A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows by Poul Anderson. Chapter 9, 10, 11, 12

goodness … with you, who brought me home to it. I can never rightly

thank you for that, Dominic.”

Nor can I rightly thank you for existing, Kossara. In spite of what she

had let slip beneath the machine, she remained too mysterious for him to

hazard kissing her. He took refuge: “Yes, you can. You can throw off

your frontier steadfastness, foresight, common sense, devotion to

principle, et cetera, and be frivolous. If you don’t know how to frivol,

watch me. Later you may disapprove to your heart’s contempt, but tonight

let’s cast caution to the winds, give three-point-one-four-one-six

cheers, and speak disrespectfully of the Lesser Magellanic Cloud.”

Laughing, she released him. “Do you truly think we Dennitzans are so

stiff? I’d call us quite jolly. Wait till you’ve been to a festival, or

till I show you how to dance the luka.”

“Why not now? Work up an appetite.”

She shook her head. The tiara flung glitter which he noticed only

peripherally because of her eyes. “No, I’d rip this dress, or else pop

out of it like a cork. Our dances are all lively. Some people say they

have to be.”

“The prospect of watching you demonstrate makes me admit there’s

considerable to be said for an ice age.”

Actually, the summers where she lived were warm. Farther south, the

Pustinya desert was often hot. A planet is too big, too many-sided for a

single idea like “glacial era” to encompass.

Through Flandry passed the facts he had read, a parched obbligato to the

vividness breathing before him. He would not truly know her till he knew

the land, sea, sky which had given her to creation; but the data were a


Zoria was an F8 sun, a third again as luminous as Sol. Dennitza,

slightly smaller than Terra, orbiting at barely more than Terran

distance from the primary, should have been warmer–and had been for

most of its existence. Loss of water through ultraviolet cracking had

brought about that just half the surface was ocean-covered. This, an

axial tilt of 32.5°, and an 18.8-hour rotation period led to extremes of

weather and climate. Basically terrestroid, organisms adapted as they

evolved in a diversity of environments.

That stood them in good stead when the catastrophe came. Less than a

million years ago, a shower of giant meteoroids struck, or perhaps an

asteroid shattered in the atmosphere. Whirled around the globe by

enormous forces, the stones cratered dry land–devastated by impact,

concussion, radiation, fire which followed–cast up dust which dimmed

the sun for years afterward. Worse were the ocean strikes. The tsunamis

they raised merely ruined every coast on the planet; life soon returned.

But the thousands of cubic kilometers of water they evaporated became a

cloud cover that endured for millennia. The energy balance shifted. Ice

caps formed at the poles, grew, begot glaciers reaching halfway to the

equator. Species, genera, families died; fossil beds left hints that

among them had been a kind starting to make tools. New forms arose,

winter-hardy in the temperate zones, desperately contentious in the


Then piece by piece the heavens cleared, sunlight grew brilliant again,

glaciers melted back. The retreat of the ice that men found when they

arrived, six hundred years later was a rout. The Great Spring brought

woes of its own, storms, floods, massive extinctions and migrations to

overthrow whole ecologies. In her own brief lifespan, Kossara had seen

coastal towns abandoned before a rising sea.

Her birth country lay not far inland, though sheltered from northerly

winds and easterly waters–the Kazan, Cauldron, huge astrobleme on the

continent Rodna, a bowl filled with woods, farmlands, rivers, at its

middle Lake Stoyan and the capital Zorkagrad. Her father was voivode of

Dubina Dolyina province, named for the gorge that the Lyubisha River had

cut through the ringwall on its way south from the dying snows. Thus she

grew up child of a lord close to the people he guided, wilderness child

who was often in town, knowing the stars both as other suns and as elven

friends to lead her home after dark …

Flandry took her arm. “Come, my lady,” he said. “Be seated. This evening

we shall not eat, we shall dine.”

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