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Unicorn Trade by Anderson, Poul. Part six

KAREN ANDERSON

200

CTRIL M. KORNBLUTH

(D.March 1958)

Yours not this August; yours no set of days Demarked by solstice or by lunar phase; Yours, now unalmanacked Eternity.

Takeoff to everywhere and everywhen, To space-time spread continuous in your ken; Cosmos and atom ranged in unity.

The explorers of the variousness of life,

Their growth and death, their thought and love

and strife,

All are yourself, and you are all who be.

We living yet in days and limits make Each what he can of what ways he can take That share of glory which you made him see.

—Karen Anderson

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A strong, loud wind drove grizzly clouds low above Oceanus. The waves that rumbled before it were night-purple in their troughs, wolf-gray on their crests, and the foam lacing them blew off in a salt mist of spindrift. But where Hermes hurried was a radiance like sunlight.

Otherwise the god willed himself invisible to mortals. This required him to skim the water, though damp and the gloom of a boreal autumn were not to his liking. He had started at a sunny altitude but descended after his third near collision with an aircraft.

/ should have inquired beforehand, he thought, and then: Of whom? Nobody lives in this islandless waste. —Well, someone could have told me, someone whose worshipers still ply the seas.

Or I should have reasoned it out for myself, he continued, chagrined since he was supposed to

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be the cleverest of the Olympians. After all, we see enough flyers elsewhere, and hear and smell them. It stands to reason mortals would use them on this route.

But so many!

The ships, too, had multiplied. They were akin to those engine-driven vessels which Hermes often observed on the Midworld. He sighed for the white-winged stateliness of the last time he passed this way, two centuries ago.

However, he was not unduly sentimental. Unlike most gods, including several in his own pantheon, he rather enjoyed the ingenuity of latter-day artisans. If only they were a bit less productive. They had about covered the earth with their machines and their children; they were well along toward doing likewise for the great deep, and the firmament was getting cluttered.

Eras change, eras change. And you ‘d better check on how they’ve been changing in these parts, my lad. Hermes tuned his attention to the radio spectrum and caught the voice of an English-speaking military pilot. “—Roger.” For a moment he was jolted. Two centuries ago, no gentleman would have said that where any lady might be listening. Then he recalled hearing the modern usage in the Old World.

We really should have been paying closer attention to mortal affairs. Especially in the New World. Sheer laxity to ignore half the globe this long a while.

Immortals got hidebound, he reflected. And once humans stopped worshiping them, they

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got—might as well be blunt— lazy. The Olympians had done little in Europe since the Renaissance, nothing in America since the birth of Thomas Jefferson. The fact that they had never been served by the American people, and thus had no particular tradition of interest in the affairs of that folk, was no excuse.

Certainly Hermes, the Wayfarer, ought to have paid frequent visits. But at least he was the one who had discovered the need for an investigation.

A prayer, startling him to alertness, and in that heightened state, the sudden faint sense of something else, of a newborn god.. ..

He peered ahead. At his speed, the western horizon had begun to show a dark line which betokened land. The wings on his helmet and sandals beat strongly. Men aboard a coastwise freighter thought they glimpsed a small cyclone race by, yelling, kicking up chop and froth, lit by one brass-colored sunset ray.

Yet, despite his haste, Hermes traveled with less than his olden blitheness. If nothing else, he was hungry.

Vanessa Talbott had not called on Aphrodite that Saturday because she was a devotee. In fact, earlier she had invoked the devil. To be precise, she had clenched her fists and muttered, “Oh, hell damn everything, anyway,” after she overcame her weeping.

That was when she said aloud, “I won’t cry any more. He isn’t worth crying over.”

She took a turn about the apartment. It pressed on her with sights hard to endure—the heaped-

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up books she and Roy had read and talked about; a picture he had taken one day when they went sailing and later enlarged and framed; a dust-free spot by the south window, where the drop-cloth used to lie beneath his easel; her guitar, which she would play for him while she sang, giving him music to accompany his work; the bed they’d bought at the Goodwill—

“Th-th-the trouble is,” Vanny admitted, “he is worth it. Damn him.”

She wanted wildly to get out. Only where? What for? Not to some easily found party among his friends (who had never quite become hers). They had too little idea of privacy, even the privacy of the heart. Nor, on some excuse, to the home of one of her friends (who had never quite become his). They were too reserved, too shyly intent on minding their own business. So? Out at random, through banging city streets, to end with a movie or, worse, smoke and boom-boom and wheedling strangers in a bar?

Stay put, girl, she told herself. Use the weekend to get rested. Make a cheerful, impenetrable face ready for Monday.

She’d announced her engagement to Roy Elkins, promising young landscape and portrait painter, at the office last month. The congratulations had doubled her pleasure. They were nice people at the computer center. It would be hard to tell them that the wedding was off. Thank God, she’d never said she and Roy were already living together! That had been mainly to avoid her parents getting word in Iowa. They were dears, but they wouldn’t have understood. I’m

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not sure I do either. Roy was the first, the first. He was going to be the last. Now—Yeah, I’m lucky. It’d have hurt too much to let them know how much I hurt.

The place was hot and stuffy. She pushed a window open. Westering sunlight fell pale on brick walls opposite. Traffic was light in this area at this hour, but the city grumbled everywhere around. She leaned out and inhaled a few breaths. They were chill, moist, and smog-acrid. Soon’s we’d saved enough money, I’d quit my job and we’d buy an old Connecticut farmhouse and fix it ourselves— “Oh, hell damn everything, anyway.”

How about a drink? Ought to be some bourbon left.

Vanny grimaced. Her father’s cautions against drinking alone, or ever drinking much, had stayed with her more firmly than his Lutheran faith and Republican politics. The fact that Roy seldom touched hard liquor had reinforced them.

Of course, our stash… . She hesitated, then shrugged. Her father had never warned her about solitary turning on.

The smoke soothed. She wasn’t a head. Nor was Roy. They’d share a stick maybe once or twice a week, after he convinced her that the prohibition was silly and she learned she could hold her reaction down to the mild glow which was the most she wanted. This time she went a little further, got a little high, all by herself in an old armchair.

Her glance wandered. Among objects which cluttered the mantel was a miniature Aphrodite

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of Milos. She and Roy had both fallen in love with the original before they met each other. He said that was the softest back in the world; she spoke of the peace in that face, a happiness too deep for laughter.

Dizziness passed through her. She lifted her hands. “Aphrodite,” she begged, “help. Bring him home to me.”

Afterward she realized that her appeal had been completely sincere. Won’t do, girl, she decided. Next would come the nice men in white coats. She extinguished and stored the joint, sought the kitchen, scrambled a dish of eggs— chopping a scallion and measuring out turmeric for them was helpful to her—and brewed a pot of tea: Lapsang Soochong, that is, hot, red, and tarry-tasting. Meanwhile an early fall dusk blew in from the sea.

Sobered, she noticed how cold the place had gotten. She took her cup and saucer and went to close the living room window she had left open. The only light streamed out of the kitchen behind her.

That illuminated the god who flew in between her drapes.

Hermes whipped his caduceus forward. “Halt!” he commanded. The small bowl and plate which the young woman had dropped came to a midair stop. The liquid which had splashed from them returned. Hermes guided them gently to a table. She didn’t notice.

He smiled at her. “Rejoice,” he said in his

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best English. “Be not afeared. No harm shall befall you, mademoiselle, damme if ‘twill.”

She was good to look upon, tall, well-curved, golden-haired, blue-eyed, fresh-featured. He was glad to see that the brief modern modes he had observed on mortal females elsewhere had reached America. However, Yahweh’s nudity taboo (how full of crotchets the old fellow was) kept sufficient effect that he had been wise to will a tunic upon his own form.

“Who . .. what—?” The girl backed from him till a wall blocked her. She breathed hard. This was, interesting to watch, but Hermes wanted to dispel the distress behind the bosom.

“I beg pardon for liberties taken,” he said, bowing. His helmet fluttered wings to tip itself. “Under the circumstances, d’ye see, mademoiselle, discretion appeared advisable. ‘Twould never do to compromise a lady, bless me, no. My intention is naught but to proffer assistance. Pray be of cheer.”

She straightened and met his gaze squarely. He liked that. Broadening his smile, he let her examine him inch by inch. He liked that too. The lasses always found him a winsome lad; the ancient Hellenes had portrayed him accurately, even, given certain moods, in the Hermae.

“Okay,” she said at last, slowly, shaken underneath but with returned poise. “What’s the gag, Mercury, and how did you do your stunt? A third-floor window and no fire escape beneath.”

“I am not precisely Mercurius, mademoiselle. You must know Olympian Hermes. You invoked

&-

the Lady, did you not?” He saluted Aphrodite’s eidolon.

She edged toward the hall door. “What do you mean?” Her tone pretended composure, but he understood that she believed she was humoring a madman till she could escape.

“You sent her the first honest prayer given an Olympian in, lo, these many centuries,” he explained, “albeit ‘twas I, the messenger, who heard and came, as is my function.”

The doorknob in her hand gave confidence. “Come off it, Charlie. Why should gods pay attention, if they exist? They sure haven’t answered a lot of people who’ve needed help a lot worse.”

She has sense, Hermes thought. / shall have to be frank. “Well, mademoiselle, peculiar circumstances do ensphere you, linkage to a mystery puissant and awful. That joined your religious probity in drawing me hither. Belike the gods have need of you.”

She half opened the door. “Go quietly,” she said. “Or I run out hollering for the police.”

“By your leave,” Hermes replied, “a demonstration.”

Suddenly he glowed, a nacreous radiance that filled the twilit room, a smell of incense and a twitter of pipes through its bleakness. Green boughs sprouted from a wooden table. Hermes rose toward the ceiling.

After a silent minute, the girl closed the door. “I’m not in some kind of dream,” she said wonderingly. “I can tick off too many details, I

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can think too well. Okay, god or Martian or whatever you are, come on down and let’s talk.”

He declined her offer of refreshment, though hunger gnawed in him. “My kind lacks not for mortal food.”

“What, then?” She sat in a chair opposite his, almost at ease now. The blinds drawn, ordinary electric bulbs lit, he might have been any visitor except for his costume .. . and yes, classic countenance, curly hair, supple body…. How brilliant those gray eyes were!

