Sample Chapter: Thief of Llarn

Sword & Planet

Sample Chapter


WE BEGAN our walk across the icy flatland. Our breaths frosted in the air and the wind whipped us with the power of a gale, but we put our heads down and trudged steadily ahead. According to the last reading of the instruments on the flier, we were a few hundred miles north of the magnetic pole. So we continued in that northerly direction along a line of travel that might correspond roughly to 160° longitude. We walked without speaking for what seemed a long time, each of us occupied with his thoughts. I thought of Tuarra, wondering if I would ever see her again. I was remembering our hours together—which seemed so short now, and so far away in another lifetime. I yearned to see her smile flash up at me, to feel the touch of her lips on mine.

The horizon was white and far away, across miles of frozen icecap. Here and there stretches of damp fog crept with silent feet across the snow barrens on which we were the only living things.

The cold ate into us. Our legs were moving now in plodding fashion. Fortunately, a Llarnian compass was standard equipment with each of the hooded jackets, so we were relieved of the danger of walking in a circle. Our course was more or less straight as far as we could determine, northward across the frozen wastes.

How long had we traveled? An hour? Ten hours? We did not know. How far had we walked? We did not know this, either. We moved like robots across the empty white flatlands and in our hearts we knew we were going to die.

After a time Marga stumbled and would have fallen except that I put an arm about her middle and held her up. Her face was very white. A faint coating of frost covered her lips and nostrils. Ghan Karr came up to lend his strength on her other side. “This can’t go on,” he said. “We must go on. To stop is to die.”

“I want to die,” Marga whispered. We staggered through the snow spray tossed into our faces by the arctic gales, past jagged ice carvings shaped by the winds, over stretches of ice so smooth they seemed polished by some giant hand. Ghan Karr fell once, lying quietly without moving, so that I had to drop Marga and go back and lift him to his feet.

“Keep walking. Keep walking!” I told him. He stumbled on with Marga and myself at his heels. He was babbling, singing snatches of a nursery rhyme that was old when Llarn had been a young planet. After a time, Marga joined him.

I was delirious myself, I realized. Ahead of me, locked inside a great ice floe, was a city. I stared at streets, at buildings, at rooftops and tall spires. I giggled; I laughed. I was seeing visions. A city, here in the polar lands? A city locked in ice?

Forgetting the others, I ran up to the massive wall of ice that sheathed the dwellings. The ice was transparent, like clear water frozen solid. I could make out a man standing rigid before a doorway, hand extended toward the latch as if to open it. Beyond him a woman in a fur coat was in mid-stride, balanced to a nicety.

I called to them. I shouted. I waved. Only the echoes of my own voice echoed across the wastes. Then I remembered my grawn. I fumbled off my glove, lifted the weapon in my hand, fired it. The red beam heated the ice to a melting point until it ran down all around the snow where I stood. After a few seconds, there was a tunnel open before me.

I walked into that strange city, stood beside the man about to enter his home. I looked at the woman, saw her face pale and white under a fur cap. They were dead, of course. Dead for uncounted centuries. I had never seen their type of garments before, not even in the ancient history books I had looked at in Kharthol. I turned and stared back through the tunnel. Marga and Ghan Karr lay where they had fallen. I ran to rouse them, to bring them into the warmer air of the ice city.

I shook Ghan Karr to a mumbling wakefulness. He sat up, staring at me like a man demented, “Go away, Uthian. Let me sleep.” He fell over on his face and by sheer force I wrestled him to his feet.

“We’re saved, Ghan Karr. There’s a city!” He began to laugh, looking where I pointed. “I am asleep, after all. My apologies, Prince of Thieves. I thought you were trying to wake me.” He began to stumble toward the great ice sheath behind which he could see buildings now, and people.

I lifted Marga into my arms and carried her at a shuffling trot toward the warmer air not far ahead. She moaned as we went into the tunnel, and her arms came up about my neck. Her eyelashes were frozen to her cheeks, and as she woke, she wept softly.

“I’m dead—and locked in the dark pit of Chorakor!”

“Hush, Marga. You’re as alive as I am.” I put my lips to her eyes, felt the tiny ice flakes moisten and fall away under their heat. Marga opened eyes that glistened tenderly as they regarded my anxious face. I squirmed uncomfortably, not daring to think what she might say. Quickly, to avoid speech, I set her on her booted feet and waved an arm at the city.

“Wha—what is this place, Uthian? A city all in ice? It’s people—oh, I see a man and a woman and . . .”

She turned her pale face toward me. “They’re dead. What killed them—so suddenly?”

My shoulders shrugged. “I do not know, Marga—but I do know that we must find food somewhere, or we too will die.”

“I would not mind dying with you, Uthian,” she said softly, and reached for my hand.

Fortunately, Ghan Karr came out of a building at that moment, waving what looked like a roast of bork steak in his hands. His voice came clearly to us in the warm air. “A food store, you two. Down here—come on. Plenty to eat; frozen stuff that’s been kept in cold storage for Astarra knows how long!”

