The critical point in time of mankind’s whole existence is
there–RIGHT THERE!” Prime Physicist Skandos slashed his red pencil
across the black trace of the chronoviagram. “WHY must man be so
stupid? Anyone with three brain cells working should know that for
the strength of an individual he should be fed; not bled; that for
the strength of a race its virgins should be bred, not sacrificed to
propitiate figmental deities. And it would be so easy to straighten
things out–nowhere in all reachable time does any other one man occupy
such a tremendously–such a uniquely–key-stone position!

“Easy, yes,” his assistant Furmin agreed. “It is a shame to
let Tedric die with not one of his tremendous potentialities realized.
It would be easy and simple to have him discover carburization and
the necessary techniques of heat-treating. That freak meteorite need
not lie there unsmelted for another seventy years. However, simple
carburization was not actually discovered until two generations later,
by another smith in another nation; and you know, Skandos, that
there can be no such thing as a minor interference with the physical
events of the past. Any such, however small-seeming, is bound to be
catastrophically major.”

“I know that.” Skandos scowled blackly. “We don’t know enough about
time. We don’t know what would happen. We have known how to do it for a
hundred years, but have been afraid to act because in all that time no
progress whatever has been made on the theory.”

He paused, then went on savagely: “But which is better, to have
our entire time-track snapped painlessly out of existence–if the
extremists are right–or to sit helplessly on our fat rumps wringing
our hands while we watch civilization build up to its own total
destruction by lithium-tritiide bombs? Look at the slope of that
curve–ultimate catastrophe is only one hundred eighty seven years

But the Council would not permit it. Nor would the School.

I know that, too. That is why I am not going to ask them. Instead, I
am asking you. We two know more of time than any others. Over the years
I have found your judgment good. With your approval I will act now.
Without it, we will continue our futile testing–number eight hundred
eleven is running now, I believe?–and our aimless drifting.

You are throwing the entire weight of such a decision on me?”

In one sense, yes. In another, only half, since I have already

Go ahead.

So be it.

“Tedric, awaken!”

The Lomarrian ironmaster woke up; not gradually and partially, like one
of our soft modern urbanites, but instantaneously and completely, as
does the mountain wild-cat. At one instant he lay, completely relaxed,
sound asleep; at the next he had sprung out of bed, seized his sword
and leaped half-way across the room. Head thrown back, hard blue eyes
keenly alert, sword-arm rock-steady he stood there, poised and ready.
Beautifully poised, upon the balls of both feet; supremely ready to
throw into action every inch of his six-feet-four, every pound of his
two-hundred-plus of hard meat, gristle, and bone. So standing, the
smith stared motionlessly at the shimmering, almost invisible thing
hanging motionless in the air of his room, and at its equally tenuous

“I approve of you, Tedric.” The thing–apparition–whatever it was–did
not speak, and the Lomarrian did not hear; the words formed themselves
in the innermost depths of his brain. “While you perhaps are a little
frightened, you are and have been completely in control. Any other man
of your nation–yes, of your world–would have been scared out of what
few wits he has.”

“You are not one of ours, Lord.” Tedric went to one knee. He knew, of
course, that gods and devils existed; and, while this was the first
time that a god had sought him out personally, he had heard of such
happenings all his life. Since the god hadn’t killed him instantly,
he probably didn’t intend to–right away, at least. Hence: “No god of
Lomarr approves of me. Also, our gods are solid and heavy. What do you
want of me, strange god?”

“I’m not a god. If you could get through this grill, you could cut off
my head with your sword and I would die.”

“Of course. So would Sar …” Tedric broke off in the middle of the

“I see. It is dangerous to talk?”

“Very. Even though a man is alone, the gods and hence the priests who
serve them have power to hear. Then the man lies on the green rock and
loses his brain, liver, and heart.”

“You will not be overheard. I have power enough to see to that.”

Tedric remained silent.

“I understand your doubt. Think, then; that will do just as well. What
is it that you are trying to do?”

“I wonder how I can hear when there is no sound, but men cannot
understand the powers of gods. I am trying to find or make a metal that
is very hard, but not brittle. Copper is no good, I cannot harden it
enough. My soft irons are too soft, my hard irons are too brittle; my
in-betweens and the melts to which I added various flavorings have all
been either too soft or too brittle, or both.”