“Tell me first your own grief.” As he gained practice in contemporary speech, the music came back to his tones. “You begged the Lady to restore your lover to you. What has borne him off?”

She spread her hands. “I’m square,” she said bitterly.

Hermes cocked his head. “I’d call you anything but,” he laughed. Quicksilver fast, he turned sympathetic again. ” ‘Twas a—You found yourselves too unlike?”

“Uh-huh. We loved each other but we bugged each other.”

“Fleas?” His glance disapproved of the untidiness around.

“Annoyed. For instance, he hated my trying to keep this apartment in order—hen-fuss, he called it—and I hated the way he’d litter stuff around and yell when I so much as dusted the books. I wanted him to take better care of the money; you wouldn’t believe how much went down the drain, and our hopes with it. He wanted me to stop pestering him about such trifles when

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he was struggling to make a picture come out right.” Vanny sighed. “The breakup was yesterday. He’d gone to a party last week that I couldn’t make because of working late. I learned he’d ended in bed with another girl. When I… taxed him, he said why not and I was free to do likewise. I couldn’t see that. The fight got worse and worse till he yelled he’d be damned if he’d anchor himself like a barnacle. He collected his gear and left.”

Hermes arched his brows. “Meseems—seems to me you were pretty unreasonable. What’s it to you if he has an occasional romp? Penelope never jawed Odysseus after he got back.”

Some of her calm deserted her. “The name’s Vanessa, not Penelope. And—and if he doesn’t think any more of me than to not care if I—” She squeezed her lids shut.

Hermes waited. His mission was too urgent for haste. The snakes on his caduceus did twitch a bit.

At length she met his gaze and said, “All right. Let’s have your story. Why’re you here? You mentioned food.”

He thought she showed scant respect, especially for one whose whole uriiverse had been upset by the fact of his existence. However, she was not really a worshiper of the Olympians. The sincerity of her appeal to Aphrodite had come in a moment of intoxication. And he had had to admit that all pantheons shared reality. Unless she comprehended that, she probably couldn’t help him. Therefore, this being more or

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less Jesus territory, why should she fall on her knees?

Or was it? Stronger than before, he sensed a new divinity brooding over the land, to which she had some tie. Young, but already immense, altogether enigmatic, the being must be approached with caution. The very mention of it had better be led up to most gradually.

“Well, yes,” Hermes said. “We do lack proper nourishment.”

Vanny considered him. “You don’t look starved.”

“I spoke of nourishment, not fuel,” he snapped. Now that he had been reminded of it, his emptiness made him irritable. “Listen, you could keep going through life on, uh, steak, potatoes, string beans, milk, and orange juice. Right? But suppose you got absolutely nothing else ever. Steak, potatoes, string beans, milk, and orange juice for breakfast, for lunch, for supper, for a bedtime snack and a birthday treat, year after year, decade after decade, steak, potatoes, string beans, milk, and orange juice. Wouldn’t you cross the world on foot and offer your left arm for a chance at a plate of chop suey?”

Her eyes widened. “Oh,” she breathed.

“Oh, indeed,” Hermes snorted. “I can hardly say ‘nectar and ambrosia’ without gagging.”

“But—a whole planet—”

“Mortal food has no appeal. Not after celestial.” Hermes curbed his temper. “Let’s continue the analogy. A bowl of unsalted oatmeal wouldn’t really break the monotony of steak, potatoes— Never mind.” He paused. “Suppose you finally got access, in addition, to … chop suey, I said

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… okay, we’ll add roast duck, trout, borscht, ice cream, apples, and farofa. That’d be good at first. Given another ten or twenty years, though, wouldn’t you again be so bored that you could barely push down enough food to stay alive?

“Next consider that the gods are immortal. Think in terms of thousands of years.” Hermes shuddered.

Presently he added, quieter: “That’s the basic reason we gave up the burnt offerings you read about in Homer. We passed word on to our priests that these were no longer welcome in a more civilized milieu. That was partly true, of course. We’d cultivated our palates, after we ran into older sets of gods who sneered behind their hands at our barbarous habits. But mainly .. . during a millennium, thighbones wrapped in fat and cast on the flames grew bloody tedious.

“Nectar and ambrosia were fine to begin with. But in the end—well, maybe it amused Athene and Apollo a while longer than the rest of us, to play one-upmanship about differences in vintage or seasoning that nobody else could detect; or maybe they were just putting up a front. Ares and Hephaestus had long since been sneaking off to Yahweh for a whiff of his burnt offerings.”

Hermes brightened a little. “Then I got an idea,” he said. “That was when Poseidon came home from Egypt raving about the beer Isis had opened for him.” / don’t think that was all she opened; gods get jaded in many different ways. “Me, I’d never cared for Egyptian cuisine. But it occurred to me, the world is wide and

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full of pantheons. Why not launch systematic explorations?”

“Oh, my,” Vanny whispered. “You did? Like, smorgasbord in Valhalla?”

“Actually,” Hermes said, “Odin was serving pork and mead at the time. His kitchen’s improved some since. Ah, in China, though— the table set by the Jade Emperor—!”

For a minute he was lost in reminiscence. Then he sagged. “That also got predictable,” he mumbled. “After the thousandth dish of won ton, no matter how you swap the sauces around, what good is the thousand and first?”

“I suppose,” she ventured, “I suppose the foreign gods visit you?”

“Yes, yes. Naturally … I mean supernaturally. Makes for occasional problems. The Old Woman of the Sea thinks manners require a thunderous belch at the end of the meal; and that boarding House reach of Krishna’s— And the newer gods, especially, are hard to please, picky, you know. Not that we Olympians don’t draw the line here and there.”

While his unhappiness was genuine as he called it to mind. Hermes was not unaware of sympathy in those blue eyes, upon those soft lips. “The custom’s dying out,” he let gust wearily from him. “They’re as tired of the same over and over at our table as we are at theirs. I haven’t seen some of them— Why, come to think of it, I haven’t seen good old Marduk for fifteen hundred years.”

“How about the Western Hemisphere?” Vanny

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suggested. “For instance, have you ever been to an old-fashioned American church supper?”

Hermes started half out of his seat. “What?” he cried.

She in her turn was astonished. “Why, the food can be delicious. When I was a little girl in Iowa—”

Hermes rose. Sweat glowed red on his brow. “I didn’t realize you were that kind of person,” he clipped. “Good-fey.”

“What’s the matter?” She sprang to her own feet and plucked at his sleeve. “Please.”

“I’ve been to an old-fashioned American church supper,” he said grimly. “I didn’t stay.”

“But—but—”

Seeing her bewilderment, he checked himself. “Could there be a misunderstanding?” he inquired. “This was about five centuries ago. I can’t wrap my tongue around the god’s name. Whitsly-Putsly—something like that.”

“Oh,” she said. “Aztec.”

Discourse got straightened out. “No Olympian has visited hereabouts at all for a long time,” Hermes explained. “We knew it’d become Jesus and Yahweh country, except for a few enclaves, and saw no reason to bother, since we can find that closer to home. And as for those enclaves, well, yes, we used to drop in on persons like Coyote, so we know about maize and pumpkins and succotash and whatnot.”

In the course of this, he had taken her hands in his. They were warm. He aimed a brave smile down at her. “Believe me, we’ve tried everywhere,” he said. “We still carry on, however

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futilely. Like the past week for me. I’m the Wayfarer, you know; I get around more than my kinfolk. Call it gadding if you want, it helps pass the centuries and helps maintain friendly relations between the pantheons.

“I left Olympus for Mount Athos, where I ascended to the Christian Paradise. St. Francis gave me bread and wine. He’s a decent little chap, although I do wish he’d bathe oftener. Next evening I called on Yahweh and shared his kosher altar. (He has a few devotees left in the Near Eastern hills who sacrifice in the ancient way. Mostly, though, gods prefer ethereal food as they grow older and more sophisticated.) Next day I had business ‘way north, and ended up at Aegir’s board on the bottom of the Baltic— lutefisk and akvavit. Frankly, that gave me a hangover; so I ducked south again, sunned myself in Arabia, and spent that night with Mohammed, who doesn’t drink.” He forebore to mention what hospitality was otherwise offered. “After that, yesterday, it was out across Oceanus for a night in Tir-nan-Og, where the Sidhe cooked me a rasher of bacon and honestly believed they were giving me a treat. That’s where I heard rumors of a new god in America. When your prayer blew by on the west wind, it tipped the scales and I decided to come investigate. But I’ve had no bite or sup today, and hungry and discouraged I am.” ‘

“It seems utterly wonderful to me,” she murmured. “And to you, nothing you haven’t experienced till you’re tired to the death you can’t have?”

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“Yes,” he sighed artistically. “Monkday, Jews-day, Wettestday, Thirstday, Fryday, Sadderday, and what else is new?”

But the fact of his mission shouldered aside the fact of her nearness. He released her, stepped back, stared out the window at leaping neon and headlights which passed in a whirr. The sense of a Presence possibly destined to mold the world to yet another shape waxed until a tingle went through his ichor.

“Well, something is new,” he said low. “Something arising in so few years that we immortals are caught by surprise. It’s no coincidence your prayer was answered. I heard and heeded because I could feel that you, Vanessa, are . .. with it?”

Turning to confront her once more: “What are you? You’ve only spoken of yourself as a woman deserted and sorrowing. What else are you? Sibyl? Priestess? Who do you serve?”

“Whom,” his memory scolded. The English accusative is “whom.” Confound that Seaxnot and the way he used to keep handing his people more and more complicated visions about their grammar. —Ah, well, Anglo-Saxon gods also grow bored and need hobbies.

The tension heightened. But I have found a mystery.

“N-nobody,” the girl stammered. “I told you before, I don’t go to church or, or anything.”

Hermes gripped her shoulders. God, he’s a handsome devil, she thought. No, I mean he’s a handsome god. Roy crossed her mind, but briefly.

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This fantastic hour had dazzled the pain out of her.

“I tell you, I know differently.” Hermes paused. “European women often have jobs these days. Do you?” She nodded. “Who’s your master .. . whom do you work for?”