Marga and I ran into the shop. There were two men and a woman in the store, a man behind one of the counters. Marga sent a swift look about, then turned to me.

“There isn’t much food here. I don’t know what this place is—or what it was—but the people were having a hard time of it. There’s very little to eat on the shelves. Thank the gods there are only three of us.”

She walked ahead of me to the door of a frozen food compartment, ducked to enter, and came out with a length of meat. She paused, glancing around until her gaze settled on two small tins of food. These she tossed to me, then beckoned me to follow.

Ghan Karr shouted to us from the upper window of a house.

“This is a house with a thermal unit. Bring up the food. We’ll have a feast.”

Marga nodded, then went back into the store for more cans. When she had my arms well filled, she led me up the stairs of the house where Ghan Karr was already thawing his own food.

“What is this city?” I asked while the meat was cooking. Ghan Karr shrugged. “Who knows—or cares?” Marga said wistfully, “I can’t say, but I do feel sorry for its people. They had a hard time of it before they died. And they died suddenly, without warning, apparently.”

“After we get to Korok, I’m coming back here and learn what its secret is.” They looked at me as if I had lost my mind. Marga pointed out that we could live quite comfortably in the ice city. There was little food, but we were only three people and it would last us a long time. We could make a new life here.

“You’d die of boredom in a month,” I laughed. “Master thieves—content to stagnate forever? No, no. We’ll leave as soon as we’ve slept.”

“Without me,” Ghan Karr muttered. “I won’t walk another foot on that barren waste outside.”

“I don’t think we’ll have to walk.” I explained that in a city with such an advanced technology there would be vehicles to carry its people across the icecap. We would find those sleds, use them as they had not been used in centuries. Marga frowned thoughtfully. “What you say may be true, but to venture out again on that snow—” Her words broke off as she shivered.

The food was almost ready. She rose and fussed over it, finding wooden platters and filling them. The meat and the doughballs might be ages old, but they tasted sweet and filled my belly, giving me a warmth that seemed foreign to my chilled body.

Ghan Karr leaned back, smiling, patting his middle. “A few minutes ago I would have thought you mad, Uthian. Now I am not so sure. This place is filled with death, and the living have no liking for the dead as everyday companions. I’ll go with you—if we can find a sled and some way to make it move.”

Marga came around to sit on the arm of the massive wooden chair that was my seat, resting her arm about my shoulders. We had discarded our clumsy outer garments so that I now wore the black leather belt and woolen kilt, the black leather sandals of Uthian the Unmatched. Since the women upon Llarn wear little more than do the men, I found that the contact of her bare arm and side upon me reminded me that Marga was a woman, and an attractive woman, at that.

“Where Uthian goes, I go,” she whispered. She bent her head to press her warm, soft lips to mine. As Alan Morgan, I loved Tuarra of Kharthol; but I was not Alan Morgan at the moment—I was Uthian, the thief. And so I kissed Marga as she kissed me, and with honest enjoyment though I doubted that Tuarra would think very highly of my reasoning.

Still, I was playing a part. If by kissing Marga I could hasten my reunion with Tuarra, I was all for it. However, I decided to say nothing of this to Tuarra, should I ever see her again. Sometimes women fail to understand explanations which seem perfectly obvious to menfolk.

Ghan Karr rose to his feet, stretching. “I’m not tired. I think I’ll go find one of those sleds you seem to think will be somewhere close at hand.”

I said hurriedly, for Marga was still draped about me, “I am tired. While you two slept outside, I was busy.”

Marga nodded, eyes bright. “Yes, Uthian. Sleep! I too shall search for a sled with Ghan Karr.” She whispered in my ear, “I am very anxious to reach Korok and get my reward from Pthorok Tok. As a rich woman I can give up my queen-ship and become a respectable woman. I might even get married.”

I held up a hand. “Uthian has never married,” I said, hoping it was true.

Her mischievous face reassured me as she giggled, “Uthian has waited for Marga.”

I could see a bedchamber through a partly opened door. The bed seemed newly made, its coverlet firm and smooth. I gave Marga a little pat, then moved through the doorway to fling myself on the covers. Instantly, I was asleep.

My body, for all its size and strength, was utterly exhausted. Later Marga told me I slept like a dead man for close to fifteen hours while she and Ghan Karr explored the city in the ice.

Its name, they learned from certain manuscripts they located in a library, was Jakanda. It had been built in the polar ice ages by a dagan who had ordered certain scientific polar experiments to be made. For safety, Jakanda had been located far from his home city. There was no record of these experiments kept in the library, and Marga had not had time to search for laboratories.

Naturally, there was no record of the tragedy which destroyed all life in the city. Yet the automatic machines still maintained the proper temperatures and kept the food fresh. In a large building on the outskirts of the city were more than a dozen sleds, each in excellent condition.

