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Мини-марафон in English
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olimo 8 августа 2016
Верно. Исправила.
Andre_Macareno 8 августа 2016
Ctrl + F -> "beside diem."
Оль, а тут точно не "beside them"?
vadim110 28 июня 2016
Серость я непрокарябанная=) В следующий раз буду лучше проверять. Смутило слово, я бы так точно не сказал
olimo 27 июня 2016
Это не опечатка.
vadim110 27 июня 2016
Извини не отметилось почему-то, маленькая опечатка I could see further into the room
olimo 27 июня 2016
А в чем проблема?
vadim110 27 июня 2016
в 497 тексте I could see further into the room
Locust 22 октября 2013
по ходу, у того скрипта всё-таки был свой 01001100 пунктик на пенетрации.
скрытый текст…
olimo 13 сентября 2013
Гы)) Это, видимо, из той части, что была отобрана скриптом из большой книжной коллекции. Может быть, когда будет время, просмотрю отрывки и заменю всякие нехорошие))
Locust 13 сентября 2013
не люблю вмешиваться в авторское видение того, как должна выглядеть подборка тестов для словаря, однако:
скрытый текст…
на мой вкус здесь чутка перебрано с яоем
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Тексты объемом 800−820 знаков на английском языке
23 марта 2010 в 15:42 (текущая версия от 8 августа 2016 в 16:54)
Тип словаря:
Цельные тексты, разделяемые пустой строкой (единственный текст на словарь также допускается).
1 I was a birch tree, white slenderness in the middle of a meadow, but had no name for what I was. My leaves drank of the sunlight that streamed through them and set their green aglow, my leaves danced in the wind, which made a harp of my branches, but I did not see or hear. Waning days turned me brittle golden, frost stripped me bare, snow blew about me during my long drowse, then Orion hunted his quarry beyond this heaven and the sun swung north to blaze me awake, but none of this did I sense. And yet I marked it all, for I lived. Each cell within me felt in a secret way how the sky first shone aloud and afterward grew quiet, air gusted or whooped or lay dreaming, rain flung chill and laughter, water and worms did their work for my reaching roots, nestlings piped where I sheltered them and soughed.
2 The need for the comfort it would give surprised her. She, the holothete, to whom everything visible was merely a veil that reality wore. The past eight Earth-years must have drunk deeper of her than she knew. Unwilling to wait the hours, maybe days until she could see Sol again, she ran fingers across the keyboard before her, directing the scanner to bring in Phoebus. At least she had glimpsed it when outbound, and countless pictures of it throughout her life. The helmet was already on her head, the linkage to computer, memory bank, and ship's instruments already complete. The instant after she desired that particular celestial location, she had calculated it. To her the operation felt everyday: felt like knowing where to move her hand to pick up a tool or knowing which way a sound was coming from.
3 In a split pulsebeat, she calculated how to bring Faraday onto her viewscreen. There was no particular reason for that. She knew what the watchcraft looked like: a tapered gray cylinder so as to be capable of planetfall, missile launcher and ray projector recessed into the sleekness-wholly foreign to the huge, equipment-bristling, fragile sphere which was Emissary. When the picture changed, she didn't magnify and amplify to make the vessel visible across a thousand kilometers. Instead, the sight of two dully glowing globes, red and green, coming into the scanner field, against the stars, snatched at her. Those were markers around the T machine. The Others had placed them. Her augmented senses told her that a third likewise happened to be visible on the receiver; it was colored ultraviolet.
4 Though what would they make of her, perhaps in more than one meaning of the phrase? Even physical appearance might conceivably not be altogether irrelevant to them. It was an odd thing to do in these circumstances, but for the first time in almost a decade Joelle Ky briefly considered her body as flesh, not machinery. At fifty-eight Earth-years of age, her hundred and seventy-five centimeters remained slim, verging on gaunt, her skin clear and pale and only lightly lined. In that and the high cheekbones her genes kept a bit of the history, which her name also remembered. She had been born in North America, in what was left of the old United States before it federated with Canada. Her features were delicate, her eyes large and dark. Hair once sable, bobbed immediately below the ears, was the hue of iron.
5 Joelle shook herself. Stop. Be sensible. I'm obsessive about the Others, I know. Seeing their handiwork again serving not aliens but humans must have uncapped a wellspring in me. But Willem's right. The Betans should be enough for many generations of my race. Do the Others know that? Did they foresee it? She was faintly shocked to note that her attention had drifted from the intercom for minutes. She wasn't given to introspection or daydreaming. Maybe it had happened because she was computer-linked. At such times, an operator became a greater mathematician and logician, by orders of magnitude, than had ever lived on Earth before the conjunction was developed. But the operator remained a mortal, full of mortal foolishness. I suppose my habit of close concentration while I'm in this state took over in me.
6 The connection was not through wires stuck in her skull; electromagnetic induction sufficed. She, in turn, called on the powerful computer to which she was also linked, as problems arose moment by moment. The rapport was total. She had added to her nervous system the immense input, storage capacity, and retrieval speed of the electronic assembly, together with the immense mathematico-logical capacity for volume and speed of operations which belonged to its other half. For her part, she contributed a human ability to perceive the unexpected, to think creatively, to change her mind. She was the software for the whole system; a program which continuously rewrote itself; conductor of a huge mute orchestra which might have to start playing jazz with no warning, or compose an entire new symphony.
7 She magnified and the shape grew clear, though the dimensions remained an abstraction: length about a thousand kilometers, diameter slightly more than two. It spun around its long axis so fast that a point on the rim traveled at three-fourths the speed of light. Nothing on its silvery-brilliant surface told that to the unaided eye, yet somehow an endless, barely perceptible shimmer of changeable colors conveyed a sense of the energy locked within. Humans believed that that gleam came from force-fields which held together matter compressed to ultimate densities. There were moons which had less mass than yonder engine for opening star gates. In the background glowed two more of the beacons which surrounded it, a purple and a gold; and through the instruments, Joelle spied a third, whose color was radio.
8 I was a caterpillar that crawled, a pupa that slumbered, a moth that flew in search of the Moon. The changes were so deep that my body could not remember what it had formerly been. Nor had I the means to wonder at this. I simply was. Yet how bright was my being! Even my infant self, a hairy length of hunger, lived among riches: juice and crisp sweetness in a leaf, sunlight warm or dew cool or breezes astir over his pelt, endless odors with each its subtle message. Then at last dwindling days spoke to his inwardness. He found a sheltered branch and spun silk out of his guts to make himself a place alone, and curled within its darkness, he died the little death. For a season his flesh labored at its own transformation, until that which opened the cocoon and crept forth belonged to an altogether new world.
9 My food was the nectar of flowers, taken as I hovered on fluttery wingbeats, though sometimes the fermented sap of a tree set me and a thousand like me dizzily spiraling about. Wilder was it to strive as high as might be after the full Moon, more lost in its radiance than in a rainstorm. And when the smell of a female ready to mate floated around me, I became flying Desire. Another blind urge set our flock on a journey across distance. Night by night we passed over hills, valleys, woods, fields, the lights of men like bewildering stars beneath us; day by day we rested on some tree, decking it with our numbers. While I was thus breasting strange winds, One gathered me up, taking me back into Oneness, and presently We knew what my whole life had been since I lay in the egg. Its marvels were many. I was Insect.
10 Yet it was a failure. Men had constructed it a century ago, to serve as a base for operations among the asteroids. Thinly scattered though those remnants of a stillborn world are, they could profitably be worked by robots, as could the Jovian moons at times around inferior conjunction. Soon improved spacecraft made that whole idea obsolete. It grew cheaper, as well as more productive, for men to go in person, boosting continuously at a gee or better, directly between these regions and the industrial satellites of Earth. The Wheel became a derelict. There was talk of scrapping it for the metal, but incentive was insufficient. Already then, the price of every metal was tumbling. Eventually title went to the Union government, which had it refurbished and declared it a historical monument. It got few visitors.
11 The drought had lasted now for ten million years, and the reign of the terrible lizards had long since ended. Here on the Equator, in the continent which would one day be known as Africa, the battle for existence had reached a new climax, and the victor was not yet in sight. In this barren and desiccated land, only the small or the swift or the fierce could flourish, or even hope to survive. The man-apes of the veldt were none of these things, and they were not flourishing. Indeed, they were already far down the road to racial extinction. About fifty of them occupied a group of caves overlooking a small, parched valley, which was divided by a sluggish stream fed from snows in the mountains two hundred miles to the north. In bad times the stream vanished completely, and the tribe lived in the shadow of thirst.
12 He was nearly five feet high, and though badly undernourished weighed over a hundred pounds. His hairy, muscular body was halfway between ape and man, but his head was already much nearer to man than ape. The forehead was low, and there were ridges over the eye sockets, yet he unmistakably held in his genes the promise of humanity. As he looked out upon the hostile world of the Pleistocene, there was already something in his gaze beyond the capacity of any ape. In those dark, deep-set eyes was a dawning awareness – the first intimations of an intelligence that could not possibly fulfill itself for ages yet, and might soon be extinguished forever. There was no sign of danger, so Moon-Watcher began to scramble down the almost vertical slope outside the cave, only slightly hindered by his burden.
13 Moon-Watcher barely stirred when the screams echoed up the slope from one of the lower caves, and he did not need to hear the occasional growl of the leopard to know exactly what was happening. Down there in the darkness old White Hair and his family were fighting and dying, and the thought that he might help in some way never crossed Moon-Watcher's mind. The harsh logic of survival ruled out such fancies, and not a voice was raised in protest from the listening hillside. Every cave was silent, lest it also attract disaster. The tumult died away, and presently Moon-Watcher could hear the sound of a body being dragged over rocks. That lasted only a few seconds; then the leopard got a good hold on its kill. It made no further noise as it padded silently away, carrying its victim effortlessly in its jaws.
14 He had almost forgotten the terrors of the night, because nothing had happened after that initial noise, so he did not even associate this strange thing with danger or with fear. There was, after all, nothing in the least alarming about it. It was a rectangular slab, three times his height but narrow enough to span with his arms, and it was made of some completely transparent material; indeed, it was not easy to see except when the rising sun glinted on its edges. As Moon-Watcher had never encountered ice, or even crystal-clear water, there were no natural objects to which he could compare this apparition. It was rather attractive, and though he was wisely cautious of most new things, he did not hesitate for long before sidling up to it. As nothing happened, he put out his hand, and felt a cold, hard surface.
15 First it lost its transparency, and became suffused with luminescence. Tantalizing, ill-defined phantoms moved across its surface and in its depths. They coalesced into bars of light and shadow, then formed intermeshing, spoked patterns that began slowly to rotate. Faster and faster spun the wheels of light, and the throbbing of the drums accelerated with them. Now utterly hypnotized, the man-apes could only stare slack-jawed into this astonishing display of pyrotechnics. They had already forgotten the instincts of their forefathers and the lessons of a lifetime; not one of them, ordinarily, would have been so far from his cave, so late in the evening. For the surrounding brush was full of frozen shapes and staring eyes, as the creatures of the night suspended their business to see what would happen next.
16 He did not move from his position, but his body lost its trancelike rigidity and became animated as if it were a puppet controlled by invisible strings. The head turned this way and that; the mouth silently opened and closed; the hands clenched and unclenched. Then he bent down, snapped off a long stalk of grass, and attempted to tie it into a knot with clumsy fingers. He seemed to be a thing possessed, struggling against some spirit or demon who had taken over control of his body. He was panting for breath, and his eyes were full of terror as he tried to force his fingers to make movements more complex than any that they had ever attempted before. Despite all his efforts, he succeeded only in breaking the stalk into pieces. As the fragments fell to the ground, the controlling influence left him.
17 He searched around until he had found another pebble. This time it hit the slab with a ringing, bell-like tone. He was still a long way off, but his aim was improving. At the fourth attempt, he was only inches from the central bull's-eye. A feeling of indescribable pleasure, almost sexual in its intensity, flooded his mind. Then the control relaxed; he felt no impulse to do anything, except to stand and wait. One by one, every member of the tribe was briefly possessed. Some succeeded, but most failed at the tasks they had been set, and all were appropriately rewarded by spasms of pleasure or of pain. Now there was only a uniform featureless glow in the great slab, so that it stood like a block of light superimposed on the surrounding darkness. As if waking from a sleep, the man-apes shook their heads.
18 He was looking at a peaceful family group. The male, female, and two infants that had mysteriously appeared before him were gorged and replete, with sleek and glossy pelts – and this was a condition of life that Moon-Watcher had never imagined. Unconsciously, he felt his own protruding ribs; the ribs of these creatures were hidden in rolls of fat. From time to time they stirred lazily, as they lolled at ease near the entrance of a cave, apparently at peace with the world. Occasionally; the big male emitted a monumental burp of contentment. There was no other activity, and after five minutes the scene suddenly faded out. The crystal was no more than a glimmering outline in the darkness; Moon-Watcher shook himself as if awaking from a dream, abruptly realized where he was, and led the tribe back to the caves.
19 It was a slow business, but the crystal monolith was patient. Neither it, nor its replicas scattered across half the globe, expected to succeed with all the scores of groups involved. A hundred failures would not matter, when a single success could change the destiny of the world. By the time of the next new moon, the tribe had seen one birth and two deaths. One of these had been due to starvation; the other had occurred during the nightly ritual, when a man-ape had suddenly collapsed while attempting to tap two pieces of stone delicately together. At once, the crystal had darkened, and the tribe had been released from the spell. But the fallen man-ape had not moved; and by the morning, of course, the body was gone. There had been no performance the next night; the crystal was still analyzing its mistake.
20 If he had known how difficult the task would be, he would never have attempted it. Only his great strength, and the agility inherited from his arboreal ancestors allowed him to haul the carcass up the steep slope. Several times, weeping with frustration, he almost abandoned his prize, but a stubbornness as deep-seated as his hunger drove him on. Sometimes the others helped him, sometimes they hindered; more often, they merely got in the way. But finally it was done; the battered antelope was dragged over the lip of the cave, as the last hues of sunlight faded from the sky; and the feasting began. Hours later, gorged to repletion, Moon-Watcher awoke. Not knowing why, he sat up in the darkness among the sprawled bodies of his equally satiated companions, and strained his ears into the night.
21 What he saw left him so paralyzed with fright that for long seconds he was unable to move. Only twenty feet below, two eyes were staring straight up at him; they held him so hypnotized with fear that he was scarcely aware of the lithe, streaked body behind them, flowing smoothly and silently from rock to rock. Never before had the leopard climbed so high. It had ignored the lower caves, though it must have been well aware of their inhabitants. Now it was after other game; it was following the spoor of blood, up the moon-washed face of the cliff. Seconds later, the night was made hideous by the shrieks of alarm from the man-apes in the cave above. The leopard gave a snarl of fury as it realized that it had lost the element of surprise. But it did not check its advance, for it knew that it had nothing to fear.
22 It whirled around, throwing its daring tormentor against the wall of the cave. Yet whatever it did, it could not escape the rain of blows, inflicted on it by crude weapons wielded by clumsy but powerful hands. Its snarls ran the gamut from pain to alarm, from alarm to outright terror. The implacable hunter was now the victim, and was desperately trying to retreat. And then it made its second mistake, for in its surprise and fright it had forgotten where it was. Or perhaps it had been dazed or blinded by the blows rained on its head; whatever the case, it bolted abruptly from the cave. There was a horrible screech as it went toppling out into space. Ages later, it seemed, there came a thud as it crashed into an outcropping halfway down the cliff; thereafter, the only sound was the sliding of loose stones.
23 It was still so rare that a hasty census might have overlooked it, among the teeming billions of creatures roving over land and sea. There was no evidence, as yet, that it would prosper or even survive: on this world where so many mightier beasts had passed away, its fate still wavered in the balance. In the hundred thousand years since the crystals had descended upon Africa, the man-apes had invented nothing. But they had started to change, and had developed skills which no other animal possessed. Their bone clubs had increased their reach and multiplied their strength; they were no longer defenseless against the predators with whom they had to compete. The smaller carnivores they could drive away from their own kills; the larger ones they could at least discourage, and sometimes put to flight.
24 Their teeth were growing smaller, for they were no longer essential. The sharp-edged stones that could be used to dig out roots, or to cut and saw through tough flesh or fiber, had begun to replace them, with immeasurable consequences. No longer were the man-apes faced with starvation when their teeth became damaged or worn; even the crudest tools could add many years to their lives. And as their fangs diminished, the shape of their face started to alter; the snout receded, the massive jaw became more delicate, the mouth able to make more subtle sounds. Speech was still a million years away, but the first steps toward it had been taken. And then the world began to change. In four great waves, with two hundred thousand years between their crests, the Ice Ages swept by, leaving their mark on all the globe.
25 And somewhere in the shadowy centuries that had gone before they had invented the most essential tool of all, though it could be neither seen nor touched. They had learned to speak, and so had won their first great victory over Time. Now the knowledge of one generation could be handed on to the next, so that each age could profit from those that had gone before. Man had acquired a past; and he was beginning to grope toward a future. He was also learning to harness the forces of nature; with the taming of fire, he had laid the foundations of technology and left his animal origins far behind. Stone gave way to bronze, and then to iron. Hunting was succeeded by agriculture. The tribe grew into the village, the village into the town. Speech became eternal, thanks to certain marks on stone and clay and papyrus.
26 Floyd felt himself well charged with oxygen, and ready to tackle anything, when the launching track began to sling its thousand-ton payload out over the Atlantic. It was hard to tell when they lifted from the track and became airborne, but when the roar of the rockets suddenly doubled its fury, and Floyd found himself sinking deeper and deeper into the cushions of his seat, he knew that the first-stage engines had taken over. He wished he could look out of the window, but it was an effort even to turn his head. Yet there was no discomfort; indeed, the pressure of acceleration and the overwhelming thunder of the motors produced an extraordinary euphoria. His ears ringing, the blood pounding in his veins, Floyd felt more alive than he had for years. He was young again, he wanted to sing aloud.
27 It seemed that the ship was standing on its tail. To Floyd, who was at the very front of the cabin, all the seats appeared to be fixed on a wall topping vertically beneath him. He was doing his best to ignore this uncomfortable illusion when dawn exploded outside the ship. In seconds, they shot through veils of crimson and pink and gold and blue into the piercing white of day. Though the windows were heavily tinted to reduce the glare, the probing beams of sunlight that now slowly swept across the cabin left Floyd half-blinded for several minutes. He was in space, yet there was no question of being able to see the stars. He shielded his eyes with his hands and tried to peer through the window beside him. Out there the swept-back wing of the ship was blazing like white-hot metal in the reflected sunlight.
28 As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes – gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another's umbrellas in a general infection of ill temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if this day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud.
29 Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls deified among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little 'prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog.
30 Sir Leicester had so much family that perhaps he had enough and could dispense with any more. But she had beauty, pride, ambition, resolve, and sense enough to portion out a legion of fine ladies. Wealth and station, added to these, soon floated her upward, and for years now my Lady Dedlock has been at the centre of the fashionable intelligence and at the top of the fashionable tree. How Alexander wept when he had no more worlds to conquer, everybody knows-or has some reason to know by this time, the matter having been rather frequently mentioned. My Lady Dedlock, having conquered her world, fell not into the melting, but rather into the freezing, mood. An exhausted composure, a worn-out placidity, an equanimity of fatigue not to be ruffled by interest or satisfaction, are the trophies of her victory.
31 As for sweets, I won't tell you how cheap and good they were, because it would only make your mouth water in vain. And in those days there lived in London a girl called Polly Plummer. She lived in one of a long row of houses which were all joined together. One morning she was out in the back garden when a boy scrambled up from the garden next door and put his face over the wall. Polly was very surprised because up till now there had never been any children in that house, but only Mr. Ketterley and Miss Ketterley, a brother and sister, old bachelor and old maid, living together. So she looked up, full of curiosity. The face of the strange boy was very grubby. It could hardly have been grubbier if he had first rubbed his hands in the earth, and then had a good cry, and then dried his face with his hands.
32 As he rose to his feet he noticed that he was neither dripping nor panting for breath as anyone would expect after being under water. His clothes were perfectly dry. He was standing by the edge of a small pool – not more than ten feet from side to side in a wood. The trees grew close together and were so leafy that he could get no glimpse of the sky. All the light was green light that came through the leaves: but there must have been a very strong sun overhead, for this green daylight was bright and warm. It was the quietest wood you could possibly imagine. There were no birds, no insects, no animals, and no wind. You could almost feel the trees growing. The pool he had just got out of was not the only pool. There were dozens of others – a pool every few yards as far as his eyes could reach.
33 They had many great windows in them, windows without glass, through which you saw nothing but black darkness. Lower down there were great pillared arches, yawning blackly like the mouths of railway tunnels. It was rather cold. The stone of which everything was built seemed to be red, but that might only be because of the curious light. It was obviously very old. Many of the flat stones that paved the courtyard had cracks across them. None of them fitted closely together and the sharp corners were all worn off. One of the arched doorways was half filled up with rubble. The two children kept on turning round and round to look at the different sides of the courtyard. One reason was that they were afraid of somebody – or something – looking out of those windows at them when their backs were turned.
34 Before a minute had passed it was twice as loud as it had been to begin with. It was soon so loud that if the children had tried to speak (but they weren't thinking of speaking now – they were just standing with their mouths open) they would not have heard one another. Very soon it was so loud that they could not have heard one another even by shouting. And still it grew: all on one note, a continuous sweet sound, though the sweetness had something horrible about it, till all the air in that great room was throbbing with it and they could feel the stone floor trembling under their feet. Then at last it began to be mixed with another sound, a vague, disastrous noise which sounded first like the roar of a distant train, and then like the crash of a falling tree. They heard something like great weights falling.
35 They were facing one another across the pillar where the bell hung, still trembling, though it no longer gave out any note. Suddenly they heard a soft noise from the end of the room which was still undamaged. They turned quick as lightning to see what it was. One of the robed figures, the furthest-off one of all, the woman whom Digory thought so beautiful, was rising from its chair. When she stood up they realized that she was even taller than they had thought. And you could see at once, not only from her crown and robes, but from the flash of her eyes and the curve of her lips, that she was a great queen. She looked round the room and saw the damage and saw the children, but you could not guess from her face what she thought of either or whether she was surprised. She came forward with long, swift strides.
36 He wondered about this a good deal as the first slow half-hour ticked on. But you need not wonder, for I am going to tell you. She had got home late for her dinner, with her shoes and stockings very wet. And when they asked her where she had been and what on earth she had been doing, she said she had been out with Digory Kirke. Under further questioning she said she had got her feet wet in a pool of water, and that the pool was in a wood. Asked where the wood was, she said she didn't know. Asked if it was in one of the parks, she said truthfully enough that she supposed it might be a sort of park. From all of this Polly's mother got the idea that Polly had gone off, without telling anyone, to some part of London she didn't know, and gone into a strange park and amused herself jumping into puddles.
37 Something was happening at last. A voice had begun to sing. It was very far away and Digory found it hard to decide from what direction it was coming. Sometimes it seemed to come from all directions at once. Sometimes he almost thought it was coming out of the earth beneath them. Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth herself. There were no words. There was hardly even a tune. But it was, beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he had ever heard. It was so beautiful he could hardly bear it. The horse seemed to like it too; he gave the sort of whinney a horse would give if, after years of being a cab-horse, it found itself back in the old field where it had played as a foal, and saw someone whom it remembered and loved coming across the field to bring it a lump of sugar.
38 Then two wonders happened at the same moment. One was that the voice was suddenly joined by other voices; more voices than you could possibly count. They were in harmony with it, but far higher up the scale: cold, tingling, silvery voices. The second wonder was that the blackness overhead, all at once, was blazing with stars. They didn't come out gently one by one, as they do on a summer evening. One moment there had been nothing but darkness; next moment a thousand, thousand points of light leaped out – single stars, constellations, and planets, brighter and bigger than any in our world. There were no clouds. The new stars and the new voices began at exactly the same time. If you had seen and heard it, as Digory did, you would have felt quite certain that it was the stars themselves which were singing.
39 There was soon light enough for them to see one another's faces. The Cabby and the two children had open mouths and shining eyes; they were drinking in the sound, and they looked as if it reminded them of something. Uncle Andrew's mouth was open too, but not open with joy. He looked more as if his chin had simply dropped away from the rest of his face. His shoulders were stopped and his knees shook. He was not liking the Voice. If he could have got away from it by creeping into a rat's hole, he would have done so. But the Witch looked as if, in a way, she understood the music better than any of them. Her mouth was shut, her lips were pressed together, and her fists were clenched. Ever since the song began she had felt that this whole world was filled with a Magic different from hers and stronger.
40 The eastern sky changed from white to pink and from pink to gold. The Voice rose and rose, till all the air was shaking with it. And just as it swelled to the mightiest and most glorious sound it had yet produced, the sun arose. Digory had never seen such a sun. The sun above the ruins of Charn had looked older than ours: this looked younger. You could imagine that it laughed for joy as it came up. And as its beams shot across the land the travellers could see for the first time what sort of place they were in. It was a valley through which a broad, swift river wound its way, flowing eastward towards the sun. Southward there were mountains, northward there were lower hills. But it was a valley of mere earth, rock and water; there was not a tree, not a bush, not a blade of grass to be seen.
41 It was softer and more lilting than the song by which he had called up the stars and the sun. And as he walked and sang the valley grew green with grass. It spread out from the Lion like a pool. It ran up the sides of the little hills like a wave. In a few minutes it was creeping up the lower slopes of the distant mountains, making that young world every moment softer. The light wind could now be heard ruffling the grass. Soon there were other things besides grass. The higher slopes grew dark with heather. Patches of rougher and more bristling green appeared in the valley. Digory did not know what they were until one began coming up quite close to him. It was a little, spiky thing that threw out dozens of arms and covered these arms with green and grew larger at the rate of about an inch every two seconds.
42 Can you imagine a stretch of grassy land bubbling like water in a pot? For that is really the best description of what was happening. In all directions it was swelling into humps. They were of very different sizes, some no bigger than mole-hills, some as big as wheel-barrows, two the size of cottages. And the humps moved and swelled till they burst, and the crumbled earth poured out of them, and from each hump there came out an animal. The moles came out just as you might see a mole come out in England. The dogs came out, barking the moment their heads were free, and struggling as you've seen them do when they are getting through a narrow hole in a hedge. The stags were the queerest to watch, for of course the antlers came up a long time before the rest of them, so at first Digory thought they were trees.
43 Fledge came lower and lower in wide circles. The icy peaks rose up higher and higher above. The air came up warmer and sweeter every moment, so sweet that it almost brought the tears to your eyes. Fledge was now gliding with his wings spread out motionless on each side, and his hoofs pawing for the ground. The steep green hill was rushing towards them. A moment later he alighted on its slope, a little awkwardly. The children rolled off, fell without hurting themselves on the warm, fine grass, and stood up panting a little. They were three-quarters of the way up the hill, and set out at once to climb to the top. I don't think Fledge could have managed this without his wings to balance him and to give him the help of aflutter now and then. All round the very top of the hill ran a high wall of green turf.
44 When things go wrong, you'll find they usually go on getting worse for some time; but when things once start going right they often go on getting better and better. After about six weeks of this lovely life there came a long letter from Father in India, which had wonderful news in it. Old Great-Uncle Kirke had died and this meant, apparently, that Father was now very rich. He was going to retire and come home from India forever and ever. And the great big house in the country, which Digory had heard of all his life and never seen would now be their home; the big house with the suits of armour, the stables, the kennels, the river, the park, the hot-houses, the vineries, the woods, and the mountains behind it. So that Digory felt just as sure as you that they were all going to live happily ever after.
45 When he had passed they looked up. While the first light of the fire had shot east and west, painting the sides of ships with fire-light or striking red sparks out of windowed houses, it had not hitherto struck upward, for there was above it the ponderous and rococo cavern of its own monstrous coloured smoke. But now the fire was turned to left and right like a woman's hair parted in the middle, and now the shafts of its light could shoot up into empty heavens and strike anything, either bird or cloud. But it struck something that was neither cloud nor bird. Far, far away up in those huge hollows of space something was flying swiftly and shining brightly, something that shone too bright and flew too fast to be any of the fowls of the air, though the red light lit it from underneath like the breast of a bird.
46 The flying ship of Professor Lucifer sang through the skies like a silver arrow; the bleak white steel of it, gleaming in the bleak blue emptiness of the evening. That it was far above the earth was no expression for it; to the two men in it, it seemed to be far above the stars. The professor had invented the flying machine, and had also invented nearly everything in it. Every sort of tool or apparatus had, in consequence, to the full, that fantastic and distorted look which belongs to the miracles of science. For the world of science and evolution is far more nameless and elusive and like a dream than the world of poetry and religion; since in the latter images and ideas remain themselves eternally, while it is the whole idea of evolution that identities melt into each other as they do in a nightmare.
47 A plain of sad-coloured cloud lay along the level of the top of the Cathedral dome, so that the ball and the cross looked like a buoy riding on a leaden sea. As the flying ship swept towards it, this plain of cloud looked as dry and definite and rocky as any grey desert. Hence it gave to the mind and body a sharp and unearthly sensation when the ship cut and sank into the cloud as into any common mist, a thing without resistance. There was, as it were, a deadly shock in the fact that there was no shock. It was as if they had cloven into ancient cliffs like so much butter. But sensations awaited them which were much stranger than those of sinking through the solid earth. For a moment their eyes and nostrils were stopped with darkness and opaque cloud; then the darkness warmed into a kind of brown fog.
48 Father Michael in spite of his years, and in spite of his asceticism (or because of it, for all I know), was a very healthy and happy old gentleman. And as he swung on a bar above the sickening emptiness of air, he realized, with that sort of dead detachment which belongs to the brains of those in peril, the deathless and hopeless contradiction which is involved in the mere idea of courage. He was a happy and healthy old gentleman and therefore he was quite careless about it. And he felt as every man feels in the taut moment of such terror that his chief danger was terror itself; his only possible strength would be a coolness amounting to carelessness, a carelessness amounting almost to a suicidal swagger. His one wild chance of coming out safely would be in not too desperately desiring to be safe.
49 He felt with a sort of half-witted lucidity that the cross was there, and the ball was there, and the dome was there, that he was going to climb down from them, and that he did not mind in the least whether he was killed or not. This mysterious mood lasted long enough to start him on his dreadful descent and to force him to continue it. But six times before he reached the highest of the outer galleries terror had returned on him like a flying storm of darkness and thunder. By the time he had reached that place of safety he almost felt (as in some impossible fit of drunkenness) that he had two heads; one was calm, careless, and efficient; the other saw the danger like a deadly map, was wise, careful, and useless. He had fancied that he would have to let himself vertically down the face of the whole building.
50 Michael felt he knew not how. The whole peace of the world was pent up painfully in his heart. The new and childlike world which he had seen so suddenly, men had not seen at all. Here they were still at their old bewildering, pardonable, useless quarrels, with so much to be said on both sides, and so little that need be said at all. A fierce inspiration fell on him suddenly; he would strike them where they stood with the love of God. They should not move till they saw their own sweet and startling existence. They should not go from that place till they went home embracing like brothers and shouting like men delivered. From the Cross from which he had fallen fell the shadow of its fantastic mercy; and the first three words he spoke in a voice like a silver trumpet, held men as still as stones.
51 On that fantastic fringe of the Gaelic land where he walked as a boy, the cliffs were as fantastic as the clouds. The paths of his little village began to climb quite suddenly and seemed resolved to go to heaven. The sky seemed to fall down towards the hills; the hills took hold upon the sky. In the sumptuous sunset of gold and purple and peacock green cloudlets and islets were the same. Evan lived like a man walking on a borderland, the borderland between this world and another. Like so many men and nations who grow up with nature and the common things, he understood the supernatural before he understood the natural. He had looked at dim angels standing knee-deep in the grass before he had looked at the grass. He knew that Our Lady's robes were blue before he knew the wild roses round her feet were red.
52 The police magistrate, before whom they were hurried and tried, was a Mr. Cumberland Vane, a cheerful, middle-aged gentleman, honourably celebrated for the lightness of his sentences and the lightness of his conversation. He occasionally worked himself up into a sort of theoretic rage about certain particular offenders, such as the men who took pokers to their wives, talked in a loose, sentimental way about the desirability of flogging them, and was hopelessly bewildered by the fact that the wives seemed even more angry with him than with their husbands. He was a tall, spruce man, with a twist of black moustache and incomparable morning dress. He looked like a gentleman, and yet, somehow, like a stage gentleman. He had often treated serious crimes against mere order or property with a humane flippancy.
53 The duellists had from their own point of view escaped or conquered the chief powers of the modern world. They had satisfied the magistrate, they had tied the tradesman neck and heels, and they had left the police behind. As far as their own feelings went they had melted into a monstrous sea; they were but the fare and driver of one of the million hansoms that fill London streets. But they had forgotten something; they had forgotten journalism. They had forgotten that there exists in the modern world, perhaps for the first time in history, a class of people whose interest is not that things should happen well or happen badly, should happen successfully or happen unsuccessfully, should happen to the advantage of this party or the advantage of that part, but whose interest simply is that things should happen.
54 They were sitting in a sort of litter on the hillside; all the things they had hurriedly collected, in various places, for their flight, were strewn indiscriminately round them. The two swords with which they had lately sought each other's lives were flung down on the grass at random, like two idle walking-sticks. Some provisions they had bought last night, at a low public house, in case of undefined contingencies, were tossed about like the materials of an ordinary picnic, here a basket of chocolate, and there a bottle of wine. And to add to the disorder finally, there were strewn on top of everything, the most disorderly of modern things, newspapers, and more newspapers, and yet again newspapers, the ministers of the modern anarchy. Turnbull picked up one of them drearily, and took out a pipe.
55 The voice was too polite for good manners. It was incongruous with the eccentric spectacle of the duellists which ought to have startled a sane and free man. It was also incongruous with the full and healthy, though rather loose physique of the man who spoke. At the first glance he looked a fine animal, with curling gold beard and hair, and blue eyes, unusually bright. It was only at the second glance that the mind felt a sudden and unmeaning irritation at the way in which the gold beard retreated backwards into the waistcoat, and the way in which the finely shaped nose went forward as if smelling its way. And it was only, perhaps, at the hundredth glance that the bright blue eyes, which normally before and after the instant seemed brilliant with intelligence, seemed as it were to be brilliant with idiocy.
56 Legends of the morning of the world which he had heard in childhood or read in youth came back upon him in a cloudy splendour, purple tales of wrath and friendship, reminding him of emotional entanglements. Men who had loved each other and then fought each other; men who had fought each other and then loved each other, together made a mixed but monstrous sense of momentousness. The crimson seas of the sunset seemed to him like a bursting out of some sacred blood, as if the heart of the world had broken. Turnbull was wholly unaffected by any written or spoken poetry; his was a powerful and prosaic mind. But even upon him there came for the moment something out of the earth and the passionate ends of the sky. The only evidence was in his voice, which was still practical but a shade more quiet.
57 Almost as he did so the ferrule of an ordinary bamboo cane came at his eyes, so that he had actually to parry it with the naked weapon in his hands. As the two touched, the point of the stick was dropped very abruptly, and the man with the stick stepped hurriedly back. Against the heraldic background of sprawling crimson and gold offered him by the expiring sunset, the figure of the man with the stick showed at first merely black and fantastic. He was a small man with two wisps of long hair that curled up on each side, and seen in silhouette, looked like horns. He had a bow tie so big that the two ends showed on each side of his neck like unnatural stunted wings. He had his long black cane still tilted in his hand like a fencing foil and half presented at the open door. His large hat had fallen behind him.
58 They had to run over a curve of country that looked smooth but was very rough; a neglected field which they soon found to be full of the tallest grasses and the deepest rabbit-holes. Moreover, that great curve of the countryside which looked so slow and gentle when you glanced over it, proved to be highly precipitous when you scampered over it; and Turnbull was twice nearly flung on his face. MacIan avoided such an overthrow only by having the quick and incalculable feet of the mountaineer; but both of them may be said to have leapt off a low cliff when they leapt into the road. The moonlight lay on the white road with a more naked and electric glare than on the grey-green upland, and though the scene which it revealed was complicated, it was not difficult to get its first features at a glance.
59 The car shot on up and down the shining moonlit lanes, and there was no sound in it except the occasional click or catch of its machinery; for through some cause or other no soul inside it could think of a word to say. The lady symbolized her feelings, whatever they were, by urging the machine faster and faster until scattered woodlands went by them in one black blotch and heavy hills and valleys seemed to ripple under the wheels like mere waves. A little while afterwards this mood seemed to slacken and she fell into a more ordinary pace; but still she did not speak. Turnbull, who kept a more common and sensible view of the case than anyone else, made some remark about the moonlight; but something indescribable made him also relapse into silence. All this time MacIan had been in a sort of monstrous delirium.
60 Heaven itself had opened around him and given him an hour of its own ancient energy. He had never felt so much alive before; and yet he was like a man in a trance. And if you had asked him on what his throbbing happiness hung, he could only have told you that it hung on four or five visible facts, as a curtain hangs on four of five fixed nails. The fact that the lady had a little fur at her throat; the fact that the curve of her cheek was a low and lean curve and that the moonlight caught the height of her cheek-bone; the fact that her hands were small but heavily gloved as they gripped the steering-wheel; the fact that a white witch light was on the road; the fact that the brisk breeze of their passage stirred and fluttered a little not only the brown hair of her head but the black fur on her cap.
61 Nor did MacIan sit down; he stood up stunned and yet staring, as he would have stood up at the trumpet of the Last Day. A black dot in the distance sprang up a tall black forest, swallowed them and spat them out again at the other end. A railway bridge grew larger and larger till it leapt upon their backs bellowing, and was in its turn left behind. Avenues of poplars on both sides of the road chased each other like the figures in a zoetrope. Now and then with a shock and rattle they went through sleeping moonlit villages, which must have stirred an instant in their sleep as at the passing of a fugitive earthquake. Sometimes in an outlying house a light in one erratic, unexpected window would give them a nameless hint of the hundred human secrets which they left behind them with their dust.
62 The cool voice of his companion cut in upon his monologue, calling to him from a little farther along the cliff, to tell him that he had found the ladder of descent. It began as a steep and somewhat greasy path, which then tumbled down twenty or thirty feet in the form of a fall of rough stone steps. After that, there was a rather awkward drop on to a ledge of stone and then the journey was undertaken easily and even elegantly by the remains of an ornamental staircase, such as might have belonged to some long-disused watering-place. All the time that the two travellers sank from stage to stage of this downward journey, there closed over their heads living bridges and caverns of the most varied foliage, all of which grew greener, redder, or more golden, in the growing sunlight of the morning.
63 He tried to concentrate his senses on the sword-play; but one half of his brain was wrestling with the puzzle; the apocalyptic and almost seraphic apparition of a stout constable on top of a dreary and deserted hill in France. He did not, however, have to puzzle long. Before the duellists had exchanged half a dozen passes, the big, blue policeman appeared once more on the top of the hill, a palpable monstrosity in the eye of heaven. He was waving only one arm now and seemed to be shouting directions. At the same moment a mass of blue blocked the corner of the road behind the small, smart figure of Turnbull, and a small company of policemen in the English uniform came up at a kind of half-military double. Turnbull saw the stare of consternation in his enemy's face and swung round to share its cause.
64 The two had a long race for the harbour; but the English police were heavy and the French inhabitants were indifferent. In any case, they got used to the notion of the road being clear; and just as they had come to the cliffs MacIan banged into another gentleman with unmistakable surprise. How he knew he was another gentleman merely by banging into him, must remain a mystery. MacIan was a very poor and very sober Scotch gentleman. The other was a very drunk and very wealthy English gentleman. But there was something in the staggered and openly embarrassed apologies that made them understand each other as readily and as quickly and as much as two men talking French in the middle of China. The nearest expression of the type is that it either hits or apologizes; and in this case both apologized.
65 Down the centre of the central garden path, preceded by a blue cloud from a cigarette, was walking a gentleman who evidently understood all the relish of a garden in the very early morning. He was a slim yet satisfied figure, clad in a suit of pale-grey tweed, so subdued that the pattern was imperceptible – a costume that was casual but not by any means careless. His face, which was reflective and somewhat over-refined, was the face of a quite elderly man, though his stringy hair and moustache were still quite yellow. A double eye-glass, with a broad, black ribbon, drooped from his aquiline nose, and he smiled, as he communed with himself, with a self-content which was rare and almost irritating. The straw panama on his head was many shades shabbier than his clothes, as if he had caught it up by accident.
66 The advancing figure walked with a stoop, and yet somehow flung his forked and narrow beard forward. That carefully cut and pointed yellow beard was, indeed, the most emphatic thing about him. When he clasped his hands behind him, under the tails of his coat, he would wag his beard at a man like a big forefinger. It performed almost all his gestures; it was more important than the glittering eye-glasses through which he looked or the beautiful bleating voice in which he spoke. His face and neck were of a lusty red, but lean and stringy; he always wore his expensive gold-rim eye-glasses slightly askew upon his aquiline nose; and he always showed two gleaming foreteeth under his moustache, in a smile so perpetual as to earn the reputation of a sneer. But for the crooked glasses his dress was always exquisite.
67 Plain and positive as he was, the influence of earth and sky may have been greater on him than he imagined; and the weather that walked the world at that moment was as red and angry as Turnbull. Long strips and swirls of tattered and tawny cloud were dragged downward to the west exactly as torn red raiment would be dragged. And so strong and pitiless was the wind that it whipped away fragments of red-flowering bushes or of copper beech, and drove them also across the garden, a drift of red leaves, like the leaves of autumn, as in parody of the red and driven rags of cloud. There was a sense in earth and heaven as of everything breaking up, and all the revolutionist in Turnbull rejoiced that it was breaking up. The trees were breaking up under the wind, even in the tall strength of their bloom.
68 While our friend stood frozen for an instant by his astonishment, the queer figure in the airy car tipped the vehicle almost upside down by leaping over the side of it, seemed to slide or drop down the rope like a monkey, and alighted (with impossible precision and placidity) seated on the edge of the wall, over which he kicked and dangled his legs as he grinned at Turnbull. The wind roared in the trees yet more ruinous and desolate, the red tails of the sunset were dragged downward like red dragons sucked down to death, and still on the top of the asylum wall sat the sinister figure with the grimace, swinging his feet in tune with the tempest; while above him, at the end of its tossing or tightened cord, the enormous iron air-ship floated as light and as little noticed as a baby's balloon upon its string.
69 He drew a little nearer to the wall and, catching the man at a slightly different angle of the evening light, could see his face and figure quite plain. Two facts about him stood out in the picked colours of some piratical schoolboy's story. The first was that his lean brown body was bare to the belt of his loose white trousers; the other that through hygiene, affectation, or whatever other cause, he had a scarlet handkerchief tied tightly but somewhat aslant across his brow. After these two facts had become emphatic, others appeared sufficiently important. One was that under the scarlet rag the hair was plentiful, but white as with the last snows of mortality. Another was that under the mop of white and senile hair the face was strong, handsome, and smiling, with a well-cut profile and a long cloven chin.
70 Before that, like every beginner, I thought you could beat, pummel, and thrash an idea into existence. Under such treatment, of course, any decent idea folds up its paws, turns on its back, fixes its eyes on eternity, and dies. It was with great relief, then, that in my early twenties I floundered into a word-association process in which I simply got out of bed each morning, walked to my desk, and put down any word or series of words that happened along in my head. I would then take arms against the word, or for it, and bring on an assortment of characters to weigh the word and show me its meaning in my own life. An hour or two hours later, to my amazement, a new story would be finished and done. The surprise was total and lovely. I soon found that I would have to work this way for the rest of my life.
71 I began to try words for all that. What you have here in this book then is a gathering of dandelions from all those years. The wine metaphor which appears again and again in these pages is wonderfully apt. I was gathering images all of my life, storing them away, and forgetting them. Somehow I had to send myself back, with words as catalysts, to open the memories out and see what they had to offer. So from the age of twenty-four to thirty-six hardly a day passed when I didn't stroll myself across a recollection of my grandparents' northern Illinois grass, hoping to come across some old half-burnt firecracker, a rusted toy, or a fragment of letter written to myself in some young year hoping to contact the older person I became to remind him of his past, his life, his joys, and his drenching sorrows.
72 A whole summer ahead to cross off the calendar, day by day. Like the goddess Siva in the travel books, he saw his hands jump everywhere, pluck sour apples, peaches, and midnight plums. He would be clothed in trees and bushes and rivers. He would freeze, gladly, in the icehouse door. He would bake, happily, with ten thousand chickens, in Grandma's kitchen. But now – a familiar task awaited him. One night each week he was allowed to leave his father, his mother, and his younger brother Tom asleep in their small house next door and run here, up the dark spiral stairs to his grandparents' cupola, and in this sorcerer's tower sleep with thunders and visions, to wake before the crystal jingle of milk bottles and perform his ritual magic. He stood at the open window in the dark, took a deep breath and exhaled.
73 A single invisible line on the air touched his brow and snapped without a sound. So, with the subtlest of incidents, he knew that this day was going to be different. It would be different also, because, as his father explained, driving Douglas and his brother Tom out of town toward the country, there were some days compounded completely of odor, nothing but the world blowing in one nostril and out the other. And some days, he went on, were days of hearing every trump and trill of the universe. Some days were good for tasting and some for touching. And some days were good for all the senses at once. This day now, he nodded, smelled as if a great and nameless orchard had grown up overnight beyond the hills to fill the entire visible land with its warm freshness. The air felt like rain, but there were no clouds.
74 The wine was summer caught and stoppered. And now that Douglas knew, he really knew he was alive, and moved turning through the world to touch and see it all, it was only right and proper that some of his new knowledge, some of this special vintage day would be sealed away for opening on a January day with snow falling fast and the sun unseen for weeks or months and perhaps some of the miracle by then forgotten and in need of renewal. Since this was going to be a summer of unguessed wonders, he wanted it all salvaged and labeled so that any time he wished, he might tiptoe down in this dank twilight and reach up his fingertips. And there, row upon row, with the soft gleam of flowers opened at morning, with the light of this June sun glowing through a faint skin of dust, would stand the dandelion wine.
75 They passed like cloud shadows downhill... the boys of summer, running. Douglas, left behind, was lost. Panting, he stopped by the rim of the ravine, at the edge of the softly blowing abyss. Here, ears pricked like a deer, he snuffed a danger that was old a billion years ago. Here the town, divided, fell away in halves. Here civilization ceased. Here was only growing earth and a million deaths and rebirths every hour. And here the paths, made or yet unmade, that told of the need of boys traveling, always traveling, to be men. Douglas turned. This path led in a great dusty snake to the ice house where winter lived on the yellow days. This path raced for the blast-furnace sands of the lake shore in July. This to trees where boys might grow like sour and still-green crab apples, hid among leaves.
76 Matches being struck, the first dishes bubbling in the suds and tinkling on the wall racks, somewhere, faintly, a phonograph playing. And then as the evening changed the hour, at house after house on the twilight streets, under the immense oaks and elms, on shady porches, people would begin to appear, like those figures who tell good or bad weather in rain-or-shine clocks. Uncle Bert, perhaps Grandfather, then Father, and some of the cousins; the men all coming out first into the syrupy evening, blowing smoke, leaving the women's voices behind in the cooling-warm kitchen to set their universe aright. Then the first male voices under the porch brim, the feet up, the boys fringed on the worn steps or wooden rails where sometime during the evening something, a boy or a geranium pot, would fall off.
77 What they talked of all evening long, no one remembered next day. It wasn't important to anyone what the adults talked about; it was only important that the sounds came and went over the delicate ferns that bordered the porch on three sides; it was only important that the darkness filled the town like black water being poured over the houses, and that the cigars glowed and that the conversations went on, and on. The female gossip moved out, disturbing the first mosquitoes so they danced in frenzies on the air. The male voices invaded the old house timbers; if you closed your eyes and put your head down against the floor boards you could hear the men's voices rumbling like a distant, political earthquake, constant, unceasing, rising or falling a pitch. Douglas sprawled back on the dry porch planks.
78 Once each year he woke this way and lay waiting for the sound which meant that summer had officially begun. And it began on a morning such as this when a boarder, a nephew, a cousin, a son or a grandson came out on the lawn below and moved in consecutively smaller quadrangles north and east and south and west with a clatter of rotating metal through the sweet summer grass. Clover blossoms, the few unharvested dandelion fires, ante, sticks, pebbles, remnants of last year's July Fourth squibs and punks, but predominantly clear green, a fount leaped up from the chattering mower. A cool soft fount; Grandfather imagined it tickling his legs, spraying his warm face, filling his nostrils with the timeless scent of a new season begun, with the promise that, yes, we'll all live another twelve months.
79 The first light on the roof outside; very early morning. The leaves on all the trees tremble with a soft awakening to any breeze the dawn may offer. And then, far off, around a curve of silver track, comes the trolley, balanced on four small steel-blue wheels, and it is painted the color of tangerines. Epaulets of shimmery brass cover it and pipings of gold; and its chrome bell bings if the ancient motorman taps it with a wrinkled shoe. The numerals on the trolley's front and sides are bright as lemons. Within, its seats prickle with; cool green moss. Something like a buggy whip flings up from its roof to brush the spider thread high in the passing trees from which it takes its juice. From every window blows an incense, the all-pervasive blue and secret smell of summer storms and lightning.
80 They sat eating ham sandwiches and fresh strawberries and waxy oranges and Mr. Tridden told them how it had been twenty years ago, the band playing on that ornate stand at night, the men pumping air into their brass horns, the plump conductor flinging perspiration from his baton, the children and fireflies running in the deep grass, the ladies with long dresses and high pompadours treading the wooden xylophone walks with men in choking collars. There was the walk now, all softened into a fiber mush by the years. The lake was silent and blue and serene, and fish peacefully threaded the bright reeds, and the motorman murmured on and on, and the children felt it was some other year, with Mr. Tridden looking wonderfully young, his eyes lighted like small bulbs, blue and electric. It was a drifting, easy day.
81 The facts about John Huff aged twelve are simple and soon stated. He could pathfind more trails than any Cherokee since time began, could leap from the sky like a chimpanzee from a vine, could live underwater two minutes and slide fifty yards downstream from where you last saw him. The baseballs you pitched him he hit in the apple trees, knocking down harvests. He could jump six-foot orchard walls, swing up branches faster and come down, fat with peaches, quicker than anyone else in the gang. He ran laughing. He sat easy. He was not a bully. He was kind. His hair was dark and curly and his teeth were white as cream. He remembered the words to all the cowboy songs and would teach you if you asked. He knew the names of all the wild flowers and when the moon would rise and set and when the tides came in or out.
82 It was the face of spring, it was the face of summer, it was the warmness of clover breath. Pomegranate glowed in her lips, and the noon sky in her eyes. To touch her face was that always new experience of opening your window one December morning, early, and putting out your hand to the first white cool powdering of snow that had come, silently, with no announcement, in the night. And all of this, this breath-warmness and plum-tenderness was held forever in one miracle of photographic chemistry which no clock winds could blow upon to change one hour or one second; this fine first cool white snow would never melt, but live a thousand summers. That was the photograph; that was the way he knew her. Now he was talking again, after the remembering and the thinking over and the holding of the picture in his mind.
83 The three women moved along the street under the black trees, past suddenly locked houses. How soon the news had spread outward from the ravine, from house to house, porch to porch, telephone to telephone. Now, passing, the three women felt eyes looking out at them from curtained windows as locks rattled into place. How strange the popsicle, the vanilla night, the night of close-packed ice cream, of mosquito-lotioned wrists, the night of running children suddenly veered from their games and put away behind glass, behind wood, the popsicles in melting puddles of lime and strawberry where they fell when the children were scooped indoors. Strange the hot rooms with the sweating people pressed tightly back into them behind the bronze knobs and knockers. Baseball bats and balls lay upon the unfootprinted lawns.
84 She was a woman with a broom or a dustpan or a washrag or a mixing spoon in her hand. You saw her cutting piecrust in the morning, humming to it, or you saw her setting out the baked pies at noon or taking them in, cool, at dusk. She rang porcelain cups like a Swiss bell ringer, to their place. She glided through the halls as steadily as a vacuum machine, seeking, finding, and setting to rights. She made mirrors of every window, to catch the sun. She strolled but twice through any garden, trowel in hand, and the flowers raised their quivering fires upon the warm air in her wake. She slept quietly and turned no more than three times in a night, as relaxed as a white glove to which, at dawn, a brisk hand will return. Waking, she touched people like pictures, to set their frames straight. But, now....
85 There she sat in her glass coffin, night after night, her body melted by the carnival blaze of summer, frozen in the ghost winds of winter, waiting with her sickle smile and carved, hooked, and wax-poured nose hovering above her pale pink and wrinkled wax hands poised forever above the ancient fanned-out deck of cards. You thrust a penny in the silver slot and far away below, behind, inside, machinery groaned and cogged, levers stroked, wheels spun. And in her case the witch raised up her glittery face to blind you with a single needle stare. Her implacable left hand moved down to stroke and fritter enigmatic tarot-card skulls, devils, hanging men, hermits, cardinals and clowns, while her head hung close to delve your misery or murder, hope or health, your rebirths each morning and death's renewals by night.
86 Douglas had cried out. For years he had seen billions of cowboys shot, hung, burned, destroyed. But now, this one particular man... He'll never walk, run, sit, laugh, cry, won't do anything ever, thought Douglas. Now he's turning cold. Douglas's teeth chattered, his heart pumped sludge in his chest. He shut his eyes and let the convulsion shake him. He had to get away from these other boys because they weren't thinking about death, they just laughed and yelled at the dead man as if he still lived. Douglas and the dead man were on a boat pulling away, with all the others left behind on the bright shore, running, jumping, hilarious with motion, not knowing that the boat, the dead man and Douglas were going, going, and now gone into darkness. Weeping, Douglas ran to the lemon-smelling men's room.
87 Now Douglas knew why the arcade had drawn him so steadily this week and drew him still tonight. For there was a world completely set in place, predictable, certain, sure, with its bright silver slots, its terrible gorilla behind glass forever stabbed by waxen hero to save still more waxen heroine, and then the flipping waterfalling chitter of Keystone Kops on eternal photographic spindles set spiraling in darkness by Indianhead pennies under naked bulb light. The Kops, forever in collision or near-collision with train, truck, streetcar, forever gone off piers in oceans which did not drown, because there they rushed to collide again with train, truck, streetcar, dive off old and beautifully familiar pier. Worlds within worlds, the penny peek shows which you cranked to repeat old rites and formulas.
88 The sidewalks were haunted by dust ghosts all night as the furnace wind summoned them up, swung them about, and gentled them down in a warm spice on the lawns. Trees, shaken by the footsteps of late-night strollers, sifted avalanches of dust. From midnight on, it seemed a volcano beyond the town was showering red-hot ashes everywhere, crusting night watchmen and irritable dogs. Each house was a yellow attic smoldering with spontaneous combustion at three in the morning. Dawn, then, was a time where things changed element for element. Air ran like hot spring waters nowhere, with no sound. The lake was a quantity of steam very still and deep over valleys of fish and sand held baking under its serene vapors. Tar was poured licorice in the streets, red bricks were brass and gold, roof tops were paved with bronze.
89 Perhaps it was an hour before the moon spilled all its light upon the world, perhaps less. But the voice was nearer now and a sound like the beating of a heart which was really the motion of a horse's hoofs on the brick streets muffled by the hot thick foliage of the trees. And there was another sound like a door slowly opening or closing, squeaking, squealing softly from time to time. The sound of a wagon. And down the street in the light of the risen moon came the horse pulling the wagon and the wagon riding the lean body of Mr. Jonas easy and casual on the high seat. He wore his hat as if he were still out under the summer sun and he moved his hands on occasion to ripple the reins like a flow of water on the air above the horse's back. Very slowly the wagon moved down the street with Mr. Jonas singing.
90 A great uproar ensued, a clashing of plates, a swarming of arms, a rush of voices which hoped to drown blasphemous inquiry forever, Douglas talking louder and making more motions than the rest. But in their faces you could see their world tottering, their happiness in danger. For they were the privileged members of a household which rushed from work or play when the first dinner bell was so much as clapped once in the hall. Their arrival in the dining room had been for countless years a sort of frantic musical chairs, as they shook out napkins in a white fluttering and seized up utensils as if recently starved in solitary confinement, waiting for the summons to fall downstairs in a mass of twitching elbows and overflow themselves at table. Now they clamored nervously, making obvious jokes.
91 It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history. With his symbolic helmet numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next, he flicked the igniter and the house jumped up in a gorging fire that burned the evening sky red and yellow and black. He strode in a swarm of fireflies. He wanted above all, like the old joke, to shove a marshmallow on a stick in the furnace, while the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch.
92 He turned the corner. The autumn leaves blew over the moonlit pavement in such a way as to make the girl who was moving there seem fixed to a sliding walk, letting the motion of the wind and the leaves carry her forward. Her head was half bent to watch her shoes stir the circling leaves. Her face was slender and milk-white, and in it was a kind of gentle hunger that touched over everything with tireless curiosity. It was a look, almost, of pale surprise; the dark eyes were so fixed to the world that no move escaped them. Her dress was white and it whispered. He almost thought he heard the motion of her hands as she walked, and the infinitely small sound now, the white stir of her face turning when she discovered she was a moment away from a man who stood in the middle of the pavement waiting.
93 His wife stretched on the bed, uncovered and cold, like a body displayed on the lid of a tomb, her eyes fixed to the ceiling by invisible threads of steel. And in her ears the little Seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and talk coming in, coming in on the shore of her unsleeping mind. The room was indeed empty. Every night the waves came in and bore her off on their great tides of sound, floating her, wide-eyed, toward morning. There had been no night in the last two years that Mildred had not swum that sea, had not gladly gone down in it for the third time. The room was cold but nonetheless he felt he could not breathe. He did not wish to open the curtains and open the french windows, for he did not want the moon to come into the room.
94 The object he had sent tumbling with his foot now glinted under the edge of his own bed. The small crystal bottle of sleeping-tablets which earlier today had been filled with thirty capsules and which now lay uncapped and empty in the light of the tiny flare. As he stood there the sky over the house screamed. There was a tremendous ripping sound as if two giant hands had torn ten thousand miles of black linen down the seam. Montag was cut in half. He felt his chest chopped down and split apart. The jet-bombs going over, going over, going over, one two, one two, one two, six of them, nine of them, twelve of them, one and one and one and another and another and another, did all the screaming for him. He opened his own mouth and let their shriek come down and out between his bared teeth. The house shook.
95 They had two machines, really. One of them slid down into your stomach like a black cobra down an echoing well looking for all the old water and the old time gathered there. It drank up the green matter that flowed to the top in a slow boil. Did it drink of the darkness? Did it suck out all the poisons accumulated with the years? It fed in silence with an occasional sound of inner suffocation and blind searching. It had an Eye. The impersonal operator of the machine could, by wearing a special optical helmet, gaze into the soul of the person whom he was pumping out. What did the Eye see? He did not say. He saw but did not see what the Eye saw. The entire operation was not unlike the digging of a trench in one's yard. The woman on the bed was no more than a hard stratum of marble they had reached.
96 This woman was spoiling the ritual. The men were making too much noise, laughing, joking to cover her terrible accusing silence below. She made the empty rooms roar with accusation and shake down a fine dust of guilt that was sucked in their nostrils as they plunged about. It was neither cricket nor correct. Montag felt an immense irritation. She shouldn't be here, on top of everything! Books bombarded his shoulders, his arms, his upturned face. A book alighted, almost obediently, like a white pigeon, in his hands, wings fluttering. In the dim, wavering light, a page hung open and it was like a snowy feather, the words delicately painted thereon. In all the rush and fervour, Montag had only an instant to read a line, but it blazed in his mind for the next minute as if stamped there with fiery steel.
97 He stumbled towards the bed and shoved the book clumsily under the cold pillow. He fell into bed and his wife cried out, startled. He lay far across the room from her, on a winter island separated by an empty sea. She talked to him for what seemed a long while and she talked about this and she talked about that and it was only words, like the words he had heard once in a nursery at a friend's house, a two-year-old child building word patterns, talking jargon, making pretty sounds in the air. But Montag said nothing and after a long while when he only made the small sounds, he felt her move in the room and come to his bed and stand over him and put her hand down to feel his cheek. He knew that when she pulled her hand away from his face it was wet. Late in the night he looked over at Mildred.
98 Then Montag talked about the weather, and then the old man responded with a pale voice. It was a strange quiet meeting. The old man admitted to being a retired English professor who had been thrown out upon the world forty years ago when the last liberal arts college shut for lack of students and patronage. His name was Faber, and when he finally lost his fear of Montag, he talked in a cadenced voice, looking at the sky and the trees and the green park, and when an hour had passed he said something to Montag and Montag sensed it was a rhymeless poem. Then the old man grew even more courageous and said something else and that was a poem, too. Faber held his hand over his left coat-pocket and spoke these words gently, and Montag knew if he reached out, he might pull a book of poetry from the man's coat.
99 Montag said nothing but stood looking at the women's faces as he had once looked at the faces of saints in a strange church he had entered when he was a child. The faces of those enamelled creatures meant nothing to him, though he talked to them and stood in that church for a long time, trying to be of that religion, trying to know what that religion was, trying to get enough of the raw incense and special dust of the place into his lungs and thus into his blood to feel touched and concerned by the meaning of the colourful men and women with the porcelain eyes and the blood-ruby lips. But there was nothing, nothing; it was a stroll through another store, and his currency strange and unusable there, and his passion cold, even when he touched the wood and plaster and clay. So it was now, in his own parlour.
100 A great nuzzling gout of flame leapt out to lap at the books and knock them against the wall. He stepped into the bedroom and fired twice and the twin beds went up in a great simmering whisper, with more heat and passion and light than he would have supposed them to contain. He burnt the bedroom walls and the cosmetics chest because he wanted to change everything, the chairs, the tables, and in the dining-room the silverware and plastic dishes, everything that showed that he had lived here in this empty house with a strange woman who would forget him tomorrow, who had gone and quite forgotten him already, listening to her Seashell radio pour in on her and in on her as she rode across town, alone. And as before, it was good to burn, he felt himself gush out in the fire, snatch, rend, rip in half with flame.
101 If we have to burn, let's take a few more with us. Here! He remembered the books and turned back. Just on the off chance. He found a few books where he had left them, near the garden fence. Mildred, God bless her, had missed a few. Four books still lay hidden where he had put them. Voices were wailing in the night and flashbeams swirled about. Other Salamanders were roaring their engines far away, and police sirens were cutting their way across town with their sirens. Montag took the four remaining books and hopped, jolted, hopped his way down the alley and suddenly fell as if his head had been cut off and only his body lay there. Something inside had jerked him to a halt and flopped him down. He lay where he had fallen and sobbed, his legs folded, his face pressed blindly to the gravel. Beatty wanted to die.
102 There was nowhere to go, no friend to turn to. Except Faber. And then he realized that he was indeed, running toward Faber's house, instinctively. But Faber couldn't hide him; it would be suicide even to try. But he knew that he would go to see Faber anyway, for a few short minutes. Faber's would be the place where he might refuel his fast draining belief in his own ability to survive. He just wanted to know that there was a man like Faber in the world. He wanted to see the man alive and not burned back there like a body shelled in another body. And some of the money must be left with Faber, of course, to be spent after Montag ran on his way. Perhaps he could make the open country and live on or near the rivers and near the highways, in the fields and hills. A great whirling whisper made him look to the sky.
103 He washed his hands and face and towelled himself dry, making little sound. He came out of the washroom and shut the door carefully and walked into the darkness and at last stood again on the edge of the empty boulevard. There it lay, a game for him to win, a vast bowling alley in the cool morning. The boulevard was as clean as the surface of an arena two minutes before the appearance of certain unnamed victims and certain unknown killers. The air over and above the vast concrete river trembled with the warmth of Montag's body alone; it was incredible how he felt his temperature could cause the whole immediate world to vibrate. He was a phosphorescent target; he knew it, he felt it. And now he must begin his little walk. Three blocks away a few headlights glared. Montag drew a deep breath.
104 He was three hundred yards downstream when the Hound reached the river. A storm of light fell upon the river and Montag dived under the great illumination as if the sun had broken the clouds. He felt the river pull him further on its way, into darkness. Then the lights switched back to the land, the helicopters swerved over the city again, as if they had picked up another trail. They were gone. The Hound was gone. Now there was only the cold river and Montag floating in a sudden peacefulness, away from the city and the lights and the chase, away from everything. He felt as if he had left a stage behind and many actors. He felt as if he had left the great seance and all the murmuring ghosts. He was moving from an unreality that was frightening into a reality that was unreal because it was new.
105 It burned Time. The world rushed in a circle and turned on its axis and time was busy burning the years and the people anyway, without any help from him. So if he burnt things with the firemen, and the sun burnt Time, that meant that everything burned! One of them had to stop burning. The sun wouldn't, certainly. So it looked as if it had to be Montag and the people he had worked with until a few short hours ago. Somewhere the saving and putting away had to begin again and someone had to do the saving and keeping, one way or another, in books, in records, in people's heads, any way at all so long as it was safe, free from moths, silver-fish, rust and dry-rot, and men with matches. The world was full of burning of all types and sizes. Now the guild of the asbestos-weaver must open shop very soon.
106 He would lie back and look out of the loft window, and see the lights go out in the farmhouse itself, until a very young and beautiful woman would sit in an unlit window, braiding her hair. It would be hard to see her, but her face would be like the face of the girl so long ago in his past now, so very long ago, the girl who had known the weather and never been burned by the fire-flies, the girl who had known what dandelions meant rubbed off on your chin. Then, she would be gone from the warm window and appear again upstairs in her moon-whitened room. And then, to the sound of death, the sound of the jets cutting the sky into two black pieces beyond the horizon, he would lie in the loft, hidden and safe, watching those strange new stars over the rim of the earth, fleeing from the soft colour of dawn.
107 A deer. He smelled the heavy musk-like perfume mingled with blood and the gummed exhalation of the animal's breath, all cardamon and moss and ragweed odour in this huge night where the trees ran at him, pulled away, ran, pulled away, to the pulse of the heart behind his eyes. There must have been a billion leaves on the land; he waded in them, a dry river smelling of hot cloves and warm dust. And the other smells! There was a smell like a cut potato from all the land, raw and cold and white from having the moon on it most of the night. There was a smell like pickles from a bottle and a smell like parsley on the table at home. There was a faint yellow odour like mustard from a jar. There was a smell like carnations from the yard next door. He put down his hand and felt a weed rise up like a child brushing him.
108 And he was surprised to learn how certain he suddenly was of a single fact he could not prove. Once, long ago, Clarisse had walked here. Half an hour later, cold, and moving carefully on the tracks, fully aware of his entire body, his face, his mouth, his eyes stuffed with blackness, his ears stuffed with sound, his legs prickled with burrs and nettles, he saw the fire ahead. The fire was gone, then back again, like a winking eye. He stopped, afraid he might blow the fire out with a single breath. But the fire was there and he approached warily, from a long way off. It took the better part of fifteen minutes before he drew very close indeed to it, and then he stood looking at it from cover. That small motion, the white and red colour, a strange fire because it meant a different thing to him.
109 There was a foolish and yet delicious sense of knowing himself as an animal come from the forest, drawn by the fire. He was a thing of brush and liquid eye, of fur and muzzle and hoof, he was a thing of horn and blood that would smell like autumn if you bled it out on the ground. He stood a long long time, listening to the warm crackle of the flames. There was a silence gathered all about that fire and the silence was in the men's faces, and time was there, time enough to sit by this rusting track under the trees, and look at the world and turn it over with the eyes, as if it were held to the centre of the bonfire, a piece of steel these men were all shaping. It was not only the fire that was different. It was the silence. Montag moved toward this special silence that was concerned with all of the world.
110 He was looking for a brightness, a resolve, a triumph over tomorrow that hardly seemed to be there. Perhaps he had expected their faces to burn and glitter with the knowledge they carried, to glow as lanterns glow, with the light in them. But all the light had come from the camp fire, and these men had seemed no different from any others who had run a long race, searched a long search, seen good things destroyed, and now, very late, were gathering to wait for the end of the party and the blowing out of the lamps. They weren't at all certain that the things they carried in their heads might make every future dawn glow with a purer light, they were sure of nothing save that the books were on file behind their quiet eyes, the books were waiting for the customers who might come by in later years.
111 He glanced around at his friend reading the letter and saw the books on the table. Into his eyes leaped a wistfulness and a yearning as promptly as the yearning leaps into the eyes of a starving man at sight of food. An impulsive stride, with one lurch to right and left of the shoulders, brought him to the table, where he began affectionately handling the books. He glanced at the titles and the authors' names, read fragments of text, caressing the volumes with his eyes and hands, and, once, recognized a book he had read. For the rest, they were strange books and strange authors. He chanced upon a volume of Swinburne and began reading steadily, forgetful of where he was, his face glowing. Twice he closed the book on his forefinger to look at the name of the author. Swinburne! he would remember that name.
112 And then he turned and saw the girl. The phantasmagoria of his brain vanished at sight of her. She was a pale, ethereal creature, with wide, spiritual blue eyes and a wealth of golden hair. He did not know how she was dressed, except that the dress was as wonderful as she. He likened her to a pale gold flower upon a slender stem. No, she was a spirit, a divinity, a goddess; such sublimated beauty was not of the earth. Or perhaps the books were right, and there were many such as she in the upper walks of life. She might well be sung by that chap, Swinburne. Perhaps he had had somebody like her in mind when he painted that girl, Iseult, in the book there on the table. All this plethora of sight, and feeling, and thought occurred on the instant. There was no pause of the realities wherein he moved.
113 And she began to talk quickly and easily upon the subject he had suggested. He felt better, and settled back slightly from the edge of the chair, holding tightly to its arms with his hands, as if it might get away from him and buck him to the floor. He had succeeded in making her talk her talk, and while she rattled on, he strove to follow her, marvelling at all the knowledge that was stowed away in that pretty head of hers, and drinking in the pale beauty of her face. Follow her he did, though bothered by unfamiliar words that fell glibly from her lips and by critical phrases and thought-processes that were foreign to his mind, but that nevertheless stimulated his mind and set it tingling. Here was intellectual life, he thought, and here was beauty, warm and wonderful as he had never dreamed it could be.
114 He stared at her with hungry eyes. Here was something to live for, to win to, to fight for - ay, and die for. There were such women in the world. She was one of them. She lent wings to his imagination, and great, luminous canvases spread themselves before him whereon loomed vague, gigantic figures of love and romance, and of heroic deeds for woman's sake - for a pale woman, a flower of gold. And through the swaying, palpitant vision, as through a fairy mirage, he stared at the real woman, sitting there and talking of literature and art. He listened as well, but he stared, unconscious of the fixity of his gaze or of the fact that all that was essentially masculine in his nature was shining in his eyes. But she, who knew little of the world of men, being a woman, was keenly aware of his burning eyes.
115 Again she felt drawn to him. She was surprised by a wanton thought that rushed into her mind. It seemed to her that if she could lay her two hands upon that neck that all its strength and vigor would flow out to her. She was shocked by this thought. It seemed to reveal to her an undreamed depravity in her nature. Besides, strength to her was a gross and brutish thing. Her ideal of masculine beauty had always been slender gracefulness. Yet the thought still persisted. It bewildered her that she should desire to place her hands on that sunburned neck. In truth, she was far from robust, and the need of her body and mind was for strength. But she did not know it. She knew only that no man had ever affected her before as this one had, who shocked her from moment to moment with his awful grammar.
116 The process of getting into the dining room was a nightmare to him. Between halts and stumbles, jerks and lurches, locomotion had at times seemed impossible. But at last he had made it, and was seated alongside of Her. The array of knives and forks frightened him. They bristled with unknown perils, and he gazed at them, fascinated, till their dazzle became a background across which moved a succession of forecastle pictures, wherein he and his mates sat eating salt beef with sheath-knives and fingers, or scooping thick pea-soup out of pannikins by means of battered iron spoons. The stench of bad beef was in his nostrils, while in his ears, to the accompaniment of creaking timbers and groaning bulkheads, echoed the loud mouth-noises of the eaters. He watched them eating, and decided that they ate like pigs.
117 He glanced around the table. Opposite him was Arthur, and Arthur's brother, Norman. They were her brothers, he reminded himself, and his heart warmed toward them. How they loved each other, the members of this family! There flashed into his mind the picture of her mother, of the kiss of greeting, and of the pair of them walking toward him with arms entwined. Not in his world were such displays of affection between parents and children made. It was a revelation of the heights of existence that were attained in the world above. It was the finest thing yet that he had seen in this small glimpse of that world. He was moved deeply by appreciation of it, and his heart was melting with sympathetic tenderness. He had starved for love all his life. His nature craved love. It was an organic demand of his being.
118 He did not know that his quietness was giving the lie to Arthur's words of the day before, when that brother of hers had announced that he was going to bring a wild man home to dinner and for them not to be alarmed, because they would find him an interesting wild man. Martin Eden could not have found it in him to believe that her brother could be guilty of such treachery – especially when he had been the means of getting this particular brother out of an unpleasant row. So he sat at table, perturbed by his own unfitness and at the same time charmed by all that went on about him. For the first time he realized that eating was something more than a utilitarian function. He was unaware of what he ate. It was merely food. He was feasting his love of beauty at this table where eating was an aesthetic function.
119 He paused, open-mouthed, on the verge of the pit of his own depravity and utter worthlessness to breathe the same air she did. And while Arthur took up the tale, for the twentieth time, of his adventure with the drunken hoodlums on the ferry-boat and of how Martin Eden had rushed in and rescued him, that individual, with frowning brows, meditated upon the fool he had made of himself, and wrestled more determinedly with the problem of how he should conduct himself toward these people. He certainly had not succeeded so far. He wasn't of their tribe, and he couldn't talk their lingo, was the way he put it to himself. He couldn't fake being their kind. The masquerade would fail, and besides, masquerade was foreign to his nature. There was no room in him for sham or artifice. Whatever happened, he must be real.
120 And while he talked, the girl looked at him with startled eyes. His fire warmed her. She wondered if she had been cold all her days. She wanted to lean toward this burning, blazing man that was like a volcano spouting forth strength, robustness, and health. She felt that she must lean toward him, and resisted by an effort. Then, too, there was the counter impulse to shrink away from him. She was repelled by those lacerated hands, grimed by toil so that the very dirt of life was ingrained in the flesh itself, by that red chafe of the collar and those bulging muscles. His roughness frightened her; each roughness of speech was an insult to her ear, each rough phase of his life an insult to her soul. And ever and again would come the draw of him, till she thought he must be evil to have such power over her.
121 Later, at the piano, she played for him, and at him, with the vague intent of emphasizing the impassableness of the gulf that separated them. Her music was a club that she swung brutally upon his head; and though it stunned him and crushed him down, it incited him. He gazed upon her in awe. In his mind, as in her own, the gulf widened; but faster than it widened, towered his ambition to win across it. But he was too complicated a plexus of sensibilities to sit staring at a gulf a whole evening, especially when there was music. He was remarkably susceptible to music. It was like strong drink, firing him to audacities of feeling, – a drug that laid hold of his imagination and went cloud-soaring through the sky. It banished sordid fact, flooded his mind with beauty, loosed romance and to its heels added wings.
122 It was a transfigured face, with great shining eyes that gazed beyond the veil of sound and saw behind it the leap and pulse of life and the gigantic phantoms of the spirit. She was startled. The raw, stumbling lout was gone. The ill-fitting clothes, battered hands, and sunburned face remained; but these seemed the prison-bars through which she saw a great soul looking forth, inarticulate and dumb because of those feeble lips that would not give it speech. Only for a flashing moment did she see this, then she saw the lout returned, and she laughed at the whim of her fancy. But the impression of that fleeting glimpse lingered, and when the time came for him to beat a stumbling retreat and go, she lent him the volume of Swinburne, and another of Browning – she was studying Browning in one of her courses.
123 He caught a Telegraph Avenue car that was going to Berkeley. It was crowded with youths and young men who were singing songs and ever and again barking out college yells. He studied them curiously. They were university boys. They went to the same university that she did, were in her class socially, could know her, could see her every day if they wanted to. He wondered that they did not want to, that they had been out having a good time instead of being with her that evening, talking with her, sitting around her in a worshipful and adoring circle. His thoughts wandered on. He noticed one with narrow-slitted eyes and a loose-lipped mouth. That fellow was vicious, he decided. On shipboard he would be a sneak, a whiner, a tattler. He, Martin Eden, was a better man than that fellow. The thought cheered him.
124 He wondered if there was soul in those steel-gray eyes that were often quite blue of color and that were strong with the briny airs of the sun-washed deep. He wondered, also, how his eyes looked to her. He tried to imagine himself she, gazing into those eyes of his, but failed in the jugglery. He could successfully put himself inside other men's minds, but they had to be men whose ways of life he knew. He did not know her way of life. She was wonder and mystery, and how could he guess one thought of hers? Well, they were honest eyes, he concluded, and in them was neither smallness nor meanness. The brown sunburn of his face surprised him. He had not dreamed he was so black. He rolled up his shirt-sleeve and compared the white underside if the arm with his face. Yes, he was a white man, after all.
125 He sat back on the bed with a bitter laugh, and finished taking off his shoes. He was a fool; he had been made drunken by a woman's face and by a woman's soft, white hands. And then, suddenly, before his eyes, on the foul plaster-wall appeared a vision. He stood in front of a gloomy tenement house. It was night-time, in the East End of London, and before him stood Margey, a little factory girl of fifteen. He had seen her home after the bean-feast. She lived in that gloomy tenement, a place not fit for swine. His hand was going out to hers as he said good night. She had put her lips up to be kissed, but he wasn't going to kiss her. Somehow he was afraid of her. And then her hand closed on his and pressed feverishly. He felt her callouses grind and grate on his, and a great wave of pity welled over him.
126 Martin went into the kitchen with a sinking heart, the image of her red face and slatternly form eating its way like acid into his brain. She might love him if she only had some time, he concluded. But she was worked to death. Bernard Higginbotham was a brute to work her so hard. But he could not help but feel, on the other hand, that there had not been anything beautiful in that kiss. It was true, it was an unusual kiss. For years she had kissed him only when he returned from voyages or departed on voyages. But this kiss had tasted soapsuds, and the lips, he had noticed, were flabby. There had been no quick, vigorous lip-pressure such as should accompany any kiss. Hers was the kiss of a tired woman who had been tired so long that she had forgotten how to kiss. He remembered her as a girl.
127 There had been times when it was all he could do to refrain from reaching over and mopping Jim's face in the mush-plate. The more he had chattered, the more remote had Ruth seemed to him. How could he, herding with such cattle, ever become worthy of her? He was appalled at the problem confronting him, weighted down by the incubus of his working-class station. Everything reached out to hold him down-his sister, his sister's house and family, Jim the apprentice, everybody he knew, every tie of life. Existence did not taste good in his mouth. Up to then he had accepted existence, as he had lived it with all about him, as a good thing. He had never questioned it, except when he read books; but then, they were only books, fairy stories of a fairer and impossible world. But now he had seen that world.
128 He dared not go near Ruth's neighborhood in the daytime, but night found him lurking like a thief around the Morse home, stealing glimpses at the windows and loving the very walls that sheltered her. Several times he barely escaped being caught by her brothers, and once he trailed Mr. Morse down town and studied his face in the lighted streets, longing all the while for some quick danger of death to threaten so that he might spring in and save her father. On another night, his vigil was rewarded by a glimpse of Ruth through a second-story window. He saw only her head and shoulders, and her arms raised as she fixed her hair before a mirror. It was only for a moment, but it was a long moment to him, during which his blood turned to wine and sang through his veins. Then she pulled down the shade.
129 But the reform went deeper. He still smoked, but he drank no more. Up to that time, drinking had seemed to him the proper thing for men to do, and he had prided himself on his strong head which enabled him to drink most men under the table. Whenever he encountered a chance shipmate, and there were many in San Francisco, he treated them and was treated in turn, as of old, but he ordered for himself root beer or ginger ale and good-naturedly endured their chaffing. And as they waxed maudlin he studied them, watching the beast rise and master them and thanking God that he was no longer as they. They had their limitations to forget, and when they were drunk, their dim, stupid spirits were even as gods, and each ruled in his heaven of intoxicated desire. With Martin the need for strong drink had vanished.
130 There were always numbers of men who stood on the sidewalk outside, and he could pull his cap down over his eyes and screen himself behind some one's shoulder so that she should not see him. He emerged from the theatre with the first of the crowd; but scarcely had he taken his position on the edge of the sidewalk when the two girls appeared. They were looking for him, he knew; and for the moment he could have cursed that in him which drew women. Their casual edging across the sidewalk to the curb, as they drew near, apprised him of discovery. They slowed down, and were in the thick of the crown as they came up with him. One of them brushed against him and apparently for the first time noticed him. She was a slender, dark girl, with black, defiant eyes. But they smiled at him, and he smiled back.
131 It was automatic; he had said it so often before under similar circumstances. Besides, he could do no less. There was that large tolerance and sympathy in his nature that would permit him to do no less. The black-eyed girl smiled gratification and greeting, and showed signs of stopping, while her companion, arm linked in arm, giggled and likewise showed signs of halting. He thought quickly. It would never do for Her to come out and see him talking there with them. Quite naturally, as a matter of course, he swung in along-side the dark-eyed one and walked with her. There was no awkwardness on his part, no numb tongue. He was at home here, and he held his own royally in the badinage, bristling with slang and sharpness, that was always the preliminary to getting acquainted in these swift-moving affairs.
132 A week of heavy reading had passed since the evening he first met Ruth, and still he dared not call. Time and again he nerved himself up to call, but under the doubts that assailed him his determination died away. He did not know the proper time to call, nor was there any one to tell him, and he was afraid of committing himself to an irretrievable blunder. Having shaken himself free from his old companions and old ways of life, and having no new companions, nothing remained for him but to read, and the long hours he devoted to it would have ruined a dozen pairs of ordinary eyes. But his eyes were strong, and they were backed by a body superbly strong. Furthermore, his mind was fallow. It had lain fallow all his life so far as the abstract thought of the books was concerned, and it was ripe for the sowing.
133 As he gazed at her and listened, his thoughts grew daring. He reviewed all the wild delight of the pressure of her hand in his at the door, and longed for it again. His gaze wandered often toward her lips, and he yearned for them hungrily. But there was nothing gross or earthly about this yearning. It gave him exquisite delight to watch every movement and play of those lips as they enunciated the words she spoke; yet they were not ordinary lips such as all men and women had. Their substance was not mere human clay. They were lips of pure spirit, and his desire for them seemed absolutely different from the desire that had led him to other women's lips. He could kiss her lips, rest his own physical lips upon them, but it would be with the lofty and awful fervor with which one would kiss the robe of God.
134 His firmly planned intention had come to a halt on the verge of the horrible probability that he should have asked Arthur and that he had made a fool of himself. Ruth did not speak immediately. She was too absorbed in striving to reconcile the stumbling, uncouth speech and its simplicity of thought with what she saw in his face. She had never looked in eyes that expressed greater power. Here was a man who could do anything, was the message she read there, and it accorded ill with the weakness of his spoken thought. And for that matter so complex and quick was her own mind that she did not have a just appreciation of simplicity. And yet she had caught an impression of power in the very groping of this mind. It had seemed to her like a giant writhing and straining at the bonds that held him down.
135 When she returned with the grammar, she drew a chair near his – he wondered if he should have helped her with the chair – and sat down beside him. She turned the pages of the grammar, and their heads were inclined toward each other. He could hardly follow her outlining of the work he must do, so amazed was he by her delightful propinquity. But when she began to lay down the importance of conjugation, he forgot all about her. He had never heard of conjugation, and was fascinated by the glimpse he was catching into the tie-ribs of language. He leaned closer to the page, and her hair touched his cheek. He had fainted but once in his life, and he thought he was going to faint again. He could scarcely breathe, and his heart was pounding the blood up into his throat. Never had she seemed so accessible as now.
136 Several weeks went by, during which Martin Eden studied his grammar, reviewed the books on etiquette, and read voraciously the books that caught his fancy. Of his own class he saw nothing. The girls of the Lotus Club wondered what had become of him and worried Jim with questions, and some of the fellows who put on the glove at Riley's were glad that Martin came no more. He made another discovery of treasure-trove in the library. As the grammar had shown him the tie-ribs of language, so that book showed him the tie-ribs of poetry, and he began to learn metre and construction and form, beneath the beauty he loved finding the why and wherefore of that beauty. Another modern book he found treated poetry as a representative art, treated it exhaustively, with copious illustrations from the best in literature.
137 During those several weeks he saw Ruth half a dozen times, and each time was an added inspiration. She helped him with his English, corrected his pronunciation, and started him on arithmetic. But their intercourse was not all devoted to elementary study. He had seen too much of life, and his mind was too matured, to be wholly content with fractions, cube root, parsing, and analysis; and there were times when their conversation turned on other themes – the last poetry he had read, the latest poet she had studied. And when she read aloud to him her favorite passages, he ascended to the topmost heaven of delight. Never, in all the women he had heard speak, had he heard a voice like hers. The least sound of it was a stimulus to his love, and he thrilled and throbbed with every word she uttered.
138 Her only experiences in such matters were of the books, where the facts of ordinary day were translated by fancy into a fairy realm of unreality; and she little knew that this rough sailor was creeping into her heart and storing there pent forces that would some day burst forth and surge through her in waves of fire. She did not know the actual fire of love. Her knowledge of love was purely theoretical, and she conceived of it as lambent flame, gentle as the fall of dew or the ripple of quiet water, and cool as the velvet-dark of summer nights. Her idea of love was more that of placid affection, serving the loved one softly in an atmosphere, flower-scented and dim-lighted, of ethereal calm. She did not dream of the volcanic convulsions of love, its scorching heat and sterile wastes of parched ashes.
139 After breakfast he went on with his serial. The words flowed from his pen, though he broke off from the writing frequently to look up definitions in the dictionary or to refer to the rhetoric. He often read or re-read a chapter at a time, during such pauses; and he consoled himself that while he was not writing the great things he felt to be in him, he was learning composition, at any rate, and training himself to shape up and express his thoughts. He toiled on till dark, when he went out to the reading-room and explored magazines and weeklies until the place closed at ten o'clock. This was his programme for a week. Each day he did three thousand words, and each evening he puzzled his way through the magazines, taking note of the stories, articles, and poems that editors saw fit to publish.
140 But he was oppressed by her remoteness. She was so far from him, and he did not know how to approach her. He had been a success with girls and women in his own class; but he had never loved any of them, while he did love her, and besides, she was not merely of another class. His very love elevated her above all classes. She was a being apart, so far apart that he did not know how to draw near to her as a lover should draw near. It was true, as he acquired knowledge and language, that he was drawing nearer, talking her speech, discovering ideas and delights in common; but this did not satisfy his lover's yearning. His lover's imagination had made her holy, too holy, too spiritualized, to have any kinship with him in the flesh. It was his own love that thrust her from him and made her seem impossible for him.
141 He wanted to know, and it was this desire that had sent him adventuring over the world. But he was now learning from Spencer that he never had known, and that he never could have known had he continued his sailing and wandering forever. He had merely skimmed over the surface of things, observing detached phenomena, accumulating fragments of facts, making superficial little generalizations – and all and everything quite unrelated in a capricious and disorderly world of whim and chance. The mechanism of the flight of birds he had watched and reasoned about with understanding; but it had never entered his head to try to explain the process whereby birds, as organic flying mechanisms, had been developed. He had never dreamed there was such a process. That birds should have come to be, was unguessed.
142 But his chief trouble was that he did not know any editors or writers. And not merely did he not know any writers, but he did not know anybody who had ever attempted to write. There was nobody to tell him, to hint to him, to give him the least word of advice. He began to doubt that editors were real men. They seemed cogs in a machine. That was what it was, a machine. He poured his soul into stories, articles, and poems, and intrusted them to the machine. He folded them, put the proper stamps inside the long envelope along with the manuscript, sealed the envelope, put more stamps outside, and dropped it into the mail-box. It travelled across the continent, and after a certain lapse of time the postman returned him the manuscript in another long envelope, on the outside of which were the stamps he had enclosed.
143 Her criticism was just. He acknowledged that, but he had a feeling that he was not sharing his work with her for the purpose of schoolroom correction. The details did not matter. They could take care of themselves. He could mend them, he could learn to mend them. Out of life he had captured something big and attempted to imprison it in the story. It was the big thing out of life he had read to her, not sentence-structure and semicolons. He wanted her to feel with him this big thing that was his, that he had seen with his own eyes, grappled with his own brain, and placed there on the page with his own hands in printed words. Well, he had failed, was his secret decision. Perhaps the editors were right. He had felt the big thing, but he had failed to transmute it. He concealed his disappointment.