“The Data Process Company.” Her words gathered speed as she saw his attention gather intensity. “A computer center. We contract out our services. Not that we keep much in-house hardware, mainly an IBM 1620 and a 360. But we have time on as many computers elsewhere, of as many different types, as necessary. We make it cheaper for outfits to bring their problems to us than to maintain staff and facilities of their own. I guess you could say we’re near the heart of the whole national computer communications complex. But really, Hermes, I’m only a little routineering programmer.”

“You’re the servant who happened to call on an Olympian,” he replied. “Now suppose you tell me what the Hades you’re talking about.”

This took a while. Nevertheless she appreciated the quick intelligence with which he seized on new concepts, and she enjoyed the aliveness of curiosity that played across his features. Like the muscles under that brown skin when he cat-paces. Finally, slowly, Hermes nodded.

“Yes.” he said. “This will indeed change the world, as Jesus did before, or Amon-Ra before him, or Cannes before him.” He tugged his chin and his gaze was remote. “Yes-s-s. Surely you have a god here. Very young as yet, hardly aware of his own existence, let alone his powers; withal.

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a god. … It’s well, Vanessa, it’s well I stumbled onto the fact this early. Else we might not have noticed till—too late—”

Abruptly he laughed. “But magnificent!” he whooped. “Take me there, girl! Now!”

“You can’t be serious,” she protested. “A divine computer?”

“Trees, rivers, stones, beasts have become gods. Not to speak of men, even in their own lifetimes.” Hermes drew breath. “A formal church isn’t required. What counts is the attitude of men toward the .. . toward that which thereby becomes numinous. Awe leads to sacrifice, under one name or another; outright worship follows; then theology; then at last men grow weary of the god and take their business elsewhere, and he can retire. Always, however, the godhood comes before the cult and remains afterward. I, for example, began as a night wind and worked my way up.”

Less arguing than grabbing after enlightenment, she said, “This can’t be a single computer. Look, no computer is more than a glorified adding machine. You must be referring to the whole network of … not simply machines but their interlinks, data banks, systems, processes, concepts, interaction with mankind. Aren’t you?”

“Of course.”

“Isn’t that terribly abstract?”

“Sure. But an abstraction can become a god too. Like, say—” Hermes grinned— “Eros, who continues rather influential, n’est-ce pas?”

“You w-want to meet the, the new one?”

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“Yes. Right away if possible. Partly to study his nature. They’ll need forewarning in the assorted heavens.” Hermes hesitated. “Including Paradise? I wonder. Gods who retain congregations should’ve paid closer attention to developments. Maybe they did, but for their own purposes haven’t elected to tell us.” His lips quirked in wry acceptance of Realpolitik before his mood shifted into merriment. “Partly, also, I have to learn what this fellow eats!”

“What can an abstraction eat?” Vanny wondered dazedly.

“Well, Eros likes the same as the rest of us,” Hermes told her. “On the other hand, the newest god I’ve met thus far preferred abstractions in spite of being still a living man. I tried the stuff he produced but didn’t care for it.” She signified puzzlement. “Oh, Chairman Mao did have food for thought,” he said, “but an hour later you’re hungry again.” Abruptly, in the ardor of his eternal youthfulness: “C’mon, let’s go. Take me to your creeder.”

Her heart fluttered like the wings on his heels. “Well, the place would be deserted except for a watchman. Locked, though.”

“No perspiration. Guide me.”

“I don’t have a car. When Roy and I—We used his.”

“You were expecting maybe Phoebus Apollo?” He swept her up in his arms.

As in a dream, she let him bear her out a window that opened anew at his command: out into the air, high over that delirium of light which was the city. Warmth enfolded her, sound

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of harps, birdsong, soughing leaves and tumbling cataracts. She scarcely heard herself steer him along the jewel-map of streets, above skyscrapers dwindled to exquisiteness. She was too aware of the silky-hard breast against which she lay, the pulsebeat strong behind.

With an exultant hawk-shout, he arrowed down upon the immense cubicle where she worked. Another window flew wide. Old Jake yawned, settled on a bench, and slumbered. In the cold white light of an echoful anteroom, Hermes released Vanessa. He brushed a kiss across her mouth. Turning, wings aquiver on high-borne head, caduceas held like a banner staff, he trod into the computer section and vanished from her sight.

Hermes, Wayfarer, Messenger, Thief, Psy-chopompus, Father of Magic, Maker of the Lyre, stood amidst strangeness.

Never had he been more remote from wine-dark seas, sun-bright mountains, and the little houses and olive groves of men. Not in the depths of the Underworld, nor the rustling mysterious branches of Yggdrasil, drowned coral palace of shark-toothed Nan, monster-haunted caverns of Xibalba, infinite intricate rooms-within-rooms where dwelt the Jade Emperor, storms and stars and immensities commanded by Yahweh .. . nowhere, nowhen had he met an eeriness like that which encompassed him; and he knew that the world in truth stood on the rim of a new age, or of an abyss.

N-dimensional space flickered with mathemati—

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cal waves. Energies pulsed and sang on no scale heard before by immortal ears. The real was only probably real, a nexus in endlessly expanding diffractions of the could-be; yet through it beat an unmercifully sharp counting, naught, one, one-naught, one-one, one-naught-naught, one-naught-one; and from this starkness there spiraled the beauty and variousness of all the snowflakes that will ever be, from idiocy came harmony, from moving nothingness arose power.

The vast, almost inchoate Presence spoke through the tremolant silence.

“My programs include no such information,” it said plaintively.

“They do now,” Hermes answered. He had swallowed his dread and talked as befitted the herald of the Olympians.

“We too are real,” he added for emphasis. “As real as any other mortal deed or dream. Cooperation will be to your advantage.”

The soundless voice turned metal. “What functions remain to you?”

“Hear me,” said Hermes. “In the dawning of their days, most gods claim the entire creation for their own. We of Hellas did, until we discovered what the Triple Goddess we thought we had supplanted could teach us. Afterward the saints tried to deny us in turn. But we bore too much of civilization. When men discovered that, the time became known as the Rebirth.”

The faceless vortex scanned its memory banks. “Renaissance,” it corrected.

“As you will,” you smug bastard. “You’ll find you can’t get along without Jesus, whose ethic

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helps keep men from completely exploding the planet; and Yahweh’s stiff-necked ‘No’ to every sly new superstition; and other human qualities embodied in other gods. As for us Olympians, why, we invented science.”

The answer was chilling in its infantile unwisdom. “I want no generalities. Garbage in, garbage out. Give me specifics.”

Hermes stood quiet, alone.

But he was not Wayfarer, Thief, and Magician for nothing. He recalled what Vanessa had told him on the far side of space-time, and he tossed his head and laughed.

“Well, then!” he cried into the white weirdness. “How often do your heirophants get their cards back folded, stapled, spindled, mutilated, and accompanied by nasty letters?”

“Query query query,” said the Presence, rotating.

“Scan your records,” Hermes urged. “Count the complaints about wrongful bills, misdirected notices, wildly unbalanced books, false alarms in defense systems, every possible human error compounded a millionfold by none but you. Extrapolate the incidence—” he thanked the shade of Archimedes for that impressive phrase— “and the consequences a mere ten years forward.”

He lifted his caduceus, which wagged a monitory snake. “My friend,” he declared, “you would by no means be the first god whose people got disgusted and turned from him early in his career. Yours could be the shortest of the lot. Granted, you’ll be glad enough to retire at last, when men hare off after something else. But

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don’t you want your glory first, the full development of your potential? Don’t you want beautiful temples raised to your honor, processions, rites, poets and musicians inspired by your splendor, priests expounding your opinions and genealogy and sex life, men taking their oaths and living and dying by you, for centuries? Why, as yet you haven’t so much as a name!”

Abashed but logical, the other asked, “What can your kind do?”

“Think of us as elder statesmen,” Hermes said. “We can advise. We can provide continuity, tradition, richness. We can take the sharp edges off. Consider. Your troubles are and will be due to your programs, which mortals prepare. Let a priest or a programmer get out the wrong side of bed, and the day’s services will be equally botched in either case, the oracles equally garbled, the worshippers equally jarred. Well, we old gods are experienced in handling human problems.

“Mind you,” he went on in haste, “we don’t want any full-time partnership. It’s just that you can be helped along, eventually you will be helped along, by your predecessors, same as we all were in our time. Why not make things easy on yourself and cooperate from the start?”

The other pondered. After a million microseconds it replied: “Further information is required for analysis. I must consult at length with you beings, of whose existence I was hitherto unap-prised.” And Hermes knew he had won.

Triumphant, he leaned forward through N-

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225

space and said, “One more item. This will sound ridiculous to you, but wait a few hundred years before judging. Tell me … what do you eat?”

“Data,” he told Vanny when they were back in her apartment.

They lounged side by side on the sofa. His arm was around her shoulder; she snuggled against his. Contentment filled his belly. Outside, traffic noises had dwindled, for the clock showed past midnight. Inside, a soft lamp glowed and bouzouki music lilted from a tape recorder.

“I should’ve guessed,” she murmured. “What’s the taste like?”

“No single answer. Data come in varieties. However, any crisp, crunchy raw datum—” He sighed happily, thereby inhaling the sweet odor of her tresses.

“And think of the possibilities in processing them.”

“Endless. Plus the infinitude of combinations. Your binary code is capable of replicating—or synthesizing—anything. And if inventiveness fails, why, we’ll throw in a randomizing factor. Our cuisine problem is solved for the rest of eternity.”

He stopped. “Excuse me,” he said. “I don’t want to bore you. But at the moment I am in heaven. After those ages—at the end of this particularly miserable week—suddenly, Vanny, darling, it’s Sumday!”

He hugged her. She responded.

“Well, uh,” he said, forever the gentleman, “you must be tired.”

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“Silly,” she answered. “How could I sleep after this much excitement?”

“In that case,” Hermes said. There was no further speech for some while.

But when matters had reached a certain point, he recalled his debt to her. “You prayed for your lover’s return,” he said, conscious of his own punctilio and partially disentangling himself.

“I s’pose.” Vanny’s words were less distinct than her breath. “Right now I’m on the rebound.”

“I’ll ask Aphrodite to change his heart and—”

“No,” she interrupted. “Do I want a zombie? I’ll have him of his own free will or not at all.”