We ate slowly, then packed food in containers to carry with us. I was amused to note that Marga assumed toward me that air of ownership which women always adopt toward the men they have selected to be theirs. It is the habit of Tuarra; it became the habit of the Queen of Thieves.

Carrying our sacks and once again wearing our outer garments, we hurried through the streets. Hope ran high in our veins. A sled to carry us to the edge of the ice field, and after that—well, at least we would be able to eat as we traveled, and Korok was not so far away that we might not reach it in due time.

The sled was a slim length of steel and wood, gently curved to reduce air drafts. It consisted of four seats, one behind the other, with a control panel and steering rod set before the foremost seat. A thin jet jutted out from its rear. I saw old flame marks on the circular exhaust mouth. Ghan Karr settled himself as driver. Marga sprang to the next seat whild I fetched up the rear, placing our sacks in the empty fourth seat. The sled was close to the ice sheath surrounding the city. Between that great ice barrier and the open doors of the sled hanger, there was a thin sheet of ice, kept perpetually frozen by lower temperatures.

The motor turned over, sputtered and died. “It may be difficult to start,” Ghan Karr growled, “after being idle so long. Maybe it won’t even run.”

He made three more attempts with the starter stud before the motor coughed—then kicked to throbbing life. Ghan Karr let it purr for a while, warming, before he ran it out onto the ice.

The ancient scientists who had lived in the ice city had built well. The jet sled was a slim length of lightning as it streaked through the tunnel my grawn made ahead of it. We ran forward until we emerged from the frozen city. The frozen waste was smooth, with only a few snow dunes raised by the etermal winds that swept across its surface. The runners scraped softly; the air was a gale in our faces, and the sled ran without more than its motor hum and the slither of steel runners on ice to mark its passing. We had no idea how long this journey would take, nor where our departure point from the icecap would be, but with the aid of our compasses, we knew we were heading north.

Twice the dimness of the polar night descended on us, but we ignored it to travel on. Four times we ate, until our small supply of food had given out. To judge by outward appearances, we were no nearer the edge of the icecap than before we started.

Then Marga cried out, pointing into the sky where a widewinged bird was gliding on the wind currents. It was a torgal, she said, one of those scavenger birds that preyed on the dead and rotting carcasses of such tundra animals as the hairy musk borks and the voldors. The tundra between the icecap and the great meadowlands of Llarn was not far away. We came to the tundra as the star-sun Alfan was sinking to the west. Ghan Karr suggested we sleep the night here, because to meet a pack of hungry voldors while on foot in the thick grasses of the vast Llarnian tundra would be unpleasant. Though we were armed with swords and grawns, the voldors hunt in packs of fifty to a hundred at times. They were so ferocious they would hurl themselves upon us regardless of the deaths we caused. In the end we would go down as so many other wanderers on this savage planet have gone down, never to be seen again.

As the sky darkened far to the north, we could see the great band of crushed debris that forms a mighty belt high above the surfaces of the planet. Long ago, Llarn had possessed a score of moons. Khartholian scientists had informed me that they varied in size from that of a small asteroid to a great sphere, hundreds of miles wide. They had been drawn together, no man knew how, crashing in the upper atmosphere with a sound that echoed all across the planet.

Those fragments had been caught in perpetual orbit, battering together, breaking apart, until they had destroyed themselves into small chunks of matter that swept eternally around Llarn. By day the band gleamed a pale gold so that it was almost invisible. But when darkness lay upon the land, that bracelet of crushed moon fragments caught the sunlight and reflected it down upon all the other chunks of matter, making them glow silver. It was a magnificent sight, Usually I never tire of seeing those tiny matter motes revolve slowly and brilliantly overhead, but I was exhausted from our struggles. I lay my head back against the seat top and was instantly asleep. It was morning when I woke.

Ghan Karr had been out, hunting. Two small tundra hares were cooking over a fire built from dried musk bork droppings. The smell of roasting meat snapped me wide awake. It was time to eat and then set off across the tundra—toward Korok.

I had no idea how far away that city was, nor did my companions. Ghan Karr had a rough notion, being a native of Larangg, which was not far from Korok. Perhaps a thousand erns, perhaps fifteen hundred; his answer was vague because he did not know just where on the edge of the polar icecap we were standing.

“It makes no difference. A thousand erns or ten thousand, someday well come to Korok.” My fist tightened. “And when we do—Evran Dekk dies.”

It was easy to say. Yet as we walked across the barren world that was the Llarnian tundra, doubt came to me. A thousand erns was a little more than a thousand earth miles, miles of rough ground filled with dangers at which I could only guess. The voldors and the hairy musk borks of the tundra, if we survived them, would give way to the sporads that roamed the meadowlands and the low mountains that comprised most parts of Llarn. Then too, there were the humans,

Llarn, though smaller than Earth, is a very large planet. Its oceans, except for Ytal and Okyl to the north, have dried up. Those ancient sea bottoms are meadowlands now or deserts. And these vast stretches of ground are inhabited by races of men made strange and altered by the radioactive results of The War.

