Fred Saberhagen Related Art & Jacket


An Old Friend








































































Twelve Swords, each with a different magic power, were forged high in the Ludus Mountains by the god Vulcan (see GODS) with the assistance of Jord, a human smith whose right arm was sacrificed by Vulcan in the process.
Physically the Twelve Swords are very nearly identical. Each double-edged blade is one meter in length, of dazzling workmanship, magically, permanently, keen, and virtually indestructible by any human effort not employing another Sword. Each (except Woundhealer) can be used as a superb physical weapon, apart from its magical qualities.
The flat sides of each blade display a mottled appearance suggesting the illusion of depth; the pattern gives the illusion of going centimeters deep into the steel, though the blade is everywhere less than a centimeter thick. The only real difference in physical appearance among the 12 lies in the white symbols (see SWORDS LIST) borne by eleven of the twelve hilts.
Actually two Swords, Doomgiver and Townsaver, were destroyed early in the series, being struck by their colleague Shieldbreaker in the course of hand-to-hand combat. This fact, like most of the rest of the intricate history in the Swords series, need not much concern contributors. This anthology represents a starting over, a "what-if" or alternate deployment of the Blades, as will be explained in the frame story.
Any character holding more than one Sword at a time usually experiences at least a temporary psychic strain of some kind.

BEASTS: Several distinct types not available on 20th century Earth (aka the OLD WORLD) are mentioned. RIDING-BEASTS are very horse-like, and the descriptions of them so far are consistent with their actual descent from today's horses. LOAD-BEASTS are more for pulling plows and bearing burdens; consider the burro or the mule, though presumably these animals can reproduce their kind more easily than mules. The name MILK-BEASTS is self-explanatory.
Many animals common in the Old World still exist; for example deer, rabbits, barnyard fowl.
Biology is rather malleable in the SWORDS' world, and odd hybrids of all the creatures listed here, as well as others, are quite probable.
Often a human professional called a Beastmaster is employed to deal with the more exotic types, unknown in the Old World where we authors live. A number of them (beasts, not authors) are semi-intelligent, that is, capable of some speech, carrying simple messages, etc.
DRAGONS, begin life as tiny helpless creatures in small streams, where adult females lay thousands or millions of eggs for every dragon that ever grows to the stage of traditional fire-breathing monster. After that stage ("landwalker") comes the final one, attained even more rarely: that of the great legless worm. The proverbial archetype is the Great Worm Yilgarn, which has never actually appeared in the series.
WARBEASTS, comparatively rare, are used as animated weapons; think of them as well-trained panthers or lions, sometimes sent into battle wearing armor. No smarter than dogs.
FLYING REPTILES, implacable enemies of humanity (and so invariably leagued with the bad guys). Semi-intelligent. They come in assorted sizes, are usually of dark color, and have sharp teeth and leathery wings.
GREAT BIRDS are about on the mental level of their deadly enemies the flying reptiles, but generally friendly to humans and linked with the good guys. The most important variety of bird is a type of giant owl, big and strong enough to pull a mounted man out of the saddle if a couple of owls attack simultaneously. Excellent night-time scouts and skirmishers. Poor sense of horizontal distances.
GRIFFINS are creatures more of magic than of biology, and thus are able to fly at speeds rivalling those of Old World aircraft, with loads well beyond the power of mere biology and aerodynamics to sustain, e.g., a couple of people and their baggage per griffin. Basically giant, long-necked, winged lions, with the possibilities of subspecies limited only by those of magic itself. Very dangerous beasts, used almost invariably by evil magicians.

DEMONS: As explained in Saberhagen's Empire of the East, which is among other things a kind of prequel to the SWORDS books, demons began their existence as nuclear explosions or lesser acts of violence, any such events whose occurence coincided with the wave of change which transformed the OLD WORLD to the new; but contributors need not necessarily be concerned about the origins of demons.
Currently any demon is a magical creature capable of taking material form but not confined to it. A demon may be punished or constrained by strong magic but cannot be slain or very precisely controlled, even by the greatest wizard, without knowledge of where the demon's life is concealed. Every demon's life is lodged in some physical object, perhaps very far from his active presence. The object itself may be quite innocent, for example a woman's hair or the spray of the sea. To gain physical control over this hiding place means having deadly power over the demon, even for a non-magician.
A demon may choose to assume any of a great variety of forms, human or inhuman, and can exert superhuman physical force. They frequently enjoy ingesting humans or other animals for a prolonged period of psychic "cud-chewing"--the most painful fate a human being can experience. The demon may be forced to disgorge its prey by sufficiently powerful magic.
Often the mere presence of a demon, or even its approach, produces physical illness, nausea, in humans not inured to such distilled evil, or protected from it by benign magic. Demons also serve evil magicians (those powerful enough to control them) as airborne transportation, even swifter and more destructive than griffins.
The EMPEROR's children, a few humans actually begotten by that mysterious figure, all share a rather mysterious power with regard to demons. Though some of this select group of people may not realize the fact until they try, by delivering an incantation: "In the Emperor's name, foresake this game, and (specific command) !" any of them can compel any demonic power to stand back, to go away, even to flee to an enormous distance, probably somewhere in the vicinity of the Moon's orbit; the evil creature needs days to get back to Earth. This "Imperial" command overrides any other magic to which the demon may be subject.