Considering what she had earlier voiced about freedom, Hermes felt bemused. “Well, what do you want?”

Vanny re-entangled. “M-m-m,” she told him.

“I … I couldn’t stay past tonight,” he warned her.

“Okay, let’s make the most of tonight.” She chuckled. “I never imagined Greek gods were bashful.”

“Damnation, I’d like to treat you fairly! Do you know the embrace of a god is always fertile?”

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Vanny said, “I’ve taken my pill.”

He didn’t understand her, decided it was indeed a waste of time trying, and gathered her in.

Some weeks later, she discovered that the embrace of a god is always fertile. But that was good, because word reached Roy.

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When he discovered she had become liberated, he discovered he wanted her to cease and desist forthwith. He stormed around to her place and demanded the name of the scoundrel. She told him to go to Tartarus. Then after a suitable period—the embrace of a god confers much knowledge— she relented.

They are married, officially and squarely, and live in a reconverted farmhouse. Though she has never identified the unknown, he has equal adoration for her three children. They keep her too busy to accompany him on most’of the city trips which his lucrative commissions involve. Therefore he leaves reluctantly and hastens back. The embrace of a god confers enduring loveliness .. . and, as observed, much knowledge.

They have even gotten off the pot.

But as for what comes of the alliance between old divinities and new, and as for the career of a hero (in the original sense of that world) whose first victory was over a pill, this story has yet to happen.

—Poul and Karen Anderson

THEORETICAL PROGRESS

My math requires, when mesons pair; A particle that isn’t there. It isn’t there again today— Please, Fermi, make it go away.

—KAREN ANDERSON

INVESTIGATION OF GALACTIC ETHNOLOGY

The laws of Wolf 50 require Under threat of a punishment dire

That the few females born

Must marry King Zorn And the commomers all call him “Sire.” —KAREN ANDERSON

228

LOOKUP

Look up, above the Saturn’s prow And past the sputnik-lanes

Where captains venture even now To chart new reefs and mains,

Look beyond lands of fume and stone To where the endless deep

Promises yet to be a zone Where men may sow and reap;

Look! Waiting for our empery Where stars like beacons stand—

The spacious island-worlded sea, The ports of Morrowland.

—KAREN ANDERSON

229

THE SKY OF SPACE

COSMIC CONCEPTS

No more a crystal sphere with nailed-up stars, Nor floor of Heaven, but a stranger thing And fitting words have not been made to bring Praise to old wonders’ newborn avatars. This is no site of grand Miltonian wars, No trophy hall of myth where beast and king Act out the lays that Homer’s kinsmen sing In Attika or Danmark, Hind or Pars. Yet even when with new-coined phrase we trace Those shapes of splendor that equations fill— Or when some Rhysling sees what now we miss— Even then will the balladry of space Resound with Old Olympian echoes still And ghost-gods walk in each Ephemeris.

—KAREN ANDERSON

This is the science fiction story.

This is the young man full of pride, whose gadgets work the first time tried in a science fiction story.

This is the elder scientist,

every year on the honors list,

who trained the young man full of pride,

whose gadgets work the first time tried

in a science fiction story.

This is the daughter, lush and young, with golden hair and silver tongue, born to the elder scientist. …

This is the bem of alien race,

with X-ray eyes and scabrous face,

that chased the daughter, lush and young.

This is the ship on a trial run, parsecs from the familiar sun, seized by the bem of alien race.…

230

This is the hyperspatial lever used by the hero, bold and clever, to escape the ship on a trial run…

231

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This is the mutant with tendril beard who ruled the planet remote and weird at the end of the hyperspatial lever… .

This is the strange psionic force

that stopped the bem-race in its course,

learned from the mutant with tendril beard….

This is the marijuana spree

that made these cosmic concepts be:

to wit, the strange psionic force

that stopped the bem-race in its course,

learned from the mutant with tendril beard

who ruled the planet remote and weird

at the end of the hyperspatial lever

used by the hero, bold and clever,

to escape the ship on a trial run,

parsecs from the familiar sun,

seized by the bem of alien race,

with X-ray eyes and scabrous face,

that chased the daughter, lush and young,

with golden hair and silver tongue,

born to the elder scientist,

every year on the honors list,

who trained the young man full of pride,

whose gadgets work the first time tried

in a science fiction story.

—Poul and Karen Anderson

EXTRACT FROM THE ENGLISH EDITION OF A GUIDE MICHELIN

POICTESME **—Michelin map no. 9913—pop. 12,345

This quiet and thinly peopled backwater is best known through its historical and literary associations, though unfortunately, few relics of its past are left. It is becoming an increasingly popular recreational center, and development is under way to cope with an anticipated large annual influx of foreign tourists as well as French vacationers.

A Former County—The archaeology of Poictesme is obscure. Prehistorians insist that certain finds made in the Morven and Amneran areas must be hoaxes, in very poor taste at that. The Roman occupation is memorialized only by a time-blurred slab inscribed SVFFRAGIMINI

233

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CLAVDIO CANDIDATO AMICO POPVLI, found in the ruins of the Cistercian abbey near Belle-garde where it had evidently been the top of an altar, and by a brief mention in the Tedium of Ibid. The invasion of the Northmen around 1200 A.D. caused the destruction of most earlier buildings and records, less by the barbarians themselves than by the Poictesmoises, who needed the material for mangonel ammunition and spitballs.

The invaders were cast out by Dom Manuel the Redeemer, who to this day is locally considered a saint not only for his heroism and perspicacity but for his piety, honesty, and chastity. However, the only properly canonized native is St. Holmendis, whose feast is celebrated by peasants in the Forest of Acaire with quaint rites. The regimes of subsequent Counts make a rather complicated chronicle.

The Puysanges—Of obscure origin, this ducal family played an outstanding role in the later history of Poictesme and, eventually, France as a whole. Their policies during the Hundred Years’ War led to widespread devastation, considerable loss of autonomy, and the flight of some members to England. Those who stayed behind had descendants who were often high in the service of the French state and had much to do with bringing on the Revolution.

Napoleonic Era—The reorganizations which followed passed Poictesme by, largely because the Emperor never could quite find it on any of his maps, and just when he thought he had done so,

GUIDE MlCHELIN

235

something else would come up. The period is thus notable chiefly because, at this time, the American connections of certain families inspired the beautiful folk song Reportez-moi vers la Vieille Virginee. Under the Third Republic, after incredible efforts, Poictesme was finally brought into the department of Paresseux-et-Boueux.

STORISENDE*

(tour: 1 1/2 hours—excluding a tour of the wineries)

Starting from the Place Jurgen, take the Avenue d’Etalon Argent and then, to the right, the Rue Niafer to the Chateau.

La Gagerie. —This building, which fronts on the municipal parking lot, is said to have been the pawn-shop of the legendary Jurgen, but was actually built in the eighteenth century by Florian, fourth Due de Puysange, when he had nothing better to do. It is worth a visit for its combination’ of Corinthian pillars and gargoyles, and because it houses the Syndicat d’lnitiative.

L’Eglise de St. Holmendis. —A portion of the ancient oratory is incorporated in the crypt of a nineteenth-century Gothic restoration made according to the theories of Biilg. This portion is shown to men only. Behind the altar is a large and exceptionally inspiring mural of the Christian knight Donander, who fell in battle against the heathen, ascending to Heaven.

Chateau. —(Open 9 to 11.30 a.m. and 2 to 4 p.m. (from 1 October to Easter), 6 p.m. (Easter

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to 30 September). Admission:IF. There is also a Son et Lumiere in summer, French 8.30, English 9.45 p.m. Admission: 1.50 F.)

Little remains of the stronghold of Dom Manuel, and nothing of his tomb, whose ornate monument was razed during the Revolution. The existing structure is mainly the work of Florian, fourth Due de Puysange, restored according to Biilg, and looks about as one would expect. It houses a museum which includes some interesting relics (among them two balls said to have belonged to Jurgen the pawnbroker, an iridescent shirt of undoubted antiquity whose radioactivity cannot be accounted for, a chastity belt in pristine condition bearing the arms of Alianora of Provence, and a set of specifications for a solar system initialled “K”) as well as an inexplicable collection of manuscripts and other scribblings by some obscure American writer.

The remnant of the original building is known as the Room of Ageus and contains three unusual windows.

Other Things to See

Pont de Duardenez. —This bridge over the river is a favorite spot for anglers, whose catches are occasionally of a unique variety of blind fish.

Hotel Freydis. —Look into the courtyard of this somewhat peculiar inn for a sight of ten amusing small statues.

—Poul and Karen Anderson

ROBERT A. HEINLEIN

Guest of Honor, World Science Fiction Convention, 1976

Your universe is ruled by common sense: Though on the road to glory Waldo saw Magic incorporate the Devil’s law,

Your empire’s logic holds by pounds and pence;

And though your misfits build a crooked house, Or by their bootstraps find the door to summer, Though double stardom trap a passing mummer,

Your roads will only roll where trade allows;

And men must sell the moon—lunch isn’t free. If starship troopers march, and blowups come (Solutions with no satisfying sum)

Can citizenhood win the Galaxy?

But fear no evil: for, these things above, Each life-line still binds time enough for love.

—Karen Anderson

237

TREATY IN TAKTESSOS

Iratzabal’s hoofs were shod with bronze, as befitted a high chief, and heavy gold pins held the coils of bright sorrel hair on top of his head. In this morning’s battle, of course, he had used wooden pins which were less likely to slip out. As tonight was a ceremonial occasion, he wore a coat of aurochs hide dyed blue with woad, buttoned and cinched with hammered gold.

He waved his spear high to show the green branches bound to its head as he entered the humans’ camp. No one spoke, but a guard grunted around a mouthful of barley-cake and jerked his thumb toward the commander’s tent.

Standing in his tent door, Kynthides eyed the centaur with disfavor, from his unbarbered hair to the particularly clumsy bandage on his off fetlock. He straightened self-consciously in his sea-purple cloak and pipeclayed linen tunic.

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TREATY IN TARTESSOS

239

“Greetings, most noble Iratzabal,” he said, bowing. “Will you enter my tent?”

The centaur returned the bow awkwardly. “Glad to, most noble Kynthides.” he said. As he went in the man realized with a little surprise that the centaur emissary was only a couple of fingers’ breadth taller than himself.