Many of these humanoids are no longer men, as we know men. They are—different. The blue men of Azorra had evolved from the blue apes of Llarn; the yuul had been altered from no man knows what. There are others, I suppose, unknown even to the great cities of Kharthol and Moorm.

The immensity of the Llarnian tundras is breathtaking to a man who has never known them. The stretch across thousands of erns, flat and wide and covered over with sparse grasses. The sun is a hot ball in the sky in the middle of the day, and the nights are freezing. It was not a pleasant prospect which stretched before us.

Three days we walked before we shot our first food, a fat grass deer, and roasted it over a meager fire. Fortunately, there were water seeps here and there, for much of this section of the land was marshy, and the water is cold and sweet.

Even if we traveled close to thirty erns a day, it was slow going. Despair etched itself on Marga’s face. Even Ghan Karr, buoyed as he was by hope of revenge on Evran Dekk, was glum.

“It will take us more than twice a Llarn month before we reach the end,” he muttered as we settled down to sleep. “What else is there to do?” I asked, and he was silent. Next day, a little after noon, Marga cried out and pointed at something moving through the air. It looked like a flier at a distance, but the more I watched, the more confident I became it was just some great bird wheeling and dipping far away. Its movements were too erratic to be those of a mechanical machine.

“A bird? No, no,” Ghan Karr said. “Look now! See, it comes straight toward us. It has seen us.”

Behind the thing were others of its kind, perhaps twenty in all. As they neared us, I found that I was right. They were birds, giant Oomfors, and each one carried a man riding on its back. Each man had a rope of some sort coiled over a shoulder. At sight of us, the bird riders uncoiled those ropes and began to swing them.

My grawn was in my hand. “Do we kill them? Or do we let them capture us and fly us across these miles of tundra?” I asked.

“They may be friendly,” Marga breathed. She smiled wryly as she said it. There are few friendly races on Llarn. Ever since The War, its people have fought to live, to stay alive, until fighting has become their way of life. I do not mind fighting—in fact, I relish it when the odds are anywhere close to being even. Odds of twenty to three are not to my liking, especially when one of the three is a girl.

Even less to my liking, however, was the prospect of victory unless we could capture three of those birds. I would rather risk escape from the bird-men than face the thousand and more miles of barren tundra which lay before us. And so I made the peace sign.

The leading rider ignored it to hurl his noose at me. I dodged it easily enough, but two other ropes were in the air at the same time. One of them settled about my chest, yanking my arms to my sides. At the same time, Ghan Karr went down to be dragged a dozen feet. Marga lifted her hands helplessly.

The oomfors settled to the ground with a vast flapping of huge white wings. The foremost rider, who by his trappings I judged to be a korbar, or captain of troops, swung down and strode toward us.

He was thin and walked with a peculiar gliding gait I was later to learn is common to his kind, the Avokooms. He was handsome and tall, and apparently friendly, for he asked us politely where we were from and why we were violating the lands of his people.

“We had no intention of violating your territorial rights,” I assured him. “We were abandoned on the icecap and are struggling to reach some city where we might hire a flier to return home.”

“You will have to come with us,” the officer told me. We were drawn up onto the backs of two of the largest oomfors. A moment later we were in the air. Sitting a flying, oomfor is not as easy as the Avokooms make it seem. I came close to sliding off three times before the korbar whose passenger I was, told me to clasp his middle and hang on. From babyhood, the Avokooms are trained to ride oomfors, and as a result the gripping muscles of their thighs are very powerfully developed.

I noted that the oomfors carrying Marga, Ghan Karr and myself were laboring heavily under their double burdens. When I commented on this, Avu Uvram, for such was the name of the officer, laughed lightly.

“Add to that the fact that our bones are hollow as are those of the birds, and you may understand it. I, for instance, with hollow bones and little flesh upon my body, weigh only about eighty puls. You must go close to two hundred.”

I saw where the oomfor would get tired. As a matter of fact, the korbar ordered his troop to land and switch mounts three times before we came at last to his home city of Avuvava.

From our height and at a distance, the city looked like a pile of rocks, colored white and red in varying shades. From the cruising height of a flier, a man would judge that city to be no more than an accumulation of boulders, gigantic though some of them might be. In this manner, Avu Uvram assured me, his kind had remained in seclusion, safe from attack by enemies for more than a thousand years.

We landed and were marched to the nearest boulder, a section of which opened to admit us into a pleasant room with a polished marble floor in the exact center of which was set a large black circle rimmed with a high railing. Avu Uvram ted a section of the railing, invited us to step in with him.

The black circle began to sink. Past the floor level we went, down a shaft of smooth glass into a vast chamber where dozens of oomfors were stabled. The false boulders, I was given to understand, are no more than a disguise for many such elevators which lead into a vast system of caves or homes for the Avokooms.

We were escorted through an intricate system of cavetunnels, past rooms fitted out luxuriously. I was hopelessly confused by the time we finally entered a cave larger and more richly furnished than any we had seen.

