The colored turbulence faded into the gray of hyperspace; five hundred hours to Tanith. Guatt Kirbey was securing his control-panel, happy to return to his music. And Vann Larch would go back to his paints and brushes, and Alvyn Karffard to the working model of whatever it was he had left unfinished when the Nemesis had emerged at the end of the jump from Audhumla.

Trask went to the index of the ship’s library and punched for History, Old Terran. There was plenty of that, thanks to Otto Harkaman. Then he punched for Hitler, Adolf. Harkaman was right; anything that could happen in a human society had already happened, in one form or another, somewhere and at some time. Hitler could help him understand Zaspar Makann.

By the time the ship came out, with the yellow sun of Tanith in the middle of the screen, he knew a great deal about Hitler, occasionally referred to as Schicklgruber, and he understood, with sorrow, how the lights of civilization on Marduk were going out.

Beside the Lamia, stripped of her Dillinghams and crammed with heavy armament and detection instruments, the Space Scourge and the Queen Flavia were on off-planet watch. There were half a dozen other ships on orbit just above atmosphere; a Gilgamesher, one of the Gram-Tanith freighters, a couple of freelance Space Vikings, and a new and unfamiliar ship. When he asked the moonbase who she was, he was told that she was the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu. That was, by almost a year, better than he had expected of them. Otto Harkaman was out in the Corisande, raiding and visiting the trade-planets.

He found his cousin, Nikkolay Trask, at Rivington; when he inquired about Traskon, Nikkolay cursed.

“I don’t know anything about Traskon; I haven’t anything to do with Traskon, any more. Traskon is now the personal property of our well loved⁠—very well loved⁠—Queen Evita. The Trasks don’t own enough land on Gram now for a family cemetery. You see what you did?” he added bitterly.

“You needn’t rub it in, Nikkolay. If I’d stayed on Gram, I’d have helped put Angus on the throne, and it would have been about the same in the end.”

“It could be a lot different,” Nikkolay said. “You could bring your ships and men back to Gram and put yourself on the throne.”

“No; I’ll never go back to Gram. Tanith’s my planet, now. But I will renounce my allegiance to Angus. I can trade on Morglay or Joyeuse or Flamberge just as easily.”

“You won’t have to; you can trade with Newhaven and Bigglersport. Count Lionel and Duke Joris are both defying Angus; they’ve refused to furnish him men, they’ve driven out his tax collectors, those they haven’t hanged, and they’re building ships of their own. Angus is building ships, too. I don’t know whether he’s going to use them to fight Bigglersport and Newhaven, or attack you, but there’s going to be a war before another year’s out.”

The Goodhope and the Speedwell, he found, had gone back to Gram. They were commanded by men who had come into favor at the court of King Angus recently. The Black Star and the Queen Flavia⁠—whose captain had contemptuously ignored an order from Gram to re-christen her Queen Evita⁠—had remained. They were his ships, not King Angus’. The captain of the merchantman from Wardshaven now on orbit refused to take a cargo to Newhaven; he had been chartered by King Angus, and would take orders from no one else.

“All right,” Trask told him. “This is your last voyage here. You bring that ship back under Angus of Wardshaven’s charter and we’ll fire on her.”

Then he had the regalia he had worn in his last audiovisual to Angus dusted off. At first, he had decided to proclaim himself King of Tanith. Lord Valpry, Baron Rathmore and his cousin all advised against it.

“Just call yourself Prince of Tanith,” Valpry said. “The title won’t make any difference in your authority here, and if you do lay claim to the throne of Gram, nobody can say you’re a foreign king trying to annex the planet.”

He had no intention of doing anything of the kind, but Valpry was quite in earnest.

So he sat on his throne, as sovereign Prince of Tanith, and renounced his allegiance to “Angus, Duke of Wardshaven, self-styled King of Gram.” They sent it back on the otherwise empty freighter. Another copy went to the Count of Newhaven, along with a cargo in the Sun Goddess, the first non-Space-Viking ship into Gram from the Old Federation.

Seven hundred and fifty hours after the return of the Nemesis, the Corisande II emerged from her last microjump, and immediately Harkaman began hearing of the Battle of Audhumla and the destruction of the Yo-Yo and the Enterprise. At first, he merely reported a successful raiding voyage, from which he was bringing rich booty. Oddly variegated booty, it was remarked, when he began itemizing it.