“I gathered that such was your problem. Your wrought iron is beautiful
stuff; so is your white cast iron; and you would not, ordinarily,
in your lifetime, come to know anything of either carburization or
high-alloy steel, to say nothing of both. I know exactly what you want,
and I can show you exactly how to make it.”

“You can, Lord?” The smith’s eyes flamed. “And you will?”

“That is why I have come to you, but whether or not I will teach you
depends on certain matters which I have not been able entirely to
clarify. What do you want it for–that is, what, basically, is your

“Our greatest god, Sarpedion, is wrong and I intend to kill him.”
Tedric’s eyes flamed more savagely, his terrifically muscled body

“Wrong? In what way?”

“In every way!” In the intensity of his emotion the smith spoke aloud.
“What good is a god who only kills and injures? What a nation needs,
Lord, is people–people working together and not afraid. How can
we of Lomarr ever attain comfort and happiness if more die each
year than are born? We are too few. All of us–except the priests, of
course–must work unendingly to obtain only the necessities of life.”

“This bears out my findings. If you make high-alloy steel, exactly what
will you do with it?”

“If you give me the god-metal, Lord, I will make of it a sword and
armor–a sword sharp enough and strong enough to cut through copper
or iron without damage; armor strong enough so that swords of copper
or iron cannot cut through it. They must be so because I will have to
cut my way alone through a throng of armed and armored mercenaries and

“Alone? Why?”

“Because I cannot call in help; cannot let anyone know my goal. Any
such would lie on the green stone very soon. They suspect me; perhaps
they know. I am, however, the best smith in all Lomarr, hence they have
slain me not. Nor will they, until I have found what I seek. Nor then,
if by the favor of the gods–or by your favor, Lord–the metal be
good enough.”

“It will be, but there’s a lot more to fighting a platoon of soldiers
than armor and a sword, my optimistic young savage.”

“That the metal be of proof is all I ask, Lord,” the smith insisted,
stubbornly. “The rest of it lies in my care.”

“So be it. And then?”

“Sarpedion’s image, as you must already know, is made of stone, wood,
copper, and gold–besides the jewels, of course. I take his brain,
liver, and heart; flood them with oil, and sacrifice them …”

“Just a minute! Sarpedion is not alive and never has been; does not, as
a matter of fact, exist. You just said, yourself, that his image was
made of stone and copper and …”

“Don’t be silly, Lord. Or art testing me? Gods are spirits; bound to
their images, and in a weaker way to their priests, by linkages of
spirit force. Life force, it could be called. When those links are
broken, by fire and sacrifice, the god may not exactly die, but he can
do no more of harm until his priests have made a new image and spent
much time and effort in building up new linkages. One point now settled
was bothering me; what god to sacrifice him to. I’ll make an image for
you to inhabit, Lord, and sacrifice him to you, my strange new god. You
will be my only god as long as I live. What is your name, Lord? I can’t
keep on calling you ‘strange god’ forever.”

“My name is Skandos.”

“S … Sek … That word rides ill on the tongue. With your
permission, Lord, I will call you Llosir.”

“Call me anything you like, except a god. I am not a god.”

“You are being ridiculous, Lord Llosir,” Tedric chided. “What a man
sees with his eyes, hears with his ears–especially what a man hears
without ears, as I hear now–he knows with certain knowledge to be
the truth. No mere man could possibly do what you have done, to say
naught of what you are about to do.”

“Perhaps not an ordinary man of your …” Skandos almost said “time,”
but caught himself “… of your culture, but I am ordinary enough and
mortal enough in my own.”

“Well, that could be said of all gods, everywhere.” The smith’s mien
was quiet and unperturbed; his thought was loaded to saturation with
unshakable conviction.

Skandos gave up. He could argue for a week, he knew, without making any
impression whatever upon what the stubborn, hard-headed Tedric knew so
unalterably to be the truth.

“But just one thing, Lord,” Tedric went on with scarcely a break.
“Have I made it clear that I intend to stop human sacrifice? That
there is to be no more of it, even to you? We will offer you anything
else–anything else–but not even your refusal to give me the
god-metal will change my stand on that.”

“Good! See to it that nothing ever does change it. As to offerings or
sacrifices, there are to be none, of any kind. I do not need, I do not
want, I will not have any such. That is final. Act accordingly.”

“Yes, Lord. Sarpedion is a great and powerful god, but art sure that
his sacrifice alone will establish linkages strong enough to last for
all time?”