144 But she was too busy in her mind, carving out a career for him that would at least be possible, to ask what the ultimate something was which he had hinted at. There was no career for him in literature. Of that she was convinced. He had proved it to-day, with his amateurish and sophomoric productions. He could talk well, but he was incapable of expressing himself in a literary way. She compared her favorite prose masters with him, and to his hopeless discredit. Yet she did not tell him her whole mind. Her strange interest in him led her to temporize. His desire to write was, after all, a little weakness which he would grow out of in time. Then he would devote himself to the more serious affairs of life. And he would succeed, too. He was so strong that he could not fail – if only he would drop writing.
145 It was exhausting work, carried on at top speed. Out on the broad verandas of the hotel, men and women, in cool white, sipped iced drinks and kept their circulation down. But in the laundry the air was sizzling. The huge stove roared red hot and white hot, while the irons, moving over the damp cloth, sent up clouds of steam. The heat of these irons was different from that used by housewives. An iron that stood the ordinary test of a wet finger was too cold for Joe and Martin, and such test was useless. They went wholly by holding the irons close to their cheeks, gauging the heat by some secret mental process that Martin admired but could not understand. When the fresh irons proved too hot, they hooked them on iron rods and dipped them into cold water. This again required a precise and subtle judgment.
146 Martin took a bath, after which he found that the head laundryman had disappeared. Most likely he had gone for a glass of beer, Martin decided, but the half-mile walk down to the village to find out seemed a long journey to him. He lay on his bed with his shoes off, trying to make up his mind. He did not reach out for a book. He was too tired to feel sleepy, and he lay, scarcely thinking, in a semi-stupor of weariness, until it was time for supper. Joe did not appear for that function, and when Martin heard the gardener remark that most likely he was ripping the slats off the bar, Martin understood. He went to bed immediately afterward, and in the morning decided that he was greatly rested. Joe being still absent, Martin procured a Sunday paper and lay down in a shady nook under the trees. The morning passed.
147 A third week went by, and Martin loathed himself, and loathed life. He was oppressed by a sense of failure. There was reason for the editors refusing his stuff. He could see that clearly now, and laugh at himself and the dreams he had dreamed. Ruth returned his "Sea Lyrics" by mail. He read her letter apathetically. She did her best to say how much she liked them and that they were beautiful. But she could not lie, and she could not disguise the truth from herself. She knew they were failures, and he read her disapproval in every perfunctory and unenthusiastic line of her letter. And she was right. He was firmly convinced of it as he read the poems over. Beauty and wonder had departed from him, and as he read the poems he caught himself puzzling as to what he had had in mind when he wrote them.
148 She was sure of herself, and in a few days he would be off to sea. Then, by the time he returned, she would be away on her visit East. There was a magic, however, in the strength and health of Martin. He, too, had been told of her contemplated Eastern trip, and he felt the need for haste. Yet he did not know how to make love to a girl like Ruth. Then, too, he was handicapped by the possession of a great fund of experience with girls and women who had been absolutely different from her. They had known about love and life and flirtation, while she knew nothing about such things. Her prodigious innocence appalled him, freezing on his lips all ardors of speech, and convincing him, in spite of himself, of his own unworthiness. Also he was handicapped in another way. He had himself never been in love before.
149 The impulse to avoid detection was mutual. The episode was tacitly and secretly intimate. She sat apart from him with burning cheeks, while the full force of it came home to her. She had been guilty of something she would not have her brothers see, nor Olney see. Why had she done it? She had never done anything like it in her life, and yet she had been moonlight-sailing with young men before. She had never desired to do anything like it. She was overcome with shame and with the mystery of her own burgeoning womanhood. She stole a glance at Martin, who was busy putting the boat about on the other tack, and she could have hated him for having made her do an immodest and shameful thing. And he, of all men! Perhaps her mother was right, and she was seeing too much of him. It would never happen again.
150 She was in a fever of tingling mystery, alternately frightened and charmed, and in constant bewilderment. She had one idea firmly fixed, however, which insured her security. She would not let Martin speak his love. As long as she did this, all would be well. In a few days he would be off to sea. And even if he did speak, all would be well. It could not be otherwise, for she did not love him. Of course, it would be a painful half hour for him, and an embarrassing half hour for her, because it would be her first proposal. She thrilled deliciously at the thought. She was really a woman, with a man ripe to ask for her in marriage. It was a lure to all that was fundamental in her sex. The fabric of her life, of all that constituted her, quivered and grew tremulous. The thought fluttered in her mind.
151 Yet summer lingered, fading and fainting among her hills, deepening the purple of her valleys, spinning a shroud of haze from waning powers and sated raptures, dying with the calm content of having lived and lived well. And among the hills, on their favorite knoll, Martin and Ruth sat side by side, their heads bent over the same pages, he reading aloud from the love-sonnets of the woman who had loved Browning as it is given to few men to be loved. But the reading languished. The spell of passing beauty all about them was too strong. The golden year was dying as it had lived, a beautiful and unrepentant voluptuary, and reminiscent rapture and content freighted heavily the air. It entered into them, dreamy and languorous, weakening the fibres of resolution, suffusing the face of morality, or of judgment.
152 The book slipped from his hands to the ground, and they sat idly and silently, gazing out over the dreamy bay with eyes that dreamed and did not see. Ruth glanced sidewise at his neck. She was drawn by some force outside of herself and stronger than gravitation, strong as destiny. It was only an inch to lean, and it was accomplished without volition on her part. Her shoulder touched his as lightly as a butterfly touches a flower, and just as lightly was the counter-pressure. She felt his shoulder press hers, and a tremor run through him. Then was the time for her to draw back. But she had become an automaton. Her actions had passed beyond the control of her will-she never thought of control or will in the delicious madness that was upon her. His arm began to steal behind her and around her.
153 And a moment later, tearing herself half out of his embrace, suddenly and exultantly she reached up and placed both hands upon Martin Eden's sunburnt neck. So exquisite was the pang of love and desire fulfilled that she uttered a low moan, relaxed her hands, and lay half-swooning in his arms. Not a word had been spoken, and not a word was spoken for a long time. Twice he bent and kissed her, and each time her lips met his shyly and her body made its happy, nestling movement. She clung to him, unable to release herself, and he sat, half supporting her in his arms, as he gazed with unseeing eyes at the blur of the great city across the bay. For once there were no visions in his brain. Only colors and lights and glows pulsed there, warm as the day and warm as his love. He bent over her. She was speaking.
154 Del was a slight, balding man with the worried face of an accountant who knows his embezzlement will soon be discovered. His tame mouse was sitting on his shoulder. Percy Wetmore was leaning in the doorway of the cell which had just become John Coffey's. He had taken his hickory baton out of the custom-made holster he carried it in, and was tapping it against one palm the way a man does when he has a toy he wants to use. And all at once I couldn't stand to have him there. Maybe it was the unseasonable heat, maybe it was the urinary infection heating up my groin and making the itch of my flannel underwear all but unbearable, maybe it was knowing that the state had sent me a black man next door to an idiot to execute, and Percy clearly wanted to hand-tool him a little first. Probably it was all those things.
155 He did as I said. He had raped a young girl and killed her, and had then dropped her body behind the apartment house where she lived, doused it with coal-oil, and then set it on fire, hoping in some muddled way to dispose of the evidence of his crime. The fire had spread to the building itself, had engulfed it, and six more people had died, two of them children. It was the only crime he had in him, and now he was just a mild-mannered man with a worried face, a bald pate, and long hair straggling over the back of his shirt-collar. He would sit down with Old Sparky in a little while, and Old Sparky would make an end to him... but whatever it was that had done that awful thing was already gone, and now he lay on his bunk, letting his little companion run squeaking over his hands. In a way, that was the worst.
156 I did, but before I did, I stepped out onto the back porch to empty out (and checked the wind direction with a wet thumb before I did – what our parents tell us when we are small seldom goes ignored, no matter how foolish it may be). Peeing outdoors is one joy of country living the poets never quite got around to, but it was no joy that night; the water coming out of me burned like a line of lit coal-oil. Yet I thought it had been a little worse that afternoon, and knew it had been worse the two or three days before. I had hopes that maybe I had started to mend. Never was a hope more ill-founded. No one had told me that sometimes a bug that gets up inside there, where it's warm and wet, can take a day or two off to rest before coming on strong again. I would have been surprised to know it.
157 Any one may judge what a condition I must be in at all this, who was but a young sailor, and who had been in such a fright before at but a little. But if I can express at this distance the thoughts I had about me at that time, I was in tenfold more horror of mind upon account of my former convictions, and the having returned from them to the resolutions I had wickedly taken at first, than I was at death itself; and these, added to the terror of the storm, put me into such a condition that I can by no words describe it. But the worst was not come yet; the storm continued with such fury that the seamen themselves acknowledged they had never seen a worse. We had a good ship, but she was deep laden, and wallowed in the sea, so that the seamen every now and then cried out she would founder. It was my advantage.
158 It was my lot first of all to fall into pretty good company, which does not always happen to such loose and misguided young fellows as I then was; the devil generally not omitting to lay some snare for them very early; but it was not so with me. I first got acquainted with the master of a ship who had been on the coast of Guinea; and who, having had very good success there, was resolved to go again. This captain taking a fancy to my conversation, which was not at all disagreeable at that time, hearing me say I had a mind to see the world, told me if I would go the voyage with him I should be at no expense; I should be his messmate and his companion; and if I could carry anything with me, I should have all the advantage of it that the trade would admit; and perhaps I might meet with some encouragement.
159 The wave that came upon me again buried me at once twenty or thirty feet deep in its own body, and I could feel myself carried with a mighty force and swiftness towards the shore – a very great way; but I held my breath, and assisted myself to swim still forward with all my might. I was ready to burst with holding my breath, when, as I felt myself rising up, so, to my immediate relief, I found my head and hands shoot out above the surface of the water; and though it was not two seconds of time that I could keep myself so, yet it relieved me greatly, gave me breath, and new courage. I was covered again with water a good while, but not so long but I held it out; and finding the water had spent itself, and began to return, I struck forward against the return of the waves, and felt ground again with my feet.
160 I have already observed how I brought all my goods into this pale, and into the cave which I had made behind me. But I must observe, too, that at first this was a confused heap of goods, which, as they lay in no order, so they took up all my place; I had no room to turn myself: so I set myself to enlarge my cave, and work farther into the earth; for it was a loose sandy rock, which yielded easily to the labour I bestowed on it: and so when I found I was pretty safe as to beasts of prey, I worked sideways, to the right hand, into the rock; and then, turning to the right again, worked quite out, and made me a door to come out on the outside of my pale or fortification. This gave me not only egress and regress, as it was a back way to my tent and to my storehouse, but gave me room to store my goods.
161 However, I made me a table and a chair in the first place; and this I did out of the short pieces of boards that I brought on my raft from the ship. But when I had wrought out some boards as above, I made large shelves, of the breadth of a foot and a half, one over another all along one side of my cave, to lay all my tools, nails and ironwork on; and, in a word, to separate everything at large into their places, that I might come easily at them. I knocked pieces into the wall of the rock to hang my guns and all things that would hang up; so that, had my cave been to be seen, it looked like a general magazine of all necessary things; and had everything so ready at my hand, that it was a great pleasure to me to see all my goods in such order, and especially to find my stock of all necessaries so great.
162 When I got on shore first here, and found all my ship's crew drowned and myself spared, I was surprised with a kind of ecstasy, and some transports of soul, which, had the grace of God assisted, might have come up to true thankfulness; but it ended where it began, in a mere common flight of joy, or, as I may say, being glad I was alive, without the least reflection upon the distinguished goodness of the hand which had preserved me, and had singled me out to be preserved when all the rest were destroyed, or an inquiry why Providence had been thus merciful unto me. Even just the same common sort of joy which seamen generally have, after they are got safe ashore from a shipwreck, which they drown all in the next bowl of punch, and forget almost as soon as it is over; and all the rest of my life was like it.
163 I spent all that evening there, and went not back to my habitation; which, by the way, was the first night, as I might say, I had lain from home. In the night, I took my first contrivance, and got up in a tree, where I slept well; and the next morning proceeded upon my discovery; travelling nearly four miles, as I might judge by the length of the valley, keeping still due north, with a ridge of hills on the south and north side of me. At the end of this march I came to an opening where the country seemed to descend to the west; and a little spring of fresh water, which issued out of the side of the hill by me, ran the other way, that is, due east; and the country appeared so fresh, so green, so flourishing, everything being in a constant verdure or flourish of spring that it looked like a planted garden.
164 Seated with Stuart and Brent Tarleton in the cool shade of the porch of Tara, her father's plantation, that bright April afternoon, she made a pretty picture. Her new green flowered-muslin dress spread its twelve yards of billowing material over her hoops and exactly matched the flat-heeled green morocco slippers her father had recently brought her from Atlanta. The dress set off to perfection the seventeen-inch waist, the smallest in three counties, and the tightly fitting basque showed breasts well matured for her sixteen years. But for all the modesty of her spreading skirts, the demureness of hair netted smoothly into a chignon and the quietness of small white hands folded in her lap, her true self was poorly concealed. The green eyes in the carefully sweet face were turbulent, willful, lusty with life.
165 Since the day of the speaking, Stuart had been uncomfortable in India's presence. Not that India ever reproached him or even indicated by look or gesture that she was aware of his abruptly changed allegiance. She was too much of a lady. But Stuart felt guilty and ill at ease with her. He knew he had made India love him and he knew that she still loved him and, deep in his heart, he had the feeling that he had not played the gentleman. He still liked her tremendously and respected her for her cool good breeding, her book learning and all the sterling qualities she possessed. But, damn it, she was just so pallid and uninteresting and always the same, beside Scarlett's bright and changeable charm. You always knew where you stood with India and you never had the slightest notion with Scarlett.
166 These latter young men were as anxious to fight the Yankees, should war come, as were their richer neighbors; but the delicate question of money arose. Few small farmers owned horses. They carried on their farm operations with mules and they had no surplus of these, seldom more than four. The mules could not be spared to go off to war, even if they had been acceptable for the Troop, which they emphatically were not. As for the poor whites, they considered themselves well off if they owned one mule. The backwoods folks and the swamp dwellers owned neither horses nor mules. They lived entirely off the produce of their lands and the game in the swamp, conducting their business generally by the barter system and seldom seeing five dollars in cash a year, and horses and uniforms were out of their reach.
167 When the twins left Scarlett standing on the porch of Tara and the last sound of flying hooves had died away, she went back to her chair like a sleepwalker. Her face felt stiff as from pain and her mouth actually hurt from having stretched it, unwillingly, in smiles to prevent the twins from learning her secret. She sat down wearily, tucking one foot under her, and her heart swelled up with misery, until it felt too large for her bosom. It beat with odd little jerks; her hands were cold, and a feeling of disaster oppressed her. There were pain and bewilderment in her face, the bewilderment of a pampered child who has always had her own way for the asking and who now, for the first time, was in contact with the unpleasantness of life. Ashley to marry Melanie Hamilton! Oh, it couldn't be true!
168 It was time for Gerald's return and, if she expected to see him alone, there was nothing for her to do except meet him where the driveway entered the road. She went quietly down the front steps, looking over her shoulder to make sure Mammy was not observing her from the upstairs windows. Seeing no broad black face, turbaned in snowy white, peering disapprovingly from between fluttering curtains, she boldly snatched up her green flowered skirts and sped down the path toward the driveway as fast as her small ribbon-laced slippers would carry her. The dark cedars on either side of the graveled drive met in an arch overhead, turning the long avenue into a dim tunnel. As soon as she was beneath the gnarled arms of the cedars, she knew she was safe from observation from the house and she slowed her swift pace.
169 She loved him and she wanted him and she did not understand him. She was as forthright and simple as the winds that blew over Tara, and to the end of her days she would never be able to understand a complexity. And now, for the first time in her life, she was facing a complex nature. For Ashley was born of a line of men who used their leisure for thinking, not doing, for spinning brightly colored dreams that had in them no touch of reality. He moved in an inner world that was more beautiful than Georgia and came back to reality with reluctance. He looked on people, and he neither liked nor disliked them. He looked on life and was neither heartened nor saddened. He accepted the universe and his place in it for what they were and, shrugging, turned to his music and books and his better world.
170 In the mornings, after all-night sessions at births and deaths, when old Dr. Fontaine and young Dr. Fontaine were both out on calls and could not be found to help her, Ellen presided at the breakfast table as usual, her dark eyes circled with weariness but her voice and manner revealing none of the strain. There was a steely quality under her stately gentleness that awed the whole household, Gerald as well as the girls, though he would have died rather than admit it. Sometimes when Scarlett tiptoed at night to kiss her tall mother's cheek, she looked up at the mouth with its too short, too tender upper lip, a mouth too easily hurt by the world, and wondered if it had ever curved in silly girlish giggling or whispered secrets through long nights to intimate girl friends. But no, that wasn't possible.
171 But Gerald remained Gerald. His habits of living and his ideas changed, but his manners he would not change, even had he been able to change them. He admired the drawling elegance of the wealthy rice and cotton planters, who rode into Savannah from their moss-hung kingdoms, mounted on thoroughbred horses and followed by the carriages of their equally elegant ladies and the wagons of their slaves. But Gerald could never attain elegance. Their lazy, blurred voices fell pleasantly on his ears, but his own brisk brogue clung to his tongue. He liked the casual grace with which they conducted affairs of importance, risking a fortune, a plantation or a slave on the turn of a card and writing off their losses with careless good humor and no more ado than when they scattered pennies to pickaninnies.
172 When Gerald was forty-three, so thickset of body and florid of face that he looked like a hunting squire out of a sporting print, it came to him that Tara, dear though it was, and the County folk, with their open hearts and open houses, were not enough. He wanted a wife. Tara cried out for a mistress. The fat cook, a yard negro elevated by necessity to the kitchen, never had the meals on time, and the chambermaid, formerly a field hand, let dust accumulate on the furniture and never seemed to have clean linen on hand, so that the arrival of guests was always the occasion of much stirring and to-do. Pork, the only trained house negro on the place, had general supervision over the other servants, but even he had grown slack and careless after several years of exposure to Gerald's happy-go-lucky mode of living.
173 Here in north Georgia was a rugged section held by a hardy people. High up on the plateau at the foot of the mountains, she saw rolling red hills wherever she looked, with huge outcroppings of the underlying granite and gaunt pines towering somberly everywhere. It all seemed wild and untamed to her coastbred eyes accustomed to the quiet jungle beauty of the sea islands draped in their gray moss and tangled green, the white stretches of beach hot beneath a semitropic sun, the long flat vistas of sandy land studded with palmetto and palm. This was a section that knew the chill of winter, as well as the heat of summer, and there was a vigor and energy in the people that was strange to her. They were a kindly people, courteous, generous, filled with abounding good nature, but sturdy, virile, easy to anger.
174 And, quickening all of the affairs of the section, was the high tide of prosperity then rolling over the South. All of the world was crying out for cotton, and the new land of the County, unworn and fertile, produced it abundantly. Cotton was the heartbeat of the section, the planting and the picking were the diastole and systole of the red earth. Wealth came out of the curving furrows, and arrogance came too – arrogance built on green bushes and the acres of fleecy white. If cotton could make them rich in one generation, how much richer they would be in the next! This certainty of the morrow gave zest and enthusiasm to life, and the County people enjoyed life with a heartiness that Ellen could never understand. They had money enough and slaves enough to give them time to play, and they liked to play.
175 She did not expect life to be easy, and, if it was not happy, that was woman's lot. It was a man's world, and she accepted it as such. The man owned the property, and the woman managed it. The man took the credit for the management, and the woman praised his cleverness. The man roared like a bull when a splinter was in his finger, and the woman muffled the moans of childbirth, lest she disturb him. Men were rough of speech and often drunk. Women ignored the lapses of speech and put the drunkards to bed without bitter words. Men were rude and outspoken, women were always kind, gracious and forgiving. She had been reared in the tradition of great ladies, which had taught her how to carry her burden and still retain her charm, and she intended that her three daughters should be great ladies also.
176 The rose organdie with long pink sash was becoming, but she had worn it last summer when Melanie visited Twelve Oaks and she'd be sure to remember it. And might be catty enough to mention it. The black bombazine, with its puffed sleeves and princess lace collar, set off her white skin superbly, but it did make her look a trifle elderly. Scarlett peered anxiously in the mirror at her sixteen-year-old face as if expecting to see wrinkles and sagging chin muscles. It would never do to appear sedate and elderly before Melanie's sweet youthfulness. The lavender barred muslin was beautiful with those wide insets of lace and net about the hem, but it had never suited her type. It would suit Carreen's delicate profile and wishy-washy expression perfectly, but Scarlett felt that it made her look like a schoolgirl.
177 The wide curving driveway was full of saddle horses and carriages and guests alighting and calling greetings to friends. Grinning negroes, excited as always at a party, were leading the animals to the barnyard to be unharnessed and unsaddled for the day. Swarms of children, black and white, ran yelling about the newly green lawn, playing hopscotch and tag and boasting how much they were going to eat. The wide hall which ran from front to back of the house was swarming with people, and as the O'Hara carriage drew up at the front steps, Scarlett saw girls in crinolines, bright as butterflies, going up and coming down the stairs from the second floor, arms about each other's waists, stopping to lean over the delicate handrail of the banisters, laughing and calling to young men in the hall below them.
178 As she chattered and laughed and cast quick glances into the house and the yard, her eyes fell on a stranger, standing alone in the hall, staring at her in a cool impertinent way that brought her up sharply with a mingled feeling of feminine pleasure that she had attracted a man and an embarrassed sensation that her dress was too low in the bosom. He looked quite old, at least thirty-five. He was a tall man and powerfully built. Scarlett thought she had never seen a man with such wide shoulders, so heavy with muscles, almost too heavy for gentility. When her eye caught his, he smiled, showing animal-white teeth below a close-clipped black mustache. He was dark of face, swarthy as a pirate, and his eyes were as bold and black as any pirate's appraising a galleon to be scuttled or a maiden to be ravished.
179 Time and events were telescoped, jumbled together like a nightmare that had no reality or reason. Till the day she died there would be blank spots in her memories of those days. Especially vague were her recollections of the time between her acceptance of Charles and her wedding. Two weeks! So short an engagement would have been impossible in times of peace. Then there would have been a decorous interval of a year or at least six months. But the South was aflame with war, events roared along as swiftly as if carried by a mighty wind and the slow tempo of the old days was gone. Ellen had wrung her hands and counseled delay, in order that Scarlett might think the matter over at greater length. But to her pleadings, Scarlett turned a sullen face and a deaf ear. Marry she would! and quickly too. Within two weeks.
180 But when the dancing and toasting were finally ended and the dawn was coming, when all the Atlanta guests who could be crowded into Tara and the overseer's house had gone to sleep on beds, sofas and pallets on the floor and all the neighbors had gone home to rest in preparation for the wedding at Twelve Oaks the next day, then the dreamlike trance shattered like crystal before reality. The reality was the blushing Charles, emerging from her dressing room in his nightshirt, avoiding the startled look she gave him over the high-pulled sheet. Of course, she knew that married people occupied the same bed but she had never given the matter a thought before. It seemed very natural in the case of her mother and father, but she had never applied it to herself. Now she realized just what she had brought on herself.
181 A widow had to wear hideous black dresses without even a touch of braid to enliven them, no flower or ribbon or lace or even jewelry, except onyx mourning brooches or necklaces made from the deceased's hair. And the black veil on her bonnet had to reach to her knees, and only after three years of widowhood could it be shortened to shoulder length. Widows could never chatter vivaciously or laugh aloud. Even when they smiled, it must be a sad, tragic smile. And, most dreadful of all, they could in no way indicate an interest in the company of gentlemen. And should a gentleman be so ill bred as to indicate an interest in her, she must freeze him with a dignified but well-chosen reference to her dead husband. Oh, yes, thought Scarlett, drearily, some widows do remarry eventually, when they are old and stringy.
182 Atlanta had always interested her more than any other town because when she was a child Gerald had told her that she and Atlanta were exactly the same age. She discovered when she grew older that Gerald had stretched the truth somewhat, as was his habit when a little stretching would improve a story; but Atlanta was only nine years older than she was, and that still left the place amazingly young by comparison with any other town she had ever heard of. Savannah and Charleston had the dignity of their years, one being well along in its second century and the other entering its third, and in her young eyes they had always seemed like aged grandmothers fanning themselves placidly in the sun. But Atlanta was of her own generation, crude with the crudities of youth and as headstrong and impetuous as herself.
183 So she gracefully evaded, for the time being, a definite answer as to the duration of her visit and slipped easily into the life of the red-brick house at the quiet end of Peachtree Street. Living with Charles' blood kin, seeing the home from which he came, Scarlett could now understand a little better the boy who had made her wife, widow and mother in such rapid succession. It was easy to see why he had been so shy, so unsophisticated, so idealistic. If Charles had inherited any of the qualities of the stern, fearless, hot-tempered soldier who had been his father, they had been obliterated in childhood by the ladylike atmosphere in which he had been reared. He had been devoted to the childlike Pitty and closer than brothers usually are to Melanie, and two more sweet, unworldly women could not be found.
184 The hall was full of girls, girls who floated in butterfly bright dresses, hooped out enormously, lace pantalets peeping from beneath; round little white shoulders bare, and faintest traces of soft little bosoms showing above lace flounces; lace shawls carelessly hanging from arms; fans spangled and painted, fans of swan's-down and peacock feathers, dangling at wrists by tiny velvet ribbons; girls with masses of golden curls about their necks and fringed gold earbobs that tossed and danced with their dancing curls. Laces and silks and braid and ribbons, all blockade run, all the more precious and more proudly worn because of it, finery flaunted with an added pride as an extra affront to the Yankees. Not all the flowers of the town were standing in tribute to the leaders of the Confederacy.
185 For a brief moment she considered the unfairness of it all. How short was the time for fun, for pretty clothes, for dancing, for coquetting! Then you married and wore dull-colored dresses and had babies that ruined your waist line and sat in corners at dances with other sober matrons and only emerged to dance with your husband or with old gentlemen who stepped on your feet. If you didn't do these things, the other matrons talked about you and then your reputation was ruined and your family disgraced. It seemed such a terrible waste to spend all your little girlhood learning how to be attractive and how to catch men and then only use the knowledge for a year or two. When she considered her training at the hands of Ellen and Mammy, she knew it had been thorough and good because it had always reaped results.
186 Her indignant and hopeless reverie was broken when the crowd began pushing back against the walls, the ladies carefully holding their hoops so that no careless contact should turn them up against their bodies and show more pantalets than was proper. Scarlett tiptoed above the crowd and saw the captain of the militia mounting the orchestra platform. He shouted orders and half of the Company fell into line. For a few minutes they went through a brisk drill that brought perspiration to their foreheads and cheers and applause from the audience. Scarlett clapped her hands dutifully with the rest and, as the soldiers pushed forward toward the punch and lemonade booths after they were dismissed, she turned to Melanie, feeling that she had better begin her deception about the Cause as soon as possible.
187 She sighed as she carefully tied the ribbon about the packet, wondering for the thousandth time just what it was in Ashley that eluded her understanding. She tried to think the matter to some satisfactory conclusion but, as always, the conclusion evaded her uncomplex mind. She put the letters back in the lap secretary and closed the lid. Then she frowned, for her mind went back to the last part of the letter she had just read, to his mention of Captain Butler. How strange that Ashley should be impressed by something that scamp had said a year ago. Undeniably Captain Butler was a scamp, for all that he danced divinely. No one but a scamp would say the things about the Confederacy that he had said at the bazaar. She crossed the room to the mirror and patted her smooth hair approvingly. Her spirits rose.
188 The blockade about the ports had tightened, and luxuries such as tea, coffee, silks, whalebone stays, colognes, fashion magazines and books were scarce and dear. Even the cheapest cotton goods had skyrocketed in price and ladies were regretfully making their old dresses do another season. Looms that had gathered dust for years had been brought down from attics, and there were webs of homespun to be found in nearly every parlor. Everyone, soldiers, civilians, women, children and negroes, began to wear homespun. Gray, as the color of the Confederate uniform, practically disappeared and homespun of a butternut shade took its place. Already the hospitals were worrying about the scarcity of quinine, calomel, opium, chloroform and iodine. Linen and cotton bandages were too precious now to be thrown away when used.
189 Her thoughts and activities were the same as they had been in the old days, but the field of her activities had widened immensely. Careless of the disapproval of Aunt Pitty's friends, she behaved as she had behaved before her marriage, went to parties, danced, went riding with soldiers, flirted, did everything she had done as a girl, except stop wearing mourning. This she knew would be a straw that would break the backs of Pittypat and Melanie. She was as charming a widow as she had been a girl, pleasant when she had her own way, obliging as long as it did not discommode her, vain of her looks and her popularity. She was happy now where a few weeks before she had been miserable, happy with her beaux and their reassurances of her charm, as happy as she could be with Ashley married to Melanie and in danger.
190 And he annoyed her frequently. He was in his mid-thirties, older than any beau she had ever had, and she was as helpless as a child to control and handle him as she had handled beaux nearer her own age. He always looked as if nothing had ever surprised him and much had amused him and, when he had gotten her into a speechless temper, she felt that she amused him more than anything in the world. Frequently she flared into open wrath under his expert baiting, for she had Gerald's Irish temper along with the deceptive sweetness of face she had inherited from Ellen. Heretofore she had never bothered to control her temper except in Ellen's presence. Now it was painful to have to choke back words for fear of his amused grin. If only he would ever lose his temper too, then she would not feel at such a disadvantage.
191 But sooner or later, he returned to Atlanta, called, presumably on Aunt Pitty, and presented Scarlett, with overdone gallantry, a box of bonbons he had brought her from Nassau. Or preempted a seat by her at a musicale or claimed her at a dance, and she was usually so amused by his bland impudence that she laughed and overlooked his past misdeeds until the next occurred. For all his exasperating qualities, she grew to look forward to his calls. There was something exciting about him that she could not analyze, something different from any man she had ever known. There was something breathtaking in the grace of his big body which made his very entrance into a room like an abrupt physical impact, something in the impertinence and bland mockery of his dark eyes that challenged her spirit to subdue him.
192 He was unfailingly courteous to her, but she was a little timid with him, largely because she was shy with any man she had not known from childhood. Secretly she was very sorry for him, a feeling which would have amused him had he been aware of it. She was certain that some romantic sorrow had blighted his life and made him hard and bitter, and she felt that what he needed was the love of a good woman. In all her sheltered life she had never seen evil and could scarcely credit its existence, and when gossip whispered things about Rhett and the girl in Charleston she was shocked and unbelieving. And, instead of turning her against him, it only made her more timidly gracious toward him because of her indignation at what she fancied was a gross injustice done him. Scarlett silently agreed with Aunt Pitty.
193 The ladies could forgive and forget a great many things for such a brave man. He was a dashing figure and one that people turned to look at. He spent money freely, rode a wild black stallion, and wore clothes which were always the height of style and tailoring. The latter in itself was enough to attract attention to him, for the uniforms of the soldiers were dingy and worn now and the civilians, even when turned out in their best, showed skillful patching and darning. Scarlett thought she had never seen such elegant pants as he wore, fawn colored, shepherd's plaid, and checked. As for his waistcoats, they were indescribably handsome, especially the white watered-silk one with tiny pink rosebuds embroidered on it. And he wore these garments with a still more elegant air as though unaware of their glory.
194 The doctor's letter was the first of a chorus of indignation that was beginning to be heard all over the South against speculators, profiteers and holders of government contracts. Conditions in Wilmington, the chief blockade port, now that Charleston's port was practically sealed by the Yankee gunboats, had reached the proportions of an open scandal. Speculators swarmed Wilmington and, having the ready cash, bought up boatloads of goods and held them for a rise in prices. The rise always came, for with the increasing scarcity of necessities, prices leaped higher by the month. The civilian population had either to do without or buy at the speculators' prices, and the poor and those in moderate circumstances were suffering increasing hardships. With the rise in prices, Confederate money sank.
195 Scarlett cast down her eyes. Now, he was going to try to take liberties, just as Ellen predicted. He was going to kiss her, or try to kiss her, and she couldn't quite make up her flurried mind which it should be. If she refused, he might jerk the bonnet right off her head and give it to some other girl. On the other hand, if she permitted one chaste peck, he might bring her other lovely presents in the hope of getting another kiss. Men set such a store by kisses, though Heaven alone knew why. And lots of times, after one kiss they fell completely in love with a girl and made most entertaining spectacles of themselves, provided the girl was clever and withheld her kisses after the first one. It would be exciting to have Rhett Butler in love with her and admitting it and begging for a kiss or a smile.
196 She did not see that Rhett had pried open the prison of her widowhood and set her free to queen it over unmarried girls when her days as a belle should have been long past. Nor did she see that under his influence she had come a long way from Ellen's teachings. The change had been so gradual, the flouting of one small convention seeming to have no connection with the flouting of another, and none of them any connection with Rhett. She did not realize that, with his encouragement, she had disregarded many of the sternest injunctions of her mother concerning the proprieties, forgotten the difficult lessons in being a lady. She only saw that the bonnet was the most becoming one she ever had, that it had not cost her a penny and that Rhett must be in love with her, whether he admitted it or not.
197 The women did not speak, but their pale set faces pleaded with a mute eloquence that was louder than wailing. There was hardly a house in town that had not sent away a son, a brother, a father, a lover, a husband, to this battle. They all waited to hear the news that death had come to their homes. They expected death. They did not expect defeat. That thought they dismissed. Their men might be dying, even now, on the sun-parched grass of the Pennsylvania hills. Even now the Southern ranks might be falling like grain before a hailstorm, but the Cause for which they fought could never fall. They might be dying in thousands but, like the fruit of the dragon's teeth, thousands of fresh men in gray and butternut with the Rebel yell on their lips would spring up from the earth to take their places.
198 But Scarlett hardly heard a word he said, so enraptured was she at being in the same room with Ashley again. How could she have thought during these two years that other men were nice or handsome or exciting? How could she have even endured hearing them make love to her when Ashley was in the world? He was home again, separated from her only by the width of the parlor rug, and it took all her strength not to dissolve in happy tears every time she looked at him sitting there on the sofa with Melly on one side and India on the other and Honey hanging over his shoulder. If only she had the right to sit there beside him, her arm through his! If only she could pat his sleeve every few minutes to make sure he was really there, hold his hand and use his handkerchief to wipe away her tears of joy.
199 So many dear memories that would bring back to him those lovely days when they roamed the County like care-free children, so many things that would call to mind the days before Melanie Hamilton entered on the scene. And while they talked she could perhaps read in his eyes some quickening of emotion, some hint that behind the barrier of husbandly affection for Melanie he still cared, cared as passionately as on that day of the barbecue when he burst forth with the truth. It did not occur to her to plan just what they would do if Ashley should declare his love for her in unmistakable words. It would be enough to know that he did care... Yes, she could wait, could let Melanie have her happy hour of squeezing his arm and crying. Her time would come. After all, what did a girl like Melanie know of love?
200 She sat on the divan in the parlor, holding her going-away gift for him in her lap, waiting while he said good-by to Melanie, praying that when he did come down the stairs he would be alone and she might be granted by Heaven a few moments alone with him. Her ears strained for sounds from upstairs, but the house was oddly still, so still that even the sound of her breathing seemed loud. Aunt Pittypat was crying into her pillows in her room, for Ashley had told her good-by half an hour before. No sounds of murmuring voices or of tears came from behind the closed door of Melanie's bedroom. It seemed to Scarlett that he had been in that room for hours, and she resented bitterly each moment that he stayed, saying good-by to his wife, for the moments were slipping by so fast and his time was so short.
201 All that night Turi Guiliano had not been able to sleep. Had he really been afraid of that man with the evil face and threatening body? Had he shivered like a girl? Were they all laughing at him? What did his best friend, his cousin, Aspanu, think of him now? That he was a coward? That he, Turi Guiliano, the leader of the youth of Montelepre, the most respected, the one acknowledged as the strongest and most fearless, had buckled at the first threat of a true man? And yet, he told himself, why risk a vendetta that could lead to death over the small matter of a billiard game, an older man's irascible rudeness? It would not have been like a quarrel with another youth. He had known that this quarrel could be serious. He had known that these men were with the Friends of the Friends, and it had made him afraid.
202 Guiliano slept badly and woke in that sullen mood so dangerous in adolescent males. He seemed to himself ridiculous. He had always wanted to be a hero, like most young men. If he had lived in any other part of Italy he would have become a soldier long before, but as a true Sicilian he had not volunteered, and his godfather, Hector Adonis, had made certain arrangements so that he wouldn't be called. After all, though Italy governed Sicily, no true Sicilian felt he was an Italian. And then, if the truth be told, the Italian government itself was not so anxious to draft Sicilians, especially in the last year of the war. Sicilians had too many relatives in America, Sicilians were born criminals and renegades, Sicilians were too stupid to be trained in modern warfare and they caused trouble wherever they went.
203 Now Prince Ollorto, though he was an extreme reactionary politically, and like most of the Sicilian nobility had no sense of economic justice, had always a sense of identity with the lower classes. He felt that they were human beings like himself and no man who worked for him and minded his manners and knew his place would be left in want. The servants in his castle adored him. He treated them like members of the family. There were always gifts for their birthdays and little treats for them on the holidays. During family meals when no outside guests were present, the servants waiting on the table would join in the family discussion and give their opinions on the noble family's problems. And this was not uncommon in Italy. The lower classes were treated cruelly only when they fought for their economic rights.
204 In the end Pisciotta was proved right. Don Croce sent word through Hector Adonis that the Christian Democratic party could not get the amnesty for Guiliano and his men because of the massacre at the Portella della Ginestra. It would be too much of a scandal; the charges that it had been politically inspired would flare up again. The newspapers would go berserk and there would be violent strikes all over Italy. Don Croce said that naturally Minister Trezza's hands were tied, that the Cardinal of Palermo could no longer help a man who was thought to have massacred innocent women and children; but that he, Don Croce, would continue to work for amnesty. However, he advised Guiliano that it would be better to emigrate to Brazil or the United States, and in that endeavor, he, Don Croce, would help in any way.
205 The third man on horseback was Don Piddu of Caltanissetta and his steed's bridle was garlanded with flowers. He was known to be susceptible to flattery and vain of his appearance, jealous of power and murderous to the aspirations of young men. At a village festival, a young peasant gallant had stricken the local women dumb with admiration because he wore bells on his ankles when he danced, wore a shirt and trousers made of green silk, tailored in Palermo, and sang as he played a guitar manufactured in Madrid. Don Piddu had been incensed with the adulation shown this rural Valentino, furious that the women did not admire a real man like himself rather than this simpering, effeminate youth. Who danced no more after that fateful day but was found on the road to his farm, his body riddled with bullets.
206 At that moment, anger blinding his instinct for survival, Stefano Andolini grabbed the pistol out of the Inspector's belt holster and tried to fire. In that same instant the police officer drew his own gun and fired four shots into Andolini's body. Andolini was hurled against the far wall and then lay on the floor. The white shirt was stained completely red and, Velardi thought, it matched his hair quite nicely. He reached down and took the pistol from Andolini's hand as other policemen rushed into the room. He complimented the Captain on his alertness, and then in full view of the officer he loaded his pistol with the bullets he had emptied out of it before the meeting. He did not want his Captain to get delusions of grandeur, that he had actually saved the life of a careless head of the Security Police.
207 In her years abroad there were incidents from which she should have learned some valuable lessons. In Paris a group of tramps living under one of the bridges tried to rape her when she roamed the city in search of local color. In Rome two beggars tried to snatch her purse as she was giving them money, and in both cases she had been rescued by her vigilant Secret Service detail. But this made no impression on her general faith that man was good. Every human being had the immortal seed of goodness in his soul, no one was beyond redemption. As a feminist she had, of course, learned of the tyranny of men over women, but did not really comprehend the brutal force men used when dealing with their own world. She had no sense of how one human being could betray another human being in the most false and cruel ways.
208 Kennedy had swept the country along with him in his campaign for the presidency. He had proclaimed he would write a new social contract for the American people. What makes a civilization endure? He asked them. It is the contract between the governors and the governed. The government must promise public safety from crime, from economic hardship; it must promise to every citizen the right and the means to pursue the individual dream of enjoying personal happiness in this life. And then, only then, would the governed be obligated to obey the common laws that ensure civilization. And Kennedy proposed that as part of that sacred social contract all major questions in American society be settled by referendums rather than by decisions made by the Congress, by the Supreme Court or by the President.
209 The beauty of this was that the man was usually an errant husband reluctant to report the incident to the police and have to answer questions about just what he was doing in a dark hall on Ninth Avenue when his wife was waiting for him in Merrick, Long Island, or Trenton, New Jersey. For safety's sake, both Blade and Kim would simply avoid the Times Square Bar for a week. And Ninth Avenue. They would move to Second Avenue. In a city like New York that was like going to another black hole in the galaxy. That was why Blade Booker loved New York. He was invisible, like The Shadow, The Man with a Thousand Faces. And he was like those insects and birds he saw on the TV public broadcasting channels who changed color to blend with the terrain, the insects who could burrow into the earth to escape predators.
210 At Oddblood Gray's suggestion, they traveled to New York together. They walked down Fifth Avenue to lead a memorial parade to the great crater made by the atom bomb explosion. They did this to show the nation that there was no longer any danger of radiation, that there was no danger of another hidden bomb. Kennedy performed his part of the memorial ceremony for the dead and the dedication of the land to build a park for all the people to remember. Part of his speech was devoted to the dangers of unrestricted freedom for the individual in this dangerous technocratic age. And his belief that individual freedom must be subordinated to further the social contract, that the individual must give up something to improve the life of the social mass. He said this in passing, but it was much noted by the media.
211 The first bullet caught Don Corleone in the back. He felt the hammer shock of its impact but made his body move toward the car. The next two bullets hit him in the buttocks and sent him sprawling in the middle of the street. Meanwhile the two gunmen, careful not to slip on the rolling fruit, started to follow in order to finish him off. At that moment, perhaps no more than five seconds after the Don's call to his son, Frederico Corleone appeared out of his car, looming over it. The gunmen fired two more hasty shots at the Don lying in the gutter. One hit him in the fleshy part of his arm and the second hit him in the calf of his right leg. Though these wounds were the least serious they bled profusely, forming small pools of blood beside his body. But by this time Don Corleone had lost consciousness.
212 Very carefully Vito took the wide wallet out of the dead man's jacket pocket and put it inside his shirt. Then he walked across the street into the loft building, through that into the yard and climbed the fire escape to the roof. From there he surveyed the street. Fanucci's body was still lying in the doorway but there was no sign of any other person. Two windows had gone up in the tenement and he could see dark heads poked out but since he could not see their features they had certainly not seen his. And such men would not give information to the police. Fanucci might lie there until dawn or until a patrolman making the rounds stumbled on his body. No person in that house would deliberately expose himself to police suspicion or questioning. They would lock their doors and pretend they had heard nothing.
213 He waited with a feeling of the utmost despair. For, he had no doubt as to what services he would be called upon to perform. For the last year the Corleone Family had waged war against the five great Mafia Families of New York and the carnage had filled the newspapers. Many men on both sides had been killed. Now the Corleone Family had killed somebody so important that they wished to hide his body, make it disappear, and what better way than to have it officially buried by a registered undertaker? And Amerigo Bonasera had no illusions about the act he was to commit. He would be an accessory to murder. If it came out, he would spend years in jail. His daughter and wife would be disgraced, his good name, the respected name of Amerigo Bonasera, dragged through the bloody, mud of the Mafia war.
214 Beyond the orange grove lay the green ribboned fields of a baronial estate. Down the road from the grove was a villa so Roman it looked as if it had been dug up from the ruins of Pompeii. It was a little palace with a huge marble portico and fluted Grecian columns and through those columns came a bevy of village girls flanked by two stout matrons clad in black. They were from the village and had obviously fulfilled their ancient duty to the local baron by cleaning his villa and otherwise preparing it for his winter sojourn. Now they were going into the fields to pick the flowers with which they would fill the rooms. They were gathering the pink sulla, purple wisteria, mixing them with orange and lemon blossoms. The girls, not seeing the men resting in the orange grove, came closer and closer.
215 Richard left us on the very next evening to begin his new career, and committed Ada to my charge with great love for her and great trust in me. It touched me then to reflect, and it touches me now, more nearly, to remember (having what I have to tell) how they both thought of me, even at that engrossing time. I was a part of all their plans, for the present and the future, I was to write Richard once a week, making my faithful report of Ada, who was to write to him every alternate day. I was to be informed, under his own hand, of all his labours and successes; I was to observe how resolute and persevering he would be; I was to be Ada's bridesmaid when they were married; I was to live with them afterwards; I was to keep all the keys of their house; I was to be made happy for ever and a day.
216 Therefore I was driven at last to asking Richard if he would mind convincing me that it really was all over there, as he had said, and that it was not his mere impression. He showed me without hesitation a correspondence making it quite plain that his retirement was arranged. I found, from what he told me, that Mr. Vholes had copies of these papers and had been in consultation with him throughout. Beyond ascertaining this, and having been the bearer of Ada's letter, and being (as I was going to be) Richard's companion back to London, I had done no good by coming down. Admitting this to myself with a reluctant heart, I said I would return to the hotel and wait until he joined me there, so he threw a cloak over his shoulders and saw me to the gate, and Charley and I went back along the beach.
217 But he has his revenge. Even the winds are his messengers, and they serve him in these hours of darkness. There is not a drop of Tom's corrupted blood but propagates infection and contagion somewhere. It shall pollute, this very night, the choice stream (in which chemists on analysis would find the genuine nobility) of a Norman house, and his Grace shall not be able to say nay to the infamous alliance. There is not an atom of Tom's slime, not a cubic inch of any pestilential gas in which he lives, not one obscenity or degradation about him, not an ignorance, not a wickedness, not a brutality of his committing, but shall work its retribution through every order of society up to the proudest of the proud and to the highest of the high. Verily, what with tainting, plundering, and spoiling, Tom has his revenge.
218 As she pressed me to stay to dinner, I remained, and I believe we talked about nothing but him all day. I told her how much the people liked him at Yarmouth, and what a delightful companion he had been. Miss Dartle was full of hints and mysterious questions, but took a great interest in all our proceedings there, and said, 'Was it really though?' and so forth, so often, that she got everything out of me she wanted to know. Her appearance was exactly what I have described it, when I first saw her; but the society of the two ladies was so agreeable, and came so natural to me, that I felt myself falling a little in love with her. I could not help thinking, several times in the course of the evening, and particularly when I walked home at night, what delightful company she would be in Buckingham Street.
219 A delightful walk it was; for it was a pleasant afternoon in June, and their way lay through a deep and shady wood, cooled by the light wind which gently rustled the thick foliage, and enlivened by the songs of the birds that perched upon the boughs. The ivy and the moss crept in thick clusters over the old trees, and the soft green turf overspread the ground like a silken mat. They emerged upon an open park, with an ancient hall, displaying the quaint and picturesque architecture of Elizabeth's time. Long vistas of stately oaks and elm trees appeared on every side; large herds of deer were cropping the fresh grass; and occasionally a startled hare scoured along the ground, with the speed of the shadows thrown by the light clouds which swept across a sunny landscape like a passing breath of summer.
220 When the man had shut the green gate after him, he walked, as we have said twice already, with a brisk pace up the courtyard; but he no sooner caught sight of Mr. Weller than he faltered, and stopped, as if uncertain, for the moment, what course to adopt. As the green gate was closed behind him, and there was no other outlet but the one in front, however, he was not long in perceiving that he must pass Mr. Samuel Weller to get away. He therefore resumed his brisk pace, and advanced, staring straight before him. The most extraordinary thing about the man was, that he was contorting his face into the most fearful and astonishing grimaces that ever were beheld. Nature's handiwork never was disguised with such extraordinary artificial carving, as the man had overlaid his countenance with in one moment.
221 It is a very ill wind that blows nobody any good. The prim man in the cloth boots, who had been unsuccessfully attempting to make a joke during the whole time the round game lasted, saw his opportunity, and availed himself of it. The instant the glasses disappeared, he commenced a long story about a great public character, whose name he had forgotten, making a particularly happy reply to another eminent and illustrious individual whom he had never been able to identify. He enlarged at some length and with great minuteness upon divers collateral circumstances, distantly connected with the anecdote in hand, but for the life of him he couldn't recollect at that precise moment what the anecdote was, although he had been in the habit of telling the story with great applause for the last ten years.
222 And nothing ever came of it. The thing remained a secret with the three men. Nor did Daylight ever give the secret away, though that afternoon, leaning back in his stateroom on the Twentieth Century, his shoes off, and feet on a chair, he chuckled long and heartily. New York remained forever puzzled over the affair; nor could it hit upon a rational explanation. By all rights, Burning Daylight should have gone broke, yet it was known that he immediately reappeared in San Francisco possessing an apparently unimpaired capital. This was evidenced by the magnitude of the enterprises he engaged in, such as, for instance, Panama Mail, by sheer weight of money and fighting power wresting the control away from Shiftily and selling out in two months to the Harriman interests at a rumored enormous advance.
223 Daylight awoke with the familiar parched mouth and lips and throat, took a long drink of water from the pitcher beside his bed, and gathered up the train of thought where he had left it the night before. He reviewed the easement of the financial strain. Things were mending at last. While the going was still rough, the greatest dangers were already past. As he had told Hegan, a tight rein and careful playing were all that was needed now. Flurries and dangers were bound to come, but not so grave as the ones they had already weathered. He had been hit hard, but he was coming through without broken bones, which was more than Simon Dolliver and many another could say. And not one of his business friends had been ruined. He had compelled them to stay in line to save himself, and they had been saved as well.
224 As I obeyed I noticed an anxious light come into Johnson's eyes, but I did not dream of its cause. I did not dream of what was to occur until it did occur, but he knew from the very first what was coming and awaited it bravely. And in his action I found complete refutation of all Wolf Larsen's materialism. The sailor Johnson was swayed by idea, by principle, and truth, and sincerity. He was right, he knew he was right, and he was unafraid. He would die for the right if needs be, he would be true to himself, sincere with his soul. And in this was portrayed the victory of the spirit over the flesh, the indomitability and moral grandeur of the soul that knows no restriction and rises above time and space and matter with a surety and invincibleness born of nothing else than eternity and immortality.
225 Wolf Larsen was steering, his eyes glistening and snapping as they dwelt upon and leaped from detail to detail of the chase. Now he studied the sea to windward for signs of the wind slackening or freshening, now the Macedonia; and again, his eyes roved over every sail, and he gave commands to slack a sheet here a trifle, to come in on one there a trifle, till he was drawing out of the Ghost the last bit of speed she possessed. All feuds and grudges were forgotten, and I was surprised at the alacrity with which the men who had so long endured his brutality sprang to execute his orders. Strange to say, the unfortunate Johnson came into my mind as we lifted and surged and heeled along, and I was aware of a regret that he was not alive and present; he had so loved the Ghost and delighted in her sailing powers.
226 It was very little that he found to say, nor did he find her responsive to that little. But he went away with the resolution to see her again. He effected his object by chance, meeting her on the pier with her stepmother, who had the habit of walking there from twelve to one of a forenoon. Soames made this lady's acquaintance with alacrity, nor was it long before he perceived in her the ally he was looking for. His keen scent for the commercial side of family life soon told him that Irene cost her stepmother more than the fifty pounds a year she brought her; it also told him that Mrs. Heron, a woman yet in the prime of life, desired to be married again. The strange ripening beauty of her stepdaughter stood in the way of this desirable consummation. And Soames, in his stealthy tenacity, laid his plans.
227 Richard hung his pack over the back of his chair, taking the cat out and handing him to Kahlan. She put him in her lap, where he immediately began purring as she stroked his back. Zedd sat to his other side. Chase put a shirt over his big frame and lit several lamps that hung from heavy oak beams. Chase had felled the trees, hewed the beams out, and placed them by himself. The names of the children were carved along the side of one. Behind his chair at the table was a fireplace made of stones he had collected in his travels over the years. Each had a unique shape, color, and texture. Chase would tell anyone who would listen where each had come from, and what sort of trouble he had encountered in retrieving it. A simple wooden bowl, full of apples, sat in the center of the stout pine table.
228 They continued down the dismal trail, watching the woods as they went. Richard wondered what else Zedd could do. He let his horse pick its own way in the gathering darkness, wondering how much longer this dead world went on, or if the road would ever take them away from it. The night was bringing life to the place, strange calls and scraping noises. His horse whinnied at things unseen. He patted its neck reassuringly and checked the sky for gars. It was hopeless; he couldn't see any sky. But if gars came they would have a hard time surprising the three of them, as the canopy of twisted, dead limbs and branches would prevent a silent approach. Maybe the things in the trees were more of a threat than gars. He didn't know anything about them, and he wasn't sure he wanted to. He realized his heart was pounding.
229 Richard helped Kahlan up onto her horse. He could tell that her legs hurt more than she would admit. He gave her the reins of Zedd's horse, mounted up, took Chase's horse, and then carefully got his bearings. He knew they would have a hard time finding the trail; the mist was getting heavy, visibility limited. There seemed to be ghosts watching from the shadows in every direction. He didn't know if he should lead or follow Kahlan, didn't know how best to protect her, so he rode beside her. Zedd and Chase weren't tied down and could easily slip off the horses, so they had to take it slow. The dead spruce looked the same in every direction, and they couldn't go in a straight line because they had to cut back and forth around fallen trees. Richard spat out mosquitoes that kept flying into his mouth.
230 Licking the honey off his fingers, he wove his way across the street, around horses pulling carts and wagons, and between the crush of people going about their business. At times, it was like trying to swim upriver. The din, the jangling of tack, the thud of hooves, the rattle of cargo in wagons, the creak of axles, the crunch of die compacted snow, the shouting of the hawkers, the cries of hucksters, and the buzz of talking, some in a singsong or a chatter of languages he didn't understand, was unnerving. Richard was used to the silence of his woods, where the wind in the trees or water rushing over rocks was the most sound he ever heard. Though he had often gone into Hartland, it was hardly more than a small town, and nothing to compare to the cities, like this one, that he had seen since he left home.
231 Richard released the font. He lifted his fists as he staggered back. The gazing font exploded apart, heavy pieces of rock driven ahead of huge gouts of flame and smoke. Shards of stone whistled through the hall, disappearing into the distance. Massive chunks of stone wailed as they rose up into the air, lifted on a raging inferno, until they lost their upward momentum and dropped back down, to shatter into fragments and dust. The gazing liquid flooded the floor. In each droplet and pool, Richard could see Kahlan's face. He turned his back and stalked away. A furnace of flame blasted the floor, evaporating each droplet, yet he could still perceive her face in the tiniest mist of it filling the air. He cast up his fists. Every droplet, every infinitesimal bit of mist, winked into nothingness behind him.
232 The second pitch was a high curveball, and with the count of two balls, you could almost hear the fans get out of their seats. A baseball was about to get ripped into some remote section of Sportsman's Park. No pitcher fell behind Stan Musial and survived the moment. The third pitch was a fastball, and Harry Caray hesitated just long enough for us to hear the crack of the bat. The crowd exploded. I held my breath, waiting in that split second for old Harry to tell us where the ball was going. It bounced off the wall in right field, and the crowd roared even louder. The front porch got excited, too. I jumped to my feet, as if by standing I could somehow see St. Louis. Pappy and my father both leaned forward as Harry Caray yelled through the radio. My mother managed some form of exclamation.
233 Next to Pop and Pearl's I saw Mr. Lynch Thornton, the postmaster, unlock the door to the post office and step inside. I walked toward him, keeping a watchful eye on the truck. Mr. Thornton was usually a cranky sort, and many believed that this was because he was married to a woman who had a problem with whiskey. All forms of alcohol were frowned upon by almost everyone in Black Oak. The county was dry. The nearest liquor store was in Blytheville, though there were some bootleggers in the area who did quite well. I knew this because Ricky'd told me. He'd said he didn't like whiskey, but he had a beer every now and then. I'd heard so many sermons on the evils of alcohol that I was worried about Ricky's soul. And while it was sinful enough for men to sneak around and drink, for women to do so was scandalous.
234 Then her husband died, and she remarried a local alcoholic twenty years her junior. When sober, he was semiliterate and fancied himself as a tortured poet and essayist. Miss Emma loved him dearly and installed him as coeditor, a position he used to write long editorials blasting everything that moved in Ford County. It was the beginning of the end. Spot hated his new stepfather, the feelings were mutual, and their relationship finally climaxed with one of the more colorful fistfights in the history of downtown Clanton. It took place on the sidewalk in front of the Times office, on the downtown square, in front of a large and stunned crowd. The locals believed that Spot's brain, already fragile, took additional damage that day. Shortly thereafter, he began writing nothing but those damned obituaries.
235 He supposed he should at least scout around now. If he was careful, he wouldn't even have to disturb Kayan to do it. He focused his awareness inward, reaching for the center of his psionic power, the one that allowed him to tell if someone was watching him. When he suddenly felt a heightened sense of awareness, a tingling at the back of his neck, he knew he had it, so he imagined himself rising upward, looking down upon himself and Kayan. They were swirls of light against the starlit sand, softly glowing like the green luminescence of the nocturnal moths that sometimes flitted about the eaves of buildings in the city at night. Jedra rose up until he could see a couple of miles in every direction, but no other lights broke the darkness. If anything was out there, it wasn't interested in them.
236 The mescal wasn't water, though; two men went blind for awhile, and several others were troubled by visions of torture and dismemberment. Such visions, at the time, were not hard to conjure up, even without mescal, thanks to the folly of the unfortunate Mexican whose donkey cart they had captured. Though the Rangers meant the man no harm – or at least not much harm – he fled at the sight of gringos and was not even out of earshot before he fell into the hands of Comanches or Apaches: it was impossible to tell from his screams which tribe was torturing him. All that was known was that only three warriors took part in the torturing. Bigfoot Wallace, the renowned scout, returned from a lengthy look around and reported seeing the tracks of three warriors, no more. The tracks were heading toward the river.
237 Bigfoot didn't answer. He felt he could survive in the wilds as well as the next man, and there was no man he feared; but there were quite a few he respected enough to be cautious of, and Buffalo Hump was certainly one of those. He considered himself a superior plainsman; there wasn't much country between the Sabine and the Pecos that he didn't know well, and he had roved north as far as the Arkansas. He thought he knew country well, and yet he hadn't spotted the gully where Buffalo Hump hid his horse, before he killed Josh Corn. Nor had he ever seen, or expected to see, a man scalped while he was still alive, though he had heard of one or two incidents of men who had been scalped and lived to tell the tale. In the wilds there were always surprises, always things to learn that you didn't know.
238 Bigfoot came over and looked at the arrow, too. The woman's body didn't budge. It was as if it were nailed to the ground. It was a small, skinny arrow, the shaft a little bent. Call tried to imagine the force it would take to send a thin piece of wood through a woman's body and into the dirt. Several of the new men came over and stood in silence near the body of the woman. One or two of them glanced at the body briefly, then walked away. Several of them gripped their weapons so hard their knuckles were white. Call remembered that it had been that way beyond the Pecos – men squeezing their guns so hard their knuckles turned white. They were scared: they had ridden out of Austin into a world where the rules were not white rules, where torture and mutilation awaited the weak and the unwary, the slow, the young.
239 Salazar, too, felt that he would not survive the night. The wound Caleb Cobb had given him was worse than he had thought – he had bled all day, the blood freezing on his coat. Now a soldier had awakened him with some rumour of a light, although the sleet was blowing and he himself could not see past his horse's head. There was no light, no town. The blood had dripped down to his pants, which were frozen to the saddle. Instead of delivering the invading Texans to El Paso and being promoted, at least to major for his valour in capturing them, his lot would be to die in a sleet storm on the frozen plain. He thought of shooting himself, but his hands were so cold he feared he would merely drop his pistol, if he tried to pull it out. The pistol, too, was coated in bloody ice – it might not even shoot.
240 When he saw that the Texans were not going to go chase him to the Rio Pecos he rested for three days in a little cave he had found. He built a warm fire and feasted on the tender meat of one of the young mares he had killed. Then he heard from Red Badger that Blue Duck had attacked the Texans with a few young warriors and killed one ranger. Red Badger was so fond of one of the young women who had come to the camp with Slow Tree that he could not stay in one place. He was in love with the young woman, who was the wife of old Skinny Hand. Though old, Skinny Hand was a violent fighter; Red Badger had to be careful, for Skinny Hand would certainly shoot him if he caught him slipping out with his young wife. Red Badger said that Buffalo Hump was bored with Slow Tree but was trying to be polite.
241 Goyeto peeled the strip of skin up the unconscious caballero's chest and up his neck to his chin. Then he cut it off and walked away with the thin, light strip. He meant to peg it out, salt it a little, and hang it in the big cave, with all the other human skins he had taken for Ahumado. On little pegs in the cave were more than fifty skins, a collection any skinner could be proud of. From time to time Ahumado would come into the big cave for a few minutes, take down the skins one by one, and admire them. He and old Goyeto would reminisce about the behaviour of this captive or that. Some men, like the German who had tried to steal the rocks, behaved very bravely, but others, weak like the young caballero, were disappointing to work on. They broke down, fouled themselves, and bawled like babies.
242 Undoubtedly Ahumado would post guards, but Scull had been a commander too long to believe that any arrangement that required men to stay awake long hours in the night was foolproof. If he could sneak in at night and tuck himself into one of the hundred caves, he might, with patience, get a clean shot at Ahumado. Famous Shoes had told him that the old man did not like shade. He spent his days on a blanket and slept outside, by a small campfire, at night. The trick would be to get in a cave within rifle range. Of course, if he shot Ahumado, the pistoleros might swarm into his cave like hornets and kill him, but maybe not. Ahumado was said to be as cruel and unyielding to his men as he was to captives. Most of the pistoleros might only be staying with him out of fear. With the old man dead they might just leave.
243 Famous Shoes knew he had made a tremendous discovery. He was glad, now, that he had been sent after Captain McCrae; because of it he had found the place where the Old People had once lived. He wrapped his finds carefully in a piece of deerskin and put them in his pouch. He meant to go at once to find the Kickapoo elders, some of whom lived along the Trinity River. While the elders studied what he had found, which included a small round stone used to grind corn, he meant to come back to the hill of arrowheads and look some more. There were several more such hills nearby where he might look. If he were lucky he might even find the hole in the earth where the People had first come out into the light. Famous Shoes thought it possible that he had been acting on wrong information in regard to the hole of emergence.
244 In the night, after they left the spring, it was he, rather than the black horse, that faltered. By the middle of the next day he was as unsteady on his feet as a baby just learning to balance himself and stand upright. Buffalo Hump became so weak and unsteady that he mounted the black horse again and made it carry him a few more miles. By the evening, to his joy, he began to see a black rock here and there on the ground, although, strain his eyes as he might, he could see no sign of the mesa land he sought. He began to feel uncertain about the mesa. Perhaps it was only the black rocks that he remembered; perhaps he had imagined the mesa, or dreamed it, or confused it with a mesa in another place. He wasn't sure; but at least he had found the black rocks, the rocks which were said to welcome the dead.
245 The Captain had stepped out on the back porch and was looking north, along the stage road that threaded its way through the brush country toward San Antonio. The road ran straight for a considerable distance before it hit the first gully, and Captain Call had his eyes fixed on it. He seemed not to hear Dish's reply, although he was only a few feet away. Dish stepped out on the porch to see what it was that distracted the man. Far up the road he could see two horsemen coming, but they were so far yet that it was impossible to tell anything about them. At moments, heat waves from the road caused a quavering that made them seem like one horseman. Dish squinted but there was nothing special about the riders that his eye could detect. Yet the Captain had not so much as turned his head since they appeared.
246 Joey Garza had struck seven times, stopping trains in remote areas of the Southwest, where trains were rarely bothered. He had killed eleven men so far, seemingly selecting his victims at random. Seven of the dead had been passengers; the rest, crew. Four of the seven trains had been carrying military payrolls, and one of the seven had Leland Stanford aboard. At that time, Leland Stanford was thought to be the richest man in California. The boy had taken his rings, his watch, and the fine silk sheets off the bed in his private car. He also took his diamond cuff links. Leland Stanford was not a man who took kindly to having his sheets removed by a young Mexican not yet out of his teens. It was Stanford who stoked the fire under Colonel Terry, prompting him to hire expensive help such as Captain Woodrow Call.
247 John Wesley Hardin had noticed Joey come in. He was certainly a pretty boy, too pretty to last, Hardin thought. His clothes were too clean. In such a place, it was irritating to see a boy with clothes that clean. The rifle he kept with him was certainly exceptional, though. John Wesley had never killed with a rifle. He usually killed at close range, with his revolver, firing two or three shots right into the midsections of his enemies. He liked the way the heavy bullets kicked the life out of them. He liked their looks of shock, when they fell down and saw the blood spreading underneath them. He also liked to be looking at them when they died. That way, they would know that John Wesley Hardin had killed them personally. He had never killed a man from ambush, or from any great distance at all.
248 The lack of laughter in her life was a thing Maria held against men. She felt she had the temperament to be a happy woman, if she was not interfered with, too much. She knew that it was her fault that she let men interfere with her; yet if she didn't, there was nothing, or at least there was not enough. She wanted a man to lay with, except if she wanted a man once, she would want him many times. She liked to take pleasure from men, and liked to give it, but when she gave men that pleasure, they came to need it and then to resent her because they needed her. When that happened, the interfering began. Maria didn't know why men resented the very women who gave them the most pleasure, and gave it generously. It was foolish, very foolish, of men to resent the good that came from women. Still, they did.
249 Call knew he had a ticklish decision to make. He could keep the men with him, try to catch up with Mox Mox, and hit him in force, such as the force was. Or, he could go alone, and hope to ambush Mox Mox and the men himself. The fact that he would be one against eight didn't disturb him much. Very few men could fight effectively, and of the eight there might be only one who was formidable. Blue Duck had been formidable, but from what Call could remember of the Goodnight trouble, Mox Mox had merely been mean. No one seemed to think much of his abilities as a killer. He had led Goodnight a merry chase, and had eluded him, but in that instance, he had a week's start. The main problem in attacking Mox Mox and his men alone was to determine which one had the ability. That was the man to kill first.
250 Brookshire went boldly out of camp. He walked along at a good pace, trying to maintain a staunch attitude. Sometimes in Brooklyn, if he was on the streets late and had to walk past bullies or louts, he found that the best method was just to walk along boldly and not give the bullies or louts the time of day. Perhaps the same method would work with this Garza boy, if it was the Garza boy who had killed their animals. He did wish he were walking along the orderly streets of Brooklyn, with solid brick houses on either side of him. Just thinking of the solid brick houses of Brooklyn caused him to be seized by a moment of almost overwhelming longing to be back in his own place once more. If he could be in his own place, he felt that life would swing into firm shape in no time, even without his dear Katie.
251 Yet it was a failure. Men had constructed it a century ago, to serve as a base for operations among the asteroids. Thinly scattered though those remnants of a stillborn world are, they could profitably be worked by robots, as could the Jovian moons at times around inferior conjunction. Soon improved spacecraft made that whole idea obsolete. It grew cheaper, as well as more productive, for men to go in person, boosting continuously at a gee or better, directly between these regions and the industrial satellites of Earth. The Wheel became a derelict. There was talk of scrapping it for the metal, but incentive was insufficient. Already then, the price of every metal was tumbling. Eventually title went to the Union government, which had it refurbished and declared it a historical monument. It got few visitors.
252 The foremost fact was that Homo sapiens had no business among the stars. Eventually, yes, when he was ready, then let him go forth. But first he should put his own house in order. One could actually argue that interplanetary enterprises, from the original Sputnik, had been a mistake. Granted, this was heresy. Quick had never publicly uttered it. The technophiles would have come down on him like an avalanche, with their figures of increases in real wealth due to minerals and manufactures, their citations of advances in scientific knowledge and everything that that meant in every field from earthquake control to medicine; and they would have been truthful. What they never stopped to wonder was what mankind might have done in the way of building a decent, stable world, had mankind stayed quietly at home.
253 When everything was in order, Brodersen ordered all systems left on automatic and all hands to the common room. On his way there from the command center (which his mind, remembering cruises along Juan de Fuca and northward through the stern glories of the Inside Passage, still called the bridge) he felt Earth weight drag at him, a fourth more than what Demeter gave. He made sufficient interplanetary trips annually that he knew he'd adjust to this before long, together with watches set according to the Terrestrial day; but every time, his body was a smidgin slower about it. Passing down a companionway and a circular corridor, a yielding green carpet underfoot but otherwise bare gray and white paint, he wondered if he might not be thinking of himself as starting to get old, were it not for Caitlin....
254 Countless times, Harry had been on the point of unlocking Hedwig's cage by magic and sending her to Ron and Hermione with a letter, but it wasn't worth the risk. Underage wizards weren't allowed to use magic outside of school. Harry hadn't told the Dursleys this; he knew it was only their terror that he might turn them all into dung beetles that stopped them from locking him in the cupboard under the stairs with his wand and broomstick. For the first couple of weeks back, Harry had enjoyed muttering nonsense words under his breath and watching Dudley tearing out of the room as fast as his fat legs would carry him. But the long silence from Ron and Hermione had made Harry feel so cut off from the magical world that even taunting Dudley had lost its appeal – and now Ron and Hermione had forgotten his birthday.
255 Weeds were not the only things Frank had to contend with either. Boys from the village made a habit of throwing stones through the windows of the Riddle House. They rode their bicycles over the lawns Frank worked so hard to keep smooth. Once or twice, they broke into the old house for a dare. They knew that old Frank's devotion to the house and grounds amounted almost to an obsession, and it amused them to see him limping across the garden, brandishing his stick and yelling croakily at them. Frank, for his part, believed the boys tormented him because they, like their parents and grandparents, thought him a murderer. So when Frank awoke one night in August and saw something very odd up at the old house, he merely assumed that the boys had gone one step further in their attempts to punish him.
256 Harry felt as though he were carrying some kind of talisman inside his chest over the following two weeks, a glowing secret that supported him through Umbridge's classes and even made it possible for him to smile blandly as he looked into her horrible bulging eyes. He and the D.A. were resisting her under her very nose, doing the very thing that she and the Ministry most feared, and whenever he was supposed to be reading Wilbert Slinkhard's book during her lessons he dwelled instead on satisfying memories of their most recent meetings, remembering how Neville had successfully disarmed Hermione, how Colin Creevey had mastered the Impediment Jinx after three meetings' hard effort, how Parvati Patil had produced such a good Reductor Curse that she had reduced the table carrying all the Sneakoscopes to dust.
257 Professor Umbridge left Hogwarts the day before the end of term. It seemed that she had crept out of the hospital wing during dinnertime, evidently hoping to depart undetected, but unfortunately for her, she met Peeves on the way, who seized his last chance to do as Fred had instructed and chased her gleefully from the premises, whacking her alternately with a walking stick and a sock full of chalk. Many students ran out into the entrance hall to watch her running away down the path, and the Heads of Houses tried only halfheartedly to restrain their pupils. Indeed, Professor McGonagall sank back into her chair at the staff table after a few feeble remonstrances and was clearly heard to express a regret that she could not run cheering after Umbridge herself, because Peeves had borrowed her walking stick.
258 Yet Harry could not help himself talking to Ginny, laughing with her, walking back from practice with her; however much his conscience ached, he found himself wondering how best to get her on her own. It would have been ideal if Slughorn had given another of his little parties, for Ron would not be around – but unfortunately, Slughorn seemed to have given them up. Once or twice Harry considered asking for Hermione's help, but he did not think he could stand seeing the smug look on her face; he thought he caught it sometimes when Hermione spotted him staring at Ginny or laughing at her jokes. And to complicate matters, he had the nagging worry that if he didn't do it, somebody else was sure to ask Ginny out soon: He and Ron were at least agreed on the fact that she was too popular for her own good.
259 Harry had never made it to dinner; he had no appetite at all. He had just finished telling Ron, Hermione, and Ginny what had happened, not that there seemed to have been much need. The news had traveled very fast: Apparently Moaning Myrtle had taken it upon herself to pop up in every bathroom in the castle to tell the story; Malfoy had already been visited in the hospital wing by Pansy Parkinson, who had lost no time in vilifying Harry far and wide, and Snape had told the staff precisely what had happened. Harry had already been called out of the common room to endure fifteen highly unpleasant minutes in the company of Professor McGonagall, who had told him he was lucky not to have been expelled and that she supported wholeheartedly Snape's punishment of detention every Saturday until the end of term.
260 It took him about five hours to get ready. While he was doing it, I went over to my window and opened it and packed a snowball with my bare hands. The snow was very good for packing. I didn't throw it at anything, though. I started to throw it. At a car that was parked across the street. But I changed my mind. The car looked so nice and white. Then I started to throw it at a hydrant, but that looked too nice and white, too. Finally I didn't throw it at anything. All I did was close the window and walk around the room with the snowball, packing it harder. A little while later, I still had it with me when I and Brossnad and Ackley got on the bus. The bus driver opened the doors and made me throw it out. I told him I wasn't going to chuck it at anybody, but he wouldn't believe me. People never believe you.
261 What I did do, I gave old Sally Hayes a buzz. She went to Mary A. Woodruff, and I knew she was home because I'd had this letter from her a couple of weeks ago. I wasn't too crazy about her, but I'd known her for years. I used to think she was quite intelligent, in my stupidity. The reason I did was because she knew quite a lot about the theater and plays and literature and all that stuff. If somebody knows quite a lot about those things, it takes you quite a while to find out whether they're really stupid or not. It took me years to find it out, in old Sally's case. I think I'd have found it out a lot sooner if we hadn't necked so damn much. My big trouble is, I always sort of think whoever I'm necking is a pretty intelligent person. It hasn't got a goddam thing to do with it, but I keep thinking it anyway.
262 The thought of dishes caused Mrs. Straughan to frown thoughtfully, and she propelled herself into the back section of the kitchen where the two big automatic dishwashers were installed. This was a part of her domain less gleaming and modern than the other section, and the chief dietitian reflected, not for the first time, that she would be happy when the equipment here was modernized, as the rest of the kitchens had been. It was understandable, though, that everything could not be done at once, and she had to admit she had browbeaten the administration into a lot of expensive new equipment in the two years she had held her job at Three Counties. All the same, she decided as she moved on to check the steam tables in the cafeteria, she would have another talk with the administrator about those dishwashers soon.
263 Watching McNeil, his hands steady and competent, Seddons found himself wondering again what went on in the pathology resident's mind. He had known McNeil for two years, first as a fellow resident, though senior to himself in the hospital's pyramid system, and then more closely during his own few months in Pathology. Pathology had interested Seddons; he was glad, though, it was not his own chosen specialty. He had never had second thoughts about his personal choice of surgery and would be glad when he went back to it in a few weeks' time. In contrast to this domain of the dead the operating room was a territory of the living. It was pulsing and alive; there was a poetry of motion, a sense of achievement he knew he could never find here. Each to his own, he thought, and pathology for the pathologists.
264 Lucy respected the chief of surgery's efforts to achieve improvement within the hospital without major upheavals, though she knew from observation that O'Donnell would never shun an issue if it really became necessary to meet it head on. There she went again, she reflected: thinking about Kent O'Donnell. It was strange how, just recently, her thoughts had kept returning to him. Perhaps it was the proximity in which they worked; there were few days when the two of them failed to meet sometime during their stint in surgery. Now Lucy found herself wondering how soon it would be before he invited her to dinner once more. Or perhaps she could arrange a small dinner party at her own apartment. There were a few people she had been planning to invite for some time, and Kent O'Donnell could be among them.
265 For David Coleman, too, the waiting was hard. He knew himself to be almost as tense as Pearson, although at this moment the older man was showing his anxiety more. For the first time Coleman realized how mentally involved he had become in this case. He took no satisfaction from the fact that he had been right and Pearson wrong about the blood test. All he wanted, desperately now, for the sake of the Alexanders, was for their child to live. The force of his own feeling startled him; it was unusual for anything to affect him so deeply. He recalled, though, that he had liked John Alexander right from the beginning at Three Counties; then later, meeting his wife, knowing that all three of them had had their origins in the same small town, there had seemed to spring up a sense of kinship, unspoken but real.
266 As the whisperings merged together violently, questioning, interrupting, Scarlett felt herself go cold with fear and humiliation. Honey was a fool, a silly, a simpleton about men, but she had a feminine instinct about other women that Scarlett had underestimated. The mortification and hurt pride that she had suffered in the library with Ashley and with Rhett Butler were pin pricks to this. Men could be trusted to keep their mouths shut, even men like Mr. Butler, but with Honey Wilkes giving tongue like a hound in the field, the entire County would know about it before six o'clock. And Gerald had said only last night that he wouldn't be having the County laughing at his daughter. And how they would all laugh now! Clammy perspiration, starting under her armpits, began to creep down her ribs.
267 That radiance lasted until everyone in the circle about the open fire began to yawn, and Mr. Wilkes and the girls took their departure for the hotel. Then as Ashley and Melanie and Pittypat and Scarlett mounted the stairs, lighted by Uncle Peter, a chill fell on her spirit. Until that moment when they stood in the upstairs hall, Ashley had been hers, only hers, even if she had not had a private word with him that whole afternoon. But now, as she said good night she saw that Melanie's cheeks were suddenly crimson and she was trembling. Her eyes were on the carpet and, though she seemed overcome with some frightening emotion, she seemed shyly happy. Melanie did not even look up when Ashley opened the bedroom door, but sped inside. Ashley said good night abruptly, and he did not meet Scarlett's eyes either.
268 Common sense told them that unless Ashley developed wings, it would be weeks or even months before he could travel from Illinois to Georgia, but hearts nevertheless beat wildly whenever a soldier turned into the avenue at Tara. Each bearded scarecrow might be Ashley. And if it were not Ashley, perhaps the soldier would have news of him or a letter from Aunt Pitty about him. Black and white, they rushed to the front porch every time they heard footsteps. The sight of a uniform was enough to bring everyone flying from the woodpile, the pasture and the cotton patch. For a month after the letter came, work was almost at a standstill. No one wanted to be out of the house when he arrived. Scarlett least of all. And she could not insist on the others attending to their duties when she so neglected hers.
269 There was nothing else she did have, nothing but this red land, this land she had been willing to throw away like a torn handkerchief only a few minutes before. Now, it was dear to her again and she wondered dully what madness had possessed her to hold it so lightly. Had Ashley yielded, she could have gone away with him and left family and friends without a backward look but, even in her emptiness, she knew it would have torn her heart to leave these dear red hills and long washed gullies and gaunt black pines. Her thoughts would have turned back to them hungrily until the day she died. Not even Ashley could have filled the empty spaces in her heart where Tara had been uprooted. How wise Ashley was and how well he knew her! He had only to press the damp earth into her hand to bring her to her senses.
270 Scarlett lay quietly for a while, as Mammy fussed about the room, relief flooding her that there was no need for words between them. No explanations were asked, no reproaches made. Mammy understood and was silent. In Mammy, Scarlett had found a realist more uncompromising than herself. The mottled wise old eyes saw deeply, saw clearly, with the directness of the savage and the child, undeterred by conscience when danger threatened her pet. Scarlett was her baby and what her baby wanted, even though it belonged to another, Mammy was willing to help her obtain. The rights of Suellen and Frank Kennedy did not even enter her mind, save to cause a grim inward chuckle. Scarlett was in trouble and doing the best she could, and Scarlett was Miss Ellen's child. Mammy rallied to her with never a moment's hesitation.
271 But no one wanted to forget, no one, it seemed, except herself, so Scarlett was glad when she could truthfully tell Melanie that she was embarrassed at appearing, even in the darkness. This explanation was readily understood by Melanie who was hypersensitive about all matters relating to childbirth. Melanie wanted another baby badly, but both Dr. Meade and Dr. Fontaine had said another child would cost her her life. So, only half resigned to her fate, she spent most of her time with Scarlett, vicariously enjoying a pregnancy not her own. To Scarlett, scarcely wanting her coming child and irritated at its untimeliness, this attitude seemed the height of sentimental stupidity. But she had a guilty sense of pleasure that the doctors' edict had made impossible any real intimacy between Ashley and his wife.
272 There were three rooms in the basement of Melanie's house which formerly had been servants' quarters and a wine room. Now Dilcey occupied one, and the other two were in constant use by a stream of miserable and ragged transients. No one but Melanie knew whence they came or where they were going and no one but she knew where she collected them. Perhaps the negroes were right and she did pick them up from the streets. But even as the great and the near great gravitated to her small parlor, so unfortunates found their way to her cellar where they were fed, bedded and sent on their way with packages of food. Usually the occupants of the rooms were former Confederate soldiers of the rougher, illiterate type, homeless men, men without families, beating their way about the country in hope of finding work.
273 It seemed to Scarlett that after Archie came to work for her Frank was away at night very frequently. He said the books at the store had to be balanced and business was brisk enough now to give him little time to attend to this in working hours. And there were sick friends with whom he had to sit. Then there was the organization of Democrats who forgathered every Wednesday night to devise ways of regaining the ballot and Frank never missed a meeting. Scarlett thought this organization did little else except argue the merits of General John B. Gordon over every otter general, except General Lee, and refight the war. Certainly she could observe no progress in the direction of the recovery of the ballot. But Frank evidently enjoyed the meetings for he stayed out until all hours on those nights.
274 Scarlett, straining her eyes past Rhett, felt her heart beat again as she saw Ashley's eyes open. Melanie snatched a folded towel from the washstand rack and pressed it against his streaming shoulder and he smiled up weakly, reassuringly into her face. Scarlett felt Rhett's hard penetrating eyes upon her, knew that her heart was plain upon her face, but she did not care. Ashley was bleeding, perhaps dying and she who loved him had torn that hole through his shoulder. She wanted to run to the bed, sink down beside it and clasp him to her but her knees trembled so that she could not enter the room. Hand at her mouth, she stared while Melanie packed a fresh towel against his shoulder, pressing it hard as though she could force back the blood into his body. But the towel reddened as though by magic.
275 Some of the feeling of bitter hatred the women bore Scarlett for her share in the tragedy was mitigated by the knowledge that her husband was dead and she knew it and could not admit it and have the poor comfort of claiming his body. Until morning light disclosed the bodies and the authorities notified her, she must know nothing. Frank and Tommy, pistols in cold hands, lay stiffening among the dead weeds in a vacant lot. And the Yankees would say they killed each other in a common drunken brawl over a girl in Belle's house. Sympathy ran high for Fanny, Tommy's wife, who had just had a baby, but no one could slip through the darkness to see her and comfort her because a squad of Yankees surrounded the house, waiting for Tommy to return. And there was another squad about Aunt Pitty's house, waiting for Frank.
276 She did not hesitate to display arrogance to her new Republican and Scalawag friends but to no class was she ruder or more insolent than the Yankee officers of the garrison and their families. Of all the heterogeneous mass of people who had poured into Atlanta, the army people alone she refused to receive or tolerate. She even went out of her way to be bad mannered to them. Melanie was not alone in being unable to forget what a blue uniform meant. To Scarlett, that uniform and those gold buttons would always mean the fears of the siege, the terror of flight, the looting and burning, the desperate poverty and the grinding work at Tara. Now that she was rich and secure in the friendship of the governor and many prominent Republicans, she could be insulting to every blue uniform she saw. And she was insulting.
277 The upshot of the situation was that Bonnie was removed from the nursery to the room Rhett now occupied alone. Her small bed was placed beside his large one and a shaded lamp burned on the table all night long. The town buzzed when this story got about. Somehow, there was something indelicate about a girl child sleeping in her father's room, even though the girl was only two years old. Scarlett suffered from this gossip in two ways. First, it proved indubitably that she and her husband occupied separate rooms, in itself a shocking enough state of affairs. Second, everyone thought that if the child was afraid to sleep alone, her place was with her mother. And Scarlett did not feel equal to explaining that she could not sleep in a lighted room nor would Rhett permit the child to sleep with her.
278 Scarlett shook as with a chill at the thought. She must have a drink, a number of drinks before she could lie down and hope to sleep. She threw a wrapper about her gown and went hastily out into the dark hall, her backless slippers making a great clatter in the stillness. She was halfway down the stairs before she looked toward the closed door of the dining room and saw a narrow line of light streaming from under it. Her heart stopped for a moment Had that light been burning when she came home and had she been too upset to notice it? Or was Rhett home after all? He could have come in quietly through the kitchen door. If Rhett were home, she would tiptoe back to bed without her brandy, much as she needed it. Then she wouldn't have to face him. Once in her room she would be safe, for she could lock the door.
279 Rhett loved her! At least, he said he loved her and how could she doubt it now? How odd and bewildering and how incredible that he loved her, this savage stranger with whom she had lived in such coolness. She was not altogether certain how she felt about this revelation but as an idea came to her she suddenly laughed aloud. He loved her and so she had him at last. She had almost forgotten her early desire to entrap him into loving her, so she could hold the whip over his insolent black head. Now, it came back and it gave her great satisfaction. For one night, he had had her at his mercy but now she knew the weakness of his armor. From now on she had him where she wanted him. She had smarted under his jeers for a long time, but now she had him where she could make him jump through any hoops she cared to hold.
280 Now that her first rage at Rhett and his insults had passed, she began to miss him and she missed him more and more as days went by without news of him. Out of the welter of rapture and anger and heartbreak and hurt pride that he had left, depression emerged to sit upon her shoulder like a carrion crow. She missed him, missed his light flippant touch in anecdotes that made her shout with laughter, his sardonic grin that reduced troubles to their proper proportions, missed even his jeers that stung her to angry retort. Most of all she missed having him to tell things to. Rhett was so satisfactory in that respect. She could recount shamelessly and with pride how she had skinned people out of their eyeteeth and he would applaud. And if she even mentioned such things to other people they were shocked.
281 The spouse of Aule is Yavanna, the Giver of Fruits. She is the lover of all things that grow in the earth, and all their countless forms she holds in her mind, from the trees like towers in forests long ago to the moss upon stones or the small and secret things in the mould. In reverence Yavanna is next to Varda among the Queens of the Valar. In the form of a woman she is tall, and robed in green; but at times she takes other shapes. Some there are who have seen her standing like a tree under heaven, crowned with the Sun; and from all its branches there spilled a golden dew upon the barren earth, and it grew green with corn; but the roots of the tree were in the waters of Ulmo, and the winds of Manwe spoke in its leaves. Kementari, Queen of the Earth, she is surnamed in the Eldarin tongue.
282 It is not said that Aredhel was wholly unwilling, nor that her life in Nan Elmoth was hateful to her for many years. For though at Eol's command she must shun the sunlight, they wandered far together under the stars or by the light of the sickle moon; or she might fare alone as she would, save that Eol forbade her to seek the sons of Feanor, or any others of the Noldor. And Aredhel bore to Eol a son in the shadows of Nan Elmoth, and in her heart she gave him a name in the forbidden tongue of the Noldor, Lomion, that signifies Child of the Twilight; but his father gave him no name until he was twelve years old. Then he called him Maeglin, which is Sharp Glance, for he perceived that the eyes of his son were more piercing than his own, and his thought could read the secrets of hearts beyond the mist of words.
283 Then Luthien stood upon the bridge, and declare her power: and the spell was loosed that bound stone to stone, and the gates were thrown down, and the walls opened, and the pits laid bare; and many thralls and captives came forth in wonder and dismay, shielding their eyes against the pale moon light, for they had lain long in the darkness of Sauron. But Beren came not. Therefore Huan and Luthien sought him in the isle; and Luthien found him mourning by Felagund. So deep was his anguish that he lay still, and did not hear her feet. Then thinking him already dead she put her arms about him and fell into a dark forgetfulness. But Beren coming back to the light out of the pits of despair lifted her up, and they looked again upon one another; and the day rising over the dark hills shone upon them.
284 There Beren slunk in wolf's form beneath his throne; but Luthien was stripped of her disguise by the will of Morgoth, and he bent his gaze upon her. She was not daunted by his eyes; and she named her own name, and offered her service to sing before him, after the manner of a minstrel. Then Morgoth looking upon her beauty conceived in his thought an evil lust, and a design more dark than any that had yet come into his heart since he fled from Valinor. Thus he was beguiled by his own malice, for he watched her, leaving her free for awhile, and taking secret pleasure in his thought. Then suddenly she eluded his sight, and out of the shadows began a song of such surpassing loveliness, and of such blinding power, that he listened perforce; and a blindness came upon him, as his eyes roamed to and fro, seeking her.
