For the first time, Hanson discovered that the warlocks could work when they had to, however much they disliked it. And at their own specialties, they were superb technicians. Under the orders of Sather Karf, the camp sprang into frenzied but orderly activity.
They lost a few mandrakes in prying loose some of the sun material, and more in getting a small sphere of it shaped. But the remainder gave them the heat to melt the sky stuff. When it came to glass blowing, Hanson had to admit they were experts; it should have come as no surprise, after the elaborate alchemical apparatus he'd seen. Once the crystal shell was cracked out of the orrery, a fat-faced Ser came in with a long tube and began working the molten sky material, getting the feel of it. He did things Hanson knew were nearly impossible, and he did them with the calm assurance of an expert. Even when another rift in the sky appeared with a crackling of thunder, there was no faltering on his part. The sky shell and world supports were blown into shape around the world model inside the outer tracks in one continuous operation. The Ser then clipped the stuff from his tube and sealed the tiny opening smoothly with a bit of sun material on the end of a long metal wand.
"Interesting material," he commented, as if only the technical nature of the stuff had offered any problem to him.
Tiny, carefully polished chips from the stars were ready, and men began placing them delicately on the shell. They sank into it at once and began twinkling. The planets had also been prepared, and they also went into the shell, while a mate to each was attached to the tracking mechanism. The tiny sun came last. Hanson fretted as he saw it sink into the shell, sure it would begin to melt the sky material. It seemed to have no effect, however; apparently the sun was not supposed to melt the sky when it was in place--so the little sun didn't melt the shell. Once he was sure of that, he used a scrap of the sky to insulate the second little sun that would control the first sympathetically from the track. He moved the control delicately by hand, and the little sun followed dutifully.
The weights on the control mechanism were in place, Hanson noted. Someone would probably have to keep them wound from now on, unless they could devise a foolproof motor. But that was for the future. He bent to the hand cranks. Sather Karf was being called to give the exact settings for this moment, but Hanson had a rough idea of where the planets should be. He began turning the crank, just as the Sather came up.
There was a slight movement. Then the crank stuck, and there was a whirring of slipping gears! The fools who had moved the orrery must have been so careless that they'd sprung the mechanism. He bent down to study the tiny little jeweled gears. A whole gear train was out of place!
Sather Karf was also inspecting it, and the words he cried didn't sound like an invocation, though they were strange enough. He straightened, still cursing. "Fix it!"
"I'll try," Hanson agreed doubtfully. "But you'd better get the man who made this. He'll know better than I--"
"He was killed in the first cracking of the sky when a piece hit him. Fix it, Dave Hanson. You claimed to be a repairman for such devices."
Hanson bent to study it again, using a diamond lens one of the warlocks handed him. It was a useful device, having about a hundred times magnification without the need for exact focusing. He stared at the jumble of fine gears, then glanced out through the open front: of the building toward the sky. There was even less of it showing than he had remembered. Most of the great dome was empty. And now there were suggestions of ... shadows ... in the empty spots. He looked away hastily, shaken.
"I'll need some fine tools," he said.
"They were lost in moving this," Ser Perth told him. "This is the best we can do."
The jumble of tools had obviously been salvaged from the kits on the tractors in the camp. There was one fairly small pair of pliers, a small pick and assorted useless junk. He shook his head hopelessly.
"Fix it!" Sather Karf ordered again. The old man's eyes were also on the sky. "You have ten minutes, perhaps--no more."
Hanson's fingers steadied as he found bits of wire and began improvising tools to manipulate the tiny gears. The mechanism was a piece of superb craftsmanship that should have lasted for a million years, but it had never been meant to withstand the heavy shock of being dropped, as it must have been. And there was very little space inside. It should have been disassembled and put back piece by piece, but there was no time for that.
Another thunder of falling sky sounded, and the ground heaved. "Earthquakes!" Sather Karf whispered. "The end is near!"
Then a shout went up, and Hanson jerked his eyes from the gears to focus on a group of rocs that were landing at the far end of the camp. Men were springing from their backs before they stopped running--men in dull robes with elaborate masks over their faces. At the front was Malok, leader of the Sons of the Egg, brandishing his knife.
His voice carried clearly. "The egg hatches! To the orrery and smash it! That was the shadow in the pool. Destroy it before Dave Hanson can complete his magic!"
