He succeeded, the next morning, in convincing everybody that he wanted to be alone for a while, and was sitting in a garden, watching the rainbows in the midst of a big waterfall across the valley. Elaine would have liked that, but she wasn’t with him, now.

Then he realized that somebody was speaking to him, in a small, bashful voice. He turned, and saw a little girl in shorts and a sleeveless jacket, holding in her arms a long-haired blond puppy with big ears and appealing eyes.

“Hello, both of you,” he said.

The puppy wriggled and tried to lick the girl’s face.

“Don’t, Mopsy. We want to talk to this gentleman,” she said. “Are you really and truly the Space Viking?”

“Really and truly. And who are you two?”

“I’m Myrna. And this is Mopsy.”

“Hello, Myrna. Hello, Mopsy.”

Hearing his name, the puppy wriggled again and dropped from the child’s arms; after a brief hesitation, he came over and jumped onto Trask’s lap, licking his face. While he petted the dog, the girl came over and sat on the bench beside him.

“Mopsy likes you,” she said. After a moment, she added: “I like you, too.”

“And I like you,” he said. “Would you want to be my girl? You know, a Space Viking has to have a girl on every planet. How would you like to be my girl on Marduk?”

Myrna thought that over carefully. “I’d like to, but I couldn’t. You see, I’m going to have to be Queen, some day.”


“Yes. Grandpa is King now, and when he’s through being King, Pappa will have to be King, and then when he’s through being King, I can’t be King because I’m a girl, so I’ll have to be Queen. And I can’t be anybody’s girl, because I’m going to have to marry somebody I don’t know, for reasons of state.” She thought some more, and lowered her voice. “I’ll tell you a secret. I am a Queen now.”

“Oh, you are?”

She nodded. “We are Queen, in our own right, of our Royal Bedroom, our Royal Playroom, and our Royal Bathroom. And Mopsy is our faithful subject.”

“Is Your Majesty absolute ruler of these domains?”

“No,” she said disgustedly. “We must at all times defer to our Royal Ministers, just like Grandpa has to. That means, I have to do just what they tell me to. That’s Lady Valerie, and Margot, and Dame Eunice, and Sir Thomas. But Grandpa says they are good and wise ministers. Are you really a Prince? I didn’t know Space Vikings were Princes.”

“Well, my King says I am. And I am ruler of my planet, and I’ll tell you a secret. I don’t have to do what anybody tells me.”

“Gee! Are you a tyrant? You’re awfully big and strong. I’ll bet you’ve slain just hundreds of cruel and wicked enemies.”

“Thousands, Your Majesty.”

He wished that weren’t literally true; he didn’t know how many of them had been little girls like Myrna and little dogs like Mopsy. He found that he was holding both of them tightly. The girl was saying: “But you feel bad about it.” These children must be telepaths!

“A Space Viking who is also a Prince must do many things he doesn’t want to do.”

“I know. So does a Queen. I hope Grandpa and Pappa don’t get through being King for just years and years.” She looked over his shoulder. “Oh! And now I suppose I’ve got to do something else I don’t want to. Lessons, I bet.”

He followed her eyes. The girl who had been his dinner companion was approaching; she wore a wide sunshade hat, and a gown that trailed filmy gauze like sunset-colored mist. There was another woman, in the garb of an upper servant, with her.

“Lady Valerie and who else?” he whispered.

“Margot. She’s my nurse. She’s awful strict, but she’s nice.”

“Prince Trask, has Her Highness been bothering you?” Lady Valerie asked.

“Oh, far from it.” He rose, still holding the funny little dog. “But you should say, Her Majesty. She has informed me that she is sovereign of three princely domains. And of one dear loving subject.” He gave the subject back to the sovereign.

“You should not have told Prince Trask that,” Lady Valerie chided. “When Your Majesty is outside her domains, Your Majesty must remain incognito. Now, Your Majesty must go with the Minister of the Bedchamber; the Minister of Education awaits an audience.”

“Arithmetic, I bet. Well, goodbye, Prince Trask. I hope I can see you again. Say goodbye, Mopsy.”

She went away with her nurse, the little dog looking back over her shoulder.

“I came out to enjoy the gardens alone,” he said, “and now I find I’d rather enjoy them in company. If your Ministerial duties do not forbid, could you be the company?”

“But gladly, Prince Trask. Her Majesty will be occupied with serious affairs of state. Square root. Have you seen the grottoes? They’re down this way.”

That afternoon, one of the gentlemen-attendants caught up with him; Baron Cragdale would be gratified if Prince Trask could find time to talk with him privately. Before they had talked more than a few minutes, however, Baron Cragdale abruptly became Crown Prince Edvard.