Skandos almost started to argue again, but checked himself. After all,
the proposed sacrifice was necessary for Tedric and his race, and it
would do no harm.

“Sarpedion will be enough. And as for the image, that isn’t necessary,

“Art wrong, Lord. Without image and temple, everyone would think you a
small, weak god, which thought can never be. Besides, the image might
make it easier for me to call on you in time of need.”

“You can’t call me. Even if I could receive your call, which is very
doubtful, I wouldn’t answer it. If you ever see me or hear from me
again, it will be because I wish it, not you.” Skandos intended this
for a clincher, but it didn’t turn out that way.

“Wonderful!” Tedric exclaimed. “All gods act that way, in spite of what
they–through their priests–say. I am overwhelmingly glad that you
are being honest with me. Hast found me worthy of the god-metal, Lord

“Yes, so let’s get at it. Take that biggest chunk of
‘metal-which-fell-from-the-sky’–you’ll find it’s about twice your
weight …”

“But I have never been able to work that particular piece of metal,

“I’m not surprised. Ordinary meteorites are nickel-iron, but this
one carries two additional and highly unusual elements, tungsten and
vanadium, which are necessary for our purpose. To melt it you’ll have
to run your fires a lot hotter. You’ll also have to have a carburizing
pot and willow charcoal and metallurgical coke and several other
things. We’ll go into details later. That green stone from which altars
are made–you can secure some of it?”

“Any amount of it.”

“Of it take your full weight. And of the black ore of which you have
occasionally used a little, one-fourth of your weight …”

The instructions went on, from ore to finished product in complete
detail, and at its end:

“If you follow these directions carefully you will have a
high-alloy-steel–chrome-nickel-vanadium-molybdenum-tungsten steel, to
be exact–case-hardened and heat-treated; exactly what you need. Can
you remember them all?”

“I can, Lord. Never have I dared write anything down, so my memory is
good. Every quantity you have given me, every temperature and step and
process and item; they are all completely in mind.”

“I go, then. Good-bye.”

“I thank you, Lord Llosir. Good-bye.” The Lomarrian bowed his head,
and when he straightened up his incomprehensible visitor was gone.

Tedric went back to bed; and, strangely enough, was almost instantly
asleep. And in the morning, after his customary huge breakfast of meat
and bread and milk, he went to his sprawling establishment, which has
no counterpart in modern industry, and called his foreman and his men
together before they began the day’s work.

“A strange god named Llosir came to me in the night and showed me how
to make better iron,” he told them in perfectly matter-of-fact fashion,
“so stop whatever you’re doing and tear the whole top off of the big
furnace. I’ll tell you exactly how to rebuild it.”

The program as outlined by Skandos went along without a hitch until the
heat from the rebuilt furnace began to come blisteringly through the
crude shields. Then even the foreman, faithful as he was, protested
against such unheard-of temperatures and techniques.

“It must be that way!” Tedric insisted. “Run more rods across, from
there to there, to hold more hides and blankets. You four men fetch
water. Throw it over the hides and blankets and him who turns the
blower. Take shorter tricks in the hot places–here, I’ll man the
blower myself until the heat wanes somewhat.”

He bent his mighty back to the crank, but even in that raging inferno
of heat he kept on talking.

“Knowst my iron sword, the one I wear, with rubies in the hilt?” he
asked the foreman. That worthy did, with longing; to buy it would take
six months of a foreman’s pay. “This furnace must stay this hot all
day and all of tonight, and there are other things as bad. But ’twill
not take long. Ten days should see the end of it”–actually seven
days was the schedule, but Tedric did not want the priests to know
that–“but for those ten days matters must go exactly as I say. Work
with me until this iron is made and I give you that sword. And of all
the others who shirk not, each will be given an iron sword–this in
addition to your regular pay. Dost like the bargain?”

They liked it.

Then, during the hours of lull, in which there was nothing much to do
except keep the furious fires fed, Tedric worked upon the image of
his god. While the Lomarrian was neither a Phidias nor a Praxiteles,
he was one of the finest craftsmen of his age. He had not, however,
had a really good look at Skandos’ face. Thus the head of the image,
although it was a remarkably good piece of sculpture, looked more like
that of Tedric’s foreman than like that of the real Skandos. And with
the head, any resemblance at all to Skandos ceased. The rest of the
real Skandos was altogether too small and too pitifully weak to be
acceptable as representative of any Lomarrian’s god; hence the torso
and limbs of the gleaming copper statue were wider, thicker, longer,
bigger, and even more fantastically muscled than were Tedric’s own.
Also, the figure was hollow; filled with sand throughout except for an
intricately-carved gray sandstone brain and red-painted hardwood liver
and heart.

