Once more we find ourselves considering the career of a
great Transition Sunnoad, like Fiarr Fosn 723 at the end of the
Phosphorus Era. This time we must consider the fate of Nalre
Zitpoidl 4854, who, unlike Fiarr Fosn, was very much of a
The men of the
Argon Era eventually became a little too trusting of the world, or of humanity's place in
it. They thought they were doing well, because they knew that they
were not making the mistake of their arrogant predecessors in era 15;
they believed that their greater modesty provided a virtual guarantee of
continued equilibrium between Syoom and Fyaym.
In the end, to counter this
complacency, a move was made by Sunnoad Nalre Zitpoidl. A native
of Oso, Zitpoidl had in his youth been a daring explorer beyond
sfy-50. Yet his policy as Sunnoad was not an expansionist one; it
was consolidatory. But at the same time it was sufficiently
striking and original, that - to everyone's surprise including his own -
the public mood resonated with it to such an extent that the
emotional reverberations affected the day/night cycle, and a new
era lasted 152 days
and 6 hours, during which a blaze of enthusiasm engulfed
Syoom. The ideal to which
millions now dedicated themselves was that of "stitching Syoom". Civilization
was thought of as a carpet,
a patchily threadbare carpet that needed mending in its thinnest places.
Metaphors to do with sewing and stitching abounded. Maps
were consulted to ascertain the location of the thinnest patches - where the
safety contours were lowest - and steps were taken to found waystations
and towns at those spots.
Then the chain-reaction of consciousness, which had
produced all this aware activity, was replaced in the public mind by an
even more sensational news item.
The White Sun
In the plains of Voad, roughly mid-way between Vlamanor
and Xydur, wayfarers noticed what seemed like the top of a gleaming
sphere rising to the surface through the gralm.
At the same time people all
over Syoom were suddenly aware that everything around them
seemed new and unfamiliar. It wasn't a lapse of memory; they still knew who
they were and what everything was in their daily lives. But the
feeling of familiarity was
gone. Many deaths occurred from the sheer strain of constant
surprise and the lapses of concentration which this caused. The intruding sphere
was nicknamed the White Sun; the days of astonishment began to be
called the Calcium Era.
It has been
assumed, ever since, that the White Sun was a weapon and its effect some sort of attack. The perpetrators have never
been identified, though there is no lack of theories.
Eleven days into the Calcium Era, when it seemed that
Syoom was threatened with mass insanity, a messenger came to Sunnoad
Nalre Zitpoidl with an extraordinary piece of news that announced yet
another lurch of history, this time a three-days-and-nine-hours period
of excitement and suspense which came to be known as the Scandium
It was a message of hope. The sender was an avian
being, of a type new to Syoomean knowledge. The being, who
gave nen's name as Tjoren, claimed to come from deep in Fyaym, to
be from a civilization which had had experience of phenomena like the
Tjoren announced that the mental depredations of the
White Sun would cease - temporarily - in a few hours' time. But
nen had no power to hold them off forever; for that, more power was
needed than nen's race - the taharen - possessed. The only
solution was to pool the racial subconscious of both species.
Sunnoad Nalre Zitpoidl distrusted Tjoren immediately,
but he found that his people were almost all against him on this
issue. Whereas the Sunnoad thought that the White Sun was a
nuisance that could be borne, and that it would be unacceptably
dangerous to accept Tjoren's offer, his advisors were mostly inclined
the other way, and the popular movement in that direction seemed
unstoppable, especially as Tjoren had been as good as nen's word - the
emanation from the White Sun had ceased.... Almost everyone in
Syoom seemed to have but one idea, which was that at all costs those
mental effects must not start again.
Murder at Vlamanor
A meeting was arranged with the avian being. The
conference was set up at Vlamanor. Before it could begin, came a
series of three shocking announcements.
Tjoren had been murdered.
The Sunnoad had
confessed to the murder, had tried to surrender himself to Tjoren's
entourage for punishment, and had been turned away, the taharens saying
that the murderer's punishment must come from his own people or
his own conscience. Syoom as a whole would automatically pay
the penalty in a wider sense: namely, the taharen's offer
of help against the White Sun was now withdrawn.
while people were fearing a return
of the White Sun, a completely different nemesis was on its way. A
freezing cloud had appeared on the Syoom-Fyaym border and was
encroaching from the direction in which the taharens' homeland was
supposed to lie.
The Great Winter
In fact the White Sun was
never seen again; all the fears of Syoom now centered around
the new peril. As the cloud advanced, people were convinced that it
was some kind of revenge for the murder of Tjoren. This belief
was held despite the fact that the taharens themselves had refused to punish the actual
At this point in the story
we, the compilers of this history, are more aware than ever of how our account
of events is even stupider than those single-volume histories of Earth, in which
attempts are made to summarise the Renaissance or the Disfigurement in
one paragraph. For example, we have given a completely
inadequate account of the choices open to Nalre Zitpoidl, and therefore
the reader has not much opportunity to form a plausible opinion as to
why he acted as he did. Unfortunately this silliness is
unavoidable. Not only here but in later pages our story must have
the defects of a mere sketch.
There is one consolation: our neglect is
in line with Uranian tradition itself. Uranians attack a problem
at the branches, not the root, for they despair of ever mastering
On this occasion their ignorance was
They did not
know, and moreover they did not even feel they needed to know, whether
the unprecedented invasion of snow and ice, which now afflicted Syoom, was deliberately sent
by a super-civilization which could control the weather. Even those who were of
this opinion, could not prove that the attack was in retaliation for
the murder of Tjoren. And even those (the majority) who believed it
were divided in
their opinion as to how much blame should be attached to the
Should they condemn Zitpoidl for murdering the avian and
thus provoking the Winter, or should they conclude, from the savagery of
this retaliation, that the Sunnoad must have been right after all, in
his distrust of the taharen?
was reached as to what to do with the Sunnoad;
so he lived on, an ambiguous, controversial figure, throughout the
10,620 days (36 Earth years)
of the Titanium Era - the
Age of Winter.
Meanwhile snow covered Syoom; plant life suffered,
though some species were hardy enough to survive and provide subsistence
for a reduced human population. Life went on; a generation grew up
who had never known aught but whiteness on the plains, dirtied with
grey here and there. The term "Syoom" gradually lost its
statistical significance and became merely the name for the land; trade
and travel between cities dwindled, and the hive-minds and vault-minds
in the cities themselves died down to mere embers of
consciousness. City states became isolated
and government became more than ever an affair of rulers
pursuing their own interest without regard to any wider human
community. With hindsight we can see that the foundations were
being laid for the individualism of the Vanadium Era.
snow evaporated, almost as quickly as it had come. Mankind woke up to the fact that the great
revenge, if revenge it was, had ended. Nothing further was ever heard from
the taharen who were commonly thought to have inflicted the Winter upon
Syoom. Perhaps they had lost interest; perhaps, rather, they had been somehow
put off or even destroyed by their own
creation. Who knows? To this day the mystery of the Winter, and
of the White Sun which preceded it, remains swallowed up in the
vastness and the silence of Fyaym.
>> The Vanadium Era
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