“Prince Trask, Admiral Shefter tells me that you and he are having informal discussions about cooperation against this mutual enemy of ours, Dunnan. This is fine; it has my approval, and the approval of Prince Vandarvant, the Prime Minister, and, I might add, that of Goodman Mikhyl. I think it ought to go further, though. A formal treaty between Tanith and Marduk would be greatly to the advantage of both.”

“I’d be inclined to think so, Prince Edvard. But aren’t you proposing marriage on rather short acquaintance? It’s only been fifty hours since the Nemesis orbited in here.”

“Well, we know a bit about you and your planet beforehand. There’s a large Gilgamesher colony here. You have a few on Tanith, haven’t you? Well, anything one Gilgamesher knows, they all find out, and ours are cooperative with Naval intelligence.”

That would be why Andray Dunnan was having no dealings with Gilgameshers. It would also be what Zaspar Makann meant when he ranted about the Gilgamesh Interstellar Conspiracy.

“I can see where an arrangement like that would be mutually advantageous. I’d be quite in favor of it. Cooperation against Dunnan, of course, and reciprocal trade-rights on each other’s trade-planets, and direct trade between Marduk and Tanith. And Beowulf and Amaterasu would come into it, too. Does this also have the approval of the Prime Minister and the King?”

“Goodman Mikhyl’s in favor of it; there’s a distinction between him and the King, as you’ll have noticed. The King can’t be in favor of anything till the Assembly or the Chancellor express an opinion. Prince Vandarvant favors it personally; as Prime Minister, he is reserving his opinion. We’ll have to get the support of the Crown Loyalist Party before he can take an unequivocal position.”

“Well, Baron Cragdale; speaking as Baron Trask of Traskon, suppose we just work out a rough outline of what this treaty ought to be, and then consult, unofficially, with a few people whom you can trust, and see what can be done about presenting it to the proper government officials.⁠ ⁠…”

The Prime Minister came to Cragdale that evening, heavily incognito and accompanied by several leaders of the Crown Loyalist Party. In principle, they all favored a treaty with Tanith. Politically, they had doubts. Not before the election; too controversial a subject. “Controversial,” it appeared, was the dirtiest dirty-name anything could be called on Marduk. It would alienate the labor vote; they’d think increased imports would threaten employment in Mardukan industries. Some of the interstellar trading companies would like a chance at the Tanith planets; others would resent Tanith ships being given access to theirs. And Zaspar Makann’s party were already shrieking protests about the Nemesis being repaired by the Royal Navy.

And a couple of professors who inclined toward Makann had introduced a resolution calling for the court-martial of Prince Bentrik and an investigation of the loyalty of Admiral Shefter. And somebody else, probably a stooge of Makann’s, was claiming that Bentrik had sold the Victrix to the Space Vikings and that the films of the battle of Audhumla were fakes, photographed in miniature at the Navy Moon Base.

Admiral Shefter, when Trask flew in to see him the next day, was contemptuous about this last.

“Ignore the whole bloody thing; we get something like that before every general election. On this planet, you can always kick the Gilgameshers and the Armed Forces with impunity, neither have votes and neither can kick back. The whole thing’ll be forgotten the day after the election. It always is.”

“That’s if Makann doesn’t win the election,” Trask qualified.

“That’s no matter who wins the election. They can’t any of them get along without the Navy, and they bloody well know it.”

Trask wanted to know if Intelligence had been getting anything.

“Not on how Dunnan found out the Victrix had been ordered to Audhumla, no,” Shefter said. “There wasn’t any secrecy about it; at least a thousand people, from myself down to the shoeshine boys, could have known about it as soon as the order was taped.

“As for the list of ships you gave me, yes. One of them puts in to this planet regularly; she spaced out from here only yesterday morning. The Honest Horris.”

“Well, great Satan, haven’t you done anything?”

“I don’t know if there’s anything we can do. Oh, we’re investigating, but.⁠ ⁠… You see, this ship first showed up here four years ago, commanded by some kind of a Neobarb, not a Gilgamesher, named Horris Sasstroff. He claimed to be from Skathi; the locals there have a few ships, the Space Vikings had a base on Skathi about a hundred or so years ago. Naturally, the ship had no papers. Tramp trading among the Neobarbs, it might be years before you’d put in on a planet where they’d ever heard of ship’s papers.

“The ship seems to have been in bad shape, probably abandoned on Skathi as junk a century ago and tinkered up by the locals. She was in here twice, according to the commercial shipping records, and the second time she was in too bad shape to be moved out, and Sasstroff couldn’t pay to have her rebuilt, so she was libeled for spaceport charges and sold. Some one-lung trading company bought her and fixed her up a little; they went bankrupt in a year or so, and she was bought by another small company, Startraders, Ltd., and they’ve been using her on a milk-run to and from Gimli. They seem to be a legitimate outfit, but we’re looking into them. We’re looking for Sasstroff, too, but we haven’t been able to find him.”

