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by Kir Bulychev
1981 "Znanie"

After an absence of many years, Anna returns to the village home of her aunt. Nearby the home is the ruins of a 13th century fortress and city of Zamoshye. Anna is surprised to find her aunt's home occupied by two men--Kin and Jules. They claim that Anna's aunt has rented them the home for a time. When this fails to convince Anna, they attempt to bribe her into leaving them alone in the home for a few weeks. Anna refuses. The men decide to tell her the truth. They are time travelers who have come from the future (the 27th century) and are only stopping off here in the present on their way back to the 13th century. They want to save the life of a genius--Boyar Roman--who used gunpowder in defense of a city and invented the printing press. They do not intend to let Roman live a longer life in the 13th century. That would be, of course, interfering with history. Rather, they intend to snatch him at the instant before his death and take him back to the 27th century so that he can invent things there.

Time moves in a spiral, and time travelers can only jump from one spiral to the corresponding point on the previous spiral. (There is some artificial barrier to moving forward past the 27th century, which even the men from the future can't explain.) That is why they jumped from the 27th, to the 20th century. They are now waiting for the right moment to move back to the town of Zamoshye in 1215, specifically, the moment of the death of Boyar Roman, which occurs during a seige of Zamoshye, at which time "will die an unknown scientific genius of the 13th century."

Anna joins Kir and Jules as they use a globelike viewing device to peer in to the 13th century. They see an emcampment of knights from the German Order of the Knights of the Sword, who are laying seige to the town of Zamoshye. On the walls of the town, a crowd gathers to look down at the knights. In the crowd are: Prince Vyachko; Roman; a drawf, hunchback jester named Akiplesha; and a Polish princess named Magda. Madga bears a striking resemblance to Anna. At the encapment, a visitor arrives: The Bishop of Riga, Albert, the founder of the Order of the Knights of the Sword. He sends a message to Prince Vyachko, demanding that he pledge himself to Bishop Albert and that he hand over Princess Magda, whom--rumors say--Roman abducted from Smolensk, where she was being sent to marry a prince.

( Livonian Knights )

Founded in 1202 by the Albert, Bishop of Riga, to Christianize the lands lying along the Baltic coast (Livonia). In 1236, following their defeat at Siauliai by the Lithuanians, the Order became a branch of the Teutonic Knights, although it retained its autonomy in the Livonian region. An attack by the Order on Novgorod led to its massive defeat by Russian Prince Alexander Nevsky in 1242. In the years afterward the Order was steadily weakened by Russian and local opposition and by the Protestant Reformation. It was disbanded in 1561.
That night, by unknown means, the defenders of the town manage to destroy the catapault and assault tower of the attackers. They assume it was the work of the "sorcerer" Roman. A year earlier, one of the knights had advised Albert to give refuge to Roman when he had fled from Smolensk. Albert, however, condemns Roman for serving the devil. He orders that unless the town surrenders by dawn on the next day, everyone in the city is to be killed, especially Roman, even if he can make gold. What Albert fears the most is Roman's printing press, which could be a good thing if used in the service of God, but in the hands of the devil....

In chruch, Roman tells Prince Vyachko that the city gates will not keep out the enemy. The Prince tells Roman to burn them with fire (gunpowder), but Roman says he needs sulphur, which they don't have. The Prince also tells Roman not even to look at Princess Madga. "I am of princely rank", says Roman. "But she is of royal blood", responds the Prince. "I know my place", says Roman and leaves.

Roman and Akiplesha go to Roman's hidden, underground laboratory, where an adolescent apprentice named Gluzd and a burly servant named Mazhei are waiting. Roman orders that the fire in the stove be extinguished. Akiplesha tries to counsel Roman that their job is to save the city, make gold, and know their place and that Roman should leave Madga alone. Roman berates him and says "My place is among kings and princes."

Mazhei reminds Roman that Roman promised let Mazhei sneak out and kill Bishop Albert. Roman, angry, shouts out that there is no way to save the city; that it would be better to submit to Albert; that sometimes it is better to fight with the mind, not with weapons; and that if they were to make an attempt to kill Albert, the knights would show them no mercy, killing babies, women, even Roman himself. Akiplesha sides with Mazhei.

Roman orders Akiplesha to secretly administer a love potion to Magda. Akiplesha departs and does this. Roman then notices that Mazhei is missing--he has fled through a secret tunnel behind the stove, which leads out of the city. No doubt Mazhei intends to kill the bishop.

Meanwhile, back in the 20th century, Kin gets dressed up like one of Roman's warrior-bodyguards, ready to transport himself back in time. Before time-travel, it is better not to eat or drink.