“They come, master, to the number of eleven,” his lookout boy came
running with news at mid-afternoon of the seventh day. “One priest in
copper, ten Tarkians in iron, a five each of bowmen and spearmen.”

Tedric did not have to tell the boy where to go or what to do or to
hurry about it; as both ran for the ironmaster’s armor the youngster
was two steps in the lead. It was evident, too, that he had served as
squire before, and frequently; for in seconds the erstwhile half-naked
blacksmith was fully clothed in iron.

Thus it was an armored knight, leaning negligently upon a fifteen-pound
forging hammer, who waited outside the shop’s door and watched his
eleven visitors approach.

The banner was that of a priest of the third rank. Good–they weren’t
worried enough about him yet, then, to send a big one. And only ten
mercenaries–small, short, bandy-legged men of Tark–good enough
fighters for their weight, but they didn’t weigh much. This wouldn’t be
too bad.

The group came up to within a few paces and stopped.

“Art in armor, smith?” the discomfited priest demanded. “Why?”

“Why not? ‘Tis my habit to greet guests in apparel of their own

There was a brief silence, then:

“To what do I owe the honor of this visit, priest?” he asked, only half
sarcastically. “I paid, as I have always paid, the fraction due.”

“True. ‘Tis not about a fraction I come. It is noised that a strange
god appeared to you, spoke to you, instructed you in your art; that you
are making an image of him.”

“I made no secret of any of these things. I hide nothing from the great
god or his minions, nor ever have. I have nothing to hide.”

“Perhaps. Such conduct is very unseemly–decidedly ungodlike. He should
not have appeared to you, but to one of us, and in the temple.”

“It is un-Sarpedionlike, certainly–all that Sarpedion has ever done
for me is let me alone, and I have paid heavily for that.”

“What bargain did you make with this Llosir? What was the price?”

“No bargain was made. I thought it strange, but who am I, an ordinary
man, to try to understand the actions or the reasonings of a god? There
will be a price, I suppose. Whatever it is, I will pay it gladly.”

“You will pay, rest assured; not to this Llosir, but to great
Sarpedion. I command you to destroy that image forthwith.”

“You do? Why? Since when has it been against the law to have a personal
god? Most families of Lomarr have them.”

“Not like yours. Sarpedion does not permit your Llosir to exist.”

“Sarpedion has nothing to say about it. Llosir already exists. Is the
great god so weak, so afraid, so unable to defend himself against a
one-man stranger that he….”

“Take care, smith–silence! That is rankest blasphemy!”

“Perhaps; but I have blasphemed before and Sarpedion hasn’t killed me
yet. Nor will he, methinks; at least until his priests have collected
his fraction of the finest iron ever forged and which I only can make.”

“Oh, yes, the new iron. Tell me exactly how it is made.”

“You know better than to ask that question, priest. That secret will be
known only to me and my god.”

“We have equipment and tools designed specifically for getting
information out of such as you. Seize him, men, and smash that image!”

“HOLD!” Tedric roared, in such a voice that not a man moved. “If
anybody takes one forward step, priest, or makes one move toward spear
or arrow, your brains will spatter the walls across the street. Can
your copper helmet stop this hammer? Can your girl-muscled, fat-bellied
priest’s body move fast enough to dodge my blow? And most or all
of those runty little slavelings behind you,” waving his left arm
contemptuously at the group, “will also die before they cut me down.
And if I die now, of what worth is Sarpedion’s fraction of a metal that
will never be made? Think well, priest!”

Sarpedion’s agent studied the truculent, glaring ironmaster for a
long two minutes. Then, deciding that the proposed victim could not
be taken alive, he led his crew back the way they had come, trailing
fiery threats. And Tedric, going back into his shop, was thoroughly
aware that those threats were not idle. So far, he hadn’t taken too
much risk, but the next visit would be different–very different. He
was exceedingly glad that none of his men knew that the pots they
were firing so fiercely were in fact filled only with coke and willow
charcoal; that armor and sword and shield and axe and hammer were at
that moment getting their final heat treatment in a bath of oil, but
little hotter than boiling water, in the sanctum to which he retired,
always alone, to perform the incantations which his men–and hence the
priests of Sarpedion–believed as necessary as any other part of the
metallurgical process.