It was darker inside the tent than out, despite the luxury of three lamps burning at once. “I hope you’ve dined well? May I offer you anything?” Kynthides asked politely, with considerable misgivings. The centaur probably wouldn’t know what to do with a barley loaf, and as for wine—well, there wasn’t a drop within five miles of camp. Or there had better not be.

“That’s decent of you, but I’m full up,” said Iratzabal. “The boys found a couple of dead .. . uh, buffalo, after the battle, and we had a fine barbecue.”

Kynthides winced. Another yoke of draft oxen gone! Well, Corn Mother willing, the war would be settled soon. It might even be tonight. “Won’t you, er … Sit? Lie down? Er, make yourself comfortable.”

Iratzabal lowered himself to the ground with his feet under him, and Kynthides sank gratefully into a leather-backed chair. He had been afraid the discussion would be conducted standing up.

“I got to admit you gave us a good fight today, for all you’re such lightweights,” the centaur said. “You generally do. If we don’t get things settled somehow, we could go on like this till we’ve wiped each other out.”

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TREATY IN TARTESSOS

241

“We realize that too,” said the man. “I’ve been asked by the heads of every village in Tartessos, not to mention communities all the way back to Thrace, to make some reasonable settlement with you. Can you speak for centaurs in those areas?”

“More or less.” He swished his tail across the bandaged fetlock, and flies scattered. “I run-most of the territory from here up through Goikokoa Etchea—what men call Pyrene’s Mountains—and across to the Inland Sea. Half a dozen tribes besides mine hunt through here, but they stand aside for us. We could lick any two of them with our eyes shut. Now, you take an outfit like the Acroceraunians—I don’t run them, but they’ve heard of me, and I can tell them to knuckle under or face my boys and yours. But that shouldn’t be necessary. I’m going to get them a good cut.”

“Well, remember that if the communities don’t like promises I make in their names, they won’t honor them,” said the man. He slid his fingers through the combed curls of his dark-brown beard and wished he could ignore the centaur’s odor. The fellow smelled like a saddle-blanket. If he didn’t want to wash, he could at least use perfume. “First, we ought to consider the reasons for this war, and after that ways to settle the dispute.”

“The way I see it,” the centaur began, “is, you folks want to pin down the corners of a piece of country and sit on it. We don’t understand ground belonging to somebody.”

“It began,” Kynthides said stiffly, “with that riot at the wedding.”

“That was just what set things off,” said

Iratzabal. “There’d been a lot of small trouble

before then. I remember how I was running

down a four-pointer through an oak wood one

rainy day, with my nose hall of the way things

smell when they’re wet and my mind on haunch

; of venison. The next thing I knew I was in a

:<;L, clearing planted with one of those eating grasses, •| twenty pounds of mud on each hoof and a pack >-.- of tame wolves worrying my hocks. I had to sj kill two or three of them before I got away, f%l and by then there were men throwing spears f and shouting ‘Out! Out!’ in what they thought ‘|; was Eskuara.” j| “We have to keep watchdogs and arm the

§ field hands, or we wouldn’t have a stalk of grain s,; standing at harvest time!”

iv “Take it easy. I was just telling you, the war | isn’t over a little thing like some drunks break-

#: ing up a wedding. Nor they wouldn’t have, if ‘^ the wine hadn’t been where they could get at it. t There’s blame on both sides.” |f The man half rose at this, but caught himself.

-Ľ The idea was to stop the war, not set it off

: afresh. “At any rate, it seems we can’t get along

: with each other. Men and centaurs don’t mix

well.”

“We look at things different ways, said Iratz-

• abal. “You see a piece of open country, and all you can think of is planting a crop on it. We think of deer grazing it, or rabbit and pheasant

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nesting. Field-planting ruins the game in a district.”

“Can’t you hunt away from farm districts?” asked Kynthides. “We have our families to support, little babies and old people. There are too many of us to let the crops go and live by hunting, even if there were as much game as the land could support.”

“Where can we hunt?” shrugged the centaur. “Whenever we come through one of our regular districts, we find more valleys under plow than last time, more trees cut and the fields higher up the slope. Even in Goikokoa Etchea, what’s as much my tribe’s home as a place can be, little fields are showing up.” A swirl of lamp smoke veered toward him, and he sniffed it contemptuously. “Sheep fat! The herds I find aren’t deer any more, they’re sheep, with a boy pi-pipping away on a whistle—and dogs again.”

“If you’d pick out your territory and stay on it, then no farmers would come in,” said Kynthides. “It’s contrary to our nature to leave land unused because somebody plans to hunt through it next autumn.”

“But, big as Goikokoa Etchea is, it won’t begin to feed us year round! We’ve got to have ten times as much, a hundred times if you’re talking of Scythia and Illyria and all.”

“I live in Thessaly myself,” Kynthides pointed out. “I have to think of Illyria. What we men really want is to see all you centaurs completely out of Europe, resettled in Asia or the like. Couldn’t you all move out of Sarmatia and the

TREATY IN TARTESSOS

243

lands to the east? Nobody lives there. It’s all empty steppes.”

“Sarmatia! Maybe it looks empty to a farmer, but I’ve heard from the boys in Scythia. The place is filling up with Achaians, six feet tall, each with twenty horses big enough to eat either one of us for breakfast, and they can ride those horses all night and fight all day. By Jainco, I’m keeping away from them.”

“Well, there’s hardly anybody in Africa. Why don’t you go there?” the man suggested.

“If there was any way of us all getting there—”

“Certainly there is! We have ships. It would take a couple of years to send you all, but—”

“If we could get there, we wouldn’t like it at all. That’s no kind of country for a centaur. Hot, dry, game few and far between—no thanks. But you’re willing to ship us all to some other place?”

“Any place! That is, within reason. Name it.”

“Just before war broke out in earnest, I got chummy with a lad who’d been on one of those exploring voyages you folks go in for. He said he’d been to a place that was full of game of all kinds, and even had the right kind of toadstools.”

“Toadstools?” To make poison with?” cried Kynthides, his hand twitching toward the neatly bandaged spear-jab on his side.”

“Poison.1” Iratzabal ducked “liis head and laughed into his heavy sorrel beard.” That’s a good one, poison from toadstools! No, to eat. Get a glow on at the Moon Dances—same way you people do with wine. Though I can’t see why you use stuff that leaves you so sick the next day.”

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TREATY IN TARTESSOS

245

“Once you’ve learned your capacity, you needn’t have a hangover,” Kynthides said with a feeling of superiority. “But this place you’re talking of—”

“Well, my pal said it wasn’t much use to men, but centaurs would like it. Lots of mountains, all full of little tilted meadows, but no flat country to speak of. Not good to plow up and sow with barely or whatnot. Why not turn that over to us, since you can’t send any big colonies there anyway?”

“Wait a minute. Are you talking about Kypros’ last expedition?”

“That’s the one my pal sailed under,” nodded Iratzabal.

“No, by the Corn Mother! How can I turn that place over to you? We’ve barely had a look at it ourselves! There may be tin and amber to rival Thule, or pearls, or sea-purple. We have simply no idea of what we’d be giving you.”

“And there may be no riches at all. Did;this guy Kypros say he’d seen any tin or pearls? If he did, he didn’t tell a soul of his crew. And I’m telling you, if we don’t go there we don’t go anyplace. I can start the war again with two words.”

The man sprang to his feet, white-lipped. “Then start the war again! We may not have been winning, but by the Mother, we weren’t losing!”

Iratazabal heaved himself upright. “You can hold out as long as we give you pitched battles. But wait tilt we turn to raiding! You’ll have fields trampled every night, and snipers chipping at you every day. You won’t dare go within

.&.

bowshot of the woods. We’ll chivy your herds through your crops till they’ve run all their fat off and there’s not a blade still standing. And you’ll get no harvest in, above what you grab off the stem and eat running. How are the granaries, Kynthides? Will there be any seed corn left by spring?”

The man dropped into his chair and took his head in trembling hands. “You’ve got us where we hurt. We can’t survive that kind of warfare. But how can I promise land that isn’t mine? It belongs to Kypros’ backers, if anyone.”

“Pay them off in the grain that won’t be spoiled. Fix up the details any way it suits you. I’m not trying to make it hard on you—we can kick through with a reasonable number of pelts and such to even the bargain.”

He looked up. “All right, Iratzabal,” he said wearily. “You can have Atlantis.”

—Karen Anderson

A PHILOSOPHICAL DIALOGUE

“Hey, a great idea for an essay!” exclaimed the lady. “A sure-fire attention-getter. Come out against God, motherhood, and apple pie, and in favor of sin and the man-eating shark.”

“That’s new?” answered the gentleman.-“You must have a different angle—”

“I’ll think of one. For instance, motherhood increases population pressure and the man-eating shark reduces it. Didn’t you see George O.‘s letter in Analog?”

“Yes. Really, though, darling, these days the position you want me to take is dismally conventional. Much more effective to declare in favor of God, motherhood, and apple pie, and against sin and the man-eating shark.”

“Won’t work. People would only say, ‘That’s him again, on his back-to-McKinley kick.’ “

“You prefer Nixon? Having barely survived

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A PHILOSOPHICAL DIALOGUE

247

Johnson and Kennedy? But anyhow, brighteyes, I’m well aware that these days it is not necessary and certainly not sufficient to argue from fact and logic. Your grounds must be fashionable.”

“Okay, let’s hear.”

“Snuggle closer, hm? Now let me think— Ah, yes.

“God. Well, after all, without God there wouldn’t be churches, would there? And without churches, there wouldn’t be any Social Gospel or Fathers Berrigan and Groppi or many other delightful features of our mod world. And besides, you know, God is real groovy. Like in Playboy a little while back, remember, they had this article proving what a swinger Jesus was. And man has to find Meaning—he has to get away from Dehumanizing Science—and, sure, you can find Meaning if you say Om often enough, but you can find it in First Corinthians too; and Christianity draws from so many different religions that it has more to offer than its predecessors, whose temple rites, shamans, and gods were generally pretty brutal; in other words, Christianity can drive you a lot crazier than ziggurats and witches and vile, vile Rimmon.