GODS: Any deities willing to co-exist with other "divine" characters may be introduced. Originally most were from the Greek-Roman pantheons, e.g., Vulcan, Mars, Aphrodite. Gods are vastly stronger than any human warrior or magician, generally stronger even than demons--but still subject to the powers of the SWORDS.
The fundamental truth about most of the gods coming on stage in the SWORDS series is that they are all created by the collective human unconscious. They can, and do, go out of existence when people collectively cease to want them; in fact I depopulated the world of gods halfway through the series. Of course this does not keep you from using them.
ARDNEH (worshipped by the WHITE TEMPLE) is something of an exception, a survivor, in many people's minds though not in fact, from my EMPIRE OF THE EAST, which preceded the SWORDS' world. ARDNEH, 50,000 years or so before the SWORDS came along, was a giant, benignly programmed computer, rendered sentient by the same wave of change which produced the demons. Ardneh is represented in art with a face inhumanly broad and huge, some suggestion of mechanism in the form.
DRAFFUT (aka LORD OF BEASTS) is another oddity, a real survivor from the OLD WORLD, where he began life prosaically enough as a dog, though most of his devotees in the SWORDS world would vehemently deny any such provenance. Has healing powers almost equal to those of WOUNDHEALER. Over tens of thousands of years his special powers tend to run down, leaving him again little more than a large dog. In his prime he stands six meters tall walking on his hind legs, has usefully hand-like forepaws and glowing fur, a face neither quite human or quite bestial, and can fight the most powerful demons and gods on something like even terms. Definitely a friend of humanity; in fact suffers major psychological trauma if he causes injury to any human. Greatly devoted to THE EMPEROR.

Various factions have flags, uniforms, etc. in distinctive color schemes. New ones can be made up freely. Some of the existing schemes commonly encountered are:
Blue Temple: blue and gold
Red Temple: red and black
White Temple: white
Silver Queen: silver and black
Emperor: gray
Tasavalta: blue and green

TEMPLES: Religious or quasi-religious organizations, found almost everywhere. Three are prominent, others could be invented.
WHITE TEMPLE: The only widespread religion of real benevolence. Worships Ardneh (q.v.) and maintains hospitals, orphanages, etc. May be locally corrupt. Tends toward non-violence but is not absolutely pacifist.
RED TEMPLE: Worships the sensual gods and provides for its adherents (or for anyone with money) drink, drugs, prostitution, etc. Its armed guards notoriously corrupt and drug-ridden.
BLUE TEMPLE: Archetypal greedy misers, exemplifying the worst of capitalism run amok. Uses the trappings of a large corporation, Chairman, Board of Directors, etc. Vast secret underground hoards of wealth. Notoriously stingy.

THE EMPEROR: Aka The Great Clown. Seldom seen, very mysterious figure of unknown age and provenance, who from time to time takes an active part in human affairs; begets children (see also DEMONS), fights in wars, gives gifts. Enjoys pranks. Commonly believed to be no more than a legendary and unreal clown, but his reality is appreciated by the wise, many of whom consider him the greatest magician in the world. He may casually perform feats of what appear to be the greatest magic. Unalterably opposed to evil magicians and to demons, yet generally tolerates them. Appears usually as an average-looking thirtyish man in gray. In fact, though the point is not made explicitly, the Emperor is an aspect of the Creator of the universe.

End of BIBLE


ARDNEH'S SWORD, Tor, 2006.
1st BOOK OF SWORDS, Tor, 1984
2nd BOOK OF SWORDS, Tor,1985
3rd BOOK OF SWORDS, Tor, 1985
FIRST SWORDS, Tor, Jan 1999. Reprint. An omnibus of the three original BOOK OF SWORDS
SWORDSI-III:COMPLETE SWORDS, Doubleday Book Club Edition
THE BOOK OF LOST SWORDS: THE END GAME, Doubleday Book Club Edition
AN ARMORY OF SWORDS, Tor, 1995, 1995
(A collection set in the SWORDS world by authors: Fred Saberhagen, Walter Jon Williams, Gene Bostwick, Robert E. Vardeman, Thomas Saberhagen, Pati Nagle ., Michael A. Stackpole, Sage Walker)

THE SWORDS' BIBLE This was the fact sheet given to contributors to AN ARMORY OF SWORDS to assure that their stories complied with the world Fred had created. There's quite a bit of data on characters and setting as well as on the swords themselves.
A MAP of the Empire of the East has recently been uncovered. Thanks to Jack Cook this exquisite artifact is available for your viewing.
SABERHAGEN SWORDS INTEREST GROUPS -- Folks looking for other Saberhagen Swords Fans.