An officer in white harness fitted with the device of Ulmu Avga, Dagan of Avuvava, accepted us into his charge. Courteously enough, he asked that we disarm ourselves, since it was forbidden to carry weapons into the presence of the dagan.

I hesitated. Without weapons on Llarn, a man is peculiarly helpless, since his sword and his grawn go everywhere a man goes. Nevertheless, there was little I could do about it. We disarmed ourselves meekly and followed the man in the white harness through a curtained doorway into a room hung from ceiling to floor along its walls by gossamer veils of varying colors. The floor itself was pearl, and the ceiling was hung with the same gossamer veiling that shrouded the walls. The room possessed the appearance of floating in air.

On a golden stool at the far end of the room sat a man whose white leather belt and white kilt were hung with jewels. Jewels flashed too on his sandals, and his scabbard was a veritable treasure house of scarlet rubies and bluewhite diamonds. As Uthian, I would have thrilled to see that wealth. As Uthian, I would have laid plans to steal them.

And so, under my breath I said to Marga, “The scabbard Queen of Thieves, I shall steal that thing before we leave for Korok.”

“We shall never leave for Korok,” she whispered dully. The dagan lifted his arm, gestured us to approach. His eyes, as we came near, never left the shape of the girl who walked beside me. Disheveled she was, her thick red hair falling about her smooth white shoulders, her kilt ripped and stained, her boots torn. There was a smudge of dirt on her chin, and again on her arm. But I must admit she was lovely, and could well inspire the sudden brightness in the eyes of Ulmu Avga.

“The woman I shall accept,” the dagan said suddenly, nodding. For the first time he looked at Ghan Karr and at me. “The men may go to the atmosphere cave.”

Marga whirled and threw herself into my arms. “Uthian no! Save me,” she cried. Under her breath she added, “I shall get the scabbard for you, Uthian—if you can figure out how we can escape from this place”

The officer was at my elbow, yanking us apart. It would have been a simple matter to fell him with a blow, but the instincts of the fighting man told me it would not, could not be that simple. The dagan sat alone and seemingly unprotected on his golden stool. There were no soldiers in view. Fell the officer, grab Ulmu Avga as a hostage, and I read the eyes of the officer, and relaxed. He was too confident, too sure of the situation. Then my eyes fell on the lengths of gossamer that veiled much of the great throne room. An army might be hiding behind those curtains. I let Marga be pulled away, drawn toward the golden stool where . Ulmu Avga sat.

Then the officer motioned Ghan Karr and me to follow him. At the doorway I cast a last glance back at Marga where she stood obediently before the Dagan of Avuvava. Then I looked at the gossamer veils. A trick of the light showed the shadows of armed men behind those draperies. Had I yielded to my first impulse and fought, I might now be a dead man.

Ghan Karr and I followed the officer meekly.

Get your copy from the GFF Library…

LUST, be a Lady Tonight: The Lady of L.U.S.T. (Swinging Sexy Spy Gal Book 1)

Sexy Lady Spy

This book is #1 of 23. They were published in the late 1960’s using the James Bond super spy model.

My name is Eve Drum—The Lady From L.U.S.T.—the sexiest spy in the world. Anything you do I can do better. They call me Double Oh Sex, because sex is my favorite weapon, but I’m just as good at Karate, safe-cracking, knife throwing, scuba diving—you name it. Don’t tangle with me: I have a license to kill and I don’t care if I use my body—or a Beretta. Swing along as I go into action against a super-villain who wants to wreck N.A.T.O. and heat up the Cold War to the flash point. It will blow your mind.

A fair exchange can be robbery-sometimes. Count Guido della Faziola wanted my body. I wanted the pictures that were hidden in the stateroom of his luxury yacht, I would give him the flesh fest he wanted. But the Count was not likely to hand over the negatives even in exchange for little old me, I was going to have to steal them. My skin tight evening gown with its low, low-cut bodice was an open invitation. The Count’s hand accepted the invitation. Oh, well, I, was in the service of my country. Vive la patriotism!
“Come into my stateroom, cara mia,” he breathed into my ear.
“Yes, let’s,” I breathed back. “I’m going to love you to death.”
Little did he know….