“Why, yes,” he replied. “Secondhand booty. I raided Dagon for it.”

Dagon was a Space Viking base planet, occupied by a character named Fedrig Barragon. A number of ships operated from it, including a couple commanded by Barragon’s half-breed sons.

“Barragon’s ships were raiding one of our planets,” Harkaman said. “Ganpat. They looted a couple of cities, destroyed one, killed a lot of the locals. I found out about it from Captain Ravallo of the Black Star, on Indra; he’d just been from Ganpat. Beowulf wasn’t too far out of the way, so we put in there, and found the Grendelsbane just ready to space out.” The Grendelsbane was the second of Beowulf’s ships, sister to the Viking’s Gift. “So she joined us, and the three of us went to Dagon. We blew up one of Barragon’s ships, and put the other one down out of commission, and then we sacked his base. There was a Gilgamesher colony there; we didn’t bother them. They’ll tell what we did, and why.”

“That should furnish Prince Viktor of Xochitl something to ponder,” Trask said. “Where are the other ships, now?”

“The Grendelsbane went back to Beowulf; she’ll stop at Amaterasu to do a little trading on the way. The Black Star went to Xochitl. Just a friendly visit, to say hello to Prince Viktor for you. Ravallo has a lot of audiovisuals we made during the Dagon Operation. Then she’s going to Jagannath to visit Nikky Gratham.”

Harkaman approved his attitude and actions with regard to King Angus.

“We don’t need to do business with the Sword-Worlds at all. We have our own industries, we can produce what we need, and we can trade with Beowulf and Amaterasu, and with Xochitl and Jagannath and Hoth, if we can make any sort of agreement with them; everybody agrees to let everybody else’s trade-planets alone. It’s too bad you couldn’t get some kind of an agreement with Marduk.” Harkaman regretted that for a few seconds, and then shrugged. “Our grandchildren, if any, will probably be raiding Marduk.”

“You think it’ll be like that?”

“Don’t you? You were there; you saw what’s happening. The barbarians are rising; they have a leader, and they’re uniting. Every society rests on a barbarian base. The people who don’t understand civilization, and wouldn’t like it if they did. The hitchhikers. The people who create nothing, and who don’t appreciate what others have created for them, and who think civilization is something that just exists and that all they need to do is enjoy what they can understand of it⁠—luxuries, a high living standard, and easy work for high pay. Responsibilities? Phooey! What do they have a government for?”

Trask nodded. “And now, the hitchhikers think they know more about the car than the people who designed it, so they’re going to grab the controls. Zaspar Makann says they can, and he’s the Leader.” He poured a drink from a decanter that had been looted on Pushan; there was a planet where a republic had been overthrown in favor of a dictatorship four centuries ago, and the planetary dictatorship had fissioned into a dozen regional dictatorships, and now they were down to the peasant-village and handcraft-industry level. “I don’t understand it, though. I was reading about Hitler, on the way home. I wouldn’t be surprised if Zaspar Makann had been reading about Hitler, too. He’s using all Hitler’s tricks. But Hitler came to power in a country which had been impoverished by a military defeat. Marduk hasn’t fought a war in almost two generations, and that one was a farce.”

“It wasn’t the war that put Hitler into power. It was the fact that the ruling class of his nation, the people who kept things running, were discredited. The masses, the homemade barbarians, didn’t have anybody to take their responsibilities for them. What they have on Marduk is a ruling class that has been discrediting itself. A ruling class that’s ashamed of its privileges and shirks its duties. A ruling class that has begun to believe that the masses are just as good as they are, which they manifestly are not. And a ruling class that won’t use force to maintain its position. And they have a democracy, and they are letting the enemies of democracy shelter themselves behind democratic safeguards.”

“We don’t have any of this democracy in the Sword-Worlds, if that’s the word for it,” he said. “And our ruling class aren’t ashamed of their power, and our people aren’t hitchhikers, and as long as they get decent treatment they don’t try to run things. And we’re not doing so well.”

The Morglay dynastic war of a couple of centuries ago, still sputtering and smoking. The Oskarsan-Elmersan War on Durendal, into which Flamberge and now Joyeuse had intruded. And the situation on Gram, fast approaching critical mass. Harkaman nodded agreement.