Saberhagen's fantasy trilogy combined in the work EMPIRE OF THE EAST is loosely related to the SWORDS books.
THE SONG for Fred Saberhagen's
©Fred Saberhagen



Who holds Coinspinner knows good odds
Whichever move he make
But the Sword of Chance, to please the gods
Slips from him like a snake.

The Sword of Justice balances the pans
Of right and wrong, and foul and fair.
Eye for an eye, Doomgiver scans
The fate of all folk everywhere.

Dragonslicer, Dragonslicer, how d'you slay?
Reaching for the heart in behind the scales.
Dragonslicer, Dragonslicer, where do you stay?
In the belly of the giant that my blade impales.

Farslayer howls across the world
For thy heart, for thy heart, who hast wronged me!
Vengeance is his who casts the blade
Yet he will in the end no triumph see.

Whose flesh the Sword of Mercy hurts has drawn no breath;
Whose soul it heals has wandered in the night,
Has paid the summing of all debts in death
Has turned to see returning light.

The Mindsword spun in the dawn's gray light
And men and demons knelt down before.
The Mindsword flashed in the midday bright
Gods joined the dance, and the march to war.
It spun in the twilight dim as well
And gods and men marched off to hell.

I shatter Swords and splinter spears;
None stands to Shieldbreaker.
My point's the fount of orphans' tears
My edge the widowmaker.

The Sword of Stealth is given to
One lonely and despised.
Sightblinder's gifts: his eyes are keen
His nature is disguised.

The Tyrant's Blade no blood hath spilled
But doth the spirit carve
Soulcutter hath no body killed
But many left to starve.

The Sword of Siege struck a hammer's blow
With a crash, and a smash, and a tumbled wall.
Stonecutter laid a castle low
With a groan, and a roar, and a tower's fall.

Long roads the Sword of Fury makes
Hard walls it builds around the soft
The fighter who Townsaver takes
Can bid farewell to home and croft.

Who holds Wayfinder finds good roads
Its master's step is brisk.
The Sword of Wisdom lightens loads
But adds unto their risk.
(end of the song)




Collections of Fred Saberhagen stories

  • EARTH DESCENDED, Tor, 1981, 9182,1988. 12 stories included: Young Girl at an Open Half Door, The Metal Murderer, Earthshade, The White Bull, Calendars, Wilderness, Patron of the Arts, To Mark the Year on Azlaroc, Victory, Birthdays, Recessional, Where thy Treasure Is.
  • SABERHAGEN: MY BEST, Baen, 1987. Out of Print. Rights available from Fred Saberhagen.
  • BOOK OF SABERHAGEN, Daw, 1975. Out of Print. Rights available from Fred Saberhagen.
Collections of Science Fiction edited by Fred Saberhagen :

  • A SPADEFUL OF SPACETIME, Ace, 1981 (Works by Robert A. Frazier, Roger Zelazny, Chad Oliver, Orson Scott Card, David Langford, Fred Saberhagen, Connie Willis, Charles Spano,Jr.,Steve Rasnic Tem, Edward Bryant, Charles Sheffield, Rivka Jacobs, R.A.Lafferty) Out of Print. Rights available from Fred Saberhagen.
  • PAWN TO INFINITY, Ace, 1982 (Co-editor Joan Saberhagen. Works by Fred Saberhagen, Gene Wolfe, Roger Zelazny, Poul Anderson, Fritz Leiber, George RR Martin, Joanna Russ, Ruth Berman, Victor Contoski, Daniel Gilbert, Ambrose Bierce, Alfred Stewart) Out of Print. Rights available from Fred Saberhagen.