“If you have a ship out Gimli way, you might find out if anybody there knows anything about her. You may discover that she hasn’t been going there at all.”

“We might, at that,” Shefter agreed. “We’ll just find out.”

Everybody at Cragdale knew about the projected treaty with Tanith by the morning after Trask’s first conversation with Prince Edvard on the subject. The Queen of the Royal Bedroom, the Royal Playroom and the Royal Bathroom was insisting that her domains should have a treaty with Tanith, too.

It was beginning to look to Trask as though that would be the only treaty he’d sign on Marduk, and he was having his doubts about that.

“Do you think it would be wise?” he asked Lady Valerie Alvarath. The Queen of three rooms and one four-footed subject had already decreed that Lady Valerie should be the Space Viking Prince’s girl on the planet of Marduk. “If it got out, these People’s Welfare lunatics would pick it up and twist it into evidence of some kind of a sinister plot.”

“Oh, I believe Her Majesty could sign a treaty with Prince Trask,” Her Majesty’s Prime Minister decided. “But it would have to be kept very secret.”

“Gee!” Myrna’s eyes widened. “A real secret treaty; just like the wicked rulers of the old dictatorship!” She hugged her subject ecstatically. “I’ll bet Grandpa doesn’t even have any secret treaties!”

In a few days, everybody on Marduk knew that a treaty with Tanith was being discussed. If they didn’t, it was no fault of Zaspar Makann’s party, who seemed to command a disconcertingly large number of telecast stations, and who drenched the ether with horror stories of Space Viking atrocities and denunciations of carefully unnamed traitors surrounding the King and the Crown Prince who were about to betray Marduk to rapine and plunder. The leak evidently did not come from Cragdale, for it was generally believed that Trask was still at the Royal Palace in Malverton. At least, that was where the Makannists were demonstrating against him.

He watched such a demonstration by screen; the pickup was evidently on one of the landing stages of the palace, overlooking the wide parks surrounding it. They were packed almost solid with people, surging forward toward the thin cordon of police. The front of the mob looked like a checkerboard⁠—a block in civilian dress, then a block in the curiously effeminate-looking uniforms of Zaspar Makann’s People’s Watchmen, then more in ordinary garb, and more People’s Watchmen. Over the heads of the crowds, at intervals, floated small contragravity lifters on which were mounted the amplifiers that were bellowing:

Space Vi-king⁠—Go home! Space Vi-king⁠—Go home!

The police stood motionless, at parade rest; the mob surged closer. When they were fifty yards away, the blocks of People’s Watchmen ran forward, then spread out until they formed a line six deep across the entire front; other blocks, from the rear, pushed the ordinary demonstrators aside and took their place. Hating them more every second, Trask grudged approval of a smart and disciplined maneuver. How long, he wondered, had they been drilling in that sort of tactics? Without stopping, they continued their advance on the police, who had now shifted their stance.

Space Vi-king⁠—Go home! Space Vi-king⁠—Go home!

“Fire!” he heard himself yelling. “Don’t let them get any closer, fire now!”

They had nothing to fire with; they had only truncheons, no better weapons than the knobbed swagger-sticks of the People’s Watchmen. They simply disappeared, after a brief flurry of blows, and the Makann storm-troopers continued their advance.

And that was that. The gates of the Palace were shut; the mob, behind a front of Makann People’s Watchmen, surged up to them and stopped. The loudspeakers bellowed on, reiterating their four-word chant.

“Those police were murdered,” he said. “They were murdered by the man who ordered them out there unarmed.”

“That would be Count Naydnayr, the Minister of Security,” somebody said.

“Then he’s the one you want to hang for it.”

“What else would you have done?” Crown Prince Edvard challenged.

“Put up about fifty combat cars. Drawn a deadline, and opened machine-gun fire as soon as the mob crossed it, and kept on firing till the survivors turned tail and ran. Then sent out more cars, and shot everybody wearing a People’s Watchmen uniform, all over town. Inside forty-eight hours, there’d be no People’s Welfare party, and no Zaspar Makann either.”

The Crown Prince’s face stiffened. “That may be the way you do things in the Sword-Worlds, Prince Trask. It’s not the way we do things here on Marduk. Our government does not propose to be guilty of shedding the blood of its people.”

He had it on the tip of his tongue to retort that if they didn’t, the people would end by shedding theirs. Instead, he said softly:

“I’m sorry, Prince Edvard. You had a wonderful civilization here on Marduk. You could have made almost anything of it. But it’s too late now. You’ve torn down the gates; the barbarians are in.”