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On the planet Sirgol the death machines have a unique and subtle
mode of attack--for all the galaxy only on Sirgol is time travel
possible. Now, fought to a standstill in the present, they have
turned to the past in an attempt to destroy the very roots of life.
The time and place of the next attack has been pinpointed: the
berserkers will try to eliminate Vincent Vincento, an early genius
whose loss will cost mankind a hundred years of progress in the
Derron Odegard, one of the elite corps of Time Operatives, has the
toughest assignment in Sirgol's history: protect Vincento at any
The berserkers have chosen to focus their latest attack upon one individual. Their target, King Ay of Queensland. His removal from history would have disastrous consequences for us . . . In nineteen or twenty days' present-time, the historical shock wave reaches us. I'm told that the chances of our finding the enemy keyhole within nineteen days are not good.
Rearing over the ship was a head out of nightmare: a dragon face from some evil legend. The eyes were clouded suns the size of silver platters, the scales of head and neck were gray and heavy as wet iron. The mouth was a coffin, lid opened just a crack, all fenced inside with daggers . . . Ay met it bravely. But the full thrust of his long sword, aimed straight into the darkness of the throat, counted for no more than a jab from a woman's pin. The doorllike jaws slammed shut. For a moment, as the monstrous head swept away on its long neck, there could be seen the horrible display of broken limbs dangling outside the teeth. . .
A brief excerpt
by Fred Saberhagen
Taken from Part Two:
His arms upraised, his gray beard and black robes whipping in the
wind, Nomis stood tall on a tabletop of black rock twenty feet
square, a good hundred feet above the smashing surf. White seabirds
coasted downwind toward him then wheeled away with sharp little
cries, like those of tiny souls in pain. Around his perch on three
sides there towered other spintered crags and fingers of this
coastline of black basaltic rock, while before him spread the immense
vibration of the sea.
Feet braced apart, he stood centered in an intricate chalk diagram
drawn on the flat rock. Around him he had spread the paraphernalia of
his craft--things dead and dried, things old and craven, things that
men of common thought would have deemed better destroyed and
forgotten. In his thin, penetrating voice, Nomis was singing into the
Gather, storm clouds, day and night
Lightning chew and water drawn!
Waves come swallowing, green and bright,
Chew and swallow and gulp it down--
The craft in which my foe abides,
The long-ship that my enemy rides!
There was much more to the song, and it was repeated many times.
Nomis' thin arms quivered, tired from holding over his head the
splinters of wrecked ships, while the birds cried at him and the wind
blew his thin gray beard up into his eyes.
Today he was weary, unable to escape the feeling that his day's
labor was in vain. Today he had been granted none of the tokens of
success that all too rarely came to him--heated symbol-dreams in
sleep or, when he was awake, dark momentary trances shot through with
strange visions, startling stretchings of the mind.