That evening he selected a smooth, fine-grained stone and whetted the
already almost perfect cutting edge of his new sword; an edge which in
cross-section was rather more like an extremely sharp cold-chisel than
a hollow-ground razor. He fitted the two-hand grip meticulously with
worked and tempered rawhide, thrilling again and again as each touch of
an educated and talented finger-tip told him over and over that here
was some thing brand new in metal–a real god-metal.

A piece of flat wrought iron, about three-sixteenths by five inches and
about a foot long, already lay on a smooth and heavy hardwood block. He
tapped it sharply with the sword’s edge. The blade rang like a bell;
the iron showed a bright new scar; that was all. Then a moderately
heavy two-handed blow, about as hard as he had ever dared swing an iron
sword. Still no damage. Then, heart in mouth, he gave the god-metal
its final test; struck with everything he had, from heels and toes to
finger-tips. He had never struck such a blow before, except possibly
with a war-axe or a sledge. There was a ringing clang, two sundered
slabs of iron flew to opposite ends of the room, the atrocious blade
went on, half an inch deep into solid oak. He wrenched the weapon free
and stared at the unmarred edge. UNMARRED! For an instant Tedric felt
as though he were about to collapse; but sheerest joy does not disable.

There was nothing left to do except make the links, hinge-pins, and so
on for his armor, which did not take long. Hence, when the minions of
Sarpedion next appeared, armored this time in the heaviest and best
iron they had and all set to overwhelm him by sheer weight of numbers,
he was completely ready. Nor was there palaver or parley. The attackers
opened the door, saw the smith, and rushed.

But Tedric, although in plain sight, had chosen the battleground with
care. He was in a corner. At his back a solid-walled stairway ran up to
the second floor. On his right the wall was solid for twenty feet. On
his left, beyond the stairwell, the wall was equally solid for twice as
far. They would have to come after him, and as he retreated, they would
be fighting their way up, and not more than two at a time.

This first swing, horizontal and neck-high, was fully as fierce-driven
as the one that had cloven the test-piece and almost ruined his
testing-block. The god-metal blade scarcely slowed as it went through
armor and flesh and bone. In fact, the helmet and the head within it
remained in place upon the shoulders for what seemed like seconds
before the body toppled and the arteries spurted crimson jets.

He didn’t have to hit so hard, then. Good. Nobody could last very long,
the way he had started out. Wherefore the next blow, a vertical chop,
merely split a man to the chin instead of to the navel: and the third,
a back-hand return, didn’t quite cut the victim’s head clear off.

And the blows his steel was taking, aimed at head or neck or shoulder,
were doing no harm at all. In fact, except for the noise, they scarcely
bothered him. He had been designing and building armor for five years,
and this was his masterpiece. The helmet was heavily padded: the
shoulders twice as much so. He had sacrificed some mobility–he could
not turn his head very far in either direction–but the jointing was
such that the force of any blow on the helmet, from whatever direction
coming, was taken by his tremendously capable shoulders.

The weapons of the mercenaries could not dent, could not even nick,
that case-hardened high-alloy steel. Swords bent, broke, twisted;
hammers and axes bounced harmlessly off. Nevertheless the attackers
pressed forward; and, even though each blow of his devastating sword
took a life, Tedric was forced backward up the stairs, step by step.

Then there came about that for which he had been waiting. A copper-clad
priest appeared behind the last rank of mercenaries, staring upward at
something behind the ironmaster, beckoning frantically. The priest had
split his forces; had sent part of them by another way to the second
floor to trap him between two groups; had come in close to see the trap
sprung. This was it.

Taking a couple of quick, upward, backward steps, he launched himself
into the air with all the power of his legs. And when two hundred and
thirty pounds of man, dressed in eighty or ninety or a hundred pounds
of steel, leaps from a height of eight or ten feet upon a group of
other men, those other men go down.

Righting himself quickly, Tedric sprang toward the priest and swung;
swung with all the momentum of his mass and speed and all the power
of his giant frame; swung as though he were concentrating into the
blow all his hatred of Sarpedion and everything for which Sarpedion
stood–which in fact he was.

And what such a saber-scimitar, so driven, did to thin, showy copper
armor and to the human flesh beneath it, is simply nothing to dwell
upon here.