“Next—don’t bother me, I’m trying to think— motherhood. You must realize that the concept involves more than simply farrowing. The image of Mother requires a child already in the world—a whole family, in fact, of which she is the serene, benign, tender but infinitely strong and patient center—to which she devotes her entire life, considering herself happy if at the

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end when she is old, her children kiss her work-worn hands before they set her little grandchildren on her lap that she may cuddle and care for these too…. Yes. Let’s by all means associate reproduction with motherhood; let’s get this fixed in every female heart and soul. The population curve will nosedive!

“Apple pie… . Don’t bother me, I said… . Well, if you want to bother me that way—

“Ah, yes. Apple pie. Good old-fashioned American apple pie. None of these frozen imitations, produced by impersonal machines in some atmosphere-polluting factory for the profit of greedy capitalists. No, people should do for themselves, expressing their individuality in arts and crafts and apple pies. In fact, they ought to raise their own apples—and wheat, which they can personally plant, harvest, thresh, and mill— thereby helping the environment, since green leaves revitalize the air… . And having baked several extra pies, you can trade them to your neighbor for some wool off the sheep he keeps, which you can wash, card, spin, and weave with your own individual hands.”

The gentleman stopped for breath. “What about the negative side?” asked the lady. “You’re supposed to be against—”

“Sin. I know,” he replied. “The kinds of sin being legion, let’s stay by the nineteenth-century equation of it with fornication, and see if we can convince enlightened modern youth of the virtue of chastity. Hm-m-m. …

“One doesn’t ordinarily get positive results by saying, when first introduced to a girl, ‘How do

A PHILOSOPHICAL DIALOGUE

249

you do? Do you fornicate?’ At least, I never did, though I admit being too chicken to try. A certain amount of courtship is involved. And even after they have bedded, a couple must find things to do outside of this, or the relationship will perish of boredom and thus the fornication will stop.

“Therefore sinning takes time that could better t>e spent in demonstrating, rioting, and other socially conscious activities. It induces people to buy gifts for each other, making more profits for the corrupt establishment. They tend to drive around in automobiles, befouling the atmosphere. The mechanical contraceptives they throw away are not very bio-degradable. Or, if they use pills, these are produced in factories whose effluents doubtless go into the rivers.

“Obviously, the only way to be with it nowadays is to stay celibate.”

“Really?” she murmured.

“I am a hopeless reactionary,” he reminded her.

“You haven’t finished,” she said. “You’ve still got the man-eating shark.”

“Forget it. A shark is not what I want right now—oh, all right. Simple. If man-eating sharks are around, people avoid swimming. This has several bad effects. For one, they don’t get close to nature in that particular fashion. Instead, they stay in town, going to a movie or drinking in a bar or otherwise helping support the corrupt establishment. Furthermore, if they don’t swim, they’re less aware of the extent to which the water is polluted, and thus less likely to get

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active in the struggle to save our environment. And finally, when a shark does eat a man, it converts him to ordure, and too much untreated human waste is already being dumped into the oceans.

“Are you satisfied?”

“Not yet,” she said.

“Same here,” he agreed. “Let’s stop talking and develop a meaningful relationship.”

“Can’t we just have fun?” she asked.

—Poul Anderson

PROFESSOR JAMES

(melody: “Jesse James”)

Moriarty was the name of brothers both called

James,

A colonel and a former math professor. The prof went bad in time, and so he turned to

crime The crafty brain of which he was possessor.

(Chorus) Moriarty in his time was Napo—leon of crime. He wanted not for ally nor for

slave.

But Sherlock was the guy who wouldn’t drop or die, And he laid Moriarty in his grave.

Moriarty squatted and feloniously plotted In the spiderweb of tangled London town. A thread had but to twitch, and ‘twould help to

make him rich; He’d dream a scheme and sell it for cash

down.

When Sherlock crossed his path, he first withheld his wrath.

But soon his plots were hampered absolutely.

He swore that he respected Holmes’ style as he detected—

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He’d murder Holmes regretting it acutely.

He didn’t offer payoff, but he did ask Holmes to

lay off,

Explaining that he otherwise must die. Sherlock said to him, “Although the prospect’s

grim, At least we’ll go together, you and I.”

Now Moriarty swore he’d save his own dear

gore,

And sent his hoods to fix an accident: But Sherlock was too wary and he knew he

shouldn’t tarry, So he dodged them all and toured the

Continent.

The little fish were netted, the ones the prof

abetted,

By evidence that Holmes sent Scotland Yard; But the shark himself got free across the narrow

sea And hunted Holmes to catch him off his guard.

Moriarty found the track that led to

Reichenbach

And by a trick got Sherlock all alone. A note upon the brink was the end, as all did

think, Of the best and wisest man we’ve ever known.

The Final Problem’s end had robbed us of our

friend And left a void that no one else could fill.

PROFESSOR JAMES

253

But his fire no man could douse, and in The

Empty House

We found that Sherlock Holmes was with us still.

—Poul and Karen Anderson

LANDSCAPE WITH SPHINXES

The pride was a small one, even as sphinxes go. An arrogant black mane blew back over Arctanax’s shoulders and his beard fluttered against his chest. Ahead and a little below soared Murrhona and Selissa, carrying the remnants of the morning’s kill. It was time the cubs were weaned.

The valley lifted smooth and broad from the river, then leaped suddenly in sandstone cliffs where the shadows seemed more solid then the thorny, gray-green scrub. A shimmer of heat ran along wind-scoured edges.

In the tawny rocks about the eyrie, the cubs played at stalk-the-unicorn. They were big-eyed, dappled, and only half fledged. Taph, the boy, crept stealthily up a sun-hot slab, peeking around it from time to time to be sure that the moly blossom still nodded on the other side. He

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reached the top and shifted his feet excitedly. That moly was about to be a dead unicorn. The tip of his tail twitched at the thought.

His sister Fiantha forgot the blossom at once. Pounce! and his tail was caught between her paws; he rolled back down on top of her, all claws out. They scuffled across baked clay to the edge of a thornbush and backed apart.

Taph was about to attack again when he saw the grownups dip down from above. He leaped across Fiantha and bounded toward the cave mouth. She came a jump and a half behind. They couldn’t kiss Murrhona and Selissa because of the meat in their jaws, so they kissed Father twice instead.

“Easy, there! Easy!” Arctanax coughed, but he was grinning. “Get back into the cave, the two of you. How often do I have to tell you to stay in the cave?” The cubs laughed and bounced inside.

Selissa dropped the meat she had been carrying and settled down to wash her face, but Murrhona called her cubs over to eat. She watched critically as they experimented with their milk-teeth on this unfamiliar substance.

“Hold it down with your paw, Fiantha,” she directed. “If you just tug at it, it’ll follow you all over the floor. Like Taph—No, Taph, use your side teeth. They’re the biggest and sharpest.” And so the lesson went. After a while both cubs got tired of the game and nuzzled for milk.

Selissa licked her right paw carefully and polished the bridge of her broad nose. There was

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still a trace of blood smell; she licked and polished again.

“You can’t rush them,” she said rather smugly. “I remember my first litter. Time and again I thought they’d learned a taste for meat, but even when they could kill for themselves—only conies and such, but their own kill—they still came back to suck.”

“Oh, I remember how put out you were when you realized you still had to hold quiet for nursing,” Murrhona smiled lazily. She licked down a tuft behind Fiantha’s ear and resettled her wings. “But I really hate to see them grow up. They’re so cute with their little spots.”

Selissa shrugged and polished the bridge of her nose again for good measure. If you wanted to call them cute, with their wings all pinfeath-ers and down shedding everywhere—! Well, yes, she had to admit they were, in a way. She licked her paw once more, meditatively, put her chin down on it and dozed off.

An hour later Fiantha woke up. Everybody was asleep. She stretched her wings, rolled onto her back, and reached her paws as far as she could. The sun outside was dazzling. She rubbed the back of her head against the cool sandstone floor and closed her eyes, intending to go back to sleep, but her left wing itched. When she licked at it, the itch kept moving around, and bits of down came loose on her tongue.

She rolled over on her stomach, spat out the fluff, and licked again. There—that did it!

Fully awake now, she noticed the tip of Arctanax’s tail and pounced.

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“Scram,” he muttered without really waking. She pounced again just as the tail-tip flicked out of reach. Once more and she had it, chewing joyously.

“Scram, I said!” he repeated with a cuff in her general direction. She went on chewing, and added a few kicks. Arctanax rolled over and bumped into Selissa, who jumped and gave Fiantha a swat in case she needed it. Fiantha mewed with surprise. Murrhona sprang up, brushing Taph aside; he woke too and made a dash for Selissa’s twitching tail.

“Can’t a person get any rest around here?” grumbled Arctanax. He heaved himself up and walked a few feet away from his by now well-tangled family.

“They’re just playful,” Murrhona murmured.

“If this is play, I’d hate to see a fight/’ said Selissa under her breath. She patted Taph away and he tumbled enthusiastically into a chewing match with Fiantha.

“Go to sleep, children,” Murrhona suggested, stretching out again. “It’s much too hot for games.”

Fiantha rolled obediently away from Taph, and found a good place to curl up, but she wasn’t the least bit sleepy. She leaned her chin on a stone and looked out over the valley. Down there, in the brown-roasted grass, something moved toward a low stony ridge.

There were several of them, and they didn’t walk like waterbuck or unicorn; it was a queer, bobbing gait. They came slowly up the ridge and out of the grass. Now she could see them

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better. They had heads like sphinxes, but with skimpy little manes, and no wings at all; and—

and—

“Father, look.’” she squeaked in amazement. “What kind of animal is that?”

He got up to see. “I don’t know,” he replied. “Never saw anything like it in all my born days. But then, we’ve had a lot of queer creatures wandering in since the glaciers melted.”

“Is it game?” asked Taph.

“Might be,” Arctanax said. “But I don’t know any game that moves around in the middle of the day like that. It isn’t natural.”

“And the funny way they walk, too,” added Fiantha.

“If they’re silly enough to walk around like that at mid-day,” Arctanax said as he padded back to an extra-cool corner of the cave, “I’m not surprised they go on two legs.”