The Berserker Throne

Chapter 1

Around the green and lovely world called Salutai, the sky was clear of terror, as it had been now for many years. Today the planet's dayside sky was almost clear of clouds as well, and at midday the face of the land beneath it blazed with the thousand colors of midsummer flowers.
It was the Holiday of Life today on Salutai, the planet's greatest yearly festival, and at the meridian of noon the central procession of the festival was passing through small town streets strewn with fresh-cut blooms.
Through this particular small town ran many canals. They were clean, open waterways, and almost as numerous as the streets. And today in the canals as in the streets of Salutai the masses of summer blooms were prodigally distributed, those on the water floating and drifting in the controlled current. The streets and canal banks and buildings of the town under the noonday sun echoed with celebration, with ten kinds of music all being played and sung at the same time. The buildings, streets, canals, as well as the people in them and on them and the living plants that made archways above, were all mad with decorations.
At the center of the slow-moving ceremonial procession crept the broad, low, bubble-domed groundcar in which the Empress of the Eight Worlds was riding. The parade extending ahead of her car and behind it was not really very long, but it took its time, so that everyone in the town who wanted to see the procession and the Empress at close range had a good chance to do so. And there were many, in this town and across the planet, who did want to see. The crowds, here on Salutai composed exclusively of Earth-descended humans, cried the name of their Empress in several languages, and some of the people in the crowd waved petitions and raised banners and placards, promoting one cause or another, as her clear-topped groundcar crept past.
Though the procession was not moving with much speed, neither was the town large. The sun of Salutai was still very nearly directly overhead when the central groundcar and its escort of marchers and other vehicles emerged from the confinement of the old town's narrow streets, and entered abruptly into a countryside that was approximately half in well-managed cultivation, half still in what looked like virgin wilderness.
As the short parade left the last of the hard-paved streets behind, the crowds surrounding it grew no less, but rather greater. Here, amid a vast, parklike expanse that provided more room in which to assemble, a larger throng was waiting. This crowd was made up partly of government workers and dependents drafted into action and tubed out from the nearby capital city; still, most of the people had come here freely, to cheer a monarch popular enough to draw spontaneous affection from many of her people.
Here a substantial minority of the crowd had in mind other things besides the offer of uncritical affection. Live news coverage of the procession was notably absent, but still there were occasional protests. Whenever these protestors and placard-bearers grew too numerous or noisy, security people in uniform and out appeared in sudden concentration, moving to break up the gatherings as gently and as quietly as possible. There were no injuries. The people of Salutai knew a long tradition of courtesy, and they were almost universally unused to the organization of violence, at least against their fellow humans and fellow citizens.
Now, still surrounded by flowers, and by a slow wave of noise that was still predominantly happy, the procession paused on the bank of a broad, open canal. Amid a suddenly increased presence of uniformed security forces, the Empress, still tall and regal despite her advanced age, stood up out of her low car, and amid much ceremonious escort walked down a few steps to a dock. There she stepped aboard a heavily decorated pleasure-barge that waited to receive her, rising and falling gently amid the floating drifts of flowers.
She had to delay briefly then, looking back toward shore, to give her attention to a delegation of school-children who were about to present her with a special bouquet.
To a young man who was watching from the top of a small hill a hundred meters distant, amid the scalloped outer fringes of the crowd, the whole scene, of applauding throngs, welcoming children, and the endless visual bombardment of blossoms, made a very pretty picture indeed.
The young man's name was Chen Shizuoka, and with his curly dark hair surrounding an almost angelic face he looked very earnest and nervous at the moment, more so than those around him. He said to his companion: "Listen to them. They still love her."
The two of them, Chen and the young woman who was standing with him, had been waiting for several hours on the hilltop, along with a handful of other people who had with foresight chosen this place for the clear view that it was certain to provide of the Empress and the parade. For the last few minutes Chen and his companion, whose name was Hana Calderon, had been watching intently the stately and joyful approach of the procession. Chen loved the Empress, as did so many of her people, and he would have liked to be able to get closer to her now, near enough to cry out some heartfelt personal greeting, and perhaps even to meet her eyes. But today he had a duty that precluded the gratification of any such personal wish.
Hana Calderon was not really so young as Chen; at the moment she looked quieter, less nervous, and somehow more effective. She raised a hand and brushed back straight black hair from dark oriental eyes, narrowed now in calculation.
"I think," she said, her tone suggesting that she was mildly chiding the young man but being careful how she went about it, "that what most of them are really cheering is the Holiday of Life."
As if by reflex Chen glanced up at the clear terrorless sky, from which it was always possible—and this year perhaps more probable than last—that terror might come again.
"I suppose," he said to his companion, avoiding argument as usual, "that feelings are strong again this year. With the news."
Hana Calderon nodded, moving her chiseled classical profile up and down without turning the gaze of her dark eyes away from the Empress's barge. The presentation of the special bouquet had just been completed, and the vessel was now almost ready to carry the Empress out on the next, waterborne leg of her progress.
The young woman said in an abstracted voice: "I suppose they are." Then, still not looking away from the barge, she reached out a hand to touch Chen. In a suddenly crisp tone, she added: "Are you ready?"
Chen Shizuoka's right hand had been for a long time ready in his inner pocket, gripping a small plastic object. It seemed to him that his fingers had been clutching that object for an eternity. "Ready."
"Then let it go. Now!" The words were an order, given sharply and decisively, though Hana's voice was too low for anyone else standing nearby to hear her through the noise of the surrounding crowd.