Sample Chapter: Warrior of Llarn

Sample Chapter


MY FIRST thought was for Tuarra. I turned my face to see the girl on her feet, shivering in the coldness of the dawn, rubbing her arms and speaking swiftly to the blue man standing over me. There was a hopelessness in the slope of her smooth shoulders that told me better than any words the trouble we were in. Something of loathing touched her face when she looked at our captors. Blue hands reached for me, yanked me to my feet.
I found myself facing the big blue man who had first stood over me and glared. He was a handsome man in a kilt of spotted fur and broad red belt from which hung two handguns and two swords. A thin fillet of gold about his head indicated his high rank above the gilded horns at his temples. Long black hair hung down to his shoulders where the strands were gathered together and twisted into what looked to be heavy gold nuggets.
As I was held upright before him, the man drew back his lips in a savage snarl and drove the back of his hand full against my mouth. Since my ankles were tied, I went over backward into what was left of our fire. One touch of those coals on my naked flesh sent me rolling sideways out of them, after a moment of agonizing pain. I rolled into the ankles of the man who had hit me, driving his legs out from under him, sending him flying. Sharp exclamations of surprise rose up from the others. The blue man lay where I had felled him, oddly limp. Then I saw a trickle of blood at his temple where his head had hit the well wall.
His followers ran to him, bent over him, probing his injury. One of them looked at me where I had risen to my knees and his lips drew back in a silent snarl. He made a motion with his hands and I was lifted bodily into the air and carried to a horned dral. My ankle thongs were cut; I was dumped unceremoniously onto its saddle, with my wrists still bound tightly behind my back.
Tuarra walked to another beast and mounted, urging her dral close to mine. There was fear in her eyes as she watched the unconscious blue man lifted and placed on a sort of stretcher between two drals. From his trappings, I assumed the man I had felled was an important one among the blue men. How important he was I would learn along the route of march, after Tuarra taught me her language.
As I was watching the other blue men mount up, Tuarra toed her dral close to me; reaching out, she caught the bridle of my animal and urged it to a canter beside her own. One of our captors glanced at her and grunted, then turned away. Evidently she was to be my companion on the ride ahead.
The blue men moved out of the ancient ruins and along an unmarked path across the red desert. They went in double file, with the stretcher carrying their unconscious chieftain in the rearguard. There were fifty or more blue men in the cortege. They rode easily, without obvious interest in their surroundings; apparently they were in home country here, with little to fear.
As we rode, Tuarra pointed a finger at the blue men. “Azunn,” she said, and looked at me. I repeated the word dutifully and pointed in turn to our captors.
This was the beginning. All the long day she talked to me, pointing at various objects, at other times making me understand what she meant by gestures. It is not too difficult to learn a language when all you can speak is that language. Besides, I had an intense desire to be able to converse with this girl who cantered so close to me that her leg touched mine from time to time. Her closeness, her interest in teaching as well as my own in learning, made me a good pupil.
The language of Llarn is fluid, filled with soft vowels and few harsh consonants, so that it is a pleasure to hear and, once mastered, a joy to speak. I had no similar Earth speech on which to form a base. I was as an infant; I must learn to talk all over again. Yet Tuarra made my lessons a constant delight with her soft laughter, her gentle teasings at my hesitancy, her soft applause—which she registered by a purring sound deep in her throat—at my few successes.
We stopped for the night camp near a stretch of hardened ground, an oasis of sorts without shrubbery or vegetation of any kind, yet containing water below, which the Azunn reached by sinking a pipe fitted with a boring device. All Azunn expeditions carry a number of these drilling devices, powered by a turn—screw handle; in a matter of minutes they have clear water flowing from an outlet valve into cooking pots and flasks. The water was sweet and cold, a liquid happiness to the throat after a day of riding across barren desert sands.
Tuarra was my maid and my teacher at the evening halt. She roasted my steak and baked a fluffy sort of biscuit that actually melted when held in the mouth. It had a honey taste to it. She kept up her teaching all through the meal; occasionally a curious blue man would come and stand over us listening, make a laughing comment and walk away.
Tuarra paid no attention to the Azunn. It seemed to me that she did not quite consider them her equals. I was to discover that she was intensely proud, that her rank in her home city of Kharthol was that of daganna, or princess, since she was the daughter of Drakol Tu, dagan-overlord of Kharthol.
To augment her spoken instructions, she began after the meal to scratch numbers and symbols in the hard packed dirt of our campsite. These she also assigned names to, with little sighs of exasperation that she could not make clearer to me the ideas which she had in mind. Infinity to an Earth-man is represented by the figure eight lying on its side. The Llarn conception of infinity is a wavy line. Idea, too, is a word with which we had a little difficulty, as was the verb to love.
Naturally, we did not cover all this ground the first night. The Azunn were many miles from the heart of their homeland. This expedition was a stab into the more northerly territory, desert lands which belonged to no one race on Llarn, but that were looked upon as a badlands, where nothing grew except the dry thoril shrubs and few dwarf plants. They were several days’ ride from home.
