I learned a curious thing about Amaterasu. Do you know why that planet was so extensively colonized by the Federation, when there don't seem to be any fissionable ores? The planet produced gadolinium." Gadolinium was essential to hyperdrive engines; the engines of a ship the size of the Nemesis required fifty pounds of it. On the Sword-Worlds, it was worth several times its weight in gold.

"These Lords-Master are the descendants of the old Space-Vikings, and the slaves of the original inhabitants. The Space Vikings were a technologically advanced people; they had all the old Terran Federation science and technology, and a lot they developed for themselves on the Sword-Worlds." "Well? They still had a lot of it, on the Sword-Worlds, two centuries ago when we took them over."

The news of the Gram base on Tanith spread slowly, first by the scheduled liners and tramp freighters that linked the Sword-Worlds, and then by trading ships and outbound Space Vikings to the Old Federation.

We could charge our own prices for it, and we wouldn't need to tell them what gadolinium sells for on the Sword-Worlds." "We could, if we could do business with anybody there, after what we did to Eglonsby and Stolgoland. Where would we get plutonium?" "Why do you think the Beowulfers don't have hyperships, when they have everything else?" Harkaman snapped his fingers. "By Satan, that's it!"

"We don't need to do business with the Sword-Worlds at all. We have our own industries, we can produce what we need, and we can trade with Beowulf and Amaterasu, and with Xochitl and Jagannath and Hoth, if we can make any sort of agreement with them; everybody agrees to let everybody else's trade-planets alone. It's too bad you couldn't get some kind of an agreement with Marduk."

It hasn't quite gotten that far on the Sword-Worlds yet." "It hasn't here, either. Yet." Goodman Mikhyl slipped away; King Mikhyl VIII looked across the low table at his guest. "Prince Trask, have you heard of a man named Zaspar Makann?" "Occasionally. Nothing good about him." "He is the most dangerous man on this planet," the King said. "And I can make nobody believe it. Not even my son."

One thing; the government of a planet like Marduk would have to be something more elaborate than the loose feudalism of the Sword-Worlds. Maybe this Goldberg-ocracy of theirs had been forced upon them by the sheer complexity of the population and its problems. Alvyn Karffard took a quick look around him to make sure none of the Mardukans were in earshot.

And there would be the treaty Tanith, Marduk, Beowulf, Amaterasu; eventually, treaties with the other civilized planets. Nebulously, the idea of a League of Civilized Worlds began to take shape in his mind. Be a good idea if he adopted the title of King of Tanith for himself. And cut loose from the Sword-Worlds; especially cut loose from Gram. Let Viktor of Xochitl have it. Or Garvan Spasso.

Some day, he hoped, kregg-beef would be an item of sale to ships putting in on Tanith, and the long-haired hides might even find a market in the Sword-Worlds. They had contragravity scows plying between Rivington and Tradetown regularly, now, and air-lorries were linking the villages. The boatmen of Tradetown rioted occasionally against this unfair competition.

Trask's efforts to explain the political and social structure of the Sword-Worlds met the same incomprehension from Bentrik. "Why, it sounds like feudalism to me!" "That's right; that's what it is. A king owes his position to the support of his great nobles; they owe theirs to their barons and landholding knights; they owe theirs to their people.