The men behind him yelled. Around Hanson, the magicians cried out in shocked fear. Then old Sather Karf was dashing out from under the cover of the building, brandishing a pole on which a drop of the sun-stuff was glowing. His voice rose into a command that rang out over the cries of the others.
Dave reached for a heavy hammer, meaning to follow. The old Sather seemed to sense it without looking back. "Fix the engine, Dave Hanson," he called.
It made sense. The others could do the fighting, but only he had training with such mechanisms. He turned back to his work, just as the warlocks began rallying behind Sather Karf, grabbing up what weapons they could find. There was no magic in this fight. Sticks, stones, hammers and knives were all that remained workable.
Dave Hanson bent over the gears, cursing. Now there was another rumble of thunder from the falling sky. The half-light from the reflected sunlight dimmed, and the ground shook violently. Another set of gears broke from the housing. Hanson caught up a bit of sun-stuff on the sharp point of the awl and brought it closer, until it burned his hands. But he had seen enough. The mechanism was ruined beyond his chance to repair it in time.
He slapped the cover shut and stuck the sun-tipped awl where it would light as much of the orrery as possible. As always, the skills of his own world had failed. To the blazes with it, then--when in magic land, magic had to do.
He thought of calling Ser Perth or Sather Karf, but there was no time for that, and they could hardly have heard him over the sounds of the desperate fight going on.
He bent to the floor, searching until he found a ball of the sky material that had been pinched off when the little opening was sealed. Further hunting gave him a few bits of dust from the star bits and some of the junk that had gone into shaping the planets. He brushed in some dirt from the ground that had been touched by the sun stuff and was still glowing faintly. He wasn't at all sure of how much he could extrapolate from what he'd read in the book on Applied Semantics, but he knew he needed a control--a symbol of the symbol, in this case. It was crude, but it might serve to represent the orrery.
He clutched it in his hand and touched it against the orrery, trying to remember the formula for the giving of a true name. He had to improvise, but he got through a rough version of it, until he came to the end: "I who created you name you--" What the deuce did he name it? "I name you Rumpelstilsken and order you to obey me when I call you by your name."
He clutched the blob of material tighter in his hand, mentally trying to shape an order that wouldn't backfire, as such orders seemed to in the childhood stories of magic he had learned. Finally his lips whispered the simplest order he could find. "Rumpelstilsken, repair yourself!"
There was a whirring and scraping inside the mechanism, and Hanson let out a yell. He got only a hasty glimpse of gears that seemed to be back on their tracks before Sather Karf was beside him, driving the cranks with desperate speed.
"We have less than a minute!" the old voice gasped.
The Sather's fingers spun on the controls. Then he straightened, moving his hands toward the orrery in passes too rapid to be seen. There was a string of obvious ritual commands in their sacred language. Then a single word rang out, a string of sounds that should have come from no human vocal chords.
There was a wrench and twist through every atom of Hanson's body. The universe seemed to cry out. Over the horizon, a great burning disc rose and leaped toward the heavens as the sun went back to its place in the sky. The big bits of sky-stuff around also jerked upwards, revealing themselves by the wind they whipped up and by the holes they ripped through the roof of the building. Hanson clutched at the scrap he had pocketed, but it showed no sign of leaving, and the tiny blob of sun-stuff remained fixed to the awl.
Through the diamond lens, Hanson could see the model of the world in the orrery changing. There were clouds apparently painted on it where no clouds had been. And there was an indication of movement in the green of the forests and the blue of the oceans, as if trees were whipping in the wind and waves lapping the shores.
When he jerked his eyes upward, all seemed serene in the sky. Sunlight shone normally on the world, and from under the roof he could see the gaudy blue of sky, complete, with the cracks in it smoothing out as he watched.
The battle outside had stopped with the rising of the sun. Half the warlocks were lying motionless, and the other half had clustered together, close to the building where Hanson and Sather Karf stood. The Sons of the Egg seemed to have suffered less, since they greatly out-numbered the others, but they were obviously more shocked by the rising of the sun and the healing of the sky.
Then Malok's voice rang out sharply. "It isn't stable yet! Destroy the machine! The egg must hatch!"
He leaped forward, brandishing his knife, while the Sons of the Egg fell in behind him. The warlocks began to close ranks, falling back to make a stand under the jutting edge of the roof, where they could protect the orrery. Bork and Ser Perth were among them, bloody but hopelessly determined.