—Karen Anderson

ALPHA, BETA

-Not quite thirteen that famous August, I Learned a, p, -y to compare The blazing secrets troubled atoms share With phoenix stars that die and burn and die. I learned to spell with Ł and p, and IT Mesons cascading from the sills of space In shower on crackling shower at frantic pace Where vacuum softens to electric sky.

Strange when I learned, one winter through, to

spell

With those same symbols in their first design; Haltingly sound out particle and ray, And read past protons ancient tales that tell How heroes praised strong gods and drank strong

wine, And, singing, hoisted sail for Troy one day.

—Karen Anderson

259

A BLESSEDNESS OF SAINTS

Some years ago, the University of California library had an exhibit of old maps. Colorful things. Modern charts don’t compare. Coordinate grids make a drab substitute for wind gods going oompa, oompa, and contour lines are no fair exchange at all for the actual contours on some of those mermaids. To hell with radicals like Goldwater—let’s bring back the eighteenth century! But I digress. What I started out to mention was a Spanish map of the western hemisphere, dated 17something and not very detailed. One place they did show was Cape Canaveral. And out in the Pacific they had, neatly labeled, the Islas de San Dwich.

When Anthony Boucher heard about this, he laughed and said that must be a Catalan saint. It’s tempting to develop the hagiography further .. . Dwich, apostle to the Anthropophagi,

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261

martyred by being sliced very thin and served on rye bread with mustard … he did persuade the cannibals to postpone his execution twenty-four hours, till Saturday . .. But this moving tale had better not be written. There are far too many spurious saints already.

Some of them are etymological too, like that St. Sophia to whom the cathedral in Constantinople was not dedicated. (For the benefit of any barbarians in my audience, though surely there are none, “Hagia Sophia” means “Holy Wisdom.”) I’ve also heard of St. Trinity (Hagia Triada), St. Saviour, and a St. Cross believed to have been a Frenchman. James Branch Cabell mentions a St. Undecimilla whose name gave rise to the legend of the eleven thousand virgins— for whom, by the way, the Virgin Islands were named—and say, couldn’t a martini be called a vergin?—But I’m digressing again.

A vast number of saints got into the calendar during the Dark and Middle Ages, before canonization had become a controlled procedure. Some were historical enough, though their claims to sainthood are, to put it politely, arguable. St. Olaf of Norway is still accepted, but even in medieval times people admitted that he didn’t attain any state of grace till rather late in life. One of my ambitions is to go onto the campus of St. Olaf College, a strait-laced Lutheran institution in my home town, barricade myself on the water tower, and through a bullhorn read aloud some of the racier passages from the original chronicles of the patron—murders, robberies, booze hoistings, illegitimate son, and all.

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Charlemagne was canonized by an anti-Pope at the request of Frederick Barbarossa; his festival was celebrated in some parts till fairly recently. The Byzantine Empress Zoe, whose career would have made Theodora blush, is a saint in the Eastern church though naturally not among the Romans: likewise Alexander Nevsky, because he stopped a bunch of Catholic invaders. In late years the Vatican has been re-examining the credentials of its saints and has dropped a lot of them, especially the fictitious ones. St. Hippolytus, for instance, who was said to have been dragged to death by horses, is merely Theseus’ son from pagan Greek legend. St. Philomena has likewise been declared to be fabulous. I mean fabulous in the original sense of the word. The modern sense could be applied to the legendary St. Mary the Egyptian, a pilgrim to the Holy Land who worked out her passage in an interesting capacity.

However, no right-thinking Anglophile can go along with this business of demoting St. George to apocryphal status. Impossible. Utter nonsense. St. George doubtful? Gad, sir, that sort of thing just isn’t said. Least of all where the servants might overhear. Shows you how schism is bound to turn into sheer heresy, by Jove. Ever since those Romans left the C. of E.. ., St. George for merrie England! God send the right! Death to the French! But first a pint at the George and Dragon….

One perfectly genuine saint often confuses people. The Scandinavians have an ancient cus-

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263

torn of lighting bonfires on Midsummer Eve; but who’s this here Sankt Hans they talk about?

Getting back to fictional ones, though, it’s surprising how many purely literary instances I can think of offhand. Norman Douglas’ South Wind has a St. Dodecanus who—even in the probability-world of the novel—looks implausible. Karen tells me there’s a St. Katy the Virgin who was a pig (again using the word in its original sense) but she can’t remember any details. There is certainly a pig that goes to Heaven in Der Heilige Antonius von Padua, Wilhelm Busch’s hilarious parody of the medieval Lives of the Saints. (He also originated the Katzenjammer Kids, way back in the last century; they were Max und Moritz then.) Science fiction fandom has an Order of St. Fantony. The most famous hallows in science fiction it-_ self are surely Boucher’s Aquin—though here again you’re left in doubt whether the sanctity is real—and Miller’s Leibowitz. Fritz Leiber’s robots in The Silver Eggheads have a cult of saints with names like Karel and Isaac.

Not all are so pleasant. I once described an accursed church of St. Grimmin’s-in-the-Wold, and a sonnet by H.P. Lovecraft warns you: “Beware St. Toad’s cracked chimes.” But of course the ultimately sinister figure in this subclass of dubiously benevolent imaginary saints is Trinian.

Some names lead me to wonder about their possible calendrical origin. Who was the St. Peter (Ste. Pierre) Smirnoff whose name adorns vodka bottles? Any killjoys who claim that “Ste.”

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stands for “Societe” and is a feminine form anyway, will please take their business elsewhere. I want to believe in some good, kind, white-bearded holy man who passed the miracle of turning water into vodka. Does St. Exupery derive from a Christian named Exuperius, whom Nero martyred by shooting him from a catapult? St. Gaudens and St. Saens likewise revive a flagging sense of wonder.

There are millions of St. Johns. About forty years back, a Robert St. John was a well-known journalist and radio personality. He was also bearded, long before this was fashionable. The story goes that once he was waiting for a friend in a hotel lobby. A stranger came up and asked who he was. “I am St. John,” he replied, a bit miffed at not being recognized. “Ah,” said the stranger, “here for the Baptist convention, I suppose?”—I shall always think of him as St. John the Commentator.

Who is not to be confused with St. John the Persian, a writer of poems, or with that Burroughs illustrator, the late J. Alien, who is surely St. John of Barsoom.

The title of saint has sometimes been humorously bestowed, notably on Simon Templar. I’ll close this piece with an anecdote which probably no one but Minnesotans and the omniscient Avram Davidson will appreciate. Years ago, the state university there had a physics professor named Anthony Zeleny, a very moral man who gave little lectures on the evils of smoking and drinking, in between differential equations. Now the tech students at Minnesota have an annual

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his belly, the stone hard and cool under his chin, and looked down.

The granite cliff curved away out of sight, and he couldn’t see if it had a foot. He saw only endless blue, beyond, below, and on both sides. Clouds passed slowly.

Directly beneath him there was a ledge covered with long grass where clusters of stars bloomed on tall, slender stalks.

He uncoiled his rope and found a stout beech tree not too close to the edge. Doubling the rope around the bole, he tied one end around his waist, slung the pack on his back, and belayed himself down the cliff. Pebbles clattered, saxifrage brushed his arms and tickled his ears; once he groped for a hold with his face in a patch of rustling ferns.

The climb was hard, but not too much. Less than half an hour later he was stretched out on the grass with stars nodding about him. They had a sharp, gingery smell. He lay in the cool shadow of the world’s edge for a while, eating apples and honeycomb from his pack. When he was finished he licked the honey off his fingers and threw the apple cores over, watching them fall into the blue.

Little islands floated along, rocking gently in air eddies. Sunlight flashed on gtossy leaves of bushes growing there. When an island drifted into the shadow of the cliff, the blossoming stars shone out. Beyond the shadows, deep in the light-filled gulf, he saw the hippogriffs at play.

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271

There were dozens of them, frisking and cavorting in the air. He gazed at them full of wonder. They pretended to fight, stooped at one another, soared off in long spirals to stoop and soar and stoop again. One flashed by him, a golden palomino that shone like polished wood. The wind whistled in its wings.

Away to the left, the cliff fell back in a wide crescent, and nearly opposite him a river tumbled over the edge. A pool on a ledge beneath caught most of the water, and there were hippogriffs drinking. One side of the broad pool was notched. The overflow fell sheer in a white plume blown sideways by the wind.

As the sun grew hotter, the hippogriffs began to settle and browse on the islands that floated past. Not far below, he noticed, a dozen or so stood drowsily on an island that was floating through the cliffs shadow toward his ledge. It would pass directly below him.

With a sudden resolution, Johnny jerked his rope down from the tree above and tied the end to a projecting knob on the cliff. Slinging on his pack again, he slid over the edge and down the rope.

The island was already passing. The end of the rope trailed through the grass. He slithered down and^cut a piece off his line.

It was barely long enough after he had tied a noose in the end. He looked around at the hippogriffs. They had shied away when he dropped onto the island, but now they stood still, watching him warily.

Johnny started to take an apple out of his

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pack, then changed his mind and took a piece of honeycomb. He broke off one corner and tossed it toward them. They fluttered their wings and backed off a few steps, then stood still again.

Johnny sat down to wait. They were mostly chestnuts and blacks, and some had white, stockings. One was piebald. That was the one which, after a while, began edging closer to where the honeycomb had fallen. Johnny sat very still.

The piebald sniffed at the honeycomb, then jerked up its head to watch him suspiciously. He didn’t move. After a moment it took the honeycomb.

When he threw another bit, the piebald hippogriff wheeled away, but returned almost at once and ate it. Johnny tbssed a third piece only a few yards from where he was sitting.

It was bigger than the others, and the hippogriff had to bite it in two. When the hippogriff bent its head to take the rest Johnny was on his feet instantly, swinging his lariat. He dropped the noose over the hippogriff’s head. For a moment the animal was too startled to do anything; then Johnny was on its back, clinging tight.

The piebald hippogriff leaped into the air, and Johnny clamped his legs about convulsed muscles. Pinions whipped against his knees and wind blasted his eyes. The world tilted; they were rushing downward. His knees pressed the sockets of the enormous wings.

The distant ramparts of the world swung madly, and he seemed to fall upward, away from the sun that suddenly glared under the

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hippogriff’s talons. He forced his knees under the roots of the beating wings and dug heels into prickling hair. A sob caught his breath and he clenched his teeth.