285 And Tuor remained in Gondolin, for its bliss and its beauty and the wisdom of its people held him enthralled; and he became mighty in stature and in mind, and learned deeply of the lore of the exiled Elves. Then the heart of Idril was turned to him, and his to her; and Maeglin's secret hatred grew ever greater, for he desired above all things to possess her, the only heir of the King of Gondolin. But so high did Tuor stand in the favour of the King that when he had dwelt there for seven years Turgon did not refuse him even the hand of his daughter; for though he would not heed the bidding of Ulmo, he perceived that the fate of the Noldor was wound with the one whom Ulmo had sent; and he did not forget the words that Huor spoke to him before the host of Gondolin departed from the Battle of Unnumbered Tears.
286 They still went on and on. The rough path disappeared. The bushes, and the long grasses, between the boulders, the patches of rabbit cropped turf, the thyme and the sage and the marjoram, and the yellow rockroses all vanished, and they found themselves at the top of a wide steep slope of fallen stones, the remains of a landslide. When they began to go down this, rubbish and small pebbles rolled away from their feet; soon larger bits of split stone went clattering down and started other pieces below them slithering and rolling; then lumps of rocks were disturbed and bounded off, crashing down with a dust and a noise. Before long the whole slope above them and below them seemed on the move, and they were sliding away, huddled all together, in a fearful confusion of slipping, rattling, cracking slabs and stones.
287 This glade in the ring of trees was evidently a meeting place of the wolves. More and more kept coming in. They left guards at the foot of the tree in which Dori and Bilbo were, and then went sniffling about till they had smelt out every tree that had anyone in it. These they guarded too, while all the rest, hundreds and hundreds it seemed, went and sat in a great circle in the glade; and in the middle of the circle was a great grey wolf. He spoke to them in the dreadful language of the Wargs. Gandalf understood it. Bilbo did not, but it sounded terrible to him, and as if all their talk was about cruel and wicked things, as it was. Every now and then all the Wargs in the circle would answer their grey chief all together, and their dreadful clamour almost made the hobbit fall out of his pine tree.
288 This was dreadful talk to listen to, not only because of the brave woodmen and their wives and children, but also because of the danger which now threatened Gandalf and his friends. The Wargs were angry and puzzled at finding them here in their very meeting place. They thought they were friends of the woodmen, and were come to spy on them, and would take news of their plans down into the valleys, and then the goblins and the wolves would have to fight a terrible battle instead of capturing prisoners and devouring people waked suddenly from their sleep. So the Wargs had no intention of going away and letting the people up the trees escape, at any rate not until morning. And long before that, they said, goblin soldiers would be coming down from the mountains; and goblins can climb trees, or cut them down.
289 The nights were the worst. It then became pitch dark, not what you call pitchdark, but really pitch; so black that you really could see nothing. Bilbo tried flapping his hand in front of his nose, but he could not see it at all. Well, perhaps it is not true to say that they could see nothing, they could see eyes. They slept all closely huddled together, and took it in turns to watch; and when it was Bilbo's turn he would see gleams in the darkness round them, and sometimes pairs of yellow or red or green eyes would stare at him from a little distance, and then slowly fade and disappear and slowly shine out again in another place. And sometimes they would gleam down from the branches just above him; and that was most terrifying. But the eyes that he liked the least were horrible pale bulbous sort of eyes.
290 Indeed they really expected him to think of some wonderful plan for helping them, and were not merely grumbling. They knew only too well that they would soon all have been dead, if it had not been for the hobbit; and they thanked him many times. Some of them even got up and bowed right to the ground before him, though they fell over with the effort, and could not get on their legs again for some time. Knowing the truth about the vanishing did not lessen their opinion of Bilbo at all; for they saw that he had some wits, as well as luck and a magic ring, and all three are very useful possessions. In fact they praised him so much that Bilbo began to feel there really was something of a bold adventurer about himself after all, though he I would have felt a lot bolder still, if there had been anything to eat.
291 The king had ordered them to make haste. Suddenly the torches stopped, and the hobbit had just time to catch them up before they began to cross the bridge. This was the bridge that led across the river to the king's doors. The water flowed dark and swift and strong beneath; and at the far end were gates before the mouth of a huge cave that ran into the side of a steep slope covered with trees. There the great beeches came right down to the bank, till their feet were in the stream. Across this bridge the Elves thrust their prisoners, but Bilbo hesitated in the rear. He did not at all like the look of the cavern mouth and he only made up his mind not to desert his friends just in time to scuttle over at the heels of the fast Elves, before the great gates of the king closed behind them with a clang.
292 Now the very last barrel was being rolled to the doors! In despair and not knowing what else to do, poor little Bilbo caught hold of it and was pushed over the edge with it. Down into the water he fell, splash! into the cold dark water with the barrel on top of him. He came up again spluttering and clinging to the wood like a rat, but for all his efforts he could not scramble on top. Every time he tried, the barrel rolled round and ducked him under again. It was really empty, and floated light as a cork. Though his ears were full of water, he could hear the Elves still singing in the cellar above. Then suddenly the trapdoors fell to with a boom and their voices faded away. He was in the dark tunnel, floating in icy water, all alone, for you cannot count friends that are all packed up in barrels.
293 He seemed so much in earnest that the dwarves at last did as he said, though they delayed shutting the door, it seemed a desperate plan, for no one knew whether or how they could get it open again from the inside, and the thought of being shut in a place from which the only way out led through the dragon's lair was not one they liked. Also everything seemed quite quiet, both outside and down the tunnel. So for a longish while they sat inside not far down from the half-open door and went on talking. The talk turned to the dragon's wicked words about the dwarves. Bilbo wished he had never heard them, or at least that he could feel quite certain that the dwarves now were absolutely honest when they declared that they had never thought at all about what would happen after the treasure had been won.
294 That view was somehow disquieting; so they turned from the sight and went down into the hollow circle. In the midst of it there stood a single stone, standing tall under the sun above, and at this hour casting no shadow. It was shapeless and yet significant; like a landmark, or a guarding finger, or more like a warning. But they were now hungry, and the sun was still at the fearless noon; so they set their backs against the east side of the stone. It was cool, as if the sun had had no power to warm it; but at that time this seemed pleasant. There they took food and drink, and made as good a noon meal under the open sky as anyone could wish; for the food came from 'down under Hill'. Tom had provided them with plenty for the comfort of the day. Their ponies unburdened strayed upon the grass.
295 Then all listened while Elrond in his clear voice spoke of Sauron and the Rings of Power, and their forging in the Second Age of the world long ago. A part of his tale was known to some there, but the full tale to none, and many eyes were turned to Elrond in fear and wonder as he told of the elven smiths of Eregion and their friendship with Moria, and their eagerness for knowledge, by which Sauron ensnared them. For in that time he was not yet evil to behold, and they received his aid and grew mighty in craft, whereas he learned all their secrets, and betrayed them, and forged secretly in the Mountain of Fire the One Ring to be their master. But Celebrimbor was aware of him, and hid the Three which he had made; and there was war, and the land was laid waste, and the gate of Moria was shut.
296 They took me and they set me alone on the pinnacle of Orthanc, in the place where Saruman was accustomed to watch the stars. There is no descent save by a narrow stair of many thousand steps, and the valley below seems far away. I looked on it and saw that, whereas it had once been green and fair, it was now filled with pits and forges. Wolves and orcs were housed in Isengard, for Saruman was mustering a great force on his own account, in rivalry of Sauron and not in his service yet. Over all his works a dark smoke hung and wrapped itself about the sides of Orthanc. I stood alone on an island in the clouds; and I had no chance of escape, and my days were bitter. I was pierced with cold, and I had but little room in which to pace to and fro, brooding on the coming of the Riders to the North.
297 The answer came almost immediately. The cries of Grishnbkh had roused the Orcs. From the yells and screeches that came from the knoll the hobbits guessed that their disappearance had been discovered; Ugluk was probably knocking off a few more heads. Then suddenly the answering cries of orc voices came from the right, outside the circle of watch fires, from the direction of the forest and the mountains. Mauhur had apparently arrived and was attacking the besiegers. There was the sound of galloping horses. The Riders were drawing in their ring close round the knoll, risking the orc arrows, so as to prevent any sortie, while a company rode off to deal with the newcomers. Suddenly Merry and Pippin realized that without moving they were now outside the circle; there was nothing between them and escape.
298 The land had changed. Where before the green dale had lain, its grassy slopes lapping the ever mounting hills, there now a forest loomed. Great trees, bare and silent, stood, rank on rank, with tangled bough and hoary head; their twisted roots were buried in the long green grass. Darkness was under them. Between the Dike and the eaves of that nameless wood only two open furlongs lay. There now cowered the proud hosts of Saruman, in terror of the king and in terror of the trees. They streamed down from Helm's Gate until all above the Dike was empty of them, but below it they were packed like swarming flies. Vainly they crawled and clambered about the walls of the coomb, seeking to escape. Upon the east too sheer and stony was the valley's side; upon the left, from the west, their final doom approached.
299 Pippin sat with his knees drawn up and the ball between them. He bent low over it, looking like a greedy child stooping over a bowl of food, in a corner away from others. He drew his cloak aside and gazed at it. The air seemed still and tense about him. At first the globe was dark, black as jet, with the moonlight gleaming on its surface. Then there came a faint glow and stir in the heart of it, and it held his eyes, so that now he could not look away. Soon all the inside seemed on fire; the ball was spinning, or the lights within were revolving. Suddenly the lights went out. He gave a gasp and struggled; but he remained bent, clasping the ball with both hands. Closer and closer he bent, and then became rigid; his lips moved soundlessly for a while. Then with a strangled cry he fell back and lay still.
300 He came at last by arched streets and many fair alleys and pavements to the lowest and widest circle, and there he was directed to the Lampwrights' Street, a broad way running towards the Great Gate. In it he found the Old Guesthouse, a large building of grey weathered stone with two wings running back from the street, and between them a narrow greensward, behind which was the many windowed house, fronted along its whole width by a pillared porch and a flight of steps down on to the grass. Boys were playing among the pillars, the only children that Pippin had seen in Minas Tirith, and he stopped to look at them. Presently one of them caught sight of him, and with a shout he sprang across the grass and came into the street, followed by several others. There he stood in front of Pippin, looking him up and down.
301 For a while the three companions walked together, speaking of this and that turn of the battle, and they went down from the broken gate, and passed the mounds of the fallen on the greensward beside the road, until they stood on Helm's Dike and looked into the Coomb. The Death Down already stood there, black and tall and stony, and the great trampling and scoring of the grass by the Huorns could be plainly seen. The Dunlendings and many men of the garrison of the Burg were at work on the Dike or in the fields and about the battered walls behind; yet all seemed strangely quiet, a weary valley resting after a great storm. Soon they turned back and went to the midday meal in the hall of the Burg. The king was already there, and as soon as they entered he called for Merry and had a seat set for him at his side.
302 It was late in the afternoon when the leaders came to wide grey thickets stretching beyond the eastward side of Amon Don, and masking a great gap in the line of hills that from Nardol to Don ran east and west. Through the gap the forgotten wain road long ago had run down, back into the main horse way from the City through Anurien; but now for many lives of men trees had had their way with it, and it had vanished, broken and buried under the leaves of uncounted years. But the thickets offered to the Riders their last hope of cover before they went into open battle; for beyond them lay the road and the plains of Anduin, while east and southwards the slopes were bare and rocky, as the writhen hills gathered themselves together and climbed up, bastion upon bastion, into the great mass and shoulders of Mindolluin.
303 The new 'Chief' evidently had means of getting news. It was a good forty miles from the Bridge to Bag End, but someone made the journey in a hurry. So Frodo and his friends soon discovered. They had not made any definite plans, but had vaguely thought of going down to Crickhollow together first, and resting there a bit. But now, seeing what things were like, they decided to go straight to Hobbiton. So the next day they set out along the Road and jogged along steadily. The wind had dropped but the sky was grey. The land looked rather sad and forlorn; but it was after all the first of November and the fag end of Autumn. Still there seemed an unusual amount of burning going on, and smoke rose from many points round about. A great cloud of it was going up far away in the direction of the Woody End.
304 Not a smile on one countenance among the crowd who pass and repass; hurried steps, careworn faces, rapid exchanges of salutation, or hasty communication of anticipated ruin before the sun goes down. Here two or three are gathered on one side, whispering and watching that they are not overheard; there a solitary, with his arms folded and his hat slouched, brooding over departed affluence. Mechanics, thrown out of employment, are pacing up and down with the air of famished wolves. The violent shock has been communicated, like that of electricity, through the country to a distance of hundreds of miles. Canals, railroads, and all public works, have been discontinued, and the Irish emigrant leans against his shanty, with his spade idle in his hand, and starves, as his thoughts wander back to his own Emerald Isle.
305 I then understood for the first time that it is not just any girl who is picked up by the Gorean slavers, but that the acquisition of each of these doubtless had been planned with the same diligence and care that is given to a slave raid on Gor itself. They had doubtless been watched, without their knowledge studied and investigated, their habits noted, their common movements and routines recorded, for months prior to the strike of the slaver at a predetermined place and time. I supposed the requirements of the slaves were high. Each of the girls, I suspected, would be vital and much alive. Each of them I knew was beautiful. Each of them I suspected would be intelligent, for Goreans, as the men of Earth commonly do not, celebrate quickness of mind and alertness in a girl. And now they were in the kennels.
306 A genetic explanation isn't the only possible answer to Yali's question. Another one, popular with inhabitants of northern Europe, invokes the supposed stimulatory effects of their homeland's cold climate and the inhibitory effects of hot, humid, tropical climates on human creativity and energy. Perhaps the seasonally variable climate at high latitudes poses more diverse challenges than does a seasonally constant tropical climate. Perhaps cold climates require one to be more technologically inventive to survive, because one must build a warm home and make warm clothing, whereas one can survive in the tropics with simpler housing and no clothing. Or the argument can be reversed to reach the same conclusion: the long winters at high latitudes leave people with much time in which to sit indoors and invent.
307 The seas grew so high that our scrap of sail hung slack from the yard when in the trough, filling with a report like a musket shot as the following sea raised us high aloft. Then the launch would rush forward dizzily, while water poured in over the quarters, and the straining sail, small as it was, threatened to snap the unstayed mast. Mr. Bligh crouched at the helm with an impassive face, turning his head mechanically to glance back as each rearing sea overtook us. Had he relaxed his vigilance for a moment, or made a false motion of the tiller, the boat would have broached to and filled instantly. All hands were now obliged to bail, those who had nothing better throwing out the water with coconut shells. We were greatly hampered by the coils of rope, spare sails, and bundles of cloathing in the bilges.
308 It was a pity Edward couldn't do the same. Macon hated walking him; Edward had never been trained to heel and kept winding his leash around Macon's legs. Oh, dogs were so much trouble. Dogs ate mammoth amounts of food, too; Edward's kibble had to be lugged home from the supermarket, dragged out of the car trunk and up the steep front steps and through the house to the pantry. But for that, at least, Macon finally thought of a solution. At the foot of the old coal chute in the basement he set a plastic trash can, with a square cut out of the bottom. Then he poured the remainder of a sack of kibble into the trash can, which magically became a continuous feeder like the cat's. Next time he bought dog food, he could just drive around to the side of the house and send it rattling down the coal chute.
309 She remembered the alcohol stove, cold winter mornings, the old man hunched in his big gray coat. Winters he'd put a second layer of plastic over the windows. The stove was enough to heat the place, then, because the walls were covered with sheets of hard foam, and chipboard over that. Places where the foam showed, you could pick at it with your finger, make holes; if he caught you doing it, he'd yell. Keeping the fish warm in cold weather was more work; you had to pump water up to the roof, where the sun mirrors were, into these clear plastic tubes. But the vegetable stuff rotting on the tank ledges helped, too; steam rose off when you went to net a fish. He traded the fish for other kinds of food, for things people grew, stove alcohol and the drinking kind, coffee beans, garbage the fish ate.
310 Then, in the midst of his imagined triumph, another thought: I will be the one held responsible from then on if anything goes wrong. I will be the one blamed for every misfortune on the journey. It will be my expedition, and even Father will look to me for leadership. On that day Father will be irretrievably weakened. Who will lead then? Until now, the answer would have been clear: Elemak. Who could rival him? Who would follow anybody else, except the handful who will do whatever the Oversoul asks? But now, if I return as the hero, I will be in a position to rival Elemak. Not in a position to overwhelm him, though. Only to rival him. Only strong enough to tear the company apart. It would lead to bitterness no matter who won; it might lead to bloodshed. It must not happen now, if the expedition is to succeed.
311 The few who remained, old, insignificant, ill or trapped in isolated districts, they did not count; even the few young pregnant women who remained away. Nevertheless, without realizing it she was relieved, for she had an irrational prejudice against killing a woman with child, and this eliminated the need. Regis Hastur, who, when her assassins were still on this planet, had been her prime target, was rumored in the city to have another mistress. Andrea had never seen Regis Hastur, but she felt a vague admiration for him; he had thwarted so many attacks. Well, let him enjoy such time as was left to him and his people, in peace. The few who remained after her last act would be too few and too feeble to rebuild their kind; in another generation they would be no more than a memory and a few isolated throwbacks.
312 It was a mistake to give them so much power. I admit it. I'm not too proud to own up to my own mistakes. But we were tired of struggling with an uncooperative and unappreciative society. We were beaten into weariness by a horde of supercilious bastards, petty and envious little men hanging on our coattails and trying to chivy us down. We were sick of people with no respect, no traditions, no heritage, no proper ambitions. We were disgusted by a world degenerating at every seam, in every aspect. We had finally realized the futility of issuing warnings no one would listen to. Even then the brakes could have been applied to our skidding society if someone had bothered to listen, if anyone had had the guts and foresight to take the necessary measures. But we were tired, and we were no longer young.
313 Slade saw an MGB overtaking dangerously, cutting in between two lorries, pulling out again and narrowly missing an oncoming truck. Even as a spectator on a freezing night he felt the beads of sweat beginning to form on his forehead. Crazy bastard, he thought. He tried to understand the mentality of the driver of that sports car. Maybe he was playing at Formula One, living out his fantasies. In all probability one day he would kill himself, and somebody else as well. Nobody would know the real reason. It troubled Slade's conscience. The driver could have been emulating somebody, maybe himself. That's what comes of being in the top flight, he decided. You never know how many deaths you've got on your conscience. You're responsible. The sooner they forget you the better. Let them identify with somebody else.
314 A Jamaillian ship veered in to flank her. It was a smaller vessel, fleet and nimble, her railing lined with archers. At the cries of his hostages, the bowmen faltered, but an instant later they let fly. Wintrow flung himself flat to avoid two shafts aimed at him. Another struck Vivacia's shoulder, but rebounded harmlessly. She shrieked her outrage, a cry as shrill as a serpent's. Wizardwood need fear no ordinary arrow. Pitchpots and flames would be another matter, but Wintrow judged correctly that they would fear to use them in such crowded circumstance. The lively wind would be very ready to carry scraps of flaming canvas from one vessel to another. Vivacia's archers returned the volley, with far greater accuracy. The smaller boat veered off. Wintrow hoped the news of their hostages would spread.
315 The old man took the oil lamp with two hands, turned up the wick just a fraction of an inch, and held it near my face. The lamp illuminated the old man's face too. The skin had the texture of a jute sack so that a small scar went almost undetected in the coarseness of the complexion. The few days' growth of white bristles across his lower face shone silver in the light. His eyes were bright and moved quickly behind the bent spectacles that were artfully placed upon his nose to allow him to look over them when he preferred to do so. As his head turned in the lamplight, the circular spectacle glasses took turns to become silver pennies and clear again to reveal the small black eyes behind them. He nodded his way out of the spectacles and put them back into the cloth lining of the metal case.
316 When the operation was finished, this connector peeked through the skin, somewhat in the fashion of a wall socket. The researchers could then interface with the patient by sticking a matching plug into the socket; when it was stuck in properly, all of the fluid and electrical connections were made in an instant. So many tubes and wires were crammed together in this bottleneck that they seemed to explode from the side of the patient's head. Some of the connections ran directly to various pieces of bedside machinery that monitored pressure inside the skull, delivered drugs, or helped to oxygenate the brain tissue in the biochip. Others were taped to the head of the bed, from which they ran over to the nearest wall, passed through a hole, and ran through a conduit that connected the two buildings.
317 He decided to walk up the gentle slope to look over the other side into the bay, see the end of the battle and what must follow it, the sack of the Braethraborg. As he started off up the slope, lance in hand, Cuthred followed him. Karli followed also, a few paces behind. Hagbarth watched them go, felt a moment's concern. On any battlefield there were likely to be men who had feigned death, enemies who might suddenly get to their feet again. It was Viking routine to police a battlefield before ceasing precautions, going over it in teams to strip bodies, finish enemy wounded and look for those worth ransom. This time it had not been done. Still, the king had two bodyguards with him, and there was much to be done on shore. Hagbarth put aside his concern, began to detail the others to their tasks.
318 Shouting to the others to scatter and look about in the brush, but not to scatter too far, he began climbing up the slope of the hill. When he had reached its top he left the path and plunged into the forest to his right on the theory that if the yachts were anywhere they must be there. He had two ideas about where they might be. One was that the Vings had spotted them and had sent in a party aboard a gig to push them over the side of the island. Thus, when the island had begun its nightly voyage it had left the 'rollers sitting upon the plain. The other theory was also inspired by the presence of the Vings. Perhaps the savages had hidden their craft because of just such an event as his first theory put forth. To do that they would have had to haul the 'rollers up the less steep slant of the cove.
319 Red Emma had once sent her husband to a used car lot to buy a family automobile and he had come home with a little teeny red creature meant for racing, set low to the ground, slit eyes for windows. It ate up every cent they had saved. She had never forgiven him. So now she felt personally involved, and she glared at this Duncan. He sat there as calm as you please building a pyramid out of sugar cubes. The grandfather was reading someone's discarded newspaper, holding it three feet away from him as old people tend to do and scowling and working his mouth around. Only the daughter seemed to understand. A nice girl, so trim and quiet. She wore a coat that was shabby but good quality, and she kept her eyes fixed on a catsup bottle as if something had shamed her. She knew what Red Emma was getting at.
320 Where do you come from? Carol was thinking. And why did you land here, in this place, at this time? She shaded her eyes from the glare of the moon and concentrated her attention on Sirius, the brightest true star in the sky. Do you have a home there, around another star? With mothers and fathers and brothers? Do you have love and oceans and mountains and music? And longing and loneliness and fear of death? For reasons she could not understand, tears found their way into Carol's eyes. She dropped her gaze and walked back to the air mattresses. Nick was already stretched out on one of them. He was on his back and his eyes were closed. Carol lay down on the mattress beside him. She reached out and put her hand in his. He pulled her hand to his lips, kissed it softly, and dropped it on his chest.
321 With the secretiveness of a Scot, and unknown to all the others, McCoy was conducting certain experiments in a narrow gorge on the unfrequented western slope of the island. In his youth he had been apprenticed to a distiller, and, while acquiring a rough knowledge of the distiller's art, he had also acquired an inveterate love of alcohol. Unlike most British seamen of his day, McCoy cared little for sprees and jovial drinking bouts, and under ordinary circumstances never went to excess. What he loved was the certainty of an unfailing supply of grog, the glow and gentle relaxation of a quiet glass or two by himself. When the last of the Bounty's rum was gone, save for the small amount preserved in case someone fell ill, McCoy's moods of gaiety had ceased, and he had grown silent and morose.
322 None the less, Vince felt, it was best to do all that was possible with the old man while he remained in office, and so he put down his razor and went into the living room to fiddle with the knobs of the TV set. He adjusted the n, the r and b knobs, and hopefully anticipated a turn for the better in the dire droning on of the speech... however, no change took place. Too many other viewers had their own ideas as to what the old man ought to be saying, Vince realized. In fact there were probably enough other people in this one apartment building alone to offset any pressures he might try to exert on the old man through his particular set. But anyhow that was democracy. Vince sighed. This was what they had wanted: a government receptive to what the people said. He returned to the bathroom and continued shaving.
323 Then the monster broke Jerle's grip, leaped onto the balustrade, and took wing. It hung momentarily against the light, huge and dark and nightmarish, a harried beast in search of any haven. Tay struck at it with everything he had, sending the Druid fire burning into its hated form. Below, bowstrings released, and dozens of arrows buried themselves in the creature's body. The Skull Bearer shuddered, faltered, and struggled on, streaming fire and smoke like kite tails, bristling with arrows. A second barrage of missiles from the bowmen flew into it. Now one wing collapsed, and in a final desperate effort it threw itself toward the tops of a stand of trees. But its strength was gone, and its body would no longer respond. Down it went, thrashing as it struck the ground and swordsmen swarmed over it.
324 I saw myself in one of the mirrors, on all fours in the great bed. I hastily looked away. To one side there appeared to be some sliding doors. On my right, and several feet away, there was, too, a heavy wooden door. It looked as though it might be very thick. I saw no way, no bars or locks, no chains or bolts, whereby its closure might be guaranteed on my side. It might be locked on the outside, I supposed. But, clearly, I could not lock it from the inside. I could not keep anyone out. I could, on the other hand, doubtless be kept in. At one point on the floor there was, fixed in the floor, a heavy metal ring. I also saw, in one wall, two such rings. One was mounted in the wall about a yard from the floor and the other, about a yard to its left, was mounted in the wall, about six feet from the floor.
325 By that second day of hiking, Thick was bored with the routine. Twice he let me get so far ahead of him that I was nearly out of his sight. Each time, he came huffing and hurrying over the wet sand to catch up with me. Each time, he demanded to know why we had to go so fast. I could not think of an answer that satisfied him. In truth, I knew only my own urgency. That this was a thing that must be finished, and that I would know no peace until I did. If I thought of the Fool as dead, if I thought of his body discarded in that icy place, the pain of such an image brought me close to fainting. I knew that I would not truly realize his death until I saw it. It was like looking down at a festering foot and knowing it must come off before the body could begin to heal. I hurried to face the agony.
326 Lowry wandered along in a northerly direction, taking a course which would soon lead him out of town; for he felt a craving for the quieting comfort of a stream in which he had long ago swum and the sound of a breeze in the willows which flanked it. Other manifestations, just enough apparent to make him wonder at them, were met on the way, people and beasts and birds which went into action a moment late. He was convinced that he was seeing late or that his mind, being wearied by the events of the two days past, was not registering instantaneously. He did not much worry until he reached the place where he had intended to rest. It had occurred to him belatedly that the spot was now the site of a cellulose factory; but, as he approached, no sign of factory or factory smoke was marring the sky.
327 Cashier Randall stood beside the ponderous door of the vault, watch in hand. It was two minutes of ten o'clock. At precisely ten the time lock on the massive steel structure, built into the solid masonry of the bank, would bring the mechanism into position for the combination to work. Already the various clerks and tellers were at their posts; books and money were in the vault. At length there came a whir and a sharp click in the heavy door, and the cashier whirled the combination. A few minutes later he pulled open the outer door with a perceptible effort, then turned his attention to the combination lock on the second door. This yielded more readily; but there was still another door, the third to be unlocked. Altogether the task of opening the huge vault required something like six minutes.
328 Lelaine each managed to gather her coterie around her, and those two knots floundered through the snow surrounded by wards against eavesdropping. The pair seemed to be delivering tirades. Egwene could imagine the topic. For that matter, other Sitters managed to ride together for a time, exchanging a few words quietly and casting cool glances sometimes at her and sometimes at the sisters wrapped around by saidar. Only Delana never joined one of those brief conversations. She stayed close beside Halima, who at last admitted that she was cold. Face tight, the country woman held her cloak close around her, but she still tried to comfort Delana, whispering to her almost constantly. Delana seemed to need comforting; her brows were drawn down, putting a crease in her forehead that actually made her seem aged.
329 Without taking any apparent aim, Osborne fired his rifle. Wesley's head snapped, half its smooth forehead missing; he landed on his knees and then his chest. While Ray tried to free a revolver from a shoulder holster inside his jacket and coat, Osborne ejected a shell, fed a new round into the rifle breech and fired again. Ray sat down, looking at his bloody hand. He lifted it away slowly and looked at the hole that went through the middle of his chest, then sagged to one side. Osborne's dog attacked George. The dog was in midair when George shot it, and was dead before it fell. Osborne was bleeding from his shoulder. Arkady became aware that another shot had been fired from farther away. George rolled behind a tree. Arkady pulled Irina down into the snow, and Osborne vanished into the trees.
330 We transferred our gear to the sleigh, putting our skis in the ski rack at the back. The black case of my typewriter and Joe Wesson's camera equipment seemed out of place. We climbed in. The man with the snow boots got up behind the steering wheel. He pulled over a switch and the cable tightened in front of us so that here and there it jerked clear of the snow. A soft crunching sound and we were gliding forward along the snow track. Almost immediately we were on the slope and the sleigh tilted upwards in an alarming fashion so that I found myself lying on my back rather than sitting on the seat. It was a peculiar and rather frightening sensation. We lost sight of the rifugio. We were looking up a long white avenue between the dark pines. It rose straight into the blue sky and was steep as the side of a house.
331 Was the passage through a hole supposed to be this rough? If Helm's reflexes hadn't been femtosecond fast, they'd be mashed against the sides, the hull scored if not penetrated by the protuberances that she saw more as retinal afterimages they passed by so fast. Petralloy was considered the best possible material to clad spacecraft and she had used the most advanced composition for the Fiver, but it could be dented and scraped. She could lose the exterior modules and sensors. Was she being sucked into a one-way route to nowhere? Still attempting to fit the harness about her for whatever protection that would afford her, she leaned to port to get her right arm through the straps just as a savage downward plunge brought her forehead against the armrest with sufficient force to render her unconscious.
332 Then suddenly, unexpectedly, he caught sight of something that did. He caught only a glimpse of it, a flicker of movement, no more, and then it was gone. He pressed himself back into the shadows and went still, waiting to see if he would spot it again. He did so, only seconds later, another glimpse, but enough to tell him more. It was someone human, slender and robed, sliding along the walls as he had been doing, a little off to one side of where he stood. He debated what to do. His impulse was to flee or hide, anything to avoid an encounter. But then he realized that it might be a member of the company, someone as lost as he was and looking for a way out of their shared nightmare. He let the other person come closer, trying to make out who it was, barely breathing in case he was making a mistake.
333 The data taken by the Zoo explorers seven cycles ago (about a hundred thousand Earth years) suggested that the whales and human beings, at that time, had approximately the same potential for intelligence. The whale language was richer and more complicated at the time of this earlier investigation. The Zoo explorers studied it briefly and recorded in the archives its fundamental tenets. Based upon that old data, while at the same time trying to develop a scenario for communicating with the humans, the spaceship attempts to make contact with the whales. Because the whales have not substantially changed in the intervening time, the attempts are partially successful; the whales understand that they are being called, but they are mostly confused by the messages and unable to figure out how to respond.
334 He'd arrived first, and was relaxing with a cheap American bourbon when Ming came through the door. Nomuri waved in what he hoped was not an overly boyish way. She saw him do so, and her resulting smile was just about right, he thought. Ming was glad to see him, and that was step one in the plan for the evening. She made her way to his corner table in the back. He stood, showing a degree of gentlemanliness unusual in China, where women were nowhere near as valued as they were back home. Nomuri wondered if that would change, if all the killing of female babies could suddenly make Ming a valuable commodity, despite her plainness. He still couldn't get over the casual killing of children; he kept it in the front of his mind, just to keep clear who the good guys were in the world, and who the bad guys were.
335 Electric lights had been strung along the roof of the narrow passageway, and Siriner's bunker was protected by an iron door. The door had been made from the hatch and armored plate of a Syrian tank destroyed by the Israelis. It was cool ten feet below the surface of the cave, and within the bunker itself a pair of large fans stirred the musty air. The room was nearly square and roughly the size of a large freight elevator. The walls were naked, and the low ceiling had been covered with a clear plastic tarp. The plastic was pulled tight and bolted in the corner to protect the room in the event of artillery shelling. There were rugs on the dirt floor, a small metal desk, and folding chairs with embroidered cushions. Beside the desk was a shredder. Behind it there was a radio with a headset and stool.
336 Muzzaf nodded, stroking his beard; he was a travelled man, a man of affairs, who had been east to Sandoral, west to Kendrun, and to the capital several times. He looked about, seeing with a northerner's eyes. The southern slopes of the mountains were themselves dry, unlike the dense broadleaf forest of the other slope; open scrub, grass, a few glades of cedar or bottletree higher up. Down here was pasture, verdant enough in the winter rains, but drying out now, the carpets of wildflowers long gone. Already the sheep were being herded up the valleys and into the high meadows, vast bleating herds surrounded by mounted guardians. Several were in view from here; the land was not really flat, it rolled like the frozen waves of the sea, and from a ridgeline like this you could see a score of kilometers.
337 Being uncomfortable close, myself, my one concern when I'd slept the night away was to slide out in safety and rejoin the army. The difficulty was that when I crawled out of my refuge and stood up, I tumbled straight down again and almost rolled over the ledge. I had another go, with the same result, and realised that my head ached, I felt shockingly ill and dizzy, I was sweating like an Aden collier, and some infernal Sutlej bug was performing a polka in my lower bowels. Dysentery, in fact, which can be anything from fatal to a damned nuisance, but even at best leaves you weak as a rat, which is inconvenient when the nearest certain help is twenty miles away. For while I could hear our bugles playing Charlie, Charlie across the river, I wasn't fit to holler above a whimper, let alone swim.
338 Something crashed behind them, like a dozen city gates splintering under a score of rams, and his name hooted and gibbered at them out of the darkness. They redoubled their pace, running blindly, bouncing off trees, stumbling over uneven ground, and the crashing, splintering sounds pursued them. Bahzell could picture the monster ripping entire trees out by the roots, throwing them aside as it rampaged through the forest in pursuit. He heard Brandark's desperate panting beside him as his friend gasped for breath, knew they could run no faster, but the sounds of shattering wood were overtaking them quickly, and he swore savagely. They couldn't outrun something that could batter whole trees from its path, and the thought of being pulled down from behind while he ran like a panicked rabbit was too much to endure.
339 For example, in most fish species a female lays eggs and a male fertilizes those eggs outside the female's body, but in all placental mammal species and marsupials a female gives birth to live young rather than to eggs, and all mammal species practice internal fertilization (male sperm injected into the female's body). Live birth and internal fertilization involve so many biological adaptations and so many genes that all placental mammals and marsupials have been firmly committed to those attributes for tens of millions of years. As we shall see, these inherited commitments help explain why there is no mammal species in which parental care is provided solely by the male, even in habitats where mammals live alongside fish and frog species whose males are the sole providers of parental care.
340 Strange words for a man to use to Power! But I had talked daily with him for three weeks. I lay groaning in the hut, alone. On the second day he came. I affected great rejoicing, and made shift to light a fire from a taper I had kept burning. He thought it a mark of honor, but it was actually a signal. And then, as he talked to me in what he thought my illness, there came a cry from without the hut. It was the village priest, a simple man but very brave in his fashion. On the signal of smoke from the peasant's hut, he had accept near and drawn all about it an iron chain that he had muffled with cloth so that it would make no sound. And now he stood before the hut door with his crucifix upraised, chanting exorcisms. A very brave man, that priest, because I had pictured the Power as a foul fiend indeed.
341 Tubby glanced at me, swallowed nervously and crossed to the starter motor which was already connected up. He pressed the switch. It groaned, overloaded with the stiffness of the metal. The groaning sound went on and on. He switched off and went over to the engine, his practised eye running over it, checking. Then he went back to the starter motor. The groaning sound was faster now, moving to a hum. There was a sharp explosion. The engine rocked. The hum of the starter took over again and then suddenly the stillness of the hangar was shattered by a roar as the motor picked up. The whole building seemed to shake. Tubby switched off, hurried to the engine and adjusted the controls. When he started it again, the roar settled to a steady, glorious hum of power, smooth and even like the dynamos of a power station.
342 Oddly enough, however, it's working out. Robots are in use on the assembly lines and are increasing in importance each year. The automobile companies are installing them in their factories by the tens of thousands. Increasingly, they will appear elsewhere as well, while ever more complex and intelligent robots will be appearing on the drawing boards. Naturally, these robots are going to wipe out many jobs, but they are going to create jobs, too. The robots will have to be designed, in the first place. They will have to be constructed and installed. Then, since nothing is perfect, they will occasionally go wrong and have to be repaired. To keep the necessity for repair to a minimum, they will have to be intelligently maintained. They may even have to be modified to do their work differently on occasion.
343 Now he was moving purely under his own volition, toward a destination he had chosen himself. The crystal heart of Jupiter fell below; the layers upon layers of helium and hydrogen and carbonaceous compounds flickered past. He had a glimpse of a great battle between something like a jellyfish, fifty kilometres across, and a swarm of spinning disks that moved more swiftly than anything he had yet seen in the Jovian skies. The jellyfish appeared to be defending itself with chemical weapons; from time to time it would emit jets of coloured gas and the disks touched by the vapour would start to wobble drunkenly, then slip downward like falling leaves until they had disappeared from sight. He did not stop to watch the outcome; he knew that it did not matter who were the victors and who the vanquished.
344 He charged through spiderwebs, feeling them stick to his face. Water dripped. He smelled fetid dankness and mold. Behind, the footsteps continued after him. As he splashed through a pool of water, feeling it soak his shoes and pants, he heard the echo of voices far back in the tunnel. The group that had entered the chapel now came this way. He hurried on. Too soon, the man behind him splashed through the water. The voices seemed louder behind him. Turning to listen, he slammed the side of his head against a pipe that stretched from one wall to the other. He reeled back, seeing crimson behind his eyes, clutching the lump that began to swell. Feeling moisture in his hair, he lowered his fingers to his mouth, relieved when he tasted the salt of sweat, not the copper of blood. He scurried forward again.
345 The vessel was not steered by human beings. The Control Center had no semblance to anything Earthlings had ever seen before. It contained none of the usual control instruments and it would have been impossible to manipulate the course of the vessel. Most of the room was taken up by a complex structure that had to be designated as a positronic robot after a cursory examination. The robot was not operable by external guidance and had no independent center for making decisions of its own. At the top of its enclosure was a thick cable which connected it with the electronic communication center. The radio center served the robot as receiver for commands as well as transmitter of its followup directions. It was the nerve center of the system where the strings drawn by a long extinct race came together.
346 Looking through binoculars, Kathy could see, across the river, the knot of men who were at work on the dead visitor. There was no way she could make out what they were doing. The only thing she could determine was that in some manner (using saws, she wondered?), they had cut sections out of the dead body, probably securing samples to be taken back to Washington, or perhaps elsewhere, for closer examination. They were busy with a number of pieces of equipment, but the distance was too great to make certain what they were doing. There had been no chance to talk with anyone who might answer her questions. Security was tight. The bridge the army engineers had thrown across the river was closed by National guardsmen and other guardsmen patrolled the river bank to stop anyone who might try to cross.
347 The fighting surged toward the bed as she gave her details to the operator. She shuffled back, crouching in the corner, keeping a wary eye on the struggle as the intruder fell back against her dressing table. Glass shattered, and he reeled to his feet and lunged at Rider. The edge of the bed caught Rider in the back of the knees, and he tumbled back, off balance, and rolled to the side, evading the charge by inches, and almost landing on Jane as she scrambled to the other side of the room. Rider gained his feet and the attacker came at him again, frighteningly fast, but instead of stepping in close, Rider took a step back and jerked the shadowy figure with him. This time the attacker landed on her dressing table chair and the dainty antique snapped like kindling as the two men went down on the floor.
348 So he had not been feigning illness these last few days. I knew that ordinarily the Fool's body was cool, much cooler than an ordinary man's, so this mild warmth in him now was as a raging fever would be to me. I hoped it was no more than one of those strange times that came on him occasionally, when he was febrile and weakened. My experience of them was that in a day or two he recovered, with much peeling of skin to reveal a darker complexion beneath. Perhaps this fainting was only that weakness. Yet even as I stooped to slide my arms under him and lift him, my heart pinched with the fear that perhaps he was seriously ill. Truly, I had picked the worst possible time for my little confrontation with him. With him feverish and me dosed with elfbark, no wonder all our words to one another had gone awry.
349 Leto felt the sandtrout grow thin, spreading itself over more and more of his hand, reaching up his arm. He located another, placed it over the first one. Contact ignited a frenzied squirming in the creatures. Their cilia locked and they became a single membrane which enclosed him to the elbow. The sandtrout adjusted to the living glove of childhood play, but thinner and more sensitive as he lured it into the role of a skin symbiote. He reached down with the living glove, felt sand, each grain distinct to his senses. This was no longer sandtrout; it was tougher, stronger. And it would grow stronger and stronger... His groping hand encountered another sandtrout which whipped itself into union with the first two and adapted itself to the new role. Leathery softness insinuated itself up his arm to his shoulder.
350 Looking above me, up through the water, I saw the long, lean hull of the attacking vessel pass overhead. Then there was a rending noise as it gouged the starboard strakes of Spined Tharlarion. It had come in at too sharp an angle. The hulls then, grinding, swung together. When I saw the light of open water between them I surfaced. I found myself in a welter of debris and splinters. Oars were thrusting out from the attacking vessel, to force the ships apart. I seized a broken oar from Spined Tharlarion, its blade gone, its shaft swinging loose in the thole port. I climbed on the oar, the sword dangling from its wrist sling. I got my hand to the wood beside the thole port. I could see the bench inside had been abandoned. I gathered many of the crew of Spined Tharlarion had abandoned the vessel.
351 I had hoped on being presented, days ago, to the overseer, that he might find me of interest and keep me in his tent, as a personal slut. But it was not I who was to be chosen. When I had been put before him, kneeling in my chains, my tunic pulled back and down, behind my shoulders, already a girl was at the side of his chair. It was she who had been first in the coffle, she who had once been the spoiled, rich woman. She was on all fours, still chained. Her work tunic, however, had been removed and a narrow rectangle of silk, thrust in a leather thong knotted about her waist, hung down before her. Our eyes met. She looked down. The overseer had already made his choice. To be sure, I, too, once or twice, as had other girls, had worn the rectangle of silk in his tent. He had the call of all of us.
352 The Beaver wheeled twice around the lake, but they saw nothing out of the ordinary. With the way apparently clear, Zavala pointed the plane down as if he wanted to drill a hole in the water. At the last moment he pulled the nose up like a dive bomber and leveled off nicely until the white floats kissed the surface. The plane skimmed along like a flat stone, throwing off twin rooster tails before finally coming to a rolling halt about midway between shore and island. Austin kicked open the door as the propeller spun to a choking halt. With the engine stopped a palpable silence enveloped the cockpit. Zavala radioed the ship with a position report, and Austin scanned the lake, the low cliffs, and the island with his binoculars, taking his time until he was sure, as far as possible, that they were alone.
353 Am I dying? he wondered. The pain was excruciating. His legs ached and he tried to move his toes. It seemed to him that he could, but then he remembered an amputee once telling him that he could still feel the fingers of the hand that had been lost. Ro dragged back his broken right hand and tried to reach the pocket of his torn tunic. The fractured fingers flared with fresh pain as he reached inside and he was unable to draw out the crystal. Instead he laid his hand gently upon it and began to speak the first of the Six Rituals. The pain subsided and he felt the bones begin to knit. As his strength returned he pushed away the rocks covering his belly and legs and wriggled free. As he did so he saw one of the golden ships, its prow aflame, backing out of the harbour. A second ship was moving alongside.
354 When he stood up, he moved like a very old man. The packet was back in the lock box. Had it been a cobra, he could not have recoiled more swiftly. It took him a few moments to acquire the courage to touch it, then lift it out of the lock box. At first it seemed to him to be of slightly different weight and dimension than he remembered, and it looked as if it had been resealed, but then logic came to his rescue. No one could possibly have touched it. He'd had a mild hallucination based on nervous tension and overwork. There was no need to tell Mr. Wintermore about it. Everything was entirely in order. He would try to get a little more rest in the future, a little more exercise and sunshine. He returned the box to the vault and walked back to his office, consciously breathing more deeply than was his custom.
355 Against its far wall I could see great chests, heavy and bound with iron, filled doubtless with a raider's abundant booty, gems and golden wire, and necklaces and coins, and pearls, and jewelries and bracelets and bangles, set perhaps with precious stones, which might serve to adorn the limbs of exquisite female slaves. Much booty was there. And I reminded myself that I, too, as much as any coin or precious cup in such a chest, or in this entire camp, was booty. I, too, was booty. I wondered, too, if those chests might contain the light, precious chains of silver and gold, wrought by slavers so cunningly, to hold a girl in given positions, while she was subdued at a master's leisure. I trembled. And I wondered, too, if they might contain nose rings, and if one would be put on me. I shuddered.
356 Kel sent animal scouts out in a wide circle around her group, and placed humans on either side to look for things the animals might deem unimportant. She then led her column of men single file over the ground already covered by the refugees to ensure that enemy patrols would confuse their tracks for those of the refugees. On they rode through forests that looked the same as those they had ridden through the day before, hearing the same kinds of birds, seeing the same kinds of trees. Kel realized that she'd expected things to look different once they were in another country. She shook her head. The land didn't change because humans divided it with an invisible line. Birds weren't stopped from going where they must for food, and the Scanran side of the Vassa ran as hard, fast and cold as the Tortallan side.
357 This is the way it works. The contemporary painter approaches his canvas without an idea (in most cases), fools around with charcoal, experimenting with lines and forms, filling in here, using a shaping thumb, perhaps, to add some depth to a form that is beginning to interest him, and sooner or later he sees something. The painting develops into a composition and he completes it. His subconscious takes over, and the completed painting may turn out well or, more often than not, like most writing, turn out badly. Even when the painter begins with an idea of some kind his subconscious takes over the painting once he starts working on it. The same theory essentially, holds true for the writer. A man paints or writes both consciously and subconsciously beginning with, at most, a few relevant mental notes.
358 While studying the mythology of Oceania we shall not enquire whether the myths to be found in such and such an area, island or archipelago are native creations or importations. We shall limit ourselves to demonstrating, with reference to each of the main categories of empirical realities, the main types of mythical explanation invented in Oceania, quoting only the clearest examples. We shall have more than once to disentangle the various themes combined in a complex legend, and, which is more regrettable; shall be forced to pass over many a picturesque detail in silence. We resign ourselves to this, desirous above all to work scientifically and not in a literary way, less concerned with local colour than with the universal and constant aspiration of humanity to achieve the illusion of understanding.
359 The first thing was to find when the next sale was, and here we were lucky, for there was one in the market that very afternoon, which meant we could do our business and, God willing, be out by nightfall. Next I must inquire about steamboats, so leaving Cassy under the shelter of a shop porch, I pushed down to the levee to make inquiries. It was pouring fit to frighten Noah by now, with a howling wind as well, and by the time I tacked up to the steamboat office I was plastered with gumbo to the thighs and sodden from there up. To add to my difficulties, the ancient at the office window, wearing a dirty old pilot cap and a vacant expression, was both stone deaf and three parts senile; when I bawled my inquiries to him above the noise of the storm he responded with a hand to his ear and a bewildered grin.
360 Quinn's watery gray eyes glinted as he rattled on about aberrations and special moments. Probably the wine. It had gotten to Amelia half an hour ago, a fuzzy vino cloud that put her afloat and permitted her to tune out Quinn's voice while staring past him, to nod and generate tiny noises of acknowledgment on a schedule that allowed him to believe she was actually listening. She had disconnected, and felt just fine. She took a deep, languorous breath, keeping him on the far side of her wine glass, and stifled the giggle that welled within her. Oh my yes, she felt nice, adrift on a cumulus pillow of gasified brain cells. She would look past him, through him, in just this way when he was on top of her, grunting and sweating and believing he had seduced her... just as he now believed she was paying attention.
361 Especially she avoided the garden at the center of the castle. The surka stood by the main gate, wrapped around one of the tall white pillars. Its presence was symbolic only; anyone might pass the gate without danger of touching its leaves, and there were several other ways into the garden. But she felt that the surka exhaled hallucinations into the very air around it, waiting gleefully for her to breathe them in, and that it clattered its leaves at her if she came too near. She heard it mocking her if she even dared step out on one of the balconies that overlooked the garden from three or four stories up. Her protracted illness more nearly proved Galanna's contention about her heritage than her own, whatever Tor said, but she saw no reason to remind herself of it any oftener than she had to.
362 Magusson was a small man behind a huge desk. His head appeared too large for his body, but his ears seemed no bigger than a pair of silver dollars. Large protuberant eyes, bulging with shrewdness and feverish with ambition, marked him as one who'd be hungry a minute after standing up from a daylong feast. A button nose too severely turned up at the tip, an upper lip long enough to rival that of an orangutan, and a mean slash of a mouth completed a portrait sure to repel any woman with eyesight; but if you wanted an attorney who was angry at the world for having been cursed with ugliness and who could convert that anger into the energy and ruthlessness of a pit bull in the courtroom, even while using his unfortunate looks to gain the jurors' sympathy, then Simon Magusson was the counselor for you.
363 The fellow before me made a sign and Taurog removed his heel from my back. I could still feel its print there. I was frightened. I could feel the rough, flattened coarseness of the carpet beneath me. I noted the difference between the feel of it, from lying upon it on my back, before, and as I did now, on my stomach. It had seemed plain, hard and scratchy to my back, a suitable surface, I supposed, on which a girl's virginity might be tested, but as I lay on my stomach, to my softness, to my breasts and belly, to my thighs, it seemed oddly different. I was now much more conscious of it, the irregularities of its surface, the tiny, abrupt roughnesses, where a shoe might have moved the pile. I had walked upon that carpet thousands of times. Never before, however, had I lain on it, on my stomach, naked.
364 Till this instant there had been so many physical things to do that he had only dimly comprehended what it might mean to him if he could get aboard. His mind, grooved through the uncounted ages to ultimate despair, soared up insanely. His legs and arms glistened like tongues of living fire as they writhed and twisted in the light that blazed from the portholes. His mouth, a gash in his caricature of a human head, slavered a white frost that floated away in little frozen globules. His hope grew so big that the thought of it kept dissolving in his mind, and his vision blurred. Through the blur, he saw a thick vein of light form a circular bulge in the metallic surface of the ship. The bulge became a huge door that rotated open and tilted to one side. A flood of brilliance spilled out of the opening.
365 When he listened he could hear the sounds of prisoners in the other cells along the passage, their muttering broken at intervals by outbursts of abusive shouting at their Arab guards and bitter argument among themselves. They were like dogs confined in cages too small for their numbers, and in the oppressive heat these naturally aggressive, violent sailors became murderous. Only yesterday he had heard the sounds of a terrible conflict, and of a man being strangled to death in the next cell while his mates cheered on the murder. Dorian shuddered now, and reapplied himself to the task he had chosen to while away the monotony of his captivity. He was using a link of his leg irons to scratch his name into the wall. Many others who had been confined in this cell had left their marks carved into the soft coral blocks.
366 Suddenly there was a click. The priest felt his enemy's worry plainly as the light in the peculiar hanging tube dimmed and went out. The board's lights, too, were now shut off. The pressure on the other part of Hiero's brain vanished. And at the same time, before the Unclean adept could even rise from his seat, Hiero struck. The mental barrier he had erected to defend himself was swept down, and he lashed out at the dark mind of the adept before the other could even think of guarding himself. Using both channels now open to him, Hiero captured the enemy's brain before any warning even could be formulated. Now Hiero paused, keeping a tight vise on the other, and waited to see if anyone else had been around. There was nothing, no thrilling of the ether, no alarm, no sign of awareness of what had happened.
367 Cluny watched them strike off into the undergrowth. His previous good mood had deserted him. He was working himself into a foul temper over the day's performance by his mighty conquering horde. Shown up by the simple tactics of woodland creatures and mice! He snorted and dug his powerful claws into the rotten tree trunk, sending beetles and woodlice scurrying as he tore out a chunk of the spongy timber. Oh, he had had them frightened at first. As a commander he knew the power of fright, but once they, had gained the upper hand in the initial skirmish the mice lost their fear and became bolder. That was when the battle had started to go against him. Granted, he had scored one or two small victories, but they were nothing to brag about. He couldn't use them as an example to put fresh heart in his troops.
368 Crime was flourishing on the Mother Planet. True, a certain amount was to be expected on a world with a population of nine billion, but the situation was much worse than should be anticipated. Criminals were much better organized here, and their hold on the populace was far too tenacious for chance. While the Service was not responsible for dealing with ordinary crime per se, it maintained files on what was going on, and the reports that were filtering up to the Head's office were deliberately vague and misleading. It was as though someone, at some level, were trying to cover up the true extent of the problem. Estimates of harmful effects were almost unanimously understated, as though to lull the upper echelon into a false sense of security. Until now, those tactics had worked all too well.
369 By mealtime Cheelo, though still nervous and worried about the poachers' state of mind, had resigned himself to his captivity. He cooperated while Hapec fed him listlessly, and he watched with as much interest as the poachers while Desvendapur picked through the assortment of rehydrated fruits and vegetables he was offered. When their prize captive seemed satisfied, the two men sat down to their own meal. Dinnertime conversation on their part consisted of coarse jokes, inconsequential natterings, and an impassioned discussion of how much money they were going to clear for selling the only representative of a recently contacted intelligent species into involuntary captivity. While salt, pepper, and hot sauce played a part in their dining, their conversation was seasoned by neither ethics nor morals.
370 In all, five dancers tottered stiff as figurines till they reached the center of the freshly cleared floor. Then they flung themselves off the sliding platform and began to dance. One dancer was draped in red, the others in green, blue, gold, arid black sprays of gauzy silk that sweetly kissed the rolling contours of their bodies as they ran and billowed out into the flower petals when they twirled. The folds floated up to offer a quick glimpse of white or brown, the pink undulating nakedness broken only by matching jewels held like sparkling monocles in their navels. Then the colored curtains dropped down again, blocking the view so quickly that the eye scarcely believed what it had seen. In a warped marriage of modesty and the carnal, each dancer was veiled so only wild eyes peeked out of their faces.
371 Trying not to be too obvious about watching the alley beside the candlemaker's, Nynaeve set the folded length of flat green braid back on the hawker's tray and slipped her hand inside her cloak to help hold it shut against the wind. It was a finer cloak than any on the people walking by, but plain enough that no one more than glanced at her in passing. They would if they saw her belt, though. Women who wore jewels did not frequent Blue Carp Street, or buy from street peddlers. After standing there for her to finger every last bit of braid on the tray, the lean woman grimaced, but Nynaeve had already bought three pieces of braid, two lengths of ribbon and a packet of pins from hawkers, just for a reason to loiter. Pins were always useful, but she did not know what she was going to do with the rest.
372 When he heard another shower go on, he paid little attention and continued scrubbing himself. Other personnel used the gym, but mostly in the early morning and late afternoon. It is male etiquette to pay little attention to other bathers in a communal athletic shower, but Barney wondered who it was. He hoped it wasn't Cordell, who gave him the creeps. It was rare for anyone, else to use this facility at night. Who in the hell was that? Barney turned to let the water pound on the back of his neck. Clouds of steam, fragments of the person next to him appear between the billows like fragments of fresco on a plastered wall. Here a massive shoulder, there a leg. A shapely hand scrubbing a muscular neck and shoulder, coral fingernails, that was Margot's hand. Those were painted toes. That was Margot's leg.
373 For a moment I saw nothing. I rode the spasms in darkness. I hung helpless on the cock that skewered me. And gradually on the very end of the wave I felt my cock rising again. My Master's greased hands were coaxing it to rise. And it had been tormented too long to be so easily satisfied. Yet the rally was excruciating. I almost whimpered to be released, but my whimpers sounded too much like sighs of pleasure. His hand was working me well, his cock pumping me, and I heard myself giving the same short openmouthed cries I'd given under the Whipping Master's paddle on the turntable. I felt my cock jerking as it had then and saw all those faces around me, and I knew I was alone in the Master's bedchamber and that I was his slave and he wouldn't let me go until he had brought it again thundering out of me.
374 Whispering words of comfort to the dying blossom, he felt the petals relax about him. He crept forth very cautiously, and found himself in an immense, gloomily vaulted hall, whose windows were like the mouths of a deep cavern. The place was a sort of alchemy, a den of alien sorceries and abhorrent pharmaceutics. Everywhere, in the gloom, there were vats, cupels, furnaces, alembics, and matrasses of unhuman form, bulking and towering colossally to the pigmy eyes of Maal Dweb. Close at hand, a monstrous cauldron fumed like a crater of black metal, its curving sides ascending far above the magician's head. None of the Ispazars was in sight; but, knowing that they might resume at any moment, he hastened to make ready against them, feeling, for the first time in many years, the thrill of peril and expectation.
375 Like almost all river ports, the town was situated at a bend where the river slowed and deposited its silt, creating a flat, swampy land mass that none the less allowed for the docking of boats and the laying of foundations on pilings in the muck. At the far end the harbor stopped, as the water was far too shallow to be useful, leaving a good quarter of a mile of broad mud flats. Here, untouched by man's attempt to control the land, was a slippery quagmire that, nonetheless, he could manage, although the scabbard of his sword dragged in it and occasionally made him lose his balance. By the time he reached firmer land, he was totally covered in sticky brown mud. He hauled himself up and sat in the harder mud near shore and coughed a bit. After a few minutes, he heard someone else, a woman, coughing as well.
376 The men escorted him away. This was part of my promise to him: He had cooperated fully, and now I was protecting him by making an example of him. None of the nomenklatura would seek revenge against him, because he was obviously as much a victim as they. But he would be reassigned to an equivalent post elsewhere, where he would administer a similar brand of progressive socialism, as would others of the deposed staff, as warranted. I had all their names, thanks to Ivan's information. The majority would be less kindly treated; they would be incorporated into the working force at low levels and barred from administrative positions. This was the first abrupt step in the disenfranchisement of the most powerful class in the Union of Saturnine Republics. I was commencing the hatchet job for Khukov.
377 Things had then seemed calm. It seemed the ropes suspending this object would hold, that the surface on which I was confined was not likely to suddenly give way. I was then mainly grateful, in the cold, that we had been given blankets. Then, as my composure grew, I became eager and curious to know more about my surroundings. I did not know in what sort of device I was located. I did not know how high I was. I wondered what the countryside below might look like. Were there fields down there? Rivers? Forests? Would I be able to see the shadow of our passage, fleet and rippling, on the terrain below? What was the nature of the beast, or bird, that drew this carriage so swiftly through the sky? I wished I could see. That, however, was not now possible. That liberty had been denied to me by my master.
378 He wondered what he felt about them. Before their uprising, Wintrow had tended them belowdecks. His heart had rung with pity for them, then. True, he had had small comfort to offer them: the dubious relief of salt water and a washing rag seemed a false mercy now. He had tried to do a priest's duties for them, but there had simply been too many. Now whenever he looked at them, instead of recalling his compassion for them, he remembered the screams and the blood as they had killed all his shipmates. He could not name the emotion that now swept through him when he considered the former slaves. Compounded of fear and anger, disgust and sympathy, it wrenched his soul with shame at feeling it. It was not a worthy emotion for a priest of Sa to experience. So he chose his other option. He felt nothing.
379 In fact, there was more to see in Houseldon than she had expected. At any rate, Minick thought there was a great deal to see. And he liked to see it all thoroughly, with an attention to detail which was both loving and analytical. For instance, Houseldon contained no less than three livery stables, to accommodate the numbers of people who came here from all over the Care, as well as from other regions of Mordant. Each of these was exactly what it claimed to be: a place where horses were left and cared for while their masters transacted business, visited relatives, appealed for justice, pursued crafts or apprenticeships. Yet to Minick each was worth looking at closely; each had virtues and drawbacks which required evaluation; each prospered or declined according to factors which he took pains to understand.
380 Slowly, the cruel breath rasping his tortured lungs, Tyndall surfaced from the black depths of unconsciousness. Blindly, instinctively he struggled to sit up, but his broken hand collapsed under the weight of his body. His legs didn't seem to be much help either: they were quite powerless, as if he were paralysed from the waist down. The fog was gone now, and blinding flashes of colour, red, green and white were coruscating brilliantly across the darkening sky. Starshells? Was the enemy using a new type of starshell? Dimly, with a great effort of will, he realised that there must be some connection between these dazzling flashes and the now excruciating pain behind his forehead. He reached up the back of his right hand: his eyes were still screwed tightly shut... Then the realisation faded and was gone.
381 As the rollers drummed over our heads Catherine looked into my eyes in a moment of complete lucidity. Her expression showed both irony and affection, an acceptance of a sexual logic we both recognized and had prepared ourselves for. I sat quietly in the front seat as the white soap sluiced across the roof and doors like liquid lace. Behind me, Vaughan's semen glistened on my wife's breasts and abdomen. The rollers drummed and battered at the car; the streams of water and soap solution jetted over its now immaculate body. Each time the machine completed its cycle I wound down my window and pushed more coins into the pay slot. The two attendants watched us from their glass kiosk, the faint music of the transistor radio sounding into the night air as the gantry returned to its start position.
382 There was then a growling in the corridor outside of the bars, and a scratching of claws on stone. I also heard several men and the sound of arms. In a moment or two the Kur from the courtyard below, no longer dragging the part of a sleen, perhaps having finished it, or having had it dragged from him, was ushered past our cell, and prodded, its ropes then removed, a chain still on its neck, into a cell down the way. It had moved slowly past us, slowly and stiffly, as though in great pain. It now, now that it was no longer fighting for its life, seemed exhausted and weak. Much of its fur was matted with dried blood. I did not think it would be likely to survive another such bout in the courtyard. As it had passed our cell it had looked in at me. In its eyes there had been baleful hatred. I was human.
383 He turned away, and would have started back down the hill to where the chariots waited but something stopped him in his tracks. He lifted his head and tested the air again. There was still a faint whiff of that evil smell, just an elusive trace of it. Warily he turned back up the slope, passing the place where Pharaoh had died, and went on. With each pace the stench of evil grew stronger, until it caught in his throat and made his gorge rise. Once again, he realized that this was something from beyond the natural order. He went on, until after twenty measured paces the odour began to fade. He stopped and retraced his steps. Immediately the stench grew stronger. He quested back and forth until it was at its zenith. Then he stepped off the path and found it stronger still, almost suffocating.
384 A couple of minutes later, Dottie called me back to the window and handed out my order on a coarse paper plate with enough napkins to insulate a house. I carried the food to the street, set the Dixie on the curb, then went to work on the food. The boudin were plump and juicy, and when you bit into them they were filled with rice and pork and cayenne and onions and celery. Even in the heat, steam came from the sausage and it burned the inside of my mouth. I had some of the dirty rice, and then some of the beef rib. The dirty rice was heavy and glutinous and rich with chicken livers. The rib was tender and the sauce chunky with onion and garlic. The tastes were strong and salty and wonderful, and pretty soon I was feeling eager to dive back into the case. Even if it meant being called Jeffrey.
385 In the dank twilight I climbed the worn and aged stone stairs till I reached the level where they ceased, and thereafter clung perilously to small footholds leading upward. Ghastly and terrible was that dead, stairless cylinder of rock; black, ruined, and deserted, and sinister with startled bats whose wings made no noise. But more ghastly and terrible still was the slowness of my progress; for climb as I might, the darkness overhead grew no thinner, and a new chill as of haunted and venerable mould assailed me. I shivered as I wondered why I did not reach the light, and would have looked down had I dared. I fancied that night had come suddenly upon me, and vainly groped with one free hand for a window embrasure, that I might peer out and above, and try to judge the height I had once attained.
386 And it was his. Looking at it in the window glass, he felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders. The last time he had passed into Ben Holiday's world, he had been forced to pretend he really was a dog to avoid a good many unpleasantness. Magic was not accepted here. Talking dogs were unheard of. Abernathy had been an oddity of monumental importance, and there had been more than one attempt to exploit the fact. So he had crept about like a thief in the night, playing at being something he wasn't, embarrassed and frightened. Now he could walk about like everyone else because he looked like everyone else. He fit comfortably in place. Well, more so than he would have if he had still been a dog. This was, after all, not his own country. But when he finally got back to Landover....
387 Mariko knew she could not last much longer. She was panting now from her exertions and could feel the brooding malevolence surrounding her. Then ahead and all around, Grays began to ease away from the walls and the noose around the column quickly tightened. A few Grays walked out to try to surround her and she stopped advancing, knowing that she could, too easily, be trapped and disarmed and captured, which would destroy everything at once. Now Browns moved up to assist her and the rest took positions around the litters. The mood in the avenue was ominous now, every man committed, the sweet smell of blood in their nostrils. The column was strung out from the gateway and Mariko saw how easy it would be for the Grays to cut, them all off if they wished and leave them stranded in the roadway.
388 Holding the cloak closed with one gloved hand, she rode slowly and tried very hard, if not very successfully, not to shiver. Given the hour, it seemed more than likely she would be spending the night here, but as yet, she had no idea where she would sleep. Doubtless in some lesser noble's tent, with the lord or lady shuffled off to find haven elsewhere and trying to put the best face on being evicted, but Arymilla liked leaving her on tenterhooks until the very last, about beds and everything else. One suspense was no sooner dispelled than another replaced it. Plainly the woman thought the constant uncertainty would make her squirm, perhaps even strive to please. That was far from the only miscalculation Arymilla had made, beginning with the belief that Elenia Sarand's claws had been clipped.
389 Until then Terrel had had no trouble with his footing but now, as they set off, his boots seemed to slide or sink unpredictably with each step. It was as if the water vapour in the air was also making the snow beneath his feet slippery. He was part of a silent phalanx of soldiers, each man keeping the distance between him and those to either side to a minimum, while still giving themselves space to use their weapons if necessary. The sounds of combat were coming from several different directions now, but as yet the actual fighting remained invisible. It occurred to Terrel that in the severely reduced visibility it would be difficult to tell friend from foe, and in such confused conditions it would be easy to panic. But Raufar's men were better disciplined than that. They moved on steadily and with purpose.
390 Sneezy had never felt fear of the island before. Of course it was human and remote and therefore wholly strange to a Heechee boy, but it had not occurred to him that there was anything to be afraid of. Certainly not of the few Polynesian natives who remained. They were almost all old people who kept to their homes and ways while most of the young ones had gone off to more exciting places than Moorea. He had not even been afraid of the prison buildings, because it had been explained to the children that there were almost no living convicts still there. In any case, although the couple who remained had done terrible things, they were not only securely confined but very old. There was, Sneezy assured himself, absolutely nothing to be afraid of beyond the chance that they might be late for the luau.
391 The thought of leaving depressed him, for he knew with a certain deep gut feeling that there was something here, very close to where he now lay, and it irked him terribly that the oncoming rains would frustrate his search. But then he consoled himself that there would be another season, and he knew with the same deep gut certainty that he would return. There was something about this land, an insistent, irritating sound interrupted his thoughts. He pushed the cap up from his eyes and looked into the dense branches of the morula tree under which he lay. The harsh cries were repeated, and the drab little bird that uttered them hopped agitatedly from branch to branch, flirting its wings and tail with a sharp whirring. The bird was the size of a starling, its back dull brown and its chest and belly a muddy yellow.
392 The nascent science of thermodynamics, which established the interconvertibility of heat and work, had recently explained how automata gained their motive power by absorbing heat from their surroundings. Using this improved understanding of heat, a Namenmeister in Berlin had developed a new class of amulet that caused a body to absorb heat from one location and release it in another. Refrigeration employing such amulets was simpler and more efficient than that based on the evaporation of a volatile fluid, and had immense commercial application. Amulets were likewise facilitating the improvement of automata: an Edinburgh nomenclator's research into the amulets that prevented objects from becoming lost had led him to patent a household automaton able to return objects to their proper places.
393 Carol walked on slowly. She pulled the computer listing that Julianne had given her from a small purple beach bag. Before she could look at it, she heard a telephone ring on her left and her eyes lifted naturally to follow the sound. The telephone was ringing on a boat just in front of her. A husky man in his early thirties was sitting in a folding chair on the same boat. Wearing only a red baseball cap, a pair of swim trunks, dark sunglasses and some thongs, the man was intently watching a small television propped up on a flimsy tray of some kind. He held a sandwich in one hand (Carol could see the white mayonnaise oozing out between the slices of bread even from her distance of ten yards or so) and a can of beer in the other. There was no sign that the man in the red cap even heard the telephone.
394 Her legs were straight and strong, her hips flared with a graceful curve and then narrowed abruptly into her waist, her belly was almost flat with just an interesting little bulge below the navel. Now here was definitely sinful ground, of this there was no doubt. But still she could not deny the temptation to let her gaze linger a moment. She understood fully the technical purpose and the physical workings of all her body's highly complicated machinery, both visible and concealed. It was only the feelings and emotions which sprang from this source which both confused and worried her, for they had taught her none of this at St. Matthew's. She passed on hurriedly to safer ground, lifting her arms to pile the tresses of her hair on to the top of her head and hold them in place with a soft cloth cap.
395 For all of the insults he so casually threw his master's way, though, Druzil appreciated the wizard. Aballister was marvelously intelligent for a human, and the most powerful of his or her of three, and by Druzil's estimation those three wizards were the strongest leg of the triumvirate. Aballister would complete the cursing potion and supply the device to deliver it, and for that, Druzil, who had craved this day for decades, would be undyingly grateful. Druzil was smarter than most imps, smarter than most people, and when he had come upon the ancient recipe in an obscure manuscript a century before, he wisely had kept it hidden from his former master, another human. That wizard hadn't the resources or the wisdom to carry through the plan and properly spread the cause of chaos, but Aballister did.
396 Reaching into the matted pelt that lay across his back, one of the figures pulled out a small pouch. It was made of cured human skin, and in the glow of the moon it gave out an otherworldly, translucent sheen. Loosening the leather thong around it, the figure reached inside and, with extreme caution, drew out a disk of bone and an ancient tube of willow wood, polished with use and incised with a long reverse spiral. The disk flashed dully in the moonlight as he turned it over once, then again. Then, placing one end of the tube to his lips, he leaned toward the face of the sleeping figure. There was a sudden breath of wind, and a brief cloud of dust flowered in the moonlight. Then, with the tread of ghosts, the two figures retreated back toward the cliff face, disappearing once again into the woven shadows.
397 Even with so thin a data base, it wasn't all that hard. All of the towns and villages in the area were plotted, of course, even individual houses. Since nearly all had electricity, they were easy to spot, and once identified, the computer simply erased them electronically. That left energy sources that were not towns, villages, and individual farmsteads. Of these, some were regular or fairly so. It had been arbitrarily decided that anything that appeared more than twice in a week was too obvious to be of real interest, and these, too, were erased. That left sixty or so locations that appeared and disappeared in accordance with a chart next to the map and photographs. Each was a possible site where raw coca leaves began the refining process. They were not encampments for the Colombian Boy Scouts.
398 In human societies possessing domestic animals, livestock fed more people in four distinct ways: by furnishing meat, milk, and fertilizer and by pulling plows. First and most directly, domestic animals became the societies' major source of animal protein, replacing wild game. Today, for instance, Americans tend to get most of their animal protein from cows, pigs, sheep, and chickens, with game such as venison just a rare delicacy. In addition, some big domestic mammals served as sources of milk and of milk products such as butter, cheese, and yogurt. Milked mammals include the cow, sheep, goat, horse, reindeer, water buffalo, yak, and Arabian and Bactrian camels. Those mammals thereby yield several times more calories over their lifetime than if they were just slaughtered and consumed as meat.
399 Field researchers disliked Levine, and he returned the sentiment. He was at heart a man of detail, a cataloguer of animal life, and he was happiest poring over museum collections, reassigning species, rearranging display skeletons. He disliked the dust and inconvenience of life in the field. Given his choice, Levine would never leave the Museum. But it was his fate to live in the greatest period of discovery in the history of paleontology. The number of known species of dinosaurs had doubled in the last twenty years, and new species were now being described at the rate of one every seven weeks, Thus Levine's worldwide reputation forced him to continually travel around the World, inspecting new finds, and rendering his expert opinion to researchers who were annoyed to admit that they needed it.
400 All the warriors were on foot except the Hafts and a third of the Warhafts. These officers were mounted to bear the standards and the marching drums, and to carry messages and commands through the Warward. Troy was acutely aware that the one thing his army lacked was some instantaneous means of communication. Without such a resource, he felt more vulnerable than he liked to admit. To make up for it, he had developed a network of riders who could shuttle from place to place in battle. And he had trained his officers in complex codes of signals and flares and banners, so that under at least some circumstances messages could be communicated by sight. But he was not satisfied. Thousands upon thousands of lives were in his hands. As he gazed out over his command, his tree limb seemed to be shaking in the wind.
401 Gorean, she approved heartily of the branding of slaves. Most female slaves on Gor, indeed, the vast majority, almost all, needless to say, are branded. Aside from questions of legality, compliance with the law, and such, I think it will be clear upon a moment's reflection that various practical considerations also commend slave branding to the attention of the owner, in particular, the identification of the article as property, this tending to secure it, protecting against its loss, facilitating its recovery, and so on. The main legal purpose of the brand, incidentally, is doubtless this identification of slaves. To be sure, most Goreans feel the brand also serves psychological and aesthetic purposes, for example, helping the girl to understand that she is now a slave and enhancing her beauty.
402 This powerful necromantic spell is designed for that wizard who has sustained a lot of damage, and would like to give it to someone else. The wizard utters the arcane words of the spell, and points at some creature. That creature will sustain all damage the wizard has sustained so far, and leaves the wizard without wounds. That is, if the creature fails its saving throw. Through this spell all the wizard's wounds disappear, no matter what their origin or magnitude, only such wounds as severed limbs and the like cannot be healed. If the amount of damage is more than the creature can sustain, the creature dies instantly from the damage and the shock, even a creature who would not die from the wounds, but sustains more than half its hit points in damage, must roll a system shock, or die from the trauma anyway.
403 I said nothing. A girl in a market knows she is to be sold. Accordingly she will often try to influence a man she finds attractive to buy her. If he does not buy her, she knows she may be bought by one who is worse. Most girls, of course, prefer to be bought by a man who is exciting and attractive to them, one whom they would find irresistible, one whom they would desire to serve, rather than by one who is gross and disgusting to them. To be sure, as slave girls, they would have to serve either perfectly. The decision as to whether the girl is to be purchased or not is, of course, in the final analysis, totally the man's In this respect the girl must wait, and is absolutely helpless. In this respect she has as little personal control over her fate as an inanimate, displayed object in an emporium on Earth.
404 There was only one chilling moment. As the second session of the day began, there was a strange sound far away, which became louder. It was a constant repetition on five notes, a metallic clanging, and although I had not heard this particular call, I knew it could only be a Tripod. I looked in the direction from which it was coming, but the castle stood in the way and I could see nothing. I looked also at the people around me and saw that none showed more than a mild interest: the contest going on in the ring, with four knights on each side, continued to hold their attention. Even when the hemisphere rocked round the outline of the castle, and the Tripod came and stood towering over the field, its feet planted in the river, there was no sign in others of the fear and uneasiness which shivered along my spine.
405 The air turned to fire, the fire to light liquefied. The bolt that struck from the heavens would have seared and blinded any eye that glimpsed it, even for an instant. From the heavens it came, blazed through Lews Therin Telamon, bored into the bowels of the earth. Stone turned to vapor at its touch. The earth thrashed and quivered like a living thing in agony. Only a heartbeat did the shining bar exist, connecting ground and sky, but even after it vanished the earth yet heaved like the sea in a storm. Molten rock fountained five hundred feet into the air, and the groaning ground rose, thrusting the burning spray ever upward, ever higher. From north and south, from east and west, the wind howled in, snapping trees like twigs, shrieking and blowing as if to aid the growing mountain ever skyward. Ever skyward.
406 It was a discomfort that came from an awareness of her own narcissism, something she had never experienced before, that was at once both fascinating and repulsive. She concluded she was attracted to feminine beings, but would rather it were not her own being. But what was the cause for the attraction? She concluded it must stem from that first powerful imprint on KeenEye that had not been altogether dispelled by her preference for the Derec imprint – the male imprint. That comfort with a masculine imprint was only a little less powerful than the laws that were intended to govern her behavior, but which she found so difficult to interpret for want of knowing what a human was. She could deprogram neither those laws nor her feeling of masculinity nor that insidious attraction for all that was feminine.
407 Dear Doctor Vulff digested all this as we waited for the copter to arrive, and from his sickening expression I saw he could find no flaws in the arrangements. During the entire flight he huddled away from me in his chair and never said a word. Without a bon voyage or even a curse he made for his ship upon our arrival and I watched him board it. I of course merely went in the direction of mine and turned off before entering it. I had as much intention of leaving Freibur as I had of informing the police that an illegal operation had taken place. The last thing I wanted was attention. Both little lies had merely been devices to make sure that the alcoholic doctor went away and stayed away before he began his solitary journey to cirrhosis. There was no reason for me to leave, in fact every reason for me to stay.
408 But the terrain close at hand was hardly less strange, even if less namelessly accursed. Soon after the founding of the city the great mountain range became the seat of the principal temples, and many carvings showed what grotesque and fantastic towers had pierced the sky where now we saw only the curiously clinging cubes and ramparts. In the course of ages the caves had appeared, and had been shaped into adjuncts of the temples. With the advance of still later epochs, all the limestone veins of the region were hollowed out by ground waters, so that the mountains, the foothills, and the plains below them were a veritable network of connected caverns and galleries. Many graphic sculptures told of explorations deep underground, and of the final discovery of the Stygian sunless sea that lurked at earth's bowels.
409 I stood still by a clump of birches, staring as if she would vanish; as if I had indeed conjured her up that moment from dream and desire, a ghost in sunlight. I could not move, though my whole body and spirit seemed to leap at once to meet her. She saw me, and laughter broke in her face, and she came to me, walking lightly. In the chequer of dancing light and shadow as the birch boughs moved she still seemed insubstantial, as if her step would hardly stir the grasses, but then she came closer and it was no vision, but Keri as I remembered her, in brown homespun and smelling of honeysuckle. But now she wore no hood; her hair was loose over her shoulders, and her feet were bare. The sun glanced through the moving leaves, making her hair sparkle like light on water. She had her hands full of bluebells.
410 The new game paid odds as high as a hundred to one and as low as five to one. It worked in a comparatively simple fashion, though Cayle, who knew something of the energies, having worked in his father's shop since before he was fifteen, realized there was electronic intricacy behind the deceptive appearance of alertness. A ball of force was the core. It was about an inch in diameter and it rolled erratically inside a larger plastic ball. Faster, faster, faster it darted over the inner surface, until its speed transcended the resistance of matter. Then, like the pure force it was, it burst the limitations of its prison. Through the plastic it plunged, as if there were nothing there, as if it were a beam of light that had been imprisoned by an unnatural physical law in an almost invisible cage.
411 Chesna squeezed his hand. Her own eyes were dead, her emotions switched off like an electric light. On stage, the violinist was playing faster and the thin girl was dancing faster, leaving bloody footprints on the boards. This was almost beyond Michael's power to endure; it was the brutalization of the innocent, and it made his soul writhe. He felt hair crawling on the backs of his arms, on his shoulder blades, on his thighs. The change was calling him, and to embrace it in this auditorium would be a disaster. He closed his eyes, thought of the verdant forest, the white palace, the song of the wolves: civilization, a long way from here. The violinist was playing frantically now, and the audience was clapping in rhythm. Sweat burned Michael's face. He could smell the musky animal perfume rising from his flesh.
412 No. Cooper might not have prevailed with his motions, but his point was well taken. It was only the falsified testimony of the witchers that showed any involvement of Satan with knacks. Without the witchers, knacks were just inborn talents. That some of them were extraordinary did not mean that the possessor of such a knack was either evil or good. Nor was there any evidence that the witch laws had ever been used against people whose hidden powers were truly dangerous. It was obvious that if Alvin Smith had not wished to be confined, no jail could have held him. Therefore only those whose knacks were relatively mild and harmless could ever have been convicted and hanged. It was a law that did nothing it was intended to do. It protected no one and harmed many. It would be good to be rid of it.
413 I stroked my hand over Nathaniel's head, over and over, on the warm silk of his hair. His head in my lap, his arms wrapped around my waist, his body wedged between my legs. Sometimes Nathaniel made me think about sex, but sometimes, like now it was just comfort. Just closeness. You can't have that with most people, because they're busy thinking about sex. I think that's why dogs are so damn popular. You can cuddle a dog as much as you like and the dog never thinks about sex, or pushing your social boundaries in any way, unless you happen to be eating. Dogs will invade your social boundaries for table scraps, unless trained to do otherwise. But hey, it's a dog, not a person in a fur suit. Right now, what I needed was a pet, not a person. Nathaniel could be both. An uncomfortable, but truthful fact.
414 Other folk thought the Rage was simple bloodlust, a berserk savagery that neither knew nor cared what its target was, and so it was when it struck without warning. But when a hradani gave himself to it knowingly, it was as cold as it was hot, as rational as it was lethal. To embrace the Rage was to embrace a splendor, a glory, a denial of all restraint but not of reason. It was pure, elemental purpose, unencumbered by compassion or horror or pity, yet it was far more than mere frenzy. Bahzell knew exactly what he was doing, and he'd spotted the cluster of better armed and armored men around the single outlaw who wore composite armor. He cut his way through the others like a dire cat through jackals, closing on the raiders' leader, and the screams of the dying were the terrible anthem of his coming.
415 Only then he realized the hateful dusty odor was thick in his nostrils, that the room was in utter silence, that from the corridor came a hot wind and the sound of marching bones clicking against the stone pavement. He saw Slevyas look over his shoulder, and he saw a fear like death in Slevyas' face. Then came a sudden intense darkness, like a puff of inky smoke. But before it came he saw bony arms clasp Slevyas' throat; and, as the Mouser dragged him back, he saw the doorway crowded with black skeletal forms whose eyes glittered green and red and sapphire. Then utter darkness, hideous with the screams of the thieves as they fought to crowd into the narrow tunnel in the alcove. And over and above the screams sounded thin high voices, like those of bats, cold as eternity. One cry he heard clearly.
416 They caught her north of the bosk herd. We could see her white body, and the dark, sinuous, furred shapes converging upon it. Then she was surrounded, and she stopped. Then the spleen opened a passage for her, indicating to her which direction she was to go. Where else she turned she was met with the fangs and hisses of the accompanying animals. When she tried to move in any direction other than that of the opened passage they snapped at her, viciously. A single snap could tear off a hand or foot. Then two of the sleen fell in behind her and, snarling and snapping at her heels, drove her before them. We saw her fleeing before them, trying to escape the swift, terrible jaws. We feared, more than once, that they would kill her. A female who cannot be herded is destroyed by the herding sleen.
417 The Akon suddenly became as stiff as a board when Pucky's mental currents reached him and held him fast. He couldn't even move his mouth. Then his feet left the floor. Pucky was at his favourite game again but this time the stakes were very serious. The Akon must not see him. Making sure that the other guard was not aware of this astounding phenomenon, he brought the helpless captive close to the ceiling. Then he sent him flying against the nearest wall, instantly knocking him unconscious. The mousebeaver lowered him gently and moved him telekinetically to the farthest corner of the room. He was sure that it would be hours before the victim regained his senses and would be able to talk. And of course it was an open question as to whether or not anyone would believe what he, would have to say.
418 Blackthorne changed his grip to pull the man off the rungs, braced sickeningly as the second man stabbed downward. Vinck came out of his cataleptic state and threw himself at the samurai, berserk. He intercepted the blow that would have sliced Blackthorne's wrist off, held the shuddering sword arm at bay, and smashed his other fist into the man's groin. The samurai gasped and kicked viciously. Vinck hardly seemed to notice the blow. He climbed the rungs and tore at the man for possession of the sword, his nails ripping at the man's eyes. The other two samurai were hampered by the confined space and Blackthorne, but a kick from one of them caught Vinck in the face and he reeled away. The samurai on the ladder hacked at Blackthorne, missed, then the entire crew hurled themselves at the ladder.
419 The pilot had tried to land in the field as the helicopter used up the fuel vapors powering its engine. The aircraft plunged into the canopy of foliage that was so deceivingly softlooking from above. The fuselage crashed through the treetops accompanied by a horrendous racket of snapping branches and the screech of tortured metal. Trout had the wind knocked out of him. The pilot hit his head and was knocked cold. Morales was dazed. Ruiz, who'd been awakened by the racket, sat there in bewilderment with drool on his whiskered chin. Morales and Trout dragged the pilot out of the chopper, and he came around in the fresh air. Everyone had bruised knees and elbows, but no serious injuries were noted. Trout was glad Ruiz had survived; he might prove a valuable source of information in finding Gamay.
420 Decker set to work methodically. He hauled in wood from the dead tree and got a cooking fire started, then chopped and stored wood against the night. He set up a small tent that would serve to shelter him if rain came and unrolled his sleeping bag. He brought a pail of water from the spring and hung a kettle to boil for coffee, then unwrapped two fish he'd caught earlier in the day and prepared for the pan on the spot, wrapping them in leaves against the time when he would need them. These he put into a pan and settled down to cooking supper. First, however, he made sure the rifle was propped against a boulder within easy reach. In all the time he'd spent on his trips into the mountains, he had seldom needed it, but natural caution told him he could not rule out the possibility of sometime needing it.
421 There was a method to gauge the distance of a storm, taught to Fosull by his grandfather. It involved counting, a skill at which no Varg was particularly adept, but Fosull could reach the number of fingers and toes that he had. When a bolt of lightning was seen, one started to count. Could one get all the way to the last toe, going slowly, the storm was at least ten minutes from arriving. Fosull had no idea of why this was true, but it worked more often than not. The reach to fewer toes or fingers meant that the rain would be closer. He would continue to look for shelter until he judged the storm to be ten minutes behind them, at which time he would secure the oxen and awaken Balor so that they might move under the wagon. Assuming he did not find better protection from the storm, of course.
422 It was strange, the shape your life could take. You might be loved as a child but still go bad. You might have monsters for parents but grow up pure. His life had been neither one nor the other. Or rather, it had been both, for he'd been cherished and abandoned in equal measure. He was six, and shaking hands with a large man. There should have been more affection between them, but somehow there wasn't. He was ten, and his mother was looking tired, bowed down, as she leaned over the sink washing dishes. Not knowing he was in the doorway, she paused to rest her hands on the rim of the sink. He was thirteen, and being initiated into his first gang. They took a pack of cards and skinned his knuckles with the edge of the pack. They took it in turns, all eleven of them. It hurt until he belonged.
423 But what other choice did she have? Without him, her hopes were in ruins. She had to go and find him, it was as simple as that. And on the way back, once they were together again maybe she'd have the strength of heart to visit some of the places she'd known and loved in her youth; just to see how time had altered them. But then again perhaps that wouldn't be such a good idea. It troubled her enough to look out of the window and see the stretches of land that had been dust roads and shacks and orange groves in her time now completely transformed into towers of steel and glass. What if she were to discover that some precious place she'd loved had been desecrated; rendered unrecognizable? Though she liked to think she was fearless, in truth time was taking its toll on the resilience of her soul.
424 At first, Avatre had to do a great deal of actual flying, doubling back and forth across their guide's path in that peculiar combination of flying and gliding that the dragons used when there were no thermals to ride. And the air of early dawn was cold enough to numb the feet and hands and nose; Avatre didn't like it much, and to tell the truth, neither did Vetch. He shivered in the chill, and was just grateful that the kamiseen gave Avatre something to ride. If this had been still air, she'd have had to work a lot harder. It was the gods' own gift that she had made her First Flight at the beginning of the kamiseen, for the wind had aided them all across the desert. Had it not been the season of the wind, he had the feeling that they would be making old bones together in the sand, even now.
425 After building up the fire, he pulled a large leather chair close to the bedside, sat himself down and prepared to wait. He looked up at the ormolu clock on the night table and saw with a start that it was but eleven o'clock in the morning. It was hard to believe that in just under four hours he had nearly lost his life, discovered that his opponent was a woman, and had decided to take sole charge of her care. He made a steeple with his fingers and tapped the tips thoughtfully together. What the devil was she going to do when she woke up and found the man she hated taking care of her? He couldn't begin to imagine. However, she could have killed him, but she hadn't. Why? It went over and over in his mind, he couldn't seem to stop it. Well, he would know soon enough. When she awakened. If she awakened.
