities, and all the loot in them.”

“Then they wanted to terrorize somebody off the planet.”

“But nobody’d hear about it off-planet,” somebody protested.

“The Mardukans would; they trade with Tetragrammaton,” the acknowledged bastard of somebody named Morvill said. “They have a couple of ships a year there.”

“That’s right,” Trask agreed. “Marduk.”

“You mean, you think Dunnan’s trying to terrorize Marduk?” Valkanhayn demanded. “Great Satan, even he isn’t crazy enough for that!”

Baron Rathmore started to say something about what Andray Dunnan was crazy enough to do, and what his uncle was crazy enough to do. It was just one of the cracks he had been making since he’d come to Tanith and didn’t have to look over his shoulder while he was making them.

“I think he is, too,” Trask said. “I think that is exactly what he is doing. Don’t ask me why; as Otto is fond of remarking, he’s crazy and we aren’t, and that gives him an advantage. But what have we gotten, since those Gilgameshers told us about his picking up Burrik’s ship and the Honest Horris? Until today, we’ve heard nothing from any other Space Viking. What we have gotten was stories from Gilgameshers about raids on planets where they trade, and every one of them is also a planet where Marduk ships trade. And in every case, there has been little or nothing reported about valuable loot taken. The stories are all about wanton and murderous bombings. I think Andray Dunnan is making war on Marduk.”

“Then he’s crazier than his grandfather and his uncle both!” Rathmore cried.

“You mean, he’s making a string of terror-raids on their trade-planets, hoping to pull the Mardukan space-navy away from the home planet?” Harkaman had stopped being incredulous. “And when he gets them all lured away, he’ll make a fast raid?”

“That’s what I think. Remember our fundamental postulate: Dunnan is crazy. Remember how he convinced himself that he was the rightful heir to the ducal crown of Wardshaven?” And remember his insane passion for Elaine; he pushed that thought hastily from him. “Now, he’s convinced that he’s the greatest Space Viking in history. He has to do something worthy of that distinction. When was the last time anybody attacked a civilized planet? I don’t mean Gilgamesh, I mean a planet like Marduk.”

“A hundred and twenty years ago; Prince Havilgar of Haulteclere, six ships, against Aton. Two ships got back. He didn’t. Nobody’s tried it since,” Harkaman said.

“So Dunnan the Great will do it. I hope he tries,” he surprised himself by adding. “That’s provided I find out what happened. Then I could stop thinking about him.”

There was a time when he had dreaded the possibility that somebody else might kill Dunnan before he could.