Substance which, alchemists hypothesized, would convert baser metals into gold. They thought it would be compounded of the purest sulphur and mercury. Unfortunately, it was never discovered, but while searching for it Botticher stumbled upon the manufacture of Dresden porcelain, Roger Bacon on the composition of gunpower (just like Roman did), Gerber on the properties of acids, and Van Helmont on the nature of gas.
Kin travels back and appears in the courtyard of Roman's laboratory just as Roman and Akiplesha return. Akiplesha bemoans the fact that Mazhei has not returned. Roman doesn't care. Akiplesha again tries to persuade Roman to help protect the city, but Roman is sure that the city will fall, and that he must protect himself. He is on the verge of discoving the secret of the philosopher's stone. Once he does that, princes and churches will be at his feet and no one will dare take Magda away from him. Roman is sure that the Bishop will not only spare his life, but give him everything he wants. Akiplesha calls Roman a fool.

Gluzd then returns through the tunnel from a secret mission to the Bishop's troops. He says the attack on the city will start an hour after midnight. Just then, Akiplesha clubs Kin and ties him up. He has recognized Kin as an imposter and suspects him of being a spy for the Bishop. They cover up Kin with a cloth to hide him as the Prince arrives on a surprise visit. The Prince demands that Roman come out to the gates to help with the defense. Roman promises to do so. The Prince then discovers the bound Kin and asks who he is. When Roman says he's one of the Bishop's spies, the Prince orders him killed. But Roman convinces the Prince to allow him to interrogate him first. The Prince exits, but leaves one of his own guards to keep watch on Roman, because he doesn't trust him.

Roman starts to interrogate Kin, who says he comes from Bremen and must talk to Roman alone. The Prince's guard, however, insists that Roman must immediately go out to the city walls. On a signal from Roman, Gludz murders the guard. Akiplesha disapproves, but drags away the body to hide it.

Gluzd exits through the secret tunnel, then returns shortly with Sir Friereich, one of the bishop's men. Roman tells him he wants the bishop to assure the safety of himself, his assistants, his work and Magada. Roman and Friedreich then exit out the tunnel just before Akiplesha returns.

Anna suggests that, because she resembles Magda, Jules should send her back in time so that she can help Kin escape. Jules hesitates, but agrees. He sends Anna back in time to the tower bedroom where Madga is sleeping. Anna puts on the princess's clothes and runs out.

Anna sneaks towards Roman's house and hides in the shadows. She overhears the passing Prince Vyachko order some guards to summon Roman, and if he doesn't come voluntarily, bring him by force. A few moments later the guards pass by with Roman, who sees Anna. Thinking she is Magda, he happily thinks that his love potion has worked and that she had come to see him. Anna does not dissuade him of this notion. He orders his servant to conduct Anna into his home.

As Anna enters the house, Akiplesha is surprised to see her. "You should be sleeping," he says. "While you're in the tower, he would never leave. Didn't you drink the potion?" (Akiplesha had actually given Magda a sleeping potion, not the love potion.)

Anna demands to be let into the laboratory. When she sees Kin, she says he is her servant whom she sent to Roman with a message and orders that he be untied. Although Akiplesha is somewhat suspicious of Anna's strange accent, he releases Kin. Kin exits along with Gluzd to fetch Roman.

Anna has a conversation with Akiplesha in which he worries that Roman's actions and his love for Magda will result in the deaths of all the poor and forgotten people of the city--about whom Roman and a princess are indifferent. Aliplesha says he is not a slave, that he has a mind and a heart like others, although most cannot see it. He says he knows that Anna is not Magda, who no doubt is still sleeping in her tower. He also says, however, that Roman, blinded by love, will not see this.

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Roman returns with Kin and Gluzd. He says the enemy is beginning the attack. Akiplesha says they must return to the walls and defend the city. Roman smirks, "Cities fall and people die, but great learning lives on forever. Forget about trifles." Akiplesha says he will not run away with Roman, and dashes out of the lab. Roman then has Gluzd escort Anna out of the lab. Upstairs, Akiplesha is hiding. He kills Gluzd with a stilleto. "It is a cruel time," he says coldly and wonders, "Will there ever be a better time?" "There will be," assures Anna.

Akiplesha spies on Roman and sees as Sir Friedreich arrives through the secret tunnel. "Is everything ready?" ask Friedreich. "Yes," says Roman. Friedreich steps back into the tunnel and calls to some other knights. Enraged, like a wild animal, Akiplesha leaps down toward Roman, wielding his stilleto. Roman pulls a sword. Kin turns around and orders Anna to go back to the twentieth century, which she does.

Back in her aunt's house, Anna stands behind Jules and looks at the action through the globelike viewing device. She sees Akiplesha stab Roman in the side with the stilleto. Then, suddenly, Kin and Akiplesha disappear from view, whisked away to the future, while Friedriech and other knights pour in through the secret tunnel.

Jules then also disappears, leaving Anna only with Magda's dress.


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