The Wandering Tellurian

by Alan Schwartz
Reviewed date: 2022 May 16
Rating: 2
116 pages
cover art

Bizarro Nicholas van Rijn
The story reads like a bizarro version of a Nicholas van Rijn tale. Alan Schwartz is no Poul Anderson, but it's not a terrible story. This is Schwartz's only published work of science fiction (according to ISFDB), which is a shame because this isn't a bad start to a career. Oh well.

Maikal Wendal
Maikal Wendal is a businessman. He is in the business of selling weapons of war to planets of people who can use them. It's a tough business, for two reasons. First, Maikal is a bit of a bleeding heart dandy and a pacifist--he doesn't wish to sell weapons. But his father insists he join the family business, and Maikal has no other prospects, so there you go.

Second, it turns out most planets are filled with people who remember what happens when war escalates, and they want nothing to do with weapons and weapons salesmen. Selling weapons is hard.

Lord m'Ertzl
But Maikal is determined to give it a shot, so when he lands on a promising planet--pre-industrial, medieval--he dives in headfirst and tries to make a deal with the first group of people he meets. He offers to sell gunpowder and cannons (or rather, he will teach them how to make gunpowder and cannons) to the Lord m'Ertzl.

Gafts and Lords, Serfs and Nomads
The humans on this planet call themselves Gafts, and are divided into various warring groups. They have a pre-industrial feudal system, with themselves as lords and the native humanoid species forced into the role of serfs. The Gafts treat the serfs as property and their lives as disposable. The natives who aren't serfs are called nomads, and the nomads often violently attack the Gafts when they are away from the safety of their fortresses.

Prince Pocoshl
The Lord m'Ertzl isn't the big shot, though; they'll have to go see Prince Pocoshl. Unfortunately, while Maikal is at Prince Pocoshl's fortress, the fortress is overrun by their enemy, King Clshl. Prince Pocoshl and Lord m'Ertzl are killed and Maikal is taken prisoner.

The King Clshl
Maikal is just as willing to make a deal with one side as the other, so he offers to sell the secret of gunpowder and cannons to the king. The king is suspicious. He rejects Maikal's offer. Instead, Maikal will be hunted for sport. He is released in an open field and given a head start. Maikal doesn't make it far when he and his pursuers are ambushed by nomads.

The nomads apre his life. Maikal has had enough of the Gafts. He's disgusted with the way the humans have subjugated the natives. He persuades one of the nomads, Di-Lak, to help him return to his spaceship. Then the nomads raise an army. Mailak uses the main drive of his spaceship to knock down the walls of King Clshl's fortress. The nomad army rushes in and defeats the king's forces. Now united, and with their primary foe defeated, the nomads will never again be subjugated by the Gafts.

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