One look at Sather Karf's expression was enough to convince Hanson that Malok had cried the truth and that their work could still be undone. And it was obvious that the warlocks could never stand the charge of the Sons. Too many of them had already been killed, and there was no time for reviving them.
Sather Karf was starting forward into the battle, but Hanson made no move to follow. He snapped the diamond lens to his eye and his fingers caught at the drop of sun-stuff on the awl. He had to hold it near the glowing bit for steadiness, and it began searing his fingers. He forced control on his muscles and plunged his hand slowly through the sky sphere, easing the glowing blob downward toward the spot on the globe he had already located with the lens. His thumb and finger moved downward delicately, with all the skill of practice at working with nearly invisibly fine wires on delicate instruments.
Then he jerked his eyes away from the model and looked out. Something glaring and hot was suspended in the air five miles away. He moved his hand carefully, steadying it on one of the planet tracks. The glowing fire in the air outside moved another mile closer--then another. And now, around it, he could see a monstrous fingertip and something that might have been miles of thumbnail.
The warlocks leaped back under the roof. The Sons of the Egg screamed and panicked. Jerking horribly, the monstrous thing moved again. For part of a second, it hovered over the empty camp. Then it was gone.
Hanson began pulling his hand out through the shell of the model, whimpering as his other hand clenched against the blob in his pocket. He had suddenly realized what horrors were possible to anyone who could use the orrery now. "Rumpelstilsken, I command you to let no hand other than mine enter and to respond to no other controls." He hoped it would offer enough protection.
His hand came free and he threw the sun-bit away with a flick of his wrist. His hand ached with the impossible task of steadiness he had set it, and his finger and thumb burned and smoked. But the wound was already healing.
In the exposed section of the camp, the Sons of the Egg were charred corpses. There was a fire starting on the roof of the building, but others had already run out to quench that. It sounded like the snuffling progress of an undine across the roof! Maybe magic was working again.
Bork turned back from the sight of his former companions. His face was sick, but he managed to grin at Hanson. "Dave Hanson, to whom nothing is impossible," he said.
Hanson had located Nema finally as she approached. He caught her hand and grabbed Bork's arm. Like his own, it was trembling with fatigue and reaction.
"Come on," he said. "Let's find some place where we can see whether it's impossible now for you to magic up a decent meal. And a drink strong enough to scare away the sylphs."
The sylph that found them wasn't scared by the Scotch, but there was enough for all of them.
Three days can work magic--in a world where magic works. The planets swung along their paths again and the sun was in the most favorable house for conjuration. The universe was stable again.
There was food for all, and houses had been conjured hastily to shelter the people. The plagues were gone. Now the strange commerce and industry of this world were humming again. Those who had survived and those who could be revived were busily rebuilding. Some were missing, of course. Those who had risen and--hatched--were beyond recall, but no one spoke of them. If any Sons of the Egg survived, they were quiet in their defeat.
Hanson had been busy during most of the time. It had been taken for granted that he would tend to the orrery, setting it for the most favorable conditions when some special major work of magic required it, and he had taken the orders and moved the controls as they wanted them. The orrery was housed temporarily in the reconstituted hall of the Satheri in the capital city. They were building a new hall for it, to be constructed only of natural materials and hand labor, but that was a project that would take long months still.
Now the immediate pressure was gone, and Hanson was relaxing with Bork and Nema.
"Another week," Bork was saying. "Maybe less. And then gangs of the warlocks can spread out to fix up all the rest of the world--and to take over control of their slaves again. Are you happy with your victory, Dave Hanson?"
Hanson shrugged. He wasn't entirely sure, now. There was something in the looks of the Sather who gave him orders for new settings that bothered him. And some of the developments he watched were hardly what he would have preferred. The warlocks had good memories, it seemed, and there had been manifold offenses against them while the world was falling apart.
He tried to put it out of his mind as he drew Nema to him. She snuggled against him, admiring him with her eyes. But old habits were hard to break. "Don't, Dave. I'm a registered and certified--"
She stopped then, blushing, and Bork chuckled.
Ser Perth appeared at the doorway with two of the mandrakes. He motioned to Hanson. "The council of Satheri want you," he said. His eyes avoided the other, and he seemed uncomfortable.
"Why?" Bork asked.
"It's time for Dave Hanson's reward," Ser Perth said. The words were smooth enough, but the eyes turned away again.
