“If it pleased Ruethen of the Long Hand to give a feast and ball at the Crystal Moon for his enemies. He knew they must come. Pride of race had slipped from Terra, while the need to appear well-bred and sophisticated had waxed correspondingly. The fact that spaceships prowled and fought, fifty light-years beyond Antares, made it all the more impossible a gaucherie to refuse an invitation from the Mersian representative. Besides, one could feel delightfully wicked and ever so delicately in danger.” It is the common fate of empires to grow old and jaded: Rome, Byzantium, Britain, America, and so on to the Empire of Terra itself, each has near the end succumbed to the same weary “sophistication” that allows a warlord of Merseia to make a mock of a race whose star-conquering ancestors found the Merseians a race of pre-technic barbarians huddled in stone piles – and saved them from extinction. Flandry himself has come to understand that there is no more point to all his victories than that a few trillion of his fellow creatures may live out their lives before the coming of the Long Night of galactic barbarism. That he will not have shortened that coming Dark Age one bit – only postponed it. That the barbarians always win in the end, and are always followed by a new round of civilisation.
The Doomed Planet The gigantic planet of Mirkheim was gone – blasted and vaporised by a supernova. But its core had survived the holocaust, and now, transmuted, it was the only source of certain vital supermetals. David Falkayn, agent and troubleshooter for the powerful Polesotechnic League, governors of the Terran Empire, had plans for Mirkheim. But the Baburites – an unscrupulous alien race – were one step ahead of him and had claimed the priceless minerals as their own. The conflict could mean only one thing – war, on a titanic scale – unless Falkayn could turn the tide and negotiate a peaceful agreement. But with the Baburites, that was a near-impossible task.
Back under the thumb of the Terran Empire after leading their planetary sector in an almost successful war against Imperial rule, Commissioner Desai saw real trouble brewing this time. A strange, fanatical movement was spreading like wildfire: there were rumours of the return of the fabled Elder Race: the Firstling, leader-elect of the planet, was on the run and hiding from Imperialist retribution. And off-planet agents from the Ythrian Domain and Mersia, Terra’s ancient foe, were abroad in the land. Unless Commissioner Desai could damp the fuse of rebellion, the universe would begin its terrifying descent into the Long Night . . .