426 By degrees, her companions sank into themselves as she did. Dismay covered them like the night, soaked into them like the cold. If the wind shifted now, Galewrath would have no forewarning. In the distant light of her lantern, she looked as immobile as stone, no longer capable of the reactions upon which the dromond might depend. Yet Honninscrave sent no one to relieve her: any brief uncertainty while Shipsheartthew changed hands might cause the vessel to founder. And so the Giants who were not at the pumps had no other way to fight for their lives except to cling and shiver. Eventually, even the Master's chaffering could not rouse them to hope or spirit. They crouched against the rail, with the black sea running almost directly below them, and waited like men and women who had been sentenced to death.
427 She had disliked the pervasiveness of Lutheran thought, especially the Calvinist faction, who seemed to have an answer to every question before it had even been asked. So she conceived the idea of taking a select group of graduate students away from Reykjavik, off to one of the Summer Islands, the equatorial chain where, in the spring, skrika came to spawn and flocks of halkig went crazy with reproductive energy. Her idea was to break the patterns of intellectual rot that were inevitable at every university. The students would eat nothing but the havregrin that grew wild in the sheltered valleys and whatever halkig they had the nerve and wit to kill. When their daily food depended on their own exertion, their attitudes about what mattered and did not matter in history were bound to change.
428 The corridor, without torchlight, was pale and shifty as a nightmare. The phosphorescence seemed to crawl as if alive, revealing previously unspied creatures in every niche. Fafhrd stumbled, sprawled at full length, raced on. His fastest bursts of speed seemed slow, as in a bad dream. He tried to look only ahead, but still glimpsed from the corners of his eyes every detail he had seen before: the trailing weeds, the monstrous carvings, the bearded shells, the somberly staring octopus eyes. He noted without surprise that his feet and body glowed wherever the slime had splashed or smeared. He saw a small square of darkness in the omnipresent phosphorescence and sprinted toward it. It grew in size. It was the cavern's portal. He plunged across the threshold into the night. He heard a voice calling his name.
429 Without further comment, he moved quietly away to a small table at the rear of the room and seated himself with his back to the men at the bar, his face slightly bowed and turned away from Flick. The Valeman watched him for a moment, then moved quickly to the double doors at the rear of the room and pushed through them to the hallway beyond. His father was probably in the kitchen, having dinner with Shea. Flick hurried down the hall past several closed doors before reaching the one that opened into the inn kitchen. As he entered, the two cooks who were working at the rear of the room greeted the young man with a cheerful good evening. His father was seated at the end of a long counter at the left. As Flick had anticipated, he was in the process of finishing his dinner. He waved a brawny hand in greeting.
430 It was almost eight o'clock, and only a few moments after Pons came in that evening, when a faint rap sounded on the heavy oaken panels of the outer door. I rose at once and admitted a young woman whose attractiveness had not been done justice by Pons' comment at dinner. She wore no hat and her hair was slightly but agreeably disarranged, as if the wind had blown into it and not fully escaped; it was dark, ashen hair, complementing the grey of her eyes. She was dressed in a neat tweed walking suit, the jacket of which was unbuttoned, since the night was warm. In her right hand she carried a stick, which she tapped almost with impatience against her walking shoes as she stood looking from one to the other of us. Her eyes, however, with true woman's instinct, fixed on Pons even before he spoke.
431 There were three more charges that day, or maybe four, and none more successful than the first. We banged away and they cleared out, and my mind began to go dizzy again. I slumped beside my embrasure, with a poshteen draped over me to try to keep off the hellish heat; flies buzzed everywhere, and the sepoy on my right moaning to himself incessantly. By night it was as bad; the cold came, so bitter that I sobbed to myself at the pain of it; there was a huge moon, lighting everything in brilliant silver, but even when it set the dark wasn't sufficient to enable the Afghans to creep up on us, thank God. There were a few alarms and shots, but that was all. Dawn came, and the snipers began to crack away at us; we kept down beneath the parapet, and the shots chipped flakes off the tower behind us.
432 He looked around at his new place, reluctantly admiring the wealth that surrounded him, and realized that he had been waiting for years to have a place like this. To himself. The rank of lieutenant was also something he had dreamed of, but he had thought it would be years away, as there were so many more qualified soldiers in front of him. Now both had been handed to him, by his father, on a silver platter. Although the soldiers who had helped him move in gave no hint that they were jealous, he knew they had to be, on a certain level. But then, all of Father's wealth has been taken without regard to right or wrong. It's pretty typical for him to hand his son all this stuff, the title, the job, the apartment, without bothering to justify it. He's God's own, right? He doesn't have to justify anything.
433 I did not know how long the rencers would give them, perhaps until dark. Already the stones might be striking together beneath the water. It seemed then for a moment that we were alone, that none were immediately with us. I spun about, in the rence. His eyes were wild for one instant, and then the yoke struck him heavily, on the side of the head. Surely some must have heard the sound of that blow! Yet none seemed about. None rushed forward. I looked down at the keeper. He was now lying on the bar. He had fallen with no sound. I drew the raft off the bar, into the water. If I could get beyond the men of Ar I was sure I could break the yoke to pieces, splintering it on the logs of the raft, thus freeing my hands, then in a moment discarding the harness and slipping away. I moved away, drawing the raft after me.
434 She set him on his feet. If she meant to be gentle, she failed. As he staggered away, he felt a sudden shock, more of mind than body. He was suddenly desperately afraid that he had forgotten something of vast importance. Then he realized that what was gone was his mental link with the dragon. Tintaglia had separated herself from him. The loss dizzied him. He seemed to have been taking some vitality from the link, for he was suddenly aware of hunger, thirst and extreme weariness. He managed to take a few steps before he went to his knees. It was as well that he was down, for otherwise he would have fallen as the dragon jolted the dock with her leap into the sky. A final time the beat of her wings wafted her reptilian stink over him. For no reason that he could understand, tears of loss stung his eyes.
435 The female brach called out, and her mate scooped up the food dish, taking it to her. She sat up in the hammock, dipping up some of the mixture, licking it from her paw, pushing more into the mouth of the injured kit, who had also roused. The male took a long drink before he carried the water to those in the hammock, but he did not remain with his family. Instead he leaped once more to the shelf by the disk. Now he squatted with his snout very close to it, chittering at some length. He had the idea, at least half of it, Dane exulted. Now, could he get him to wear the other throat mike so the translator would work both ways? Before he could reach for it, the hatch opened. The male scuttled away from the disk and plumped into the hammock, and Dane turned, with some exasperation, to face Rip and Ali.
436 She then returned to her room, and I rose, having determined to walk out and cool myself, as she proposed; but when I was on my legs, I found that to the other end of the chain, which was very heavy and about two yards long, was riveted an iron ball of about thirty pounds weight, so that I could not walk without carrying this heavy weight in my hands, for it could not be dragged. I lifted up the iron ball, and went out of the house. I was no longer afraid of her. I was in too great a rage to fear anything. As I calmed, I considered my case, and found it to be hopeless; as I thought of Amy, and the many months of hope deferred, I wept bitterly; and I had no consolation, for the reader may recollect that I lost my Bible when I was sent on shore, naked almost, by the rascally captain of the Transcendant.
437 The smells were almost unbearably enticing to Acorna, but she waited on his signal to enter after he had done a preliminary prowl round on hands and knees. The scent of chard drew her like a magnet, and it was fortunate indeed that it was nearer to her than the root vegetables he was deftly, and cleverly, harvesting. She noticed that he was careful to take only the small ones that were likely to be culled anyway. He took carrots and turnips and potatoes and several other brightly colored things that she did not recognize. Hybrids, probably. She carefully augmented his selection with chard leaves, then some lettuces, and one head of cabbage, stuffing what she could into her other boot. She was glad she hadn't been wearing the boots for very long before using them as food and water carriers.
438 The main streets were paved with flat gray stones, but they were crowded with so many people that it was difficult to see the stones under your own boots. Most appeared to be moving aimlessly, with nowhere to go, and those who had given up squatted dejectedly along the sides of the street, the lucky ones with bundled belongings in front of them or some cherished possession clutched in their arms. Mat saw three men holding clocks, and a dozen or more with silver goblets or platters. The women held children to their breasts, mainly. A babble filled the air, a low, wordless hum of worry. He pushed through the crowd with a frown on his face, searching for the sign that would mark an inn. The buildings were every sort, wood and brick and stone all cheek by jowl, with roofs of tile, or slate, or thatch.
439 Even the absolutely superb steaks did not get us back into our own places. An ugly death had bent our realities, and we were each on our separate journey to Ixtlan because it meant different things to each of us. We ate by the light of candles in hurricane globes, guttering and flickering in front of the open balcony doors, in the moist warm night wind that came off the sea. I wheeled the dinner equipment out into the hall and chained the door before we moved the candles to bedside, and even the strokes and promises, the rituals and releases of love did not pierce that curious, deadening barrier between us. We did what seemed expected and what seemed the momentary imperative, each living inside the ivory round of skull, looking out of it with night eyes at the shifts and shadows of conjoining.
440 From the four gaping mouths came shining golden tongues that braided together into a single probe that affixed itself to the crown of Robert Strachan's head. His body was suddenly enveloped in purple radiance. He underwent a galvanic spasm and uttered a hopeless cry as the beast began to drink from the first vital source. Deprived of all willpower but still hideously aware, he could only convulse and suffer as Hydra moved to the second source at the rear of his skull, to the third at the back of his neck, and on down his spine. As the feeding progressed the writhing body's aura changed in color and the skin darkened, as though the flesh and bone within were burning in astral fire. Each emptied chakra point was imprinted with a different, intricately detailed pattern having radial symmetry.
441 Crouched under a great boulder they sat facing back westward and did not speak for some time. Then Frodo breathed a sigh of relief. 'It's passed,' he said. They stood up, and then they both stared in wonder. Away to their left, southward, against a sky that was turning grey, the peaks and high ridges of the great range began to appear dark and black, visible shapes. Light was growing behind them. Slowly it crept towards the North. There was battle far above in the high spaces of the air. The billowing clouds of Mordor were being driven back, their edges tattering as a wind out of the living world came up and swept the fumes and smokes towards the dark land of their home. Under the lifting skirts of the dreary canopy dim light leaked into Mordor like pale morning through the grimed window of a prison.
442 For the moment, delay suited Egwene perfectly, but that was not the only reason for her smile. Somewhere in all that argument, her headache had gone away entirely. She would have no difficulty at all going to sleep this night. Halima always remedied that, yet her dreams were always troubled after one of Halima's massages. Well, few of her dreams were light, but these were darker than any others, and, strangely, she could never remember anything except that they were dark and troubled. Doubtless both things came from some remnant of the pains that Halima's fingers would not reach, yet the last was disturbing in itself. She had learned to remember every dream. She had to remember every dream. Still, with no headache tonight, she should have no problems, and dreaming was the least of what she had to do.
443 The opening passed away behind her and she stood once more in sunlight. It was midafternoon, the sun gone westward toward the treeline, its brightness dimmed by mist and clouds that floated shroudlike across the whole of the sky above. She was on a ledge overlooking a deep valley surrounded by a cluster of barren, ragged peaks. There was an odd, dreamlike tone to the setting of mountains, clouds, and mist. The whole of the valley was bathed in a shimmering, leaden cast. She looked slowly about and then upward behind her. There, balanced upon the rock above, was a solitary, dismal fortress. Graymark. Winding down from its heights and from far above that, beyond where she could see, was the stone stairway of the Croagh. It wound past her ledge, touched briefly, then spiraled down into the valley.
444 As she did so she considered his question. Had Veris made her a good lover? Did a woman need a man to show her how to make love? But then, she reasoned, he does not mean what he says. To a man a good lover was someone who offered them the most pleasure. Veris had not made her a good lover, he had been a good lover. Something she believed this Avatar would never understand. Sofarita pushed shut the door, then turned and let her shawl fall to the floor. Beneath it she was wearing a simple dress of white wool, laced at the front with silver ribbon. She began to untie the lace. The Avatar rose, moving smoothly to stand before her. His nimble fingers took her hands and drew them away from the ribbon. Then he untied the dress, slipped it over her shoulders and allowed it to fall to the dirt floor.
445 It was nothing like a deliberate change of policy, a decision that had been rigorously arrived at through careful reasoning. It wasn't a decision at all. Nor did Vox suggest it, though I'm sure she inspired it. It was purely automatic. I arose, showered, and dressed. I confess that I had forgotten all about the events of the night before. Vox was quiet within me. Not until I was under the shower, feeling the warm comforting ultrasonic vibration, did I remember her: there came a disturbing sensation of being in two places at once, and, immediately afterward, an astonishingly odd feeling of shame at my own nakedness. Both those feelings passed quickly. But they did indeed bring to mind that extraordinary thing which I had managed to suppress for some minutes, that I was no longer alone in my body.
446 At a word from the old man, those who bore the Barsoomian I had wounded laid him upon an empty table and left the apartment. Whereupon my host if so I may call him, for certainly he was not as yet my captor, motioned me forward. While he conversed in ordinary tones, he made two incisions in the body of my late antagonist; one, I imagine, in a large vein and one in an artery, to which he deftly attached the ends of two tubes, one of which was connected with an empty glass receptacle and the other with a similar receptacle filled with a colourless, transparent liquid resembling clear water. The connections made, the old gentleman pressed a button controlling a small motor, whereupon the victim's blood was pumped into the empty jar while the contents of the other was forced into the emptying veins and arteries.
447 The rain eased, and a break in the clouds allowed moonlight to bathe the scene. Ulmenetha stood very still, staring up at the great head. From the serpentine shape she had expected it to be scaled like a reptile. But it was not. Its skin was corpse white and almost translucent, and she could see the large bones of its neck pushing against the skin. The pale head twisted on its long neck, and she found herself staring into a slanted blue eye as large as a man's head. The pupil was round and black, and horribly human. The gogarin stared unblinking down towards the road. Then the head withdrew into the trees, and she heard again the splintering of wood as its enormous bulk crashed back through the forest. Tugging on the bridle she urged the wagon on, following the road around the base of the slope.
448 His heart ached for her. She had been born to wealthy parents, but from the day of her birth, the Duncan family had been plagued by a constant stream of bad luck. Two ships belonging to the fleet owned by her father were lost at sea; a fire destroyed a part of their home. In the following year, Adalaina Duncan gave birth to a stillborn son. Shortly after Sara's third birthday, her father was killed in a carriage accident. Only then did his wife learn that he had gambled away not only their fortune, but the shipping line as well. His creditors, previously kept at bay by his good name and his fervent promises to make good on his many outstanding notes, had foreclosed on the family estate. Sara's mother, stricken by her husband's death and the loss of her home, had abandoned her daughter, never to be seen again.
449 The morning reports had troubled her. There had been some sort of glitch in the equipment monitoring Keith. The whole system had gone haywire for nearly two hours; everything had blanked out, as if somebody had erased all the tapes. The intern on duty was being interrogated by security, but not even the polygraph had turned up anything. Jo wondered briefly about the PR director; was she up to something? Then there had been a routine entry in the perimeter security log: something or someone had brushed the outer fence. Not once. Twice. Guards had searched the area and found nothing. Probably an animal, they concluded. There had been no sign of an unauthorized entry into any of the lab buildings themselves. An animal. A dog left to wandering by itself. Or a stupid nene bird with a hurt wing.
450 If it wasn't for the black security uniforms, stolen off the guards in the elevator, they would have surely been stopped and threatened with a beating for such reckless driving. Seeing an opportunity to board the ship without climbing long gangways, Pitt cramped the steering wheel and sent the cart into a hard right turn up a ramp empty of loading vehicles, across the main deck, and then down another ramp into the bowels of the floating city, to where the cargo was stored and all ship maintenance was performed. Inside a yawning cargo depot, with huge passageways leading in all directions through the lower warehouse bays of the ship, Pitt spotted a man in red coveralls who looked to be in charge of loading supplies and equipment. He alerted Giordino on what to ask in Spanish and came to an abrupt stop.
451 I screwed the long frosted bulbs back into the heater and replaced the grille and put the stethoscope back in my suitcase. The evening was getting chilly. I slipped my jacket on and stood in the middle of the floor. It was getting dark and no light on. I just stood there and thought it over. I could go to the phone and make a report and by that time she could be on her way in another cab to another train or plane to another destination. She could go anywhere she liked, but there would always be a dick to meet the train if it meant enough to the big important people back in Washington. There would always be a Larry Mitchell or a reporter with a good memory.. There would always be the little oddness to be noticed and there would always be somebody to notice it. You can't run away from yourself.
452 Such a story was naturally also useful to impress the vulgar. It is to be remembered that in these times the art of writing was called magic. The old word for magic 'gramarye' merely means 'writing'. It was a miracle in the eyes of the vulgar to understand a man at a distance otherwise than by word of mouth. The whole question of miracles depends, as will be later demonstrated, upon the psychology of the people among whom they are performed. The claim of literal divine paternity for any person therefore only means that some one thought he was a great man. If we are to read anything more than this into any such text, we must admit that no one has any reason for attributing truth to one story more than to another. There is no choice for the logician, where science is silent, but to accept all or none.
453 The harder he worked at the jobs Anamari gave him to do, the easier it was to keep himself from remembering his dream of her kneeling over him, touching him, sliding along his body. Hoe the weeds out of the corn until your back is on fire with pain! Wash the Baniwa hunter's wound and replace the bandage! Sterilize the instruments in the alcohol! Above all, do not, even accidentally, let any part of your body brush against hers; pull away when she is near you, turn away so you don't feel her warm breath as she leans over your shoulder, start a bright conversation whenever there is a silence filled only with the sound of insects and the sight of a bead of sweat slowly etching its way from her neck down her chest to disappear between her breasts where she only tied her shirt instead of buttoning it.
454 The words contained pain and contempt in equal measure. Marty couldn't help thinking of Somervale alone in a double bed; a husband without a wife, and without the faith to believe in seeing her again; incapable of tears. And another thought came fast upon the first: that Somervale's stone heart, which had been broken at one terrible stroke, was not so dissimilar from his own. Both hard men, both keeping the world at bay while they waged private wars in their guts. Both ending up with the very weapons they'd forged to defeat their enemies turned on themselves. It was a vile realization, and had Marty not been buoyant with the news of his release he might not have dared think it. But there it was. He and Somervale, like two lizards lying in the same stinking mud, suddenly seemed very like twins.
455 They made no secret of their trip to the basilica, for as Guiscard had pointed out, no one would think it odd if the king went late at night to pay his respects to his brother, after the crowds had gone and it was cooler. The three of them entered through the main door and passed quietly down the side aisle to kneel just back from the catafalque on the left. By the unsteady light of the tall funeral brands set three on each side of the bier, Javan could just make out the form of Etienne de Courcy among the four knights standing silent vigil there, their backs to the bier, bare heads bowed over great swords, hands resting motionless on the quillons. The men wore surcoats of the Haldane livery over their black mourning attire, drabbed by wide black sashes swathed across their chests like baldrics.
456 He started climbing rapidly, two steps at a time, but before he went very far, he discovered that caution was essential. The staircase was crumbling. It had not been kept in good repair, as the tramway had been. Decades of rain and wind and summer heat had leeched away much of the mortar that bound the old structure together. Small stones, pieces of virtually every one of the three hundred and twenty steps, broke off under his feet and clattered to the base of the cliff. Several times, he almost lost his balance, almost fell backwards, or almost pitched sideways into space. The safety railing was decayed, dilapidated, missing whole sections; it would not save him if he stumbled against it. But slowly, cautiously, he followed the switchback path of the staircase, and in time he reached the top of the cliff.
457 As the efforts to contain the fire became ever more spectacular, so the crowd gathered to watch it increased in proportion. Laborers delayed upon leaving their shifts or before going to their tasks; office workers left their desks to congregate outside their buildings or stood by windows offering grandstand views; messengers and passersby with more time to spare shouldered their way through to the dock itself to secure as unobstructed as possible an observation post. Rael judged that there had to be in excess of four thousand people in and around the Cup's seafront alone and easily that many again scattered farther away along the banks and on the opposite shore. A number of small merchant and pleasure craft had also drawn near, keeping just far enough away as not to interfere with the work of the fireboats.
458 Tears streamed from most faces. The smoke was very heavy now in the lower levels. Then the wall behind the first landing where the shaft of the dumbwaiter was began to twist and blacken. Abruptly it burst open, scattering gargoyles, and flames gushed out. Those on the stairs below shoved forward in panic and those on the landing reeled back. Then, seeing they were so close to safety, the first ranks darted forward, skirting the inferno, jumping the stairs two at a time. Hugh Guthrie, one of the MPs, saw a woman fall. He held on to the bannister and stopped to help her but those behind toppled him and he fell with others. He picked himself up, cursing, and fought a path clear for just enough time to drag the woman up before he was engulfed again and shoved down the last few stairs to gain the entrance safely.
459 The wagons often move. There must be new grazing for the bosk. There must be fresh rooting and browse for the tarsk and verr. The needs of these animals, on which the Alars depend for their existence, are taken to justify movements, and sometimes even migrations, of the Alars and kindred peoples. Needless to day, these movements, particularly when they intrude into more settled areas, often bring the folk of the laagers into conflict with other peasants and, of course, shortly thereafter, townsfolk and city dwellers who depend on the peasants for their foodstuffs. Also of course, their movements often, from a legal point of view, constitute actual invasions or indisputable territorial infringements, as when, uninvited, they enter areas technically within the jurisdiction or hegemony of given cities or towns.
460 As they fed on her motionless body, one of the things disentangled itself and rose to its feet. Blood smeared its lips and hands, and as it backed away from the mass of bodies it lifted a palm and licked at the human liquids. It stood in a corner, watching as the others tried to satisfy their hungers. The agony still remained, deep within dried and twisted tissues, within muscles drawn hard as stone, within flesh shrunken and wrinkled around the bones. With each breath the agony welled up, fanning the blaze ever higher. The thing in the corner put a hand to its throat in a vain attempt to still the searing pain. No pulse beat there; the heart had become a lump of decayed matter, and the veins had collapsed like the walls of empty houses. The thing shivered suddenly, in agony and rage and madness and hate.
461 Although pleased with the flouwen reactions to the ship and the information the aliens were giving them about the planet, Jinjur was plagued with worries about Carmen. Juno reported that the communications expert was eating everything that was suggested, and John insisted that there was nothing physically wrong with her, but the normally spicy woman was obviously not herself. Carmen did what she was told, manned her shift, and wrote her reports, but she hardly spoke to anyone. She was behaving too well. Still, it was not as important as the rest of the mission. Jinjur decided simply to keep Carmen away from any important things and to generally keep an eye on her. The important thing for Jinjur to be concerned about was that the human race had met a new species and together they were going exploring.
462 Kildas? She was one of the feverishly alive brides. Her brown hair was touched with red gold in the lamp light, and she had the round chin, the full lower lip of one fashioned for the eyes of men. Even behind the stiff tabard there were hints of a well rounded body, enough to inflame the lecher her sister's lord was reputed to be. A reason good enough to include Kildas in this company. Her seat mate was a thin shadow to her ruddy substance. The 'broidery of her tabard was carefully and intricately wrought. Much care and choice had gone into that stitchery, as if it were indeed a labour of love. Yet the robe beneath it was well worn and showed traces of being cut from another garment. The girl sat with her lids tear puffed, downcast and scarce ate, though she drank thirstily from her goblet.
463 I saw Tenalion smile. To be sure, many of the dances of female slaves are lovely and sensuous; others, of course, are piteous and orgasmic. In all fairness, though, one must note that there is a large variety of slave dances on Gor, and that there is some variation from city to city. The institution of female slavery on Gor is doubtless thousands of years old; accordingly it is natural that there should be great complexity and refinement in such a delicious art form as slave dance. There are even, it might be mentioned, hate dances and rebellion dances, but most dances, as might be expected, are display dances, or need dances, or love and submission dances; even the hate and rebellion dances, of course, conclude, inevitably, with the ultimate surrender of the girl to her master as a love slave.
464 He dived into the sea to wring from its heart the last of his gifts to her. These he poured at her feet, shimmering sapphires that blazed in the grass. His constancy for her. When now, finally, he spoke of love, she could only weep bitter tears, for her life was over. She told him it was too late, that she had never needed riches or promises of glory, but only to know that he loved her, loved her enough that she could have set aside her fear of giving up her world for his. And as she turned to leave him this time, as the sapphires bloomed into flowers in the grass, his hurt and his temper lashed out in the spell he cast. She would find no peace without him, nor would they see each other again until three times lovers met and, accepting each other, risking hearts, dared to choose love over all else.
465 Lathan's dreams were filled with huge waves that threatened to overwhelm him, racing currents of boiling white water that swept him towards gaping whirlpools. He went down into darkness, spinning and spinning... He woke to find himself slumped over his desk. Even though he was stiff and sore from his cramped and awkward position, it was a relief to know that he was back in Makhaya, many miles from the coast. Then he saw the vast array of tabulated readings and meticulously recorded observations littering the desktop, and knew that there was still work to be done. He had been toiling long into the night before exhaustion had finally overtaken him, and the calculations were almost complete. Instinct had already told him what the results would show, but he was not a man to leave anything to chance.
466 Should the young heir prove sickly, what speculations on his demise! The worldly stake is so enormous, that the ties of nature are dissolved, and a brother rejoices at a brother's death! One generation is not sufficient to remove these feelings; the barrenness of his marriage bed, or the weakly state of his children, are successively speculated upon by the presumptive heir. Let it not be supposed that I would infer this always to be the fact. I have put the extreme case, to point out what must ensue, according to the feelings of our nature, if care is not taken to prevent its occurrence. There is a cruelty, a more than cruelty, in parents bringing up their children with ideas which seldom can be realised, and rendering their future lives a pilgrimage of misery and discontent, if not of depravity.
467 Even now, after all these years, and knowing all that I have learned in a lifetime, I cannot find it in me to break the vow I made of silence and secrecy. Nor, so far as I know, has any man done so. Men say that what you are taught when young, can never be fully expunged from your mind, and I know that I, myself, have never escaped the spell of the secret god who led me to Brittany and threw me at my father's feet. Indeed, whether because of the curb on the spirit of which I have already written, or whether by intervention of the god himself, I find that my memory of his worship has gone into a blur, as if it was a dream. And a dream it may be, not of this time alone, but made up of all the other times, from the first vision of the midnight field, to this night's ceremony, which was the last.
468 As the gig leapt forward, the rowers' faces soon glistening and then running with perspiration, Ramage watched the sides of the channel and the privateers with all the concentration of a hungry poacher uncertain whether the gamekeeper really was ill in bed. Small rowing boats from which two or three men had been fishing suddenly scurried for the shore as they saw the boarders leaving the Calypso; men who had been working on the quays or walking along the paths lining the banks farther down stopped to watch, the more prudent of them then disappearing. A woman snatched up a small child and ran back towards Punda; a soldier on the Otrabanda side stood still, obviously uncertain what to do. Shutters slammed shut across many windows of houses facing the channel and sent gulls squawking off in alarm.
469 Setting the pistol aside, he grumbled aloud as he sought to bind up the wound. With all the poisonous insects, lethal snakes, giant crocodilians, burrowing parasites, and voracious rodents in the rain forest, leave it to him to be grievously assaulted by otters. Dousing the open wound with disinfectant, he sprayed sealer over the injury and wrapped it in a thin layer of transparent artificial skin. The tape immediately contracted and began to bond with his own flesh. Once healing had concluded beneath, the artificial epidermis would dry, crack, and flake off, leaving the restored flesh exposed. Finishing up the first aid, he restowed the emergency kit and cleared some vegetation from the autobailer so it could more efficiently remove from the bottom of the boat the water the otters had brought in with them.
470 Many were being pulled horribly apart, chains intermittently but relentlessly extending each helpless member. Still others were being lowered into pits of constantly increasing temperature or were being attacked by gradually increasing concentrations of some foully corrosive vapor which ate away their tissues, little by little. And, apparently the piece de resistance of the hellish exhibition, one luckless Velantian, in a spot of hard, cold light, was being pressed out flat against the screen, as an insect might be pressed between two panes of glass. Thinner and thinner he became under the influence of some awful, invisible force, in spite of every exertion of inhumanly powerful muscles driving body, tail, wings, arms, legs, and head in every frantic maneuver which grim and imminent death could call forth.
471 Orrin lay back on his narrow bunk, his back cushioned by soft pillows, his hand curled around a clay cup. He tried to tell himself there was no glory in coming second from last. Happily he failed. He had never been athletic, even as a child. But he came from a family of warriors and Drenai leaders and his father had insisted he take part in all soldierly pursuits. He had always handled a sword well, which, in his father's eyes, made up for the other, mightier, shortcomings. Like not being able to stand physical pain. Or not being able to understand, even after patient explanation, the great mistake made by Nazredas at the battle of Plettii. He wondered if his father would have been pleased at his hurling himself to the floor in order to beat a Cul in a foot race. He smiled: he would think him mad.
472 The top of the cliff was a continuation of the crest of the hill on which the men and cats lay, though the slope before them was much more gradual than it became as it curved around closer to the sheer precipice. A charge down this slope would take the attackers of the Ahrmehnee on the right flank and, were the line strung long enough, at the right rear, as well. Squinting in concentration, the young thoheeks considered every angle of the projected charge, weighed up every misfortune which might befall and racked his brain to settle upon an alternate plan of action to counter each. At length, he slid his armored body back down from the thicketed crest, signaling the two nobles to follow but mindspeaking the cats to remain, bidding them let him know when the barbarians seemed on the verge of a fresh assault.
473 In hearing we not only detect a sound but to a certain extent we also determine the direction from which it comes. That we can do so is largely thanks to the fact that we have two ears, the existence of which is not a matter of symmetrical esthetics alone. A sound coming from one side reaches the ear on that side a little sooner than it does the ear on the other. Furthermore, the head itself forms a barrier that sound must pass before reaching the more distant ear; the wave may be slightly weakened by the time it gets there. The brain is capable of analyzing such minute differences in timing and intensity (and the experience of living and of years of trying to locate sounds in this manner and observing our own success sharpens its ability to do so) and judging from that the direction of the sound.
474 In compliance with your request I shall now transcribe from the journal of my younger days some portions of my adventurous life. When I wrote, I painted the feelings of my heart without reserve, and I shall not alter one word, as I know you wish to learn what my feelings were then, and not what my thoughts may be now. They say that in every man's life, however obscure his position may be, there would be a moral found, were it truly told. I think, Madam, when you have perused what I am about to write, you will agree with me, that from my history both old and young may gather profit, and I trust, if ever it should be made public, that, by Divine permission, such may be the result. Without further preface I shall commence with a narrative of my cruise off Hispaniola, in the Revenge privateer.
475 She had told the tree that she might be going elsewhere and she wondered if she had said what she really meant or if she knew as much as she should know about this going elsewhere. It sometimes seemed that she might be going to another place and it might not be that at all. There was in her a feeling of unease, of expectation, the prickling sensation that something most momentous was about to happen, but she could not define it. It was an unfamiliar thing, a rather frightening thing to someone who had lived all her life in a world she knew so ultimately. The world was full of friends not only human friends, but many other friends, the little scurriers of the woods and brush, the shy flowers hidden in their woodland nooks, the graceful trees that stood against the sky, the very wind and weather.
476 Again, this is a problem which comes from asking the wrong question. Here is someone who has never seen a cat. He is looking through a narrow slit in a fence, and, on the other side, a cat walks by. He sees first the head, then the less distinctly shaped furry trunk, and then the tail. Extraordinary! The cat turns round and walks back, and again he sees the head, and a little later the tail. This sequence begins to look like something regular and reliable. Yet again, the cat turns round, and he witnesses the same regular sequence: first the head, and later the tail. Thereupon he reasons that the event head is the invariable and necessary cause of the event tail, which is the head's effect. This absurd and confusing gobbledygook comes his failure to see that head and tail go together: they are all one cat.
477 Pirates rushed to the planked road bearing ingress to their ship, but a dozen spears, and then another dozen, hurled by running men devastated resistance, and then, on the run, swords drawn, their shields struck by arrows, buffeting, slashing, driving men into the water, the soldiers of Ar rushed over the bridges linking the ships. Half turned toward the stem of the vessel and half to the stern. The pirates' lines, thin, strung out for boarding, were instantly cut. Vicious and swift, clean, exact, merciless, was the steel of professional warriors. In moments had the decks of both pirate vessels been cleared. And still soldiers emerged from the hold. In all, I had little doubt that they outnumbered the pirates eleven or twelve to one. The spacious hold of the Portia had been crammed with men.
478 I plunged from the incline of the ramp, from my hands and knees, into the dark liquid, on my belly, as had the others before me, and the tarsks before them. I was suddenly almost totally immersed. I cried out, sputtering, raising my head. It was shockingly cold. It seemed foul. My head went under again and again I desperately raised it. I then had my feet under me, and stood up, the fluid about my waist. I was then, by a man's hand in my hair, pulled from my feet forward, and again into the liquid. It was stinging my eyes and nose. My eyes were filled with them. I could barely see. I thrashed forward and then, wildly, reaching about, seized the side. I pulled myself, then, clinging to the side, the fluid swirling about my neck, toward the other end. Apparently they wanted us well immersed.
479 By late September, terror had returned to the rural areas in full force. No longer were the bats concentrated in any particular place. With the coming of dusk people barricaded themselves in their homes, listening fearfully as tiny bodies thudded against window panes or fluttered down chimneys, squeaking inside blocked fireplaces as though with anger at being thwarted of their prey. In spite of many official statements that the bats were not deliberately intent upon attacking humans, and that their seemingly aggressive attitude was brought about by damaged radar, the public were still convinced that they were the main targets of the flying death swarms. And outside the protective cordon the rest of Britain waited fearfully. It was only a matter of time before the bats extended their territory.
480 Then he fell back on the parchments and died with his eyes open. At that same instant, in Fernanda's bed, his twin brother came to the end of the prolonged and terrible martyrdom of the steel crabs that were eating his throat away. One week previously he had returned home, without any voice, unable to breathe, and almost skin and bones, with his wandering trunks and his wastrel's accordion, to fulfill the promise of dying beside his wife. Petra Cotes helped him pack his clothes and bade him farewell without shedding a tear, but she forgot to give him the patent leather shoes that he wanted to wear in his coffin. So when she heard that he had died, she dressed in black, wrapped the shoes up in a newspaper, and asked Fernanda for permission to see the body. Fernanda would not let her through the door.
481 With the tin box dangling from one hand by its wire handle and his quarterstaff held horizontally in front of him, Mat took a deep breath and started toward the Stone. He tried not to think of how far it was to the pavement below. Light, the bloody thing is three feet wide! I could walk it with a bloody blindfold, in my sleep! Three feet wide, in the dark, and better than fifty feet to the pavement. He tried not to think about Sandar not being there when he came back, either. He was all but committed to this fool notion of pretending to be a thief caught by the man, but it seemed all too probable that he would return to the roof to find Sandar gone, maybe bringing more men to make him a prisoner in truth. Don't think about it, just do the job at hand. At least I'll finally see what it is like.
482 The thing was all knobs. Its arms were longer than human, with a single elbow joint in something like the right place; but the elbow was a ball seven inches across. The hands were like strings of walnuts. The shoulders and the knees and the hips bulged like cantaloupes. The head was a tilted melon on a nonexistent neck. Brennan could find no forehead, no chin. The alien's mouth was a flat black beak, hard but not shiny, which faded into wrinkled skin halfway between mouth and eyes. Two slits in the beak were the nose. Two human looking eyes were protected by not at all human looking masses of deeply convoluted skin, and by a projecting shelf of brow. From the beak the head sloped backward as if streamlined. A bony ridge rose from the swelling skull, adding to the impression of streamlining.
483 The only problem was that to learn more about stone, she would have to deal with more people on a steady basis than she had in years. Pahan Briar seemed all right, for a plant person, but he wasn't going to teach her. A stranger, one who lived in the palace, would teach her. Evvy wasn't sure that she liked that. What if a real stone mage scorned her for what she didn't know? Pahan Briar just told her what to do, and if she didn't know how, he showed her. He assumed she would keep up. And hadn't she done just that all day? Even when keeping up had meant such strange things, like heating stones, new clothes, and food. She wasn't sure that she liked the sandals, which had blistered the tops of her feet, but the clean cloth had felt so good against her skin, and the food in her belly felt even better.
484 Karl and some of the others were standing by the cooking pits. Sean started for them. Sean, Sean, I'm sorry. Penitent Anna. I'd love to dance, please They danced, jostled by other dancers, but neither of them spoke until the band stopped to wipe their brows and wet dry throats. I've got something for you, Sean. What is it? Come, I'll show you. She led him from the light among the wagons and stopped by a pile of saddles and blankets. She knelt and opened one of the blankets and stood up again with the coat in her hands. I made it for you. I hope you like it Sean took it from her. It was sheepskin, tanned and polished, stitched with love, the inside wool bleached snowy white. It's beautiful, Sean said. He recognized the Tabour that had gone into it. It made him feel guilty: gifts always made him feel guilty.
485 Will did not embarrass himself with authority as Sken had done. Patience watched as he deftly took charge of their expedition. In all these many days and weeks of travel, he had never once asserted himself, except on that single morning with her, when no one else could see. But now he stepped easily and naturally into command. He did not have to order people about or raise his voice. He listened to questions, answered them, and made decisions in a quiet way that admitted of no discussion. She had seen many men who were accustomed to command; most of them wore their authority defiantly, as if someone had just accused them of being powerless. Will took his authority as if he didn't have it, and so the others obeyed him without resentment, without noticing they were subjecting themselves to him.
486 SilverSide changed her shape as the Hunters turned to look up at her. She drew back the parafoil and thickened the body. Even as the Hunters raised their hands to fire their lasers, she became a streamlined, compact mass instead of a glider, and she dropped the last thirty feet like a massive stone, crashing heavily into the central column of Central. Laser beams crisscrossed the air where she had been; delicate circuitry smashed under her fall. SilverSide changed back to wolf form even as she rose from the wreckage of the core unit. She went to the wide panels surrounding the core and pushed with all the strength of her durable body. A panel toppled, striking the next in line – the array went down like a row of dominoes, sparking and crashing, the thunder of their destruction ringing in the cavernous room.
487 His thoughts kept coming back to Madeleine. In his mind he could see her lying naked on the bed, provocative in every movement of those slight limbs. He did not doubt that she had spent ten years in a convent, just marvelled at how she had controlled her sexual desires during that time. With no man available she'd had two alternatives to satisfy her craving; a female lover or masturbation. In Madeleine's case, Sabat decided, it would be the latter. She was no lesbian, although you could never be sure. He tried to envisage her lying there in the darkness of a convent dormitory, those small slender fingers working furiously on herself, a sin in the eyes of those around her so she was not permitted so much as one faint orgasmic gasp. 'Defilement' that was only natural if the body was to remain healthy.
488 Carter now spoke with the leaders in the soft language of cats, and learned that his ancient friendship with the species was well known and often spoken of in the places where cats congregate. He had not been unmarked in Ulthar when he passed through, and the sleek old cats had remembered how he patted them after they had attended to the hungry Zoogs who looked evilly at a small black kitten. And they recalled, too, how he had welcomed the very little kitten who came to see him at the inn, and how he had given it a saucer of rich cream in the morning before he left. The grandfather of that very little kitten was the leader of the army now assembled, for he had seen the evil procession from a far hill and recognized the prisoner as a sworn friend of his kind on earth and in the land of dream.
489 Below her on the dance floor, the other girls and their papas awaited her in a half circle. It was her time, and her moment. She wanted it to last forever, and yet, as she reached the bottom of the stair, she felt grateful. As she joined the line of young women and their fathers, she lifted her eyes to look about the room. The folk of Bingtown and the Rain Wild displayed themselves in their finest clothes. Many were not so prosperous in years past, and it showed. Yet they all carried themselves proudly, and smiled at this latest crop of eligible young women. She did not see Reyn. Soon the music would strike up, and the young girls would be whirled away to it. She would be left standing alone while they danced. It fit so well with all the rest of her life, she thought bitterly. Then the impossible happened.
490 I could see the edge of it from where I was lying with my face still against the floor. I reached up and got a hold with my fingers below the cushion and realized that full consciousness was back in my head now and my body was losing its numbness in the warmth of the compartment. I didn't know how much time had gone by since I'd dropped from the window but it was probably a good three or four minutes. That was important, because this man was in a hurry to get me phased out in some way and shoved under the seat. Or he might rely on the gun and order me to sit beside him with the thing against my ribs and make some kind of plausible conversation when people went past along the corridor, we've had a rotten grain crop again, you know what that means, we'll have to buy it from those bloody Americans.
491 The universe reversed. The ball of plasma reappeared from nothing, expanding ferociously. He was unable to distinguish energy radiation from matter; they were inextricably mixed. Now Norton noticed some things he had missed before. In this version, a great deal of energy seemed to be forming from nothing, even as the expansion occurred, so that, though the ball was exploding at lightspeed, the universe itself was multiplying much faster than that. It was as if a shock wave were traveling out ahead of the light, triggering the condensation of energy from whatever unknowable recess it had hidden in. But, of course, he was traveling backward in time now, which meant that that energy had actually converted into nothing before the remainder squeezed into the singularity of the black hole and winked out entirely.
492 The storm had lasted almost all night long, and showed no signs of blowing itself out. The fury of the sky and clouds powered the river to new heights, and the frenzied water pounded its banks without letup. Stones that had marked high water on Spock's last pass had long since gone under. Oceanlike waves swept high and crashed into the trees just ahead of him, and he braced himself and waited. The surge passed and he took a step. The ground gave way beneath him and a ton of earth and rock tumbled into the river with him. The wave dipped low, poised like a beast about to attack, then cascaded over him. He swallowed a mouthful of muddy water, tried to hold his breath, then felt a tug downstream. The equipment pouch was still snagged on his shoulder, and the air sealed inside made it buoyant.
493 Near a grove of cottonwood trees along the bank of a creek running through the valley, Nicci spotted lambskin tents that were a little larger than the rest. While by no means elaborate accommodations like the tents of Emperor Jagang's entourage, these were still luxurious by army standards. The small group of command tents sat atop a hillock that afforded the officers the opportunity to look down on the rest of the camp. Unlike the main army encampment, here there was no ring of guards protecting the elite forces and officers from the common soldiers. Outside the main tent, slabs of meat were being rotated on spits by slaves that always attended the higher ranking officers... or high priests of the Fellowship of Order. For a force such as this, only the most loyal slaves would have been brought along.
494 These particular girls, it had been conjectured, had been obtained from markets in the north, where prices are often cheaper. They were now being brought south and east, probably, from their shearing, for work in the mills. It was my hope that I could make secret contact with these women, and obtain food, and perhaps advice, from them. I was naked, ignorant and illiterate. I was little better off than when I had escaped from the yard of the inn several days ago. Surely they would feed me, and be kind to me. Even though I was far superior to them, as I was free and they were mere slaves, it was my hope that they would be kind to me in my need. We shared a common sisterhood in the sense that we were all ultimately helpless women on a world where men had never relinquished, their sovereignty.
495 The brig had now beat up so high on the reef, that she remained firmly fixed upon it; and the tide having ebbed considerably, she was less exposed to the beating of the waves. The sun was also about to make his appearance, and it was broad daylight when Jackson first came to his recollection. His brain whirled, his ideas were confused, and he had but a faint reminiscence of what had occurred. He felt that the water washed his feet, and with a sort of instinct he rose, and staggered up to windward. In so doing, without perceiving him, he stumbled over the body of Newton, who also was roused up by the shock. A few moments passed before either could regain his scattered senses; and, at the same time, both sitting up on the deck, at about a yard distant, they discovered and recognised each other.
496 I came to my feet and for a moment felt an illogical but powerful urge to go plunging down the hill, to put as much distance as possible between myself and this thing that ticked. The feeling didn't go away, but I stood against it and once I had managed to stand against it, it didn't seem quite so bad. I drove myself, literally drove myself, my feet not wanting to move but my brain making them move, the few feet up the slope to where the depression fell away above the logs. I could see that the depression extended deep into the ground, and I went down on my knees beside it. There seemed no bottom to it. I thrust my face down close above it and smelled the darkness and the coldness of another world. The cave, I knew, lay beneath my feet, and out of the opening into it came a wild, excited chittering of ticks.
497 For that matter, how could it bite and chew and rip and rend with no head? When I raised up a bit higher I could see farther into the room, and I was looking at the remains of the grand warden's bodyguards, who looked as though a tiger had ripped them to pieces. Blood was everywhere, lakes of it, and most of the dead men seemed to have had their throats ripped out. The barking was louder. The headless creature wasn't chasing the grand warden, I suddenly realized, it was herding the grand warden, and it backed him against long thick curtains at another window, and the curtains pulled apart. I stared at a disembodied dog head, huge, mouth gaping, teeth dripping red, and then the head lunged and the teeth snapped together and the Grand Warden of Goose Gate departed the red dust of earth, very messily.
498 Then the jaws opened widely, perhaps four or five feet in width, and reached for me. I tried to swing back but could move very little. I thrust the blade out, between the jaws. The jaws snapped downward and the point of the sword emerged through the upper jaw and the lower jaw was tight under the hilt of the sword. The tongue, moving about, from one side to the other, cutting itself, bleeding, pushed against my hand. The creature, turning and spinning, hissing, tried to close its jaws. This put the blade higher through the upper jaw. Closer and closer to my hand came the relentless upper jaw, until it was stopped, held by the guard. The tongue pushed against my hand and the hilt. It then, spinning about, climbing, tried to open its jaws. I tried to turn the blade, to keep the jaws pinned shut.
499 In the lee of the island, everything seemed strangely quiet. There was a terrible silence on the bridge: there were no longer any orders to give or receive. The wind was gone, and the swell warping around the island was smooth and low. The wall of ice was only a quarter mile distant. Here and there, long fissures ran down from its top, deep runnels worn by icemelt and rain. She could see small waterfalls feathering into the moonlit sea, and hear the distant cracking and pinging of the ice. Beyond that came a distant keening sound of wind, raking the top of the ice island. It was an ethereal, otherworldly place. She watched an iceberg, recently calved off the island, drift away to the west. She wanted to be there when it slowly melted and disappeared into the sea. She wanted to be anywhere but here.
500 My father welcomed me with surprise; asked where my ship was, and what had brought her home. The fact was, that in my sudden determination to return to England, I had spared myself the trouble of writing to make known my intentions; and, indeed, if I had written, I should have arrived as soon as my letter, unless (which I ought to have done) I had written on my arrival at Portsmouth, instead of throwing away my time in the very worst species of dissipation. Unable, therefore, in the presence of many witnesses, to give my father that explanation which he had a right to expect, I suffered greatly for a time in his opinion. He very naturally supposed that some disgraceful conduct on my part was the cause of my sudden return. His brow became clouded and his mind seemed occupied with deep reflection.
501 On the other hand he was primarily concerned with my safety and with the onward movement of the mission, and if London had sudden and critical orders for me they'd go through Fane. In this sense he was my superior, and could move me around the board like a knight, confronting me with the opposition and telling me which squares I'd need to cross. That's how things are ideally, at the outset of a mission. Later things can change, and you can lose touch with your local control or get cut off from communication or find yourself blown in a blinding light without a chance in hell of ever seeing him again or getting his help. It doesn't happen often; it's happened only three times to me and twice I went to ground and holed up solo while my local control finally signalled London that I was probably dead.
502 The dark place was pulling at him by then, the house of whispers where all men were blind. He could feel its cold fingers on him. The stony smell of it was a whisper up the nose. He struggled against the pull. He did not like the darkness. He was wolf. He was hunter and stalker and slayer, and he belonged with his brothers and sisters in the deep woods, running free beneath a starry sky. He sat on his haunches, raised his head, and howled. I will not go, he cried. I am wolf, I will not go. Yet even so the darkness thickened, until it covered his eyes and filled his nose and stopped his ears, so he could not see or smell or hear or run, and the grey cliffs were gone and the dead horse was gone and his brother was gone and all was black and still and black and cold and black and dead and black....
503 She drew him to her, and he pulled the sheet aside. She was naked underneath, her body taut with anticipation. Her arms went around his neck, and they kissed while he reached down, unbuckled his belt, and undressed. As the candles threw their shadows large upon the walls, their bodies pressed together, embraced in the goosedown mattress. She felt his tongue flick across her throat, a touch that was so delicate yet so intense it made her gasp, and then his head slid downward and his tongue swirled between her breasts. She gripped his hair as his tongue moved in slow, precise circles. A fiery pulse beat inside her, growing hotter and stronger. Michael felt her tremble, the taste of her sweet flesh in his mouth, and he grazed his lips down her stomach, down to the dark curls between her thighs.
504 Longstreet looked out at all the bright apple faces. He saw again in his mind the steady face of Lee. He thought: I don't belong. But he wanted to join them. Not even to say anything. Just to sit there and listen to the jokes up close, sit inside the warm ring, because off here at this distance with the deafness you never heard what they said; you were out of it. But... if he joined there would be a stiffness. He did not want to spoil their night. And yet suddenly, terribly, he wanted it again, the way it used to be, arms linked together, all drunk and singing beautifully into the night, with visions of death from the afternoon, and dreams of death in the coming dawn, the night filled with a monstrous and temporary glittering joy, fat moments, thick seconds dropping like warm rain, jewel after jewel.
505 The helicopter banked, heading west over rolling hills. They left the tourist area behind; Kramer was pleased to see the land beneath her was mostly forest. They passed a small town called Envaux near the river, and then climbed up into the hills again. As they came over one rise, she suddenly saw an open expanse of cleared green field. In the center of the field were the remains of ruined stone houses, walls set at odd angles to one another. This had clearly once been a town, its houses located beneath the walls of a castle. But the walls were just a line of rubble, and nearly nothing of the castle remained; she saw only the bases of two round towers and bits of broken wall connecting them. Here and there, white tents had been pitched among the ruins. She saw several dozen people working there.
506 She half turned away on her pillows and closed her eyes. Her breathing grew more regular though it was still far from normal. Long experience of nursing made Miss Marple almost automatically straighten the sheet and tuck it under the mattress on her side of the bed. As she did so her hand encountered something hard and rectangular under the mattress. Rather surprised she took hold of this and pulled it out. It was a book. Miss Marple threw a quick glance at the girl in the bed, but she lay there utterly quiescent. She was evidently asleep. Miss Marple opened the book. It was, she saw, a current work on nervous diseases. It came open naturally at a certain place which gave a description of the onset of persecution mania and various other manifestations of schizophrenia and allied complaints.
507 We strove mightily in our lessons, to be found worthy of being raised to a higher level. This seemed almost symbolic, and was doubtless intended to be. None of us, of course, were permitted to ascend to the next level until all of us had attained at least its minimum requirements. This put great pressure on us all to excel. One girl was determined to be refractory. She was fiercely disciplined that night, as though by merciless, raging cats, by her chain mates. In the morning she considerably improved her performances. It seemed that she had only wanted that excuse, really, that sop to her pride, to eagerly serve men with perfection. She soon became one of the best of us. Indeed, as she wheedled with the guards, and would sometimes ever receive a candy, many of us became quite jealous of her.
508 One thing that added to the gaiety was yet another of Udd's experiments. He had never forgotten the total failure of his attempt to make winter ale by steaming water off rather than freezing it off. Winter ale could be had now for the trouble of putting a bucket outside, but Udd persevered. If the strength in the drink was not left in the heated ale, he reasoned, it must have flown off with the steam. Slowly he experimented. Catching the steam. Enclosing the heated pot. Running a pipe, a copper pipe for its ductility, out from the heat into the cold, to liquefy the steam more quickly. Catching the end product. Repeating the process with ever tighter seals and more careful catchment. In the end, Udd had something which he was prepared to offer to the others. They tasted gingerly, curiously, appreciatively.
509 The sudden abatement that morning of the traffic they had been encountering as they neared the capital should have warned him something like this was coming, he thought grimly. No doubt the locals, accustomed to the weather in these parts, had exercised the good judgment to stay home. They'd probably advised any travelers who'd had the sense to ask to do the same, but Bahzell's eagerness to reach Axe Hallow had pushed the pace harder than usual yesterday. He hadn't wanted to stop when they reached the last town with a good two hours of daylight left, and the result had been to leave them camped beside the road rather than sheltered in a hospitable inn whose landlord undoubtedly would have warned them against venturing out today. And knowing that didn't make things any more enjoyable, either.
510 Startled and unnerved, Achmed hesitated, looking to Qannadi. The Amir glanced at him from the corner of his eye and nodded slightly. Swallowing a knot in his throat, Achmed edged his way in front of his fellow officers, who stared straight out over the heads of the crowd. Why should I be afraid? he scolded himself, irritated at his clammy palms and the twisting sensation in his bowels. Perhaps it was the unusual silence of the people, who stood quietly as darkness washed slowly over them. Perhaps it was the unusually rigid stance and serious mien of the officers and guards. Perhaps it was the sight of Qannadi. Drawing closer, Achmed saw that the firmness of the man's jaw was being maintained by a strong effort of will, the merciless face beneath the leafy crown was the face of a man Achmed didn't know.
511 For half an hour Nu was busy removing the head, and then he set himself to the task of skinning the beast. His methods were crude, but he worked much faster with his primitive implements than modern man with keen knives. Before another hour had passed he had the skin off and rolled into a bundle, and had cut a great steak from Ur's loin. Now he gathered some dry leaves and tinder and with a sharpened bit of hardwood produced fire by twirling the point vigorously in a tiny hollow scooped from another piece of hard wood. When the blaze had been nursed to a fire of respectable dimensions, Nu impaled the steak upon a small branch and squatting before the blaze grilled his supper. It was half burned and half raw and partially smoked, but that he enjoyed it was evidenced by the fact that he devoured it all.
512 Within, the smell was tantalizing. Associations were one of the curses of age. In this case the perfume of carbonized wood, and the sprawl of wreckage underfoot, evoked a dozen cities he'd wandered in; but one of course, in particular. Was that why Joseph had come to this spot: because the scent of smoke and the climb up the creaking stairs woke memories of that room off Muranowski Square? The thief's skills had been the equal of his own that night, hadn't they? There'd been something blessed about the young man with the glittering eyes; the fox who'd shown so little awe; just sat down at the table willing to risk his life in order to play. Mamoulian believed the pilgrim had forgotten Warsaw as he'd grown from fortune to fortune; but this ascent up burned stairs was proof positive that he had not.
513 There has been general public reluctance to accept their explanation that they are from the future, but it is now beginning to gain some acceptance in official quarters, not so much in Washington as in some capitals abroad. Beyond the assertion that they are from the future, however, the refugees will add little else in the way of information. It is confidently expected that in the next few hours more information may be forthcoming. So far, in the confusion of the situation, no one who can be termed a leader or a spokesman has emerged from the hordes of people pouring from the tunnels. But there are some indications that such a spokesman may now have been located and that soon his story will be told. The distribution of the tunnels are worldwide and have been reported from every continent.
514 No longer, Stephen decided, were most of the people converts who came hurrying past him in the street. In this neighborhood the faces and the voices were different, terrorized but not fanatical. The great majority, like Stephen himself, were heading away from the palace, and a considerable number were actually fleeing in a panic. There were women with small children, a man trundling his household belongings in a cart. Even in their haste and fright they continued to give Stephen plenty of room, as did every demon swirling past him overhead. Demons were much scarcer here, and, as far as the young Prince could tell, those which appeared were not attacking the population now, but seemed rather to be continually patrolling, searching... more than likely, he realized, he himself was the object of their search.
515 Katherine was angry at Derec for his lack of interest in their predicament, but she knew him well enough to know how stubborn he could be. She, in fact, knew him far better than he knew himself, and that was maddening. They were caught in a web of intrigue that existed on a massive level, and as long as she was trapped there, she had to play the situation with as much control as she could muster. And that included not telling Derec any more about his life than he could figure out for himself. Her own existence was at stake, and until she could escape the maze that had locked up their activities, she desperately feared saying anything more. She had to get away from Robot City. The pain had increased since her arrival here, and, for the first time in her life, death was a topic she found herself dwelling upon.
516 They stood in that relation, ghost and he, for what seemed like several minutes. Certainly a good time passed before he heard a noise that was neither owl, nor rodent, filtering between the trees. It had been there all along, he had just failed to interpret it for what it was: the sound of digging. The rattle of tiny stones, the fall of earth. The child in him said bad: leave it be, leave it all be. But he was too curious to ignore it. He took two experimental steps toward the ghost. It made no sign of seeing or hearing him. Taking courage, he advanced a few more steps, attempting to keep as close to a tree as possible, so that should the ghost look his way he could find cover quickly. In this way he advanced ten yards toward his quarry. Close enough to see the host in enough detail for recognition.
517 Also there may be a reluctance to admit, even by the thinking of it, that man ever will become extinct. Some men (by no means all of them) can reconcile themselves to the realization that they, personally, some day will die. A man can imagine the world with himself no longer in it; it is far more difficult to imagine an earth with no humans left. We shy away, with some strange inner fear, from the death of the species. We know, intellectually, if not emotionally, that some day we, as members of the human race, will cease to exist; it is difficult to think, however, that the human race itself is not immortal and eternal. We can say that man is the only species which has developed the means by which he can bring about his own extinction. But while we may say this, we do not, in our hearts, believe it.
518 They cut short the discussion when Baltha called a break. Their guide indicated a path to take their tired mounts onto a stony beach, where the party dismounted and spent some time rubbing and drying the horses' feet and ankles, restoring circulation to parts numbed by cold water. It was hard labor, and Renna soon stripped off his coat. Maia could feel heat radiating from his body as he worked nearby. She remembered the sailors on the Wotan, whose powerful torsos always seemed so spendthrift of energy, wasting half of what they ate and drank in sweat and radiation. As cold as she was, especially in her fingers and toes, Renna's nearby presence was rather pleasant. She felt tempted to draw closer, strictly to share the warmth he squandered so freely. Even the inevitable male odor wasn't so bad.
519 Carriages were pulling up to the Traders' Concourse. Malta had been here before, many times, but tonight the hall seemed larger and more imposing. The glows of the torches made the marble shine with an almost amber tone. From each carriage Traders were alighting, in couples or family groups, all dressed in their best. The rich gowns of the women swept the paving stones. The girls wore the last of the year's flowers in their hair, and the little boys were scrubbed and groomed to implausible orderliness. And the men... For a time, Malta stood in the shadows and watched almost greedily as they stepped down from carriages or dismounted from horses. The fathers and grandfathers she quickly dismissed. With her eyes she followed the young husbands and the men so obviously and flamboyantly still single.
520 Then there are other ancient alluvial beds where the river has changed its course. They left the river and its narrow strip of greenery and the loco accelerated again as they ran on northwards into the desert. Centaine watched Shasa's face carefully as she went on explaining and lecturing. She would never go on until she reached the point of boredom, at the first sign of inattention, she would stop. She did not have to press. There was all the time necessary for his education, but the one single most important consideration was never to tire him, never to outrun his immature strength or his undeveloped powers of concentration. She must retain his enthusiasm intact and never jade him. This time his interest persisted beyond its usual span, and she recognized it was time for another advance.
521 The thick glutinous mass tried to suck the boots off his feet as he waded forward with his sword and bow lying across the crooks of his arms; the sewer smell of marsh was thick around him. Reeds swayed on either side; his head would have been above them if he hadn't bent over, which made his progress slower yet. When the ground grew firmer he went down on his belly and eeled forward, over the low ridge and into what had been the field beyond. The edge of that was a ditch, and water and silt coated the front of his body like thick paint. The whole field was more like swamp than dry land, but not as bad as the river side of the bank. He stopped as the coarse grass waved over his head, ignoring the hum of mosquitoes stabbing into the soft skin behind his ears, and listened as he forced his breath to slow.
522 Hood shrugged. He seemed smaller now when you were close. He had extraordinary eyes. The eyebrows were shaggy and tilted and the eyes were dark as coal so that he seemed very sad. Fremantle had a sudden numbing thought: by evening this man could be dead. Fremantle stared at him, transfixed, trying to sense a premonition. He had never had a premonition, but he had heard of them happening, particularly on the battlefield. Men often knew when their time had come. He stared at Hood, but truthfully, except for the sadness in the eyes, which may have been only weariness, for Hood had marched all night, there was no extra sensation, nothing at all but a certain delicious air of impending combat which was with them all. Longstreet most of all, sitting round and immobile on the black horse, gazing eastward.
523 There had been the Sakhalin trawler. Captured from the Japanese during the war, it was a little drift trawler, a porous wooden hull around an ancient diesel. Wherever paint peeled, ghostly Japanese markings emerged. There was no trouble getting a berth on a vessel overdue to sink, especially when the captain had a simple quota: cram the hold with salmon until the boat shipped water. As the new man, Arkady was stuffed into the warp hole; when the net was pulled in he had to run in a crouch around and around, coiling a hawser spiked with frayed metal threads. As the hawser filled the hole he circled on all fours like a rat in a coffin, then climbed out to help shake the net. By the second day he could barely raise his hands, though once he got the knack he developed the first shoulders he'd had since the army.
524 As we stepped through the door I could see another door in front of us. The captain made sure the door behind us was secured, then turned and placed his forehead against what appeared to be a visor. I immediately recognized it as a retina scanner. My understanding was that they were still experimental, but this one appeared to work fine. After a few seconds of scan time, we heard a tone. I was already full of questions about the security measures, but I bit my tongue not wanting to sound inexperienced. I had never come across such tight security procedures to get into an office within an already tightly secured building. My mind was becoming more and more active with questions. I am a naturally curious person, so I had to actively suppress my curiosity and hold my questions for a more appropriate time.
525 The iceberg no longer provided a leeward flank in which the Ilya Pogodin could take shelter. The full force of the storm assaulted the berg from behind, and both of its long flanks were vulnerable to the pitiless wind. The boat was forced to endure on the open surface, pitching and heaving, rocking and falling and rising and wallowing as though it were a living creature in its death throes. Another of the monumental waves battered the starboard hull, roared up the side of the sail, and cast Niagaras of spray down the other side, repeatedly drenching everyone on the bridge. Most of the time, the submarine listed heavily to port on the back of a monstrous black swell that was simultaneously monotonous and terrifying. All the men on the bridge were jacketed in thick ice, as was the metalwork around them.
526 There was no respite for anyone during the following week. The topgallant masts were sent down as soon as the ship was beached. The topmasts now followed, whereupon the fore, main, and mizzenmasts were cut into suitable lengths for handling and for use as lumber ashore. Most of the men were employed on board, and the women, excellent swimmers, helped to raft the timbers through the surf. So steep was the slope above the landing beach that it was necessary to dig out the hillside and bank up the earth so that the timbers and planking might be stacked beyond reach of the sea until such time as they could be carried on to the settlement. Realizing the need for haste, all worked with a will. Fortunately, the shift in wind had been no forerunner of heavy weather. The breeze remained light and the sea fairly calm.
527 There was a second inner wall constructed about twelve feet in from the outer wall, forming a corridor running all the way around the main chamber. A large archway led to the lower structure attached to the tower. The inner corridor gave access to two flights of stone steps, one near the front and one at the back, which led up to a gallery that ran all the way around the main chamber, where the second floor would have been. There were several small archways leading from the corridor on the first floor to the main chamber. The archways on the gallery were roughly in line with the small, high windows in the outer wall, allowing some light to reach the main chamber. Still, it was rather dark and gloomy. There were sconces in the wall for torches, with the walls above and behind them blackened by flames.
528 The loading door was at the far end of the loft, partly concealed behind a pile of bales. Coughing fit to turn himself inside out, the thief flung open the double doors, taking blessed gulps of clear night air. As he leaned out, still rubbing his streaming eyes, he hit his head hard on something that swung back again an instant later and gave him another clout for good measure. Blinking away the last of the tears, Grince discovered a large iron hook connected to a block and tackle near the ceiling. He followed the rope down into the gloom at the side of the door and loosened it, letting it slide through his fingers until the hook had reached the ground. Making it fast again, he slid down too quickly, cursing as the rough rope burned his hands raw. His feet were running before they hit the bottom.
529 Lee walked away from the small camp, the moon now far to the west, settling toward the horizon. He moved out that way, stepping through soft dirt, fields that had been planted, the seeds trampled by the bare feet of his army. He could see a few stars, but only a few, small flickers of light washed away by the brightness of the large moon. He kept moving toward it, tried not to think of all this, of what was happening, of what had already happened to his army. The commanders had been enthusiastic, were ready for whatever the day would bring them. He felt a great sadness about that, moved in a soft gloom, thought, They will do their duty, as long as I do mine. Their men will follow them as long as they lead. The war can still go on, and they will still fight as they have always fought. I do not understand that.
530 Gonff the mousethief padded silently along the passage from the larder and storeroom of Kotir. He was a plump little creature, clad in a green jerkin with a broad buckled belt. He was a ducker and a weaver of life, a marvelous mimic, ballad writer, singer, and lockpick, and very jovial with it all. The woodlanders were immensely fond of the little thief. Gonff shrugged it ail off, calling every creature his matey in imitation of the otters, whom he greatly admired. Chuckling quietly to himself, he drew the small dagger from his belt and cut off a wedge from the cheese he was carrying. Slung around his shoulder was a large flask of elderberry wine which he had also stolen from the larder. Gonff ate and drank, singing quietly to himself in a deep bass voice between mouthfuls of cheese and wine.
531 Her face was oval; eyes black and large; and her hair black as the raven's wing; her features were small and regular; her teeth white and good; but her complexion was very pallid, and not a vestige of colour on her cheeks. As I have since thought, it was more like a marble statue than anything I can compare her to. There was a degree of severity in her countenance when she did not smile, and it was seldom that she did. I certainly looked upon her with more awe than regard, for some time after I became acquainted with her; and yet her voice was soft and pleasant, and her manners very amiable; but it must be remembered I had never before seen a woman. After breakfast was over, I proposed going down to where the seamen lay, to see if they were awake; but I told her I thought that they would not be.
532 I looked down on the road. It was said that once, long ago, there had been a battle there, more than two hundred years ago, the battle of Teslit, fought between the forces of Ven and Harfax. Many do not even know there is a village there. They have heard only of the battle. Yet it is from the nearness of the village that the battle took its name. Such historical details seem curious. I listened for a moment, and it seemed to me then, as though from below, and yet from far away, as from another time, faintly, I heard the blare of trumpets, the rolling of the drums, the crying of men, the clash of metals. Once I supposed that that placid road below, that ribbon of dust between the brown shores of grass, had run with blood. Then once again there was only the silence and the dry road, stretching northward.
533 Their first impression of headquarters was often disappointing. Many expected their presence to be the most significant event of the day, as though there should be some elaborate ceremony. Then they would hear the guns, a sound like, nothing heard in Europe, not even in the days of Napoleon, and then the wounded would flow past, wagons and ambulances filled with the screams and faint cries of the men who endured the horror of this most modern war. When that experience had passed, the visitors did not venture far from the tents, there was not quite as much boasting of their own heroics and how much more civilized war had once been. Even those from the most remote lands knew they were seeing the new face of war, and when they left, there was something different about them, something subdued.
534 There had been much fear in Kassau when the ship of Ivar Forkbeard had entered the inlet. But it had come at midday. And on its mast, round and of painted wood, had hung the white shield. His men had rowed slowly, singing a dirge at the oars. Even the tarnhead at the ship's prow had been swung back on the great wooden hinges. Sometimes, in light raiding galleys, it is so attached, to remove its weight from the prow's height, to ensure greater stability in high seas; it is always, however, at the prow in harbor, or when the ship enters an inlet or river to make its strike; in calm seas, of course, there is little or no damage in permitting it to surmount the prow generally. That the tarnhead was hinged back, as the ship entered the inlet, was suitable indication, like the white shield, that it came in peace.
535 Mintaka struggled against her bonds, twisting and tugging, bracing her bare feet against the struts of the cage to give herself better purchase. She felt the skin smearing from her wrists, and warm blood dripping down her hands and her fingers, but the leather thongs were tight and strong and she could neither stretch nor snap them. She felt her hands becoming numb from lack of blood. Whenever she rested from her struggle her eyes went to Merykara's limp body on the wheel. She called to her, 'I love you, my darling. Meren loves you. Don't die. For our sakes, please don't die.' But Merykara's eyes were wide open and her stare was fixed. Soon her eyeballs began to dry out and glaze over with a thin film of dust, and the flies swarmed busily over them and drank from the puddle of blood between her legs.
536 Those three weeks were as happy as I could remember for a long time. I took the Eilean Mor out most days to get the feel of her and to teach Bert the rudiments of sailing. She was easy to handle and rode a rough patch well. The more I saw of her, the more confident I felt that we had at least a chance. Even Bert, a landlubber if ever there was one, began to regard her with respect. In the evenings we'd discuss the successes and failures of the day. But always there was something good to report; Jenny had managed to get some tinned meat or her father had persuaded some firm to let us have the clothing we needed. Till finally the day came when we'd everything that we could reasonably want. I could have wished for a radio transmitter, but since none of us knew anything about it, perhaps it was just as well.
537 It was sound logic. Enash found himself taking heart from it. Suddenly, he was astonished that he had become panicky so easily. He began to see the danger in a new light. One man, only one man, alive on a new planet. If they were determined enough, colonists could be moved in as if he did not exist. It had been done before, he recalled. On several planets, small groups of the original populations had survived the destroying radiation, and taken refuge in remote areas. In almost every case, the new colonists gradually hunted them down. In two instances, however, that Enash remembered native races were still holding small sections of their planets. In each case, it had been found impractical to destroy them because it would have endangered the Ganae on the planet. So the survivors were tolerated.
538 The queen in her silken cocoon had no words to give back; but when he closed his eyes and tried to remember, instead of memory came new images. Putting the cocoon in a cool place, a dark place, but with water, so she wasn't dry; no, not just water, but water mixed with the sap of a certain tree, and kept tepid so that certain reactions could take place in the cocoon. Then time. Days and weeks, for the pupa inside to change. And then, when the cocoon had changed to a dusty brown color, Ender saw himself splitting open the cocoon, and helping the small and fragile queen emerge. He saw himself taking her by the forelimb and helping her walk from her birthwater to a nesting place, soft with dried leaves on sand. Then I am alive, came the thought in his mind. Then I am awake. Then I make my ten thousand children.
539 In fact the mind is ageless, in the sense in which we understand ageing. But the spirit of a departed child will come through as a child, and will even continue growing up in the other dimension in order to show the mother that life continues after death. Colin's twins told us that when they first arrived they were being looked after by a relative. There are people in the other dimension who choose to help children; in Colin's case a woman came through whom he couldn't remember but who had had a strong connection with Colin's own childhood. Later he learned who she was, and that she had lost her own twins at birth. Now she belonged to a group whose task was to take care of children. She told us that the twins were very happy, and continuing their lives as they had here, each following his individual path.
540 Nightfall came, and the little company took shelter beneath an overhang along a ridgeline that shadowed the Silver River. There they had their dinner and watched the sullen rush of the river as it churned past through a series of rocky drops. Rain began to fall, the sky went black, and the day faded into an unpleasant night. Jair sat back within the overhang and stared out into the dark, the fetid smell of the poisoned river reaching his nostrils. The river had grown worse since Culhaven, its waters blackened and increasingly choked with masses of dying fish and deadwood. Even the vegetation along the riverbanks had shown signs of wilting. There was a murky, depthless cast to the river, and the rain that fell in steady sheets seemed welcome, if only to help somehow wash clean the foulness that lay therein.
541 Too late. A wave caught the boat and flipped it over. The craft's occupants disappeared beneath the surface. Trout waited for their heads to appear. But he was distracted by a sharp rapping noise and a shout from the pilot. He turned to see a spider's web of shatter lines in the windshield, which had been clear when he last looked. At the center of the lacy pattern was a hole. They were being shot at! A bullet must have passed right between them and hit the bulkhead inches above the head of Rutz, who was staring bugeyed. The chiclero began to shout in rapidfire Spanish despite the warnings of Morales to shut his mouth. Morales stopped wasting his breath, leaned over, and crashed his fist into the man's jaw, knocking him unconscious. Then the Mexican policeman drew his pistol and fired away at the boats.
542 Savage heat passed over him, and a soft strong whump of shockwave that tried to pick him up and roll him; the exposed areas of his skin were tight and painful. He raised his head as soon as it was safe, to see the police groundcar settling back on its springs; it had taken the main force of the blast. Saunders was still in the hatchway, burning and screaming and waving his arms. For a few seconds, and then two more rockets blasted into the groundcar. The top blew off in a vertical gout of fire, metal slashing into the walls and into the backs of those Milice not incapacitated by the burning fuel. Saunders was silhouetted for a moment against the fireball, until he struck the opposite building with enough force to turn his body into a lose sack of ruptured cells and bone fragments inside the armor.
543 Nature is preoccupied with balance, so it did not surprise me that nearly right away I felt the urge to urinate. I relieved myself in the beaker. I produced so exactly the amount I had just downed that it was as if a minute hadn't passed and I were still considering Richard Parker's rainwater. I hesitated. I felt the urge to tilt the beaker into my mouth once more. I resisted the temptation. But it was hard. Mockery be damned, my urine looked delicious! I was not suffering yet from dehydration, so the liquid was pale in colour. It glowed in the sunlight, looking like a glass of apple juice. And it was guaranteed fresh, which certainly couldn't be said of the canned water that was my staple. But I heeded my better judgment. I splashed my urine on the tarpaulin and over the locker lid to stake my claim.
544 A golden nimbus of light gathered around the woman and soon became blinding. The boys were forced to avert their eyes as the light grew in intensity. For long moments die night seemed broken by a beam of sunlight, then it started to fade. They looked again and the light had expanded to many times the size of the woman. As large as a house, then as large as Amos's ship, the envelope of light grew, and inside, something took shape. Then the light faded, and where the Lady Ryana had stood, now a mighty creature of legend spread wings a hundred yards across. Golden scales gleamed with silver highlights in the moons' light, and a long neck with silver crest extended, as the reptilian head looked skyward. Then with a leap, a snap of the giant wings, and a small blast of flame, the dragon lifted into the sky.
545 Oman had defied the Ottoman conquerors for a hundred years, and could do so for another hundred, if only it were led by a strong and resourceful man. Ibn Yaqub was not that man. He was past seventy years of age, and given to convoluted political intrigue and conspiracy, rather than the rig ours and hardships of war. His chief concern was always to safeguard his own position of power, rather than hold together and protect his small nation. In the process he had lost the respect of his tribes, for the Omani were made up of many, each under its own sheikh. Without firm direction these hard desert men were losing their sense of purpose and resolve, they were beginning to squabble among themselves, resuscitating ancient tribal blood feuds, and spurning the rule of the vacillating, cruel and scheming old man in Muscat.
546 In a short while then I had returned to the room off the great hall where the trunk had been left. There I put the ankle rings on her, put her in the slave sack, tied it shut and placed it the trunk, through the rear panel. I then secured the bolts, locking the trunk. Its ostensible locks, with the key hanging in the front of the trunk, had not been disturbed. Things looked the same as they had. To be sure, the trunk now had a new occupant, and one that was now truly its prisoner. I had then, using my assumed identity as an officer, located the room of a fellow from Turia. He also opened the door to me. He was then kind enough to loan me his credentials, by means of which I had obtained entrance this evening to the banquet. He would doubtless be found in the morning by some startled cleaning slave.
547 The trouble was that he could not sleep. He lay there in the dark with an arm behind his head and the medallion's leather cord looped through itself on his wrist, ready to hand in case the gholam slid through the crack under the door, but it was not the gholam that kept him awake. He could not stop going over the plan in his head. It was a good plan, and simple; as simple as it could be, in the circumstances. Only, no battle ever went according to plan, even the best. Great captains earned their reputation not just for laying brilliant plans, but for still being able to find victory after those plans began to fall apart. So when first light illumined the windows, he was still lying there, rolling the medallion across the back of his fingers and trying to think of what was going to go wrong.
548 Soon Dr. Crab arrived and asked that I order him sake while he bathed in the bath attached to the room. I think he may have expected me to help undress him, because he gave me a strange look. But my hands were so cold and awkward, I don't think I could have done it. He emerged a few minutes later wearing a sleeping robe and slid open the doors to the garden, where we sat on a little wooden balcony, sipping sake and listening to the sound of the crickets and the little stream below us. I spilled sake on my kimono, but the Doctor didn't notice. To tell the truth, he didn't seem to notice much of anything, except a fish that splashed in the pond nearby, which he pointed out to me as if I might never have seen such a thing. While we were there, a maid came and laid out both our futons, side by side.
549 Polliver was a grim, methodical fighter, and he pressed Sandor steadily backward, his heavy longsword moving with brutal precision. The Hound's own cuts were sloppier, his parries rushed, his feet slow and clumsy. He's drunk, Arya realized with dismay. He drank too much too fast, with no food in his belly. And the Tickler was sliding around the wall to get behind him. She grabbed the second wine cup and flung it at him, but he was quicker than the squire had been and ducked his head in time. The look he gave her then was cold with promise. Is there gold hidden in the village? she could hear him ask. The stupid squire was clutching the edge of a table and pulling himself to his knees. Arya could taste the beginnings of panic in the back of her throat. Fear cuts deeper than swords. Fears cuts deeper....
550 The bars of the cell were of old, rough iron, crudely forged and cast. Little marks of rust pitted the metal like smallpox; it looked ancient and corrupt. Nevertheless the bars were still intact, despite their age. Against the gnawing of rust, which the rude workmanship and the damp atmosphere aggravated, the iron was defended by generations of human oil and fear. Since the dungeons were first constructed, dozens or hundreds of men and women and perhaps children had stood in this cell, holding the bars because they didn't have anything else to do with their need. And now the ooze of sweat and dirt left behind by their knotted, aching, condemned hands protected the metal from its accumulated years. Sections of iron could be brought to a dull shine, if Terisa rubbed them with the sleeve of her new shirt.
551 He walked into the surf up to his waist and tasted the water. He had seen others drink from it, so he hoped that he would find it acceptable. It was pure and fresh and had a tang that he had never experienced before. After drinking his fill, he felt as if he had had a transfusion of young blood. He walked out of the ocean and back across the beach and into the jungle. The others had resumed their eating and recreations, and though they watched him with a bold direct stare they said nothing to him. He gave them a smile, but quit when it seemed to startle them. In the jungle, he searched for and found fruit and nuts such as the merwoman had been eating. The yellow fruit had a peach pie taste, and the meat inside the pseudococonut tasted like very tender beef mixed with small pieces of walnut.
552 Jan eased the wheel forward and tilted it at the same time. The whine of the gearboxes grew in pitch and the tank lurched ahead as the clutches engaged, the heavy tracks slapping down on the solid rock of the Road. When he switched on the rear camera he saw the rest of the tanks rumble to life on the screen and move out behind him. They were on the way. The broad central street of the city slipped past, the looming walls of the warehouses, then the first of the farms beyond. He kept the controls on manual until the last of the buildings was behind him and the Road had narrowed. The tank picked up speed as he switched to automatic and sat back. A wire, imbedded beneath the congealed lava surface of the Road, acted as a guide. The column of tanks roared on past the farms toward the desert beyond.
553 From the stand point of sheer recreation you will have discovered the greatest sport in the world. Horse racing, gambling, football, the fights, all of these things are childish and trite compared with this greatest sport! Politics is a game where you always play for keeps, where the game is continuous, always fresh and full of surprises. It will take all of your intelligence and wit and all that you have ever learned or can learn to play it well. The stakes are the highest conceivable, the lives and the futures of every living creature on this planet. How well you play it can make the difference between freedom or a firing squad, civilization or atomic conflagration. For this is the day of decision, the hour of the knife, and none but yourself can choose for you the correct path in the maze.
554 That brief time of sharing Icefyre's memories seemed more real than my entire life had been. Icefyre was definitely alive. And aware, but his awareness was focused deep within himself. He desired death. He had come here to seek it, deliberately. Death does not come easily to dragons. They may die of disease or injury or in battle with their own kind, but other than those fates, no one knows how many years one may number. Icefyre had been a strong and hearty creature with many years before him. But the skies had become empty, bereft of his kind, and the serpents that should have returned to renew the ranks of the dragons were gone, too. The dragons and most of their Elderling servants had perished when the earth shook and split and the mountains belched forth smoke and flame and poisonous winds.
555 Surrendering to tears would be so easy, satisfying. These were selfish tears of defeat; they would not only purge the heart of grief but also wash out the need to care about anyone, anything. Blessed relief could be hers if she simply admitted that the long struggle to understand wasn't worth the pain of experience. Her sobbing would bring the motor home to a sudden halt, and the driver would come back to find her huddled at the step well. He would club her, drag her into the bedroom, rape her beside the body of her friend; there would be terror beyond anything that she had ever known before, but it would be brief. And this time it would be final. He would free her forever from the need to ask why, from the torment of repeatedly falling through the fragile floor of hope into this too familiar desolation.
556 Then Garion's eyes fell upon the little boy. He stood watching with calm, uncomprehending eyes. He neither started nor flinched at the dreadful sounds and sights that crashed around him. Garion tensed himself to dash forward and yank the child to safety, but at that moment the little boy turned toward the table. Quite calmly, he walked through a sudden wall of green flame that shot up in front of him. Either he did not see the fire, or he did not fear it. He reached the table, stood on his tiptoes and, raising the lid, he put his hand into the iron cask over which Ctuchik had been gloating. He lifted a round, polished, gray stone out of the cask. Garion instantly felt that strange tingling glow again, so strong now that it was almost overwhelming, and his ears filled with the haunting song.
557 Thick didn't hesitate. He shrugged out of his pack, letting it slide to the floor without regret. 'We thank you,' I said slowly as I carefully removed my own and set both of them to one side. My eyes had adjusted to the light. I do not know if I would have called his residence a cave or a large crevice. I could not see a ceiling, and I suspected that smoke travelled up but not out. The furnishings were simple but very well made, with both the craft and attention of a man who had much time to learn his skills and apply them. There was a bedstead in a corner, and a larder shelf, a water bucket and a barrel, and a woven rug. Some of the items appeared to have been salvaged, windfalls from the beach, and others were obviously made from the scanty resources of the island. It bespoke a long habitation.
558 How she knew this I don't know, but the gimmick worked. As Berenice whipped her head back and forth, stinging first my chest and then my stomach with her long hair, my doubts disappeared. And because this unseen woman became any woman, and was no longer a problem named Berenice Hollis, I became rigid with the pain of need, and mounted her savagely. Savagely for me, because I am usually methodical in sexual relations, knowing what I like and dislike. Being flagellated with long hair was a new experience for me as well, and I favored Berenice with the best ride she had ever had. She climaxed as I entered, then twice, and we made the final one together. She bit my shoulder so hard to keep from mewing (knowing how irritated I get when she makes animal noises) she left the marks of her teeth in my skin.
559 Within the body, hidden from the casual eye, are organs not under voluntary control in the full sense of the word. You can force your lungs to pump air more slowly or more quickly, but it is an effort to do so, and as soon as you relax (or fall unconscious, if you are too persistent in your interference) breathing proceeds at an automatically regulated pace. And too, you cannot force your heart to beat more slowly or more quickly (although, if you are highly imaginative you can make it pound by indirect action, as by talking yourself into a state of terror). Other organs change without your being especially aware of it. The pupils of your eyes dilate or contract, the various blood vessels of the body may expand their bore or narrow it, various glands may secrete more fluid or less, and the like.
560 He shuffled from the temple and Praktis shuffled right along behind him, with a firm grip on his collar, just to make sure he didn't shuffle off to Buffalo or some such. The cable ran up the wall to thick insulators set in the solid stone. Then it looped out of the temple and up the valley. They followed it until the valley ended abruptly in a cliff. The cable went over the edge and vanished from sight. They all walked forward carefully and peered over. They were at the very edge of the plateau. The stony walls fell away to the desert below, the trackless wastes of sand. But there were tracks now. Just beside them stairs had been carved in the stone and led down to the desert. From the bottom of the stairs a path made a track across the trackless wastes. It lead directly to the open airlock of the spaceship.
561 As the army moved farther south he had moved the headquarters closer to the North Anna, the tents now spread out along the hard road. The rains had stopped, the wood at last was dry, and the troops built huge fires, tall and roaring with great stacks of logs and brush. The fires were not for warmth; the late spring heat had already brought the steam up from the swamps and thick woodlands around the rivers. The fires were a message to Lee's army, to the scouts, to the lookouts who watched them from the tops of tall trees, who stared into the dark night for the signs of motion, some sign of which way the blue army was moving. The fires were their answer, a symbol of the spirit of these men, and the message to the enemy was plain. This army was still moving south, was still coming after them.
562 The healer had got to his feet by now, but when he looked back at the entrance he saw that the battle was over before it had begun. All the intruders were running away as fast as they could. But Faulk had moved faster. Instead of rushing straight towards his foes he had moved swiftly to one side so that he came at them out of the shadows of the cliff. The last of the thieves had hesitated a moment too long before turning to make his escape, and as he went past Faulk flattened him by diving at his legs. The man screamed as he fell, until the breath was knocked out of him, and his knife clattered away into the night. An instant later he was pinned to the ground by the soldier's weight, with Faulk's left forearm pressing heavily on his throat. The others ran on, giving no thought to their fallen comrade.
563 He recalled his final morning at the monastery, and the tree that had come to him out of the shards of stained glass. He had always taken a secret pride in his ability to summon beauty and hold it. But had it been his skill at all? Or had it been something created instead by the teachers who insulated him from the world and provided both a place and a time in which he might work? Perhaps, given the right atmosphere, anyone could do it. Perhaps the only thing about him that had been remarkable was that he had been given a chance. For an instant, he was overwhelmed by his own ordinariness. Nothing remarkable about Wintrow. An indifferent ship's boy, a clumsy sailor. Not even worth mentioning. He would disappear into time as if he had never been born. He could almost feel himself unraveling into darkness.
564 Lee looked again to the trees, saw Hill's men forming a wide straight line, moving forward into the woods, and he began to let down, felt the cold shake in his hands, smiled, nodded at Stuart's excitement. Yes, they had been very close. It had been up to one man, perhaps a sergeant, one man who could have given the order to fire, but instead he'd seen the situation very differently. He may have thought his small command had made a dangerous mistake, lost in the brush perhaps, seeking out some landmark, some direction, and stumbled into the lines of the enemy. Instead of making an aggressive move, of capturing or assaulting this small group of men and horses, they had been wary, cautious. Lee glanced at the sky, said a small prayer. You had a hand in this, it was not yet my time, thank You.
565 Tarzan was by what remained of an old shed. The shed had been built as a shade for the warriors of Ur. A place where they might rest before returning to the city after a raid, or a hunting party, but the thatched covering to the shed had long since worn away, and now there were only the posts. Out in a natural meadow of wild grasses, Tarzan observed hobbled zebras eating grass. He could tell immediately by the way they ignored him that they were domesticated. He knew, too, that this area must not attract many wild animals. Man's spoor was too strong here even if animals like the zebras were easy picking. That meant this road was well traveled by humans, and therefore Tarzan concluded there must be a large gathering of humans nearby. It stood to reason that would be the city the Hansons sought.
566 Also, as she was, legally, having submitted in the House of Cernus, a slave girl, any small thing she had or could do which was her own was doubtless rather precious to her. Some slaves, I knew, were even intensely jealous of so little as a dish or a cup which, probably because of use, they had come to regard as their own. Further, having her own knot might have some occasional value, even in our present circumstances. For example, passing the door and seeing her knot in place I would know that she was not in the compartment. This sort of thing was trivial, but one never knew when something less trivial might perhaps be involved. It seemed to me, all things considered, though it was a bother for me, a good thing that Elizabeth had her own knot. Besides, perhaps most importantly, she had wanted her own knot.
567 During the days that followed there were no organic fatalities reported, but the air and surface vehicles, which had been in continuous operation over eight days and nights, had not fared so well. The food synthesizers on Vespasian and in the outlying medical stations were running at maximum safe overload, a condition that was not recommended for more than a few hours at a time. All of the organic components were displaying signs of stress and severe fatigue but were operating at close to optimum efficiency, even though they rarely talked to each other and seemed to be asleep on their feet. It was becoming clear to everyone concerned that the operation was a success and that no member of the patient population was about to die, and that knowledge was both the fuel and the lubrication which kept them working.
568 With a final puff, Atmos brought himself to a stop, or at least he tried to. But the earth beneath his feet was behaving most unaccountably, moving along in big brown waves and carrying him tumbling along with it. They had unluckily run into the great rolling country of the east, mentioned by a few explorers, but seldom crossed by ordinary travellers. Standing first on one foot and then the other, Atmos tried wildly to keep his balance, but in a moment a heavy mud wave struck him behind the knees and rolled him over, so that he and the little Princess of Oz were soon being buffeted along like tiny ships on an unruly ocean. When the waves broke, which they frequently did, sticks, stones, pebbles and dust showered over their heads. In fact, a more miserable mode of travel cannot be imagined.