My lessons went on, day after day, as my body toughened to the hot red sun and grew used to the scorching heat that rose from the red sands. As my muscles hardened to the feel of the dral between my thighs, I began to feel more at ease on this alien planet. Earth and its memories receded in my mind, became like a dream existence known long ago.
We were on the trail close to twenty days when we sighted a distant city. We had come to the edge of the desert and left it behind us, three marches ago; now we rode through a countryside of undulating hills covered with a coarse green grass and here and there sparse groves of trees. A cool wind blew across this ancient land and soothed skins burned dark by the desert sun.
Tuarra lifted her arm, pointing. “Azorra, the home city of the Azunn,” she told me. “Here rules Morlan Az, the man you hit so hard he has not yet recovered consciousness.”
There was pride in her voice, pride that made me flush with pleasure, though I hastened to point out that Morlan Az had cracked his skull on a well wall. She shrugged idly, as if to say that this was a mere formality; what mattered most was that I had done it.
“I’m surprised they’re treating me so well. If Morlan Az is their dagan, I should think they’d have buried their swords in my hide for what I did to him.”
Her faintly slanted eyes studied me. “It is a custom on Llarn among all its people that when a ruler has been harmed, he himself must set the punishment, if he lives.” She made a wry face. “I do not like to think about your punishment, Alan Morgan. It will be a very painful one. Morlan Az is chieftain of all the Azunn. He is a cruel man, hard and overbearing. He had only one weakness, I am given to understand by traders who have come among the Azunn with their wares.”
“And what might that be?” I asked.
I did not understand the word Tuarra spoke then, and apparently she found if difficult to convey any idea of its meaning to me. Even as she was trying to explain, the blue men increased the speed of their canter to a gallop, all except those guarding the stretcher on which Morlan Az lay in a coma. They brought up the rear, moving slowly and sedately. If it had not been for the fact that Morlan Az lay unconscious, we would have made far better time to Azorra. Our fastest pace had been a slow trot and even that had proven too much for the injured man to stand. And so a week long journey had been made into a march that had occupied close to a month.
The Azunn did not separate Tuarra and me, a fact for which I was grateful, as we neared the great gate of the city. There were high walls about the metropolis and people stood upon them, staring and pointing. A few scarves waved; an arm or two was uplifted and moved back and forth; otherwise our progress was awaited without excitement.
It was only when Tuarra came closer that a wave of sound went among the blue people staring over the battlements. They called her name and pointed, and many laughed in delight, as though she were a rare prize for the Azunn to take.
“Azorra is a very old city,” Tuarra told me, riding with her chin high and staring straight ahead. “Some historians among my own people claim it is the oldest city on all Llarn, having been built more than a million years ago, when a great ocean rolled up to its very gates.
Its occupants seem to know you,” I pointed out. She frowned at that, as if puzzled. Her pride did not quite stretch so far as to imagine that her face and figure was known to the crowds on the walls of Azorra. After a moment, she shook her head, admitting that she could not understand it.
Outside the ruins of Paloranis, this was the first Llarn city I had ever seen. It was built of colored stone, pink and red and brown in alternating slabs that blended together in a pleasing whole. The stone was so old it flaked and crumbled at times so that a fine dust lay upon the streets. Its avenues were wide, paved with stone of varying shades of gray, with Some black streaks running through it. From the walls of the buildings projected solar-grass bubbles that formed viewing screens for the people inside—which afforded glances into their interiors. These solars were crowded with staring men and women.
It was almost as though we were expected. Crowds lined the sides of the wide thoroughfares, silent for the most part, except for that buzz of excitement at first sight of Tuarra. I might also add that I attracted a good bit of notice myself. I was not a dolthos, that much was evident from the heavily tanned state of my skin, and my yellow hair. Every dolthos the people of Azorra had seen, and these were few and far between, had skin the color of a flat white and hair to match. These dolthoin are sea people, dwelling in and about the deepest parts of the twin oceans. They live beneath the sea, they skim the surface of their water world in fleet boats driven by rockets. They want no truck with land people and slay every Azunn or golden skin who falls into their clutches. And so the people stared, first at Tuarra, then at me, all the way to a great building of black marble that Tuarra told me was the palace of Moltan Az. We dismounted, then Tuarra and I were led into this great edifice, side by side, my wrists still manacled by heavy chains.
Through a long corridor set with painted pillars we were conducted into a vast audience hall and toward a massive golden throne on which a blue woman sat. She was in the full ripeness of maturity and her skin was a pastel shade the women of the Azunn have not the darker skins of their men—that might have presented a pleasing sight to my eyes if I had not read the cold hate and bitter anger on her patrician features.
Golden ornaments contained her breasts. About her slim middle was a belt of heavy golden plates from which hung a thin kilt of red silk. Golden sandals, reaching up almost to her calves, completed her garb. The contrast of the gold and the red silk against her pale blue skin was exotic and barbaric in the extreme, an effect added to by her high coiffure in which golden balls were set here and there in thick black hair. The tiny horns projecting from her temples were heavily gilded.
These horns are tiny things, no bigger than the last joint of the forefinger, of white bone and not as ugly to the eye as they might sound. The Azunn often decorate them with bright paints. They are black for mourning, in red and white stripes on festive occasions. Gold is the symbol of royalty among the Azunn, which is why the horns of Morlan Az and his sister, Ulazza, were gilded.