“HOLD!” he roared at the mercenaries, who hadn’t quite decided whether
or not to resume the attack, and they held.

“Bu … bub … but you’re dead!” the non-com stuttered. “You must
be–the great Sarpedion would….”

“A right lively corpse I!” Tedric snarled. “Your Sarpedion, false god
and coward, drinker of blood and slayer of the helpless, is weak,
puny, and futile beside my Llosir. Hence, under Llosir’s shield and at
Llosir’s direction, I shall this day kill your foul and depraved god;
shall send him back to the grisly hell from whence he came.

“Nor do I ask you to fight for me. Nor would I so allow; for I trust
you not, though you swore by all your gods. Do you fight for pleasure
or for pay?”

A growl was the only answer, but that was answer enough.

“He of Sarpedion who paid your wages lies there dead. All others of
his ilk will die ere this day’s sunset. Be advised, therefore; fight
no more until you know who pays. Wouldst any more of you be split like
white-fish ere I go? Time runneth short, but I would stay and oblige if

He was not pressed.

Tedric whirled and strode away. Should he get his horse, or not? No. He
had never ridden mighty Dreegor into danger wearing armor less capable
than his own, and he wouldn’t begin now.

The Temple of Sarpedion was a tall, narrow building, with a far-flung
outside staircase leading up to the penthouse-like excrescence in which
the green altar of sacrifice was.

Tedric reached the foot of that staircase and grimly, doggedly, cut his
way up it. It was hard work, and he did not want to wear himself out
too soon. He might need a lot, and suddenly, later on, and it would be
a good idea to have something in reserve.

As he mounted higher and higher, however, the opposition became less
and less instead of greater and greater, as he had expected. Priests
were no longer there–he hadn’t seen one for five minutes. And in the
penthouse itself, instead of the solid phalanx of opposition he had
known would bar his way, there were only half a dozen mercenaries,
who promptly turned tail and ran.

“The way is clear! Hasten!” Tedric shouted, and his youthful squire
rushed up the ramp with his axe and hammer.

And with those ultra-hard, ultra-tough implements Tedric mauled and
chopped the image of the god.

Devann, Sarpedion’s high priest, was desperate. He believed thoroughly
in his god. Equally thoroughly, however, he believed in the actuality
and in the power of Tedric’s new god. He had to, for the miracle he had
performed spoke for itself.

While Sarpedion had not appeared personally in Devann’s lifetime,
he had so appeared many times in the past; and by a sufficiently
attractive sacrifice he could be persuaded to appear again,
particularly since this appearance would be in self-defense.

No slave, or any number of slaves, would do. Nor criminals. No ordinary
virgin of the common people. This sacrifice must be of supreme quality.
The king himself? Too old and tough and sinful. Ah … the king’s

At the thought the pit of his stomach turned cold. However, desperate
situations require desperate remedies. He called in his henchmen and
issued orders.

Thus it came about that a towering figure clad in flashing golden
armor–the king himself, with a few courtiers scrambling far in his
wake–dashed up the last few steps just as Tedric was wrenching out
Sarpedion’s liver.

“Tedric, attend!” the monarch panted. “The priests have taken Rhoann
and are about to give her to Sarpedion!”

“They can’t, sire. I’ve just killed Sarpedion, right here.”

“But they can! They’ve taken the Holiest One from the Innermost
Shrine; have enshrined him on the Temple of Scheene. Slay me those
traitor priests before they slay Rhoann and you may….”

Tedric did not hear the rest of it, nor was his mind chiefly concerned
with the plight of the royal maid. It was Sarpedion he was after. With
a blistering oath he dropped the god’s liver, whirled around and leaped
down the stairway. It would do no good to kill only one Sarpedion. He
would have to kill them both, especially since the Holiest One was the
major image. The Holiest One … the Sarpedion never before seen except
by first-rank priests … of course that would be the one they’d
use in sacrificing a king’s daughter. He should have thought of that
himself, sooner, damn him for a fool! It probably wasn’t too late yet,
but the sooner he got there, the better would be his chance of winning.

Hence he ran; and, farther and farther behind him, came the king and
the courtiers.