Hanson got up and moved forward. He had been wondering when they would get around to this. Beside him, Bork and Nema also rose. "Never trust a Sather," Bork said softly.
Nema started to protest, then changed her mind. She frowned, torn between old and new loyalties.
"The summons was only for Dave Hanson," Ser Perth said sternly as the three drew up to him. But as Hanson took the arms of the other two, the Ser shrugged and fell in behind. Very softly, too low for the hearing of the mandrakes, his words sounded in Hanson's ear. "Guard yourself, Dave Hanson!"
So there was to be treachery, Hanson thought. He wasn't surprised. He was probably lucky to have even three friends. The Satheri would hardly feel very grateful to a mandrake-man who had accomplished something beyond their power, now that the crisis was over. They had always been a high-handed bunch, apparently, and he had served his purpose. But he covered his thoughts in a neutral expression and went forward quietly toward the huge council room.
The seventy leading Satheri were all present, with Sather Karf presiding, when Hanson was ushered into their presence. He moved down the aisle, not glancing at the seated Satheri, until he was facing the old man, drawing Nema and Bork with him. There were murmurs of protest, but nobody stopped him. Above him, the eyes of Sather Karf were uncertain. For a moment, there seemed to be a touch of friendliness and respect in them, but there was something else that Hanson liked far less. Any warmth that was there vanished at his first words.
"It's about time," Hanson said flatly. "When you wanted your world saved, you were free enough with offers of reward. But three days have passed without mention of it. Sather Karf, I demand your secret name!"
He heard Nema gasp, but felt Bork's fingers press against his arm reassuringly. There was a rising mutter of shock and anger from the others, but he lifted his voice over it. "And the secret names of all those present. That was also part of the promised reward."
"And do you think you could use the names, Dave Hanson?" Sather Karf asked. "Against the weight of all our knowledge, do you think you could become our master that easily?"
Hanson had his own doubts. There were counter-magical methods against nearly all magic, and the book he had read had been only an elementary one. But he nodded. "I think with your name I could get my hands on your hearts, even if you did your worst. It doesn't matter. I claim my reward."
"And you shall have it. The word of Sather Karf is good," the old man told him. "But there was no mention of when you would be given those names. You said that when the computer was finished you would wait for my true name, and I promised that you should have it when the time came, but not what the time would be. So you will wait, or the agreement shall be broken by you, not by me. When you are dying or otherwise beyond power over us, you shall have the names, Dave Hanson. No, hear me!"
He lifted his hand in a brief gesture and Hanson felt a thickness over his lips that made speech impossible.
"We have discussed your reward, and you shall indeed have it," Sather Karf went on. "Exactly as I promised it to you. I agreed to find ways to return you to your own world intact, and you shall be returned."
For a moment, the thickness seemed to relax, and Hanson choked a few words out through it. "What's the world of a mandrake-man, Sather Karf? A mandrake swamp?"
"For a mandrake-man, yes. But not for you." There was something like amusement in the old man's voice. "I never said you were a mandrake-man. That was told you by Ser Perth who knew no better. No, Dave Hanson, you were too important to us for that. Mandrake-men are always less than true men, and we needed your best. You were conjured atom by atom, id and ka and soul, from your world. Even the soul may be brought over when enough masters of magic work together and you were our greatest conjuration. Even then, we almost failed. But you're no mandrake-man."
A load of sickness seemed to leave Hanson's mind. He had never fully realized how much the shame of what he thought himself to be had weighed on him. Then his mind adjusted to the new facts, dismissing his past worries.
"I promised you that we would fill your entire lifetime with pleasures," Sather Karf went on. "And you were assured of jewels to buy an empire. All this the council is prepared to give you. Are you ready for your reward?"
"No!" Bork's cry broke out before Hanson could answer. The big man was writhing before he could finish the word, but his own fingers were working in conjurations that seemed to hold back enough of the spells against him to let him speak. "Dave Hanson, your world was a world of rigid laws. You died there. And there would be no magic to avoid the fact that there you must always be dead."
Hanson's eyes riveted on the face of Sather Karf. The old man looked back and finally nodded his head. "That is true," he admitted. "It would have been kinder for you not to know, but it is the truth."