569 In order not to attract attention by restarting the engine, he pushed out into the sunlight, the giant leaves sinking to their hilts in the green jelly of the water, and paddled slowly around the perimeter of the lagoon to Beatrice's apartment block. Intermittently the roar of the helicopter dinned across the water as it carried out its tarmac check, and the swells from the testing station drummed against the prows of the catamaran and drove on through the open windows on his right, slapping around the internal walls. Beatrice's power cruiser creaked painfully at its moorings. The engine room had flooded and the stern was awash under the weight of the two big Chrysler engines. Sooner or later one of the thermal storms would catch the craft and anchor it forever fifty feet down in one of the submerged streets.
570 As he thought, a partial block came unconsciously into being. For not one of those gorgeous, those utterly splendid creatures suspected, even now, that which he so surely knew – that each one of them was very shortly to be wrought and tempered as he himself had been. And, worse, he would have to stand aside and watch them, one by one, walk into it. Was there anything he could do to ward off, or even to soften, what was coming to them? There was not. With his present power, he could step in, of course–at what awful cost to Civilization only he, Christopher Kinnison, of all Civilization, really knew. No. That was out. Definitely. He could come in afterward to ease their hurts, as each had come to him, but that was all... and there was a difference. They hadn't known about it in advance. It was tough....
571 Don't be a silly little duck, he laughed at her. It will all be over before you know it, and I'll be back with a gold medal on my chest. Don't call me a silly little duck, she flashed at him, not ever again! He stopped laughing. You are right, he said. You are worth more than that. Sarah had taken on herself the duties of timekeeper and second for Manfred's and Roelf's evening training runs. On flying bare feet she took short cuts up the hillside and through the forest to wait for them at prearranged spots with her stopwatch, borrowed from Uncle Tromp, a wet sponge and a flask of cold freshly squeezed orange juice to refresh them. As soon as they had sponged down, drunk and set off again she would race away, cutting over the crest of the hill or through the valley to wait for them at the next stage.
572 Fire leapt from the tip of his staff. Handles and bits of wire and pathetically spinning wheels tinkled down around him. And what made it even better was that there was no end to the targets. A second wave of trolleys, crammed into a tighter space, was trying to advance over the tops of those still in actual contact with the ground. It wasn't working, but they were trying anyway. And trying desperately, because a millennia more and more vermine were descendants of those vermine who, when faced with a cliff edge, squeaked the rodent equivalent of Blow that for a Game of Soldiers. Vermine now abseil down cliffs, and build small boats to cross lakes. When their rush leads them to the seashore they sit around avoiding one another's gaze for a while, and then leave early to get home before the rush.
573 Aground and on fire, and myself imprisoned in that barge, a helpless spectator as the flames licked higher and higher and figures lit by the flare and the forked flashes ran shouting about the decks. Lightning stabbed again, struck with a blue flash. A lascar seaman caught on the bridge deck was withered instantly, a blackened rag doll dying with a piercing shriek. Hoses were being run out and a jet of water sprang from the nozzle, insignificant against the flames licking up from the bridge superstructure. And where the jet struck the heat of the fire it sent up a little puff of steam that was instantly burned out in the heat. Two more jets and then another bolt of lightning. The ship, with her steel bottom firmly stranded on the sea bed, was earthed; she was acting as a huge lightning conductor.
574 I was sitting there, wondering morbidly who would eventually read the log and whether it was worth entering the reasons for the collision, when the ice quivered violently under me. There was a shout and a report like a pistol shot. I felt the tent moving. I put out my hand to support myself and fell on my side. The floor of the tent was no longer there. In the dim light a dark gash was opening under us. The canvas of the tent began to rip. I flung myself towards the entrance, dragging Gerda with me. Bonomi gave a shout. Howe was slipping, but somebody had caught hold of his legs. Hans, the deckboy, was in the gap, clawing at the edge and screaming. He was all tied up in his blankets. McPhee pulled him out. We got to our feet and fought our way out of the tent, the men outside pulling the canvas clear of us.
575 As he and Mouse rode in their hay wagon, their clothes filthy and their skin even more so, their faces obscured by over two weeks' beard growth, Michael watched prisoners of war chopping down trees on either side of the roadway. Most of the men were emaciated, and they looked like old men, but war had a way of making teenagers look ancient. They wore baggy gray fatigues, and swung their axes like tired machines. Standing guard over them was a truckload of Nazi soldiers, armed to the teeth with submachine guns and rifles. The soldiers were smoking and talking as the prisoners labored, and off in the far distance something was on fire, a pall of black smoke hanging against the gray eastern horizon. Bomb strike, Michael figured. The Allies were increasing their bombing raids as the invasion drew closer.
576 She avoided him as much as she could, but Vivacia was not a large ship. From threats of murder and foul names, she had simmered to seething hatred and murderous looks. He had met all her stares with grieved concern and solicitous courtesy. Deep inside him, a bizarre merriment bubbled at her predicament. He had a power over her that he never could have foreseen, even if he had deliberately created this situation. She believed herself a wronged victim, but was treated as the hysterical accuser of an innocent man. If she spoke of the rape, her words were received with pity rather than shared outrage. Even Jek, who bore him an impersonal hate for the sinking of the Paragon, had reservations about Althea's accusations. A lack of support for her cause was undoubtedly very daunting to her desire to kill him.
577 Vasagi was the victim of an hereditary bone disease. The small handful of Wamphyri diseases were mainly hereditary: various animalisms, several forms of insanity, aggressive autisms, acromegaly and other bone disorders; though with the exception of leprosy, they were rarely fatal. But when the growth of Vasagi's jaws and teeth had threatened to outstrip the metamorphic flesh of his face, then he'd simply extruded them. Which is to say, he'd stripped his upper jaw of teeth, unhinged his lower jaw, withdrawn all flesh from the offending bones and so been rid of them. Now, chinless, his mouth was a tapering pale pink tentacle tipped with a flexible needle siphon, not unlike the proboscis of a bee, which he could slide into the finest vein with amazing dexterity. Needless to say, he was not an ascetic.
578 Virgil owed his immediate acceptance as the prince of Latin poets, and still owes his place among the supreme poets of the world, not merely to his insight into the life of man and nature, his majesty and tenderness, and the melodious perfection of his verse. Over and above all these, he was the interpreter, we may even call him the creator, of a great national ideal. That ideal was at once political, social and religious. The supremacy of Rome took in his hands the aspect of an ordinance of Providence, towards which an previous history had been leading up under divine guidance. It meant the establishment of an empire to which no limit of time or space was set, and in which the human race would find ordered peace, settled government, material prosperity, the reign of law and the commonwealth of freedom.
579 Clad in mufti, so that his people might not recognise him, the king stole from the palace through an unguarded postern, accompanied by the piper. Night, like a formless monster with the crescent moon for its lowered horn, was crouching beyond the town; but in the streets the shadows were thrust back by a flaming of myriad cressets. Amero and his guide were unchallenged as they went toward the outer darkness. And the king repented not his forsaken throne: though he saw in the city a continual passing of biers laden with the victims of the plague; and faces gaunt with famine rose up from the shadows as if to accuse him of recreancy. These he heeded not: for his eyes were filled with the dream of a green silent valley, in a land lost beyond the turbid flowing of time with its wreckage and tumult.
580 He was shivering with cold now as the nor'easter blew; his heavy jacket was in his sleeping cabin, but he felt he could neither face the effort of going to fetch it, nor could he call Polwheal to bring it. And this, he told himself with bitter irony, was the calm solitude for which he had been yearning while entangled in the complications of the shore. Beneath him the pintles of the rudder were groaning in the gudgeons, and the sea was seething yeastily in white foam under the counter. The glass had been falling since yesterday, he remembered, and the weather was obviously working up into a nor'easterly gale. Hounded before it, across the Bay of Biscay he could see no respite before him for days, at this moment when he felt he could give everything he had in the world for the calm of the Hamoaze again.
581 There were four of these wooden inventions, and they were now in place. The four cedars to which they belonged were all thigh deep in the lake, and against the great boles of these trees ladders were erected which sloped across the shallow water from the shore to a foot or so below the level of the platforms. Similar but ruder structures were wedged in among the branches of ash and beech, and where possible among the closely growing larches and pines. On the opposite side of the lake, where the aunts had paddled from the sand to the dripping Steerpike, the trees were set too far back from the water's edge to afford the necessary vantage; but in the densely wooded hanger were a thousand boughs among the convolutions of which the menials could find themselves some kind of purchase or another.
582 Few were actually able to see what Bond did. It was so fast that most of the diners became more agitated, thinking that reprisals were imminent from the men with the Uzis. Bond spun around on the outside of the extended arm, which he caught with both hands and jerked violently. He could feel his back pressed hard against the gunman's back, but it took only a small, vicious chop with the cutting edge of his right hand to grab the pistol, which he tossed, almost nonchalantly, across the table to Flicka. Then, turning again, he twisted the arm high up his victim's back, using his left hand. There was a cry, followed by an unpleasant crack as the arm broke and Bond's right forearm snapped hard around the leader's neck, giving it a lot of pressure, so that the fellow was near to lapsing into unconsciousness.
583 In that respect he was on the order of Baylock, who sat next to him on the front seat of the car. Baylock was a short, very thin man in his middle forties, getting bald, getting old fast with pessimism and worry, getting sick with liver trouble and a tendency to skip meals and sleep. Baylock had bad eyes that blinked a lot and small, bony hands constantly rubbing together with the worry and the memory of several years ago when there was prison. Baylock had been in prison for what he considered a very long time and on certain occasions he would talk about prison and say what an awful thing it was and claim that he would rather be dead and buried than be in prison. Most of the time Baylock was a bore and sometimes he could really get on one's nerves and at certain times he was truly intolerable.
584 The great shadow descended like a falling cloud. And behold! it was a winged creature: if bird, then greater than all other birds, and it was naked, and neither quill nor feather did it bear, and its vast pinions were as webs of hide between horned fingers; and it stank. A creature of an older world maybe it was, whose kind, fingering in forgotten mountains cold beneath the Moon, outstayed their day, and in hideous eyrie bred this last untimely brood, apt to evil. And the Dark Lord took it, and nursed it with fell meats, until it grew beyond the measure of all other things that fly; and he gave it to his servant to be his steed. Down, down it came, and then, folding its fingered webs, it gave a croaking cry, and settled upon the body of Snowmane, digging in its claws, stooping its long naked neck.
585 Far below, in the streets, I heard the siren of a fire engine, and the other noises of the city night. I struggled, gagged and bound, silently, torturedly. At last I managed to get the knife to the foot of the bed. With my feet and body I managed to pull it up beneath me. And then I had the handle in my bound hands! But I could not reach the bonds. I held the knife but could not use it. Then, feverishly, I cried inwardly with joy, and pressed the point into the back of the bed and braced it with my own body. I began to saw at the cords with the knife. The knife, its handle braced against my sweating back, slipped four times, but each time I put it again in place and addressed myself again to my task. Then my wrists were free. I took the knife and slashed the cord at my throat and the cord at my ankles.
586 You should respect him. And Anna had looked at him calmly and asked, Why? which was a difficult question. But now she changed the subject. Do you want to eat yet? No, said Sean and reached for her. She fought back, shrieking demurely until Sean held her down and kissed her. Then she lay quietly, answering his kisses. If you stop me now I'm going to get mad, whispered Sean and deliberately unfastened the top, button of her dress. She watched his face with solemn eyes and her hands stayed on his shoulders until he had undone her blouse down to the waist and then with her fingers she traced the bold black curves of his eyebrows. No, Sean, I won't stop you. I want to as well, I want to as much as you do. There was so much to discover and each thing was strange and wonderful and they were the first to find it.
587 They broke up the links, sending each slave to a testing facility to see what skills might be saleable. Then each was assigned to new links, for work or training or both, clipped and unclipped from one link after another as the masters desired. After all that had happened, Sass was surprised to find that she remembered her studies. As the problems scrolled onto the screen, she could think, immerse herself in the math or chemistry or biology. For days she spent a shift at the test center, and a shift at menial work in the barracks, sweeping floors that were too bare to need sweeping, and cleaning the communal toilets and kitchens. Then a shift at assembly work, which made no more sense to her than it ever had, and a bare six hours of sleep, into which she fell as into a well, eager to drown.
588 In tight formation we strode out of the bar. The armoured cars outside took the signal and wheelspun away, thundering down the street in front of us towards Hu. Ji and I walked down the street behind them, flanked by bodyguards, two more cars rolling along behind us. Like the strippers, the bodyguards in Red are bred specifically for what they do: they're all over seven feet tall and built to withstand a direct hit by a meteor. In particular they're selected for the size of their torsos. Ji, of course, had the very best, and the six guards around us all had upper bodies that were about two feet thick. A top bodyguard reckons on being able to shield his owner from about thirty bullets or two small shells. I'm only six feet tall and couldn't see where the hell we were going, but I felt pretty safe.
589 As it happened, they did not speak very much to each other about anything these days. Theo's desk was piled with books. It had been years since he had needed to memorize, and she supposed it must be a stupendous effort to get back into the habit. As for herself, she had papers to mark in the evenings and lessons to prepare for the next day. Fortunately, she had plenty of physical energy and was able to do all the things that were required of her in the household besides, not too skillfully it was true, but nevertheless they were accomplished. She did them by rote, mechanically, because they had to be done. Within her at the same time lay a deep mental tiredness, an absence of anything more than a wish to get through each day; she wondered, but did not ask, whether that could be true for Theo, too.
590 They had no chance, Sharpe knew, but the madness was driving sense out of his head. Artillery could break a square, infantry could break a square, but cavalry could not. There was a mathematical logic that proved it. A man on horseback needed some four feet of width in which to charge. Facing him, in four ranks, were eight men. An infantryman only needed two feet, slightly less, and so the horseman was charging down a narrow corridor at the end of which waited eight bullets and eight bayonets. And even if the infantry were unloaded, if they only had their bayonets, then the charge would still fail. A horse would not charge home that solid wall of men and steel. It would go so far, then swerve, and Sharpe had stood in squares often enough to know how safe they were. This was an impossible charge.
591 Mandy put on her coat and went outside. She didn't know where to look. Couldn't think what that woman could possibly want little Davey for... unless the cow couldn't have kids of her own and had decided to pinch somebody else's. Mandy had seen a programme on TV once about women who stole babies, nutters who got round to convincing even themselves that they had actually had the child. On the other hand... a ray of mingled hope and fear... sometimes they got scared, realised just what they'd done and dumped the babies in all sorts of places; on doorsteps, in bus shelters, even in litter bins. Oh God! The thought of Davey upended amid a pile of refuse had her searching with desperation, scrabbling through the contents of council waste baskets, caring not for filth or scratches from sharp objects.
592 Well, if it is so, there is good in that too, for it would mean that my sister lives and my vision of her was a delusion born of my own fears. And so she welcomed Gorlois calmly, with food and a bath and clean dry clothes, and only pleasant words. Let him think, if he would, that she was repenting her harshness and trying to curry his favor again. It no longer mattered to her what Gorlois thought or what he did. She no longer hated him or resented the early years of misery and despair. Her sufferings had made her ready for what would come after. She served Gorlois his food and drink, saw to the housing of his men as was suitable, and forbore to question him. She brought Morgaine for a moment, washed and combed and pretty, for her curtsey to her father, then had Isotta take her away to bed.
593 Just what to think or what to do was more than I could decide After all, what had I heard beyond things which previous information might have led me to expect? Had I not known that the nameless Outsiders were now freely admitted to the farmhouse? No doubt Akeley had been surprised by an unexpected visit from them. Yet something in that fragmentary discourse had chilled me immeasurably, raised the most grotesque and horrible doubts, and made me wish fervently that I might wake up and prove everything a dream. I think my subconscious mind must have caught something which my consciousness has not yet recognised. But what of Akeley? Was he not my friend, and would he not have protested if any harm were meant me? The peaceful snoring below seemed to cast ridicule on all my suddenly intensified fears.
594 As Pitt walked through the debris field, clearing away small areas with the machete, he found relics of the crew but no bones. Most of them had been swept off the ship by the tidal wave. He spied pairs of moldy leather shoes, hardened bone handles on knives whose blades had rusted away, ceramic eating bowls, and a still blackened iron cooking pot. Dread grew inside him as he realized the meagerness of the debris. He began to fear the wreck might have already been found and looted. He removed a plastic packet from inside his shirt, opened one end and pulled out the illustrations and cutaway plans of a standard treasure galleon Perlmutter had faxed. Using the plans as a guide, he carefully measured off his steps until he estimated he was in the area of the hold where the valuable cargo would have been stored.
595 How many men had he slain since setting off in search of Rowena? He no longer knew, nor cared. The axe felt light in his hand, warm and companionable. His mouth was dry and he longed for a cool drink of water. Glancing up, he saw a sign proclaiming 'Spice Street'. Here in more peaceful times traders had delivered their herbs and spices to be packed into bales for export to the west. Even now there was a scent of pepper in the air. At the far end of the street, where it intersected with the market square, was a fountain and beside it a brass pump with a long curved handle and a copper cup attached by a slender chain to an iron ring. Druss filled the cup, then resting the axe against the side of the fountain wall he sat quietly drinking. Every so often, though, his hand would drop to touch Snaga's black haft.
596 Johanna and the rest of him followed. They were moving across a sloping terrace. The summer drought had drained the chill swamp water she remembered from the landing, and the blackened moss was firm under her. The going should have been easy, but Peregrine wound through the deepest hummocks, hunkering down every few seconds to look in all directions. They reached the end of the terrace and began climbing. There were places so steep she had to grab the epaulet stirrups on two of Peregrine and let him hoist her up. They passed the nearest cannon, what was left of it. Johanna had never seen weapons fired except in stories, but the splash of metal and the carbonized flesh could only mean some kind of beam weapon. Running across the hill were similar craters, destruction punched into the already burned land.
597 She detached herself gracefully from him, and went off to get another cup of wine to wash the taste of him from her mouth, and indirectly from her mind. That was always the worst of it. The flavor would fade as the creature's arousal did; but for the moment, wine worked very well to mask the flavor, to drown it briefly in her own giddiness. Laas had been conscious for some time now that wine was getting to be too good a friend. It was marvelous, by contrast, to be able to be with Reswen and not need the anodyne; to drink something innocuous like sherbet, and rest against a mind that did not smell of the sewer, that even in its heat burned clean. Endlessly better than the sweaty, reeking stews she found herself in sometimes. She desperately hoped that the wizard, later on, was not going to be one of those.
598 The sudden departure of several quintillion atoms from a universe that they had no right to be in anyway caused a wild imbalance in the harmony of the Sum Totality which it tried frantically to retrieve, wiping out a number of sub realities in the process. Huge surges of raw magic boiled uncontrolled around the very foundations of the multiverse itself, welling up through every crevice into hitherto peaceful dimensions and causing novas, supernovas, stellar collisions, wild flights of geese and drowning of imaginary continents. Worlds as far away as the other end of time experienced brilliant sunsets of coruscating octarine as highly charged magical particles roared through the atmosphere. In the cometary halo around the fabled Ice System of Zeret a noble comet died as a prince flamed across the sky.
599 They followed another little path from the summit. It went over the shoulder of the peak and down to a small protected bay to the east of the village. The tide was far out and they could wade over the flat black pebbles and rocks and round the corner of the promontory. Here, on a stretch of flat stony beach, five people squatted on a square foundation of large rocks and gazed out towards the horizon. Except that they weren't people. They were, as Kissy had described, stone pedestal bodies with large round boulders cemented to their tops. But rough white shirts were roped round them, and they looked terrifyingly human as they sat in immobile judgement and guardianship over the waters and what went on beneath them. Of the sixth, only the body remained. His head must have been destroyed by a storm.
600 But Heather had been careful not to work too late just in case. She grabbed her coat from the rack by the door and walked down the stairwell with the security guard. Habitually, he went his own way as soon as they reached the boundaries of the parking lot. Except for Ned's death, everything might have been the same as always. Only Heather knew that nothing was the same. She was now more than passingly familiar with the false paperwork McPherson was filing. She'd copied enough to go to the police with her findings. But she couldn't really prove anything, and going to the law could cost her the job she'd come to love. But she didn't see any other way to stop what the professor was doing. He was stealing a people's culture and heritage. To her, only a violent crime could be worse. A crime like murder.
601 The road up to Oldstones went twice around the hill before reaching the summit. Overgrown and stony, it would have been slow going even in the best of times, and last night's snow had left it muddy as well. Snow in autumn in the riverlands, it's unnatural, Merrett thought gloomily. It had not been much of a snow, true; just enough to blanket the ground for a night. Most of it had started melting away as soon as the sun came up. Still, Merrett took it for a bad omen. Between rains, floods, fire, and war, they had lost two harvests and a good part of a third. An early winter would mean famine all across the riverlands. A great many people would go hungry, and some of them would starve. Merrett only hoped he wouldn't be one of them. I may, though. With my luck, I just may. I never did have any luck.
602 It worked. The man was interested. He made images of his own, inquiring who they were and what they wanted of him. They explained that they were explorers from smaller worlds, and that they wanted to go to the center of the universe and bring the animus. But why would Kara, a woman, want this? the man inquired in pictures. Because, she replied in pictures, she believed that the worlds were becoming decadent under the anima, without much vigor, and she thought it would be more interesting under the animus. The situation of many women, she explained, was not much improved under the anima, for only one woman could be queen, and the queen tended to be jealous of her prerogatives. Perhaps if the burden of power was lifted from the shoulders of women, they could revert to their natural inclination to please men.
603 Up went her arms into the arch of the sky; down, with the mists following the sweep of her trailing sleeves. Mist and silence hung dark around them. Morgaine stood motionless, feeling the young man's body warmth very close to her. If she moved even a little, she would touch his hand, and knew how his hand would feel, scalding against her own. She moved away with a little swirling of her robes, and collected distance about herself as with a veil. And all the time she was astonished at herself, saying within her mind somewhere, this is only my cousin, it is Viviane's son who used to sit in my lap when he was little and lonely! Deliberately she summoned the picture of that awkward boy covered with bramble scratches, but when they sailed out of the mist the dark eyes were smiling at her, and she felt dizzy.
604 The camisk, I am told, was at one time commonly belted with a chain. However, the camisks that I have personally seen, and those we were given, were belted with a long, thin strap of leather binding fiber. This passes once around the body, and then again, and then is tied, snugly, over the right hip. When Targo inspected me, he made me tighten the belt, to accentuate my figure. Already I had learned for the first time in my life, to stand straight, truly straight. I was cuffed, or kicked, when I forgot. Soon it was natural for me to do so. The belt of binding fiber not only makes it easier to adjust the camisk to a given girl, but, of course, the binding fiber serves to remind her that she is in bondage. In a moment it may be removed, and she may be secured with it, leashed, or bound hand and foot.
605 The Old Man of the Mountain had blown us to the very edge of civilization, and we found ourselves trudging through a very strange landscape. Flat cracked earth stretched toward distant mountains with fantastic shapes, like deformed mushrooms, and a cold wind sighed across twelve hundred miles of empty steppes. Once in a while we would reach a desolate plain where endless mounds of dirt were laid out with almost geometric precision, and on top of each mound a gopher stood on its hind legs and watched us pass with bright wondering eyes. Once an enormous army of rats raced toward us, but when they swept around and past us, I saw that they were not rats but roots, the famous rolling roots of the peng plant, which were being blown by the wind toward some unimaginable destiny at the outer edge of the world.
606 He was weighing it up. If he stopped them again they might lose all patience and risk the shotgun. He couldn't chance it. All right. If that's what you want. He faced the terrified cluster of prisoners. The sentence of this court is that you play roulette with the devil for one hour and that you then leave this goldfield, if we catch you back here again you'll get another hour of it. The wounded are excused the first half of the sentence. I think they've had enough. Mr. du Toit will supervise the punishment. We'd prefer the paint, Mr. Charleywood, pleaded the spokesman again. I bet you would, said Duff softly, but the crowd was carrying them away already, out towards the open veld beyond the Hotel. Most of them had staked claims of their own and they didn't like claim jumpers. Sean climbed down off the table.
607 In its own way, the rest of the land lay as dead as the burns, though grass covered the ground and leaves covered the trees. Everything had that faded look, like clothes too often washed and too long left in the sun. There were no birds or animals, not that Rand saw or heard. No hawk wheeling in the sky, no bark of a hunting fox, no bird singing. Nothing rustled in the grass or lit on a tree branch. No bees, or butterflies. Several times they crossed streams, the water shallow, though often it had dug itself a deep gulley with steep banks the horses had to scramble down and climb on the other side. The water ran clear except for the mud the horses' hooves stirred, but never a minnow or tadpole wriggled out of the roiling, not even a waterspider dancing across the surface, or a hovering lacewing.
608 I reassure you as you sob, reduced to patting and uttering trite inanities by this unexpected intrusion. I look around at the dry mist of choking dust the shell's passage has bestowed upon us, while an and shower of debris patters from the hole in the ceiling on to the floor, then I go calm and smiling from you, a kerchief held over my nose, waving white clouds aside, to inspect the demolished corner of my room. There is a hole above, and daylight visible through curling dust. The upper part of the wall has been removed in a great semicircle, as though bitten by a giant, affording a view into a dark space next door. It should be an old storeroom, piled high with furniture, if I recall correctly. Beyond would be the principal guests' suite, which the lieutenant has commandeered for her own use.
609 The tarns were now being unhooded and they leaped up, with a snap of their wings, to their perches, numbered and chosen by lot. Possession of the inside perch is regarded, of course, as an advantage. I noted Green had the inside perch this race. This would swing some Silver to Green surely, for men, though they have their factions, yet will purchase the tiles of the bird they feel has the best chance of winning. The same perches that are used in starting the race, incidentally, are the perches which the tarns will take after the race. The winning perch, or the first perch after the race, is that closest to the stands, rather than that closest to the dividing wall, the inside perch, which is first with respect to the beginning of the race, most desirable at the beginning, least desirable at the end.
610 He was very well pleased with the result of his day's work. The only thing that worried him was that he had been unable to avoid bumping into the office boy since half a second before he had had to step back to avoid someone else. He had not failed to notice that the tall young man who had come to the office boy's assistance had believed more in the boy's account than Tako liked. It looked as if there was now someone who would follow him like a bloodhound; and if he was sufficiently unprejudiced to accept the story of an invisible man with whom the office boy had collided, this person might turn out to become a rather dangerous opponent. Tako had got a good look at big face and remembered it well. He planned to submit the man to the influence of the hypnorod as soon as he could find the opportunity.
611 So the pirates had posted a lookout downstream. Now they knew that a force was advancing against them. Only time would show what they would do next; meanwhile the punts were afloat again and it was time to push on. The river curved back and forth, washing at the foot of vertical banks, preserving, for a time, miraculously, enough depth of water to float the punts at the expense of occasionally dragging them up slight rapids. Now it began to seem to Hornblower as if he had spent days on this labour, in the blinding patches of sunlight and the dark stretches of shade, with the river swirling round his knees, and his feet slipping on the rocks. At the next dam he was tempted to sit and allow the sweat to stream down him. He had hardly done so when another messenger arrived from the advanced guard.
612 With half her mind on the mare, she unconsciously dramatized the events, and the people, several from the other nearby Caves, were captivated. Her exotic accent and her uncanny ability to mimic the sounds of animals added an interesting element to her unusual story. Even Jondalar was entranced, although he knew the circumstances. He had not heard her tell the whole story quite like that. More questions were asked, and she began to describe her life in the valley, but when she told about finding and raising a cave lion, there were expressions of disbelief. Jondalar was quick to back her up. Whether they entirely believed her or not, the story of a lion, a horse, and a woman all living together in a cave in a secluded valley was an enjoyable one. A sound from the mare stopped her from continuing.
613 Her creative life was long finished. She had lived too long; there were no friends left, and she had never had a family. There was no purpose to her life, no reason to do anything except go through the motions and wait. At the university she was no longer truly working at her art but helping students who had the fires of inspiration burning fresh and hot inside them. Her life was one of vain regrets for all the things she had not accomplished, for all the failures she could recall. Failures at love; those were the bitterest. She was praised as the solar system's greatest artist: the sculptress of The Rememberer, the creator of the first great ionospheric painting, The Virgin of the Andes. She was respected, but not loved. She felt empty, alone, barren. She had nothing to look forward to; absolutely nothing.
614 As the hours dragged on, Golath became more and more embittered. At first he felt merely sorry for himself. But the conviction that he was the victim of a gross injustice grew stronger all the time till it left no room for rational conclusions. He was filled with hate and blind fury against any threat that could prevent him from extricating himself from his critical situation. But he had no possibility of venting his wrath and it accumulated inside him like water rising in a basin and overflowing. His animal instincts came to the fore and his emotions gained the upperhand in his mental state. He no longer felt the effects of the rain and the wind, nor his wretched tiredness. He waited for Khrest with the intensity of a beast of prey, feeling in his bones that a fatal decision was nearing a climax.
615 Merana stood behind the barrier she could neither see nor feel, head high and hands folded at her waist as if a shawl were looped over her arms. Aes Sedai to her toenails. She watched him and the clan chiefs with cool eyes, light brown flecked with yellow. My sisters do not all realize how very much we need you, she had told him this morning in this very room, but all of us who swore will do whatever you ask that would not violate the Three Oaths. He had just wakened when she came with Sorilea escorting her. Neither seemed to care at all that he was still in a robe, with only one bite taken from his breakfast bread. I have more than a little skill in negotiation and mediation. My sisters have other skills. Let us serve you, as we pledged. Let me serve you. We need you, but you have some need of us, too.
616 When he returned, it was at anything but a sedate pace. He ran across the lobby and whispered something urgently to the operator. She left her seat and only seconds later no less a personage than the manager himself appeared and hurried across the lobby. Harlow waited patiently, pretending to sip his drink from time to time. He knew that most people in the lobby were covertly studying him but was unconcerned. From where they sat he was drinking a harmless lemonade or tonic water. The barman, of course, knew better and it was as certain as that night's sundown that one of the first things that MacAlpine would do on his return would be to ask for Johnny Harlow's drink bill, on the convincing enough pretext that it was inconceivable for the champion to put his hand in his pocket for anything.
617 That conversation was only one of several disappointments that morning brought. She went back to the row of shops, and visited the supermarket that Josie had spoken of. There she inquired about the lavatories, and their recent history. The supermarket had only changed hands in the last month, and the new owner, a taciturn Pakistani, insisted that he knew nothing of when or why the lavatories had been closed. She was aware, as she made her enquiries, of being scrutinized by the other customers in the shop; she felt like a pariah. That feeling deepened when, after leaving the supermarket, she saw Josie emerging from the launderette, and called after her only to have the woman pick up her pace and duck away into the maze of corridors. Helen followed, but rapidly lost both her quarry and her way.
618 The seeming inevitability of things did not escape her. The Ardsheal had failed her, just as all the other creatures she had sent had failed her. Under Rydall's agreement she had two monsters left to send, but time had run out on that game and only one chance remained for her now. She had enjoyed playing with Holiday, seeing him struggle, watching him suffer as he fought one monster after another in an effort to survive long enough to rescue his beloved daughter. She had enjoyed breaking him down a little at a time, leaving him physically and emotionally drained by forces he did not even begin to understand. How could he know that it was Mistaya's own magic working against him? How could he realize what that would do to him? It had been satisfying, but the greatest satisfaction of all was yet to come.
619 The political difficulties related to grounding all spaceships projected a situation which my 'distinguished' colleagues had refused to accept. If their degenerative stupidity had made them incapable of recognizing any difficulty or danger it would have been a shut and closed case. As they say on distant Earth, there's no cure for stupidity. But whereas they refused to accept the complications of the impact of their own actions they insisted on minimizing their disastrous failure in the first place. These lofty gentlemen still fantasized about an invincible stellar empire, considering themselves to be godlings of a higher order who could insult and belittle other intelligences, yet where the real crisis was concerned they were of the opinion that the whole business was 'probably not all that alarming'.
620 If the prince hadn't managed to leave that trail we would have been hopelessly lost in a matter of minutes. It was a maze inside a labyrinth that was inside another maze, and tunnels branched off in all directions. Everywhere we saw heavy wooden braces holding the ceilings together. We had to move carefully to avoid touching scaffolding, and we found ourselves whispering, as though a loud word could bring the tomb down on our heads. Tomb it was: room after room, some finished and some incomplete, designed for every conceivable function and pleasure. The Laughing Prince had decided to take his whole world with him, and I even expected a polo field until I realized that in his day we had imported the marvelous horses from India (left by the mad Greek invader) but not the game that went with them.
621 We heaped the dirty dishes aside to deal with later, and took more coffee out onto the porch. It was my first experience of the foreign stuff. The hot brown liquid smelled better than it tasted, but sharpened the mind pleasantly. Somehow we ended up walking down to the stream together, our cups warm in our hands. The wolf drank long there of the cool water, and then we strolled back, to pause by the garden. The Fool spun the beads on Jinna's charm as I told him the tale of it. He flicked the bell with a long fingertip, and a single silver chime spun spreading into the night. We visited his horse, and I shut the door on the chicken house to keep the poultry safe for the night. We wandered back to the cabin and I sat down on the edge of the porch. Without a word, the Fool took my empty cup back into the house.
622 Nick pointed up the trench and then swam away in that direction, following the tracks with fascination. He did not turn around to see if Carol were following. Carol quickly backtracked as close to the fissure as she dared (was she imagining again or were the three whales watching her as she crept along the ocean floor?) to take some pictures and to verify that the tracks did indeed emanate from the opening in the reef. She thought she saw a network of similar indentations converging just in front of the fissure, but she did not tarry long. She didn't want to be separated from Nick in this spooky place. When she turned around, he was just barely in sight. But he had fortunately stopped when he realized that Carol was not behind him. Nick made an apologetic gesture when she finally caught up with him.
623 This particular evening, however, there was trouble in the air. A trio of civilian males were perched at the bar, and seemed to have their minds set on causing a disturbance. They were at that awkward age: too young to be responsible, but too big not to be taken seriously. The best guess was that they were students, possibly athletes, from the university on the other side of the settlement. Their clothes marked them as that, being too expensive for your average street tough. Then again, street toughs usually have a certain survival instinct, however loud they might appear at times. Long before reaching maturity they have lost any childhood belief in their own invulnerability and trust to their wits to avoid situations clearly hazardous to their health. Not so with the threesome in question.
624 Morning found Dr Armitage in a cold sweat of terror and a frenzy of wakeful concentration. He had not left the manuscript all night, but sat at his table under the electric light turning page after page with shaking hands as fast as he could decipher the cryptic text. He had nervously telephoned his wife he would not be home, and when she brought him a breakfast from the house he could scarcely dispose of a mouthful. All that day he read on, now and then halted maddeningly as a reapplication of the complex key became necessary. Lunch and dinner were brought him, but he ate only the smallest fraction of either. Toward the middle of the next night he drowsed off in his chair, but soon woke out of a tangle of nightmares almost as hideous as the truths and menaces to man's existence that he had uncovered.
625 A cat crawled along a branch, and she felt the tug of the light within her, too, the flow of the life of the world, and herself with it. She could see the gleam of the great eyes, followed it with her mind while she prowled around the foot of the tree. There was a sweet, sharp, musky scent in the air now and, in the mind of the cat, she followed it, not knowing whether or not she moved or whether only the cat moved... closer and closer she came, and heard herself make a small snarling, purring cry of hunger and need... turned with a lashing of the great tail as the cat's mate pounced down the tree trunk, with cries and frisking sounds. Her body ached and hungered and as the cat seized her mate, Romilly twisted on the moss of the ground and dug her hands into the ground, gasping, crying out....
626 Romilly wondered, with a dull pain in her head, what it would matter now to Clea where she lay? She had defended herself well, she had taught so many of her sisters to defend themselves, but the final ravishment of death had caught her unaware, and she lay cold and stiff, looking very surprised, without a mark on her face. Romilly could hardly believe that she would not laugh and jump up, catching them off guard as she had done so many times before. She took the shovel one of the Swordswomen thrust into her hand. The hard physical labor of digging the grave was welcome; otherwise she caught too much pain, too many wounded men, screaming, suffering, in silence or great moans, their pain racking her. She tried to shut it all out, as Ranald had taught her, but there was too much, too much....
627 I left the secret corridors behind me and departed by the guards' entrance. I had to pass the kitchens and almost I stopped to eat. Instead, I helped myself to a little loaf of sweet morning bread from the guards' mess and ate it as I walked. I passed out of the gate with no more than a sleepy nod from the lad on watch there. I thought how I might change that and then pushed the thought aside. I strode on. I diverted from the main road down to Buckkeep Town onto the trodden trail that went first through the woods and then across the gentle roll of a hill. In the early light of day, the Witness Stones stood stark against the blue sky, awaiting me. Sheep cropped the grass around them. As I approached, they regarded me with that lack of curiosity that is sometimes confused with stupidity. They moved away slowly.
628 Almost simultaneously, flaming bottles of fuel soared over and past the Grand Banks' bridge like a meteor shower and dropped onto the cabin and decks of the patrol boat, erupting in a roar of flames as the glass shattered and the contents ignited. The fiery liquid pooled and spread across the patrol boat, turning it into a blazing funeral pyre. Virtually the whole open stern deck and half the cabin erupted into flame. Tongues of fire soon poked from every port. Finding themselves about to burn alive, the crew unhesitatingly hurled their bodies into the cold water. The wounded gunner on the bow also staggered across the deck through the flames and leaped overboard. His clothing afire, the commander ignored the flames and stared scathingly at Pitt, before shaking his fist and leaping over the side.
629 He never ignored omens, good or bad. Judith's reappearance in his life was a sign that they belonged together, and it seemed that she, all unknowing, felt the same. Here was the woman for the love of whom this whole sorry catalogue of death and desolation had been started, and in her company he felt himself renewed, as though the sight of her reminded his cells of the self he'd been before his fall. He was being offered a second chance: an opportunity to start again with the creature he'd loved and make an empire that would erase all memory of his previous failure. He'd had proof of their compatibility when they'd made love. A more perfect welding of erotic impulses he could scarcely have imagined. After it, he'd gone out into the city about the business of murder with more vigor than ever.
630 But this was very different. The ship they were aboard was identified only by a number, as were all of the other tugs. It was a brute, built for power alone, capable of lifting a thousand times its own mass. Like the other tugs it lived in space, in perpetual orbit. To be used only once every four Earth years when the seasons changed on this twilight planet. Then, before the fields burned in summer and the inhabitants moved to the new winter hemisphere, the ships would come for their crops. Deep spacers, spiderlike vessels that were built in space for space, that could never enter a planet's atmosphere. They would emerge from space drive and go into orbit about the planet, only then unlocking from the great tubes of the bulk carriers they had brought. Then it would be the time to use the tugs.
631 He stared up at the night sky. There was a funny taste in his mouth, and his jaw ached. The beginning of a headache was forming around his temples. He didn't know what he'd expected to do on the expedition, but his vague romantic notions of opening rich tombs and deciphering inscriptions seemed a far cry from the endless grunt work he'd been doing. All around lay fantastic ruins of a mysterious civilization, while they were immersed in gridding this and surveying that. And moving piles of empty sand. He was sick of digging, he decided. And he didn't like working for Sloane. She was too aware of her perfection and the influence she cast on others, too willing to use her charm to get what she wanted. Ever since the confrontation with Nora at Pete's Ruin, he'd felt on his guard when she was around.
632 So Garner had waited and watched, becoming a spider just like the Bonitas. It wasn't all that difficult. Why would it be? He was a natural at penetration and camouflage. From an early age, Garner had become proficient at hiding his true nature. When, at twelve, he'd realized that he was profoundly different from the boys around him, he knew he was better off waiting. Two years later, when he'd had it confirmed to him by a sexual incident that he was gay, he knew he'd have to learn even more patience. His parents were not the kind of people to be supportive of alternative lifestyles, and he was no rebel to declare himself and let the chips fall where they might. Family was important to him; at that time, more important than his sexual orientation. If that made him a coward in certain people's eyes, so be it.
633 The avenues through which we traveled were gloomy at first, the surface puddled with water or, where trees had split it, of sodden earth, the general wetness continually augmented by drips from the branches above. It was like walking through rain in slow motion, and just as wetting; it was not long before we were all thoroughly soaked. Later, brightness filtered down as the clouds lifted, and the birds seemed to make a second wakening and filled the air with their chatter and song. Drops still fell, but more rarely, and in bare patches where the trees had got a footing, the sun laid strokes of heat across. Beanpole and Henry talked more, and more cheerfully. My own spirits did not revive as thoroughly. I felt tired and a bit shivery, and my mind seemed thick and dull. I hoped I was not getting a cold.
634 In the split second before the grenade went off, my gaze fell on the classroom's other door, the one leading to the exterior. I could see the empty playground out there, and the clear blue sky. It seemed I had never seen a sky so lovely, or a shade of blue quite so beautiful. It drew me toward it like a magnet: all I had to do was step out that door into the heavenly sunlight, and I'd be out of this. The hell with that, I thought, and began to turn my head back to look through the doorway into the hall, towards the children. Then the grenade exploded, rocking the floor under my feet and deafening me as a hot shock wave of air slapped my whole body. Almost simultaneously, the wall I was leaning against rippled askew from its foundation with the force of the blast, shoving me roughly to stagger away a step.
635 He untied my ankles and I lay before him on the tiles. I wanted to tell him how much I loved him. I could not do so. I was gagged. Angrily he crouched down and, by an ankle, drew me to him, half under him. With his hands he thrust up the brief skirting I had been permitted as a female slave, and, ruthlessly, used me. I threw back my head, reveling in his touch. Swiftly he finished with me and, cutting a length from the loose end of the strap which bound my wrists, rebound my ankles. My wrists and ankles were no longer bound to one another. I looked at him. There were tears in my eyes. I loved him. I wanted to tell him of my love. I wanted to tell him how much I loved him. He did not remove the gag. He did not permit me to speak. He threw me to his shoulder and carried me from the compartments.
636 The rest of the day passed much as the first had, and as the days to follow would. Once I had cleaned the studio and gone to the fish stalls or the Meat Hall I began again on the laundry, one day sorting, soaking and working on stains, another day scrubbing, rinsing, boiling and wringing before hanging things to dry and be bleached in the noon sun, another day ironing and mending and folding. At some point I always stopped to help Tanneke with the midday meal. Afterwards we cleaned up, and then I had a little time free to rest and sew on the bench out front, or back in the courtyard. After that I finished whatever I had been doing in the morning, then helped Tanneke with the late meal. The last thing we did was to mop the floors once more so that they would be fresh and clean for the morning.
637 Most of the survivors of the original assault force, being the type of men they were, had already boarded for the next attack. The wind seemed right. But Zapranoth was coming, rushing now toward them like a toppling wall. Rolf, in the act of boarding his balloon, looked up and cried out at the sight. With the majesty and darkness of a thundercloud great Zapranoth now passed above them; it was as if the skirts of his robe spilled madness and dragged lightning. Two of the balloons burst thunderously, even as the djinn in its invisible cage became a blur of terror. Above the djinn there lowered a drifting fringe of cloud, that in the winking of an eye became a closing pair of massive jaws. With the devouring of the djinn, Gray cried out in despair and pain, and his head rolled loosely on his neck.
638 Ernie's hair was done in a very unusual way. It was dyed a jet black all over and was down in thick dreadlocks, with a few gold streaks here and there. His face was also completely different: now, his eyes were now longer a light blue but a deep red, and Harry may have imagined it, but it looked as though he had two of his teeth replaced with fangs. The last piece of him Harry could see were his hands, and they looked as they belonged more to some sort of horrible monster than to a boy. His fingernails were long and black, and the deep red veins were practically popping out of his skin. Plus, his skin all over, especially his face and arms, was a light white, but not the wonderful light white that the moon sometimes is, this white was more like the color of puss that would seep out of a popped blister.
639 Perrin's ears caught something else, too, through the stamping of horses' hooves and men's quiet, relieved laughter. A bluetit's trill sounded to the south, beyond the hearing of anyone else there, followed closely by the buzzing call of a masked sparrow. Another bluetit sounded, closer, followed again by a masked sparrow, and then the same pair called again closer still. There might be bluetits and masked sparrows in Altara, but he knew these birds carried Two Rivers longbows. The bluetit meant men were coming, more than a few and maybe unfriendly. The masked sparrow, that some back home called the thiefbird for its habit of stealing bright objects, on the other hand... Perrin ran a thumb along the edge of his axe, but he waited for one more pair of calls, close enough that the others might have noticed.
640 Then the rain came, plunging in a cold fusillade through the near naked branches of the broad leaved trees where only the first hints of bright buds broke the brown monotony of bark. I cursed Mother, and my tutor. I cursed myself, for paying too little heed to the weather and for neglecting to ensure I had both cap and gloves with me. The coat my best, another foolishness born of angry haste snagged on branches as I made my way back down. My shoes, polished to a gleam, already bore scuffs and were spattered with dirt. I cursed the grasping trees, the whole noisome forest, the dung shaped hills themselves and the dark, spitting weather (though only, it must be said, in terms that would have made Mother frown a little I believed as did Mother that my mouth as much as my well scrubbed skin must stay unsoiled).
641 They pumped. By God, how they pumped. The leather pump hoses, snaking down into the Espiritu Santo's bilges, thrashed and spurted with the efforts of the men on the big oak handles. A man's spell at the handles was cut to just fifteen minutes, not because that was the extent of anyone's endurance, but rather because that was as long as any man could pump at full exertion, and if the pumps slackened by so much as an ounce a minute Cochrane swore the ship would be lost. Cochrane took turns himself now. He stripped to his waist and attacked the pump as though it was a lawyer whose head he pounded in with the big handles. Up and down, grunting and snarling, and the water spilled and slurped feebly over the side and still the frigate seemed to settle lower in the water and wallow ever more sluggishly.
642 The hull, which had gone momentarily silent, now had a new sound. The engine noises were lower and very different from what they had been. The reactor plant noises, mainly from pumps that circulated the cooling water, were almost imperceptible. The caterpillar did not use a great deal of power for what it did. At the michman's station the speed gauge, which had dropped to five knots, began to creep upward again. Forward of the missile room, in a space shoehorned into the crew's accommodations, the handful of sleeping men stirred briefly in their bunks as they noted an intermittent rumble aft and the hum of electric motors a few feet away, separated from them by the pressure hull. They were tired enough even on their first day at sea to ignore the noise, fighting back to their precious allotment of sleep.
643 Earlier in the day, he had almost felt love for her. He had marveled at her blue sparkle as she glinted across the sky. She had come to his rescue when the sea bullocks would have killed him and freed her from her promise. Even now, he rested in the shelter she made with her body and the fire. But whenever they approached true companionship, she would say something so arrogant and alien that all he could feel for her was wariness. He closed his eyes but could not sleep for pondering what he had turned loose on the world. If she kept her word and rescued Malta, then he must keep his. He imagined serpents hatching into dragons, and other dragons emerging from the buried city. Was he selling humanity into slavery for the sake of one woman? Try as he would, he could not make it seem too high a price.
644 Then they were helping her to her feet, hugging her and wiping away her tears, holding a handkerchief for her to finally blow her nose. The other women gathered around, each announcing that this woman had no toh toward her before adding her own hugs and smiles. It was the smiles that were the biggest shock; Surandha beamed at her as brightly as ever. But of course. Toh did not exist once it was met; whatever earned it might as well never have happened. A bit of Egwene that was not wrapped up in ji'e'toh thought that maybe what she had said at the end helped, too, as well as getting back down in the first place. Perhaps she had not faced it with the indifference of an Aiel in the beginning, but at the end, Sorilea was right. She had been Aiel in her heart. She thought a part of her heart always would be Aiel.
645 Clumsily, he slid down off the mare's back. His wounded leg buckled under him, and he had to swallow a scream. This is going to be agony. The arrow had to come out, though, and nothing good could come of waiting. Jon curled his hand around the fletching, took a deep breath, and shoved the arrow forward. He grunted, then cursed. It hurt so much he had to stop. I am bleeding like a butchered pig, he thought, but there was nothing to be done for it until the arrow was out. He grimaced and tried again... and soon stopped again, trembling. Once more. This time he screamed, but when he was done the arrowhead was poking through the front of his thigh. Jon pushed back his bloody breeches to get a better grip, grimaced, and slowly drew the shaft through his leg. How he got through that without fainting he never knew.
646 He peered after them until he could see nothing in the darkness but the lights of the village dancing in the black rippled water, among the ghostly boats. From the Witherses' yacht, there was no light at all. He turned away from the window, sighing a little at the frustration of being left out. To comfort himself he took a firmer hold on the telescope case which Simon had solemnly handed over to him when they came up to say goodbye. At once he felt better. He was a knight entrusted with a sacred mission; he had been wounded in battle but had to guard his secret just the same... he bent each leg gently in turn, and winced at the burning tightness of the skin over his knees. The enemy were all round, hunting the secret which he held in his charge, but none of them would be able to get near....
647 Feeling worse than useless, she picked up her skirts and ran, and Egwene's screams pursued her. She could not make herself stay, and leaving made her feel a coward. Half blind with weeping, she found herself in the street before she knew it. She had intended to go back to her room, but now she could not do it. She could not stand the thought that Egwene was being hurt while she sat warm and safe under the next roof. Scrubbing the tears from her eyes, she swept her cloak around her shoulders and started down the street. Every time she cleared her eyes, new tears began trickling along her cheeks. She was not accustomed to weeping openly, but then she was not accustomed to feeling so helpless, so useless. She did not know where she was going, only that it had to be as far as she could reach from Egwene's cries.
648 Of all the folk who had survived the dreadful events of that day, Dulsina, who had scarcely known the Lady Aurian, seemed best equipped to cope. As she looked around at her devastated companions, the woman realized that if they were to spend the night in a comparative degree of comfort, everything would be up to her. Panic had wandered away from the others and was standing with his back to them, his head bowed, his shoulders slumped in grief and defeat. Even at this distance Dulsina could hear the bloodcurdling sound of his ceaseless cursing. Sangra was struggling valiantly, with little success, to stifle her tears. She was grasping the hilt of her sword so tightly that her hands were a knot of bones, as if by force of arms she could defeat the sense of dread and desolation that had overtaken her.
649 Similarly it was not one of those parties in which a given number of slaves must dance within a circle of free men, of equal number, with whips, stripping themselves to the strokes of the whips and then dancing towards the men. The man who does not accept the woman whips her back from him; similarly the woman who does not dance toward a man is whipped until she does. It is common in this form of dance to make each woman, dancing to each man, go about the circle at least five times. In this way the men have a chance to inspect the women, and consider which ones interest them. Needless to say, it is not long before the women are striving desperately to please the men. Only when she has sufficiently pleased a man is she permitted to crawl from the dancing circle to the cushions of her master for the Ahn.
650 They quickly stepped into the den while Fitch was parking Jose just outside the front door. An assistant handed him a mineral water, no ice. He never drank, though in an earlier life he'd consumed enough to float a barge. He didn't say thanks to the assistant, didn't acknowledge his presence, but moved to the faux fireplace and waited for the four to gather around him on the sofas. Another assistant ventured forth with a platter of leftover shrimp and oysters, but Fitch waved him off. There was a rumor that he sometimes ate, but he'd never been caught in the process. The evidence was there, the thick chest and ample waistline, the fleshy roll under his goatee, the general squattiness of his frame. But he wore dark suits and kept the jackets buttoned, and did a fine job of carrying his bulk with importance.
651 Ciang's chambers were enormous, sumptuously and fancifully decorated in the style elves admire and humans find ostentatious. All the furniture was of carved wood, extremely rare in the Mid Realms. The elven emperor Agah'ran would have opened his painted eyelids wide with envy at the sight of so many valuable and beautiful pieces. The massive bed was a work of art. Four posts, carved in the shapes of mythological beasts, each perched on the head of another, supported a canopy of wood decorated with the same beasts lying outstretched, paws extended. From each paw dangled a golden ring. Suspended from the rings was a silken curtain of fabulous weave, color, and design. It was whispered that the curtain had magical properties, that it accounted for the elven woman's longer than normal life span.
652 She hurried in to galvanize Palmolive to prepare some lunch and food for them to take with them; down in the yard the men were saddling up. They took their riding horses and one packhorse with them, loaded with a tent and camping gear. She was distressed at the meagre quantity and poor quality of the food Joe seemed to think it necessary to take with them. He took a hunk of horrible black, overcooked meat out of the meat safe and dropped it into a sack with three loaves of bread; he took a couple of handfuls of tea in an old cocoa tin and a couple of handfuls of sugar in another. That was the whole of his provision for a journey of indefinite length. She did not interfere, seeing that he was absorbed in his preparations and not wanting to fuss him, but she stored up the knowledge for her future information.
653 She didn't want to talk about Joplaya's sadness because she knew the reason, and she didn't want to mention the long conversation she'd had with Jerika. Joplaya's mother had wanted some specific information from her. She told Ayla about her own difficulty in giving birth and wanted to know everything Ayla could tell her that might make a potentially difficult delivery easier. She also wanted to know about her medicine that could prevent conception, and ways to bring on a miscarriage if that didn't work. She feared for the life of her only child and would have been satisfied with no grandchildren rather than lose her daughter. But since she was already pregnant, and determined to have this baby, if she survived the delivery, Jerika was determined to make sure there would be no more pregnancies.
654 If he could find it, if it were sufficiently above the surface of the lagoon at this time of the tide, there was an overhanging rock. He desperately tried to place its location on the lagoon arm the next time he surfaced, but he could barely see with eyes red and stinging. He was never sure in the mist of panic and anoxia how he found that meager shelter. But he did. He scraped his cheek, right hand and shoulder in the process, but when the redness cleared from his eyes, his nose and mouth were above water and his head and shoulders protected by a narrow roof of rock. Literally, just beyond the tip of his nose. Thread sheeted into the water. He felt fish bump and dive against him, sometimes sharply nibbling at his legs or arms until he flailed the attacked limb and the fish darted after their customary food.
655 But she had been so strange. A part of Maya, mostly subconscious and unacknowledged, was not entirely unhappy to have Hiroko off the scene, however it had happened. Maya had never been able to communicate with Hiroko, to understand her, and though she had loved her, it had made her nervous to have such a great random force wandering about, complicating things. And it had been irritating also to have another great power among the women, a power that she had had absolutely no influence over. Of course it was horrible if the whole of her group had been captured, or worse, killed. But if they had decided to disappear again, that would not be a bad thing at all. It would simplify things at a time when they desperately needed simplification, giving Maya more potential control over the events to come.
656 She and the child came into the streets of Gont Port when the sun was still well above the western sea. Therru had walked fifteen miles without complaint and without being worn out, though certainly she was very tired. Tenar was tired too, having not slept the night before, and having been much distressed; and also Ogion's books had been a heavy burden. Halfway down the road she had put them into the backpack, and the food and clothing into the woolsack, which was better, but not all that much better. So they came trudging among outlying houses to the landgate of the city, where the road, coming between two carved stone dragons, turned into a street. There a man, the guard of the gate, eyed them. Therru bent her burned face down towards the shoulder and hid her burned hand under the apron of her dress.
657 The amulet in his right hand seemed to take on some strange life of its own. Taita felt it pulse softly in rhythm to his own heartbeats. He opened his mind and let the currents of existence enter freely, swirling around him like a great river. His own spirit broke free of his body and he soared aloft. As though he was borne on the wings of some gigantic bird, he saw fleeting, confused images of lands and cities, forests, plains and deserts far below him. He saw armies on the march, the squadrons throwing up thunderclouds of yellow dust in which spearheads glinted. He saw ships on high seas battered by wave and wind. He saw cities burning as they were sacked, and he heard strange voices in his head, and knew they were from the past and the future. He saw the faces of those long dead, and those not yet born.
658 He had no way of knowing for certain where he was in Squonk's body, but the same sort of feel that had helped him in dead reckoning gave him the general feeling that he was in the body of Squonk, rather than still in the leg where the scrapings had been injected. He oriented his material now to touch the walls of the conduit along which he was being carried by whatever fluid was Squonk's equivalent of a bloodstream. Within the fluid, he was essentially weightless. He could only feel the pressure of its current. If he could just feel the stresses on the solid wall material, however, he ought to be able to tell in what direction gravity was pulling upon them. He blamed himself for not trying to judge, when he was first injected into Squonk's flesh, which way the stress of gravity was pulling on that flesh.
659 They sat in silence then, waiting. Ben reached for Willow's hand and squeezed it gently. She smiled back at him. At the far end of the room, Parsnip appeared from out of the kitchen, gave a brief greeting to the silent assemblage, and disappeared back hi again. Ben was thinking that he would like to dispose quickly of Horris Kew and get on with his day. He was thinking about the meetings he had scheduled and the work that needed doing. He had believed once that no one worked harder than a trial lawyer, but he had since discovered that Kings did. There were constant decisions required, plans to consider, and problems by the score to resolve. So much depended on him. So many people were affected by his actions. He liked the challenge, but was continually daunted by the amount of responsibility.
660 Writing marched together with weapons, microbes, and centralized political organization as a modern agent of conquest. The commands of the monarchs and merchants who organized colonizing fleets were conveyed in writing. The fleets set their courses by maps and written sailing directions prepared by previous expeditions. Written accounts of earlier expeditions motivated later ones, by describing the wealth and fertile lands awaiting the conquerors. The accounts taught subsequent explorers what conditions to expect, and helped them prepare themselves. The resulting empires were administered with the aid of writing. While all those types of information were also transmitted by other means in preliterate societies, writing made the transmission easier, more detailed, more accurate, and more persuasive.
661 As she looked down, her hands on the wooden banister that ran along the attic verandah, she knew that at a call she could set in motion the five main figures of her making. Those whom she had so often watched below her, almost as though they were really there. At first it had not been easy to understand them nor to tell them what to do. But now it would be easy, at any rate for them to enact the scenes that she had watched them so often perform. Munster, who would crawl along the rafters and drop chuckling into the middle of the floor in a cloud of dust and then bow to Fuchsia before turning and searching for his barrel of bright gold. Or the Rain Man, who moved always with his head lowered and his hands clasped behind him and who had but to lift his eyelid to quell the tiger that followed him on a chain.
662 Nevertheless, the boys were determined to give the Magi no excuse to voice their suspicions. So while the senior Jousters went out to fight, Kiron's wing went out to practice, making a show of using even the most miserable weather to train, even if they wouldn't be expected to go to fight for another two seasons at best. Kiron could only remind himself, as he saw the misery in Avatre's eyes, that if she had been in the wild, she would have had to hunt for her food every day regardless of the conditions. The best he could do for her and the others was to make certain that though they did get wet, they never got chilled, and they were always fed the best that the compound had to offer. That, and a great deal of love and attention, was all he could do to try and make up for her daily struggle in the wet.
663 I stared back at the lights of Bay City and tried not to bear down too hard on my dinner. Scattered points of light drew together and became a jeweled bracelet laid out in the show window of the night. Then the brightness faded and they were a soft orange glow appearing and disappearing over the edge of the swell. It was a long smooth even swell with no whitecaps, and just the right amount of heave to make me glad I hadn't pickled my dinner in bar whisky. The taxi slid up and down the swell now with a sinister smoothness, like a cobra dancing. There was cold in the air, the wet cold that sailors never get out of their joints. The red neon pencils that outlined the Royal Crown faded off to the left and dimmed in the gliding gray ghosts of the sea, then shone out again, as bright as new marbles.
664 It had been laughably easy to arrange. She always went to the library for an hour or two of study before the evening meal, preparing her notes for the next day's classes. The faulty step had been his ally; everyone made the same movement to avoid it, and slicking the next one just enough to upset balance had done the trick. He had experimented the night before, careful not to succumb to his own ploy, then wiped the wood clean. This afternoon he had waited for Morwenna's regular visit, and after she limped out, cursing under her breath, had emerged from his hiding place to blot up the traces of oil. The telltale cloth had been thrown down the cliff where the tide would carry it out to sea. No one had seen him, no one suspected that the accident was no accident, and he sat down to dinner with perfect unconcern.
665 After a few days, I relaxed completely and let the process of my absorption into the crew become complete. I quickly learned respect for nearly everybody on board, and for the ship itself, which I had underestimated. It gave us few problems at sea, or no more than any ship made of inadequate and primitive materials. Only Shatro, the researcher, continued to leave me unimpressed. Bulky, with large but soft muscles, shorter than me, with a boyish face on a wide head, he was prone to worries and enthusiasms, suspicions and confidences, in equal measure. He seldom spoke to me, but I could never tell whether he would treat me with suspicion or say something light and cheerful. He never said anything of much consequence, either way. He had a habit of stating the obvious and then being embarrassed about it.
666 Half a dozen police cars were hovering over the end of the viaduct. Surrounding the area were many private air cars and an air bus or two; the patrol cars were keeping them back from the scene. There were several hundred harness flyers as well, darting like bats in and out among the vehicles and making the police problem more difficult. On the ground a few regular police, supplemented by emergency safety officers wearing arm bands, were trying to hold the crowd back and were diverting traffic away from the viaduct and from the freight road that ran under it down the arroyo. Sergeant Mendoza's driver threaded his way through the cars in the air, while speaking into a hushophone on his chest. Chief Dreiser's bright red command car detached itself from the knot over the end of the viaduct and approached them.
667 Suddenly a welter of cries and shouts broke upon his ears. Sunflash went thundering and crashing through the woodland and came bounding out into the clearing where he had arranged to meet with Bruff and Tirry. His quick eyes took in the dangerous situation at a single glance. There were the two little hoglets, frightened speechless, clinging on to each other, standing shoulder deep in the pond at the far side of the clearing. Bruff and Tirry, in company with an old squirrel, were circling and shouting. And a short distance from the water's edge, between them, barring their way to the babes, two fully grown adders coiled and reared menacingly. The snakes had not yet seen Sunflash, who slowed his pace immediately and signaled to his friends not to look directly at him and betray his presence to the reptiles.
668 Their first coupling spent him quickly. He lay back panting, drenched in sweat, humiliated that he had not lasted longer. A vague memory of Mireva in her youthful guise flickered across his memory; why had she never told him how powerful faradhi magic was in this act? The woman, whoever she was, existed only as a faint luminous glow. His fingers could touch her, but he could not identify the shape of nose and brow and mouth, the contours of breasts and hips that would tell him who she was. He could not see the color of the hair cascading around him. He hoped it was golden, and that it was Hollis in his arms, but could not bring himself to care if it was not; her lips were teaching him things not even Mireva had known, bringing him to life again when he had feared the night might be over for him.
669 Superficially, the procedure was simple. The five insurgent fleets went to planetary systems which were important because of location, population, industries, resources, or whatever the consideration might be. Each fleet swept aside any garrison vessels, which it always outnumbered and outgunned. Thereupon a world lay under threat of nuclear bombardment from on high. Even if it had ground defenses, the cost of using them looked prohibitive. Besides... well, did it matter that much who was Emperor? What had Gerhart done that beings, cities, continents should die for him? The martial law which Magnusson's people imposed scarcely touched civilians in their daily lives. They themselves promised glory and better times. Oftener than not, they were born on the planet in question, quietly recruited in advance.
670 After naps they were supposed to stay in the social room till supper. Caleb, however, wandered out into the yard, and since he always went to the same place nobody tried to stop him. He sat on a bench beneath the little dogwood tree growing from a circle in the concrete. Its upper branches were dry and bare. Lower down, a few red leaves shook in a cold wind. Caleb turned up the collar of his raincoat and huddled into himself. Before long it would be winter and they wouldn't let him come here any more. By next spring the tree might have died. He was not much of a nature lover, but the thought of sitting in utter blankness, unsheltered by even this cluster of dry twigs, made him feel exposed. He glanced around, suddenly wary. All he saw was a woman in a flat hat picking her way across the concrete.
671 The vision was so terrifying that I went cold with wave after wave of shock. In the middle of the reptilian circle of devils, huge and hideous, stood a dark thing that looked like a giant deformed donkey, rearing up on its hind legs. It had a monstrous head, and a chest covered with shaggy hair, but its stomach and its hind quarters were afflicted with some kind of crusty excrescences, like tumours. As it appeared through the darkness, there was a screaming sound all around it, a thousand decibels of feedback, and the air itself was distorted like heat rippling from a road. For endless minutes, the eighth demon of the evil sephiroth stood there, turning its head to gaze with stately malevolence at his thirteen acolytes, and the noise was so overwhelming that I thought it was going to deafen me for ever.
672 The winch turned with what seemed to most watchers an agonizing and frustrating slowness. There was ample electrical power available to have revolved the drum several times as quickly but Captain Montgomery was in no hurry. Standing there by the winch, he exhibited about as much anxiety and tension as a man sitting with his eyes closed in a garden deckchair on a summer's afternoon. Although it was difficult to visualize, it was possible that a sling could have loosened and slipped and Montgomery preferred not to think what might happen if the plane should slip and strike heavily against the bottom, so he just stood patiently there, personally guiding the winch's control wheel while he listened with clamped earphones to the two divers who were accompanying the plane on its ten foot a minute ascent.
673 Each trip through the dim forests of Liliblod found him growing more and more comfortable with this new form and thinking about things that were important rather than dwelling on his twin pasts, both of which seemed to have decreasing relevance or even interest to him. Instead, he concentrated on developing his superior sense of hearing, which could pick out the song of a distant bird or a chorus of sonorous insects with ease, and in determining and cataloging what each sound meant. Similarly, classifying every scent, every odor, analyzing not only the ground and trees but the very breezes, provided vital information once he'd matched scent to source. Since there was a mind behind that classification system and nothing else to do but walk, smell and sound proved to be more precise than sight had ever been.
674 Jon Lin's impatient voice cut through the momentary stillness with biting sharpness, and the lounging riders leaped to their feet hurriedly in response. He stared a final time at the distant blackness, then turned and vaulted easily onto his waiting mount, gathering the reins in one swift motion. Breen was already at his side and seconds later the small body of horsemen was moving down the valley corridor at a fast trot. It was a gray morning, the air tinged with the pungent smell of last night's rain, still lingering on the plainlands. The tall grass was wet and yielding beneath the sharp hooves of the passing horses, muffling their impact. Far to the south a trace of deep blue sky could be seen beyond the clouds. It was a cool day, and the Elves rode comfortably in the moderate temperatures.
675 I stopped short of the quay, finding shadow. The limousine was nearer the row of power boats, the engine idling for a moment and then dying away. The bodyguard got out first, scanning and moving a little away from the car and standing with his back to it, containing the environment. Then the chauffeur got out and opened a rear door and there was Cambridge again, and the short man, a Japanese, both of them still with dark glasses on. He touched her elbow and they moved quickly across the flagstones to the first boat in the marina, a motor launch with the crew in white ducks and a name at the stern in gold letters: Contessa. Cambridge and the Japanese were handed aboard with a lot of courtesy, a flurry of salutes. They didn't move into the cabin but stood waiting near the rail, turning to face the quay.
676 People fell back from Eddie, giving him even more space. Regine stopped too, when she got a closer look at him. His right ear was limp and mangled, half ripped off, streaming blood. That entire side of his face was abraded and bleeding, and some of the hair had been torn out of his head. He appeared to have been clubbed by someone damned strong and in a rage, but he wasn't yet unconscious. He spat blood and broken teeth, started to get up from his knees, and was struck again so hard that his screaming was cut off. He was lifted from the floor and thrown into a crowd of onlookers who stood by one of the craps tables. People scattered, and the brief preternatural silence was broken by their shouts and screams, and now even the security guard, who had been approaching Eddie, stopped in perplexity and fear.
677 Karen Kinnison was worried. She, who had always been so sure of herself, had for weeks been conscious of a gradually increasing – what was it, anyway? Not exactly a loss of control... a change... a something that manifested itself in increasingly numerous fits of senseless – sheerly idiotic – stubbornness. And always and only it was directed at – of all the people in the universe! – her brother. She got along with her sisters perfectly, their tiny tiffs barely rippled the surface of any of their minds. But any time her path of action crossed Kit's, it seemed, the profoundest depths of her being flared into opposition like exploding duodec. Worse than senseless and idiotic, it was inexplicable, for the feeling which the Five had for each other was much deeper than that felt by ordinary brothers and sisters.
678 When the land appeared, finally, he sped over it, conscious of some familiarity, sure now that the impulse had been one of memory. He strained his vision until his eyes seemed to hang a few feet over the land, sent his gaze forward, and made out more planes, and some kind of landing field for them, with tents grouped around it. Men like himself were walking about, and a strip of cloth floated from a pole, striped in red and white, with a blue field carrying white pointed figures. Memory crowded forward, hesitated and retreated. He shook his head to clear it, and the pain that lurked there lanced out, throwing him to his knees and out of the control seat. He gripped the aching back of his skull and staggered up again, his eyes fixed on the flag, tugging at his brain for the thought that would not come.
679 The girl and I stood looking at each other. She tried to keep a cute little smile on her face but her face was too tired to be bothered. It kept going blank on her. The smile would wash off like water off sand and her pale skin had a harsh granular texture under the stunned and stupid blankness of her eyes. A whitish tongue licked at the corners of her mouth. A pretty, spoiled and not very bright little girl who had gone very, very wrong, and nobody was doing anything about it. To hell with the rich. They made me sick. I rolled a cigarette in my fingers and pushed some books out of the way and sat on the end of the black desk. I lit my cigarette, puffed a plume of smoke and watched the thumb and tooth act for a while in silence. Carmen stood in front of me, like a bad girl in the principal's office.
680 Remo turned back to the cold wind. He knew its sound was there but he did not hear it. He knew the cold was there but he did not feel it. He knew the bridge was beneath him and around him but he did not sense it. He was moving along a thin bar at an outside angle above dark waters and his thoughts and feelings were the center of his balance. He could run for days like this, he felt, and though he was aware of the lights of cars moving at him and beside him, they were not in his world. His world was passing them faster and faster and as his world approached the far side of the bridge, he reversed it in a spin that stopped not with his feet because his bones could not support that sort of jarring pressure, but with the very stopping of his world. And then he was moving back toward Chiun, the Master of Sinanju.
681 It was a question that haunted her long after Duncan had fallen asleep. Sitting in the chair by the window, her legs curled beneath her, Marisa thought about Grigori. She had been drawn to him from the moment she first saw him, mesmerized by his voice. She recalled thinking it was richer than dark chocolate, more intoxicating than wine. She remembered the night, soon after she had met Grigori, when she had felt Alexi's presence outside her apartment. Grigori had gone out to meet him, and they had struggled. Grigori had returned, his cheek bleeding from where the other vampire had stuck him. The wounds had been deep, down to the bone. The sight had made her sick to her stomach, yet the wound had healed before her eyes. Vampire. She had not wanted to believe it, had fallen in love in spite of what he was.
682 Tarzan thought that he was being led in search of Horta, the boar; and when a turn in the trail brought them to the edge of the jungle, and he saw an amazing city, he was quite as surprised as Thak Chan had been when he had come to the realization that his three companions were gods. Tarzan could see that the central part of the city was built upon a knoll on the summit of which rose a pyramid surmounted by what appeared to be a temple. The pyramid was built of blocks of lava which formed steep steps leading to the summit. Around the pyramid were other buildings which hid its base from Tarzan's view; and around all this central portion of the city was a wall, pierced occasionally by gates. Outside the wall were flimsy dwellings of thatch, doubtless the quarters of the poorer inhabitants of the city.
683 They turned a sharp corner, and the city's central square lay before them. It was a wide, flat reach of stone, carefully polished and yet reflecting no light from its surface. Alanna decided it was like staring into a huge pit covered with glass. It took all her nerve to step onto it, but step she did. The building in the center of the square called to her. Its sides were columns of plain black stone. The roof separated itself from the columns with a border of carving covered with gold. Topping a long rise of stairs, great doors beckoned. She and Jonathan climbed up to the doors, feeling smaller and smaller as they climbed. The doors stood open and waiting. Like the stone of the city the black wood of the doors was covered with exotic pictures. The edges of the carvings were lined with gold.
684 As he proceeded, weaving among trunks and girders and jointed rods with the ease of long practice, Zero paid most attention to his radio receptors. There was something strange in the upper communication frequencies tonight, an occasional brief note... set of notes, voice, drone, like nothing he had heard before or heard tell of... But the world was a mystery. No one had been past the ocean to the west or the mountains to the east. Finally Zero stopped listening and concentrated on tracking his prey. That was difficult, with his optical sensors largely nullified by the darkness, and he moved slowly. Once he tapped lubricant from a cylinder growth and once he thinned his acids with a drink of water. Several times he felt polarization in his energy cells and stopped for a while to let it clear away: he rested.
685 The city had never been a simple place even during the years she'd lived in it; it was easy to get lost or distracted. How much more complicated would it be now, especially for someone like her poor Todd, whose soul was so muddled and confused. She knew how that felt, to have everyone falling over themselves to adore you one moment, and the next to find that those same people had given their devotions over to somebody else. It turned everything upside down when that happened; nothing made sense anymore. You started looking around for something to hold on to; something firm and solid, that wouldn't be taken away. In such a mood of desperation, it was possible you could make a mistake: choose the wrong person to believe in, the wrong path to follow. Even now, he could be moving away from her.
686 As he clung to the bars, his prison started to move toward the surface of the ship. The protective screen parted as they came to it, and closed behind them. Close up, the men looked puny. Their need of space suits proved their inability to adapt themselves to environments radically different from their own, which meant that they were physically on a low plane of evolution. It would be unwise, however, to underestimate their scientific achievements. Here were keen brains, capable of creating and using mighty machines. And they had now brought up a number of these machines, evidently with the purpose of studying him. That would reveal his purpose, identify the precious objects concealed within his breast, and expose at least a few of his life processes. He could not allow such an examination to be made.
687 The reverie was cut short by the door to the inner office being opened. Two doctors in long white coats came from within, continuing their conversation at the door. Susan could get bits and pieces and it seemed to be about an enormous amount of drugs that had been located in a locker in the surgical lounge. The younger of the two men was quite agitated and spoke in a whisper whose sound level was approximately equal to normal speech. The other gentleman had the portly bearing of a mature physician, replete with soft, knowing eyes, luxuriant graying hair, and a consoling smile. Susan knew it had to be Dr. Nelson. He seemed to be trying to console the other with reassuring words and a lingering pat on the shoulder. Once the other doctor had left, Dr. Nelson turned to Susan and beckoned for her to follow him.
688 The deck under her feet kept inclining towards the vertical. Everywhere sailors shouted out their anger and terror. The ship screamed, too, a terrible creaking of wood accustomed to being supported by water and now pushed up out of it. The flexibility of the ship that made it possible for the Reaper to withstand the pounding of the sea told against her now. Althea could almost feel the pain of planks as fore to aft the whole structure twisted and racked. The rigging groaned and the canvas swung. She found herself crouched on the railing rather than clinging to it, gripping it with both hands. She looked up the slanting deck. Sanded smooth and clean, it offered no handholds to retreat from the edge of the ship. Below her the black sea boiled suddenly as the serpent's tail lashed the water for more purchase.
689 I caught a quick impression of weaponry, warned by a whistling sound, but not soon enough to duck. I heard a sickening crack on impact. She'd come up with what looked like an ax handle, wielded with such force that I felt no pain at all at first. It was like that interval between lightning and thunder, and I wondered if there was some way to gauge the intensity of pain by how many seconds it took to register on the uncomprehending brain. The ax handle came whistling up at me again, and this time I got a hand up, protecting my face, taking the blow on my forearm. I didn't even associate the cracking sound with the pain that shuddered up my frame. My mouth came open, but no sound emerged. She drove down at me again, her eyes bright, her mouth pulled back in something that would pass for a smile among lunatics.
690 The company men insisted that the instruments had been made for this climate and that it was impossible that they would break, and Lavelle had just shrugged. Thereafter she didn't know much except that the sleds had gotten separated, and the other three had been lost, drivers, dogs, geologists, equipment, food, and all. She had been driving the sled with the boy in it, so she had had room for a few more supplies. Brit had been driving the sled with the father, with Siggy running between them to keep them connected, as he had tried to do with the other sleds before they got lost back up to Moose Lake. Maybe they hit a thin patch of ice. Then, as they were coming down a pretty steep slope, the sleds overturned and both passengers were thrown out of the sleds, to roll down the hill and vanish.
691 Once when Dalgard had been very small he had raided his father's trip bag after the next to the last exploring journey the elder Nordis had made. And he had found a clear block of some kind of greenish crystal, in the heart of which threadlike lines of color wove patterns which were utterly strange. When he had turned the block in his hand, those lines had whirled and changed to form new and intricate designs. And when he had watched them intently it had seemed that something happened inside his mind and he knew, here and there, a word, a fragment of alien thought just as he normally communicated with the cub who was Sssuri or the hoppers of the field. And his surprise had been so great that he had gone running to his father with the cube and the story of what happened when one watched it.
692 Sigarni dragged her fingers from the oozing sockets and groaned. Her ribs hurt, but that was as nothing compared with the pain within. She pushed the body of the guard from her, then rolled to her knees. Nausea rose in her throat and she vomited. Her head was pounding, her body begging her to lie down, to rest, to heal. Instead she forced herself to her feet. The guard began to moan. Dropping to her knees she pulled his dagger from his belt and plunged it through the nape of his neck. His legs spasmed, one foot striking the narrow cot. Blood filled the man's throat and he began to choke. Dragging the dagger clear she held the point over the centre of his back and threw her weight down upon it. The blade slid between his ribs, skewering the lungs. Now he was still. A pool of urine spread out from beneath him.
693 Don Juan's prime objective was to help me to perceive energy as it flows in the universe. In the world of shamans, to perceive energy in such a manner is the first mandatory step toward a more engulfing, freer view of a different cognitive system. In order to elicit a seeing response in me, don Juan utilized other foreign units of cognition. One of the most important units, he called the recapitulation, which consisted of a systematic scrutiny of one's life, segment by segment, an examination made not in the light of criticism or finding flaw, but in the light of an effort to understand one's life, and to change its course. Don Juan's claim was that once any practitioner has viewed his life in the detached manner that the recapitulation requires, there's no way to go back to the same life.
694 His investigation of his situation was short because there was not much to see. He was on the bare top of a pillar of hard black rock. The top was wider than the bottom, and the sides were smooth as the barrel of a cannon. All around the pillar, as far as he could see, was a desolate rock plain and a river. The river split the circle described by the horizon and then itself split when it came to the column. On the other side, it merged into itself and continued on toward the horizon. The sky was blue, and the yellow sun was at its zenith. Set around the pillar near its base, at each of the cardinal points of the compass, was a gigantic hoop. One of these meant his escape to a place where he might survive if he chose the right one. The others probably meant certain death if he went through them.
695 His journey in took him more than an hour. He did not set a hurried pace, but walked slowly and easily across the flats that led in. There was no reason to rush, and should anyone be watching he did not want to call attention to himself. He worked his way steadily out of the darkness and into the light, feeling the temperature of the air rise as he neared the buildings, hearing the sounds of hammer and tongs on metal grow louder and more intense. Voices rose, a cacophony that signaled the presence of ale houses, taverns, inns, and brothels amid the great furnaces and warehouses. Laughter rose out of the grunts and swearing, out of the clamor and din, and the mix of work and pleasure was pervasive and incongruous. No separation of life's functions in this city, the Borderman decided. No separation of any sort.
696 I have to make a confession here, and it's going to sound a little odd coming from someone who has travelled twelve thousand miles and back to visit a parrot, but I am actually not tremendously excited by birds. There are all sorts of things about birds that I find interesting, I suppose, but the things themselves don't really get to me. Hippopotamuses, yes. I'm happy to stare at a hippopotamus till the hippo itself gets bored and wanders away in bemusement. Gorillas, lemurs, dolphins I will watch entranced for hours, hypnotised as much as anything else by their eyes. But show me a garden full of some of the most exotic birds in the world and I will be just as happy to stand around drinking tea and chatting to people. It gradually dawned on me that this was probably exactly what was happening.
697 Meredith climbed up into the back and sat down on the bench while the driver got in under the wheel and the female EMT called the hospital emergency room for orders. It was going to be a long night, Meredith thought worriedly, and her father was going to be very upset when she got home. He and her mother had been really close, but her mother had been fond of going to parties and staying out until the early morning; sometimes with other men. Recent events had made him dwell on that behavior. Her father seemed to have transferred that old contempt to her. It made her uneasy to think of arriving home in the wee hours. Anything could happen. On the other hand, how could she leave this man? She was the only person who knew who to contact for him. She'd promised to stay with him. She couldn't let him down.
698 Michael stood up and gauged the boundaries of his prison. There was a sink, an oval mirror, a toilet, and a narrow closet. No windows, and no other door. He checked the closet but found nothing of use. Blondi was at work, tearing furrows on the other side of the bathroom door. To get out of Sandler's suite, he had to get out of this room and past the hawk. Sandler might return at any moment; there was no time to wait for the hawk to exhaust herself, and little chance that she'd lose interest. Michael knew she could smell the wolf on him, and it was driving her crazy. Sandler evidently didn't trust the Reichkronen's security system; the thin trip wire he'd managed to wrap around the doorknob as he'd gone out for the evening was a nasty surprise for the curious. Once a hunter, always a hunter.
699 The lower part of the stack where it stood mainly free of the canyon's wall was still in shadows, which gradually drew back as the moon rose higher still. Jazz was glad of that moon, for the sun was now plainly declining. When he crossed the crest of the saddle, then perhaps he'd catch up a little with the sun, earn himself maybe an hour or so more of its dim light; but here in the lee of the great grim castle, for the present the moon was his only champion. He moved swiftly forward, going at a lope because of the imagined (?) eyes, sticking to the shadows of boulders where possible and crossing the moonlit gaps between at speed. And presently he came to the base of the stack of weathered rock where it leaned outward a little from the cliff. Or at least, he came to the great wall which surrounded that base.
700 I can still hear, in memory, those coolly spoken words; and I can still remember my remonstrances. I seemed desperately anxious to accompany my friend into those sepulchral depths, yet he proved inflexibly obdurate. At one time he threatened to abandon the expedition if I remained insistent; a threat which proved effective, since he alone held the key to the thing. All this I can still remember, though I no longer know what manner of thing we sought. After he had obtained my reluctant acquiescence in his design, Warren picked up the reel of wire and adjusted the instruments. At his nod I took one of the latter and seated myself upon an aged, discolored gravestone close by the newly uncovered aperture. Then he shook my hand, shouldered the coil of wire, and disappeared within that indescribable ossuary.
701 I was so stunned I could not move for a moment. I looked at the fine weaving of the linen sheets. For three nights and two days I had been in the crude stockade at the castle. And I had expected to sleep here in some miserable corner on bare boards. But this was the least of it. I could see the light playing on the Master's tightly muscled chest and arms and the cock seeming to grow as I watched it. I glanced up right into his dark blue eyes and came forward to the bed, and climbed upon it, still on my knees, and he knelt on the coverlet facing me. I had my back to the pillows and he slipped his arms around me and kissed me again. And answering the strong bold sucking of his mouth, I couldn't stop the tears from coursing down my cheeks or the sob from sticking in my throat as I tried to conceal it.
702 Presently, a derrick boom tracked out of the hatch where the rating had stood. It carried a motor launch in the same dull gray as the unrusted parts of the ship's side. The launch swayed crazily, then was steadied by boat hooks. The boom extended to its limit. John heard the faint rumble and whine of the winch as the launch slid downward to stop just above the wave tops. Men appeared on the launch's deck. They moved purposefully to the cable hooks. Suddenly, the launch plunged into a wave trough. Water splashed around it and the launching tackle swung clear. The small boat surged away from the light cruiser's side in a widely curved white wake. John watched the coxswain at the tiller. The man shaded his eyes against the spray as he swung his boat into position about thirty meters upwind and dropped the power.
703 Although I was assigned to the Seventh District as a senior detective, my job as liaison with the FBI gave me some extra status and also freedom to occasionally work without too much supervision or interference. My mind was running free and I'd already made some associations with Nina's murder and at least some of the unsolved killings. First, there had been no identification on the victims at the crime scenes. Second, the bodies had frequently been dumped in buildings where they might not be found quickly. Third, not a single witness had seen anyone who might be a suspect or the killer. The most we ever got was that there had been traffic, or people out on the streets, where one of the bodies had been found. That told me that the killer knew how to blend in, and that he possibly was a black man.
704 His lungs ached as he worked on his shoes. His eyes were open, and he saw the bubbly trails of the bullets as they slashed around him. A few came perilously close, and Mustafa gave up on the shoes. He swam to the wall of the dam, dug his fingers into the spaces between the stones, and crept up the sloping side. He stopped just below the surface and lay with his belly against the wall. He heard the muffled roar of the guns as the helicopter bore down. The dam shook beneath him, but at least he felt safe here. He wondered how his coworkers were doing. The fire didn't seem directed at them, and he hoped they were all right. He also hoped that the men in the helicopter didn't make a second pass. He didn't know what they hoped to accomplish with this attack, and he began to fear for the security of the dam.
705 From this it is possible (though it approaches being difficult) to generalize, and to figure out the underlying mathematical algorithm that generated the numbers on the abaci. Waterhouse becomes familiar with some of the computers' handwriting, and develops evidence that slips of scratch paper were being handed from one computer to another and then to yet another. Some of the computers had logarithm tables at their stations, which is a really important clue as to what they were doing. In this way he is able to draw up a map of the room, with each computer's station identified by number, and a web of arrows interconnecting the stations, depicting the flow of paper, and of data. This helps him visualize the collective calculation as a whole, and to reconstruct what was going on in that subterranean chamber.
706 Perhaps the whip had been flung against me to remind me of my subjectability to it. Or perhaps he had flung it there that my master, or his man, might understand, when he came to unchain me, that at the least failure in my pleasingness I was due for a whipping. Yet he himself had not used it on me. That was perhaps yet another evidence of his kindness, or of his understanding and patience with me, his recognition that I was still naught but an ignorant and naive novice with respect to the rigors of my bondage. Had I irritated him further, however, I do not doubt but what he himself would have used it on me. As it was, he had not been pleased when he had left me. If he were to use me again, in the future, I feared he would be merciless with me, treating me as the foolish, and errant Earth woman I had been.
707 And so they flew westward until, deep in a dark night, the sea became lumpy and the ship rolled like a drunk and Sharpe was woken by the rush of feet on the deck. The cot, in which he was alone, swung wildly and he fell hard when he rolled out of it. He did not bother to dress, but just put on a boat cloak that Chase had lent him, then let himself out of the door onto the quarterdeck where he could see almost nothing, for clouds were obscuring the moon, yet he could hear orders being bellowed and hear the voices of men high in the rigging above him. Sharpe still did not understand how men could work in the dark, a hundred feet above a pitching deck, clinging to thin lines and hearing the wind's shriek in their ears. It was a bravery, he reckoned, as great as any that was needed on a battlefield.
708 He had just completed briefing the two sets of Shield operatives, keeping them no more than ten minutes so that the roads around the estate would not be left unpatrolled for longer than was necessary (he realised even double the number of observer cars would still be inadequate, because it would be easy enough for intruders to enter the grounds during surveillance 'gaps'; nevertheless, even two cars could usually spot potential trouble parked vehicles, loiterers, anything out of place or suspicious and two were better than one, one better than none). Halloran wasn't happy with the situation, but knew that only a small army would really be adequate in the circumstances and at least the operatives were now discreetly armed; he could only hope that Kline's faith in his guard dogs was justified.
709 He had long since taken to drawing on saidin through the angreal in his pocket, the stone carving of the fat little man. Even so, working the Power was a strain now, weaving it at this distance of miles, but only the rancid threads streaking what he drew kept him from pulling more, from trying to pull it all to him. The Power was that sweet, taint or no. After hours of channeling without, rest, he was that tired. At the same time, he had to fight saidin itself harder, to put more of his strength into keeping it from burning him to ash where he stood, from burning his mind to ash. It was ever more difficult to hold off saidin's destruction, more difficult to resist the desire to draw more, more difficult to handle what he did draw. A nasty downward spiral, and hours to go before the battle was decided.
710 The chaining on the two slaves did not much restrict their movements, nor was it intended to. Like much chaining on Gor their chaining was primarily aesthetic and symbolic. On a world such as Gor chains are used far less for holding purposes than might be expected. For example, the girls are branded and collared, and their world is one in which the institution of slavery is accepted and respected; there is, in effect, no place for them to run, no place for them to go. On the other hand, chains do hold, and this is one of the major reasons for their symbolic effectiveness. The girl knows, for example, that her chains will keep her exactly where the master has chosen to place her; she is going to stay there; she has been chained there; it is his will which has determined this; she is only his slave.
