Authors: Roland Green,John F. Carr
To the memory of H. Beam Piper,
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 1985 by Roland Green and John F. Carr
Revised Edition Copyright © 2004 by Roland Green and John F. Carr
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.
Baen Publishing Enterprises
P.O. Box 1403
Riverdale, NY 10471
ISBN No.: 0-937912-03-4
Cover art by Alan Gutierrez
Ace Books / March 1985
Baen Free Library / September 2004
For information address: Pequod Press
P.O. Box 3474, Northridge, CA 91328
To contact the authors or for more information on Kalvan and H. Beam Piper works see:
The first Hostigi volley tore into the Ktemnoi front rank as if they were a battery of artillery guns firing case shot. A great cheer rose up from the Hostigi ranks. The second volley and third were almost as devastating; the fourth less so. Still the Ktemnoi squares held. Now the musketeers were supposed to sling their weapons and fall back; instead many picked up the pikes of the wounded or dead, while others drew their swords and held their places.
"Pikes advance. CHARGE!"
As Xykos began to run toward the Sacred Square straight ahead, he was amazed at how quickly the Ktemnoi rear ranks moved forward to replace their fallen comrades. It was an admirable display of courage. He would make a toast to Galzar after he buried their bones. The remaining Ktemnoi musketeers fired a last ragged volley at almost point-blank range, then fell back, leaving the billmen to take the Hostigi charge.
There was a cry from ten thousand throats—
"KILL THE DEMON SPAWN!"
The billmen began their charge.
The Hostigi reply came—
The two armies collided with such a shock that the first two Hostigi ranks disappeared before Xykos' eyes. He was eight ranks deep into what had once been the Ktemnoi line before he came to a stop with his thirty-six inch pike head buried halfway to the end of its iron head into a billman's hip. He dropped the pike and drew the two-handed sword Boarsbane from its scabbard across his back. He had the sword blade out in time to parry a blow from a billhead. His next stroke sent the edge through the billman's shoulder, splitting him down to his tripes.
"My friend Beam Piper would have liked this book."
"GREAT KINGS' WAR is a lot of fun, a fine adventure story in the tradition of the original H. Beam Piper works."
"Kalvan of Otherwhen goes resoundingly to battle once more in skilled hands."
—Gordon R. Dickson
"We both enjoyed the book very much. When is the sequel coming out?"
—Robert Adams and Andre Norton
After her visit with her Graduate Advisor, Danar Sirna was still in a state of shock as she rode the gravlift down to the 40
Floor of Dhergabar University Tower where the large assembly halls were situated. Her Advisor had dropped a bombshell, as he put it; he was a well-known expert on Fourth Level, Europo-American—specializing, she thought wryly, in clichés.
Still, Sirna had just received the dream posting of the decade; she'd been assigned to the Kalvan Study Team as the only undergraduate!
Lord Kalvan, the former Pennsylvania State trooper Calvin Morrison, had been picked up on a transtemporal conveyor accidentally and been dropped off on Aryan Transpacific, Styphon's House Subsector where he'd created enough of a stir to spin off an entirely new time-line, identified almost immediately by the Paratime Police. Suddenly, for the first time in history, the University had an opportunity to study and observe a new time-line from the exact moment of divarication.
And Sirna was going to be there.
She was an undergraduate specializing on Fourth Level Studies, with an emphasis on Alexandria-Macedonia, Ptolemaic Subsector History, which was about as far away from life on First Level as she could find. After a disastrous marriage, she was literally retreating from reality, as her Mentalist had put it, when she'd informed him that she intended to return to the University of Dhergabar and work on her Scholar Degree.
Sirna's scholastic scores were high, but not exemplary, so it had come as a shock to her, and her advisor, to learn that she had gotten this dream assignment to the Kalvan Study Team. It could easily translate into a career in Outtime Studies or a chair in Aryan Transpacific. Still, there were thousands of more deserving graduate students at the University and she couldn't come up with any reason that she, of all people, had been selected.
After the pseudo-grav cushioned the drop, Sirna got out of the lift and stepped on the nearest slideway toward the Main Assembly Hall—the University's largest lecture hall. Danthor Dras, the Dean of Aryan-Transpacific and one of the most respected, and feared, scholars at the University, was going to speak on the history of Styphon's House Subsector. Dras focused interest on any topic he covered, but this time media interest in the displaced former Pennsylvania State Trooper was attracting serious news and broadcast attention all on its own.
The lecture hall was almost filled and Sirna was forced to sit at the back, near the main entranceway. She had just settled into her form-fitting seat, when Danthor Dras strode up to the lectern, newsies trailing behind like jackals after a big cat. Dras' hair flowed back from his leonine countenance like silver wings, giving him the look of a successful Fourth Level politician or preacher. As he cleared his throat, the noisy Dhergabar University lecture room fell silent.
"I've been invited here to address the Kalvan Study Teams and interested observers," Danthor Dras smiled to acknowledge the crowd, which spilled out into the hallways of the large lecture room, as well as the millions of viewers watching his three-dimensional image on all the major networks.
"As most of you know, I've spent more than fifty years researching Fourth Level, Aryan-Transpacific, as part of my research on theocracies and their effects on political and economic structures. And, let me say this," Danthor Dras grinned widely, "this outfit is the nastiest bunch of religious frauds and out-and-out crooks it's been my pleasure to study."
The switch from dry lecture to informality had the desired effect and the crowd responded enthusiastically.