"And jewels enough to buy an empire on a corpse," Hanson accused. "A lifetime of pleasures--simple enough when that lifetime would be over before it began. What were the pleasures, Sather Karf? Having you reveal your name just before I was sent back and feeling I'd won?" He grimaced. "I reject the empty rewards of your empty promises!"
"I also rejected the interpretation, but I was out-voted," Sather Karf said, and there was a curious reluctance as he raised his hand. "But it is too late. Dave Hanson prepare to receive your reward. By the power of your name--"
Hanson's hand went to his pocket and squeezed down on the blob of sky material there. He opened his mouth, and found that the thickness was back. For a split second, his mind screamed in panic as he realized he could not even pronounce the needed words.
Then coldness settled over his thoughts as he drove them to shape the unvoiced words in his mind. Nobody had told him that magic incantations had to be pronounced aloud. It seemed to be the general law, but for all he knew, ignorance of the law here might change the law. At least he meant to die trying, if he failed.
"Rumpelstilsken, I command the sun to set!"
He seemed to sense a hesitation in his mind, and then the impression of jeweled gears turning. Outside the window, the light reddened, dimmed, and was gone, leaving the big room illuminated by only a few witch lights.
The words Sather Karf had been intoning came to a sudden stop, even before they could be drowned in the shouts of shock and panic from the others. His eyes centered questioningly on Hanson and the flicker of a smile crossed his face. "To the orrery!" he ordered. "Use the manual controls."
Hanson waited until he estimated the men who left would be at the controls. The he clutched the sky-blob again. The thoughts in his mind were clearer this time.
"Rumpelstilsken, let the sun rise from the west and set in the east!"
Some of the Satheri were at the windows to watch what happened this time. Their shouts were more frightened than before. A minute later, the others were back, screaming out the news that the manual controls could not be moved--could not even be touched.
The orrery named Rumpelstilsken was obeying its orders fully, and the universe was obeying its symbol.
Somehow, old Sather Karf brought order out of the frightened mob that had been the greatest Satheri in the world. "All right, Dave Hanson," he said calmly. "Return the sun to its course. We agree to your conditions."
"You haven't heard them yet!"
"Nevertheless," Sather Karf answered firmly, "we agree. What else can we do? If you decided to wreck the sky again, even you might not be able to repair it a second time." He tapped his hands lightly together and the sound of a huge gong reverberated in the room. "Let the hall be cleared. I will accept the conditions in private."
There were no objections. A minute later Hanson, Bork and Nema were alone with the old man. Sunlight streamed in through the window, and there were fleecy clouds showing in the blue sky.
"Well?" Sather Karf asked. There was a trace of a smile on his face and a glow of what seemed to be amusement in his eyes as he listened, though Hanson could see nothing amusing in the suggestions he was making.
First, of course, he meant to stay here. There was no other place for him, but he would have chosen to stay in any event. Here he had developed into what he had never even thought of being, and there were still things to be learned. He'd gone a long way on what he'd found in one elementary book. Now, with a chance to study all their magical lore and apply it with the methods he had learned in his own world, there were amazing possibilities opening up to him. For the world, a few changes would be needed. Magic should be limited to what magic did best; the people needed to grow their own food and care for themselves. And they needed protection from the magicians. There would have to be a code of ethics to be worked out later.
"You've got all the time you need to work things out, Sathator Hanson," Sather Karf told him. "It's your world, literally, so take your time. What do you want first?"
Hanson considered it, while Nema's hand crept into his. Then he grinned. "I guess I want to get your great granddaughter turned into a registered and certified wife and take her on a long honeymoon," he decided. "After what you've put me through, I need a rest."
He took her arm and started down the aisle of the council room. Behind him, he heard Bork's chuckle and the soft laughter of Sather Karf. But their faces were sobering by the time he reached the doorway and looked back.
"I like him, too, grandfather," Bork was saying. "Well, it seems your group was right, after all. Your prophecy is fulfilled. He may have a little trouble with so many knowing his name, but he's Dave Hanson, to whom nothing is impossible. You should have considered all the implications of omnipotence."
Sather Karf nodded. "Perhaps. And perhaps your group was also right, Bork. It seems that the world-egg has hatched." His eyes lifted and centered on the doorway.
Hanson puzzled over their words briefly as he closed the door and went out with Nema. He'd probably have to do something about his name, but the rest of the conversation was a mystery to him. Then he dismissed it. He could always remember it when he had more time to think about it.