711 I made three more runs, trying to forget about them, but they began using the horns at me and a siren wailed into life and died again. They were still waving, so I compromised: I think I could have got enough height to come in and land on the grass and ask them what the hell they wanted, but I gave myself a final fling and put the nose down and swooped over their heads in a long arrowing dive across the cliff and the beach and the sea, wheeling against the beaten gold reflection and moving into wind again, lowering, the trailing edge fluttering near stalling point a few feet above the ground; then I put the nose down and ran in with my feet ploughing up the sand as I got the last of the wind out of the sail. I was still dismantling when Norton came sprinting along from the cliff path to help me.
712 I spent that day in a fog. I barely spoke to anyone. And I was constantly dreaming up ways not to have to see my friends. I just couldn't face telling them the news yet. I took different routes to my classes and to my locker. When I had to use the bathroom, I went to this old one on the first floor that's used mostly by teachers. I even hit on a way to avoid Laine in the cafeteria at lunchtime. See, we have sixth period lunch. So at the beginning of fifth period, I asked my science teacher if I could go to the library to work on a project. Then, instead of going to the library, I went to the cafeteria and ate a very fast lunch. As soon as I was done I really did go to the library. I stayed there right through sixth period, holed up at a desk in a remote corner behind shelves of books about sociology.
713 Kathryn's mother claimed that cutting vegetable was very therapeutic and a terrific remedy for stress. Kathryn would laugh and tease her mother, but Joy Cartwright stood firm on the matter. Now, as the noon day sun softened in intensity, Kathryn had to finally agree. If not entirely therapeutic, it was helpful. One had to pretty much stay in present time, peeling, slicing, scraping without mishap. Vegetables didn't demand much more out of you, they didn't pressure you to get done, to hurry with the task, they let you set your own pace. They didn't talk back, and except for onions which could at times be a little difficult, they were easy to get along with. Sometimes you could even cheat and drift a little, thinking of some triviality, something mildly pleasurable. Nothing too heavy or mind boggling.
714 When I came around, I lay upon the stony earth farther back from the edge of that place where I had fallen. Someone had folded my cloak into a pillow for me. My first vision was of the turning sky, reminding me somehow of my dream of the wheel the day I had met Dara. I could feel the others about me, hear their voices, but I did not at first turn my head. I just lay there and regarded the mandala in the heavens and thought upon my loss. Deirdre... she had meant more to me than all the rest of the family put together. I cannot help it. That is how it was. How many times had I wished she were not my sister. Yet, I had reconciled myself to the realities of our situation. My feelings would never change, but... now she was gone, and this thought meant more to me than the impending destruction of the world.
715 Another cramp, this one not quite as terrible as the one which had set fire to her solar plexus, froze the muscles in her right thigh and set her right foot wagging foolishly in the air. She opened her eyes and saw the bedroom, where the light had once again grown long and slanting. It was not quite what the French call l'heure bleue, but that time was now fast approaching. She heard the banging door, smelled her sweat and urine and sour, exhausted breath. All was exactly as it had been. Time had moved forward, but it had not leaped forward, as it so often seems to have done when one awakens from an unplanned doze. Her arms were a little colder, she thought, but no more or less numb than they had been. She hadn't been asleep and she hadn't been dreaming... but she had been doing something.
716 That they were discussing me I had no doubts. Now that I was on my feet, the first giddiness had gone and I could think. Velos termed me dead, or near so, but at the moment I felt very much alive. And I had no mind to fall victim to the fate the speakers had in mind for me. If Velos had his way my cabin door would be welded closed from the outside, not to be opened again for fear of contagion. They would shut off the ventilation, all outlets, to confine the disease, and I would have a hard and lingering death. On the other hand it would appear that I had not engineered my own escape from Tanth. Why had I not been suspicious at how easily it had worked? I had been taken to be delivered elsewhere. And I nursed no doubts as to the nature of those to whom I would have been presented as if I were a piece of cargo.
717 He was sitting at the near corner of the table so that, as it happened, no one but me could see him. I thought he wore an expression of astonishment at first, because his eyes were so wide. But just as his mouth sometimes twitched when he tried not to smile, now I could see it twitching under the strain of a different emotion. I couldn't be sure, but I had the impression his eyes were heavy with tears. He looked toward the door, pretending to scratch the side of his nose so he could wipe a finger in the corner, of his eye; and he smoothed his eyebrows as though they were the source of his trouble. I was so shocked to see the Chairman in pain that I felt almost disoriented for a moment. I made my way back to the table, and Mameha and Nobu began to talk. After a moment the Chairman interrupted.
718 A crash! Metal colliding with metal, glass shattering glass, the loud harsh sound coming from the distant parking area. Something had happened to the Komitet car with Alex and Krupkin; the young driver from the assault squad had either smashed or skidded into another vehicle in the dry dirt of the lot. Using the sound as an excuse, Jason started down the road, the image of Conklin coming instantly to his mind, producing a limp in his own rapid strides the better to keep his weapon in minimum view. He turned his head, expecting to see the two soldiers and the woman running down the armory path toward the accident, only to realize that the three of them were running the other way, removing themselves from any involvement. Obviously, precious breaks in a military schedule were jealously protected.
719 As they entered upon the open ground, they moved forward crouched to the ground, Malachi and Martin in the advance. When in the hollows, they all collected together, but on ascending a swell of the land, it was either Malachi or Martin who first crept up, and, looking over the summit, gave notice to the others to come forward. This was continually repeated for three or four miles, when Martin having raised his head just above a swell, made a signal to them who were below that the deer were in sight. After a moment or two reconnoitering, he went down and informed them that there were twelve or thirteen head of deer scraping up the snow about one hundred yards ahead of them, upon another swell of the land; but that they appeared to be alarmed and anxious, as they had an idea of danger being near.
720 They remained immobile after the departure of the Skull Bearer. Once again they had come close to death and managed to elude its fatal touch. They sat quietly and listened as the mingled sounds of insect and animal returned to the night. Minutes passed and they began to breathe more easily, their stiff poses relaxing into more comfortable slumps as they looked at each other in amazed relief, knowing the creature had gone, but unable to comprehend how it had happened. Then, before they had any chance at all to speak of the matter, the mysterious light that had flashed from across the river reappeared suddenly on a rise several hundred yards in back of them, disappeared for an instant and then flashed again, closer than before. Shea and Flick watched in wonderment as it moved toward them, weaving slightly.
721 How can you bear to drive around on four wheels that cost enough to clothe, educate and feed a hundred black children from the cradle to the grave? For once Shasa saw the practical wisdom of not flaunting his wealth in front of his constituents. Tara was really tremendous value for money, Shasa reflected. An aspiring politician could not ask for a better running mate, a mother of four lovely children, outspoken, holding strong opinions and possessing a natural shrewdness that anticipated the prejudices and fickle enthusiasm of the herd. She was also strikingly beautiful with all that smouldering auburn hair and a smile that could light up a dreary meeting, and despite four childbirths in almost as many years, her figure was still marvelous, small waist, good hips, only her bosom had burgeoned.
722 He ran at John Barrymore, who stared and crouched in alarm. Then, with a wild flapping of wings, the big bird rose into the air and floated onto the roof of the inn. He looked down at us all, and we stood looking up at him with open mouths. Experimentally he beat his wings again, twice, three times, and we felt the rush of air in our faces as he nearly lifted off. Had the madness left any room for joy, when it vacated that narrow killer's skull of his? What was in his flat blank eyes, when he beat his wings again with a noise like a stiff breeze filling canvas? I don't know. In the next moment he leaned into the evening air and sailed away on spread wings, effortlessly, a long curve ascending. Up and up he went, high enough at last to catch the last light of the sun, and then he flew northward and was gone.
723 In a few moments I had hoisted myself up to the low roof and then, again, climbing, I eased myself onto the roof of the building in which the man and woman had been conversing. There was a ventilator shaft, or slatted grille, over the main room, as I had anticipated. There is generally one room at least in which this arrangement occurs. Otherwise indoor living in Schendi could be difficult to bear. I could look down into the room, some fifteen feet below, through the slats in the grille. I could not, from my position, see the entire room. I could not see, most importantly, the figure whom, I gathered from the conversation and glances of the man and woman, sat at the far end of the room, behind a small table. I saw upon occasion the movement of his hands, long and black, with delicate fingers.
724 Dymtrus followed Arkady into the school, by the hanging chalkboard. Arkady tripped in the dark over gas masks on the lobby floor. They flopped out of the crate like rubber fish. He moved by memory as much as sight, heading for the kitchen in the back of the building. White tiles lined the kitchen walls. A dough bowl the size of a wheelbarrow stood on its legs. All the oven doors were open or broken off. The back door, however, had been boarded up in the last week. We should have rehearsed, the comic in him said. He looked out a window at chairs set on the ground for staff to use while smoking. He considered breaking the window with a loose oven door, until he saw Dymtrus waiting behind a birch. Arkady returned to the lobby and looked out the front window. Skates off, Taras was stepping up to the door.
725 Time had quite ceased to exist when my feet again felt a level floor, and I found myself in a place slightly higher than the rooms in the two smaller temples now so incalculably far above my head. I could not quite stand, but could kneel upright, and in the dark I shuffled and crept hither and thither at random. I soon knew that I was in a narrow passage whose walls were lined with cases of wood having glass fronts. As in that Palaeozoic and abysmal place I felt of such things as polished wood and glass I shuddered at the possible implications. The cases were apparently ranged along each side of the passage at regular intervals, and were oblong and horizontal, hideously like coffins in shape and size. When I tried to move two or three for further examination, I found that they were firmly fastened.
726 It would have been fine to go up the highway in front of Moraio's, and see all the excitement, but that would have been only asking for trouble. Time was still important. I had carefully laid out a route that avoided all congested traffic and this was what I followed. It was only a matter of minutes before I was pulling into the loading area in the back of the big store. There was a certain amount of excitement here but it was lost in the normal bustle of commerce. Here and there a knot of truck drivers or shipping foremen were exchanging views on the robbery, since robots don't gossip the normal work was going on. The men were, of course, so excited that no attention was paid to my truck when I pulled into the parking line next to the other vans. I killed the engine and settled back with a satisfied sigh.
727 Centaine's head jerked as though the words were a blow in her face, and she stared at him while thoughts tumbled and crowded in her mind. Up to that moment she had been so wrapped up in listening and questioning that she had not considered that there was no other woman in the camp, that for six days she had been entirely helpless, and that somebody had tended her, washed her and changed her, fed her and dressed her wounds. But his words, such an intimate subject spoken of in direct fashion, brought all this home to her, and as she stared at him, she felt herself begin to blush with shame. Her cheeks flamed, those long brown fingers of his must have touched her where only one other man had touched before. She felt her eyes smart, as she realized what those yellow eyes of his must have looked upon.
728 But now he was home, and he would not have to leave again until they told him. He had been appointed official emissary to the aliens, though this did not fool him for a moment. He had been given the appointment only because Jonathon had refused to see anyone else. It wasn't because anyone liked him or respected him or thought him competent enough to handle the mission. He was different from them, and that made all the difference. When they were still kids, they had seen his face on the old TV networks every night of the week. Kelly wanted someone like herself to handle the aliens. Someone who knew how to take orders, someone ultimately competent, some computer facsimile of a human being. Like herself. Someone who, when given a job, performed it in the most efficient manner in the least possible time.
729 A quick glance showed them that the sailor was right. A heavy shadow showed where a bolt had been rammed into the hole in the metal jamb. And better yet, the jamb seemed slightly warped there. Another hastily requisitioned spear was jammed into the slot. The tough ash stem bent and creaked, but slowly, groaning and protesting, the door began to rise in the air! No one spoke as Hiero and Gimp got their hands under it and continued to force it up. As it rose, previously invisible lines formed across it, and it began to buckle. It was a folding door, of a kind none of them had ever seen before; and as it rose, it bent al regular intervals and then slid back into a recess just above its own top. Fortunately, no dirt had sifted into the narrow storage space above, a tribute to its ancient builders.
730 The conversation now became general, until the bateaux were made fast to the shores of the river, while the men took their dinners, which had been prepared for them before they left Quebec. After a repose of two hours, they again started, and at nightfall arrived at St. Anne's, where they found everything ready for their reception. Although their beds were composed of the leaves of the maize or Indian corn, they were so tired that they found them very comfortable, and at daylight arose, quite refreshed and anxious to continue their route. Martin Super, who, with the two youngest boys, had been placed in a separate boat, had been very attentive to the comforts of the ladies after their debarkation; and it appeared that he had quite won the hearts of the two boys by his amusing anecdotes during the day.
731 I locked the office and let myself out again, trotting down the outside stairs. At the first turn, I glanced out through the opening in the stairwell. It's not a window in any true sense of the word, just a slot, one foot wide and maybe two feet high, intended to help with ventilation. From the second floor, I had a clear view across the alleyway to the rear of the Heveners' cottage. The back door now stood wide open. In the office to the right (which I still thought of as mine) the shutters stood open. The light was on, but the window now had the blank look of unoccupied space. Something seemed off, but I wasn't quite sure what it was. Maybe someone had gone out for a moment, leaving the backdoor open for convenience. Whatever it was, I had no intention of going over there to snoop around.
732 Green yelled with joy, then whirled to run back and tell the others. And slammed into a tree trunk. He picked himself up, swearing because he'd hurt his nose. And tripped over something and fell again. Thereafter, he seemed to be in a nightmare of frustration, of conspiracy between tree and night to catch and delay him. Where his trip up had been easy, his trip back was a continued barking of shins, bumping of nose, and tearing loose from clutching bushes and thorns. His confusion wasn't at all helped when the lightning ceased, because he'd been guiding himself by its frequent flashes. And Lady Luck, alarmed at all the hard knocks she was getting, struggled out of his shirt pocket and slipped into the forest. He called to her to come back, but she had had enough of him, for the time being, anyway.
733 Because there was so much for it to consider, the Watchful Eye now chose to retreat into its stasis state. In stasis, it shut off its senses so that it could concentrate exclusively on problems, this time the new and altered situations brought into its hermetic world by the intruders. It wanted to analyze how they would affect its overall existence and whether it would have to take any action against them. Before settling itself back into its safe haven, it sent out messages to its spies, Bogie and Timestep, instructing them to signal it if a new crisis developed. When that was done, it snuggled down into the haven, curled up into an embryonic state, and disconnected all sensory networks. Immediately it was welcomed into the calm comfort of nothingness, a place where it sometimes yearned to be forever.
734 I have never been averse to the pleasures of the table, and have had the good fortune to partake of many excellent meals; but never do I recollect having supped with more pleasure than on this night. Fryer had adopted the simple expedient of opening the oysters where they grew, without attempting to loose them from the rocks. Our copper pot held close to three gallons, and it was more than half full of oysters of an amazing size, soaking in their own juice. Some of the people had woven baskets of palm fronds, an art they had learned from the Indians of Otaheite, and in these they carried a supply of unopened oysters, prized off the rocks with a cutlass. The fruits were excellent, particularly one kind which resembled a gooseberry, but tasted sweeter; the palm hearts were like tender young cabbage, eaten raw.
735 More paintings on the staircase, she saw, far larger than anything she'd ever done, paintings of men, probably the men who'd built and lived in this massive edifice, this monument to greed and exploitation: she already hated its owner who lived so well, so opulently, so publicly proclaiming that he was better than everyone else while he built up his wealth and exploited the ordinary workers. At the top of the staircase was a huge oil portrait of the Emperor Franz Josef himself, the last of his wretched fine, who'd died just a few years before the even more hated Romanovs. The butler, this worker for the evil one, turned right, leading them down a wide hall into a doorless room. Three people were there, a man and two women, better dressed than the butler, all working away at computers.
736 The office was a shambles; piles of untidily heaped papers that would in all probability never be sorted and filed, a mountain of rubber boots in the corner, discarded clothing. If he had been in charge of operations the place would never have been allowed to get into this state. Damn it, he had been relegated to the status of office boy. Stop here and answer the phone, Aylott, radio us if anything important crops up. Your job is to hold the fort. The super made it sound important, like telling a child he was responsible for picking up his scattered toys; do your best and we'll check it over when we get back. You're not getting the chance to skive on outside operations. Not that Aylott particularly wanted to be out there with every chance of a rattler jumping at you out of the undergrowth.
737 And Dom had a reason of his own to feel good about the day. This morning, no one had looked warily at him or treated him with deference because of his telekinetic power. At first he was baffled by their quick adjustment to his new status. Then he realized what must be going through their minds: Since they had shared his experiences of the summer before last, it was logical that they would also share his strange power sooner or later. They must believe their own development of paranormal abilities was merely lagging behind his. Eventually, if they did not acquire the power, they might build the emotional, intellectual, and psychological walls between them and him that would isolate him, as he feared. But for the moment, anyway, they were acting as if no gulf separated them from him, and he was grateful.
738 There were no answers, none. All that was within the power of mind and speech was to become more precise in how the questions were put. John had asked her: Do fairies really exist? And there wasn't any answer to that. So he tried harder, and the question got more circumstantial and tentative, and at the same time more precise and exact; and still there were no answers, only the fuller and fuller form of the question, evolving as Auberon had described to her all life evolving, reaching out limbs and inventing organs, reticulating joints, doing and being in more and more complex yet more and more compact and individuated ways, until the question, perfectly asked, understood its own answerlessness. And then there was an end to that. The last edition, and John died still waiting for his answer.
739 I couldn't relax. It was over, but my nerves just wouldn't settle. I prowled up the hail to the front door, peeked outside. Then I checked the small front room to the right like there might be a forgotten blonde cached in there. I was fresh out. I trudged back to the deluxe coffin I call an office, waved at Eleanor on the wall, then crossed the hall to the Dead Man's room. That takes up most of the left side of the house. It contains not only himself but our library and treasury and everything we particularly value Nothing for me there. I glanced up the stairs without going up, went into the kitchen, and got a mug of apple juice. Then I did the whole route over, taking a little longer at the door to see if my place had become a dwarfish tourist attraction. I didn't see any watchers. Time dragged.
740 He fell back into himself with a thud, exactly as one fell back into one's seat after taking a car over a bad bump at a high speed. To his horror, he realized he was still tracking the man below with the Garand, as if some stubborn alligator deep in his brain refused to let go of the idea that the man in the brown coat was prey. Worse, he couldn't seem to make his finger relax on the rifle's trigger. There was even an awful second or two when he thought he was actually still squeezing, inexorably eating up those last few ounces between him and the greatest mistake of his life. He later came to accept that that at least had been an illusion, something akin to the feeling you get of rolling backward in your stopped car when you glimpse a slowly moving car beside you, out of the corner of your eye.
741 There was part of a small stack of dry fodder standing not far from the house, and under the wall a pile of wood for firing. With these Vanderdecken resolved upon setting fire to the house, and thus, if he did not gain his relic, he would at least obtain ample revenge, he brought several armfuls of fodder and laid them at the door of the house, and upon that he piled the faggots and logs of wood, until the door was quite concealed by them. He then procured a light from the steel, flint, and tinder which every Dutchman carries in his pocket, and very soon he had fanned the pile into a flame. The smoke ascended in columns up to the rafters of the roof, while the fire raged below. The door was ignited, and was adding to the fury of the flames, and Philip shouted with joy at the success of his attempt.
742 The creature had leapt on to the top of his car. Its head was thrown back in a kind of ecstasy, its erection plainer than ever, the eye in its huge head glinting. With a final swoop to its voice, which took the whistle out of human hearing, it bent upon the car, smashing the windshield and curling its mouthed hands upon the roof. It then proceeded to tear the steel back like so much paper, its body twitching with glee, its head jerking about. Once the roof was torn up, it leapt on to the highway and threw the metal into the air. It turned in the sky and smashed down on the desert floor. Davidson briefly wondered what he could possibly put on the insurance form. Now the creature was tearing the vehicle apart. The doors were scattered. The engine was ripped out. The wheels slashed and wrenched off the axles.
743 The women are small, and delicately formed, in proportion to the men; they are not shut up, but go where they please; their dress is becoming; they braid the hair with flowers, and they are much fairer than would be supposed. Those who keep much within doors are nearly as white as Europeans. They have a singular custom of putting a patch of white chunam on the cheek bone, something in opposition to the black patches which used formerly to be worn by our belles; and it is intended to show how near they approach to white. Indeed, when the men of the lower class, who are exposed all day to the sun, remove their garments, it is singular to witness how many shades lighter they are in that part of their bodies which is covered up. Usually, the men have but one wife, but occasionally there are supernumeraries.
744 They went forward in single file. The walls of the cleft narrowed where the searchers walked, hemming them in. The warmth of the sun turned to dank, cool shadow, and the light faded. Soon overhangs and projections formed a ceiling that shut them away entirely. That there was any light at all was due solely to the fact that the defile was so rife with fissures that small amounts of illumination penetrated at virtually every turn. Their eyes adjusted to the gloom, and they were able to continue. The birds, they realized, were able to maneuver easily at the higher elevations, where the walls broadened. They found white feathers and bits of old grass and twigs that might have been carried in for nests. The nests, of course, would be farther on, where there was better light and air. The company pressed ahead.
745 At present, they give much more comfort than they receive, and even Jack cannot explain why this should be so. The creatures surrounding him are not wasps, hummingbirds, or cats, but they are bees, honeybees, and ordinarily he would be frightened to be caught in a swarm of bees. Especially if they appeared to be members of a sort of master bee race, superbees, larger than any he has seen before, their golds more golden, their blacks vibrantly black. Yet Jack is not frightened. If they were going to sting him, they would already have done it. And from the first, he understood that they meant him no harm. The touch of their many bodies is surpassingly smooth and soft; their massed buzzing is low and harmonious, as peaceable as a Protestant hymn. After the first few seconds, Jack simply lets it happen.
746 Nowhere could he find any evidence of previous visits. He killed a mountain goat and skinned it out, taking what meat he wanted. Most of all, he wanted the hide, for his vest was sadly worn from the rough treatment, and the pelage of the mountain goat is the softest and warmest of any animal in the north country. When he had the meat and the hide, he went to the farthest end of the hanging valley, around a small bend that offered complete concealment. There he built a fire and roasted some of the meat. Sitting by the fire, he studied his surroundings. He must find a place in which to shelter himself, but he must also find an escape route if one existed. Studying the sides of the valley, heavily forested, he decided he might climb through the forest, pulling himself tree by tree up the forbidding cliff.
747 A haunting entity is sort of a misguided and confused psychic bloodhound. Although we may not see it, we leave a psychic impression wherever we have been. Our homes and work places hold the strongest emanations, because that is where we spend our time. Generally, the psychic impressions fade or are so weak that they are imperceptible. However, strong emotions leave a deeper, lasting mark. More importantly, these intense emotions can leave portions of the soul of the once living locked into those brief snatches of a life. The haunt will reenact that fragment of a memory endlessly, often because there is something important that needs to be completed (although just what that thing is, may not be part of the memory fragment that the entity is made from), or perhaps, it doesn't realize that it is dead.
748 I, Enoch, cardinal, write this unofficial memo to myself, well knowing that it cannot be made a part of the official record, since the incident I write of was not placed in the official record, purposely not placed in the official record. I write this memo as a warning to myself, principally to myself, although as well to others to whom sometime I may pass it on, although at the present moment I have no intention of sharing it with anyone at all. I do not write it through any fear of forgetfulness (for I am not forgetful; over many centuries, I have not been forgetful), but because I wish to get down in words my feelings on the matter, my emotions (so far as I have emotions) and my fear (especially my fear and apprehension) before time has had the chance to dull or temper these impressions.
749 When I had just about abandoned hope of getting any useful information out of the Master he solved the problem for me himself. His work, whatever it was, took place in a squat pyramid about half a mile from the one in which he lived. I had to drive him there in the carriage and stay in the communal place with the other slaves until he was ready to return. This would be after two periods (just over five human hours), and I used the time, as the other slaves did, to rest and, if possible, sleep. One learned early in one's life in the City the overwhelming importance of conserving energy to the maximum degree possible. There were couches provided in this communal place. They were hard, and there were not enough to go round, but it was a luxury far from being universal, and I was grateful for it.
750 A crumpled piece of plastic lay clutched in a spasmodically Frozen hand. Flinx pried it from his grasp, bending open the lifeless but still stubborn fingers. Above him lights began to come on as the cautious inhabitants of the alleyway decided it was safe to trust their precious selves to the quiet uncertainty of the night. Prudence had been seized and now curiosity had taken over. It was time for him to leave. Now that the locals had bestirred themselves and the action had been resolved the local constabulary would be arriving. Although they would take their time, they would get here none the less. It would not do to be found standing over three lifeless bodies, all of them blatantly out world. Especially when one of them had registered a hundred credits to his account only this afternoon.
751 He was shocked beyond words when the boy also drew a knife, a very valuable knife indeed, and stepped in front of him. Beside him, Etta gasped and then gave a snort of amusement. A glance at her showed a wild proud smile dawning on her face. It was perhaps the most frightening sight Kennit had ever seen. Well he knew that she enjoyed cutting up men. At least she was on his side this time. He heard splashing and the sloppy sounds of boots running through the mire as his crew formed up behind him. Only four men had come ashore with him. Some part of his mind registered that Vivacia was shouting something; she saw what was going on, but there was nothing his ship could do for him now. By the time she put out another boat and sent more men ashore, it would be over. He stood his ground and waited.
752 Meanwhile I learned the essence of her situation. Dorian, a beautiful young woman just coming out of her teens, had found employment with a Jupiter government office, but instead of routine office work, she had found herself on assignment to seduce a diplomat from Ganymede. She was offered such a bonus for success that she couldn't refuse. So she had done it. The man had been easy to seduce; she had simply moved in with him and served as his sexual plaything. Heedless of consequences, she soon found herself pregnant. She thought that would end the affair, but it didn't; the man was pleased to have his virility demonstrated and kept her with him through the birth of the baby. There was no question of marriage; he wasn't interested, and neither was she. They were a satisfied, unofficial family.
753 Two Browns were on the battlements, carefully watching the empty roofs across the avenue. Then one of the Browns glanced around and saw the grapples behind them and he began to point in alarm. His comrade opened his mouth to shout a warning when the first ninja made the embrasure and, with a whipping snap of his wrist, sent a barbed shuriken whirling into this samurai's face and mouth, hideously strangling the shout, and hurled himself forward at the other samurai, his outstretched hand now a lethal weapon, the thumb and forefinger extended, and he stabbed for the jugular. The impact paralyzed the samurai, another vicious blow broke his neck with a dry crack, and the ninja jumped at the first agonized samurai, who was clawing at the barbs embedded deeply in his mouth and face, the poison already working.
754 An hour later we did rest. There was an open place with a large triangular garden pool, to one side of which trees something like weeping willows, only on a massive scale, drooped their branches down to the ground beside the pool, screening us, once we were inside their shelter, from the view of anyone who passed. Though in fact we had seen no one on the streets or ramps for some time now, and there was no sign of a Master in or near the pool. We stretched out under the ropy fronds that, although there was no wind or breeze in the City, from time to time brushed lightly against us. The ground pulled us down still, but it was bliss not to fight it, to lie flat and motionless. I would have liked to clear the inside of my mask of sweat, but even that discomfort was no more than a minor irritant.
755 She was panting through her open mouth, the lips pulled back from the pearl teeth, and her thighs gripped him convulsively as she rocked hard against him. He wanted to lie back and embrace her. He shook his head but it would not clear. She began to shudder. 'Kill you,' she choked. 'Kill you.' And with an effort she stopped her eyes from closing. She gripped the dagger, knuckles as white as bone, and she moaned a little as she drove the blade point first towards his throat. Her pelvis ground against him in waves and he looked up to see that her eyes were wet. He saw dimly the terrible flash of light along the moving blade and wondered that he still felt the power of her groin moving against him. He felt suffocated by a great heat and instinctively he put up his hand. As Nirren did; vainly, he thought.
756 The powerful rays of the sun, assisted by the increasing wind, now rolled away the fog from around the vessels, which had a perfect view of each other. They were distant about two miles, and the blue water was strongly rippled by the breeze which had sprung up. The lugger continued her course on a wind, while the cutter bore down towards her, with all the sail that she could throw out. The fog continued to clear away, until there was an open space of about three or four miles in diameter. But it still remained folded up in deep masses, forming a wall on every side, which obscured the horizon from their sight. It appeared as if nature had gratuitously cleared away a sufficient portion of the mist, and had thus arranged a little amphitheatre for the approaching combat between the two vessels.
757 The law of averages Sos had read about indicated that it would be a couple of weeks before they encountered any really able warrior. That afternoon, notwithstanding, they met two men with swords, Tor and Tyl. The first was swarthy and greatbearded, the second slim and cleanshaven. Sworders often shaved, as did daggers; it was an unofficial mark of their specialty, since it subtly hinted their skill with the blade. Sos had tried to shave with his sword once and had sliced his face severely; after that he stuck to the shears and did not try for closeness. There were electric razors in the cabins, though few men condescended to use them. He had never understood why it should be considered degrading to use the crazies' razors, while all right to eat their food, but that was the way convention had it.
758 Suppose, however, that God decided that the universe should finish up in a state of high order but that it didn't matter what state it started in. At early times the universe would probably be in a disordered state. This would mean that disorder would decrease with time. You would see broken cups gathering themselves together and jumping back onto the table. However, any human beings who were observing the cups would be living in a universe in which disorder decreased with time. I shall argue that such beings would have a psychological arrow of time that was backward. That is, they would remember events in the future, and not remember events in their past. When the cup was broken, they would remember it being on the table, but when it was on the table, they would not remember it being on the floor.
759 A party or parties unknown had neatly warped the ship construction program to their own ends. Undoubtedly they had started the program for the giant transport, that would have to be checked later. And once the program was underway, it had been guided with a skill that bordered on genius. Orders were originated in many places, passed on, changed and shuffled. I painfully traced each one to its source. Many times the source was a forgery. Some changes seemed to be unexplainable, until I noticed the officers in question had a temporary secretary while their normal assistants were ill. All the girls had had food poisoning, a regular epidemic it seemed. Each of them in turn had been replaced by the same girl. She stayed just long enough in each position to see that the battleship plan moved forward one more notch.
760 Unfortunately there is a lot of superstition associated with mediums, clairvoyants and healers. Betty has done a great deal of good for a very large number of people, including children with terminal illnesses. Many of the people who have been to see her, have found a great deal of peace and inner healing which seems to be lost from our society today. Whatever the British Medical Association would like to say about alternative medicine, healing does, in fact, work. The doctor is able to use his skills to cure a person, but seems to have lost the ability to 'heal'. In the same way that the cuts on our fingers are healed in the main without the intervention of medicine, our bodies are capable of tremendous healing given the necessary energy stimulus. Healers like Betty are invaluable in that healing process.
761 He studied the cover behind the second clearing, decided that it too wasn't occupied, and turned to approach the third, when an unnatural ripple among the trees attracted his attention back toward the second clearing. His nerve ends quickened. Squinting from a flash of lightning, he saw a dark nylon sheet supported at head level like a makeshift tent, its sides and back tilted halfway to the ground to prevent rain from slanting under it. Its four ends were tied to the base of trees, the ropes tugged viciously by the wind. A tall upright stick held up its flapping middle. Of course. A spotter wouldn't have wanted the trouble of carrying even a compact tent up here. But in case of bad weather, a nylon sheet would have taken little room in a knapsack. Not as comfortable as a tent, but comfort wasn't the point.
762 So, if mankind were to continue in other than the present barbarism, a new path must be found, a new civilization based on some other method than technology. In sleepless nights he had tried to imagine that other method, that other path, and there had been no way to know. It was beyond his mental capability to imagine. The primordial ancestor who had chipped a rock to fashion the first crude tool could not have dreamed of the kind of tools that his descendants would bring about, based on the concept implicit in the first stone with a contrived cutting edge. And so it was in the present day. Already mankind, unnoticed, might have made that first faltering step toward the path that it would follow. If it had not, the answer, or many different answers, might be in the data banks of Thunder Butte.
763 They scrambled briskly up the path from the long crescent of pale blue sand that was the beach to the top of the bluff, and then walked more slowly down the road, past the abandoned holiday cabins toward Morrissey's place. Once this had been Argoview Dunes, a bustling shoreside community, but that was long ago. Morrissey in these latter days would have preferred to live in some wilder terrain where the hand of man had not weighed so heavily on the natural landscape, but he dared not risk it. Medea, even after ten centuries of colonization, still was a world of sudden perils. The unconquered places had gone unconquered for good reason; and, living on alone since the evacuation, he needed to keep close to some settlement with its stores of food and materiel. He could not afford the luxury of the picturesque.
764 The three men had time to leap to the far side, clinging to the nearest saplings and bushes, but the slide, once it started, picked up momentum in an awesome, inexorable cataract of moving mud, heading right at the rest of the hunting party. Horrified, Vagrian kept his wits, saw that there was one chance to protect himself and his group. The slide was heading toward a granite outcropping. If there was only a way to push the slide to the opposite side of that, instead of over it, the mud would head harmlessly into the valley below. With every ounce of body language, he valiantly pushed the bulging, rippling head of the slide, and when it actually did pass on the far side of the rock, he fell to his knees, gripping his head against the most appalling, blinding headache he'd ever experienced.
765 He stopped at the table just behind that one and spoke quietly to another woman. She stood and removed one of the gold earrings from his ear. Then he went from table to table, and let sometimes men, but mostly women take the last of his decoration from his body. Which probably explained why the earrings were the least expensive, least authentic pieces he'd been wearing. Except for the last earrings. A medium sized jade ball set in each earlobe, but it was the figurines that dangled beneath, moving as his head moved, swaying as he walked, that made the earrings special. Each figure was nearly three inches high, brushing his shoulders like the hair he did not have. As he got closer, you could see the green stone was intricately carved into one of those squat deities the Aztecs were so fond of.
766 Amphibians? Although every text agrees that the sauropods, the family to which diplodocus belonged, were amphibians, the exact significance of this description is uncertain. Some experts like G. Edward Lewis argue that animals as enormous as brontosaurus and diplodocus could not have supported their weight on dry land, considering their crude joints; they must have lived in swamps and lagoons where water buoyed them up. Others point out that the legs, awkward though they were, did persist through millions upon millions of years, whereas unused appendages, like the human tail, atrophied and vanished. Of seventeen illustrations I was able to find of diplodocus, all showed her on land, but Lewis explains that this cannot be accepted as evidence; the artists merely wished to display her total conformation.
767 After their utilitarian dinner, Miles had Bel conduct him back through the customs checkpoints to the hostel where the impounded ships' crews were housed. These digs were notably less luxurious and more crowded than the ones devoted to the paying galactic passengers, and the edgy crews had been stuck in them for days with nothing but the holovid and each other for entertainment. Miles was instantly pounced upon by assorted senior officers, both from the two Toscane Corporation ships and the two independents caught up in this fracas, demanding to know how soon he was going to obtain their release. He cut through the hubbub to request interviews with the medtechs assigned to the four ships, and a quiet room to conduct them in. Some shuffling produced, at length, a back office and a quartet of nervous Komarrans.
768 Polly had kept the newspaper articles. They weren't accurate, not in the detail, because the writer told... stories, not what was actually happening. They were like paintings, when you had been there and had seen the real thing. But it was true about the march on the castle, with Wazzer on a white horse in front, carrying the flag. And it was true about people coming out of their houses and joining the march, so that what arrived at the gates was not an army but a sort of disciplined mob, shouting and cheering. And it was true that the guards had taken one look at it and had seriously reconsidered their future, and that the gates had swung open even before the horse had clattered on to the drawbridge. There was no fighting, no fighting at all. The shoe had dropped. The country had breathed out.
769 He barely had time to compensate before the rocks were on him. He gave the control column a precisely measured jerk, just enough to raise the plane's nose, just enough so the tips of the propeller whipped over the ridge, missing the crest by centimeters. He heard the sudden crunch of metal as the aluminum floats smashed into the rocks and tore free of the fuselage. The Beaver shot into the air, as graceful as a soaring hawk released from its tether. Unburdened by the weight of the bulky floats, which lay smashed against the rocks, and with the drag on the aircraft decreased by nearly half, the ancient plane became more maneuverable and gained another thirty knots in airspeed. She responded to Pitt's commands instantly, without a trace of sluggishness as she chewed the air, fighting for altitude.
770 Clumsily, he slid down off the mare's back. His wounded leg buckled under him, and he had to swallow a scream. This is going to be agony. The arrow had to come out, though, and nothing good could come of waiting. Jon curled his hand around the fletching, took a deep breath, and shoved the arrow forward. He grunted, then cursed. It hurt so much he had to stop. I am bleeding like a butchered pig, he thought, but there was nothing to be done for it until the arrow was out. He grimaced and tried again... and soon stopped again, trembling. Once more. This time he screamed, but when he was done the arrowhead was poking through the front of his thigh. Jon pushed back his bloody breeches to get a better grip, grimaced, and slowly drew the shaft through his leg. How he got through that without fainting he never knew.
771 The slaves obediently pressed their weight against the timber spokes of the two windlasses and they creaked and the chains tightened. Their naked feet slipped in the dirt and they pressed ever more tightly against the heavy, obdurate bars. Now their bodies humped with pain, clenching themselves against the spokes. Their blind eyes were fixed on nothing. The blood vessels in their necks and legs and arms began to distend until I feared they might burst open through the tortured flesh; the agonised miscles of their straining knotted bodies, like swollen leather, seemed to fill with pain as if pain were a fluid; their flesh seemed to fuse with the wood of the bars; the backs of their garments discoloured with a scarlet sweat. Men had broken their own bones on the timber spokes of the Sardar windlasses.
772 The path rounded a curve in the wall, and when they passed around it, they were greeted with a sight that made them all gasp. Across the cavern, a mighty waterfall spilled over a huge outcropping of stone. From fully three hundred feet above where they stood, it poured into the cavern, crashing down the stone face of the opposite wall to disappear into the darkness below. It filled the cavern with reverberations that made it impossible to hear it striking bottom, confounding any attempt to judge the fall's height. Throughout the cascade luminous colors danced, aglow with an inner light. Reds, golds, greens, blues, and yellows played among the white foam, falling along the wall, blazing with brief flashes of intense luminosity where the water struck the wall, painting a fairy picture in the darkness.
773 He dived clumsily into the water, feeling the living layer he landed upon, and kicked violently with his feet. He could not submerge, this time; the pack had been constructed to float, the tent had trapped a volume of air and both arms were encumbered. Still the tiny devils danced, upon the burden and clawed over his lips and nose, finding ready anchorage there. He screwed his eyes shut and continued kicking, hoping he was going in the right direction, while things scrambled through his hair and bit at his ears and tried to crawl inside earholes and nostrils. He heard Stupid's harsh cry, and knew that the bird had flown to meet him and been routed; at least he could stay clear by flying. Sos kept his teeth clenched, sucking air through them to prevent the attackers from entering there, too.
774 Without moving, from his knowledge of the building, he made his plan. The wing was connected with the western end of the museum by a doorway, never used, and extended westward toward the Washington Monument. The ship lay nearest the southern wall, and Gnut stood out in front of it, not far from the northeast corner and at the opposite end of the room from the entrance of the building and the passageway leading to the laboratory. By retracing his steps he would come out on the floor at the point farthest removed from the robot. This was just what he wanted, for on the other side of the entrance, on a low platform, stood a paneled table containing the lecture apparatus, and this table was the only object in the room which afforded a place for him to lie concealed while watching what might go on.
775 They talk of nothing. It's just as well. Charlie does not remember much about the trip to Brazil, does not remember anything of what he's done in the three days since getting back. No problem, for she seems to want to talk only of tonight. They drive to the Castle, and he tells her its history. He feels an irony about it as he explains. She, after all, is the reason he knows the history. A few years from now she will be part of a theater company that revives the Castle as a public amphitheater. But now it is falling into ruin, a monument to the old WPA, a great castle with turrets and benches made of native stone. It is on the property of the state mental hospital, and so hardly anyone knows it's there. They are alone as they leave the car and walk up the crumbling steps to the flagstone stage.
776 She wore a fine white under tunic fixed along the sleeves with blue enamel clasps, and over it a sleeveless gown so generous in length it was bunched up over her girdle of woven gold threads. Apart from the wide bands of patterned embroidery at her neck, and hem, and in broad stripes down the front, I could tell from the narrowing of Lenia's watery eyes we were admiring a quality cloth. My goddess had wire hoops threaded with tiny glass beads in each neat little ear, a couple of chain necklaces, three bracelets on her left arm, four on her right, and various finger rings in the form of knots, serpents or birds with long crossed beaks. We could have sold her girlish finery for more than I earned last year. It was best not to consider how much a brothel keeper might pay us for the pretty wench.
777 The Divvytown survivors had gathered into a crowd before either gig touched the shore. They stood like ragged, silent ghosts, waiting for the pirates to land. Their silence seemed ominous to Kennit, as did the way he felt every pair of eyes follow him. The boat nudged suddenly into the mucky shoreline. He sat still, his hands gripping his crutch as the crew jumped out and dragged the boat further up. He did not like this one bit. The shining muck of the beach was black, with a thin oily overlay of greenish algae. His crutch and his peg were bound to sink into the muck as soon as he got out of the boat. He was going to look very awkward. Worse, he would be vulnerable if the crowd decided to rush him. He remained seated, staring over the crowd and waiting for some definite sign of their temperament.
778 The figure bent once more. There was now a louder, digging noise. After a few minutes, there was a sharp rap. The figure held up a disk of skullbone, examined it, then placed it in the basket beside the scalp. Next, he moved the knife down the mummy until it reached the clenched, withered fists. He gently pulled aside the rotted tatters of buffalo hide from the hands, caressing them in his own. Then he worked the knife between the fingers, methodically prying them loose and breaking them off one at a time. Cupping each finger, he cut off the whorl of fingerprint and placed the desiccated chips of flesh into the basket. Then the figure moved down to the toes, breaking them off the body like breadsticks and quickly carving off the toe prints. Small showers of dust rained onto the cave floor.
779 These suffered a great deal, and broke their ranks; but I wheeled round and surrounded the fellows with my Shoshones, who did not even use their rifles, the lance and tomahawk performing their deadly work in silence, and with such a despatch, that in ten minutes but few of the miserable islanders lived to complain of their wounds. My Mexicans, having rallied, seized upon Fonseca and destroyed many of the pirates in their beastly state of intoxication. Only a few attempted to fight, the greater number staggering towards the beach to seek shelter in their boats. But the Apaches had already performed their duty; the smallest boats they had dragged on shore, the largest they had scuttled and sunk. Charging upon the miserable fugitives, they transfixed them with their spears, and our victory was complete.
780 There was no pain, surprisingly no pain but it made him dizzy to see Sambuca hold up the bloody chunk of his cheek and, grinning, open his mouth and take a bite. The blood ran down Sambuca's chin as he chewed, grinning all the while. Bradley's head was spinning now. He was nauseated and terrified and revolted, and he felt a pain at his chest. He looked down to see a young boy of eight or nine cutting flesh from his underarm with a pocket knife. And a woman raced forward, screaming for the others to get out of the way, and she hacked a slice from the back of his forearm. And then the whole crowd was upon him, and the knives were everywhere, and they were cutting and yelling and cutting and yelling and he saw one knife move toward his eyes, and felt his trousers tugged down, and he knew nothing more.
781 For years he had wanted to get his finger into the lumber industry, which he considered to be antiquated in its equipment, judged by aircraft standards. Moreover, although his business was doing well, there was little doubt that rockets and guided missiles would replace the manned aircraft in the future to a large degree. Guided missiles were not well suited to hydraulic units, and even piloted aeroplanes were now flying at such altitudes that special precautions, with increased complexity, had to be taken to prevent the hydraulic fluid boiling in the pipes. He had already switched a considerable proportion of his manufacturing capacity to the automotive industry; the lumber business was another one. As a hydraulic engineer, he was turning his attention more and more to things that stayed on the ground.
782 Sempronius had been permitted earlier in the evening to feed the slave Tuka, as Callisthenes had Tela. Tuka had knelt before him, clad only in a slave strip and belt of rolled cloth, her wrists crossed and bound behind her back, fastened closely to her crossed, bound ankles. He had put food in her mouth, and she must eat. But, as Tuka understood now, this had not been to torture him. Rather, if anything, it had been to bring him into her proximity to excite him, to whet his appetite, to give him a foretaste of the delights which might, if he wished, await him. And, too, from the woman's point of view, she so helpless, so close to him, so much at his mercy, unable to defend herself, or even to feed herself, dependent on him for her very food, this produced a sense of distinct unease, and arousal.
783 For one fantastic moment I flashed into a dream where I took Sosia Camillina into my life. I flashed back. Only a fool tries to step across the barriers of rank in that way. A man may buy himself into the middle class, or have the gold ring donated to him for services to the Emperor (especially if the services are of a dubious kind), but so long as her father and her uncle knew what they were about and her uncle must, he was a millionaire then even with that queer problem of having no mother to name, Sosia Camillina would be disposed of in some way to enhance her own position and their family bank account. Our two lives could never converge. At heart she understood, for despite her brave attempt she stared at her toes in their knotted gold sandals, biting her lip but accepting what I said.
784 Raj nodded sickly. There was never enough money in the central government Fisc to pay the foot soldiers directly, not and keep the more important cavalry units supplied... not to mention the mercenaries from outside the Civil Government, who wanted good hard cash in sound coin, no bank drafts please. Revenue melted on the way from the Counties to the capital, and on the way back out for disbursements; instead, the infantrymen were each assigned a farm. Worked by tenants, so that they had time to drill, although many ended up spending more time helping in the fields than marching. If the unit was transferred, the soldiers were supposed to be settled into equivalent holdings immediately. Even when it worked the way it was supposed to morale dropped hideously every time an infantry regiment moved.
785 Bean tried to imagine them lining up outside a charity kitchen. Or scrounging for candy wrappers to lick. What a joke. They had never missed a meal in their lives. Bean wanted to punch them all so hard in the stomach that they would puke up everything they ate that day. Let them feel some pain there in their gut, that gnawing hunger. And then let them feel it again the next day, and the next hour, morning and night, waking and sleeping, the constant weakness fluttering just inside your throat, the faintness behind your eyes, the headache, the dizziness, the swelling of your joints, the distension of your belly, the thinning of your muscles until you barely have strength to stand. These children had never looked death in the face and then chosen to live anyway. They were confident. They were unwary.
786 I bounced off the ropes and hit the canvas on my knees. Shock waves pulsed from my jaw to my brain; I caught a jiggly picture of the referee restraining Blanchard, pointing to a neutral corner. I got up on one knee and grabbed the bottom rope, then lost my balance and flopped on my stomach. Blanchard had reached a neutral turnbuckle, and being prone took the jiggle out of my vision. I sucked in deep breaths; the new air eased the crackling feeling in my head. The ref came back and started counting, and at six I tried my legs. My knees buckled a little, but I was able to stand steady. Blanchard was blowing glove kisses to the fans, and I began hyperventilating so hard that my mouthpiece almost popped out. At eight the referee wiped my gloves on his shirt and gave Blanchard the signal to fight.
787 They have finished counting the votes by this time, surely. An immense throng has assembled in the Square of St. Peter's. The sunlight gleams off hundreds if not thousands of steel jacketed crania. This must be a wonderful day for the robot population of Rome. But most of those in the piazza are creatures of flesh and blood: old women in black, gaunt young pickpockets, boys with puppies, plump vendors of sausages, and an assortment of poets, philosophers, generals, legislators, tourists and fishermen. How has the tally gone? We will have our answer shortly. If no candidate has had a majority, they will mix the ballots with wet straws before casting them into the chapel stove, and black smoke will billow from the chimney. But if a pope has been elected, the straw will be dry, the smoke will be white.
788 Something was bothering her. It turned out to be difficult just to walk out of the Schloss onto the open rear lawn, though she could plainly see the helicopter with its blinking lights and turning rotor. She took a step or started to, her foot not wanting to make the move out and downward onto the granite steps, her blue eyes screwed up, because the trees east and west of the Schloss were lit so brightly by the lights on the far side of the house, with the shadow stretching out to the helicopter like a black finger, and maybe the thing that discomforted her was the deathlike image before her. Then she shook her head, disposing of the thought as some undignified superstition. She yanked at her two hostages and made her way down the six steps to the grass, then outward toward the waiting aircraft.
789 And then I made a discovery that seemed to contradict all logic. By adding a whole new incident, it became possible to shorten it. Somehow, by adding to it, I could rearrange things into a much tighter pattern, with less transition. It worked, too, without hurting the story, and I added another bit of technical information to my writing skills. Stories get too long because of inexcusable padding (something that tends to destroy not only the story but also the writer who falls into that trap) or because of faulty organization. Previously, I'd thought about a story's organization from the view of maintaining interest, but never as a means of keeping it within reasonable grounds. It was information I found invaluable in later years, both for rewriting difficult parts of my stories and for editorial work.
790 Julia sat out in the darkness of the stables, enjoying the warm comfort that the horses brought. She walked down the stalls and patted their soft muzzles, speaking softly to each one. She paused at the enormous gelding her father's friend had brought that woman on. It was strange to use the word. Her father. How many times had Clodia told her about the brave man who had been sent away from the city by a consul's whim? She had made her own pictures of him, telling herself he was held by the bonds of duty and could not return for her. Clodia always said he would come back in the end and everything would be all right, but now that he was there, Julia found him more than a little frightening. As soon as he had put his foot in the dust of the yard, everything had changed and the house had a new master.
791 Have you ever been told something which made no sense to you? Perhaps you dismissed it or forgot it because you had no place to store the information. That's their situation; Ralph and Piggy are stumbling through a jungle of the mind, trying to understand ideas that are not clear to them and make no sense in terms of what they know of civilized man. Neither of them can see or accept what Simon comes to know on the mountain. Piggy believes that other people might have badness in them but that he does not, even though he participated in the murder. Ralph is baffled, unable to understand why common sense doesn't work on the island. It doesn't work because man is partly irrational; without civilization to guide him, man reverts to a primitive nature. This reasoning is too difficult for Ralph to comprehend.
792 Austin knew a race boat's hull was tougher than nails, but the rudders and the connecting tie bar were exposed. If the bar had been bent, the rudders could have been locked in place. Well, so what? Even if the steering were locked, all the crew had to do was shut down the engines. And if the throttle man couldn't do it, the racer could use the kill switch activated by an arm cord. The boat had struck the whale a glancing blow, but the impact still would have been severe, even worse when it slammed down onto the water. It would have been like hitting cement. Even with helmets and restraining harnesses, Ali's team might have been shaken up, at the very least, or, worse, incapacitated. He looked back at the yacht and saw the young faces lining the decks. Good God! Kids. The yacht was full of kids.
793 When he freed my hands of the strap I sank to my knees on the tiles under the ring. I was half in shock. I knew he had not struck me with his full strength and, indeed, I had been struck only five times. It had been little or nothing as beatings go. Had I truly stolen a pastry, or done something displeasing, I would doubtless have been much more seriously beaten. The beating had been little more than informative in nature, not even really admonitory. Still I had felt it keenly. I had now felt the Gorean slave whip. No woman who has felt it ever forgets it. If I had had any doubts about the wisdom of being pleasing to masters these blows, few and light though they might have been, would have dispelled them. The beating had been little or nothing. Still, and I knew it, I had been under the whip.
794 The Husgen was frozen. Again. The silth had scores of refugee workers out keeping the ice from choking the pipes to the powerhouse. It was a winter worse than the previous two, and each of those had set new records for inflicting misery. There were fewer storms this year, and less snow, but the wind was as fierce as ever, and its claws of cold were sharper than ever. The ice wind found its way even into the heart of the fortress, mocking the roaring fires burning in every fireplace. The edge of the forest, a third mile beyond the bounds of the tilled ground, had retreated two hundred yards last summer. Deadwood had been gathered from miles around. Firewood clogged every cranny of the fortress. And still Braydic shivered when she ran calculations of consumption against time left to withstand.
795 Thus I spent the next five years as the personal servant and confidante of the most powerful man in Poland, and in the process learned much about the politics of this new and somewhat barbarous land. I learned who wanted what and for what reason, who hated who for no understandable reason at all, and, sometimes quite literally, where all the bodies were buried. As opposed to the feuding nobles of England, Italy, or even France, Polish nobles were less likely to go to war with one another than to resort to poison, a trap, or a knife in the dark. Perhaps this was because the Polish fighting man was often a member of a large, extended family and was ever ashamed to kill his own cousins, who might be on the opposing side. Family loyalty often took precedence with them over mere oaths of fealty.
796 Plyne's eyes focused on him and took him in. Three years, and aside from the music he made, his presence at the Hut meant nothing. It was almost as though he wasn't there and the piano was playing all by itself. Regardless of the action at the tables or the bar, the piano man was out of it, not even an observer. He had his back turned and his eyes on the keyboard, content to draw his pauper's wages and wear pauper's rags. A gutless wonder, Plyne decided, fascinated with this living example of absolute neutrality. Even the smile was something neutral. It was never aimed at a woman. It was aimed very far out there beyond all tangible targets, really far out there beyond the leftfield bleachers. So where does that take it? Plyne asked himself. And of course there was no answer, not even the slightest clue.
797 The air blew with such force that it pressed the spacesuit fabric against the skin wherever it struck the body fully. Everson switched on his lamp. The light was virtually entirely absorbed by the blowing sand, reaching no more than two or three meters. Two sudden gusts in rapid succession threw Everson down. He didn't dare try to stand up again. Instead he crawled along on his knees. It seemed to him that the ground was vibrating under his hands. Weiss crawled next to him. The telepath had vanished, evidently blown some distance away by the gusts of wind. A tent came flying through the air, hitting Everson's helmet and almost ripping it away from his head. A stabbing pain bored into his neck. Any further movement would be useless. He pressed himself flat into the sand and dug for a handhold.
798 So you have to wield your hose like a sculptor, dancing around squirting the water with great precision, topping up the dam here, minimizing its height there, all the while taking into account the slope of the ground, the ability of the subsoil to bear the weight of the new stone, and the possibility that the lava you are working with may suddenly decide to accelerate its rate of outflow from fifty feet an hour to, say, fifty feet a minute, which would send the flow hurtling over the top of your little dam and put you up to your ass in lava, with the hose still dangling from your hand as you become a permanent part of the landscape. Which is why the faceplate of your lava suit is equipped with infrared filters to help you see through all that billowing steam that you are busily creating as you work.
799 Druss rubbed his tired eyes. His shoulder burned with fatigue, his knee was swollen and his limbs felt leaden. But he had come through the day better than he had hoped. He glanced around. Some men lay sprawled asleep on the stone. Others merely sat with their backs to the walls, eyes glazed and minds wandering. There was little conversation. Further along the wall the young Earl was talking to the albino. They had both fought well and the albino seemed fresh; only the blood which spattered his white cloak and breastplate gave evidence of his day's work. Regnak, though, seemed tired enough for both. His face, grey with exhaustion, looked older, the lines more deeply carved. Dust, blood and sweat merged together on his features, and a rough bandage on his forearm was beginning to drip blood to the stones.
800 One by one the bulbs burned out, like long lives come to their expected ends. Then there was a dark house made once of time, made now of weather, and harder to find; impossible to find and not even as easy to dream of as when it was alight. Stories last longer: but only by becoming only stories. It was anyway all a long time ago; the world, we know now, is as it is and not different; if there was ever a time when there were passages, doors, the borders open and many crossing, that time is not now. The world is older than it was. Even the weather isn't as we remember it clearly once being; never lately does there come a summer day such as we remember, never clouds as white as that, never grass as odorous or shade as deep and full of promise as we remember they can be, as once upon a time they were.
801 The flag bearer rode beside him quietly, a small thin man, clean shaven, boyish. Chamberlain could not remember his name. He was a sergeant, and Chamberlain wondered about that, if the enlisted men really thought of the rank as a privilege, the promotion as something to be valued. He'd known too many sergeants, had watched too many of them die, and so something in his mind kept him away from this new man, hid the man's name in some safe place. He tried not to think on that, told himself, No, there is no plan here, the man with the flag is not necessarily doomed. He glanced to the side now, and the man looked at him with an excited smile. Chamberlain looked away, thought, He is new, has not ridden up here, at the front of the column. He still thinks it's some kind of honor. I hope he's right.
802 The heads of certain war arrows and hunting arrows differ, too, at least in the case of certain warriors, in an interesting way, with respect to the orientation of the plane of the point to the plane of the nock. In these war arrows, the plane of the point is perpendicular to the plane of the nock. In level shooting, then, the plane of the point is roughly parallel to the ground. In these hunting arrows, on the other hand, the plane of the point is parallel to the plane of the nock. In level shooting, then, the plane of the point is roughly perpendicular to the ground. The reason for these different orientations is particularly telling at close range, before the arrow begins to turn in the air. The ribs of the kailiauk are vertical to the ground; the ribs of the human are horizontal to the ground.
803 There was a short silence between us. It was not an embarrassed silence. It was more the silence of two people thinking out what line they are going to take. It was very quiet in the woods and the sun was warm. My body glowed and tingled. The cigarette was Turkish and the scent of it was an exotic intrusion in that solitude of snow and fir. My brain was working fast. I knew what she was going to ask. That was why she had stopped for a smoke. And I had to think of some natural explanation of how I had come by that photograph. How had Engles got hold of it? I glanced at her. She was watching me covertly through a veil of smoke. She was expecting me to say something. I nerved myself to break the silence between us. 'So that was your photograph?' I said, hoping that my voice did not sound nervous.
804 Carol felt a surge of adrenaline as she reached for Nick's regulator and thrust it into his mouth. She beat against his mask with her fist. After a few painfully long seconds, Nick opened his eyes. Carol tried thumbs up again. Nick shook his head, as if he were clearing out the cobwebs, smiled, and then returned the okay signal. He started to move but Carol restrained him. She indicated with gestures for him to sit still while she hurriedly looked him over. From the force with which Nick had hit the reef, Carol feared the worst. Even if his diving gear was all right, certainly his skin would have been ripped and torn by the sharp coral and the impact. But incredibly, there did not appear to be significant damage to either Nick or the equipment. All she could find were a couple of small scrapes.
805 Rebecca Hamilton closed her eyes to the warm rays of the Florida sun. She inhaled the sweet fragrance of the rose she held, while gently running the velvet folds of one petal against her lips. She could still feel, with complete clarity, and sensation, the touch of James Hazlett's lips brush against her own. In the beginning she had desperately tried to push the sensitive perception aside, viewing it as yet another act of betrayal against her husband and family. Later on, she kept it as her own guilty secret; in moments of darkness or simply when she was alone and could pretend she indulged in the heady, glorious wonder of it. For a time she had been anxious that one day it would grow weak in strength, eventually abandoning her altogether. It never happened. It burned just as brightly as her love still did.
806 Lee nodded, turned, was losing the control now the weariness taking over. The flaps closed and he was alone, stared into the dull yellow of the oil lamp. I must say something he thought, write it down, ames sage to the army... they will look to me for comfort... From the beginning of the war, the first time the troops looked to him as a leader, he had eased the guilt by embracing all of them, had quietly realized that he loved them all, they were all like his own children. It had come from Jackson first, the strange urgency behind the bright blue eyes, the anxious need to please, the frantic devotion to duty. Stuart had been the charmer, the boy everyone would love, who always knew the eyes were on him. Longstreet was older, serious, perhaps too serious since the fever had taken his own children away.
807 Then the window crashed outward in a spray of glass and a body. A woman hit the ground and lay there sprawled and bleeding. I left the wedged door and went for the window. There were shards of glass like small swords on the bottom of the break. But I'd taken falls in Judo higher than this. I'd practiced falling for years. I glanced in to check one thing. The herd of little plastic cribs was pushed to either side. I had room. I took a running leap at it and threw myself over the broken glass, rolling as I fell. I only had one free hand to slap the floor with and take the impact of the fall, but I wanted the gun in my hand ready to fire. I hit the floor, and the force of my blow, the jump, whatever, was still there, still rolling me. I used it to come to my feet before I even knew what was in the room.
808 Soon a soft rustling became audible. Our boat was shearing its way through banks of reeds. A great silence succeeded to the song of the rowers, for Shaban had landed. He came back in a few moments, and carried me to a tent, erected a few paces from the river's bank. I found there lights, mattresses stretched on the ground, a table covered with various kinds of food, and an immense copy of the Koran, unfolded. I hated the holy book. The Sages, our instructors, had often turned it into ridicule, and I had never read it with Kalilah. So I threw it contemptuously to the ground. Shaban took upon himself to scold me; but I flew at him, and endeavored to reduce him to silence. In this I proved successful, and the same treatment retained its efficacy during the whole course of the long expedition.
809 In half an hour all was prepared, and the family were summoned from the house. The coffin, covered with the Union Jack as a pall, was raised on the shoulders of six of the seamen, and they bore it to the grave, followed by Mrs. Seagrave and the children, the commander of the schooner, and several of the men. Mr. Seagrave read the funeral service, the grave was filled up, and they all walked back in silence. At the request of William, the commander of the schooner had ordered the carpenter to prepare an oak paling to put round the grave, and a board on which was written the name of the deceased and day of his death. As soon as this had been fixed up, William, with a deep sigh, followed the commander of the schooner to the house to announce that all was finished, and that the boat waited for them to embark.
810 That night, at a stream, we stopped early to camp. In the evening, the girls, under guard, attend to various tasks. They tend the bosk, clean the wagons, draw water and gather firewood. Sometimes they are permitted to cook. Ute and I, tied together by the throat, but otherwise unimpeded, wearing our camisks, like the other girls, under a guard, went off with two buckets to gather berries. There were not many berries, and it was not easy to fill our buckets. I stole berries from Ute's bucket, and had mine filled first. We were not supposed to eat the berries, and I do not think Ute did, but I would slip them inside my mouth when the guard was not looking. If one was careful to keep the juices inside there was no telltale sign on the lips and chin. Ute was such a sweet, precious little fool.
811 Chevette hated dancer. She hated being around people when they were on it, because it made them selfish, too pleased with themselves, and nervous; suspicious, too prone to make things up in their heads, imagining everyone out to get them, everyone lying, everyone talking behind their back. And she particularly hated watching anyone actually do the stuff, rub it into their gums the way they did, all horrible, because it was just so gross. Made their lips numb, at first, so they'd drool a little, and how they always thought that was funny. But what she hated about it most was that she'd ever done it herself, and that, even though she had all these reasons to hate it, she still found herself, watching Saint Vitus vigorously massaging a good solid hit into his gums, feeling the urge to ask him for some.
812 Robyn would not have known the place by sight, though the palpable evil in the air around her confirmed that they had reached their destination. The ground around the well was barren of all plant life, a desolate expanse of muddy brown. She could plainly see the statues, nineteen of them now that Genna had escaped, frozen in place at the periphery of the water. Surrounding them had once been the proud stone arches, composed of two massive pillars and a heavy, flat crosspiece, erected by druids of a distant age. Now the crosspieces had fallen to ground and shattered, and most of the pillars had either been knocked down or leaned crazily against neighboring columns. Half the stones were buried in the oozing mud near the well, and the surfaces that were visible had become coated with a fetid, unhealthy scum.
813 Then he kicked George's jelly legs out from under him and went in search of the broken mattock head. A moment later and he returned, and still George squirmed and gagged and wrestled with the stake in his chest. Yulian grabbed one of his twitching legs, dragged him to a spot where black soil showed between the broken jointing of displaced flags. He got down on his knees beside him, used the mattock head as a hammer to drive the stake right through him and into the floor. Finally, jammed between two of the flags, the stake would go no further. George was pinned like some exotic beetle on a board. Only two or three inches of the stake stood up from his chest, but there was little blood to be seen. His eyes were still open, wide as doors, and there was white froth on his lips, but no more movement in him.
814 Tanus' squadron was scattered widely across the lagoon, but now it began to regroup. I saw that some of the other galleys had suffered damage, as we had. Two ships had collided in the heat of the chase, while four others had been attacked by the quarry. However, they reassembled swiftly and took up their battle stations. Then, in line astern and with strings of gay pennants fluttering at the mastheads to proclaim the size of each galley's bag, they dashed past us. The crews raised a cheer as they came level with the Breath of Horus. Tanus saluted them with a clenched fist and the Blue Crocodile standard was dipped at the masthead, for all the world as though we had just achieved a famous victory against daunting odds. Boyish display, perhaps, but then I am still enough of a boy to enjoy military ceremonial.
815 With a rueful twitch of his supple tail, Lhin grunted and turned back toward his cave, casting a cursory glance up at the roof of the cavern. Up there, long miles away, a bright glare lanced down, diffusing out as it pierced through the layers of air, showing that the long lunar day was nearing noon, when the sun would lance down directly through the small guarding gate. It was too high to see, but he knew of the covered opening where the sloping walls of the huge valley ended and the roof began. Through all the millennia of his race's slow defeat, that great roof had stood, unsupported except for the walls that stretched out around in a circle of perhaps fifty miles in diameter, strong and more lasting than even the crater itself; the one abiding monument to the greatness that had been his people's.
816 But the sound of water. Young fears came to join their elders. Water. The sewers ran under this house, under those streets, under this town, and down in those sewers he could find a way out, a way back. If he could become human enough to try it. But he was not a human, he was something named Arnie Winslow, six years old, maybe seven, and deathly afraid of the horrors that lurked in basements. He was crying. Tears burned his eyes, red burned, and ran down his cheeks, over his lips so he could taste the shame of them, and he was a boy of six, seven once more. He was a boy playing soldier, and as for those men in that warehouse, their names were already engraved on headstones. Because Arnie Winslow was not going down into the sewers. Oh, God, the very thought made his flesh pucker and wilt. The sewers.
817 The fittings of the Loch Etive were described in the company's brochures as 'opulent' and, particularly in the first class quarters, they were certainly lavish. Everywhere the 'plastic' was made to look exactly like marble, like oak, mahogany and teak, like steel or brass or gold. There were curtains of plush and silk drawn back from the wide observation ports running the length of the ship, there were deep carpets in blue and red and yellow, comfortable arm chairs in the lounges or on the decks. The recreation decks, restaurants, smoking rooms, bars and bathrooms were all equipped with the latest elegant gadgets and blazed with electric lighting. It was this luxury which made the Loch Etive one of the most expensive aerial liners in the skies, but most passengers thought it worth paying for.
818 Chavez kept the lead. The narrow trail that the trucks followed to get in here was a convenient guide. They stayed on the north side of it, which would keep them out of the fire lanes established for the squad's machine guns. Right on time, they sighted the shack. As planned, Chavez waited for his officer to close up from his approach interval often meters. They communicated with hand signals. Chavez would move straight in with the captain to his right front. The sergeant would do the shooting, but if anything went wrong, Ramirez would be in position to support him at once. The captain tapped out four dashes on the transmit key of his radio and got two signals back. The squad was in place on the far side of the strip, aware of what was about to happen and ready to play its part in the action if needed.
819 Instead, plainclothes men started to appear. They came in pairs, quietly taking away the man in aviator glasses, Bias and, one by one, the other men Arkady recognized from the paladar. Each man reacted with the same sequence of surprise, bafflement and resignation. Their military training showed. No one ran or called out at the moment of his arrest. Arkady looked for Erasmo being wheeled away. Instead, Erasmo seemed to be in charge of this new phase. Hardly anyone else in the audience seemed to notice, fixed as they were on blurred hands on drums and the golden skirts of sensuous Yemayas, every eye transfixed except for the old man in too much uniform in the front row. He dropped his head by small degrees until Arkady realized that under the bill of his cap the nation's leader was checking his own watch.
820 He had just stepped out from behind the tree when he saw, again out of the corner of his eye, the green bulk overhead in the gap. He moved back quickly, clung to the trunk, and peered around it. The craft had stopped, and he could see its long needlelike shape and the two men sitting in it. It looked much like an Eskimo kayak except that the cockpits were larger and much more open. Seeing the emblem on the fuselage, he sighed with relief. It bore the brown symbol of the forest preserve department, the ranger's hat, Smokey Bear's, used by all the days. The two were probably tracking the bear through the transmitter attached to its collar. He had not seen the collar, but he understood that at least half the bears in the area had been anesthetized and then fitted with a collar and transmitter.
821 All great criminals have hallucinated themselves on purpose; and those who hallucinate themselves on purpose may be fatally led to become great criminals. Our personal light specialized, brought forth, determined by our own overmastering affection, is the germ of our paradise or of our Hell. Each one of us (in a sense) conceives, bears, and nourishes his good or evil angel. The conception of truth gives birth in us to the good genius; intentional untruth hatches and brings up nightmares and phantoms. Everyone must nourish his children; and our life consumes itself for the sake of our thoughts. Happy are those who find again immortality in the creations of their soul! Woe unto them who wear themselves out to nourish falsehood and to fatten death! for every one will reap the harvest of his own sowing.
822 The next aspect of science is its contents, the things that have been found out. This is the yield. This is the gold. This is the excitement, the pay you get for all the disciplined thinking and hard work. The work is not done for the sake of an application. It is done for the excitement of what is found out. Perhaps most of you know this. But to those of you who do not know it, it is almost impossible for me to convey in a lecture this important aspect, this exciting part, the real reason for science. And without understanding this you miss the whole point. You cannot understand science and its relation to anything else unless you understand and appreciate the great adventure of our time. You do not live in your time unless you understand that this is a tremendous adventure and a wild and exciting thing.
823 It was late afternoon. Beauty lay on the cool grass with the other slaves, stirred only now and then by the prodding stick of one of the kitchen girls, who forced her legs apart roughly. Yes, she must not press her legs together, she thought drowsily. The day's work had exhausted her. She had dropped a handful of pewter spoons and been chained upside down to the kitchen wall for an hour. On all fours, she had carried the heavy laundry baskets on her back to the clotheslines and knelt still while the village girls, hanging up the sheets, chatted around her. She had scrubbed and cleaned and polished, and been paddled at every evidence of clumsiness or hesitation. And kneeling, she had lapped her dinner from the same big dish as the other slaves, silently thankful for the cool spring water that followed.
824 By now the multitude below, understanding that they had been betrayed, turned and fled. In panic they ran, but as they did there came over them a feeling of fatigue and thirst, followed by such pain throughout their bodies as they had never felt before. And looking down, they watched as blood began to seep from their pores, and in mere minutes their flesh wrinkled and turned as gray as the day and began to literally rot away. Streams of blood rolled down their cheeks and seeped from the corners of their mouths as even their eyes and tongues began to wither and rot. The rotting did not consume them all at once, but overtook them like a cold, crawling wave of death, starting with those closest to Christopher and Milner and reaching out to swallow up everyone in its path and quench its anger.
825 The jolly boat's oars stilled, as their way carried them past the cutter. Hornblower could see Soames standing up in the sternsheets looking at the death which was cleaving the blue water towards him. Bow to bow the cutter might have stood a chance, but too late the cutter tried to evade the blow altogether. Hornblower saw her turn, presenting her vulnerable side to the galley's stem. That was all he could see, for the next moment the galley herself hid from him the final act of the tragedy. The jolly boat's starboard side oars only just cleared the galley's starboard oars as she swept by. Hornblower heard a shriek and a crash, saw the galley's forward motion almost cease at the collision. He was mad with the lust of fighting, quite insane, and his mind was working with the rapidity of insanity.
826 There were some couple of sacks of ancient, dry and dusty flour in the storeroom. It smelled bad. There was a thing with a funnel and a handle and some mysterious screws. There were a couple of rolling pins, a lettuce strainer, some ladles... and there were forks. Lots of toasting forks. Polly felt let down. It was ridiculous to expect that someone imprisoning people in some ad hoc cell would leave in all the ingredients to effect an escape but, nevertheless, she felt that some universal rule had been broken. They had nothing better than a club, really. The toasting forks might prick, the lettuce strainer might pack a punch, and the rolling pins were at least a traditional female weapon, but all you could do with the thing with a funnel and a handle and mysterious screws was baffle people.
827 Steffi, ignoring the combats and their unwritten laws of honor, tried again. This time he hurled the clay tankard, its top stuffed with cloth, not at the man but at the stone steps in front of him. The clay shattered, the glowing fuse fell into the mixture of sulphur, saltpeter and oil. A flash and a gout of flame beneath the Emperor's feet. He sprang through it, aimed a blow at Brand, took a return stroke. Suddenly fell back, dropping his sword, leapt back again, beating with gauntleted hands at the flame running up his legs. Brand followed, axe raised and thoughts of drengskapr cast aside. Another tankard burst, this time at his feet, then another and another as Steffi's gang, delighted with their success, showered down the clay firepots at every strip of stone they could see on both flights.
828 They had toiled long and hard for him, their leader and master. They loved and feared him, as was his due, and now they would worship him. He closed his eyes and inhaled the thick, fragrant air that eddied about him like a fog. In times past he would have been repelled by the reek of the Temple, but that was before he'd acquired the gift of sensory acuteness. The plant had given him that, as it had given him so much else. Now, everything was different. The smell was like a vista to him, ever shifting, painted in every imaginable color, here bright and clean, there dark and mysterious. There were mountains and canyons and deserts of scent, oceans and skies, rivers and meadows, a magnificent panorama of fragrance, indescribable in human language. It rendered the world of sight flat, ugly, sterile by comparison.
829 And these ones seek blue and purple knowledge. From all the universe they seek it. They trap all that may be thought or known. Not only blue and purple, but all spectra of knowing. They trap it on lonely planets, far lost in space and deep in time. In the blue of time. With trees they trap it and trapped, it is stored and kept against a time of golden harvest. Great orchards of mighty trees that tower into the blue for miles. Soaking in the thought and knowledge. As other planets soak in the gold of sun. And this knowledge is their fruit. Fruit is many things. It is sustenance of body and for brain. It is round and long and hard and soft. It is blue and gold and purple. Sometimes red. It ripens and it falls. It is harvested. For harvesting is a gathering and fruiting is a growing. Both are blue and gold.
830 The women had moved to another lodge nearby. Until recently, it had housed the young women preparing for their First Rites, but was now empty and could be put to other uses. Someone had suggested that the men could have waited there so the women would not have to move, but the idea of going from housing girls during their transition into womanhood, to men about to be mated made the zelandonia and others uncomfortable. There were always lingering manifestations of spiritual forces whenever transcendent activities were involved, especially with a sizable group, and the significant vitalities of men and women were sometimes in opposition. It was decided to move the women who were to be mated there instead, since it was the next logical step for the girls who had previously occupied the dwelling.
831 They hiked into the pass as the sun dropped steadily toward the horizon and slipped from view. The skies remained clear and the air warm, so travel was comfortable and they made good time. By midnight, they were through the top of the pass and starting down into the valley beyond. The wind had picked up, howling out of the southwest in a steady rush, spinning dirt and gravel off the trail in small funnels, clouding the air with debris. They walked with their heads lowered until they were below the rim of the mountains and the wind had tailed off. Ahead, the black silhouette of the Druid's Keep was clearly visible against the starlit sky, rising out of the trees, towers and parapets stark and jagged. No lights burned in its windows or from its battlements. No movement or sound disturbed its silence.
832 By this time the caravan had come up with them, and they then proceeded. The face of the country became even more sterile, and at last not an animal of any description was to be seen. As there was nothing for the oxen to feed upon, they continued their route during the whole of the day, and at night they halted and secured the cattle to the waggons. Wood for fires they were not able to procure, and therefore they made one half of the Hottentots watch during the night with their muskets to scare off wild beasts. But, as Swinton observed, there was little chance of their being disturbed by lions or other animals, as they were so distant from water, and there was no game near them, upon which the wild beasts prey; and so it proved, for during the whole night they did not even hear the cry of a hyena or a jackal.
833 Sheryl could have taken fire from her bag and roasted the meat. That would have been the civilized thing to do. There was plenty of wood in the wagons. With the Horlas on the other side of the desert, there was no need to hide the smoke. Any other visitors would be welcomed to share her meat, to fight over it, or to die. Nor did she fear the eyes of strangers after she stripped off her armor and left her untanned skin exposed. Rather, she needed the water that formed the bulk of the flesh. So, sitting on a crate, she braided her blonde hair into a rope and ate the meat raw, cold, without really tasting it. The process was purely mechanical. Raising the meat to her mouth, she bit, tore, chewed, then swallowed. She ate not for pleasure, but to supply food for her muscles, liquid for her organs.
834 She got down and went inside and sat in the chair they indicated. One of the guards brought these big, sharp scissors and started cutting. It didn't take very long to have a mound of hair on the floor and a scraggly mess on top. Getting the scraggly mess down was more involved, but finally they had it very short. Then they literally shaved her with foamy soap and a straight razor. He was surprised when that wasn't the end of it; they shaved her underarms, her arms, legs, even her pubic hair, leaving only her eyebrows. Then they finished it by applying a greenish liquid over not only her scalp but every place they'd shaved. But for the brows, she was totally hairless. It looked very strange, with her bald as a cue ball, but she did have the head for it, and it made her look rather exotic, statuesque.
835 He ran his fingers back and forth across the satin and it felt cool and inviting. The rest of the room, the rest of the world receded into deep background. Only Mark and the coffin and the corpse remained and Mark felt very tired and very hot, as if life itself were a terrible friction making heat within him, and he took off his robe and pajamas and awkwardly climbed on a chair and stepped over the edge into the coffin and knelt and then lay down. There was no other corpse to share the slight space with him; nothing between his body, and the cold satin, and as he lay on it it didn't get any warmer because at last the friction was slowing, was cooling, and he reached up and pulled down the lid and the world was dark and silent and there was no odor and no taste and no feel but the cold of the sheets.
836 Hatch brought the ax down on the man's left shin with all his might. As the blade drove home, it felt to Hatch for a curious instant as though he was chopping the green trunk of a young sapling. There was a moment of resistance, then a sudden give. The man's voice ceased instantly, but his eyes remained open, straining, the cords of his neck standing out. A wide, ragged cut opened in the leg, and for a moment the bone and flesh lay exposed in the weak light of the pit. Then the rising water roiled up around the cut and it filled with blood. Quickly, Malin drove the ax home again and the leg came free, the water frothing red as it churned across the beam. The man threw his head back and opened his jaws wide in a soundless scream, the fillings in his molars shining dully in the glow of the flashlight.
837 And he put the first slide into the frame and slid it behind the lens. A circular photogram in sharp black and white appeared on the screen. It had been taken at night under a full moon, and it showed a wooden hut in the middle distance, its walls dark against the snow that surrounded it and lay thickly on the roof. Beside the hut stood an array of philosophical instruments, which looked to Lyra's eye like something from the Anbaric Park on the road to Yarnton: aerials, wires, porcelain insulators, all glittering in the moonlight and thickly covered in frost. A man in furs, his face hardly visible in the deep hood of his garment, stood in the foreground, with his hand raised as if in greeting. To one side of him stood a smaller figure. The moonlight bathed everything in the same pallid gleam.
838 The second pair of doors opened for them. Then the third. Miles prayed they were not walking into another clever trap. But he didn't think the ba would have any way of tapping, or even guessing, this oblique line of communication. Roic paused briefly, stepping behind the last door edge, and peered ahead. The door to Nav and Com was shut. He gave a short nod and continued forward, Miles in his shadow. As they drew closer, Miles could see that the control panel to the left of the door had been burned out by some cutting tool, cousin, no doubt, to the one Roic had used. The ba had gone shopping in Engineering, too. Miles pointed at it; Roic's face lightened, and a corner of his mouth turned up. Someone hadn't forgotten to lock the door behind them when they'd last left after all, it appeared.
839 The charadis stalks were put into shallow ponds and heavy rocks were placed on top of them to hold them under water. After a certain time the soggy stalks were removed and dried in the sun, then beaten on stone slabs. Special wooden tools with prongs were used to rake out and separate the fibers, which the women then twisted and spun into strong lengths. Many of these lengths could be wound together to make cords and ropes, which were then knotted into nets for fishing and catching animals. Best of all, the thin lengths were stretched on wooden frames, many of them, close together. Then the women wove other threads back and forth between them to make the white fabric that Armun so greatly admired. She soon discarded her skins and furs and dressed as the other women did in the soft charadis cloth.
840 Driving through the base, Randy sensed a change since his last visit, the year before. Physically, McCoy looked the same. It felt different. The Air Police questioning had been sharper, and more serious. That wasn't the difference. He realized something was missing; and then he had it. Where were all the people? McCoy seemed almost deserted, with less activity, and fewer men and fewer cars than a year ago. He saw no other civilians. He saw no women, not even around the clubs and the BX. The most congested area on the base was the steps and lawn in front of the alert barracks opposite wing headquarters, where standby crewmen, rigid and stiff in pressure suits, talked and smoked. Trucks, tail gates down, were backed to the curb. Drivers slouched over their wheels as if they had been there a long time.
841 The place had been designed by a madman. I know that is literally true, but you didn't have to know He to get the message. Corridors and stairs, twisted chambers, angled walls, even one spot where we had to crawl on our hands and knees under the low ceiling. This was where we had our first casualty. Five of us were clear of this room before the ceiling silently and swiftly descended and crushed the rear guard before he could even make a sound. We all were sweating harder. The enemy we met were not armed for the most part and either fled or were dropped by our needle guns. It was speed and silence now, and we moved as fast as we could between the bizarrely decorated walls, finding it easy to avoid looking at the incredible paintings that seemed to cover every square meter of available space.
842 Four seconds later, there was a splintering crash as the catamaran smashed through the hull of the yacht, followed by an explosion that filled the night sky with flame and flying debris. The black catamaran that had acted as an execution chamber disintegrated. All that remained of it was a flaming oil slick. Almost immediately, fire was shooting through every port and varnished door of the yacht. Pitt was stunned at how quickly she became a flaming torch. He backstroked around the yacht's stern toward the floating hut at the end of the dock, watching as the luxurious skylounge and dining salon collapsed into the fire. Slowly, very slowly, the yacht settled into the cold waters of the lake amid a huge cloud of hissing steam, until nothing remained of her except the upper half of a radar antenna.
843 I am also aware that a large number of psychic children are being born today. This is particularly the case in Britain, where we have been going through a transformation scene of late which is currently gathering speed and power. In the past, children like myself who saw and heard things that other children didn't were accused of making things up, lying, or worse. Today, it's reassuring that some mothers are accepting that their child may indeed be telling the truth. For about a century now people have been practising and teaching mediumship and healing, and other people have listened and absorbed their teachings, even if they don't always agree with them. This has opened up the way genetically: everything that goes through the mind affects the body, including the genes, of the next generation.
844 Later that night, when the others were asleep and he was alone again, he resolved to wake his sister and tell her what he had done. He would tell her not just that he had failed to retrieve the crystals orjahnon Pakabbon and that the men who had gone into the valley with him were dead, but that he had panicked and run. It would be his first step toward recovery, toward finding a way back from the dark place into which he had fallen. He knew he could not live with himself if he did not find a way to face what had happened. It began with telling Rue, from whom he had no secrets, to whom he confided everything. He would not stint in his telling now, casting himself in the most unfavorable light he could imagine. What he had done was unthinkable. He must confess himself to her and seek absolution.
845 And the girl, what about her? Could he blame her for the death of Kerim? Bond went into the next room and stood again by the window, looking out, wondering, going back over everything, every expression and every gesture she had made since he had first heard her voice on that night in the Kristal Palas. No, he knew he couldn't put the blame on her. If she was an agent, she was an unconscious agent. There wasn't a girl of her age in the world who could have played this role, if it was a role she was playing, without betraying herself. And he liked her. And he had faith in his instincts. Besides, with the death of Kerim, had not the plot, whatever it was, played itself out? One day he would find out what the plot had been. For the moment he was certain. Tatiana was not a conscious part of it.
846 The state cops stayed inside the house and Reacher saw nothing until the backup arrived more than an hour later. It was an identical cruiser with another trooper driving and another sergeant riding alongside him. This time the trooper was white and the sergeant was Hispanic. They got out of their car and walked straight into the house. The heat and the quiet came back. There were animal howls in the far distance and the whisper of insects and the beating of invisible wings. Lights came on in some of the house windows and then snapped off again. After twenty minutes, the Echo sheriff left. He came out of the house and stumbled down the porch steps to his car. He looked tired and disoriented. His shirt was dark with sweat. He maneuvered his cruiser out from behind the tangle of police vehicles and drove away.
847 Moments later they stood on the crest of the small rise that ran parallel with the north bank. The swift river had long since flooded its low banks and was continuing to rise. Menion had no idea where they stood in relation to Kern, but he realized that if they crossed at the wrong point, they would miss the island entirely. The girl seemed to recognize the problem; taking his arm, she began moving downstream along the low rise, peering across the river into the gloom. Menion let her lead him without question, his own eyes casting about anxiously for some sign of the pursuing Trolls. The rain had begun to slacken and the mist was beginning to clear. It would not be long before the storm would end and visibility return, leaving the two revealed to the persistent hunters. They had to chance a crossing quickly.
848 Traveling was as difficult as it had been prior to the storm. The ground was hard and coated with rubble and loose topsoil that made the footing treacherous. Scrambling and clawing their way over the rough terrain, the three were quickly covered with dirt and bruised by continual falls. Because of the unevenness of the topography, it was difficult to keep their bearings and nearly impossible to calculate their progress. Landmarks were nonexistent and the country looked almost exactly the same in every direction. The minutes wore away with agonizing slowness, and still they discovered nothing. The humidity continued to rise and the garments worn by the three men were quickly soaked through with sweat. They removed their cloaks and tied them on their backs; it would be cold again when night descended.
849 For a moment he imagined himself running from all those dogs yipping and growling through the cracks in their enclosure, and then he stood up. The sky seemed to tilt over his head, to darken. And back home, in his world, what was happening? A nice little disaster in the middle of Oatley? Maybe a nice little flood, a sweet little fire? Jack slipped quietly backward away from the inn, then began to move sideways through the tall grass. Perhaps sixty yards away, thick candles burned in the windows of the only other building he could see. From somewhere not far off to his right drifted the odor of pigs. When Jack had gone half the distance between the inn and the house, the dogs ceased growling and snapping, and he slowly began walking forward toward the Western Road. The night was dark and moonless.
850 Camber even saw Ariella once, though he was never able to win close enough to threaten her. Surrounded by an escort of twenty heavily armored knights, she rode among the rear lines of her army in armoring befitting any male war leader, her slender body encased in leather and mail, dark hair coiled tight beneath a crowned steel cap. Several times she attempted to bring magic into play, but it was too risky in such close combat, and her tentative ventures were either too destructive to her own men or could be easily countered by the Deryni among Cinhil's men. After a time, she abandoned arcane assaults altogether, instead attempting to inspire courage and enthusiasm among her men by her mere presence in the rear of the lines. She wore no weapon, and the fighting never really approached her person.
851 Earth was an armed camp with all its nations more or less committed to one of two sides. A higher civilization could tip the scales between them, if it gave one side superior weapons. Any contact with a superior race would result in competition for that race's favor. Yet if one part of Earth's population appeared to be favored by the newcomers, the other part must try to destroy it before the higher race could interfere to protect it. The world outside the Iron Curtain could not risk the Iron Curtain nations' becoming best friends of possible invaders. Communist leaders could not risk the free world's making alliance with a higher technology and a greater science. So actual contact with a more advanced race would be the most deadly happening that could take place in the world as it was today.
852 Rand's heart pounded as he ran, and he stared in dismay at the barren hills surrounding him. This was not just a place where spring was late in coming; spring had never come here, and never would come. Nothing grew in the cold soil that crunched under his boots, not so much as a bit of lichen. He scrambled past boulders, twice as tall as he was; dust coated the stone as if never a drop of rain had touched it. The sun was a swollen, blood red ball, more fiery than on the hottest day of summer and bright enough to sear his eyes, but it stood stark against a leaden cauldron of a sky where clouds of sharp black and silver roiled and boiled on every horizon. For all the swirling clouds, though, no breath of breeze stirred across the land, and despite the sullen sun the air burned cold like the depths of winter.
853 That was no condemnation of her. Every human being reaching adulthood had his defenses and his own way of viewing the universe around him. Those who experienced massive trauma, physical or mental, and who were not shattered by it had made some pretty powerful adaptations to accommodate it, especially when it had been suffered in their vulnerable formative years. The awesome slaughter of the Crater War had shredded Ali's childhood. Somehow, he had lived through that carnage, but it had left him one of life's observers. He would allow nothing to penetrate the armor he had carefully constructed around himself. Rael Cofort had been somewhat older and the deadly situation in which she found herself had been of considerably shorter duration, but even so, she, too, had her facade and, her scars....