The wall sized visiscreen behind Scholar Danthor came to life showing a Styphon's House temple-farm slave pen filled with skin-and-bone wretches eating slop out of animal troughs before switching to a scene where white robed priests were wielding whips on slaves, wearing nothing but tattered shirts and trousers, hauling rocks in what appeared to be near-freezing weather. Next the display featured a room full of yellow and black robed high priests eating at a table laden with food and delicacies, while being entertained by musicians and scantily clad dancers. Then the scene changed to a burning village assaulted by armored men with red capes and silver armor wielding some kind of long bladed poleax. A black robed upperpriest pointed to a group of comely young women who were led away in chains, while their neighbors were burned out of their houses. Any who tried to defend themselves were hacked to death. One man attempted to run away and was shot by a primitive pistol the length of a small carbine.
"Rather than bore you with too many details," Dras continued, "let me give you Styphon's House history in capsule form. Some five hundred years ago the 'god' Styphon was a minor deity, a healer god, among a much larger pantheon, with only a few half-hearted followers on the primitive Aryan-Transpacific Sector. The dominant gods among the Zarthani, as this group of the Sanskrit-speaking Indo-Aryan settlers called themselves, were Allfather Dralm—the usual wise all-knowing father god figure, Yirtta Allmother, the female goddess of fertility and Galzar Wolfhead, god of war.
"This all changed when one of the priests of a small temple who called themselves Styphon's House was mixing a batch of primitive chemical compounds that pass for medicine on this backward Sector. When he mixed his ingredients and put them under a flame—they went BAM!"
His voice boomed through the room, echoing this primal moment.
"So it was that gunpowder, or fireseed as they called it, was born on Aryan-Transpacific. This underpriest was smart enough to keep his discovery a secret, contacted his boss and suddenly the 'Fireseed Mystery' was born. Styphon's House has used this knowledge to turn Styphon's House from a minor cult to the dominant religious institution on a new branch of Fourth Level, Aryan-Transpacific, fittingly named Styphon's House Subsector.
"By withholding fireseed, Styphon's House has been able to make and break nobles, princes and kings. Since 'fireseed' is doled out, usually in small quantities, to favored allies, Styphon's own coffers have swelled with hundreds of years of accumulation of precious metals. Styphon's House has used their accumulation of wealth to dominate the primitive banking system, inter-kingdom trade and keep technological innovation to a minimum. If they hear of any invention or discovery that threatens their monopoly they buy it. If the inventor is uncooperative, they arrange to have him killed and continue on with business as usual.
"Now, this is where it gets interesting," Dras said, with a knowing wink to his audience. Even Sirna felt herself leaning forward in her seat. "One of the characteristics that almost all outtime religions share is that the followers actually believe—despite all contrary evidence—that their deity is real. As real as this lectern!" Danthor said, pounding on it for emphasis. "Typically, in the majority of temples, churches and ashrams, the priests are the most fervent believers in their supposed gods and goddesses. True, all religions have doubters and lapsed believers among them, but the average priest believes his god or gods are the true gods, or One God—only the competitions' deities are fakes!
"Yes, as hard as it is for us to believe, most of these outtimers really truly believe the drivel they're fed, which is what makes them so damn dangerous, giving rise to religious persecutions and wars—the nastiest wars of all. There's nothing holier than killing your neighbor for the benefit of his soul, or to keep him safe from heresy.
"In a large number of pre-industrial societies, the priests have a monopoly on centralized record keeping and accumulation of wealth. In many cases, the result is a theocracy, even if not in name. With the power of the state behind them, these 'theocracies,' having a monopoly on the 'truth' and a pipeline to the deity, accumulate a lot of economic assets, be that property, precious metals or symbolic currency.
"However, there are very few religious organizations founded on a sham miracle, which they
to be a natural event, such as Styphon's House. Not surprisingly, Styphon's priesthood has taken full advantage of the economic opportunities their monopoly on fireseed allows—all in the name of their deity, of course."
Dras paused to wink at the camera recording the event. There was a smatter of nervous laughter.
"In this area,' Danthor continued, "Styphon's House is both refreshingly and appallingly dishonest! The Temple Upperpriests and Archpriests of Styphon's House are out-and-out crooks and make no apologies for it."
Just like us, thought Sirna with uncharacteristic cynicism, as we Home Timeliners rob uncountable time-lines of their resources for our own use. Only we apologize for it—to ourselves—all the time!
"Styphon's House's first temples were in Hos-Ktemnos and, ever since the Fireseed Mystery was discovered, they have used their discovery to turn their formerly minor deity into the dominant god figure within the southern kingdoms of Hos-Ktemnos and, to a lesser degree, Hos-Bletha."
Danthor Dras paused to whip out a concealed yellow robe, which he quickly donned before his audience. His countenance underwent a complete metamorphosis, taking on a feral cast as, right before their eyes, he actually became a Styphon's House Highpriest. Many of the assembled academics moved back in their seats or hissed audibly. Sirna was certain Danthor's unsuspected acting talent was a major part of his success as an outtime researcher and media phenomenon.
After grinning wickedly, Dras resumed his talk. "In an effort to infiltrate Styphon's House, I set up a cover as an Hos-Blethan temple Highpriest. Part of my background was passing myself off as a son of a noble family, who had come to religion in his middle years. The Zarthani are unduly impressed with titles and birth pedigree."
The room was filled with titters since many of the Home Timeliners, outside of the University, responded the same way to outdated patents of nobility.
"Since the majority of Zarthani, including the priesthood, are illiterate, I was able to advance rapidly through the Temple hierarchy. After a few years at the Temple of Hos-Bletha in Bletha City, I was able to obtain a transfer to the Holy City of Balph, which is to Styphon's House much as Memphis is on Fourth Level Alexandria Macedonian, or the Vatican is on Europo-American, Plantagenet Subsector. My reading abilities got me a spot in the Archives, which—trust me—is not a popular posting with most of Styphon's Highpriests. The corruption and influence peddling in Balph, to make a good First Level analogy, is best compared to the Management Party's machinations in our own Executive Council!"