“You know why? Our rulers are the barbarians among us. There isn’t one of them⁠—Napolyon of Flamberge, Rodolf of Excalibur, or Angus of about half of Gram⁠—who is devoted to civilization or anything else outside himself, and that’s the mark of the barbarian.”

“What are you devoted to, Otto?”

“You. You are my chieftain. That’s another mark of the barbarian.”

Before he had left Marduk, Admiral Shefter had ordered a ship to Gimli to check on the Honest Horris; a few men and a pinnace would be left behind to contact any ship from Tanith. He sent Boake Valkanhayn off in the Space Scourge.

Lionel of Newhaven’s Blue Comet came in from Gram with a cargo of general merchandise. Her captain wanted fissionables and gadolinium; Count Lionel was building more ships. There was a rumor that Omfray of Glaspyth was laying claim to the throne of Gram, in the right of his great-grandmother’s sister, who had been married to the great-grandfather of Duke Angus. It was a completely trivial and irrelevant claim, but the story was that it would be supported by King Konrad of Haulteclere.

Immediately, Baron Rathmore, Lord Valpry, Lothar Ffayle and the other Gram people began clamoring that he should go back with a fleet and seize the throne for himself. Harkaman, Valkanhayn, Karffard and the other Space Vikings were as vehement against it. Harkaman had the loss of the other Corisande on Durendal to remember, and the others wanted no part in Sword-World squabbles, and there was renewed agitation that he should start calling himself King of Tanith.

He refused to do either, which left both parties dissatisfied. So partisan politics had finally come to Tanith. Maybe that was another milestone of progress.

And there was the Treaty of Khepera, between the Princely State of Tanith, the Commonwealth of Beowulf, and the Planetary League of Amaterasu. The Kheperans agreed to allow bases on their planet, to furnish workers, and to send students to school on all three planets. Tanith, Beowulf and Amaterasu obligated themselves to joint defense of Khepera, to free trade among themselves, and to render one another armed assistance.

That was a milestone of progress, and no argument about it.

The Space Scourge returned from Gimli, and Valkanhayn reported that nobody on the planet had ever seen or heard of the Honest Horris. They had found a Mardukan Navy ship’s pinnace there, manned entirely by officers, some of them Navy Intelligence. According to them, the investigation into the activities of that ship had come to an impasse. The ostensible owners claimed, and had papers to prove it, that they had chartered her to a private trader, and he claimed, and had papers to prove it, that he was a citizen of the Planetary Republic of Aton, and as soon as they began questioning him, he was rescued by the Atonian ambassador, who lodged a vehement protest with the Mardukan Foreign Ministry. Immediately, the People’s Welfare Party had leaped into the incident and branded the investigation as an unwarranted persecution of a national of a friendly power at the instigation of corrupt tools of the Gilgamesh Interstellar Conspiracy.

“So that’s it,” Valkanhayn finished. “It seems they’re having an election and they’re afraid to antagonize anybody who might have a vote. So the Navy had to drop the investigation. Everybody on Marduk’s scared of this Makann. You think there might be some tie-up between him and Dunnan?”

“The idea’s occurred to me. Have there been any more raids on Marduk trade-planets since the Battle of Audhumla?”

“A couple. The Bolide was on Audhumla a while ago. There were a couple of Mardukan ships there, and they had the Victrix fixed up enough to do some fighting. They ran the Bolide out.”

A study of the time between the destruction of the Enterprise and Yo-Yo and the appearance of the Bolide could give them a limiting radius around Audhumla. It did; seven hundred light-years, which also included Tanith.

So he sent Harkaman in the Corisande and Ravallo in the Black Star to visit the planets Marduk traded with, looking for Dunnan ships and exchanging information and assistance with the Royal Mardukan Navy. Almost at once, he regretted it; the next Gilgamesher into orbit on Tanith brought a story that Prince Viktor was collecting a fleet on Xochitl. He sent warnings off to Amaterasu and Beowulf and Khepera.

A ship came in from Bigglersport, a heavily armed chartered freighter. There was sporadic fighting in a dozen places on Gram, now⁠—resistance to efforts on the part of King Angus to collect taxes, and raids by unidentified persons on estates confiscated from alleged traitors and given to Garvan Spasso, who had now been promoted from Baron to Count. And Rovard Grauffis was dead; poisoned, everybody said, either by Spasso or Queen Evita or both. Even with the threat from Xochitl, some of the former Wardshaven nobles began talking about sending ships to Gram.