Reaching the Temple of Scheene, he found to his immense relief that
he would not have to storm that heavily-manned rampart alone. A full
company of the Royal Guard was already there. Battle was in progress,
but very little headway was being made against the close-packed
defenders of the god, and Tedric knew why. A man fighting against a god
was licked before he started, and knew it. He’d have to build up their

But did he have time? Probably. They couldn’t hurry things too much
without insulting Sarpedion, for the absolutely necessary ceremonies
took a lot of time. Anyway, he’d have to take the time, or he’d never
reach the god.

“Art Lord Tedric?” A burly captain disentangled himself from the front
rank and saluted.

“I’m Tedric, yes. Knewst I was coming?”

“Yes, Lord. Orders came by helio but now. You are in command; you speak
with the voice of King Phagon himself.”

“Good. Call your men back thirty paces. Pick me out the twelve or
fifteen strongest, to lead.

“Men of the Royal Guard!” He raised his voice to a volume audible
not only to his own men, but also to all the enemy. “Who is the most
powerful swordsman among you?… Stand forward…. This armor I wear
is not of iron, but of god-metal, the metal of Llosir, my personal and
all-powerful god. That all here may see and know, I command you to
strike at me your shrewdest, most effective, most powerful blow.”

The soldier, after a couple of false starts, did manage a stroke of

“I said strike!” Tedric roared. “Think you ordinary iron can harm the
personal metal of a god? Strike where you please, at head or neck or
shoulder or guts, but strike as though you meant it! Strike to kill!
Shatter your sword! STRIKE!”

Convulsively, the fellow struck, swinging for the neck, and at impact
his blade snapped into three pieces. A wave of visible relief swept
over the Guardsmen; one of dismay and shock over the ranks of the foe.

“I implore pardon, Lord,” the soldier begged, dropping to one knee.

“Up, man! ‘Tis nothing, and by my direct order. Now, men, I can tell
you a thing you would not have fully believed before. I have just
killed half of Sarpedion and he could not touch me. I am about to
kill his other half–you will see me do it. Come what may of god or
devil you need not fear it, for I and all with me fight under Llosir’s
shield. We men will have to deal only with the flesh and blood of
those runty mercenaries of Tark.”

He studied the enemy formation briefly. A solid phalanx of spearmen,
with shields latticed and braced; close-set spears out-thrust and
anchored. Strictly defensive; they hadn’t made a move to follow nor
thrown a single javelin when the king’s forces withdrew. This wasn’t
going to be easy, but it was possible.

“We will make the formation of the wedge, with me as point,” he went
on. “Sergeant, you will bear my sword and hammer. The rest of you will
ram me into the center of that phalanx with everything of driving force
that in you lies. I will make and maintain enough of opening. We’ll go
up that ramp like a fast ship plowing through waves. Make wedge! Drive!”

Except for his armor of god-metal Tedric would have been crushed flat
by the impact of the flying wedge against the soldiery packed so
solidly on the stair. Several of the foe were so crushed, but the new
armor held. Tedric could scarcely move his legs enough to take each
step, his body was held as though in a vise, but his giant arms were
free; and by dint of short, savage, punching jabs and prods and strokes
of his atrocious war-axe he made and maintained the narrow opening
upon which the success of the whole operation depended. And into that
constantly-renewed opening the smith was driven–irresistibly driven
by the concerted and synchronized strength of the strongest men of
Lomarr’s Royal Guard.

The result was not exactly like that of a diesel-powered snowplow,
but it was good enough. The mercenaries did not flow over the sides
of the ramp in two smooth waves. However, unable with either weapons
or bodies to break through the slanting walls of iron formed by the
smoothly-overlapping shields of the Guardsmen, over the edges they
went, the living and the dead.

The dreadful wedge drove on.

As the Guardsmen neared the top of the stairway the mercenaries
disappeared–enough of that kind of thing was a great plenty–and
Tedric, after a quick glance around to see what the situation was,
seized his sword from the bearer. Old Devann had his knife aloft, but
in only the third of the five formal passes. Two more to go.

“Kill those priests!” he snapped at the captain. “I’ll take the three
at the altar–you fellows take the rest of them!”

When Tedric reached the green altar the sacrificial knife was again
aloft; but the same stroke that severed Devann’s upraised right arm
severed also his head and his whole left shoulder. Two more whistling
strokes and a moment’s study of the scene of action assured him that
there would be no more sacrifice that day. The King’s Archers had
followed close behind the Guards; the situation was well in hand.