A hundred meters downhill from where they stood, the barge was just getting into motion. Chen Shizuoka withdrew the tiny device he had been gripping, and with a different pressure of his fingers activated it. A signal even subtler than most electronic emanations was sent forth.
From among the tight-packed crowd below, there rose up sudden screams.
Don't be afraid! Chen wanted to reassure them. He knew how harmless the large inflatable devices were that now came popping up out of the canal, in front of and around the barge that bore the Empress. The great rough shapes, surfacing like huge gray hippopotami of old Earth, were blocking the decorated barge completely. The devices, inflating themselves at Chen's signal, were all moored to the bottom of the canal so as not to be easily pushed out of the way. As large as hippos, they were of various shapes, all intended to represent particular models of berserkers, but in no more than a clumsy cartoon fashion. Chen himself had insisted on that point, so that not even a single startled child in the crowd should be able to mistake them for the terrible reality. What the planners of the demonstration hoped to create in their audience was thought, not terror.
A considerable amount of work had gone into fabricating the inflatable devices, and the effort and strain of planting them secretly in the canal had been, Chen thought when he looked back on it, more than he ever wanted to go through again. Not that he would have refused to do it all again, and more, if he thought that doing so would get the Prince recalled to power, and some of those who currently served the Empress in high places exiled in his stead.
Up out of the water the odd shapes came, shiny-wet and dark and in the cartoon crudity of their forms unmistakable as to what they were supposed to represent. One after another in rapid succession broke the surface, the swift bobbing lunges of their rising pushing aside the drowning masses of flowers.
The crowds near the canal were in great turmoil.
"It's working," Chen crooned softly, happily to the young woman at his side, not turning his head to look at her. "It's going to do the job."
Suddenly there were sharp thrumming sounds from below, and more yells, and an even greater turmoil among the crowd, the start of real panic. Some of the more trigger-happy security people had pulled out handguns and were actually opening fire, with devastating effect upon harmless inflated plastic. Chen, with sudden helpless concern, as if he had seen a distant child toying with a dangerous weapon, recalled how there had been hurt feelings among the populace, injured protests at the mere announcement that this time when the Empress traveled among her people she was going to be accompanied by a strong security contingent.
And the many citizens who had protested the security arrangements had been right, Chen thought, there were the supposed protectors now, blasting away with guns and endangering lives. It was not as if they could really believe that they were confronted with a plot to hurt the Empress. No one was going to do that; not to the Empress; certainly not here on her home world of Salutai.
The brief outburst of gunfire ceased, evidently on some order, as abruptly as it had started. But the uproar and panic in the surrounding crowd continued at an alarming pitch. Looking downhill, Chen observed that some of the clumsy-looking waterborne devices had been destroyed. But enough of them remained in place to at least impede the forward movement of the barge. A dozen in all of the inflatable things had been put into position—Chen could still remember the feel of the bottom mud, the taste it gave the water when it was stirred up, the thrill of terror recurring each time there was some alarm and he and the others thought that they had been discovered at their task.
Some of the placards borne by the ugly gray shapes had not yet been blasted into illegibility. One of them read: THE ENEMY IS NOT DESTROYED. And another: RECALL PRINCE HARIVARMAN.
"Let's get going," said Hana Calderon suddenly, speaking quietly into Chen's ear. He nodded once, and with that they separated, with nothing more in the way of farewell than one last glance of triumph exchanged. Except for the unexpected outbreak of gunfire, and the resulting panic—maybe someone really had been hurt; Chen certainly hoped not—everything was going smoothly, according to the carefully rehearsed plan. No one in that crowd below would be able to ignore their message. Everyone would carry it home and talk about it. Approvingly or disapprovingly, they would be forced to think about it. And eventually, inevitably, it would be accepted. Because it was the truth.
Chen turned away from Hana and from the scene below. Without either delay or haste he started walking his own planned path down the side of the hill away from the canal and the confusion around the barge. He didn't look for Hana, but he knew she would be making a similar withdrawal, moving on a diverging course. He would meet her later, in the city. No one appeared to take any particular notice of him as he retreated. He dropped his plastic control device into a trash disposal in passing. He felt certain already that their getaway was going to be as successful as all the other previously successful steps in the elaborate plan.
Even now, out of direct sight of the demonstration that his hands had triggered, Chen could hear in the crowd's roar behind him the kind of impact their show had achieved. At least as great as anything he had dared to hope for. Now from the same direction sounded sharp reports, what must be the sound of more inflated dummies being shot to fragments. And the roar of the crowd went up again.
His imitation berserkers would shortly be destroyed, but no one of the thousands who had been here today would be able to ignore or forget the messages that they had carried.
Chen listened carefully as he retreated, savoring the crowd noise behind him. It was fading gradually as he moved away, and now for some reason it held more anger and fear than he had imagined there would be—because of the actions of the security people, he supposed, and who could blame the crowd for that?
Some fifty meters down the hill, moving amid a slowly growing crowd of other people who had prudently or timidly decided to be somewhere else, Chen came to an inconspicuously parked groundcycle. When he straddled the machine it started quietly, and within moments it was bearing him at a greatly increased speed away from the tumult and the crowds.
He had less than a kilometer to travel on the cycle, traversing a network of smooth pathways that laced the lovely countryside, before he reached a subway station whose entrance was almost hidden, set into the side of a flowered embankment. He abandoned the cycle outside the station, confident that a confederate would take it away later so it would not be traced to him. Once underground, Chen was able almost at once to board a swift tubetrain that brought him in a few minutes underneath the capital city.