Less than a thousand hours after he had left, Ravallo was back in the Black Star.

“I went to Gimli, and I wasn’t there fifty hours before a Mardukan Navy ship came in. They were glad to see me; it saved them sending off a pinnace for Tanith. They had news for you, and a couple of passengers.”


“Yes. You’ll see who they are when they come down. And don’t let anybody with side-whiskers and buttoned-up coats see them,” Ravallo said. “What those people know gets all over the place before long.”

The visitors were Lucile, Princess Bentrik, and her son, the young Count of Ravary. They dined with Trask; only Captain Ravallo was also present.

“I didn’t want to leave my husband, and I didn’t want to come here and impose myself and Steven on you, Prince Trask,” she began, “but he insisted. We spent the whole voyage to Gimli concealed in the captain’s quarters; only a few of the officers knew we were aboard.”

“Makann won the election. Is that it?” he asked. “And Prince Bentrik doesn’t want to risk you and Steven being used as hostages?”

“That’s it,” she said. “He didn’t really win the election, but he might as well have. Nobody has a majority of seats in the Chamber of Representatives but he’s formed a coalition with several of the splinter parties, and I’m ashamed to say that a number of Crown Loyalist members⁠—Crowd of Disloyalists, I call them⁠—are voting with him, now. They’ve coined some ridiculous phrase about the ‘wave of the future,’ whatever that means.”

“If you can’t lick them, join them,” Trask said.

“If you can’t lick them, lick their boots,” the Count of Ravary put in.

“My son is a trifle bitter,” Princess Bentrik said. “I must confess to a trace of bitterness, too.”

“Well, that’s the Representatives,” Trask said. “What about the rest of the government?”

“With the splinter-party and Disloyalist support, they got a majority of seats in the Delegates. Most of them would have indignantly denied, a month before, having any connection with Makann, but a hundred out of a hundred and twenty are his supporters. Makann, of course, is Chancellor.”

“And who is Prime Minister?” he asked. “Andray Dunnan?”

She looked slightly baffled for an instant then said, “Oh. No. The Prime Minister is Crown Prince Edvard. No; Baron Cragdale. That isn’t a royal title, so by some kind of a fiction I can’t pretend to understand he is not Prime Minister as a member of the Royal Family.”

“If you can’t⁠ ⁠…” the boy started.

“Steven! I forbid you to say that about⁠ ⁠… Baron Cragdale. He believes, very sincerely, that the election was an expression of the will of the people, and that it is his duty to bow to it.”

He wished Otto Harkaman were there. He could probably name, without stopping for breath, a hundred great nations that went down into rubble because their rulers believed that they should bow instead of rule, and couldn’t bring themselves to shed the blood of their people. Edvard would have been a fine and admirable man, as a little country baron. Where he was, he was a disaster.

He asked if the People’s Watchman had dragged their guns out from under the bed and started carrying them in public yet.

“Oh, yes. You were quite right; they were armed, all the time. Not just small arms; combat vehicles and heavy weapons. As soon as the new government was formed, they were given status as a part of the Planetary Armed Forces. They have taken over every police station on the planet.”

“And the King?”

“Oh, he carries on, and shrugs and says, ‘I just reign here.’ What else can he do? We’ve been whittling down and filching away the powers of the Throne for the last three centuries.”

“What is Prince Bentrik doing, and why did he think there was danger that you two would be used as hostages?”

“He’s going to fight,” she said. “Don’t ask me how, or what with. Maybe as a guerrilla in the mountains, I don’t know. But if he can’t lick them, he won’t join them. I wanted to stay with him and help him; he told me I could help him best by placing myself and Steven where he wouldn’t worry about us.”

“I wanted to stay,” the boy said. “I could have fought with him. But he said that I must take care of Mother. And if he were killed, I must be able to avenge him.”

“You talk like a Sword-Worlder; I told you that once before.” He hesitated, then turned again to Princess Bentrik. “How is little Princess Myrna?” he asked, and then, trying to be casual, added, “and Lady Valerie?”

She seemed so clearly real and present to him, blue eyes and space-black hair, more real than Elaine had been to him for years.

“They’re at Cragdale; they’ll be safe there. I hope.”