854 Other than the dragons of the Jousters' Compound, no one looked up when the shadow of a flying dragon passed over them. Avatre soared from thermal to thermal above the Third Ring to her heart's content. There were boats out in the canals; little fishing boats, larger barges. Some were hauling cargo from the outer to the inner rings; some were clearly pleasure boats, or the boats carrying officials about on their duties. As he watched, he even saw a species of small boat that seemed to be coming in to land whenever someone on shore hailed it. After a moment, it came to him that these boats must be for hire, to take people wherever in the Rings they wished to go, like hired litters or chariots. That would be much faster than walking, though he doubted that it would be faster than driving a chariot.
855 It was a strange thing for any commander to say, and yet it had a strange calming effect on the men. They had none of the hearty lust for battle that I had seen in the army all my life. But the commander's words had stirred in them some silent, desperate courage. All did their work quickly, wordlessly. They threw me over a saddle, strapped my legs to the stirrups, and left me to find my balance as best I could with bound arms on a galloping horse. They rode madly across the fields, as if they hoped (and I'm sure they did) that my horse would fall, would shatter me, would crush me into the ashes that had once been grain. Or perhaps they thought of me no more, and merely rode, machines of flesh astride these heaving horses, empty of thought, empty of anything but the knowledge of desolation.
856 It was the second evening when for the first time Perrin saw women dance to some of the slow songs. The fires burned low, and the night hung close around the wagons, and fingers tapped a slow rhythm on the drums. First one drum, then another, until every drum in the camp kept the same low, insistent beat. There was silence except for the drums. A girl in a red dress swayed into the light, loosening her shawl. Strings of beads hung in her hair, and she had kicked off her shoes. A flute began the melody, wailing softly, and the girl danced. Outstretched arms spread her shawl behind her; her hips undulated as her bare feet shuffled to the beat of the drums. The girl's dark eyes fastened on Perrin, and her smile was as slow as her dance. She turned in small circles, smiling over her shoulder at him.
857 Kinsey, Mickey made me promise not to do this, but I think you should know. He was with me that night, sure, he pushed the guy, but it was no big deal. I know because I saw it and so did a lot of other people who are on his side. Benny was fine when he took off. Him and Mickey couldn't have connect after because we went back to my place and he was their till midnight. I told him I'd testify, but he says no because of Eric and his situation. He's completely innocent and desperately needs your help. What difference does it make where he was as long as he didn't do it? If you love him, you should take his part instead of being such a bitch. Being a cop is his whole life, please don't take that away from him. Otherwise I hope you find a way to live with yourself because your ruining everything for him.
858 Once the food was purchased, the harried purser set out to find a cargo that would be of value in Ambergris, which was their next stop. Ambergris would probably be under siege. (As would this world, but the general population didn't know that yet.) And Ambergris was a world low in phosphates. Thus a load of saltpeter was the purser's goal, and he was pleased with the deal he cut. He used the last of their gold to lock in the deal, quickly moved to the alley where the last of their trade goods were being sold, took that money and the security detail to get the saltpeter, and completed one of the most exhausting and satisfying trading days in his life. There was something special about starting from the ground up, and having inside knowledge about the pending invasion gave him an advantage that he savored.
859 A jagged flash of purple lightning cracked across the heavens and both of them shielded their eyes as it struck not far from where they stood. The rumble of the thunder which followed almost split their ear drums. Then the rain came in a heavy smothering curtain to close them in. They huddled together, miserable, the three of them against the side of a narrow valley, cowering as the lightning struck again and again and the water rose in a stream down the center of the gully, washing the soil from the glassy rocks. Only once did Fors move. He unhooked his canteen and pulled at Arskane's belt flask until the big man gave it to him. These he set out in the steady downpour. The water which ran by his feet was contaminated but the rain which had not yet touched soil or rock might be drinkable later.
860 As he grew, however, it became clear that I had failed. My sperm, which I had tried by force of will to keep free of crimson influences, had been tainted, however lightly. It had been a foolish experiment at best: can an eagle beget a sparrow, or the grey wolf a squealing pink piglet? How much harder then for a vampire, whose very touch is a taint, to beget an innocent child? No, Janos was not a true vampire, but he had the bad blood of a vampire. Aye, and all my vices twofold; but with little of my flexibility and nothing of my caution. Still, I'd been headstrong myself when I was young; I was his father and it fell to me to show him the way of things. I did show him, and if and when a heavy hand was required to stop him dead in his tracks or simply steer him aright, I was not slow to apply that, too.
861 The Pavilion block was on our left now and I turned past it and found the car park at the rear, where I'd explored the environment on foot two days ago. The snow was thick here, with the tracks of vehicles making ruts that tugged at the wheel as I drove through the entrance. The building was quite large, with a blank wall facing us and the headlights throwing the shadows of the parked cars against it. A man was walking towards us from the building, going across to his car, and our headlights held him frozen for an instant before I switched them off. He looked transfixed, like a wild creature caught in the dazzle of lights along a country road, and his shadow was enormous on the wall behind him, grotesque and distorted, with one thin shoulder held low like a broken wing and his body twisted to one side.
862 The other two customers left. I felt ill at ease but steeled myself and attracted the old man's attention with a cough. I told him I was looking for an acquaintance, a friend who, I thought, often stopped by here: Monsieur Aglie. Again the man had the shocked look he had had while on the telephone. Perhaps, I said, he didn't know him as Aglie, but as Rakosky or Soltikoff or... The bookseller looked at me again, narrowing his eyes, and remarked coldly that I had friends with curious names. I told him never mind, it was not important, I was merely inquiring. Wait, he said; my partner is arriving and he may know the person you are looking for. Have a seat, please; there's a chair in the back, there. I'll just make a call and check. He picked up the phone, dialed a number, and spoke in a low voice.
863 And now he was calling Ikky on private business. This didn't sound good for the hopes she had had for the general. She shook her head at her own foolishness. He was a good looking man, fit and steely like herself and well able for the games she enjoyed. Bedding down with him, to use the term loosely, was a bit like a good day in battle, kept the body honed and the wits sharp. But she had felt, as she twisted his arm to join the forces of Li and Harakamian in battling the Khieevi, that he had taken some pleasure in helping the comparatively defenseless settlers of Rushima. Of being a good guy for a change, or at least of working for the good guys who were for once the highest bidders. It was that, more than the blackmail or his attractiveness, which had made their fling turn into more of an alliance.
864 I had the good fortune to be early selected for this important post, and the misfortune to lose it soon after, owing to the cunning and envy of my schoolfellows and the suspicion of my employers. On my first coming into office, I had formed the most sincere resolutions of honesty and vigilance; but what are good resolutions when discouraged on the one hand by the revilings of suspicion, and assailed on the other by the cravings of appetite? My morning's collection was exacted from me to the very last nut, and the greedy eyes of my mistress seemed to inquire for more. Suspected when innocent, I became guilty out of revenge; was detected and dismissed. A successor was appointed, to whom I surrendered all my offices of trust, and having perfect leisure, I made it my sole business to supplant him.
865 Clouds poured inland from the sea to the north, and the rain fell, steady deluges that soaked everything. The day after a storm like that the air steamed, the land gurgled and dripped, and every step off bare rock was a boggy squish. Heath, moor, bog. Gnarly little forests in the low grabens. A quick brown fox, seen out of the corner of the eye as it dashed behind a sierra juniper. Away from him, after something? No way to know. On business of its own. Waves striking the sea cliffs bounced back outward, creating interference patterns with the incoming waves that could have come right out of a physics wave tank: so beautiful. And so strange, that the world should conform so well to mathematical formulation. The unreasonable effectiveness of math; it was at the heart of the great unexplainable.
866 The mist was light this day, not closing in on the man as it had the previous day, when Elbryan felt as if watching eyes were with him every step. He came over a rise and saw a silvery stream winding below him, meandering this way and that across the brown clay. Instinctively, the ranger's hand went to his waterskin, and he found it less than half full. He trotted down to the stream, which was just a few feet across and less than a foot deep, and dipped his hand, nodding when he found that the water was quite clear. The ground here was simply too compacted to be swept up in the light flow. Rivulets of runoff had been crystalline all through the Moorlands, except in those low basins where the water collected and remained, where the ground and water seemed to blend, to melt together into a thick muddy stew.
867 Still, there had been no distinctive landmarks or anything to mark the progress of their journey. After a while one stream valley looked like another, and all the mountains looked pretty much alike as well. It was impossible for someone with her build and hooves to walk bipedally and not lose her balance over and over; still, she'd been walking on all fours so long by this point, she wasn't sure she remembered how to use just two. Once she'd threatened, even prepared, to go off and live in the wild alone. How stupid that seemed now! Thus, when sunrise neared to mark the probable end of yet another day, Julian, like her companions, was just silently trudging along, coming over yet one more rise. Suddenly she saw something she hadn't seen in so long, she'd almost forgotten what it looked like.
868 It was believed virtual particles were virtual because the conditions of the present universe could not supply the energy necessary to sustain tweeplets. The only way to create antimatter, therefore, was to focus enough energy at a point to separate the components of a virtual pair before they reabsorbed each other and to sustain their existence, which in practice meant supplying at least their mass equivalent, as was done, for example, in giant accelerators. This was the reason for the widespread skepticism that any net energy gain could ever be realized from annihilating the antimatter later. At best it was felt to be an elaborate storage battery, and not a very efficient one at that; the power poured into the accelerator would be better applied directly to whatever the antimatter was wanted for.
869 Mr. Humfries was a man of about fifty. He had very good manners, and the presence of a junior minister. He could, at any moment, be all things to all people. He could talk racing shop, cricket, foreign politics, tell anecdotes of royalty, give motor show information, knew the most interesting plays on at present, advise on places Americans ought really to see in England however short their stay. He had knowledgeable information about where it would suit persons of all incomes and tastes to dine. With all this, he did not make himself too cheap. He was not on tap all the time. Miss Gorringe had all the same facts at her fingertips and could retail them efficiently. At brief intervals Mr. Humfries, like the sun, made his appearance above the horizon and flattered someone by his personal attention.
870 It was nothing like she had expected, nothing, in fact, like she had been trained to expect. The stars did not so much disappear as come and go. She couldn't be certain, however, that it was the same stars that were rematerializing each time. The heavens seemed altered with each fade, as though someone had snipped frames from a strip of film, editing out the transitions from event to event. The energy umbrella that kept her and the others confined to the grid prevented her from observing flux details in the laboratory, but when she looked at Rick or Ben, she noticed a slight shimmering effect that blurred the boundaries of objects; occasionally, this effect intensified so that there was a sense of double focus to everything: the form of the past, the form of the future, distinct, discrete, unable to unite.
871 He fought for balance, swinging wildly, listening to their evil rattles and high, eerie moans. A claw emerged from the mass of bodies, probing for his eyes; he ducked his head, began to fight with fists, feet, elbows, and knees, kicking them back, hammering at them, crushing their skulls with the gleaming blade. One of them leaped forward, seizing him around the throat; another grasped his back and began to chew at his exposed shoulder, making hungry grunting noises. Powerful fingers caught at the ax, trying to wrench it away from him. They closed in on all sides, flinging themselves at him, trying to tear through his throat with teeth and nails. A wrench glittered in the light, coming straight at him, but he caught the shock of the blow with the ax handle and then slammed the blade into an arm socket.
872 Nevertheless, it seems to him, as he passes their dark lair, that they know who he is and judge him accordingly. He cannot help himself, for they have been witness to his every failure. It feels as if they judge him now, remembering as he does the many opportunities he has squandered. Tonight provides another test for him. His successes of late might seem to offset his earlier failures, but it is the failures that matter most. If he had not failed in Hopewell with Nest Freemark, he thinks bitterly, there would be no need for successes now. He remembers her, a child of fourteen, how close he was to saving her, how badly he misjudged what was needed. He remembers the demon, prevailing even in the face of his fierce opposition. The memory will not leave. The memory will haunt him to the grave.
873 Before winter ended Ortnar was on the mend. He had lost flesh, was still in pain, but his great strength had pulled him through. There had been more black flesh on his feet, pus and an awful smell, but the Paramutan knew how to treat this as well. As the days grew longer the flesh healed and scars formed. With fur padding in his boots he hobbled out of the paukarut each day and learned to walk again. The foot without the toes made this difficult, but he learned nevertheless. He was walking far out along the edge of the ice one day when he saw the boat approaching from the distance. It was one of the larger ones with a large skin tied to a pole and did not look familiar. Nor was it. When he stumbled back to the paukaruts he found that everyone had turned out, were shouting and waving as the boat came close.
874 Looking back upon his life since he had left his public school, the five years before the War, the War itself, and the time subsequent, one period stood out in memory as utterly different from the rest. During the time when he had been a private soldier he had held no responsibility for anything at all. That made that six months totally different from the rest of his working life. It had been a pleasant time, a very restful time, when nothing had been expected of him but that he should keep his body and his equipment clean and in good condition. Beyond that, he was not responsible for anything at all, not even for securing his own food or his own bed. All that was done for him. He held that six months in his memory as time of great mental rest, a peace that he had never known before or since.
875 He gave a cry as he fell away from the falcon's side, down toward the gentle hills below. He could hardly move his wings; he let the air currents toss him from one to another until he touched the ground. He changed shape. The long grass spun up to meet him. He burrowed against the earth, his arms outstretched, clinging to it, until the terrible pounding of his heart eased and he began breathing air again instead of fire. He rolled slowly onto his back and stood up. The falcon was hovering above him. He watched it motionlessly, until the wild glimpse into his own power broke over him again. His hand rose in longing toward the falcon. It fell toward him like a stone. He let it come. It landed on his shoulder, clung there, its blind eyes hooded. He was still in its fierce grip, caught in its power and its pride.
876 Stephen closed his eyes and held out in the air his trembling hand with the palm upwards. He felt the prefect of studies touch it for a moment at the fingers to straighten it and then the swish of the sleeve of the soutane as the pandybat was lifted to strike. A hot burning stinging tingling blow like the loud crack of a broken stick made his trembling hand crumple together like a leaf in the fire: and at the sound and the pain scalding tears were driven into his eyes. His whole body was shaking with fright, his arm was shaking and his crumpled burning livid hand shook like a loose leaf in the air. A cry sprang to his lips, a prayer to be let off. But though the tears scalded his eyes and his limbs quivered with pain and fright he held back the hot tears and the cry that scalded his throat.
877 Michael cursed himself for not being more alert. The grisly photographs had been on his mind. But what he'd found out tonight would be worthless if he couldn't get out. Blondi attacked the door again, her fury waxing. He looked at his reflection in the mirror and saw the ripped seam of his jacket. Some of the shirt was gone too, but his flesh was unscathed. So far. Michael gripped the edges of the mirror and lifted it off its mounting brackets. Then he turned it around, so the mirrored glass was aimed away from him. He lifted the mirror up over his face, like a shield, and then he went to the door. Blondi's talons must have been an inch deep in the wood by now. Michael held the mirror up with one hand, and then took a breath and with the other hand turned the knob and wrenched the door open.
878 Maya was bearing up well. She was tough, somehow, despite all her moods. Nadia, whom Ann used to think of as the tough one, was silent most of the time. Sax stared at his screen and worked. Michel tried to talk to his old friends, and gave up unhappily when it was clear no one wanted to talk back. Simon watched Ann anxiously as always, with unbearable concern; she couldn't stand it, and avoided his gaze. Poor Kasei must have felt like he was trapped in an asylum for the aged insane, it was almost funny to think of it, except that his spirit seemed to be somehow broken, she did not know why, perhaps the waste, perhaps the increasing likelihood that they would not survive; perhaps simple hunger, there was no way of telling. The young were odd. But he reminded her of Peter, and so she didn't look at him either.
879 My father, not unreasonably, was very annoyed. Not only had his car been damaged, but he considered himself very lucky not to have been involved in a nasty accident through no fault of his own. He had caught a glimpse of the frightened face of the man who had dashed across his lights, and there was no doubt that the horses were terrified. He stopped his engine and listened for a moment to the hoof beats clattering away down the road before he got out to investigate. The damage was purely superficial and would not affect the car's running, but he determined to make his complaint at the farm before he went on. By this time the daylight was almost gone and it seemed darker to him than it actually was, for he had been using his headlights. That is why he was half way across the yard before he saw the machine.
880 The village lay at a crossroads, with the road in which our house stood running alongside the river (this giving power for the mill, of course) and the second road crossing it at the ford. Beside the ford stood a small wooden bridge for foot travelers, and I pelted across, noticing that the river was higher than usual from the spring rains. My Aunt Lucy was approaching the bridge as I left it at the far end. She called a greeting to me, and I called back, having first taken care to veer to the other side of the road. The baker's shop was there, with trays of buns and cakes set out, and it was reasonable that I should be heading that way: I had a couple of pennies in my pocket. But I ran on past it, and did not slacken to a walk until I had reached the point where the houses thinned out and at last ended.
881 I struggled, seized in its arms. I saw the blazing eyes. It lifted me from the ice, lifting me toward its mouth. It held me, looking at me for a moment. Then it turned its head to one side. I struggled and twisted futilely. Its breath was hot in my face, and I could scarcely see it for the vapors of our mingled breathings. Then its jaws reached for my throat. Suddenly and so suddenly for a moment I could not comprehend it there was a hideous shriek from the beast and I could hear nothing else for a moment and it was one of surprise and pain and I was momentarily deafened and then, too, at the same time, reflexively I was flung from it the stars and ice suddenly wild and turned and I struck the ice and rolled and slid across it. I scrambled to my knees. I was more than forty feet from the beast.
882 Tony tried to locate Eve, but was unable to do so in the gathering throng. The darkness outside the range of lights was absolute. The temperature of the wind dropped many degrees, so that it seemed cold in comparison to the heat of early evening. It was difficult to walk on the wide cleared area between the various buildings, for the ground underfoot frequently forced itself up like the floor of a rapidly decelerated elevator. The lightning came nearer. The thunder was continual. It was hard to hear the voice of one's nearest neighbor. Word passed from person to person in staccato shouts that all buildings were to be evacuated. Tony himself, with half a dozen others, rushed into the brightly illuminated women's dormitory and hurriedly brought from it into the tumult and rain those who had remained there.
883 The lock snapped open and we slipped through the gate and closed it behind us. The noise faded as the line shuffled on toward the palace. We saw that there was a series of small gardens, each secured by a locked gate, and we would have to get through seven of them to reach the side of the palace. Master Li swore under his breath as he tackled the next lock. None of the picks was the right size, and he had to work with infinite care and patience. At last it opened and we raced through the next garden. The lock on the second gate was easier, but the third one was almost impossible. Master Li broke two picks and was trying to get leverage with a third when we heard footsteps crunching over gray gravel. It sounded like the approach of an elephant, and Moon Boy slipped back through the shrubbery to take a look.
884 She worked over the clay oven, bringing out the fat golden brown loaves on the blade of a long handled spade, and watched with deep contentment as Mark wiped up the last of the stew with the crust. Was that good, then, dear? In the evenings she sat close to the lantern, with her head bowed over the sewing in her lap, and nodded brightly as he told her of the day's adventures, each little triumph and disappointment. What a shame, dear. Or, How nice for you, dear. He took her, one bright, cloudless day, up the ancient pathway to the crest of Chaka's Gate. Holding her hand as he led her over the narrow places, where the river flowed six hundred sheer feet below their feet. She tucked her skirts into her bloomers, took a firm hold on the basket she carried and never faltered once on the long climb.
885 Then her eyes were drawn to a darkness within the shimmering pearl radiance. A single tower rose up to the sky. It was tall; even though the palace was perched on a hill, the top of the Tower was only slightly below her line of sight. Made of black marble, it stood out in distinct contrast to the white marble of the city around it. Minarets must have once graced its gleaming surface, she saw, though these were now crumbling and broken. Dark windows, like empty eyesockets, stared sightlessly into the world. A fence surrounded it. The fence, too, was black and, on the gate of the fence, Laurana saw something fluttering. For a moment she thought it was a huge bird, trapped there, for it seemed alive. But just as she was about to call the Lord's attention to it, he shut the curtains with a shiver.
886 It was a new device, more reliable than the old sandglasses. Sand eroded crystal as it passed through, shortening the days. Time in the form of water dripped from a sphere through a hole cut into a flawless ruby, down to another sphere marked off in regular increments. The hinged, airtight lid of the upper crystal was a golden dragon with emeralds for eyes. Rohan had ordered it made for him two years ago after a Fironese crafter had written to him about its principles, and one of his goals was to establish the manufacture and trade of such clocks. But as Lleyn droned on, and there was no discernible difference in the level of water in either sphere, Rohan began to doubt that accurate measurement of time was such a good idea after all. Waiting was waiting, no matter how one counted off the time.
887 Conan had been in places he preferred more, but all in all, his fortunes could have been considerably worse. He had good companions, a full belly, and control of his movements. His blade was sharp in its sheath, and there would certainly be no lack of food in the foreseeable future. It was true that Crom had not favored him with a gold and gemencrusted barge, but there was transportation, albeit somewhat slippery, and he and his companions seemed safe from immediate pursuit. Anyone trying to swim after them would likely be apt to find themselves lining the belly of a creature like the one beneath Conan's feet. He found that thought pleasing. A comfortable heat lubricated his shoulders, and the strain of rowing was pleasant, raising a legitimate sweat upon his skin. A man could do far worse.
888 The little otak was hiding in the rafters of the house, as it did when strangers entered. There it stayed while the rain beat on the walls and the fire sank down and the night wearing slowly along left the old woman nodding beside the hearthpit. Then the otak crept down and came to Ged where he lay stretched stiff and still upon the bed. It began to lick his hands and wrists, long and patiently, with its dry leafbrown tongue. Crouching beside his head it licked his temple, his scarred cheek, and softly his closed eyes. And very slowly under that soft touch Ged roused. He woke, not knowing where he had been or where he was or what was the faint grey light in the air about him, which was the light of dawn coming to the world. Then the otak curled up near his shoulder as usual, and went to sleep.
889 It was not a day of mercy. The slaughter commenced; shot after shot laid them in the dust, while the natives, on their Arabians, charged with their spears into the thickest of the crowd, regardless of the risk which they encountered from the muskets of other parties. The baying of the large dogs, who tore down their victims, the din occasionally increased by the contention and growls of the assailed, the yells of the natives, and the shrill cries of the elephants, raised, in obedience to their conductors, to keep the more ferocious animals at a distance, formed a scene to which no pen can do justice. In a few minutes all was over; those who had escaped were once more hid, panting, in the neighbouring jungles, while those who had fallen covered the ground, in every direction, and in every variety.
890 I wasn't among friends, that was clear enough. But I wasn't worrying about them at that moment, I wasn't even thinking about them, I was too busy worrying and thinking about myself. My left arm and the left side of my face were engaged in a competition to see which could make me jump more and the competition was fierce, but after a while they gave it up and joined forces and the whole left side of my body seemed to merge into one vast agonising pain. I was staring down at the launch console and the various buttons were swimming into focus and out again, one moment gone, the next hopping around like a trayful of jumping beans. Hewell hadn't exaggerated any, if there was one thing that was certain it was that I couldn't take much more of this. I was just slowly coming to pieces. Or perhaps not so slowly.
891 Josh had finally taken his bath. He could've sewn a suit from the dead skin that peeled away, and the water looked like he'd dumped a shovelful of dirt into it. He had washed the crusted blood and dirt away from the nub where his right ear had been; the blood had gotten down deep into the canal, and it took him a while to swab it all out. Afterward he realized he'd only been hearing through one ear; sounds were startlingly sharp and clear again. His eyebrows were still gone, and his face, chest, arms, hands and back were striped and splotched with the loss of black pigment, as if he'd been caught by a bucketful of beige paint. He consoled himself with the idea that he resembled a Zulu warrior chieftain in battle regalia or something. His beard was growing out, and it, too, was streaked with white.
892 Malta jerked her head aside to avoid a kick. It glanced off her skull, dazing her for an instant. It was not deliberate. Now that they had the Satrap, no one was interested in her anymore. She saw him picked up like a sack of meal and flung to a man's shoulder. He bore him away, roaring his triumph. The battle parted for him and receded after him. The boarders had what they had come for and now they were leaving. She had one glimpse of the Satrap's white face, his mouth and eyes wide with terror. She could not see Reyn anywhere. She scrabbled to her knees and stared wildly about. The Satrap was toted across a deck where dead men sprawled amongst the rolling, groaning wounded. The pirates who still fought were in defensive positions, battling for their own lives, unable to spring to his rescue.
893 More out of curiosity than necessity, he located the breeze that she had mentioned. The banana pudding smelled pretty good, though he supposed starving people might prefer something more solid and nutritious. He stepped onto a slidewalk, but kept walking in a large rectangle around the general area. Actually spotting their human visitors didn't seem as unlikely as it once had, even if that was only a new optimism. As he came downwind of the breeze from the fan again, he was pleasantly surprised to recognize the scent of a decent dish of Magellanic frettage carried along by it. Perhaps her extra practice with the processor was paying off. Now that he had loosened up a little, he decided that he might as well head back. Waiting was still waiting, whether he sat inside or marched aimlessly around town.
894 Language was no barrier, and Raleigh had the additional advantage of being placed in charge of his father's business interest in the area, and therefore was accorded almost immediate recognition and respect. Sooner or later every single resident of Sharpeville would come to either Tabaka's bakery or butcher shop and be impressed by the articulate and sympathetic young man who listened to their worries and troubles and extended them credit to buy the white bread and fizzy drinks and tobacco; these were the staple diet of the townships where much of the old way of life was abandoned and forgotten, where the soured milk and maize meal were difficult to procure and where rickets made the children lethargic, bent their bones and turned their hair fine and wispy and dyed a peculiar bronze colour.
895 The keys were still in the ignition and I tugged them out as I dragged the door shut and flung them hard into his face and kicked away from the door to give me the impetus for a horizontal dive that took me dear of the steering wheel with my right fist punching the horn to provide sound shock and my left hand wrenching at the driver's door handle and the main force of the momentum sending me through the gap as the door burst open and the retaining strap broke and the panel smashed back against the bodywork. The first shot ruffled the sleeve of my coat and shattered the window: he'd shouted something, maybe a cry of alarm because of the horn, and the soft wet phutt of the silencer came an instant afterwards. I was into the snow and lurching on to my feet and losing balance and trying to find it again.
896 Quickly, Naydrad sliced off the four doors with its cutting torch. Only three of the cabinets were occupied, because earlier one of the officers had gone aft to start the main thrusters manually when the ship had made its desperate attempt to pull away from Rhabwar. But there was too much local emotional radiation for him to be able to detect accurately the fourth man's distance or position. He could feel, although the source was so faint that it might have been a hope rather than a feeling, that the fourth officer was still alive. But there was no time to go looking for it now because the other three needed immediate attention. Naydrad and Danalta were already removing them from the cabinets. He tried to look at their faces, but the inside of the visors were steamed up and the suits were hot to the touch.
897 They were all bearded. It was the easiest disguise to adopt, and though the national police in their countries had pictures of them, the pictures were all of young, shaven men. A passerby might have thought them to be artists, the way they looked, and the way they all leaned inward on the table to speak with intense whispers. They were all dressed moderately well, though not expensively so. Perhaps they were arguing over some political issue, the waiter thought from his station ten meters away, or some confidential business matter. He couldn't know that he was right on both counts. A few minutes later, he watched them shake hands and depart in different directions, having left cash to pay the bill, and, the waiter discovered, a niggardly tip. Artists, he thought. They were notoriously cheap bastards.
898 When we arrived at Arbor House we gave the horses into the care of Bayle's grooms, who would see to their eventual return to town. Drew departed for his own quarters then, and I walked with Vinta to the huge hilltop manor house. It commanded far views of rocky valleys and hillsides where the grapes were grown. A great number of dogs approached and tried to be friendly as we made our way to the house, and once we had entered their voices still reached us on occasion. Wood and wrought iron, gray flagged floors, high beamed ceilings, clerestory windows, family portraits, a couple of small tapestries of salmon, brown, ivory and blue, a collection of old weapons showing a few touches of oxidation, soot smudges on the gray stone about the hearth... We passed through the big front hall and up a stair.
899 It would be late afternoon before the fire would be completely extinguished, and tomorrow morning before the rubble would have cooled enough to permit inspection. Bodies would be found in the ruins, and tentatively identified, but the body of Edgars would never be discovered, it had been too close to the hottest core of the fire. All the next day, merchants and accountants would be toting up figures, learning just exactly how much had been stolen in all. Police technicians would be dusting virtually the whole town for fingerprints, and would find none left by the robbers, but would be surprised that there were still on various surfaces in police headquarters fingerprints left by former Chief of Police Edgars, who'd left town nearly a year ago and was not likely to show his face here ever again.
900 She felt his hand brush across her hips and she held her body taut. When his hand moved to her legs, she clamped her knees together as tightly as she could. He began to stroke her, coaxing her to respond, his fingertips lightly tracing the line between her legs. Tess refused to obey the unspoken command, yet she felt her muscles relax slightly. He continued caressing her from her neck to her knees. She tried to concentrate on everything Helen told her, tried to picture the bloodshed of innocents. It was impossible. His hands were too much of a distraction. The tautness in her body no longer had much to do with denial, and everything to do with the desire he was stirring to life. Her body could not change its ways so easily. She'd craved his touch too often during the weeks of their separation.
901 Avelyn dared to peek out from under his hood at the handful of spectators lining the road before the monastery's front gates. His mother, Annalisa, and father, Jayson, were among that small group, though his mother had taken ill and would not likely make it back to their home in the village of Youmaneff, some three hundred miles from the coast. Avelyn knew with near certainty that this would be the last time he saw her, and likely the last time he'd see his father, as well. Avelyn was the youngest of ten, and his parents had been well into their forties when he was born. His next youngest sibling was seven years his senior, and so he wasn't really close to any of them. By the time Avelyn was old enough to understand the concept of family, half the children had already moved out of the family house.
902 The morning was chill, with a sky that soon developed a good crop of low, scudding clouds. Driven by gusty autumn winds, the rack reduced the chances of successful aerial reconnaissance, though two birds went up to try. Mark wondered if the turn in the weather might have been brought about at least in part by magical interference. His own magicians could not be sure on that point, but offered to attempt counter spells. He wished silently that Karel himself were here. But wishing was pointless. The people he actually had with him were skilled, or Karel would not have sent them on this journey. Smiling at his magicians as if he really had the highest confidence in them, Mark told them to conserve their powers until later. There was no way to be sure what quality of opposition they might be facing.
903 Their very names were unsettling. Garion had never wanted to believe in sorcery or magic or witchcraft. Such things were unnatural, and they violated his notion of solid, sensible reality. But too many things had happened to allow him to hold on to his comfortable skepticism any longer. In a single, shattering instant the last vestiges of his doubt had been swept away. As he had watched with stunned disbelief, Aunt Pol had erased the milky stains from the eyes of Martje the witch with a gesture and a single word, restoring the madwoman's sight and removing her power to see into the future with a brutal evenhandedness. Garion shuddered at the memory of Martje's despairing wail. That cry somehow marked the point at which the world had become less solid, less sensible, and infinitely less safe.
904 Looking fixedly at this snapshot, Tansy reaches for her glass of coffee brandy and takes a small sip. And suddenly, from nowhere (or the place from which all our more ominous and unconnected thoughts float out into the light of our regard), she finds herself remembering that stupid Edgar Allan Poe poem they had to memorize in the ninth grade. She hasn't thought of it in years and has no reason to now, but the words of the opening stanza rise effortlessly and perfectly in her mind. Looking at Irma, she recites them aloud in a toneless, pauseless voice that no doubt would have caused Mrs. Normandie to clutch her stringy white hair and groan. Tansy's recitation doesn't affect us that way; instead it gives us a deep and abiding chill. It is like listening to a poetry reading given by a corpse.
905 It could be perhaps mentioned that such work, cooking, cleaning and laundering, and such, is commonly regarded as being beneath even free women, particularly those of high castes. In the high cylinders, in Gorean cities, there are often public slaves who tend the central kitchens in cylinders, care for the children, but may not instruct them, and, for a tiny fee to the city, clean compartments and do laundering. Thus even families who cannot afford to own and feed a slave often have the use of several such unfortunate girls, commonly captured from hostile cities. Free women often treat such girls with great cruelty, and the mere word of a free woman, that she is displeased with the girl's work, is enough to have the girl beaten. The girls strive zealously in their work to please the free women.
906 A black shape flew slowly across the silvery ball of the moon. Rand's involuntary jerk on the reins halted the gray. A bat, he thought weakly, but he knew it was not. Bats were a common sight of an evening, darting after flies and bitemes in the twilight. The wings that carried this creature might have the same shape, but they moved with the slow, powerful sweep of a bird prey. And it was hunting. The way it cast back and forth in long arcs left no doubt of that. Worst of all was the size. For a bat to seem so large against the moon it would have had to be almost within arm's reach. He tried to judge in his mind how far away it must be, and how big. The body of it had to be as large as a man, and the wings... It crossed the face of the moon again, wheeling suddenly downward to be engulfed by the night.
907 What we discovered, Master, all of us, in the dungeons and training rooms of the House of Andronicus, was that we were natural slaves. There our slavery had been, by such devices as brands and collars, and whips and hoods, fully, for the first time, released in us and made manifest. Many of us were timid and thrilled to discover that we were natural slaves. At last there could be an end to the lies and pretenses. At last we could stop fighting ourselves and pretending to be what we were not. We now, though women of Earth, could admit to ourselves what we were. This gave us great joy. Beyond this, of course, we knew we were, categorically and absolutely, legal slaves, lovely properties which might be bartered and sold, and who might figure in transactions which would be upheld in any court of law.
908 Allukah was the first to break the trance. Shot with a need for this body she was born to possess, the queen of the Horlas lunged, clawing away the green gauze covering the dancer's pulsating chest. For a single beat of the heart, that colossal body of hers was paralyzed by the sight of the white mounds falling, rising, stretching with each breath, lying just inches from her nose. Sweat poured out of Allukah's forehead, washing a green tint into her foggy eyes, then the last strap snapped off her armor. The breastplate fell. Allukah pounced, frenzily taking one of those breasts all the way into her mouth while she cradled the other in her paw. With the hawk's head helmet still dangling on her head, it looked like the bird was straining with all its might to lay a great white egg on the dancer's chest.
909 Grimly Herman played back all the information he could find in the computer. How had Doon done it? It was impossible. But for hours as he pored over the information the computer gave him, Herman began to see the endless machinations that Doon had set in motion, always postponing revolution here, advancing it there, antagonizing here, soothing there, so that when the full revolution erupted it was universal; so that when Italy's defeat was obvious, there was no lingering desire to have some fragment of it remain. He had gauged the hatred better than the computer itself; he had destroyed more thoroughly than any man had ever built. And in his bitterness at the wrecking of his creation, Herman still had to recognize a kind of majesty in what Doon had done. But it was a satanic majesty, a regal power to destroy.
910 The sole remaining prisoner was a young man. He had been pummeled and throttled when he was taken, but other than bruises and swelling, he did not seem much harmed. Several slave tattoos crawled over his cheek. He had a thick thatch of wild brown hair that his red kerchief could not tame. His hazel eyes looked both frightened and defiant. He sat on the deck, his wrists bound behind him, his ankles chained together. Brashen stood over him, Lavoy at his shoulder. Amber, her lips pinched tight, stood back from the group. She did not hide her disapproval. A handful of crewmen loitered on the main deck to watch the interrogation. Clef was among them. Althea glared at him but the boy's wide eyes were fixed on the prisoner. Only two of the tattooed crewmen were there. Their faces were stoic, their eyes cold.
911 The baron pulled his horse aside and allowed the men to file past him through the outer gates. She could feel the somber mood increase as they rode through the outer bailey of their bleak home. They passed the inner gates without so much as a word of greeting called down from the walls. The baron's men were still mounted, lined up by rank on each side of the road that led from the inner gates to a set of massive stone steps. The steps led to Montague's great hall. Not one servant was in evidence, a situation unheard of even in a small, poorly staffed keep, much less a sprawling castle the size of Montague. Tess was too curious about this strange reception to be insulted by the cold welcome to her new home. To be sure, Kenric's men acted as if they didn't expect to see a living soul within the walls.
912 The inside of the base was all well back from the entrances, which meant it was not much more dank and chill than it had been in summer. Dimly lit by a few glowtubes stapled to the rock, and if you wanted to get warm you went to your room and moved the heater in under the blankets with you. There were heat sensors all over, and thermal camouflage discipline was enforced with a ferocious disregard for the privileges of rank. The officers were all bundled to the ears... Not a bad lot, he thought. Friendly enough now that he had proven himself able to keep up and not one to presume on a consort's influence. Hard men, though, he decided, studying their faces. Dangerous men. Which was all right with The Honorable Geoffrey Niles, since he had always aspired to being a hard and dangerous man himself.
913 But of those few chances the great majority went to the senior lieutenant, to the first lieutenant; the chances of the junior lieutenant were doubly few. So that whenever a lieutenant dreamed of attaining the rank of captain, with its dignity and security and prize money, he soon found himself harking back to the consideration of his seniority as lieutenant. If this next commission of the Renown's took her away to some place where other lieutenants could not be sent on board by an admiral with favourites, there were only two lives between Bush and the position of first lieutenant with all its added chances of promotion. Naturally he thought about that; equally naturally he did not spare a thought for the fact that the man with whom he was conversing was divided by four lives from that same position.
914 Weapons flew past from every direction, and the screams of the wounded and dying filled the gray afternoon. They were in the center of the courtyard now, the castle wall rising up before them. Then a sudden blow struck the Valeman, staggering him with its force. Stunned, he looked down and found the tip of a dart protruding from his shoulder like a peg hook. Pain lanced from the wound through his body, and he went rigid with shock. Slanter saw him stumble and was next to him in an instant, arms wrapping about him to hold him up, pulling him after the others. Helt roared with fury and used the long pike to hammer back the Gnomes that sought to rush forward to seize them. Jair squeezed his eyes shut against the pain. He was hurt, he thought in disbelief as he staggered forward under Slanter's guidance.
915 Roughly Gorm unknotted the coffle rope from her neck. He then gestured that she, kneeling, should lift her fettered wrists to him; she did so; he, with a key from his belt, opened the fetters which held her; he thrust them in his belt; he then pulled her by the arm roughly to her feet and thrust her toward the Forkbeard. She stumbled across the loose deck planking and stood, hair before her face, before us. She thrust her hair back with her right hand, and stood well. A bailing scoop was thrust into her hands. It has four sides. It is made of wood. It is about six inches in width. There is a diagonally set board in its bottom, and the back and two sides are straight. It has a straight, but rounded handle, carved smaller at the two ends, one where it adjoins the scoop, the other in back of the grip.
916 It's a secret. You have to swear an oath not to tell anybody, especially not my brother. All right, I swear. You have to do it properly. Lift your right hand and put the other on your heart. Solemnly she led him through the oath, and then took his hand and drew him to a lichenvered pile of boulders. Kneel down! He obeyed, and she carefully pulled aside a leafy branch that screened a niche amongst the boulders. Shasa gasped and pulled back, coming half to his feet. The niche was shaped like a shrine. There was a collection of empty glass jars arranged on the floor but the wild flowers in them had withered and turned brown. Beyond the floral offering a pile of white bones had been carefully arranged in a small pyramid and surmounting this was a human skull, with gaping eye sockets and yellow teeth.
917 His dark examination was the most intimate thing she had ever experienced. The connection between them was growing. His gaze drifted over her body, touched her exposed breasts with the heat of a flame. Juliette couldn't summon the strength to button her blouse so she stood swaying and vulnerable in front of him. As if reading her mind, her captor drew the edges of the material together and slipped the buttons in place. His knuckles brushed against her skin, sending a shiver of awareness down her spine. He bent his dark head toward her, a slow, almost seductive movement. Her heart thundered in her ears as his sculpted mouth came close to hers. A whisper away, no more. Mesmerized, she could only stare at him, waiting, forgetting to breathe. Abruptly, he turned his head toward the small group of houses.
918 I woke up to find myself in bed, with my mother, my father, and the doctor watching me anxiously. My head felt as if it were split open. I was aching all over, and, as I later discovered, one side of my face was decorated with a blotchy red raised weal. The insistent questions as to how I came to be lying unconscious in the garden were quite useless; I had no faintest idea what it was that had hit me. And some little time passed before I learned that I must have been one of the first persons in England to be stung by a triffid and get away with it. The triffid was, of course, immature. But before I had fully recovered my father had found out what had undoubtedly happened to me, and by the time I went into the garden again he had wreaked stern vengeance on our triffid and disposed of the remains on a bonfire.
919 It was instructive to observe the exchange of forces between Pol and the visitor. Also, mildly unsettling, as it occurred to me that they might be inducing pain in each other. Yet, they had wanted to do it or they wouldn't have. I was more interested in the manipulations than I was in their progressive wearing down of each other, because I felt that I might be able to engage in that sort of activity myself and I wished to be further informed. Its abrupt ending came as a surprise to me. Save for small, less complex creatures, I had not seen one being end another's existence. Indeed, it had not occurred to me that these larger ones could be ended. I felt as if I should have taken a part in it, though on which side and in which direction, I could not say. I was also uncertain as to why I felt this way.
920 She left the alley and found herself walking purposefully down the street. She needed a place to stay for the night and there was but one that came to mind. She tried not to think of the many times her father had sternly warned her about his company before he finally outright forbade her to visit him. It had been months since she had last spoken to him, but when she was a child, before she began sailing with her father, she had spent many summer afternoons in his company. Although the other children from town had found him both alarming and disgusting, Althea had soon lost her fear of him. She had felt sorry for him, truth to be told. He was frightening, true, but the most frightening part about him was what others had done to him. Once she had grasped that, a tentative friendship had followed.
921 I positioned myself over the hole, legs firmly planted either side, and flicked the retractor switch. For a moment it worked smoothly, pulling Alkland swiftly up until his head and shoulders were in the well. Then the soft humming started to veer towards a buzzing, and the rate of climb decreased markedly. Slowly Alkland spiralled higher until I could see one hand groping up for the edge of the grille. As his fingers scrabbled against it the retractor gave up the ghost with a fizzpt and I lunged down and grabbed the Actioneer's hand, nearly joining him in a quick ride back down to the bottom. The jacket slipped but I grabbed his wrist with my other hand and slowly hauled him up until his head and shoulders were through the hole. I helped him until he was out and then we both fell back in separate directions.
922 It was nearing sunset when they passed at last from the gloom of the wilderness forest into the town of Grimpen Ward. A less inviting community would have been hard to imagine. Set down within a hollow, Grimpen Ward was a ramshackle cluster of wooden plank buildings so closely jammed together as to be nearly indistinguishable one from the other. They were a seedy lot, these shops and stalls, inns and taverns. The garish paint that colored them was chipped and faded. Many stood shuttered, bars drawn, locks fastened. Poorly lettered signs hung from swaying posts and over doors, a patchwork maze of promises and prices beneath proprietors' names. Through windows and entryways, lamps of oil and pitch burned, casting their harsh yellow light into the shadows without as dusk closed down about the hollow.
923 Oddly, McKie discovered he was hungry. He wiped perspiration from his jaw and chin, cursed under his breath. There was no real assurance that what he heard in the Caleban's words represented real communication. Even granting some communication, how could he depend on the Caleban's interpretations or the Caleban's honesty? When the damn thing spoke, though, it radiated such a sense of sincerity that disbelief became almost impossible. McKie rubbed his chin, trying to catch an elusive thought. Strange. Here he was, hungry, angry, and afraid. There was no place to run. They had to solve this problem. He knew this for an absolute fact. Imperfect as communication with the Caleban actually was, the warning from the creature could not be ignored. Too many sentients had already died or gone insane.
924 There were human figures swarming like ants on the stricken pirate vessels, dropping into the river or scattering up the shore; another salvo of rockets streaked across the smoking water, and as the reek of the explosions cleared we could see that all three targets were burning fiercely, the nearest one, a flaming wreck, already sinking in the shallows. From each of Keppel's craft a longboat was pulling off for the shore, and even without the glass I could make out the canvas shirts and straw hats of our salts. As the boats pulled past the blazing wrecks and touched shore, Keppel's rockets began firing at higher elevation, towards the stockaded fort, but at that range the rockets weaved and trailed all over the place, most of them plunging down somewhere in the jungle beyond. Brooke handed me his glass.
925 Something thumped the back of his head. He turned to see a dead rat, bloated with gas, floating in the water. The moment of revulsion spurred him to get out of the river. There were no soldiers right where he was now; they were standing in the shade of an oak grove, a dozen yards downstream. He climbed out of the water and sank down in the undergrowth. He felt the sun on his body, warming him. He heard the soldiers laughing and joking. He knew he should move to a more secluded place. Where he was now, lying among low bushes on the shore, anyone walking along the riverside trail would easily see him. But as he felt warmer, he also felt overcome with exhaustion. His eyes were heavy, his limbs weary, and despite his sense of danger, he told himself, he would close his eyes just for a few moments.
926 Almost before the girl had spoken Costigan had leaped to the controls, and not an instant too soon; for the tip of that horrible tentacle flashed into the rapidly narrowing crack just before the door clanged shut. As the powerful toggles forced the heavy wedges into engagement and drove the massive disk home, that grisly tip fell severed to the floor of the compartment and lay there, twitching and writhing with a loathsome and unearthly vigor. Two feet long the piece was, and larger than a strong man's leg. It was armed with spiked and jointed metallic scales, and instead of sucking disks it was equipped with a series of mouths–mouths filled with sharp metallic teeth which gnashed and ground together furiously, even though sundered from the horrible organism which they were designed to feed.
927 Dalamar Nightson stood unmoving, a mage who might have been carved out of obsidian. Unmoving, he was not unmoved. Then his hand twitched, his right hand, his power hand, as though he were preparing to cast a killing spell. Just for an instant, Regene wondered if the charge of hospitality that lay on all who entered the Tower would be broken, breached for the first time in the memory of the oldest mage here. Dalamar lifted his head, his eyes cold, his expression stony. Some communication passed between them, a thing Regene could not sense, for they spoke mind to mind, mage to mage. The dark elf turned, and he walked away. When he returned to her side, Regene felt the anger in him not as fire but as ice. Her blood ran cold. She slipped her hands into the wide sleeves of her robe to hide their sudden shaking.
928 Roland grinned irritatingly and said nothing. I gnawed at my fingernails and contemplated getting off at the next stop and disappearing into the French countryside. How could I admit that I had already lost one of the campers? The boys snickered in their seats and threw things at each other, while I wondered what to do. Just as the tears were gathering under my eyelids I looked up to see a girl about my age dragging Nikili down the aisle by his ear. She had a thin athletic body, thick black hair, and startlingly blue eyes, but she carried herself like someone who had no interest in her own beauty. She wore drab clothes, no makeup, and looked like business. As she hurled Nikili into his seat she threatened to take him to the director for a good spanking the minute we arrived if he dared to move.
929 The valley's sides were steep farther up and in places almost craggy with brown rock outcroppings at the top on the far side. There was a similar rocky upthrust about a hundred feet to Depeaux's right. A few animal tracks wound their dusty ribbons through oak and madrona along the valley sides. The black rock of the tiny waterfall closed off the southern end where a thin cinnamon tracery of water spilled into the stream. To the north, the land undulated away out of the valley, widening into pasture meadows and occasional clumps of pine intermingled with oak and madrona. Cattle grazed in the far distance to the north and, although there were no fences immediately outside the farm's barrier, tall grass revealed that the cattle did not venture too near this valley. That, too, accorded with the reports.
930 I said just now that there was nothing exciting about lunar exploration, but of course that isn't true. One could never grow tired of those incredible mountains, so much more rugged than the gentle hills of Earth. We never knew, as we rounded the capes and promontories of that vanished sea, what new splendors would be revealed to us. The whole southern curve of the Mare Crisium is a vast delta where a score of rivers once found their way into the ocean, fed perhaps by the torrential rains that must have lashed the mountains in the brief volcanic age when the Moon was young. Each of these ancient valleys was an invitation, challenging us to climb into the unknown uplands beyond. But we had a hundred miles still to cover, and could only look longingly at the heights which others must scale.
931 Newton had before heard his father mention that he had two brothers, but whether dead or alive he could not tell. The present intelligence appeared to hold out some prospect of relief, for Newton could not for a moment doubt that if his uncle was in such flourishing circumstances, he would not refuse assistance to his brother. He therefore resolved not to wait until their means were totally exhausted: the next day he disposed of all his clothes except one suit, and found himself richer than he had imagined. Having paid his landlord the trifle due for rent, without any other incumbrance than the packet of articles picked up in the trunk at sea, three pounds sterling in his pocket, and the ring of Madame de Fontanges on his little finger, Newton with his father set off on foot for the metropolis.
932 Her head bent so that the platinum strands fell across her face. Then they began to run together, pulsing and shifting, flowing like a stream gathering speed as it runs downhill. Her body shimmered, becoming less slender than it had been but not as heavy as it had been when she was Ambositra. The metallic arms and legs became flesh and blood, garbed in ebon leggings, suede waistcoat over a silk shirt open at the collar. The outfit accentuated the swell of her full breasts while hiding the flare of her hips, the roundness of her belly. The hollow of her throat was filled with an oval star sapphire that emitted an eerie, milky light. Her hair was the color of cinnamon, streaked by the sun. She wore it as short as a man. And when she lifted her head he saw revealed, at last, the woman Sardonyx.
933 The light was growing now; Jan hurried with the food. The electric element on the high density battery quickly melted a potful of snow, into which he dumped a packet of dehydrated stew. A second potful heated while they wolfed down the first. Then Jan cleaned up, melted water to top up their bottles, then packed everything away again. It was full daylight. Well below the horizon an airplane droned by. The search would be on. He wriggled into his own sleeping bag and pulled snow over it. A long snore issued from Uri's bag. That sounded like a good idea. He set the alarm on his watch and pulled the flap over his face. At first he was afraid he would stay awake, worrying about the search that was going on, but sleep overwhelmed him and the next he knew the piercing warble of the alarm was screeching in his ear.
934 We climbed the gentle hill behind the house. The shouts of the boys splashing in the creek below faded. We went past Molly's neat straw hives, gently humming with the warm day. The blackberry tangle was beyond them and Molly led me to the far south side of it, saying the berries always ripened there first. Her bees were busy there, too, some among the last blackberry flowers and some after the juice from the bursting ripe fruit. We picked berries until the basket was half full. Then, as I bent a high prickly branch to bring it down so Molly could reach the top fruit, I offended a bee. It rushed at me, first tangling in my hair and then bumbling down my collar. I slapped at it and cursed as it stung me. I stumbled back from the berry bushes, batting at two others that were suddenly buzzing round my head.
935 We were driving on a bare, dirt roadway through a cathedral of enormous trees. It seemed to go on forever and ever. I felt safe in the place. Occasionally, startled a deer, surprised a fox crossing or standing near the road. In places, the way was marked with hoofprints. The sunlight was sometimes filtered through leaves, angling like tight golden strings on some Hindu musical instrument. The breeze was moist and spoke of living things. It came to me that I knew this place, that I had ridden this road often in the past. I had ridden through the Forest of Arden on horseback, walked through it, hunted in it, lay on my back beneath some of those great boughs, my arms beneath my head, staring upward. I had climbed among the branches of some of those giants and looked down upon a green world, constantly shifting.
936 Hagedorn moved ponderously to the window. Laying the pistol on the sill, he took several tools from the pockets of his voluminous coat and placed them beside the weapon. Then, adjusting a jeweler's magnifying glass to his eye, he began what seemed an interminable series of tinkerings. He opened the plates of the stock and, drawing back the sear, took out the firing pin. He removed the slide, unscrewed the link, and extracted the recoil spring. I thought he was going to take the weapon entirely apart, but apparently he merely wanted to let light into the barrel; for presently he held the gun to the window and placed his eye at the muzzle. He peered into the barrel for nearly five minutes, moving it slightly back and forth to catch the reflection of the sun on different points of the interior.
937 A similarity between fishing and this other enterprise was that no matter where along the stream you stood, there seemed to be, just down there, where the stream spilled through a narrow race around stones, or just beyond the tresses of the willows, the perfect spot, the spot you had all along intended to go to. The feeling wouldn't diminish even when, after some thought, you realized that the perfect spot was one where, a few minutes ago, you had been standing, standing and looking longingly at the spot you now stood in and wanting to be amid the long maculations of its leaf shadows, as you now were, and yet; and just as August did realize this, as his desires were so to speak in transit between There and Here, something seized his line and nearly snatched the pole from his abstracted hand.
938 Once more, Bahrank put them through a series of dazzling speed changes and turns for no apparent reason. McKie lurched against the restraints, felt bruising pain as an elbow hit the side of the cab. An explosion directly behind rocked them up onto the left track. As they bounced, Bahrank spun them left, avoided another blast which would've landed directly on them along their previous path. McKie, his ears ringing from the explosions, felt the machine bounce to a stop, reverse as more explosions erupted ahead. Bahrank spun them to the right, then left, once more charged full speed ahead right into an unbroken wall of jungle. With explosions all around, they crashed through greenery, turned to the right along another shadowed muddy track. McKie had lost all sense of direction, but the attack had ceased.
939 Professor Lehmann spun around. For a moment he lost his composure when he saw the lever approach the maximum point. The lever seemed to be moved by some invisible hand. Lehmann was so startled by this sight that he let precious seconds elapse before he could search his memory banks for the necessary information for such an emergency. Now he knew! It would take twenty seconds before the catastrophe set in. But before he managed to reach the lever and push it back into a safe position, the electric circuit blew out under the overload. Sparks were flying and lightning flashes jumped across the burst fuses. Lehmann shrank back when he saw the lever melt and assume a distorted shape due to the tremendous heat. The stench of burned rubber and melting metal filled his nostrils. There was a smell of ozone in the air.
940 She bent close and studied the intricate drawing that took for itself most of a page. There were no straight lines in it at all, only curved swirls and arcs that eddied all around in a circular design that somehow seemed almost alive. Here and there the pen had dug violently into the surface of the vellum, ploughing up parallel rows of fibers where the two halves of the pen's point had spread under the pressure. Ann lifted the book closer to a candle and carefully examined a curious place that was particularly rough. She saw in the ancient dried bed of an inky pool a fine, pointed sliver of metal: one side of the pen's point had broken off where it had been stabbed into the page. It was still embedded there. Right after, the cleaner marks of a fresh pen began anew, although they were no less forceful.
941 Ramsbotham's discoveries eliminated the basic cause of war and solved the problem of what to do with all those dimpled babies. A hundred thousand planets were no farther away than the other side of the street. Virgin continents, raw wildernesses, fecund jungles, killing deserts, frozen tundras, and implacable mountains lay just beyond the city gates, and the human race was again going out where the street lights do not shine, out where there was no friendly cop on the corner nor indeed a corner, out where there were no well hung, tender steaks, no boneless hams, no packaged, processed foods suitable for delicate minds and pampered bodies. The biped omnivore again had need of his biting, tearing, animal teeth, for the race was spilling out (as it had so often before) to kill or be killed, eat or be eaten.
942 At long last my father secured a position as a professor at the University of Paris, so we made the long, hard journey to that city. Being a mere university professor was of course a position far below his previous one of secretary, and we had to subsist on whatever the students felt like donating after they heard his lectures. Somehow, my mother was able to make a sort of home for us in our single rented room above a tavern and across the street from a brothel. I was able to continue my education by attending free of charge my father's lectures and those of his fellow professors, for they made this arrangement with each other. Thus we lived until my fourteenth year, for my father considered our location to be convenient for him. He taught classes in a room that the university rented above the brothel.
943 Because of my changed condition the male member of my body, though still capable of providing enjoyment to any lady so desiring to make use of it, was now incapable of producing seed. Though it could come to glad attention, allowing me to roger away as happily as any other man, it was no longer at all necessary for the achievement of a climax to my pleasures. That sweet accomplishment was only to be found when partaking of the lady's blood, a process we could both enjoy to its fullest for as long as we could stand the ecstasy. Wonderful as it was and superior as it was to the more common way of making love, it had a wretched price. The joys of having a wife and a hearth might yet be mine in the future, but my present state tragically precluded any possibility of ever having a family of my own to cherish.
944 Like the polar regions, the desert could be borrowed but not owned. Unlike the polar regions, where ice could be melted for water and there was relatively solid ground for construction, the desert had moods. Now broiling, now cool. Savagely windy one minute, utterly still the next. One had to bring not only water and shelter but commitment. Unlike the Arctic or Antarctic, a traveler didn't get off a boat or a plane, move inland a mile or two, take pictures or readings, then depart. From ancient times, when camel caravans crossed these regions, if a person came to the desert it was with the intention of crossing it. And here in these high, dry lands where the earth was not just sandy but parched, where travel was measured in yards instead of in miles, crossing it required luck as well as stamina.
945 As he leaned back in the seat he remembered the face of the lurching husband, the sharp pain of his big hand coming down on Cheelo's arm. He did not even recall pulling the trigger. Then the man collapsing, his life imploding like a mud wall under assault from a rain forest downpour. His wife falling to her knees next to him, disbelief seizing control of her throat and vocal cords. He shuddered slightly. Though he had administered his share of beatings, he had never killed anyone before. He still felt the same. The pistol had done the killing, not him. The man had set if off himself, as a consequence of his own idiotic actions. Why couldn't he have just stood there for another lousy couple of minutes? Why couldn't he have played out his role of victim? A lot of good his insurance did him now.
946 Kennard's crippled hands touched him gently; Regis could feel pain ripping through those swollen hands as he wrenched them away. He felt himself sliding in and out of his body, unable to bear the jangle and confusion of all their thoughts. He thought with wild longing of being aboard a starship outward bound, free, leaving this little world behind with all its intrigue. He stood for a moment in Kennard's memory on the faraway surface of Terra, struggling with the pull of honor and duty against all he longed for, back to the heritage laid out for him before he was born, a path he must walk whether he would or not... felt his grandfather's anguish, Rafael, Rafael, you would not have deserted me like this... heard Dyan's slow cynical voice, a very special stud animal whose fees are paid to Comyn....
947 Because, they had learned, Dolph hated his big sister. She bossed him endlessly, and no prince liked that. Also, girls were supposed to be more innocent than the boys they married. Boys were supposed to know everything, and the girls very little. Since it was manifest mat girls were smarter than boys, the only way to get around this was for the girls to be younger. Then, after they were married, they could show their superiority. The boys were then either too stupid or too embarrassed to acknowledge the situation, so they ignored it. They did not even tell each other. That was the universal way of it. Everyone knew all about it, except the men, and of course no woman would tell. It was the mirror to the Adult Conspiracy, only in this case the victims did not know it existed until too late.
948 As quickly as that, it was done. Serilla did not even recognize the names of those Dwicker chose. One was a dowdy young woman holding a squirming child in her arms, another an old man with a seamed face who leaned on a cane. How was she supposed to exert her influence on such as those? She felt as if she dwindled into her chair as a wave of defeat and shame washed over her. The shame amazed her in its intensity and brought despair in its wake. Somehow, it was all connected. This was the power that men could take over her. She caught a sudden glimpse of Ronica Vestrit's face. The sympathy in the old woman's eyes horrified Serilla. Had she sunk so low that even her enemies pitied her as they tore her to pieces? A sudden ringing in her ears threatened her, and the hall grew dimmer around her.
949 I felt very conspicuous marching out under the lights with the tube under one arm, the tool bag slung casually in the other. And I had to walk slow, slog along when I wanted to run. This was hard to do, but my only safety lay in looking normal. Slow and steady. No one looked up, no one seemed to care about anything except his own work. I still sighed deeply when I reached the cab of the mobile gantry and threw in my things. The controls were simple enough. Slowly and carefully I drove around the base of the ship, out of sight of any of the servicemen for the moment. But there might be men watching whom I could not see in the darkness so I still moved at the sluggish pace of the others. Onto the gantry with my equipment, then slowly up beside the fin to the top, the standard location of the flare ejector.
950 But before dinner was over the plot thickened; a letter was brought to the marquis from my adopted father, the Comte de Rouille, stating that such contradictory reports had been received, that he could not ascertain the truth. From one he heard that his eldest son was alive, and at the chateau; from others that he had been murdered; others congratulated him in their letters upon the escape of one of his sons. He requested the marquis to inform him of the real state of affairs, and to let him know by the bearer whether his eldest son was with him, or whether he had met with the unfortunate death that was reported; and as his youngest son was at home, and had been there for some months, he could not but imagine, as both of them were mentioned in the reports, that there might be some imposture in the business.
951 We pass the two killed sentries a minute later. They were in a little covered trench some way off the path, uphill in the trees. They have been dragged out of their nest, loose and slack and left together on the sloping ground outside. Both are young, dressed in combat fatigues; one has a crossbow bolt through his left eye, the other has had his throat cut so deeply his head is almost severed from his body. Looking closer, the other's throat has been cut too, but more elegantly, less messily. Our two soldiers wipe their knives upon the fatigues of the men they've killed, and look proud. The lieutenant nods in appreciation and makes a signal; the bodies are bundled back inside the trench, falling slackly. Horses are led forward for our two heroes to remount; the third man, the scout, has disappeared again.
952 The paintings did count, because they were almost the first things the tattooed strangers noticed when they came walking into our hunting grounds. This wasn't a good thing, as it turned out. We had no clue why they started screaming and killing us, but I learned later that they had this god whose principal commandment was that every living soul on earth must be tattooed, or the universe would collapse. Anybody not submitting to mandatory skin art was guilty of not doing his bit to keep the universe in place and must therefore die. Anybody who lavished art on something other than skin was guilty of blasphemy and must also die. They had developed a lot of sound theological reasons for this, I'm told, and we'd have probably listened patiently to them as we submitted to being tattooed; my people weren't dumb.
953 Nicholas proceeded with the utmost caution, probing the roof of the tunnel for weakness as he went. When he reached the landing he saw at once that the rock fall had smashed down what remained of the white plaster door that had originally sealed the entrance to the tomb. The ammunition crates, eight of which contained the statues JVI from the shrines, had been knocked about and scattered, and some of them were partially buried under the fallen rubble. He retrieved them and opened each of the packed crates in turn to check the contents. With immense relief he discovered that the stout metal containers had withstood the rough treatment and there was no damage to the precious statues they held. One at a time he carried them back down the tunnel as far as the causeway and handed them into Sapper's care.
954 The smooth pebble in Mat's mouth was not making moisture anymore, and had not been for some time. Spitting it out, he squatted beside Rand and stared at the billowing gray wall maybe thirty paces in front of them. Fog. He hoped at least it was cooler in there than out here. And some water would be appreciated. His lips were cracking. He pulled the scarf from around his head and wiped his face, but there was not much sweat to dampen the cloth. Not much sweat remained in him to come out. A place to sit down. His feet felt like cooked sausages inside his boots; he felt pretty well cooked all over, for that matter. The fog stretched left and right better than a mile and bulked over his head like a towering cliff. A cliff of thick mist in the middle of a barren blistered valley. There had to be water in there.
955 At first it was thought that the holy man would not keep his vow quite literally, and would suffer himself to be comforted; but such was not the case. On reaching his own house, he began by stopping his ears by cotton wool, so as not to hear the clamor and adjuration of his friends; and then, having seated himself on the mats in his cell, with his legs crossed, and his head in his hands, he remained in that posture speechless, and taking no food; and finally, at the end of three days, expired according to his prayer. He was buried magnificently, and during the obsequies Shaban did not fail to manifest his grief by slashing his flesh without mercy, and soaking the earth with little rivulets of his blood; after which, having caused balm to be applied to his wounds, he returned to the duties of his office.
956 We come to understand the thought of Albert Camus only after we have probed the full significance of his optimism about and his pessimism about human destiny. For this throws us back to the abiding evidence of evil in human existence. For the Christian the ultimate character of the universe is good, and in this he finds his hope and the ability to transcend and accept, to a degree, the evil in the world. But what, at this point, has become clear about the thought of Camus is that for him the ultimate character of the universe is evil and that consequently men are always uncertain and always threatened; whatever goodness there be in life, it is in men, and this goodness is created only in the struggle of men to preserve and enlarge this area of goodness which they alone know and which they alone can guarantee.
957 Everything was real, every building, every street was exactly where it should be, precisely where he had been told it would be, but Reynolds could not shake off the growing feeling of unreality, of illusion, as if he were spectator of a play and all this was happening to someone else. A normally unimaginative man, ruthlessly trained to be abnormally so, to subject all emotion and feeling to the demands of reason and the intellect, he was aware of the strangeness in his mind and at a loss to account for it. Perhaps it was the certain foreknowledge of defeat, the knowledge that old Jennings would never come home again. Or it could have been the cold or tiredness or hopelessness or the ghostly veil of drifting snow that hung over everything, but he knew it was none of these things, It was something else again.
958 The two admirals didn't know what to make of this heavily bandaged young barbarian who had come to succor them, literally out of the blue, in their darkest hour. He was an enigma sitting before them in his faded, tattered uniform, with his strange pet beast sniffing and peering into the patient chairdog's eyes, ears, nose and mouth while periodically stealing tidbits and sips of wine. But they were warriors, veterans of many battles and skirmishes in distant corners of the galaxy. They understood that here was something beyond the ken of past experience. Something to be appreciated, supported, and perhaps even placated. Every resource of the vast dockyard was extended to him, and they also agreed to help find human sailors to fill out his crew. The Sylvan admiral even promised a draft of crack Sylvan topmen.
959 The Elfmaid was surrounded by swirling gray mists, by heavy air as dank and foul as that of a despoiled crypt. Although she'd been temporarily blinded by the fireballs, Liriel had her other senses in full measure, and she caught the familiar scent of giant fungi and a whiff of sulfur and brimstone. Faintly, as if from some unfathomable distance, came the echoes of roars too terrible to have come from mortal throats and of shrieks that spoke of torment and despair. Liriel's eldritch senses were fully aware, too, and she sensed the palpable cloud of terror and gloom that pressed heavily upon all those unfortunate enough to enter these realms. She also sensed the core of dark fire that was the heart of this fell domain, felt the frigid obsidian hand that reached out to touch her and to claim the offered prize.
960 Web nodded in companionable silence as we drew closer to the shore. A single figure, a girl in blowing russet skirts, stood on a headland watching us approach. Sheep and goats grazed the rocky pasturage around her and on the rolling hillsides behind her. Inland, we glimpsed threads of rising smoke from cottages that snuggled tight amongst the furze. A single dock on stone pilings reached out into the tiny bay to greet us. I saw no sign of a town. As I watched, the girl on the headland lifted her arms over her head and waved them three times. I thought she was greeting us, but perhaps she signalled folk at the settlement, for a short time later people came down the path to the shore. Some stood on the dock, awaiting us. Others, youngsters, ran along the beach, shouting excitedly to one another.
961 Chevette opened her mouth to say something, then closed it. Turned, felt her way along the corridor, to the door to her room. A closet, this had been, though bigger inside than some houses on the bridge. A frosted dome came on in the ceiling when you opened the door. Someone had cut a thick slab of foam so that it fit the floor, down half the length of the narrow, windowless space, between an elaborate shoe rack of some pale tropical hardwood and a baseboard of the same stuff. Chevette had never seen anything made of wood that was put together that well. The whole house was like that, under the sharehouse dirt, and she'd wondered who'd lived in it before, and how they'd felt about having to leave. Whoever it was, to judge by the rack, had had more shoes than Chevette had owned in her life.
962 The holos showed exactly what Hank had reported. A series of caves. Caves that looked to have been actually cut into the bluffs beside the ruined building. The nearest were completely dug up, and plainly emptied, but beyond them, there was another series of caves that were open to the air and still held treasure. But this wasn't like anything Tia had ever seen before. Each one of those caves, rather than being some kind of grave or other archeological entity, was clearly nothing more than a cache, and each one held precious objects from an entirely different culture than the one next to it. The two nearest the camera in the first holo held sacred objects from two cultures that were lightyears apart, and from ages when neither civilization had attained even interplanetary flight, much less starflight.
963 It seems half of Faerun now knows that gorgon's blood in the mortar and stucco of a building prevents astral and ethereal travel into or out of it and that lead sheeting or strong concentrations of lead in rock foils scrying magics, but there is far more to be learned. To be effective, the gorgon's blood must be in a solution of one drop to a pint of water or stronger and must be applied so that no area of the external walls larger than a large man's head is untouched by it. Xorn or medusa blood can be used instead, but it must be applied in the following complex formula: three drops of xorn blood or four drops of medusa blood and two drops of unholy water per pint of water. Needless to say, the second formula is not used within upon buildings belonging to or used by good or (most) neutral faiths.
964 They began to talk about many things, and she was impressed with his broad knowledge. He had read widely, had studied economics and was capable of expressing strong opinions. He was really much better informed than Mr. Skimmerhorn, who stuck pretty much to ranching. But she also detected that he was an isolated man, extremely lonely, and she sensed that if these were critical years for her, trying as she was to settle upon patterns she would follow for the rest of her life, they were doubly crucial for this cowboy. For her, finding a new husband was merely following a style of life; for him, taking a wife could be life itself, the acceptance of another human being; and she supposed that she was the only means whereby he could escape from the prison of loneliness in which he had immured himself.
965 There are a number of objections that one can raise to the strong anthropic principle as an explanation of the observed state of the universe. First, in what sense can all these different universes be said to exist? If they are really separate from each other, what happens in another universe can have no observable consequences in our own universe. We should therefore use the principle of economy and cut them out of the theory. If, on the other hand, they are just different regions of a single universe, the laws of science would have to be the same in each region, because otherwise one could not move continuously from one region to another. In this case the only difference between the regions would be their initial configurations and so the strong anthropic principle would reduce to the weak one.
966 He took the matter up with Joe and at last gained some notion of gravitation. He never really understood it emotionally; it was too wildly improbable; but as an intellectual concept he was able to accept it and use it, much later, in his first vague glimmerings of the science of ballistics: and the art of astrogation and ship maneuvering. And it led in time to his wondering about weight in the Ship, a matter that had never bothered him before. The lower the level the greater the weight had been to his mind simply the order of nature, and nothing to wonder at. He was familiar with centrifugal force as it applied to slingshots. To apply it also to the whole Ship, to think of the Ship as spinning like a slingshot and thereby causing weight, was too much of a hurdle; he never really believed it.
967 The four silent women moved on her left, and something bothered me about the way they moved. It took me a second or two to realize what it was. They were moving in utter unison, perfect step. One lifted a hand to brush a strand of black hair from her face, and all the others followed the movement like puppets, though there was no stray hair on their faces. From the breaths that raised their chests, to the small jerk of a finger, they imitated each other. No, not imitated, that was too mild a word. They were like one being with four bodies. The effect was eerie because they didn't look alike. One was short and square. One was tall and thin. The other two were delicate and did look something alike. All of them had paler skin than Itzpapalotl, as if in life they hadn't been much darker than they were now.
968 I have known Edward Pickman Derby all his life. Eight years my junior, he was so precocious that we had much in common from the time he was eight and I was sixteen. He was the most phenomenal child scholar I have ever known, and at seven was writing verse of a sombre, fantastic, almost morbid cast which astonished the tutors surrounding him. Perhaps his private education and coddled seclusion had something to do with his premature flowering. An only child, he had organic weaknesses which startled his doting parents and caused them to keep him closely chained to their side. He was never allowed out without his nurse, and seldom had a chance to play unconstrainedly with other children. All this doubtless fostered a strange secretive life in the boy, with imagination as his one avenue of freedom.
969 I had not concerned myself about it during the first few days of this. But after a week or two, it occurred to me to wonder that no one, not Marie, or Bill, or even Ellen, had been after me to take charge of our community, once more. The wonder brought with it both a touch of annoyance and a sneaking feeling of relief. I was bothered that they did not miss my help more; but at the same time, I felt in my guts that what I was doing was by all measures more important than being an administrator. So, the summer colors outside the window dried and brightened to fall ones, then faded to the drab brown of winter grass and the occasional white of snow, with only the different hues of evergreen to relieve the scene; and I came to understand that my presence was required, so to speak, only on state occasions.
970 Stripping off his clothes, he climbed into the coverings with her, arranging his own damp garments on the outside; they could help hold in the body heat. His sense of touch, enhanced by the Void and saidin, soaked in the feel of her. Her skin made silk feel rough. Compared to her skin, satin was... Don't think. He smoothed damp hair away from her face. He should have dried it, but the water no longer felt so cold, and there was nothing but the blankets or their clothes to use anyway. Her eyes were closed; her chest stirred against him slowly. Her head lay on his arm, snuggled against his chest. If she had not felt like winter itself, she could have been sleeping. So peaceful; not angry at all. So beautiful. Stop thinking. It was a sharp command outside the emptiness surrounding him. Talk.
971 Aunt Cord was in the kitchen window as Susan walked her gift (which was really just returned property, in her view) to the stable. She called out something passing cheery about how the horse was a good thing, that caring for it would give Susan less time for her megrims. Susan felt a hot reply rise to her lips and held it back. There had been a wary truce between the two of them since the shouting match about the shirts, and Susan didn't want to be the one to break it. There was too much on her mind and heart. She thought that one more argument with her aunt and she might simply snap like a dry twig under a boot. Because often silence is best, her father had told her when, at age ten or so, she had asked him why he was always so quiet. The answer had puzzled her then, but now she understood better.
972 He ordered himself another schooner, drank up, and belched again. Talk at the bar went on; there was no silence like the ones in the western movies when the good guy or the bad guy pushes his way through the batwings and makes his ominous way to the bar. Several people called to him. Claude nodded and waved, but he didn't smile. Thoroughgood said he looked like a man who was half in a dream. At the table in back, the poker game went on. El Katook was dealing. No one bothered to tell any of the players that Claude Heroux was in the bar... although, since their table was no more than twenty feet away, and since Claude's name was hollered more than once by people who knew him, it is hard to know how they could have gone on playing, unaware of his potentially murderous presence. But that is what occurred.
973 Viciously, with full intention, he hurled his spear at Ralph. The point tore the skin and flesh over Ralph's ribs, then sheared off and fell in the water. Ralph stumbled, feeling not pain but panic, and the tribe, screaming now like the chief, began to advance. Another spear, a bent one that would not fly straight, went past his face and one fell from on high where Roger was. The twins lay hidden behind the tribe and the anonymous devils' faces swarmed across the neck. Ralph turned and ran. A great noise as of sea gulls rose behind him. He obeyed an instinct that he did not know he possessed and swerved over the open space so that the spears went wide. He saw the headless body of the sow and jumped in time. Then he was crashing through foliage and small boughs and was hidden by the forest.
974 It is common to run a neck chain to the ankles in front of a woman's body, rather than behind it. In this fashion any stress on the chain is borne by the back of her neck rather than her throat. It is also regarded as a more aesthetic chaining arrangement than its opposite, the neck chain, for example, with its linearity, and its sturdy, inflexible links, affording a striking contrast with the softnesses, the beauties, of her lovely bosom. This arrangement is also favored for its psychological effect on the woman. As she feels the chain more often on her body in this arrangement, brushing her, for example, or lying upon her, she is less likely to forget that she is wearing it. It helps her to keep clearly in mind that she is chained. It reminds her, dramatically and frequently, of that fact.
975 The noise of people shouting for horse handlers to bring their teams, and others demanding at the top of their lungs to know what was happening, was beginning to fill the camp. Adria, a slim woman holding a flowered green robe around her, came running up in bare feet and vanished into the yellow wagon, where the other four contortionists lived. Somebody in the green wagon bellowed hoarsely that people were trying to sleep. A handful of performers' children, some performers themselves, dashed by, and Olver looked up from folding the game. That was his most prized possession, but if not for that, he plainly would have gone after them. It was going to take some time yet before the show was ready to travel, but that was not what made Mat groan. He had just heard those bloody dice start rattling in his head again.
976 Arren went back in the boat and looked after his companion, arranging him a pallet under the awning and giving him water to drink. He did these things hurriedly, keeping his eyes from the bandage, which was in need of changing, for the wound had not wholly ceased to bleed. Sparrowhawk, in the languor of weakness, did not speak; even as he drank eagerly, his eyes closed and he slipped into sleep again, that being the greater thirst. He lay silent; and when in the darkness the breeze died, no magewind replaced it, and again the boat rocked idly on the smooth, heaving water. But now the mountains that loomed to the right were black against a sky gorgeous with stars, and for a long time Arren gazed at them. Their outlines seemed familiar to him, as if he had seen them before, as if he had known them all his life.
977 For nearly eight hours the valiant defenders of Tyrsis repelled an enemy twenty times its size. Scaling ladders and grappling hooks were methodically shattered and cut apart, Northlanders were pushed away as quickly as they gained the summit, and momentary hole's in the defense lines were closed before a breach could be opened. The acts of bravery performed by individual members of the famed Legion were too numerous to recount. They fought against impossible odds without rest, without relief, knowing all the while that no quarter would be given them by the enemy, should they fail. For eight hours the enraged Northland army struggled to break through the Legion bulwarks without success. But finally a breach was opened on the defensive left flank. With a ragged shout of victory, the enemy rushed onto the bluff.
978 And as the food and the wine strengthened him, and his fatigue dropped away, his mind began to busy itself with new plans, devising, without his conscious volition, fresh methods of harassing the enemy. As he drank his coffee the ideas began to stir within him, and yet he was not conscious of them. All he knew was the cabin was suddenly stuffy and cramped, and that he was yearning again for the fresh air and fierce sunshine outside. Polwheal, returning to clear the table, saw his captain through the stern windows pacing the gallery, and years of service under Hornblower had taught him to make the correct deductions from Hornblower's bent, thoughtful head, and the hands which, although clasped behind him, yet twisted and turned one within the other as he worked out each prospective development.
979 Not of ordinary life. Ordinary life was an endless queue of backs, of the next man's breath. In ordinary life people went to offices and did terrible things, and went home and, still in the jumble of a communal apartment, drank, swore, made love, waged war for a bit of dignity and somehow survived. Irina rose above this mob. She flaunted extraordinary beauty in a ragged jacket, she wore a mark on her cheek as honesty, she didn't care for petty survival. In many ways she was not a person at all. Arkady understood other people well; as an investigator it was his talent. He didn't understand Irina, and he suspected he might never penetrate vast areas of her unknowability. She had appeared as another planet and taken him in tow. He had followed, but he didn't know her, and it was he who had switched allegiance.
980 There are, however, more than minor differences between the procreative apparatus of the feline and that of the human female, so that my experiments were merely reruns that proved exogenesis was possible in cats. The successful exogenetic births of sheep and cows in Texas were encouraging, but in the final analysis only added two more species in which this delicate interference with normal conception and pregnancy was possible. One minor physiological variation between humans and cows or sheep was very significant for my purposes: In human females the length of the oviducts before they unite to form the corpus uteri is short, leaving less time and space to catch the fertilized egg before it reaches the endometrium and undergoes impregnation there: at which point there can be no hope of transplantation.
981 Once she'd hung up, I opened my desk drawer and took out a fresh pack of lined index cards. Time for clerical work. I began jotting down notes, writing as fast as I could, one item per card, piling them up as I went. I had a lot of catching up to do, days of accumulated questions. I knew some of the answers, but most of the lines I was forced to leave blank. I used to imagine I could hold it all in my head, but memory has a way of pruning and deleting, eliminating anything that doesn't seem relevant at the moment. Later, it's the odd unrelated detail that sometimes makes the puzzle parts rearrange themselves like magic. The very act of taking pen to paper somehow gooses the brain into making the leap. It doesn't always happen in the moment, but without the concrete notation, the data disappear.
982 Muller tried to raise the flag and was astonished to find how easily it came up. It was a square of reddish marble, the same with which the entire floor of the church was tiled. This flag was very thin and could easily be raised and placed back against the wall. Muller took up his candle, too greatly excited to stop to get a stick for it. He felt assured that now he would soon be able to solve at least a part of the mystery. He climbed down the steps carefully and found that they led into the crypt as he supposed. They were kept spotlessly clean, as was the entire crypt as far as he could see it by the light of his flickering candle. He was not surprised to discover that the air was perfectly pure here. There must be windows or ventilators somewhere, this he knew from the way his candle behaved.
983 All right, Lawrence, he thought, enough. But something held him, something different this time, and he told himself, No, wait, don't leave, not just yet. It came out of the ground, the rocks, through the deep green of the trees, all around him, the sight of his men, the sounds, the smells. He closed his eyes, and he was swallowed up in all of it, his men, holding them back, holding the line, the smoke and the cries, the horrible sight of his men dropping away, struck down. He could hear the screams and the sounds of the muskets, could smell the hot burn of the smoke, saw the terror in their eyes, and now he felt it, his mind opening to the marvelous memories, the pure raw excitement. If this was the last time, if he could never come back, he knew seeing it all again, it was the most alive he had ever been.
984 For one thing, Ling grew somewhat less condescending as they worked together, appreciating each other's skills. Moreover, Lark found it stirring to see what evolution had wrought during just a million fallow years, turning each islet into a miniature biological reactor, breeding delightful variations. There were flightless avians who had given up the air, and gliding reptiloids that seemed on the verge of earning wings. Mammiforms whose hair grew in horny protective spikes, and zills whose coatings of fluffy torg shimmered with colors never seen on their bland mainland cousins. Only later did he conclude that some of the diversity might have been enhanced from the start, by Jijo's last legal tenants. Perhaps the Buyur seeded each isle with different genetic stock as part of a very long scale experiment.
985 The Ridpath is one of the best hotels in Spokane, and Raphael stayed there for four days. On the first morning he was there he took a cab to a local bank with branches in all parts of the city and opened a checking account with the cashier's check he had purchased in Portland. He kept a couple hundred dollars for incidentals and then returned to his hotel. He did not venture out after that, since the snowy streets would have been too hazardous. He spent a great deal of time at the window of his room, looking out at the city. While he was there he had all of his pants taken to a tailor to have the left legs removed. The flapping cloth bothered him, and the business of pinning the leg up each time he dressed was a nuisance. It was much better with the leg removed and a neat seam where it had been.
986 The first month consisted entirely of drill within the individual groups, and continual exercise. There was much more of both than the warriors had ever had before, because contestants were readily available and there was no delay or traveling between encounters. Each practiced with his weapon until fatigued, then ran laps around the inner perimeter of the camp and returned for more practice. The best man in each weapon class was appointed leader and told to instruct the others in the fine points of his trade. The original rankings could be altered by challenge from below, so that those whose skill increased could achieve higher standing. There was vigorous competition as they fell into the spirit of it, with spectators from other weapons applauding, jeering and watching to prevent injurious tactics.
987 His voice rang out. 'This land, this planet, is a garden. We are like plants upon it. But what kind of plants are we? Two thousand years ago an Avatar developed a script through which people could communicate without speech. Fifteen hundred years ago another Avatar discovered the link between certain crystals and sunlight. Twelve hundred years ago three mathematicians, seeking the secrets of the stars, discovered the Great Song. Its music helped build the wonders of the lost continent. We were valued plants in the garden then, my friends. We taught the world to write and farmers how to feed the land and grow better crops. We conquered disease and finally death itself. We were like fruit trees growing from naked rock. We fed the world with our knowledge.' He paused, and scanned his audience.
988 The three of them sat at the top of the hill for some unknown length of time, Bill and Rosie together with their arms around each other's waist, Dorcas a little off to one side, near to where the pony still grazed sleepily. The pony looked up at the black woman every now and again, as if curious about why so many people were still up at this unaccustomed hour, but Dorcas took no notice, only sat with her arms clasped around her knees, looking wistfully up at the latening moon. To Rosie she looked like a woman mentally counting the choices of a lifetime and discovering that the wrong ones outnumbered the right ones... and not by only a few, either. Bill opened his mouth to speak on several occasions, and Rosie looked at him encouragingly, but each time he closed it again without saying a word.
989 The rope, which had hitherto held the raft to the ship, was now cast off, and it was taken in by the boats; and in a short time the Vrow Katerina was borne to leeward of them; and Philip and Krantz now made arrangements for the better disposal of the people. The sailors were almost all put into boats that they might relieve one another in pulling; the remainder were placed on the raft, along with the soldiers, the women, and the children. Notwithstanding that the boats were all as much loaded as they could well bear, the numbers on the raft were so great, that it sunk nearly a foot under water, when the swell of the sea poured upon it; but stanchions and ropes to support those on board had been fixed and the men remained at the sides, while the women and children were crowded together in the middle.
990 I told him to wait and went to my cabin, hurriedly stuffing the things I'd need into my grip. I took my anorak, and sea boots as well, shouted to Johan that he was in charge now, and a moment later I was in the boat and being rowed ashore. Money and a vehicle, and I didn't wait for the inevitable questions, but ducked into the chart recess to lose myself for a moment in the practicalities of working out the course for Scalloway. Johan followed me shortly afterwards. 'So we get compensation and Gertrude pays off the mortgage, then we go fishing, ja?' He was smiling and I guessed what he was thinking. That close positive relations between them would be resumed and everything would go on as it had before. He put a great paw on my arm. 'What will you do then?' To my surprise there was real concern in his voice.
991 Each item requested would be encoded with the geographic region for which information was available, the specifics of the information required, the date it was needed, and the offered price. Any agent could then step into a phone booth or pick up a motel phone anywhere in the world, and, using his field terminal, review all requests for information in this area. Similarly, any item offered for sale would be encoded with the general category of interest, the specifics of the information, and the asking price. The buying clients would then use their field terminals to scan for any items that might be of particular interest to them. This system allowed both speculative and consignment espionage to be channeled through his brokerage, with Mausier arranging the details and collecting his ten percent.
992 Still, coming to a fold in the hills where the forest makes a shallow V, we come upon a pool and a whole flock of little sipping birds; some type of finch, I believe. The lieutenant urges us to be ready, checks that her men are watching us and not our prey, then looses the first discharges while the creatures are still too far away and on the ground. The birds lift and wheel, scattering then bunching as the flock rushes into the sky. The lieutenant whoops and hurdles a fence, reloading on the run. You and I look at each other. Our escorts, too, exchange glances, unsure what to do. The birds circle, flying over us as the lieutenant, now underneath them, fires again. You raise your gun and fire. I do not. A couple of feather puffs in the air and two down spiralling bodies betoken some success.
993 Joe said that back in Montreal he would often get up in the dark. He suffered from bad insomnia. He would get up and putter around, fixing things in the building. Didn't have many friends. There was an old lady, a retired nurse, who lent him books. He'd known her for a long, long time. I asked him what the hell he did with himself for a whole goddam bastard of a lifetime like that and he said he read books; said he figured he'd read the lion's share of what was written in English and now he was teaching himself Italian and reading some of the Italian books in his library. I have to say he spoke well, he was almost a fancy talker. He had a lot of passion for a guy whose life was such a vacuum. And he was not the kind of guy who felt sorry for himself. He didn't. He had done it all alone and that was okay.
994 It was now ten days since I had first put a gag on her for purposes of trekking. She seldom wore it, of course, in our camps. I was considering removing it, even for trekking. As I have suggested, she was coming along very nicely. To be sure, occasionally, as she was still a mere free woman, she required a firm word, or a subtle warning, such as my touching my belt. I was pleased that I had not had to lash her once. That I was fully capable of lashing her, and would do so, if there seemed point in it, or if I wished, seemed more than sufficient for her. It is this way with most female captives, as it is with most female slaves. To be sure, the female slave sometimes relishes a taste of the whip, if only to reassure herself that she is truly subject to discipline, that she is truly a slave.
995 He lifted her hand to his lips, studying her over it. An innocent, and with all her inhibitions, and yet she'd given herself to him with wild abandon. She cared more than a little; he was almost sure she loved him. That thought was sweetly disturbing. Could she? He looked at her hungrily. All night, and still he wanted her. She was under his skin, driving him mad. Bess and his problems with her had faded to insignificance. Whatever he and Elissa had, it was something far removed from lust or infatuation. He wanted to take care of her, to be there when she cried. He sighed softly. What was he going to do about Bess? Or did he need to do anything, now that he was marrying Elissa? He thought about marrying Elissa and smiled slowly. She'd be in his bed every night, making magic with him. His chest began to swell.
996 The key scraped harshly in the lock, the door crashed open and bounced off the bulkhead and a thug I'd never seen before, built along the same lines as Cibatti, jumped into the room. Hollywood had taught him all about opening doors in situations like this. If you damaged the panels or hinges or plaster on the wall it didn't matter, it was the unfortunate proprietor who had to pay up. In this case, as the door was made of steel, all he had damaged was his toe and it didn't require a very close student of human nature to see that there was nothing he would have liked better than to fire off that automatic he was waving in his hand. But all he saw was me, with a pencil in my hand and a mildly inquiring expression on my face. He scowled at me anyway, then turned and nodded to someone in the passageway.