He exchanged sword for axe and hammer, and furiously, viciously, went
to work on the god. He yanked out the Holiest One’s brain, liver, and
heart; hammered and chopped the rest of him to bits. That done, he
turned to the altar–he had not even glanced at it before.

Stretched taut, spread-eagled by wrists and ankles on the reeking,
blood-fouled, green horror-stone, the Lady Rhoann lay, her yard-long,
thick brown hair a wide-flung riot. Six priests had not immobilized
Rhoann of Lomarr without a struggle. Her eyes went from shattered image
to blood-covered armored giant and back to image; her face was a study
of part-horrified, part-terrified, part-worshipful amazement.

He slashed the ropes, extended his mailed right hand. “Art hurt, Lady

“No. Just stiff.” Taking his hand, she sat up–a bit groggily–and
flexed wrists and ankles experimentally, while, behind his visor, the
man stared and stared.

Tall–wide but trim–superbly made–a true scion of the old
blood–Llosir’s liver, what a woman! He had undressed her mentally
more than once, but his visionings had fallen short, far short, of
the entrancing, the magnificent truth. What a woman! A virgin?
Huh! Technically so, perhaps … more shame to those pusillanimous
half-breed midgets of the court … if he had been born noble….

She slid off the altar and stood up, her eyes still dark with
fantastically mixed emotions. She threw both arms around his armored
neck and snuggled close against his steel, heedless that breasts and
flanks were being smeared anew with half-dried blood.

He put an iron-clad arm around her, moved her arm enough to open his
visor, saw sea-green eyes, only a few inches below his own, staring
straight into his.

The man’s quick passion flamed again. Gods of the ancients, what a
woman! There was a mate for a full-grown man!

“Thank the gods!” The king dashed up, panting, but in surprisingly good
shape for a man of forty-odd who had run so far in gold armor. “Thanks
be to all the gods you were in time!”

“Just barely, sire, but in time.”

“Name your reward, Lord Tedric. I will be glad to make you my son.”

“Not that, sire, ever. If there’s anything in this world or the next I
don’t want to be, it’s Lady Rhoann’s brother.”

“Make him Lord of the Marches, father,” the girl said, sharply. “Knowst
what the sages said.”

“‘Twould be better,” the monarch agreed. “Tedric of old Lomarr, I
appoint you Lord of the Upper, the Middle, and the Lower Marches, the
Highest of the High.”

Tedric went to his knees. “I thank you, sire. Have I your backing in
wiping out what is left of Sarpedion’s power?”

“If you will support the Throne with the strength I so clearly see is
to be yours, I will back you, with the full power of the Throne, in
anything you wish to do.”

“Of course I will support you, sire, as long as I live and with all
that in me lies. Since time first was my blood has been vassal to
yours, and ever will be. My brain, my liver, and my heart are yours.”

“I thank you, Lord Tedric. Proceed.”

Tedric snapped to his feet. His sword flashed high in air. His heavy
voice rang out.

“People of Lomarr, listen to a herald of the Throne! Sarpedion is dead;
Llosir lives. Human sacrifice–yes, all sacrifice except the one I am
about to perform, of Sarpedion himself to Llosir–is done. That is
and will be the law. To that end there will be no more priests, but a
priestess only. I speak as herald for the Throne of Lomarr!”

He turned to the girl, still clinging to his side. “I had it first in
mind, Lady Rhoann, to make you priestess, but….”

“Not I!” she interrupted, vigorously. “No priestess I, Lord Tedric!”

“By Llosir’s brain, girl, you’re right–you’ve been wasted long enough!”

In another time-track another Skandos and another Furmin, almost
but not quite identical with those first so named, pored over a


by E. E. “Doc” Smith

_”The key point in time is there,” the Prime Physicist said,

thoughtfully, placing the point of his pencil near one jagged peak of
the trace. “The key figure is Lord Tedric of Lomarr, the discoverer of
the carburization of steel. He could be manipulated very easily …
but, after all, the real catastrophe is about three hundred eighteen
years away; there is nothing alarming about the shape of the curve;
and any interference with the actual physical events of the past would
almost certainly prove calamitous. Over the years I have found your
judgment good. What is your thought on this matter, Furmin?”_

I would say to wait, at least for a few weeks or months. Even though
eight hundred twelve fails, number eight hundred fifty or number nine
hundred may succeed. At very worst, we will be in the same position
then as now to take the action which has for a hundred years been
specifically forbidden by both Council and School.

So be it.