Disembarking from the train, riding a stair to ground level, into the usual swarm of people at one of the central metropolitan stations, Chen felt a wave of bleak reaction as he melded himself into the population of the streets. It was almost a sense of disappointment at the ease of his and his friends' success. It seemed in a way unfair, as if the security people had never had a chance of stopping the demonstration, or of catching up with him or Hana afterward; now all was, would be, anticlimax.
Of course, most of the other members of Chen's protest group had kept telling him all along that the demonstration would be a great success. Hana had certainly been confident, and he himself had really expected nothing less than success. . . .
The plan now called for him to go home, that is to return to the student's room where he lived alone, and there await developments. But there was no particular hurry about his getting to his room. Chen delayed, watching a public newscast that was evidently running somewhat behind events, for it showed nothing about a demonstration interrupting the progress of the Empress. He moved on to a favorite bookstore, dallied there a little longer, then walked on unhurriedly. If he ever should be questioned, for any reason, about his whereabouts today, he'd have an answer: Why yes, he had been out there, watching the parade. When things started to get noisy and rowdy, and he heard actual shots, he had simply decided that it was time to leave.
Chen passed another public newscast, and dawdled before the elevated holostage long enough to be sure that the news still contained no mention of the demonstration; by now, he felt sure, that omission must be deliberate. On Salutai such blatantly direct government control was unheard of, even in these times; the situation made him uneasy.
When Chen reached the street where he lodged, and approached the block on which his room was located, his uneasiness led him to look about him with unwonted caution. He saw with a sinking sensation, but somehow no real surprise, that there were security people here, cruising in their cars, two or three cars of them at least, observing. He had learned to recognize the type of unmarked groundcar that they favored. They appeared to be trying to make themselves inconspicuous, but there they were.
Something had gone wrong after all. He could not help believing that they were here waiting for him to show up. The sinking feeling was becoming a steady sickness in his gut.
Chen stepped around a corner into a cross street. He paused in the doorway of an apartment building, and stood pondering what to do next.
He leaned out of the doorway to look back along the way that he had come, and the sound numbed him for an instant with its sudden shock, a frightening impact against the wall immediately beside his head, as if an invisible rock from some invisible catapult had struck there. There was another component to the sound too, a sharp thrum, a louder echo of the police weapons at the demonstration, much louder and closer than he had heard them from the hill. This came from a rooftop or an upper window across the street. Someone over there was shooting at him, shooting to kill.
In sudden cold terror Chen dodged out of the doorway, heading down the street in a fast zigzag walk, the movement blending him at once into the flow of other hurrying pedestrians. Still his whole back felt tensed and swollen, one enormous muscle tightening uselessly against the killing blow that was to come any second. The sky that had been free of terror an hour ago had turned now to blue ice closing him in.
Now he thought that one of the unmarked cars of the security people was keeping pace with him along the street. He dodged quickly into a smaller side passage for pedestrians, leaving the vehicle behind.
He fled through the complex and crowded heart of the city, heading instinctively for areas where the congestion would be greater. Once, then twice, he dared to hope that he had shaken his pursuers off. But each time, even before hope could really establish itself, he saw that such was not the case. They had perhaps lost sight of him for the moment, but he knew they must be everywhere, in vehicles and afoot, in uniform and in civilian clothes. Anyone who glanced at him might be Security . . . and Chen had to assume that they were all after him.
Organize a simple demonstration, just a demonstration, and they hunted you like this. Tried to kill you on sight, out of hand . . . it was a bad dream, and he was caught up in it, and there was no use hoping to be saved by any rules of sanity and logic.
What did they want to kill him for, what had he done that even they should think was terrible to that degree? If a free citizen could no longer even protest openly without being hunted like a dangerous animal, then things on the world of Salutai were already even worse than he and his friends had been telling one another. Far worse.
Exhaustion overtook Chen quickly. It was as if he had been running steadily for hours, enduring steady fear and tension more tiring than mere physical exertion. In one of the tougher neighborhoods of the city, a couple of kilometers now from his own apartment, Chen entered a crowded square of shops and other buildings, some of them little more than hovels. A few derelicts were camped, amid litter, on the grassy plaza at the center.
Chen had taken his last turning seeking a complication of pathways, but realized as soon as he had entered the square that the move might well have been a blunder. There were only three or four ways out of it again. Should he turn back right away . . . ?
It was already too late for that. One of the slow-cruising groundcars had just stopped, a little way behind him. They must be losing him and picking him up again, trying to close in. Quickly he slid around a knot of people, getting them between him and the car, and moved on with them. If the crowds of pedestrians ever thinned out, he was lost. He was better dressed than most of the people in this neighborhood, on the verge at least of being conspicuous because of that.
Walking, waiting in exhaustion for a blasting death, he scanned the storefronts rapidly for a place to hide. If his pursuers were willing to shoot him dead, they were certainly not going to be put off by the necessity of searching for him inside a store, or anywhere else that he could think of. Nothing that he could do to throw them off was going to give them too much trouble.
Except, perhaps . . .
On one of the storefronts ahead there loomed a large sign, of a type familiar all across the Earth-colonized portion of the Galaxy. It was seen on most worlds, as here, more often in the poorer neighborhoods than in the well-to-do:


Just beneath the sign, a poster with its lifelike picture animated by electronics showed an appealing child in the act of cringing away from a grasping metal menace. The berserker android on the poster was a far more barbed and angled and poisonous-looking portrayal of the ancient enemy than any of Chen's balloons had been.
And as if this poster were indeed another menace from which he needed desperately to be saved, Chen stopped in his tracks, recoiled slightly, and glanced hastily, hopelessly, around the square.
His situation here looked indeed hopeless. Already he thought that he could see a checkpoint being established, or one already functioning unobtrusively, at each possible exit.
And suppose he did manage, somehow, to find another way out of the square. The search for him, a manhunt of this intensity, was obviously not going to be broken off simply because he managed to dodge it one more time. The hunt was going to go on. And he could think of no place in this city, on this planet, where it could not reach him; no place to hide. Chen certainly had no intention of leading these murderous monsters to any of his friends.
This kind of a hunt, Chen saw, could end only when they had caught him. And he had seen and felt evidence that being caught would not simply be a matter of being arrested—matters had gone beyond that already. Incomprehensibly, the security people had shot at him. He kept coming back to that fact, being brought up short by it, stumbling over it. But there was no way around the fact. For some reason that could make sense only to their mad arrogance, they were really trying to kill him.
He was walking forward again, moving in a daze, a condition which on these poor streets made him less rather than more conspicuous. The door to the Templars' recruiting office was again immediately in front of him. To Chen that open doorway had a look of unreality, but now everything about him did; everything except the fact that someone was now trying to accomplish his death. That had a reality of a transcendent kind.
"What can we do for you, sir?" A bland-looking sergeant behind a counter, no different in appearance or manner except for the uniform than any other salesman in any other shop, raised his head and spoke as Chen entered. A couple of other young men, with some kind of fancy paper readouts in their hands, were just turning away from the counter, about to leave the office.
Chen moved up close to the waist-high surface of the counter, and rested his hands upon it. There came and went in his mind a last fleeting thought that perhaps it would be enough for him to spend a little time in this office, off the street; perhaps if he did that the killers out there would get tired of looking for him and go away . . .
. . . that hope was not worth even a fleeting thought. He had to get on with what he perceived as his only remaining choice.
Chen cleared his throat. "I—if I were to enlist right now, how soon could I get off planet?"
"Soon as you want." Experienced eyes sized Chen up with calculation. The sergeant was carefully unsurprised.
Chen pressed him: "Today, maybe?"
The sergeant checked the timepiece on the wall. Now he looked more than ever to Chen like a salesman, one accustomed to not show surprise at a customer's strange request. Certainly it seemed that the question was not entirely new to him.
"Why not today?" The sergeant's voice was matter-of-fact, perhaps carefully so. "If you're in something of a hurry to get elsewhere, that's all right with us. Soon as you sign the enlistment form, and take the oath, then you're officially a Templar. We'd drive you to the spaceport enclave today anyway. That's Templar diplomatic territory. If, maybe, just for an example, there were angry relatives looking for you here, or maybe creditors, they wouldn't have a chance. We've even had people come in who were in trouble with the law, with the cops hardly a jump behind them. The cops have no chance either, not of arresting someone who's officially a Templar. Not for something the man did before he enlisted." The recruiter looked at Chen steadily; it sounded like a speech that had been well thought out, one that had been given before.
Chen cleared his throat again. "That's about what I thought; I . . ."
Something in Chen, ever since he was a child, was always stirred by stories of adventure, had always looked forward in daydreams to this moment: to becoming a Templar, entering a world of physical adventure, risking all in a most worthy cause. In real life, other considerations had always until now prevailed: a distaste for what he foresaw the military life would be like; a wish to be a student; a strong desire to be free to act in Eight Worlds politics.
And in the daydreams, Chen had never thought that it would be the desperate need for escape that would drive him to this step, as it had driven so many characters in adventure stories. But there was no arguing with reality, which evidently after all had no prejudice against trite melodrama. Those guns in the hands of the men outside were real.