997 Simultaneously, Suddler flinched and spun around as a thundering report echoed across the expanse of the square. By professional instinct the cameraman turned at once to the source of the sound, and after a moment's wobble, the lens settled in on a ball of dust and smoke expanding up and away from the strangely modem building in the Kremlin's otherwise Slavic Rococo complex. A second later the zoom lens darted in on the scene. Fully three floors of the building had been stripped of their glass curtain wall, and the camera followed a large conference table as it fell down off one floor slab that seemed to be dangling from a half dozen reinforcing rods. The camera went down to street level, where there was one obvious body, and perhaps another, along with a collection of automobiles crushed by debris.
998 I drove to a residential area behind the strip mall and parked on the street. I grabbed my flashlight and set out on foot, walking streets and back alleys, looking behind bushes and trash cans, calling Fred's name. When I was a kid I had a cat named Katherine. She showed up on our doorstep one day and refused to leave. We started feeding her on the back porch, and then somehow she found her way into the kitchen. She went out at night to roam the neighborhood, and slept curled up in a ball on my bed during the day. One night Katherine went out and never came back. For days I walked the streets and alleys, looking behind bushes and trash cans, calling her name, just like I was doing now for Fred. My mother said cats sometimes wander off like that when it's their time to die. I thought it was a lot of hooey.
999 There were. She was lucky enough to get a ride up the slope on a flatbed. Although it was packed she wasn't refused, since everyone was kind enough to make room for Blundy's Murra. The landing strip was on the far side of the pass, five kilometers of meadow bulldozed flat, and at least five thousand other people had already gathered there. Scores of armbanded marshals were herding them behind a roped line away from the stirp itself, but even the marshals were looking up half the time in the hope of catching a glimpse of the shuttle through the clouds. Heaven knew how many thousand others were up in the hills, watching with binoculars or simply their unaided eyes. Everybody was bouncing with anticipation. Children ran and shouted. Vendors were all through the crowd, selling cold drinks and sandwiches.
1000 The two quickly reached the inn. It was a large structure consisting of a main building and lounging porch, with two long wings that extended out and back on either side. It was constructed of huge logs, cut and laced on a high stone foundation and covered with the familiar wood shingle roof, this particular roof much higher than those of the family dwellings. The central building was well lighted, and muffled voices could be heard from within, interspersed with occasional laughter and shouts. The wings of the inn were in darkness; it was there that the sleeping quarters of the guests were located. The smell of roasting meat permeated the night air, and Flick quickly led the way up the wooden steps of the long porch to the wide double doors at the center of the inn. The tall stranger followed without a word.
1001 He watched the chef approach the symbol of himself asleep outside his master's room, curled up as he always was. By now the tardiness of the approach was unendingly slow. The feet in their thick soles would descend an inch at a time, and as they touched the ground the figure cocked his head of lard upon one side and his eyes rolled upwards as he listened for his own footfall. When within three feet of the sack the chef raised the cleaver in both hands and with his legs wide apart to give him a broader area of balance, edged his feet forward, one after the other, in little, noiseless shiftings. He had now judged the distance between himself and the sleeping emblem of his hate. Flay shut his eyes as he saw the cleaver rise in the air above the cumulous shoulder and the steel flared in the green light.
1002 Gravity shielding does not eliminate the force of gravity, of course, any more than a magnifying glass eliminates light, since gravity is really a deformation of space by matter, which cannot be negated. Shielding merely focuses or diffuses it, so that an object in that field is affected to a greater or lesser extent. The force of gravity is conveyed by gravitrons; when their normal pattern of flow is altered, so is their effect. Gravitrons influence everything, including others of their kind; that means that gravitrons can be used to deflect other gravitrons, at least temporarily. Then the gravitrons bend back, recovering their original configuration, like the resilient surface of a sponge, no permanent damage done. Gravity deflected for the moment, not negated: the breakthrough of the millennium.
1003 At first, he kept slightly ahead of the flow of victims, but he soon struggled furiously to keep pace. Desperation was replaced with sheer anger as he saved a little boy no more than four years old. He mentally cursed the monsters who were capable of such inhumanity. Not taking any chances, he kicked his fins upward, quickly found the floating Stingray and placed the boy's arms around it. He switched off the dive light and took a quick glance at the boat to see if the crew had observed their victims popping to the surface. All on board appeared quiet. There was no hint of alarm. He dove under again, turning on the dive light. Its beam picked out what seemed to be the last body dumped from the boat. It was already falling past twenty feet when he caught up with it. This one was a young woman.
1004 From the east, across the ocean, evening was gathering; a complex, lurid sunset was spilled in the west as from a broken vessel. From this window's height, out of its orgulous expanse of glass, the struggle between them could be observed, a show laid on for the rich and mighty who lived in high places. Ever after... It seemed to Hawksquill, watching the battle, that the whole world was just at that moment lapsing into a long dream, or perhaps awaking from one; it was impossible to tell which. But when she turned from the window to remark on this, she saw that the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa was asleep in his chair, snoring softly, his faint breath blowing out the hairs of his red moustache and his face as peaceful as any sleeping child's: as if, Hawksquill thought, he had never really awakened at all.
1005 But when, hours later, he lifted her on the horse and they went on at a soberer pace, she fell silent, troubled. Yes, no doubt they could make their way overseas. Yet when this night's work was talked from one end of the world to the other, shame and scorn would come down on Arthur, so that for his own honor he must seek them out wherever they fled. And soon or late, Lancelet must know that he had slain the friend who was dearest to him in all the world save only Arthur's self. He had done it in madness, but she knew how grief and guilt would consume him and in time he would remember, when he looked on her, not that she was his love, but that he had killed his friend, unknowing, for her sake; and that he had betrayed Arthur for her sake. If he must make war on Arthur for her sake, he would hate her....
1006 They walked south towards the gleam of water. All three were tired, and Sharpe was plainly weakened by the loss of blood, but anticipation gave them all a nervous energy. They skirted the nearest village, watched by cows with pendulous folds of skin hanging beneath their necks, then they walked through groves of cocoa trees as the sun climbed. They saw no one. A deer skittered away from their path in the late morning and an hour later an excited troupe of small monkeys scampered beside them. At midday they rested in the small shade offered by a grove of bamboos, then pressed on again beneath the baking sun. By early afternoon the river was in sight and Lawford suggested they should rest on its bank. Mary's eye had swollen and blackened, giving her the grotesque look she believed would protect her.
1007 Terrel was about to ask her why she was talking in riddles, when for the second time that night he was presented with a literally incredible sight. To his amazement and terror, three faintly luminous figures appeared in the loft. The nearest of them was instantly recognizable, even though he was transparent, and Terrel's already racing heartbeat became even more frantic. Elam was sitting casually on a beam, whittling at a piece of wood with a knife that was evidently as sharp as it was translucent. It seemed such an extraordinarily mundane thing for a ghost to be doing that Terrel almost laughed, but then he noticed the small dark stain on the front of Elam's tunic, and the reality of what he was seeing sobered him again. His friend looked bored, and was paying no attention to his surroundings.
1008 Here my mount and I were put through our paces by Avran, while Ilven watched amusedly. To use terms descriptive of the gait of a horse for that of a sevdru is inappropriate, for their limbs move in different fashions and, to a rider, their motion feels entirely different. However, since there are no truly appropriate terms in English, I must do the best I can with the words at my command. So let me say that we rode first at a walk, then at a trot and finally at a gallop. At that speed I was alarmed enough to be holding tightly onto Whitebrow's horns for security, even though aware that neither Avran nor Ilven found need to do likewise. Indeed, we sped across those flowery meadows at a pace unmatched by any horse I had ever ridden, as swift and as light as the shadow of a swallow passing over the grass.
1009 When he was gone, Belindi Kalenda quickly summarized the mission for Jaina's benefit. The others stood by patiently, interjecting a few words here and there to help clarify certain aspects of the plan. It sounded simple enough: travel the open hyperlanes fixing communications links and reminding the locals that they were still part of a galactic civilization. Jaina was sure it wouldn't be so easy in practice, though. The Yuuzhan Vong, by mining the major hyperspace routes, had left some areas isolated for as long as two years. No one knew with any certainty just what was happening inside such regions, but there had been rumors of local despots seizing control while attention was focused elsewhere. It was probably safe to assume that, in some places at least, their welcome wouldn't really be heartfelt.
1010 Backtracking towards the wagons, he stopped and examined an area where bushes had been crushed, or torn from the ground. Blood had seeped into the earth. This was where one of the dead horses had been dragged. Waylander found more deep imprints of taloned feet close by. One creature had killed the horse and torn it from its traces, pulling it deeper into the woods. The blood trail stopped suddenly. Waylander squatted down, his fingers tracing the indented earth. The horse had been dragged to this point, and then had lost all bodyweight. Yet it had not been devoured here. Even if the demon had been ten feet tall it could not have consumed an entire horse. And there were no signs that others of the creatures had gathered around to share in a feast. There were no split and discarded bones, no guts or offal.
1011 As a guard slid limply from the saddle, sword falling from his hand, Gwenlyn grabbed for the hilt. The sword was heavier than she'd expected, so heavy she needed both hands to steady it, but somehow she managed to slash out at the hands reaching for her. But she couldn't hold the sword and the reins at the same time, and the palfrey, unused to battle, was wheeling and leaping wildly, throwing off her aim and balance. As Gwenlyn frantically tried to slash out again, hands clamped shut on her arms, her shoulders, pulling her over backwards off the saddle. The sword went flying as she hit the ground with enough force to drive the breath from her lungs. For a terrifying moment all she could do was gasp for air, the leering, filthy faces of her captors looming over her, and think, This is a stupid way to die.
1012 She smiled when he was done and said she wanted to go someday. She talked about what it was like to run a coffee shop, her own business, built from scratch. She told him what it was like growing up in Hopewell, sometimes good, sometimes bad. She talked about her family, which was large and mostly elsewhere. She did not ask him what he did for a living or about his family, and he did not volunteer. He told her he had been a graduate student for many years, and perhaps she thought he still was one. She joked with him as if she had known nun all his life, and he liked that. She made him feel comfortable. He thought she was pretty and funny and smart, and he wanted to know her better. He was attracted to her as he had not been attracted to a woman hi a very long time. It was a dangerous way for him to feel.
1013 The truth was complicated. For one thing, two cops had stretched the facts in her arrest, suggesting she'd been more than a companion to the document forger, that she'd been an accomplice, and the public defender appointed to her case by the court had been too overworked or too incompetent to correct this misrepresentation before the jury. She'd had enough of the police for a while. And she didn't entirely trust the system. Furthermore, she knew that the local authorities would not be eager to investigate a report of a murder in a far jurisdiction when they had plenty of homegrown crime to keep them busy. She couldn't claim to have known Lukipela. Her accusation was based on her faith in Leilani, and though she was convinced the cops also would find the girl credible, her own testimony was hearsay.
1014 Even as the man died, Garth heard two screams, one human and one hideously inhuman; the warbeast was defending itself. Its low growl could be heard as the screaming subsided, but Garth dared not take the time to look to see what was happening; he was again beset, this time by a yelling maniac charging at him with saber swinging. Not caring to risk the strength of his sword's metal against the swooping arc of the saber, Garth ducked low and thrust his blade at the man's mount. The saber whistled over his head. His own weapon slashed open the animal's belly and was almost torn from his grasp by the momentum of the creature's charge. The thing screamed, horribly, then fell, flinging its master aside; Garth could spare no further attention for it as two more mounted warriors approached, much more cautiously.
1015 With his eyes fixed on the tear, he vacated the chamber and headed towards the Erasure. The route between was the storm's highway. It carried the detritus of its deeds back and forth, returning to places it had already destroyed in its first assault to pick up the survivors and pitch them into the air like sacks of bloody down, tearing them open up above. There was a red rain in the gusts, which spattered Gentle as he went, yet the same authority that was condemning men and women all around left him untouched. It could not so much as knock him off his feet. The reason? His breath, which Pie had once called the source of all magic. Its cloak clung to him as it had before, apparently protecting him from the tumult, and, though it didn't impede his steps, it lent him a mass beyond that of flesh and bone.
1016 Warned by a sixth sense, by instincts honed to a fine edge, he looked up just as it dropped from its hiding place in a stone niche in the stairwell wall. He flung himself aside, and it thudded to the stairs with a snapping of broken bones. Still, it didn't quit. It rose in a flurry of teeth and claws, shrieking and spitting, and launched itself at him. Bremen acted instinctively, throwing up the Druid fire that served as his defense in a blue curtain that engulfed the creature. Even then, it did not stop. It came on, burning, the black hair of its body flaring like a torch, the skin beneath peeling and melting away. Bremen struck at it again, frightened now, amazed that it could still stand. The thing careered into him, and he twisted away, falling back upon the stairs, kicking out in desperation.
1017 After that, they taught each other. She taught him that books were sometimes just to be read and discarded, not studied (he was something of a grind, which amused Jan, and her amusement first exasperated him and then he also saw the funny side of it). He taught her to knit. That had been a funny thing. His father, of all people, had taught him how to knit... before the Squads got him. His father had taught Garraty's father, as well. It was something of a male tradition in the clan Garraty, it seemed. Jan had been fascinated by the pattern of the increases and decreases, and she left him behind soon enough, overstepping his laborious scarves and mittens to sweaters, cableknits, and finally to crocheting and even the tatting of doilies, which she gave up as ridiculous as soon as the skill was mastered.
1018 To Sorka's utter delight, school on Pern concentrated on adapting the students to their new home. Everyone was given safety instruction about common tools, and those over fourteen were taught how to operate some of the less dangerous equipment. They were shown specimens of the plants to be avoided and lectured on the botany so far catalogued: the varieties of fruit, leafy vegetables, and tubers that were innocuous and could be eaten in moderation. One of the jobs for the young colonists, they were told, would be to gather any edible plants they found to supplement the transported foodstuffs. They were also shown slides of native insectoids and herpetoids. Finally those under twelve gathered in the main classroom, while the older ones assembled outside to be assigned work with adult team leaders.
1019 To her dismay, the charts were no longer on the shelf where she had seen them in the morning. She began to search the office. The desk was first. No sign of them. As she closed the center drawer, the phone immediately under her arm began to ring. In the silence the noise seemed earsplitting and it startled her. She looked at her watch and wondered if McLeary often got calls in his office at a quarter of eight in the evening. The sound stopped after three rings, and Susan recommenced her search. The charts were of sufficient bulk so that they could not be hidden in many places. As she pulled out the last drawer of the file cabinet she heard the unmistakable sound of footsteps in the hall. They grew louder. Susan froze, not daring to push the drawer back into the file cabinet for fear of the sound.
1020 I looked at him without moving my eyes and saw him in full dimension for the first time. For he was a part of the universe, as all these other things were a part of it; and that was what was at the core of his community's difference from ours. They were aware of the universe of which they were a part, while we thought of ourselves as disparate and isolated from it. That was why Obsidian's identity was unchangeable and instantly recognized by his fellows. It was because the dimensions of that identity were measured by the universe surrounding him, in which he was embedded, and of which he was a working part. All at once the gestalt formed, and I understood without words, without symbols, the different, fixed place he and all other thinking minds of his period had in this, their own time and place.
1021 As he struck the ground, his knees buckled, and his cheek slammed against the snow. He gasped as excruciating pain seared through his legs, sending tears to his eyes. His muscles, cramped from clenching for so long, shook violently. He rolled onto his back, shivering, and stretched his limbs as best he could. Then he forced himself to look down. Two large blots darkened his wool pants on the insides of his thighs. He touched the fabric. It was wet. Alarmed, he peeled off the pants and grimaced. The insides of his legs were raw and bloody. The skin was gone, rubbed off by Saphira's hard scales. He gingerly felt the abrasions and winced. Cold bit into him as he pulled the pants back on, and he cried out as they scraped against the sensitive wounds. He tried to stand, but his legs would not support him.
1022 Stop it! Nicolae said sharply, a command from an ancient accustomed to instant obedience. You were a child, a little girl, with no knowledge of such evil creatures. You could not possibly have prevented what that vampire did to your family, nor were you responsible. You have rare gifts. There are others in the world such as you, other young women, possibly young men, who inadvertently draw the monster through their incredible gifts. They are in no way responsible for what a vampire does. The vampire chose his way of life. At one time he walked in the light and had honor and respect. At some point in his life he knew he was risking his soul if he continued. He knew what to do but chose to become the undead. Look into my memories; I offer them freely to you. You cannot believe you are responsible.
1023 We lacked even a pocket calculator, and the sole bit of electronics available to us was my wristwatch. Adam had lost his in the fire. We had debated fastening my watch to the binnacle, but we finally decided that leaving it on my wrist would keep its temperature more stable, and thus help maintain its accuracy. We did have a compass, mounted on the binnacle, and Adam's antique brass sextant had survived the fire, though its mirrors were a bit scorched. Most importantly, the one man on the island that we were sure that we could trust, the chief gardener, Master Maimonides ibn Tibbon, had managed to obtain a Westronese ocean navigational chart for us, and he was able to give us a fix on our position. Thus, we knew where we were, and from that, we could figure out how to get to where we wanted to be.
1024 Joseph Muller, the bloodhound of the Austrian police, had found a clue, a clue that soon would bring him to the trail he was seeking. He did not know yet what he could do with his clue. But this much he knew; sooner or later this scratch in the floor would lead him to the murderer. The trail might be long and devious; but he would follow it and at its end would be success. He knew that this scratch had been made after the murder was committed; this was proved by the blood that marked its beginning. And it could not have been made by any of those who entered the room during the day because by that time the blood had dried. This strange streak in the floor, with its weird curves and spirals, could have been made only by the murderer. But how? With what instrument? There was the riddle which must be solved.
1025 I looked up at the Lady Yanina. How small and soft, and luscious, she was. How absurd then, and how unnatural, seemed her position of power, temporary though it might be, over these men. How envious she seemed of men, particularly of her rival, Flaminius. How she was straining to seem a leader, how she must have studied what she took to be its lessons well, how she must have firmly resolved to act that role with determination. Perhaps if she did it well she could fool men; perhaps, if she did it well, she would be accepted almost as though she were a real leader, a true leader. Perhaps, if she did it well, no one would notice that she was really only a small, soft, shapely, lovely creature, one whose natural destiny would be found quite elsewhere than in the saddle of a tharlarion, at the head of troops.
1026 This was no theft of his own choosing, but rather was at the behest of the merchant Baratses, a purveyor of spices from the most distant realms of the world. Ten pieces of gold the spice dealer had offered for the most prized possession of Samarides, a wealthy importer of gems: a goblet carved from a single huge emerald. Ten pieces of gold was the hundredth part of the goblet's worth, one tenth of what the fences in the Desert would pay, but a run of bad luck with the dice had put the Cimmerian in urgent need of coin. He had agreed to theft and price, and taken two gold pieces in advance, before he even knew what was to be stolen. Still, a bargain sworn to must be kept. At least, he thought grimly, there was no guard atop the other building, as there were on so many other merchants' roofs.
1027 First our train slowed on the track, and the enemy train overhauled us rapidly. Then, just as the other was drawing up beside us, its passenger cars illuminated from inside so that we could see the armed men peering out at us, aiming their lasers, we left the track and floated into the sky. Hopie gave a little sigh of amazement, locked into the vision, and I was startled myself though I had known exactly what to expect. As it was, one laser beam angled in through the window, but after passing through the thick, glassy panes of each car, it lacked its originally punishing force. Glass may pass a laser beam through, but it tends to diffuse and deregister it, causing it to become more like ordinary light. Which is not to say a person can't be hurt by a laser through a window, just that he will be hurt less.
1028 Labienus, in my opinion, was a fine, responsible, trustworthy officer. His faults in command, as I saw them, however, had been several. He had been too inflexible in his adherence to orders; he had had too great a confidence in the wisdom and integrity of his superiors; he had been too slow to detect the possibilities of betrayal and treason; he had not speedily extricated his command from a hopeless situation; and even on the level of squad tactics, by attempting to maintain cognizance and command in a situation in which it was impractical to do so, he had, in the long run, by sustaining grievous personal injury, jeopardized not only himself but the men who depended upon him. To be sure, many of these faults, as I thought of them, might, from another point of view, have been regarded as virtues.
1029 We watched this spectacle with feelings which I could not describe; there was such a show of meek gratitude in the one and happiness in the other, just as if he enjoyed his good action. They were, however, perceived by the other squirrels, who sprang by dozens upon them; the young one with two bounds escaped, the other submitted to his fate. I rose, all the squirrels vanished except the victim; but that time, contrary to his habits, he left the shrub and slowly advanced to the bank of the river, and ascended a tree. A minute afterwards we observed him at the very extremity of a branch projecting over the rapid waters, and we heard his plaintive shriek. It was his farewell to life and misery; he leaped into the middle of the current, which in a moment carried him to the shallow water a little below.
1030 Her body sprawled in the cold puddle. Cold rose through her flesh and into her bones, but the months and the years turned cartwheels around her, impressing every swift second upon her burning memory. She knew enough and then she knew more. The days wheeled out both before and behind her, time moving in both directions. She saw the blocks of the walls being set in place, and she saw the workmen desperately bringing in the dragon cradles. They pulled them on ropes, trundling them along on rollers, for outside the sky had blackened and the earth was shaking and ash rained from the sky swift and thick as a black snowfall. Suddenly it all stopped. She had reached the setting of the first brick in one direction, and in the other the folk had fled or lay dying. She knew it all, and she knew nothing.
1031 If you believe that laws forbidding gambling, sale of liquor, sale of contraceptives, requiring definite closing hours, enforcing the Sabbath, or any such, are necessary to the welfare of your community, that is your right and I do not ask you to surrender your beliefs or give up your efforts to put over such laws. But remember that such laws are, at most, a preliminary step in doing away with the evils they indict. Moral evils can never be solved by anything as easy as passing laws alone. If you aid in passing such laws without bothering to follow through by digging in to the involved questions of sociology, economics, and psychology which underlie the causes of the evils you are gunning for, you will not only fail to correct the evils you sought to prohibit but will create a dozen new evils as well.
1032 As time dragged on, Beau became particularly bothered by a stiff neck. He tried to rub his muscles, but it didn't help. Even the lapel of his jacket seemed to be exacerbating the discomfort. Thinking that the leadlike object in his pocket might be contributing, Beau took it out and put it on the desk in front of him. It looked odd, sitting on his notes. Its perfectly round shape and exquisite symmetry suggested it was a manufactured piece, yet Beau had no idea if it was. For a moment he thought that perhaps it could have been a futuristic paperweight, but he dismissed the idea as too prosaic. More probable was that it was a tiny sculpture, but he truly wasn't sure. Vaguely he wondered if he should take it over to the geology department to inquire if it could be the result of a natural phenomenon like a geode.
1033 In dismay, Brashen spun to survey Paragon's deck. Half a dozen boarders had already gained the deck in two places. They were practiced fighters, and they held their formation, keeping a clear place behind them for their fellows swarming up the grappling lines. For now, the invaders sought only to defend the small gain they had made, and they did it very well. Brashen's inexperienced fighters got in one another's way as they attacked as a mob. Even as he watched, another grapple fell to the deck, slid and caught. Almost as soon as it was secure, he saw a man's hand reaching for the top of the railing. His own men were so busy fighting those on board they did not even notice this new threat. Only Clef leaped away from him, to charge across the main deck and confront the men coming up. Brashen was horrified.
1034 Most of those who escaped death on the mountainside had managed to withdraw through the trees that remained standing. With amazingly good order considering, Bashere claimed, yet they were unlikely to be much threat now. Not unless they had the damane with them. But a hundred or so men sat huddled on the ground, stripped of weapons and armor, under the watchful eyes of two dozen mounted Companions and Defenders. Taraboners, for the most part, they had not fought like men driven to it by conquerors. A fair number held their heads up, and jeered at their guards. Gedwyn had wanted to kill them, after putting them to the question. Weiramon did not care whether they had their throats slit, but he considered torture a waste of time. None would know anything useful, he maintained; there was not a one nobly born.
1035 The snake had been patient, very patient. It understood the bond between the two humans. But the broom had backed it into a comer, and the hard bristles promised danger if they connected solidly with the snake's wings. It opened its mouth. There was a barely perceptible squirting sound. A thin, tight stream of clear liquid shot forward. It sparkled in the light and impacted on the broom as it was swinging forward. As Mother Mastiff recovered and brought the broom back for yet another strike, she heard a faint but definite hissing that did not come from the snake. She hesitated, frowning, then realized the noise was coming from the broom. A glance showed that approximately half of the metal bristles had melted away. Something was foaming and sizzling as it methodically ate its way down the broom.
1036 I had remembered the cave as being huge, and had been prepared to find that this, like other childhood memories, was false. But it was bigger even than I remembered. Its dark emptiness was doubled in the great mirror of water that had spread till it covered all the floor save for a dry crescent of rock six paces deep, just inside the mouth of the adit. Into this great, still lake the jutting ribs of the cave walls ran like buttresses to meet the angle of their own reflections, then on down again into darkness. Somewhere deeper in the hill was the sound of water falling, but here nothing stirred the burnished surface. Where, before, trickles had run and dripped like leaking faucets, now every wall was curtained with a thin shining veil of damp which slid down imperceptibly to swell the pool.
1037 For example, a searcher looked around, inquired discreetly around, after people who seemed to have whatever kind of unusualness was logical for a traveler residing in the given milieu. A shaman, village witch, local monk with a record of helping those who appealed to him or her by especially practical miracles. A peasant who flourished because somehow he never planted or harvested so as to get caught by bad weather. A merchant who made correspondingly lucky investments in ships, when storms and pirates caused heavy attrition. A warrior who was an uncatchable spy or scout. A boy who was said to counsel his father. Once in a while, persons like these would turn out to be the real thing... Then there were ways of attracting their heed, such as being a wandering fortuneteller of a peculiar sort.
1038 Colene stooped to pick up a pretty stone. She had always liked stones, and not just the pretty ones; she knew that each stone was a fragment of something that had once been much larger, and had formed by dint of terrific pressures or an unimaginably long time or both. How was it described in class? Metamorphic, which meant being squished; sedimentary, which meant settling in the bottom of the sea; and igneous, which meant being squeezed out like toothpaste around a volcano. But that was really one of the other two kinds, because it had to have started somewhere else before getting cooked under the mountain. So each one had its history, and every stone was interesting in its own way. She wished she could collect them all. This particular one looked like mica, which was about as appropriate as it could be.
1039 Even Sabat had no inkling of what was about to happen next, the full shock and horror of it almost causing him to lose hold on the overhead beam and come fluttering down, Lilith's head bent forward, the action of a loving mother about to kiss her baby as it fed from her. But those lips had neither love nor affection as they pouted, fastened on the tiny neck like a bloodsucking leech. The child cried out just once, a flailing of arms and legs that became limp and drooped; a gurgling squelching sound that came from within the unholy embrace, a noisy drinker sipping hot tea loudly from the rim of a cup. A steady drip drip, a splattering and splashing of dark fluid on the floor. And when finally Lilith raised her head her lips were smeared crimson, her eyes a dull glow as though her terrible lust was satiated.
1040 A small, spreading bush grew at the top; its roots kept the split from expanding. Bass used the bush as concealment while he eased his head up high enough to see over the lip of the arroyo. Little more than a hundred meters away he saw a line of hills. Between the hills and the arroyo in which the Marines hid was a score of horsemen with a small herd of replacement mounts. The riders were armed with projectile weapons. They were headed north, away from Tulak Yar, and frequently turned to search the sky to the south. They bantered among themselves and cried out victory whoops. A couple of times while he watched, one of them prodded a large sack flung over the back of one of the few horses used as pack animals. The horsemen shook their rifles at the sky and swung them in wide, horizontal arcs.
1041 To abandon his vocational vigil even briefly, unless seriously ill or unless ordered to return to the abbey, would be regarded as an ipso facto renunciation of his claim of a true vocation to life as a monk of the Albertian Order of Leibowitz. Brother Francis would have preferred death. He was faced, therefore, with the choice of investigating the fearsome pit before sunset, or of spending the night in his burrow in ignorance of whatever might lurk in the shelter and might reawaken to prowl in darkness. As a nocturnal hazard, the wolves already made trouble enough, and the wolves were merely creatures of flesh and blood. Creatures of less solid substance, he preferred to meet by the light of day; although, to be sure, scant daylight fell into the pit below, the sun now being low in the west.
1042 They had rested only once, a brief stop for water and relief from rapidly cramping muscles, then remounted and gone on. By the time they reached the river's edge, both horse and riders were close to exhaustion. The Valeman could discern no readily accessible point for crossing, the Mermidon being both wide and deep for as far as the eye could see in both directions, and it quickly became apparent that they either would have to swim the river or follow its banks until a shallows was found. Having no wish to attempt either while it was still dark, Wil decided that the best thing for them to do was to rest until daylight. Turning Artaq into a grove of cottonwood, he unsaddled and tethered the big black, then spread blankets for both Amberle and himself. Screened by the trees, all three fell quickly asleep.
1043 Holland proved to be half right. The first hearing of Panov's session under the serum was agonizing to listen to, the voice devastating, the emotional content blurring the information, especially for anyone who knew the psychiatrist. The second hearing, however, produced instantaneous concentration, engendered without question by the very pain they heard. There was no time to indulge in personal feelings; the information was suddenly everything. Both men began taking copious notes on legal pads, frequently stopping and replaying numerous sections for clarity and understanding. The third hearing refined the salient points further; by the end of the fourth, both Alex and Peter Holland had thirty to forty pages of notes apiece. They spent an additional hour in silence, each going over his own analysis.
1044 Depressing. It would be a long time before the tourists came back to these sunny shores. I walked through the empty streets, peeked by explosions and charred by fire, and wondered what the purpose of this could possibly be. War, always a foolish business, seemed even more infantile at this moment. Horrible might be a better word; I saw my first corpses. There was the sound of dragging feet and a horde of prisoners appeared in the street ahead, guarded on all sides by alert Cliaandian troops. Many of the prisoners were wounded and few bandaged. The sergeant in charge saluted when they went by and gave a wave of victory. I smiled in return but it took an effort. What I had to do now was to find some responsible citizen of Sucuk City who was not yet a prisoner or dead and get the answers to some questions.
1045 That exchange of gazes seemed to last an eternity. Royston looked different but she knew that he was capable of changing his features at will, or rather when he looked at you like that you saw him how he wanted you to see him. Earlier he had been Sabat, more like Sabat than Sabat was himself. Now the big man seemed to have aged decades, a withered old man with straggling grey hair; similar features, yet lined and shrunken. Just a couple of broken yellowed teeth so that when he spoke he lisped and dribbled, and Miranda had difficulty in hearing the words. Gone were those splendid sinister robes and in their place a shabby grey morning coat and trousers that tapered into spats. And in that same instant realisation dawned on her waking brain that she was stark naked, her clothes somehow having been removed.
1046 Mamoulian threaded his way through the crowd to get a better view, his thin gray figure parting the throng. Having found himself a vantage point he stood, light shining up from the baize onto his pale face. The wounded hand was lodged in his jacket pocket, out of sight; the wide brow was clear of the least expression. Marty watched him for upward of five minutes. Not once did the European's eyes flicker from the game in front of him. He was like a piece of porcelain: a glazed facade onto which a nonchalant artisan had scrawled a few lines. The eyes pressed into the clay were incapable, it seemed, of anything but that relentless stare. Yet there was power in the man. It was uncanny to see how people kept clear of him, cramming themselves into knots rather than press too close to him at the tableside.
1047 The north shore became more distinct, until at about sixty yards, the bosun gave another order and the steersman turned parallel to it. A minute later, Jeremid made out the Parnston barge docks ahead. Now if Jesker had done his job... He had: the barge and ferry docks were clear. The bosun gave more orders, sharply now. The steersman turned them sharply. Oars were raised or backed water, and for long seconds Jeremid forgot to breathe. The oars dipped again, stroked once, then backed strongly; the ferry dragged bottom slightly, and bumped the wharf just enough to throw Jeremid against the bosun's rail. Men jumped onto the wharf with lines, while the portside oarsmen dug blades into the muddy bottom, holding the ferry in place till the lines were secured. Then the bosun ordered the forward ramp lowered.
1048 Lendle's fall had been stopped by an unyielding crate filled with Mithas Spiced Brandy. He groaned and climbed off it, carefully inching his way between crates both broken and intact. The hold was as black as midnight, and he couldn't even see his fingers in front of his face. But he knew every inch of the place by heart. His head brushed against the sail, which must have caught on something above, most likely the cylinder part of his precious oar machine. Water sloshed around his ankles as he took a few steps and felt the sphere in front of him. Though the gnome considered the Perechon a loss, his oar machine was another matter. It seemed undamaged to his questing and probing hands. As his fingers continued to dance over the surface of the sphere, his feet tangled in a few coils at its base.
1049 Moment by moment she felt better. She'd suspected that something was going on, and she'd been right. She'd felt in danger, and she'd been right. And now she was helplessly locked into an evac pod, which was headed who knows where, and even with the beacon on no one was likely to find her until she'd run out of air... and she was happy. Ridiculous, but she was. A little voice of caution murmured that it might be the drug, and she shouldn't be overconfident. She told the little voice to shut up. But just in case... she found the med kit, and figured out how to lay her arm in the cradle for a venous tap. Take a blood sample, that should do it. If she had been drugged, and the drug proved traceable... the sting of the needle interrupted that thought for a moment. Beacon. She needed to check the beacon.
1050 Petrov took the rack into the adjacent laboratory and hung it on the handle of the single filing cabinet. He filled three large square basins with chemicals. Though a qualified physician, he had forgotten most of his inorganic chemistry and didn't remember exactly what the developing chemicals were. Basin number one was filled from bottle number one. Basin two was filled from bottle two, and basin three, he remembered, was filled with water. Petrov was in no hurry. The midday meal was not for two more hours, and his duties were truly boring. The last two days he had been reading his medical texts on tropical diseases. The doctor was looking forward to visiting Cuba as much as anyone aboard. With luck a crewman would come down with some obscure malady, and he'd have something interesting to work on for once.
1051 When he had his second attack he found himself once again detached from his physical body, but this time travelling at great speed down a tunnel at the end of which he saw his dead father. His father greeted him and said: 'It isn't time yet. You must go back.' Whereupon he found himself looking down at his body from ceiling height and saw the medical team giving it electric shocks. He saw his body jumping around but didn't feel a thing. He said he wanted to tell the doctors not to bother as he was happy as he was. Then suddenly, again, he found himself back in his body and was so furious he swore at the doctors, asking what they thought they were doing and why he couldn't be left in peace. This patient lived another two years, then suffered a third and massive heart attack which proved fatal.
1052 Even his diet had suffered. Although in the early days, when he was still on speaking terms with the computer, he had been served simulated meals of great variety and visual appeal, and had turned his nose up at them because they weren't really nourishing, being virtual food rather than real food, now the computer took great pleasure in serving him up with such twisted concoctions as green frog ice cream, drek stew with toasted yak's curds, and similar unpleasantries. And the hell of it was, even though he didn't require food, being fed directly on computer energy, he had never gotten over his habit of eating three or four meals a day when they were available. Yet when he avoided the computer's loathsome meals he suffered intense hunger pangs which were no less painful for being psychosomatic.
1053 Now there was a question. Why did it bother him? Since Kennit had taken over the ship, he had had no official status. He was not the ship's boy, he was not the captain's valet and no one had ever seriously respected his claim to own the ship. But he had had a function. Kennit had thrown him odd chores and honed his wits against him, but that had merely filled his time. Vivacia had filled his heart. A bit late to realize that, he thought sourly. A bit late to admit that his bond with the ship had defined his life and his days aboard her. She had needed him, and Kennit had used him as the bridge between them. Now neither of them required him anymore. At least, the creature that wore Vivacia's body no longer needed him. Indeed, she scarcely tolerated him. His head still throbbed from her latest rebuff.
1054 They sat in silence then, waiting. Ben reached for Willow's hand and squeezed it gently. She smiled back at him. At the far end of the room, Parsnip appeared from out of the kitchen, gave a brief greeting to the silent assemblage, and disappeared back in again. Ben was thinking that he would like to dispose quickly of Horris Kew and get on with his day. He was thinking about the meetings he had scheduled and the work that needed doing. He had believed once that no one worked harder than a trial lawyer, but he had since discovered that Kings did. There were constant decisions required, plans to consider, and problems by the score to resolve. So much depended on him. So many people were affected by his actions. He liked the challenge, but was continually daunted by the amount of responsibility.
1055 Pa, he whispered. I don't want to go. I don't want to leave you. I don't want to be without you. Lothar made an impatient gesture, hardening his features to hide this softness in him. You will do as I tell you. Pa, I You have never let me down before, Manie. I have been proud of you. Don't spoil it for me now. Don't let me find out that my son is a coward I'm not a coward! Then you will do what you have to do, he said harshly, and before Manfred could protest again he ordered, Bring me the haversack. Lothar placed the bag between his feet and with his good hand unbuckled the flap. He took one of the packages from it and tore open the heavy brown paper with his teeth. He spilled the stones into a small pile on the granite beside him and then spread them. He picked out ten of the biggest and whitest gems.
1056 The rain turned to drizzle as the day lengthened, then at last died away entirely in the cold gray of early evening. Thunderclouds continued to blanket the skies as nightfall turned from gray to black, and the air filled with mist that wandered at the forest's edge like a child lost. Allanon turned into the shelter of the great trees, and they made camp in a small clearing several hundred yards from the borders of the Rabb. Behind them, rising above the roof of the forest, was the dark wall of the Wolfsktaag, little more than a deeper shade of black against the night. Despite the damp, they managed to salvage enough dry wood and kindling to make a small fire, and the flames lent some warmth to the evening chill. Travel cloaks were hung on lines stretched overhead, and the horses were tethered close by.
1057 By nightfall, he was exhausted, having traveled far and rested little. He had given little thought to Grianne, taking for granted her compliance with the hard pace he had set, forgetting entirely that she could not speak and therefore would not complain. Aware suddenly of his failure, he sat her down and examined her feet. They were not blistered, so he turned his attention to feeding her. He had to do it by hand, and even so she was still barely taking anything. Mostly, she drank water, but he was able to get a little mashed cheese and bread down her throat, as well. She did not look different to him, but he could not tell what was going on inside her head. He trailed the tips of his fingers across her checks and forehead and kissed her. Her strange eyes stared through him to places he could not see.
1058 Burroughs was quiet and uneasy, the broad grassy boulevards empty, their green as shocking as a hallucination or an afterimage of looking into the sun. While waiting for the train to Elysium, Frank went to the station's storage room and reclaimed the contents of his Burroughs room, which he had left behind. The attendant returned with a single large box, containing a bachelor's kitchen equipment, a lamp, some jumpers, a lectern. He didn't remember any of it. He put the lectern in his pocket and tossed the rest of it in a trash dumper. Wasted years; he couldn't remember a day of them. The treaty negotiation, now revealed as pure theater, as if someone had kicked a backstage strut and brought down the whole backdrop, revealing real history on the back steps, two men exchanging a handshake and a nod.
1059 In the middle of this riot of color a coherent image always forms. At first I cannot tell exactly what it is, for the figure or figures are very small, as if they are far, far away. As the image moves closer, it changes colors several times, adding both to the surreal overtone of the vision and to my inner sense of dread. More than half the time the image that eventually resolves itself contains my mother, or some animal like a cheetah or a lioness that I intuitively recognize as my mother in disguise. As long as I just watch, and make no volitional attempt to interact with my mother, she remains a character in the changing image. However, if I try to contact Mother in any way, she, or the animal representing her, immediately disappears, leaving me with an overwhelming feeling of having been abandoned.
1060 Shotgun in hand, she exited the closet and moved back through the house. She stopped off in Nest's room long enough to scribble a few words on a piece of notebook paper, which she then tucked under her granddaughter's favorite down pillow. Satisfied that she had done what she could, she advanced down the hallway on mouse paws, listening to the silence, feeling the tension within her beginning to mount. It would happen quickly now. She was glad Robert was not there, that she did not have to worry about him. By the time he returned with Nest, it would be over. She wasn't really worried about the girl, despite the urgency of her admonition to Robert to find her. Nest was better protected than any of them; she had seen to that. The monster that had appeared to threaten her didn't know the half of it.
1061 They journeyed until it was almost dawn. By then they were well away from Sterling Silver and closing on the lake country. Some miles short of the Irrylyn they turned into a heavy grove of ash and hickory, dismounted, tethered their horses, rolled into light blankets, and fell asleep. While the seemingly tireless Bunion maintained watch, they rested until midmorning of the following day. When they awoke, Willow unpacked the cheese, bread, fruit, and ale she had brought for them, and they consumed it in a sunny space at the base of a gnarled old shagbark. Bunion appeared momentarily to snatch a few bites, then set out again, anxious to let the people of the lake country know they were coming. Once they were within the lake country, they all agreed, Rydall would have a hard time reaching them.
1062 The physical world about him had completely disappeared. He was conscious of only the black foulness before him, the veil from which stared the twin pools of lambent horror, the eyes of the Dweller! And in those eyes he saw, or sensed, for the first time, something change, some shift or evasion. So close now was his rapport with the thing before him that he realized at once what had happened. It was no longer attacking! The doubt, faint as it was, had interfered with the stream of projections and mental bolts which the Dweller had been using, and even the tiny hesitation had broken the flow of its concentration. To gain the victories to which it had been used, weakness and weariness must help and undisciplined minds must inevitably yield to the frightful powers it both controlled and lived by.
1063 The attack did not falter; hundreds of creatures replaced the scores which fell. But the company held. In time, all the ground around the knoll was denuded of grass; and a storm of mute rage covered the bare dirt, seeking to strike upward. But only a certain number of beasts could assail the boulders at any one moment. Against these limited numbers, the company held. Their ordeal dragged out like slow torture. Covenant's arms became leaden; he had to grip the krill in both hands. Sunder kept up a mutter of curses, lashing himself to continue the struggle long after he had exhausted his strength. But Hollian gave him periods of rest by taking his place, using his poniard because her dirk was too small for the task. And Vain's power helped, though he seemed unaware of what he did. The company held.
1064 He stayed there a long while, and the wind conspired with the desert to bury him. But he was not disappointed with the fruit of his vigil. For one day (or year), he saw a man come to the place and drop a gun in the sand, then wander out into the desert, where, after a while, the makers of the voices came to meet him, loping and wild, dancing on their crutches. They surrounded him, laughing. He went with them, laughing. And though distance and the wind smudged the sight, Cleve was certain he saw the man picked up by one of the celebrants, and taken on to its shoulders as a boy, thence snatched into another's arms as a baby, until, at the limit of his senses, he heard the man bawl as he was delivered back into life. He went away content, knowing at last how sin (and he) had come into the world.
1065 I would surely have gone overboard had not one of the sailors rolled me under the lea of one of the overturned dories and, bundled in blankets as I already was, roped me to the ship's rails. Indeed, so miserable was I by then that I resisted his attention, feeling it preferable to be tipped into the sea than to endure this appalling physical discomfort. Again and again Ben Emery's words came to mind; fully did I understand, now, why he preferred to be a longshoreman than a sailor! And yet, not only did these Mentonese endure the motion but they seemed almost to revel in it. To see them hurrying up aloft on those swaying, pitching masts and spars was a dizzifying spectacle, especially to one feeling so ill as I. Those four days had been, beyond question, the most utterly wretched in my entire life.
1066 He had long since taken to drawing on saidin through the angreal in his pocket, the stone carving of the fat little man. Even so, working the Power was a strain now, weaving it at this distance of miles, but only the rancid threads streaking what he drew kept him from pulling more, from trying to pull it all to him. The Power was that sweet, taint or no. After hours of channeling without, rest, he was that tired. At the same time, he had to fight saidin itself harder, to put more of his strength into keeping it from burning him to ash where he stood, from burning his mind to ash. It was ever more difficult to hold off saidin's destruction, more difficult to resist the desire to draw more, more difficult to handle what he did draw. A nasty downward spiral, and hours to go before the battle was decided.
1067 On the twentieth, the day the presidency was supposed to change, the constitutional convention convened. Now it was evident how carefully Spirit had orchestrated this, for a clear majority of the delegates were my supporters. The whole time I had been captive, Spirit had been touring the planet in my stead, giving public speeches and privately seeing to the selection of the delegates for this convention, so that there would be no confusion or delay at the critical moment. The skids had been greased, and the whole thing came into being with amazing ease, fully formed. Tocsin's forces, supposing they had victory in hand as long as they held me captive, had not been aware of this. They had been blinded by their own connivance, not recognizing Spirit for what she was: the mistress of their undoing.
1068 The Smilodon was perplexed, discovering in me something unanticipated. I continued to respond to his reactions, reinforcing those I deemed desirable, dissipating those I did not approve. It was the same way I interacted with human beings, that enabled me to judge them and trust them. It was more difficult with this animal, because I was not attuned to animals, especially not prehistoric tigers, but the principle was the same. I could come to know a person well enough in just a few minutes to account for a certainty that others might require years to master. That was why I always interviewed the key personnel of a new enterprise, and why my enterprises always worked well. So now I was relating to this magnificent animal in the same way, and if I were successful I would have a rather special friend.
1069 Dreams roiled in Eragon's mind, breeding and living by their own laws. He watched as a group of people on proud horses approached a lonely river. Many had silver hair and carried tall lances. A strange, fair ship waited for them, shining under a bright moon. The figures slowly boarded the vessel; two of them, taller than the rest, walked arm in arm. Their faces were obscured by cowls, but he could tell that one was a woman. They stood on the deck of the ship and faced the shore. A man stood alone on the pebble beach, the only one who had not boarded the ship. He threw back his head and let out a long, aching cry. As it faded, the ship glided down the river, without a breeze or oars, out into the flat, empty land. The vision clouded, but just before it disappeared, Eragon glimpsed two dragons in the sky.
1070 He spoke name after name, with the fragments of legend or poetry that he could remember, with his voice and his mind. The dead roused to their names, came out of the orchards and woods, out of the earth itself. Some rode at him with wild, eerie cries, their armor aflame with moonlight over bare bones. Others came silently: dark, grim figures revealing terrible death wounds. They sought to frighten him, but he only watched them out of eyes that had already seen all he needed to fear. They tried to fight him, but he opened his own mind to them, showed them glimpses of his power. He held them through all their challenging, until they stood ranged before him across an entire field, their awe and curiosity forcing them out of their memories to glimpse something of the world they had been loosed into.
1071 We had had storms, too, on several occasions, but no wreck had been left on our coast. I began to think we were doomed to live out our lives on this rock, and frequently found myself striving very manfully to be resigned to my fate, and for a few days I would cheerfully endeavour to make the best of it. But the increasing desire I felt to get to England, that I might seek out my grandfather, and put him in possession of his diamonds, always prevented this state of things enduring very long. I had obtained from Mrs. Reichardt an idea of the value of these stones, and of the importance of their restoration to my relative, and I had often thought of the satisfaction I should enjoy in presenting myself before him, as the restorer of such valuable property, which, no doubt, had long since been given up as lost.
1072 Around her the air filled with gasps and screaming, above which the grinding still boomed, the derailed train driving forward with terrifying momentum. The carriage shook and bounced as its passengers struggled to support themselves. Her forearm was gripped by the now disentangled female on the floor, while the woman at her side tried to curl herself around the now bawling infant. All faces were filled with fear, eyes widened, breath held. Each new jolt or shunt spilled body against body while voices cried in pain or strain. The girl in front fell forward as she tried to right herself, her elbow landing in Tanya's thigh like a spike. Her boyfriend sprawled sideways, nose streaming with blood after the mutterer's head struck him, the mutterer himself slumped against the old woman's knees like a marionette.
1073 Once, following his father from Chatham to Devonport, they had lived in a cottage on the edge of the moors. In the succession of houses that Ralph had known, this one stood out with particular clarity because after that house he had been sent away to school. Mummy had still been with them and Daddy had come home every day. Wild ponies came to the stone wall at the bottom of the garden, and it had snowed. Just behind the cottage there was a sort of shed and you could lie up there, watching the flakes swirl past. You could see the damp spot where each flake died, then you could mark the first flake that lay down without melting and watch, the whole ground turn white. You could go indoors when you were cold and look out of the window, past the bright copper kettle and the plate with the little blue men.
1074 Her eyes were begging him to give her the right answer. Nicolae touched her mind very gently as she shared with him that first dangerous memory. The little girl with a mass of ringlets falling around her shoulders and eyes too big for her face smiling up at a handsome man. The stranger bent down to her level, speaking softly, and her smile widened. She nodded her head several times, took his hand and walked him back to a small house. A woman stood on the porch, frowning a little as she watched her daughter speaking animatedly to a tall, rather beautiful man who slowly took on the form of a monster. His perfect skin became gray. His thick dark hair grew white and hung in strings. The slash of his mouth revealed jagged teeth stained black with blood, and long, sharp talons bit into the child's arm.
1075 Kirkasant was probably the best of a bad lot. And Laure thought it was rather a miracle that man had survived there. So small a genetic pool, so hostile an environment... but the latter might well have saved him from the effects of the former. Natural selection must have been harsh. And, seemingly, the radiation background was high, which led to a corresponding mutation rate. Women bore from puberty to menopause, and buried most of their babies. Men struggled to keep them alive. Often death harvested adults, too, entire families. But those who were fit tended to survive. And the planet did have an unfilled ecological niche: the one reserved for intelligence. Evolution galloped. Population exploded. In one or two millennia, man was at home on Kirkasant. In five, he crowded it and went looking for new planets.
1076 After he studied the mountains for a time, and his muscles began to relax, he went back to the work table, where he used the striker to light the single candle. Although his night vision was nearly as good as his day vision for most matters, the candle did help in writing and reading. As the flame lengthened, and cast light from the polished bronze reflector onto the table, he sat down on the stool and looked at the papers weighted down under the ornate hilt of a blade that had broken at the tang. He had found it in the plunder from the great battle, long since separated from the actual blade. The hilt was heavy, overdone, and had doubtless added a poor balance that had contributed to the blade's breaking, along with a tang that had been too narrow, but the hilt itself made a decorative paperweight.
1077 Inside, the station looked much like any police station, except that the windows were heavily protected and the beat patrols carried padded vests with them and wore holsters. They'd seen policemen during their drive, but had acknowledged none of them. And they'd passed a single Army patrol, young squaddies sitting at the open rear door of their personnel carrier (known as a 'pig' in Rebus's day, and probably still), automatic rifles held lightly, faces trained not to show emotion. In the station, the windows might be well protected but there seemed little sign of a siege mentality. The jokes were just as blue, just as black, as the ones told in Edinburgh. People discussed TV and football and the weather. Smylie wasn't watching any of it. He wanted the job done and out again as quick as could be.
1078 He dived into the sea to wring from its heart the last of his gifts to her. These he poured at her feet, shimmering sapphires that blazed in the grass. His constancy for her. When now, finally, he spoke of love, she could only weep bitter tears for her life was over. She told him it was too late, that she had never needed riches or promises of glory, but only that he loved her, loved her enough that she could have set aside her fear of giving up her world for his. And as she turned to leave him this last time, as the sapphires bloomed into flowers in the grass, his hurt and his temper lashed out in this spell he cast. She would find no peace without him, nor would they see each other again until three times lovers met and accepting each other, risking hearts, dared the choice of love over all else.
1079 Before Josh could finish drawing a surprised breath, a brown cloud had swept through the open windows on the Pontiac's right side and he was covered with crawling, fluttering, chattering things that got down the collar of his shirt, into his mouth, up his nostrils and in his eyes. He spat them from his mouth and clawed them away from his eyes with one hand while the other clenched the steering wheel. It was the most ungodly noise of chattering he'd ever heard, a deafening roar of whirring wings. And then his eyes cleared and he could see that the windshield and the car's interior were covered with thousands of locusts, swarming all over him, flying through his car and out the windows on the left side. He switched on the windshield wipers, but the weight of the mass of locusts pinned the wipers to the glass.
1080 In growing fear, Giordino frantically paddled the skiff toward the shattered wreckage. Reaching the outer perimeter of the burning debris, he strapped on his air tank and rolled into the canal. Lit by a field of flames on the surface, the water beneath took on a look of eerie candescence, ghostly and threatening. In a strange kind of restrained frenzy, he searched through the mangled remains of the hovercraft, tearing aside the shreds of the skirt and probing underneath. He was still dazed with shock as he desperately tried to find the body of his friend. He groped about the shambles created by Pitt, and his hands touched what remained of a man, stripped of his clothing, a sliced and gutted thing with no legs. One black eye, wide open and unseeing, was all he required to know it wasn't Pitt.
1081 They reflect the attitudes that man, in his imperfect state, will build a better mousetrap that will swiftly catch him. Creator and victim of his creation: that is how science fiction looks at man and his wonderful new toys. These stories are concerned with the problem of good and evil, and the impossibility of separating one from the other. Serious writers have been struggling with the problem of good and evil for thousands of years, and there is no solution yet that satisfies everyone. Voltaire created his most memorable comic character, Pangloss, to satirize the then prevalent attitude that everything created by God of necessity must be good, that man is simply too limited in his vision to achieve understanding of the ultimate good that must be derived from that which is only apparently evil.
1082 Lisa had disappeared behind the raised trunk lid, and he saw only her hand and arm jerking and throwing. Magazines and records flew out onto the lawn in a hurricane of flapping paper and sailing cardboard. The whole damned box followed, end over end. He stood clutching the bird cage, suddenly humbled by this display of wrath. The antlers followed, cartwheeling into the neighbor's hedge, littering the lawn with his clothes. The lamp rolled free of the bundle, and he set the cage down and ran to it, picking it up. It was apparently unhurt, and he hid it in the shrubbery in case her rage compelled her to track it down and destroy it. With an exaggerated lack of concern he walked back to the parakeets, watching as she heaved the basketball off into the night and then zingoed the shadow box onto the roof.
1083 I was not required to choose between them; I had complete freedom to be with either or neither. Thus I became the most tangible link between them, and every time I went from one to the other I experienced a resurgence of that private tragedy. But I learned to live with it because I had no choice. After all, my father had suffered the brutal loss of all his family at this same age; how little my loss seemed in comparison! Neither Hope nor Megan ever spoke ill of the other to me; in fact, the first concern of each was for the welfare of the other. He always had to be reassured that she was well cared for and had enough money, and she would fret that he was too busy to take proper care of himself. It was as if they were apart only temporarily, and indeed, they longed to be together. But we all knew it was over.
1084 I was busy during the next hour caring for our wounded, of whom there were nine in all. Purcell was badly hurt. He had been struck a glancing blow on the head, which laid open his scalp and knocked him unconscious, but, by the time I was able to attend to him, he was again sitting up, apparently but little the worse for a blow that would have killed most men. An examination of the wound assured me pretty well that the skull had not been fractured. It was necessary to take half a dozen stitches in the scalp. Elphinstone had had two fingers of his right hand broken while protecting Captain Bligh, and Lenkletter had been deeply gashed across the cheek bone. The other wounds were bruises, the worst being that of Hall, who had been struck full on the right breast and nearly knocked out of the launch.
1085 This was not to be borne; though, as I was but thirteen, he seventeen, and a very stout fellow, I should rather not have sought an action with him. But he had begun it; my honour was at stake, and I only wonder I had not drawn my dirk, and laid him dead at my feet. Fortunately for him, the rage I was in made me forget I had it by my side: though I remembered my uniform, the disgrace brought upon it, and the admiration of the chambermaid, as well as the salute of the sentinel; all which formed a combustible in my brain. I went off like a flash, and darted my fist (the only weapon I had been most accustomed to wield) into the left eye of my adversary, with a force and precision which Cribb would have applauded. Murphy staggered back with the blow, and for a moment I flattered myself he had had enough of it.
1086 Thrugg crept up from the kitchens. Sleep did not come easily to the burly otter, particularly with the knowledge that there was a huge pot of shrimp and bulrush soup, flavored with watercress and hotroot pepper, simmering gently on the embers of the kitchen fire. Thrugg could not rest until he had sampled it. Slipping down to the kitchen in his voluminous white nightshirt, the big otter cut a curious figure. He consumed two bowls of his favorite soup, smacked his lips, yawned and added more hotroot pepper to the pot before stealing off back to his bed. Crossing Great Hall he was surprised to see Samkim. The young squirrel stood illuminated by a shaft of moonlight in front of the tapestry. Thrugg had seen sleepwalkers before and he knew what to do. Strolling up, he lifted Samkim easily in his strong paws.
1087 The sky had turned a cobalt blue from the horizon to the zenith, and behind the line of low hills to the east a glow could be seen, pale gold and oyster pink. Dany held Missandei's hand as they watched the sun come up. All the grey bricks became red and yellow and blue and green and orange. The scarlet sands of the fighting pits transformed them into bleeding sores before her eyes. Elsewhere the golden dome of the Temple of the Graces blazed bright, and bronze stars winked along the walls where the light of the rising sun touched the spikes on the helms of the Unsullied. On the terrace, a few flies stirred sluggishly. A bird began to chirp in the persimmon tree, and then two more. Dany cocked her head to hear their song, but it was not long before the sounds of the waking city drowned them out.
1088 Philip did not wait to hear any more; he crawled behind the bushes until he gained the grove of trees, and passing through them, made a detour, so as not to be seen by these miscreants. That they were disbanded soldiers, many of whom were infesting the country, he knew well. All his thoughts were now to save the old doctor and his daughter from the danger which threatened them; and for a time he forgot his father, and the exciting revelations of the day. Although Philip had not been aware in what direction he had walked when he set off from the cottage, he knew the country well; and now that it was necessary to act, he remembered the direction in which he should find the lonely house of Mynheer Poots: with the utmost speed he made his way for it, and in less than twenty minutes he arrived there out of breath.
1089 The glass was coated with some sort of nonreflective substance, and she could not see herself in it or see much beyond, although if she went up very close, she could barely make out a variety of overdressed giant ducks gawking at her. She couldn't help wondering how many times, if any, Campos had been by just to gloat. There was water in a simulated spring and small pool, and there was food. That was the worst part, the food. Live insects, mostly worms and crawlers, were introduced several times a day, along with an occasional carcass of something that might have been an unfortunate zoo accident or roadkill for all she knew. The problem wasn't that she was going around gulping down the squirming critters or picking at the festering dead meat. She'd long since passed the point of being revolted at that aspect.
1090 At noon they returned to the vessel and packed more materials. They carried these to the 'village,' where the women and children and a few men crowded around them in wonder. The people were amazed at the spraying and hardening of the foam. Only after some talk among themselves did they get courage enough to approach and touch the plastic. They watched as the four piled stones around these and placed some heavy ones inside. Gribardsun cut out the door and replaced it with hinges and a lock. This dome was to hold artifacts and records and specimens and to serve as a temporary home and workshop. Gribardsun walked around it twelve times chanting Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark and making meaningless gestures. He hoped by doing this to convince the villagers that magic was being invoked to protect the dome.
1091 Meanwhile the baleful omens redoubled. In a distant forest in the East an aged giantess brought into the world a whole brood of young wolves whose father was Fenrir. One of these monsters chased the sun to take possession of it. The chase was for long in vain, but each season the wolf grew in strength, and at last he reached the sun. Its bright rays were one by one extinguished. It took on a blood red hue, then entirely disappeared. For the space of several years the world was enveloped in hideous winter. Snowstorms descended from all points of the horizon. War broke out all over the earth. Brother slew brother, children no longer respected the ties of blood. It was a time when men were no better than wolves, eager to destroy each other. Soon the world was going to sink into the abyss of nothingness.
1092 For about four months I saw her two or three evenings a week, for an hour or so at a time. But never outside the apartment house in which we lived. We never went dancing; we never went to a concert; we never even went for a walk. I found out soon after we met that Leah's father had promised her in marriage to some young Pole. Maybe this fact had something to do with my not quite palpable, but curiously steady disinclination to give our acquaintanceship the run of the city. Maybe I just worried too much about things. Maybe I consistently hesitated to risk letting the thing we had together deteriorate into a romance. I don't know any more. I used to know, but I lost the knowledge a long time ago. A man can't go along indefinitely carrying around in his pocket a key that doesn't fit anything.
1093 At least, he hoped that's what it was. But as he considered this, an alarming thought came to mind. What if this was some kind of signal, sent by God, to warn him that the boy was going to be trouble? A similar signal had been sent in the case of the little brat Sarah, in the form of a sickness during one of the Praise Meetings. That had been embarrassing, and it had required maximum use of his silver tongue to quell the audience. It had looked like some sort of epileptic seizure at the time. Eventually the congregation returned to their seats, including her parents, and watched as the girl flopped around on the stage; possession, that's what he'd said, he remembered. This incident had happened weeks before he had to actually kill her, and now it seemed to have been a sure sign that trouble was to follow.
1094 They looked mostly like horses and mules, but not quite. No two were nearly alike beyond the basic form, but no two rang exactly true, either. She could see what the Agonese meant and why they hadn't really been able to explain it. There were tall ones and short ones, big ones and little ones. They divided first into two classes which she thought of as equine and elephantine. The equine had thin legs of varying lengths, balanced torsos, and heads on long necks. They tended to have camouflagelike colors, dull and mixed, with lots of browns and olives. Hair was short or long; tails were optional and of varying lengths and designs. The heads, though, were what caught her attention. They all looked different, and many of them looked unsertlingly like caricatures of the faces of some Well World races.
1095 The wagon carried all his possessions, and there were precious few of these. Twelve years following a grandiose dream had wasted his substance all away. The considerable royalties from the book that he had written after his travels to the unexplored lands below the Zambezi river, the gold and ivory that he had brought back from that remote interior, the ivory from four more hunting expeditions to that same haunting and yet sadly flawed paradise, all of it was gone. Thousands of pounds and twelve years of heartbreak and frustration, until the splendid dream had become clouded and soured and all he had to show for it was a tattered scrap of parchment on which the ink was beginning to yellow and the folds were almost worn through so that it had to be glued to a backing sheet to hold it together.
1096 He drove slowly down the entranceway toward the van, looking around, trying to take in everything at once. There were two picnic tables with a family at each one. One group was just clearing up and getting ready to go, the mother putting leftovers into a bright orange carrier bag, the father and the two kids policing up the junk and taking it over to the trash barrel. At the other table a young man and woman were eating sandwiches and potato salad. There was a sleeping baby in a carrier seat between them. The baby was wearing a corduroy jumper with a lot of dancing elephants on it. On the grass, between two big and beautiful old elms, were two girls of about twenty, also having lunch. There was no sign of Charlie or of any men who looked both young enough and tough enough to belong to the Shop.
1097 I didn't think they'd bring a gun in because they could have done that before: they could have dropped us as we'd come out of the cave. There were plenty of other ways, quieter ways, less public. But it was a calculated risk and every time we shunted to a halt I felt my head settling instinctively onto the top of the spine and my shoulders rising into the primeval startle attitude, because this was when they'd steady the aim and fire, when we were stationary. They would have to shoot twice or use two guns unless it was only Karasov they'd been trying to kill in the barn, expecting him to climb into the truck with me before I started the engine. My death could have been planned as incidental but that wasn't certain either: the Rinker cell could have reasons for taking me down, putting me out of their way.
1098 Chamberlain began to grow restless for food. He thought: we're forgotten up here. Nobody knows what these men did yesterday. They saved the whole line, God knows, and now I can't even feed them. He was becoming angry. He clambered back up the hill and tore open the wound inside his boot, which began again to bleed. He sat down at the top of the hill, listening to the cannon fire and musketry raging in the north, momentarily grateful that it was over there, and took off the boot, bound the foot, wished he could get something to wash it down with, but what water there was was dirty and bloody. There was a creek down below: Plum Run. Choked with yesterday's dead. Good to be high up here; the smells of death don't seem to be rising. Wind still from the south, blowing it away. You know, the Regiment is weary.
1099 When you examine the continents more closely, you find there are, crudely speaking, two kinds of regions. One shows the spectrum of ordinary rocks and minerals as found on many worlds. The other reveals something unusual: a material, covering vast areas, that strongly absorbs red light. (The Sun, of course, shines in light of all colors, with a peak in the yellow.) This pigment might be just the agent needed if ordinary visible light is being used to break water apart and account for the oxygen in the air. It's another hint, this time a little stronger, of life, not a bug here and there, but a planetary surface overflowing with life. The pigment is in fact chlorophyll: It absorbs blue light as well as red, and is responsible for the fact that plants are green. What you're seeing is a densely vegetated planet.
1100 A lie. And that was another thing. She hadn't meant to lie to her about the box. She wouldn't have done it, if the old woman had not been so sure she had both stolen it and lied about it. If Ronica Vestrit had looked at her and wondered a little if she were innocent, Malta would have told her the truth. But what was the good of telling people the truth when they already believed you were wicked and the truth would just prove it to them? She might just as well lie twice and be the liar and thief that her grandmother not only believed she was, but hoped she was. Yes, that was true, her grandmother wanted her to be bad and wicked, because then she'd feel justified in the horrid way she treated Malta's father. It was all her grandmother's own fault. If you treated people badly, then it all just came back on you.
1101 The little ship lay there quietly. A tiny rim of the moon came up over the mountains, and broadened momentarily, revealing her lying peacefully at anchor. She seemed inert, incapable of action. Silent men had swarmed up the rigging and were waiting for the signal. There was a gentle creaking as the spring to the cable tightened, but there was no clank from the capstan, for the pawl had been thrown out from the ratchet; the men at the capstan bars walked silently round, and when their six turns had been completed they stood, breasts against the bars, feet braced on the deck, holding the ship steady. Under the pull of the spring she lay at an angle to the breeze, so that when sail should be set not a moment would be wasted gathering stern way and paying off. She would be under command at once.
1102 So they made their way down North Coprates, and the cliffs closed in on them more every day. The flood filled almost the whole width of the canyon floor, and its flow was so rapid that the ice on its surface had broken into small bergs, which flew off the lips of standing waves and crashed back into the cascade: a furious whitewater rapid with the flow of a hundred Amazons, topped by icebergs. The canyon floor was being ripped away, torn free of its bed and rushing down in red jolts of water like massive pulses of rusty blood, as if the planet were bleeding to death. The noise was incredible, a roar so continuous and pervasive that it dulled thought, and made talk almost impossible; they had to shout everything at the top of their lungs, which quickly reduced them to communicating only the basic necessities.
1103 Laramar proceeded to open the container. First he unwrapped a waterproof piece of cleaned intestine from a pouring spout that had been made of a single vertebra from the backbone of an aurochs. Extraneous material around the tubular bone had been carved away and a groove cut around the outside. Then it had been inserted into a natural opening of the stomach and a strong cord tied around the skin that encircled the bone so that it was pulled into the groove, to hold it in place and make a watertight connection. Then he pulled out the stopper, a thin leather thong that had been knotted several times at one end until it was big enough to plug the central hole. It was much easier to control the flow of liquid from the flexible bag through the natural hole in the center of the solid section of spine.
1104 So many cities, Morrissey thought. Such an immense outpouring of effort. We smothered this world. We came in, we built our little isolated research stations, we stared in wonder at the coruscating sky and the double suns and the bizarre creatures. And we transformed ourselves into Medeans and transformed Medea into a kind of crazy imitation of Earth. And for a thousand years we spread out along the coasts wherever our kind of life could dig itself in. Eventually we lost sight of our purpose in coming here, which in the beginning was to learn. But we stayed anyway. We just stayed. We muddled along. And then we found out that it was all for nothing, that with one mighty heave of its shoulders this world was going to cast us off, and we got scared and packed up and went away. Sad, he thought. Sad and foolish.
1105 Kiron thought it best to leave him alone at that point. He had a lot to think about. In some ways, Toreth and Kaleth, raised amid the endless political infighting among the royal families, had been anything but sheltered. Still, there were other ways in which they had been very sheltered indeed. They had never seen evil, amoral men under conditions in which their evil was recognizable. They were so used to petty evil that they had a great deal of difficulty in believing in great evil. And they had not made the intuitive leap that those who practiced petty evil were perfectly capable of undertaking great evil, and lacked only the perceived need and the opportunity to do so. Kiron felt oddly sorry for him. He had once been certain that there were things in his world he could be certain of. Not anymore.
1106 Minutes later they hovered over a brightly illuminated public square and then descended swiftly. The spherical ship landed gently. Rous had activated every available viewscreen in order to obtain the maximum possible circular perspective of the place. He studied the square and the adjoining houses carefully. Nothing moved. The city actually appeared to be dead. It struck him as odd that there were objects lying around on the uneven pavement which had no business being there. Over there next to the gutter, a broadsword was leaning against the base of a wall. Close by lay a shield. It looked as though a sentry had unburdened himself of these accoutrements in order to take a stroll for himself. A short distance away, Rous saw a collapsed suit of armour that showed signs of having been in a heavy fight.
1107 He became conscious of a considerable debt of gratitude to the little magazine, the Miniature Mechanic. All his life he had heard his engineers speaking casually of milling, and he had not known what the process was. The magazine taught him in the first few issues that came to hand. He consulted with the engineer who maintained their three executive aircraft at the airport, and went with him to a machinery store in Seattle and bought a bench milling machine with a variety of cutters. He got his aeroplane engineers to install it in his workshop beside the lathe and drill press that he had already bought, and learned to use it; thereafter he could talk on equal terms on milling with his engineers and once or twice was able to correct them, which gave him immense pleasure. In lathe work it was the same.
1108 Two hours later the Sabatier was fixed. On the way back to the trailer park, Nadia glanced into the first greenhouse. Plants were already blooming, the new crops breaking out of their beds of new black soil. Green glowed intensely in the reds of this world, it was a pleasure to see it. The bamboo was growing several centimeters a day, she had been told, and the crop was already nearly five meters tall. It was easy to see they were going to need more soil. Back at the alchemists' they were using nitrogen from the Boeings to synthesize ammonia fertilizers; Hiroko craved these because the regolith was an agricultural nightmare, intensely salty, explosive with peroxides, extremely arid, and completely without biomass. They were going to have to construct soil just like they had the magnesium bars.
1109 I dreamed again that night: a feverish, disjointed dream of gigantic grotesque creatures shining with a fluorescent glow against a sky blacker than any night. They had claws, tentacles, eyes by the dozens. Their swollen asymmetrical bodies were bristling with thick red hairs. Some were clad in thick armor, others were equipped with ugly shining spikes that jutted in rows of ten or twenty from their quivering skins. They were pursuing me through the airless void. Wherever I ran there were more of them, crowding close. Behind them I saw the walls of the cosmos beginning to shiver and flow. The sky itself was dancing. Color was breaking through the blackness: eddying bands of every hue at once, interwoven like great chains. I ran, and I ran, and I ran, but there were monsters on every side, and no escape.
1110 He forced himself to see beyond the anger. There is the right way to handle these things, he thought, there always has been, especially for the men who have served for so long. There was nothing to be gained by public humiliation, by shaming the man. The letters would be written, sent to Halleck in Washington. Burnside would be given leave, maybe a month, with instructions that his staff could accompany him. There would be no confusion about what was really happening, and Burnside was experienced enough in command to understand that. After the leave expired, he would be told to simply wait for a new assignment. It was the most discreet way to handle the dignity of the veteran commanders. The newspapers would not jump on the story, put the name in shameful headlines, because in fact there would be no story.
1111 Still, for all my fear felt in the guts that will bear the brunt of my release I think I can still savour the fact that my life ends with a blank, and see the possibilities for touches the soldiers might not appreciate. And so I want the hawk to come down and peck some living part of me, or the soldiers to raise me up now, place an old tin helmet on my head, sponge some water into my mouth and stick a bayonet in my side... But I am anyway between these thieves, and a calm eye in the circle of their vehicles, something they have already grown bored with. The hawk settles on you, my dear. I try to watch it perch and pull and pluck and tear with a disinterested eye, but find the exercise impossible, and have to look away, at the bare trees and the dark tents and the remainder of the lieutenant's men.
1112 He found two out of three with one so serious that it told him something: there were secrets in that automobile far more valuable than clothes or jewelry or even confidential business papers. A row of tiny holes had been drilled and painted over along the lower frames of the windows; they were jets that released a nonlethal vapour that would immobilize an intruder for a considerable length of time. They had been conceived and perfected initially for diplomats in troubled countries where it was nearly as important to question assailants as to save lives. They could be set off by chauffeurs during an assault or by alarms when the car was unoccupied. They were now being marketed among the rich throughout the world, and it was said that the suppliers of the mechanisms could not keep up with the demand.
1113 The lady sat, fussing with her lavender skirts, sari, and veils until they were properly arranged. Her older manservant positioned himself in front of the counter, the big eunuch at his mistress's back. Briar wondered if she took the eunuch along on hot days and trained him to stand where he could do double duty as a sunshade. Then he put his mind to the job of guessing what might appeal to her. With a customer who was not of the nobility Briar could ask questions to determine what tree and what sort of magic was required. With nobles he had to rely on instinct and tact. If he asked anything of Lady Zenadia directly, the best he could hope for would be a slap for impudence. It was a guessing game, one he enjoyed. He liked to draw from his knowledge of human nature to find out what this woman might want.
1114 Then Thread fell again. This time he was adequately prepared, and forewarned. Farli went hysterical with alarm, her eyes wheeling furiously with the red of anger as she rose on her wings and, shrieking defiance to the northeast, suddenly flicked out. When Piemur called her, she popped back in, scolded him furiously, and then disappeared. She had gone between before, inadvertently scared by some odd noise or other, so that it wasn't until she remained away for much longer than before that Piemur began to wonder what had frightened her. He looked northeast, noticing as his eyes swept across the plains, that the animals were all moving toward the river with considerable haste. The quick blossom of flame against the sky caught his eyes, and he saw, not only Thread's gray rain, but the distant motes of dragons.
1115 This room was larger than the last, dimly lit and rectangular, and the centre of it was sunken, forming a great stone pit some twenty feet deep. They were standing on the topmost tier of what seemed to be stone benches running all around the room and descending in steep steps like an amphitheatre, or the courtroom in which Harry had been tried by the Wizengamot. Instead, of a chained chair, however, there was a raised stone dais in the centre of the pit, on which stood a stone archway that looked so ancient, cracked and crumbling that Harry was amazed the thing was still standing. Unsupported by any surrounding wall, the archway was hung with a tattered black curtain or veil which, despite the complete stillness of the cold surrounding air, was fluttering very slightly as though it had just been touched.
1116 He had known that the attack upon his life was imminent. The coloured cakes when he had found them on the three preceding occasions had been successively closer to him. Swelter was trying to wreck him by torturing his mind and twisting his nerves and he had not slept for many nights but he was ready. He had not forgotten the twohanded cleaver in the green light and had found in the armoury an old sword, from which he had removed the rust and had sharpened to a point and an edge in the stone lanes. Compared to the edge which Swelter had given to the cleaver the sword was blunt but it was murderous enough. In Swelter's expression he could read the nearness of the night encounter. It would be within a week. He could not tell which day. It might be this very night. It might be any night of the next seven.
1117 Thrice more she gave him water. The last time, it trickled down his livid cheek. She dabbed it gently away. Skin came with it. Then she leaned back into the chair by his bunk and considered him wearily. She could not tell if his thirst was satiated or if he was too weary to swallow more. She numbered her consolations. He was alive. He breathed; he drank. She tried to build hope upon that. She dropped the sponge back into the pan of water. For a moment, she regarded her own hands. She had scalded them in Wintrow's rescue, for when she had seized him to keep him from drowning, the serpent slime on his clothing had rubbed off on her, leaving shiny red patches, stingingly sensitive to both heat and cold. And it had done that damage after it had spent most of its strength on Wintrow's clothing and flesh.
1118 The boy made her think. He made her think of things no other Vestrit had ever considered while on her decks. Half his life, she reflected, seemed to be considering how he saw that life in respect to the existence of others. She had known of Sa, for all the other Vestrits had revered him in a cursory way. But none of them had pondered the existence of the divine, nor thought to see the reflection of divinity in life around them. None of them had believed so firmly that there was goodness and honor inherent in every man's breast, nor cherished the idea that every being had some special destiny to fulfill, that there was some need in the world that only that life lived correctly could satisfy. Hence none of them had been so bitterly disappointed as Wintrow had been in his everyday dealings with his fellows.
1119 Jerle Shannara did. He brought up his sword, the talisman he had carried to this confrontation, the magic he did not know how to use, and he advanced to do battle. As he did so, a flash of light danced off the surface of the blade, ran its polished length, and disappeared into his body. He faltered as the light entered him, feeling it pulse with energy. A warm flush enveloped him, spreading outward from his chest to his limbs. He felt the warmth return to the Sword, carrying with it some part of himself, joining the two so that he became one with the blade. It happened so fast that it was done before he could think to stop it. He stared at the Sword in wonder, now an extension of himself, then at the dark figure before him, and then at the world of mist and shadows as it slowly began to recede.
1120 Loford had ceased prying at the ceiling, and sheathed his sword, but stood still looking upward at the damage while he made the gestures of his magic art. Now he signed to Rolf to cease work also; Rolf did so. But by Loford's art, the noises they had made when working went right on without a pause, the subdued splintering of light wood, the trickling falls of powdery fragments to the floor were heard, though the hole they had begun in the roof now got no bigger. Now Rolf attacked the floor with his dagger. He labored to pry up a board; Catherine dropped to her knees beside him and wrenched with strong sure hands as soon as he had raised one end enough for her to get a purchase on it. By the art of Loford, who worked on silently above them, the shriek of yielding nails was made to come from overhead.
1121 Between a mild slope and the lake stood the great stone edifice in all its grandeur. Behind it and spread up the slope, among clipped formal hedges, white statuary, and urns of overflowing petunias, the gardens were in the full bloom of spring as it moved toward summer. Paul had reserved a table at the edge of the overhanging roof, where the windows had been rolled back to suit the season and a fresh breeze from the lake stirred the shrubbery. The lovely room was already filled by tourists and by Milanese businessmen with their fashionable women in white linens and pastel silks. And again Paul remarked to himself, as he had so often done through their years together, that it never occurred to Use to worry whether she was dressed well enough because, in the elegance of her simplicity, she always was.
1122 As the ritual before the races approached completion, Crassus motioned behind him and a smartly dressed slave stepped forward to relay his bets. Though Pompey had disdained the opportunity, Crassus had spent a useful hour with the teams and their horses in the dark stables built under the seating. He considered himself a good judge and thought that the team of Spanish whites under Paulus were unstoppable. He hesitated as the slave waited to relay his bet to his masters. The valley between the hills was usually perfect for horses that preferred a soft track, but there had been little rain for nearly a week and he could see spirals of dust on the ground below the consular box. His mouth was similarly dry as he made up his mind. Paulus had been confident and the gods loved a gambler. This was his day, after all.
1123 When we got back to the office I thought about what he'd said, and I began to think that Sala might be right. He talked about luck and fate and numbers coming up, yet he never ventured a nickel at the casinos because he knew the house had all the percentages. And beneath his pessimism, his bleak conviction that all the machinery was rigged against him, at the bottom of his soul was a faith that he was going to outwit it, that by carefully watching the signs he was going to know when to dodge and be spared. It was fatalism with a loophole, and all you had to do to make it work was never miss a sign. Survival by coordination, as it were. The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but to those who can see it coming and jump aside. Like a frog evading a shillelagh in a midnight marsh.
1124 A soft night breeze stirred across the small town of Eianrod, then faded. Sitting on the stone rail of the wide flat bridge in the heart of the town, Rand supposed the breeze was hot, yet it hardly felt so after the Waste. Warm for nighttime perhaps, but not enough to make him unbutton his red coat. The river below him had never been large, and was half its normal width now, yet he still enjoyed watching the water flow north, moonshadows cast by scudding clouds playing across the darkly glittering surface. That was why he was out here in the night, really; to look at running water for a time. His wards were set, surrounding the Aiel encampment that itself surrounded the town. The Aiel themselves kept a watch a sparrow could not pierce unseen. He could waste an hour being soothed by the flow of a river.
1125 The thing glowed all over now with a weird phosphorous radiance, and this glow was in Conan's eyes, blinding him, as suddenly the heaving billowing mass fell away from beneath him, the saber tearing loose and remaining in his locked hand. This hand and arm hung down into space, and far below him the glowing body of the monster was rushing downward like a meteor. Conan dazedly realized that he lay on the brink of a great round well, the edge of which was slimy stone. He lay there watching the hurtling glow dwindling and dwindling until it vanished into a dark shining surface that seemed to surge upward to meet it. For an instant a dimming witchfire glimmered in those dusky depths; then it disappeared and Conan lay staring down into the blackness of the ultimate abyss from which no sound came.
1126 We eased off the clips on the forward collision bulkhead door, knocked them off cautiously as the pressures equalized. The water in the torpedo room was about two feet above the level of the sill, and as the door came ajar, the water boiled whitely through into the collision space while compressed air hissed out from behind us to equalize the lowering pressure of the air in the torpedo room. For about ten seconds we had to hang on grimly to hold the door and maintain our balance while water and air fought and jostled in a seething maelstrom to find their own natural levels. The door opened wide. The water level now extended from about thirty inches up on the collision bulkhead to the forward deckhead of the torpedo room. We crossed the sill, switched on our waterproof flashlights, and ducked under.
1127 The part she had cast herself for was that of a young man and an equal, and she did her best to play it. But her intention to treat all the five men with complete impartiality was defeated by Dale and the engineer. Dale remained unfriendly and sometimes aggressive, while Burns was unresponsive, occasionally varying his attitude of indifference with a touch of belittlement. It was impossible for her to treat either of them as she treated the three who took her, or appeared to take her, at the valuation she wished, for both the doctor and Dugan, while still non committal, had had the grace to regard her story as a hypothesis to be proved or disproved later. Burns, on the other hand, continued to dismiss it with silent contempt, and Dale not infrequently created opportunities for expressing his opinions of it.
1128 Raina, my granddaughter who is now ten, has seen spirits from the age of two, just as I did. Only recently, she was standing behind the front door of her home, and suddenly said to her mother, 'Look, I can see all this swirling mist over the door.' As she became more excited she told her mother that it was beginning to spiral and that it was beautiful. Janet said the little girl's face was a picture as she absorbed the wonder of it. Raina wanted to know what it was. Janet told her that because they had been looking at a scary picture on television and were frightened, the spirits had come to calm them down. Because she had already seen spirits herself, Raina accepted this explanation. Since that day her life has been so much easier, and she is accomplishing more than she or Janet ever dreamed.
1129 When I glanced through the back door to make sure the coast was clear, I spotted my clipboard still sitting on the porch rail where I'd left it. I was just chiding myself for not tucking it someplace less conspicuous when I heard the sound of gravel popping and the front of Rich's pickup appeared in my field of vision. He pulled to a stop, cranked on the handbrake, and opened the truck door. By the time he got out, I'd taken six giant steps backward, practically levitating as I fled through the kitchen to the laundry room, where I slid behind the open door. Rich had slammed his door and was apparently now making his way to the back porch. I heard him clump up the back steps. There was a pause wherein he seemed to make some remark to himself. He'd probably found my clipboard and was puzzling at its import.
1130 The feet of anirnals, if not of men, had continued the path they were following, and had made an easy way into the wood of fabulous evil. The drooping boughs enfolded them with arms of soft verdure, and seemed to draw them in; and shafts of yellow sunshine rifted the high trees, to aureole the lovely secret lilies that bloomed about the darkly writhing coils of enormous roots. The trees were twisted and knotted, were heavy with centurial incrustations of bark, were humped and misshapen with the growth of unremembered years; but there was an air of antique wisdom about them, together with a tranquil friendliness. Adele exclaimed with delight; and neither she nor Olivier was aware of anything sinister or doubtful in the unison of exquisite beauty and gnarled quaintness which the old forest offered to them.
1131 So, one by one, they began a slow removal of those few who were still conscious and able to move. It must have taken half an hour, Paul estimated later as he relived events, before help arrived. Given the distances, it was a miracle that anyone got there so fast. But arrive they did, police and ambulances and wreckers with torches. Traffic was blocked where a small crowd was collecting; some were mere curiosity seekers, but most pitched in to help. They lifted and comforted, offered blankets and handkerchiefs, water or whiskey. Several were doctors, unmistakably tourists, some of whom spoke neither English nor Hebrew; but comfort, Paul thought, can be given without speech. And outrage, too, needed no common vocabulary. It was on every grim face, in every shouted command, every sob and every curse.
1132 The country around Moscow was flat potato fields. Picking was still done bent over, by hand. Students and soldiers were ordered out for the harvest, straggling behind peasants who tirelessly filled sacks; at any time, scavengers could always glean a few potatoes from a field. But he saw no one at all, only mist, turned earth and a glow in the distance. He followed the road to a burning pile of cardboard boxes, burlap and corn husks. It was a dirty country habit to mix trash with brown coal for incineration. Not usually in the evening, though, and not in the rain. Around the fire were livestock pens, lorries and tractors, water and petrol tanks, barn, garage, shed. Collectives were smaller farms where workers shared according to the time they put in. Someone should be on watch, but no one answered his horn.
1133 He swallowed, his eyes threatening to mist up. In a matter of a few weeks a strong relationship had built up between them. His divorce had come through in the spring and left a bitterness which he was desperately trying to shake off. He still could not believe that Margaret had walked out on him. He'd never suspected a thing, not even the slightest hint that anything was going on between her and Wilf Robinson until the day he came home from work and found her things gone and a note on the table. That was when his whole world had collapsed and even now it wasn't fully repaired. He couldn't be sure about Jean; there were a lot of unanswered questions where she was concerned. He'd caught her out on the odd occasion, ties that seemed pointless and without any motive. But they hurt all the same.
1134 She did not want to think. Not now. Now she just wanted to take what she could get, for herself. She ran her hands over the hard muscles of his arms and back. In the center of his chest was a thick patch of curly hair. Elsewhere on his chest and belly there was black stubble, the hair chafed away by the coarse fabric of his clothes and the ship's constant motion. Over and over he kissed her, as if he could not get enough of it. His mouth tasted of cindin, and when he kissed her breasts, she felt the hot sting of the drug on her nipples. She slipped her hand down between their bodies, felt the hard slickness of him as he slid in and out of her. A moment later she clapped her hand over his mouth to muffle his cry as he thrust into her and then held them both teetering on the edge of forever.
1135 A quick conference between the lieutenant and Mr. Cuts, standing by the gun and looking at the bridge across the moat, while men run from truck to castle, carrying crates between them, arms bowed out in balance, others shoulder drums of fuel and head for the stables while most directing one truck's lights at the camp of refugees go amongst their tents, issuing invitations, indeed insisting on the company of its women at the festivities. I hear shouts, wails and threats; some scuffles start and heads are cracked, but there are no shots. The soldiers start to return, dragging partners by the wrist; some meek, some cursing, some still struggling into clothes, some hopping on grass and gravel as they put on shoes. The faces of their forsaken men, darkly desperate, watch from the shadowed tents.
1136 It was a warm April afternoon. The sun shone through dark clouds, turning the forsythia bush gold. Each separate little flower was lit up. There was a sweet smell of onion grass in the air. The porch steps felt warm under my jeans. All of a sudden this ordinary moment, with me and Rachel sitting on the steps and Nora curled up in the sunny yard and the spring just beginning, seemed so beautiful I could hardly bear it. It was as though time had stopped still and I was taking a picture of it in my mind to remember forever how I felt that exact, bright second. But I knew that in the moment it took to notice it, the moment would be gone: Nora would flick her ear, Rachel would sit up and scratch her ankle. And I would never have that exact same feeling again, because things are always changing.
1137 The waiting was monotonous, and Lothar chafed at being tied to the earphones of the telegraph tap but he could not afford to miss the vital message when it was flashed from the H'ani Mine, the message which would give him the exact departure time of the diamond truck. So during the dreary hot hours of daylight he had to listen to all the mundane traffic of the mine's daily business, and the distant operator's skills on the keyboard were such that they taxed his ability to follow and translate the rapid fire of dots and dashes that echoed in his earphones. He scribbled them into his notebook and afterwards translated the groups and jotted in the words between the lines. This was a private telegraph line and therefore no effort had been made to encode the transmission, the traffic was in the clear.
1138 Isak's jeweled loincloth shimmered as he moved. He was Swan now, regal and seductive. This part showed off his body best of all. The third Ismenin brother, Berd, was staring at the dancer, lips parted, eyes shining. His wife, beside him, looked resigned to her husband's open adoration. Isak's hair, on top of his head, made his long slim neck looked even longer than it was. The dance was (supposedly) the dance the male swan performs to lure the female, and it was erotic without ever being vulgar (as was the dance of the Stallion) or comic (as was Bear). The drumming crescendoed as Isak whirled, back arching, in what seemed to be an impossible position, and then it softened, sm