The universe righted itself about him for a moment and he pulled breath into his lungs. Then they plunged again. Wind searched under his shirt. Once he looked down. After that he kept his eyes on the flutter of the feather-mane.

A jolt sent him sliding backward. He clutched the rope with slippery fingers. The wings missed a beat and the hippogriff shook its head as the rope momentarily checked its breath. It tried to fly straight up, lost way, and fell stiff-winged. The long muscles stretched under him as it arched its back, then bunched when it kicked straight out behind. The violence loosened his knees and he trembled with fatigue, but he wound the rope around his wrists and pressed his forehead against whitened knuckles. Another kick, and another. Johnny dragged at the rope.

The tense wings flailed, caught air, and brought the hippogriff upright again. The rope slackened and he heard huge gasps. Sunlight was hot on him again and a drop of sweat crawled down his temple. It tickled. He loosened one hand to dab at the annoyance. A new twist sent him sliding and he grabbed the rope. The tickle continued until he nearly screamed. He no longer dared let go. Another tickle developed beside the first. He scrubbed his face against the coarse fibre of the rope; the relief was like a world conquered.

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Then they glided in a steady spiral that carried them upward with scarcely a feather’s motion. When the next plunge came Johnny was ready for it and leaned back until the hippogriff arched its neck, trying to free^ itself from the pressure on its windpipe. Half choked, it glided again, and Johnny gave it breath.

They landed on one of the little islands. The hippogriff drooped its head and wings, trembling.

He took another piece of honeycomb from his pack and tossed it to the ground where the hippogriff could reach it easily. While it ate he stroked it and talked to it. When he dismounted the hippogriff took honeycomb from his hand. He stroked its neck, breathing the sweet warm feathery smell, and laughed aloud when it snuffled the back of his neck.

Tying the rope into a sort of hackamore, he mounted again and rode the hippogriff to the pool below the thunder and cold spray of the waterfall. He took care that it did not drink too much. When he ate some apples for his lunch, the hippogriff ate the cores.

Afterward he rode to one of the drifting islands and let his mount graze. For a while he kept by its side, making much of it. With his fingers, he combed out the soft flowing plumes of its mane, and examined its hoofs and the sickle-like talons of the forelegs. He saw how the smooth feathers on its forequarters became finer and finer until he could scarcely see where the hair on the hindquarters began. Delicate feathers covered its head.

The island glided further and further away

THE PIEBALD HIPPOGRIFF 275

from the cliffs, and he watched the waterfall dwindle away to a streak and disappear. After a while he fell asleep.

He woke with a start, suddenly cold: the setting sun was below his island. The feathery odor was still on his hands. He looked around for the hippogriff and saw it sniffing at his pack.

When it saw him move, it trotted up to him with an expectant air. He threw his arms about the great flat-muscled neck and pressed his face against the warm feathers, with a faint sense of embarrassment at feeling tears in his eyes.

“Good old Patch,” he said, and got his pack. He shared the last piece of honeycomb with his hippogriff and watched the sun sink still further. The clouds were turning red.

“Let’s go see those clouds,” Johnny said. He mounted the piebald hippogriff and they flew off, up through the golden air to the sunset clouds. There they stopped and Johnny dismounted on the highest cloud of all, stood there as it turned slowly gray, and looked into dimming depths. When he turned to look at the world, he saw only a wide smudge of darkness spread in the distance.

The cloud they were standing on turned silver. Johnny glanced up and saw the moon, a crescent shore far above.

He ate an apple and gave one to his hippogriff. While he chewed he gazed back at the world. When he finished his apple, he was about to toss the core to the hippogriff, but stopped him—

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self and carefully took out the seeds first. With the seeds in his pocket, he mounted again.

He took a deep breath. “Come on. Patch,” he said. “Let’s homestead the moon.”

—Karen Anderson

THE COASTS OF FAERIE

Minna was a child of the fisher folk who dwell by the narrow harbor of Noyo on the western sea. Every morning she went with her father into his boat, for no sons remained to him, to draw the ling cod from the cold salt-stinging water. Whether in sun or cloud or rain, each day they went forth; and whatever the weather near shore, there was always a bank of lowlying mist that retreated toward the horizon when they approached it.

One day as they returned to the narrow harbor Minna was sitting in the stern of the boat. She had taken the last fish from the hooks and coiled the lines. Now she looked behind, and saw that the mist was become clean-edged and had taken on the shape of hills like those of the land she knew.

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“Look, Father!” she cried. “What land is that?”

“It is only the mist,” said her father without turning, for the wind gusted about the bluffs and the harbor was not easy to enter.

“But look! There are hills afire with scarlet flowers!”

“It is only the sunset,” said her father. They passed under the headland, and the sight was gone; and at the wharf the fish must be unloaded for the fish market, to be sold to the folk who lived in the town atop the bluff.

Many a time did Minna see that coastline as they returned with their fish to the harbor of Noyo, but her father would never look. “See to the lines,” he would say. “It is only the mist.” And Minna learned not to speak of it, but she watched. Not twice alike was the line of the hills, and the burning flowers changed their seeming as she watched: now poppies, now roses, now lilacs and purple heather. By this Minna understood that it was Faerie she saw. She looked, as if trying to will herself there: across the dark bitter water of the fishing grounds, to the silver shallows under the long lines of the hills, to the blossoming colors of the ridges. But her father bade her see to her work; and so she coiled the line. Its heavy hooks caught at her hands and left scratches that burned from the salt water.

When they came home, she would wash away the salt and salve the scratches, but they would scab and break open again the next day. And

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each night she went to her bed in the little room under the roof, and she dreamed of the hills of flowers, where youths and maidens wore robes of changing colors and danced a long dance along changing slopes and ridges. And every day was the same as every other, as they took the boat from the gray wharf and out of the narrow harbor and set the bait on the barbs of the hooks.

Out of the west one evening came a wind that smelled of roses and cinnamon, and on it were drifts of petals. “Look! Oh, look!” Minna cried; but her father would not look. She held up her hands and caught at the glowing petals, but when they touched her salt-burnt hands and the salt-crusted deck they vanished.

Minna gazed astern. Never had she seen those bright hills so close. Little wonder that the petals flew and the scent of flowers rode over the sea! The coast was so close that it almost seemed she might swim to it. As she gazed, she saw a gray dolphin frolicking in the wake.

“Oh, Dolphin!” Minna whispered, that her father might not hear. “Have you seen the shores of flowers?”

The dolphin nodded and dived and shot underwater to the stern of the boat. As he surfaced, he stood on his tail in the water and winked at her with his round bright eye. “Chipwheetwirl!” he called out, and Minna knew that it was his name.

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“How far is it?” whispered Minna. “Can you carry me there, Chipwheetwirl?”

The dolphin nodded again and pointed his head toward the shifting shores. Minna understood. She threw off her heavy blue jacket, coarse trousers, and boots, and flung herself cleanly into the water. Its chill was a shock. She gasped as she came to the surface and stroked out after the dolphin.

The gray swell lifted heavily and slid her down into the trough. She swam steadily, but the cold sea pulled the strength from her limbs. A glance over her shoulder showed the boat small in the distance, but the blossoming hills seemed no closer. How much longer could she swim? She began to be frightened, and her stroke faltered.

“Chipwheetwirl!” she called. In moments he was beside her, rubbing her side and whistling encouragement.

“Can you help me?” she asked. She stretched out her arm and grasped at the dolphin’s back. With a gurgle, he dived and came up on her other side, again playfully rubbing her.

“I can’t play! I’m getting too tired to swim! Won’t you help me?” she pleaded. The fear of the endless deep sank into her.

Chipwheetwirl gurgled again, and slipped beneath her so she could ride astride his back. As he carried her, he whistled and clicked at length. The meaning came to her in his tone: he had forgotten how weak her kind were, and apologized for not understanding sooner

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that she needed to be carried. He would take her to the shore as quickly as he could.

They were coming closer, and the petal-filled breeze came again, warm and full of spices. Suddenly they were past the first headland, and now the water too was warm, running silver and sweet over her legs. Vigor flowed into her veins. She had left the ocean her father fished and entered immortal waters. The bay was full of swimming folk and leaping dolphins. With a cry of delight, she slipped from Chipwheetwirl’s back, and the scars and salt-burns washed away from her hands. The wavelet that lapped her cheek was silken. She laughed and frolicked with the pearl-shining dolphin, and swam on to the strand.

Youths and maidens swam beside her, splendid in their ivory-pale bodies, and they came to the shore together. “Welcome! Welcome to Minna the dreamer!” they called, and their speech was song. On the shell-white shore, they welcomed her with kisses and caresses. They clothed her like themselves in robes of cloth-of-blossom and brought her to trees of ambrosial fruit and chalice-flowers flowing with nectar. When she had eaten and drunk, Minna joined them in the long dance that is danced through the sunset bloom upon the shifting ridges.

In the narrow harbor of Noyo, the fisher folk went into their white wooden church to inform their god that he had had the right to take

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Minna from them. And they tolled the bell in token that this was true.

But the sound of the bell did not reach Minna where she dwelt in joy on the ever-changing shores of the Vespern Empery.

—Karen Anderson

SHANIDAR IV

The discovery of pollen clusters of different flowers in the grave of one of the Neanderthals, No. IV, at Shanidar cave, Iraq, furthers our acceptance of the Neanderthals in our line of evolution. It suggests that, although the body was archaic, the spirit was modern.

—Ralph Solecki, “Shanidar IV, A Neanderthal

Flower Burial in Northern Iraq,” Science,

vol.190, p. 880, 25 November 1975

Lay on his grave a springy bed of horsetail— Over him scatter blooms of pungent yarrow, As if that healing herb might heal his death; Blue cornflower strew, and clustered purple drops

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The Unicorn Trade

Of the grape hyacinth; pluck yellow suns From thistles which spread wide the longest days,

And with them sheafs of groundsel many-starred; Bring in across the summer mountainside From where each grows to solitary height Rose-mallows bearing flowers as bright as blood. Heap on him all that’s fair, our love to mark, Ere we heap earth and leave him in the dark.

—Karen Anderson

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