Chen signed the document placed before him by the recruiter, not bothering to read it, either before or after. "Now what? Can I wait here?"
The sergeant, still as calm as before, came around from behind his official barricade. "Yeah. But first, to make it official, you take the oath. I need another live witness for that." He went into the back room and came back with a young woman, who wore on the shoulder of her Templar uniform an insignia that Chen thought meant she was a clerk.
The oath, like the paper he had just signed, went by him without its words really registering in his consciousness; he could only hope that it would serve as a magic curtain, an incantation, to render him invisible to scanning gunsights.
Now he was led into the back room and told to wait. It might have been the back room of any office, holding information transmission and storage equipment, with miscellaneous bins and closets. There were also a few chairs and two desks, at one of which the young clerk went back to her paperwork. A couple of hours passed—for Chen, as in some endless dream—as he sat numbly watching the clerk go about her duties. Her work was largely electronic, and did not appear to be all that arduous. Once or twice he tried to make conversation, and got in return short answers, and looks that had in them the faintly amused tolerance of the veteran.
Before the first hour of Chen's wait was over, there came from the front office a sound of new voices, too low to be fully distinguishable, as if several men had entered at once and were in conference with the sergeant. The voices might have represented no more than some group of friends coming in together on a routine recruiting inquiry, but Chen thought that they meant something else. He waited fatalistically, but nothing happened, except that the voices ceased presently and the men went out again. And shortly after that unusual conversation in the front, the sergeant came briefly into the back again, for no other reason than to give Chen a long and unreadable look.
After the second hour of Chen's wait, two young men, not the same two who had been in the office when Chen entered, arrived and were ushered into the back to join him in his waiting. These two, he thought, were certainly real recruits. They exchanged nods with Chen, and had no more success than he had had in making nervous banter with the clerk.
Shortly after their arrival, ground transportation arrived to take all three recruits to the Templar facility at the spaceport. They were led by the sergeant out a back door of the office into an alley, and at once urged into the vehicle, a high-built van.
The windows of the groundvan were set for high one-way opacity; it would be very hard for anyone outside to look in. During the drive to the spaceport Chen observed a security car or two, or what he thought were such; it was hard to tell if their occupants might be taking any particular interest in the Templar vehicle.
Inside the van, the ride to the spaceport was mostly silent; it was beginning to sink in on the other recruits, perhaps, what sort of a major change in lifestyle they had embarked upon.
Listening to the few words that his two companions exchanged between them, Chen gathered that basic training for all Templar recruits from the Eight Worlds now took place on the planet Niteroi, only about two days' travel from Salutai at c-plus speeds. Chen hadn't bothered to ask where he was going, having, as the sergeant evidently realized, quite enough in the way of other matters to engage his thoughts.
Now in the back of Chen's mind the faint hope—he wasn't sure it really amounted to a hope—had arisen that he might, now that he was officially a Templar, get a chance someday to see the Templar Radiant, and perhaps even the opportunity to meet or at least set eyes on the man who was the chief object of all his political action, the exiled Prince Harivarman. The Prince had been held at the Radiant in Templar custody for the past four standard years. Well, maybe some day that chance would come. Right now Chen was willing to settle for exile himself, or imprisonment or just about any terms on which he would be allowed to live.
The recruiting sergeant, who had come along in the van to deliver his shipment, eyed Chen closely again when they were getting out of the vehicle at the spaceport, already behind the closed gates and gray walls of the small Templar enclave there.
"I hear you were out there demonstrating for the Prince." The sergeant's face was still unreadable. His voice no longer sounded exactly polite—Chen was no longer a civilian who had just walked into his office as a prospect—but the tone did not seem to express disapproval either.
"That's right," Chen said proudly.
The sergeant did not respond in any way that Chen could see, but turned away and went on about his business.
Other recruits, gathered from elsewhere on the planet, were waiting within the walls of the spaceport Templar enclave, already being kept separate from civilians. More than a dozen freshly enlisted young men and women were aboard the shuttle when it finally rose from Salutai.