Ulazza was a beautiful woman, for all her pale blue skin, and those golden horns were the touch that added most to her appearance as a barbarian. She was a devil woman, roundly curved and enchanting, despite her inner fury.
In that anger her right fist was taut and hard, beating upon the great golden arm of the throne with monotonous regularity. It was a form of relief for the tension in her, that made her sit upright and glare at us with her emotions clear to read.
“Tuarra of Kharthol,” she said harshly, looking down at the girl to my left. “It was a good day for the Azunn when you were turned over to us.”
Tuarra frowned. “Turned over?”
The woman Smiled. “By the express orders of Gorlun Duv, Overlord of Kharthol.”
“My father, Drakol Tu, is dagan of Khartholl”
The blue woman laughed musically. “You know better than that, daganna. The same coup that pulled your father off the throne and pushed Gorlun Duv onto it will bring better times to my people.”
I could feel Tuarra quivering beside me with curiosity and anger, but it was now my turn to confront this woman of the Azunn. She had been cold toward Tuarra with disdain and dislike. To me she was all hot rage and bitterness. If she could have had her way, I would have been thrown to the torture at once. She leaned forward, thin nostrils faring to her deep breathing. Then she lashed out at me with words. “Decadent child of aporad parents Khorl Son of a thousand dolthoin decayed offspring of a mad ephelos!”
She went on like that for a while. I assume her insults grew more deadly, but I was unable to understand them, my knowledge of the Llarn tongue being still a little vague. I understood enough, however, to know that it would be her pleasure to superintend my dying if Morlan Az failed to recover at the hands of the Azunn surgeons, and that it would take a long time, possibly an entire tarn. The only thing that prevented her from throwing me on the floor and beginning right now was custom. Morlan Az himself must speak the punishment I was to face.
I stood and listened, marveling that such a beautiful woman could be so deadly. After a while she ran out of words and sat there, panting. Then she spoke crisply to an officer at her elbow.
“They are to be confined in the Hall of Dead Things,” the woman snapped. “Neither is to be mistreated. The woman, because she is a state hostage, the man because I want him fit to endure the death my brother assigns for him.” She stared hard at me, then added, “It had been reported that yours was the hand that killed my nephew, the son of my brother, before the domed dwelling of the pink mists.”
I remembered the blue man who had roped me and come at me before I fell through the transparent walls that had held the pink mists. I told her it was not I who killed her nephew but that his death was a matter of his own doing. “Had he not thrown a rope about me, he would be alive this day, I ended, and no sooner were the words past my lips than Ulazza was off the golden throne and striking my face with the flat of her palm.
She was a blue fury, I give her that; and she was strong, too, for her palm stung when it landed. She was panting heavily in her excess of rage. When she paused in her attack, I smiled down at her.
“You are safe from me because you are a woman, Ulazza,” I told her. “Already the only two Azunn men who have attacked me your nephew and your brother—have paid the penalty for doing so.”
It was sheer bravado. I heard gasps rise from the throats of the blue men and women crowding the throne room. Evidently few of their captives dared to defy the Azunn. Well, I was marked for a long death anyhow. What I said now would neither add to nor subtract from my ultimate end.
Ulazza opened her eyes wide at my words. I saw grudging respect deep in their black depths; respect and—something else to which I could not put a name. She went on looking at me as if her interest had been awakened in me as an individual, rather than as an instrument of vengeance.
“Where are you from?” As I had done with Tuarra, I pointed upward. Ulazza shook her head and her penciled brows puckered. I tried to say, “I come from another world, far away from Llarn,” but I am sure I made a mess of it. She gestured with her hand. Armed men came and took us out of the audience hall. Before the great wooden doors closed behind us, I turned and stared back at the massive golden throne. Ulazza still stood before it, looking after me. It was then that I felt my side pinched, viciously.
Tuarra flushed as she said, “Just because she likes you, don’t think to find mercy in Ulazza, Alan Morgan. She is crueler even than her brother. She takes delight in the tortures she dreams up for captives taken in war. You will curse her name ten times, ten thousand times before she lets you die, if Morlan Az allows her the privilege of acting as your executioner.
“I wasn’t aware that she liked me.” Tuarra scowled darkly. Her full red lips pouted and her eyes seemed to catch fire. She drew herself to her full height and lashed out at me with her hand. She did not have quite the hitting power of the blue woman, but my ears rang with her blow even as she turned and stalked away, head held high.
One of my captors grinned. “This one has the rare ability to make all women mad at him, it seems. Well, rather him than me.”
A hand pushed me forward. I followed Tuarra quietly. The Hall of Dead Things was a museum, a magnificent structure not far from the palace. The blue people did their best to maintain it as it had been a thousand years before, when they had moved in off the grasslands of Llarn to become city dwellers. Originally, the Azunn had been nomads, living in tents and making their livelihood from the vast herds of beef animals they maintained. They sold meat and hides to the gold-skins, together with horns and hooves, accepting in exchange metal with which to make their weapons and loom-woven silks and brocades.
Now the blue people, though still savage, were emerging from their nomadic state to something approaching civilization. As a corollary of that desired culture, they sought to keep alive the knowledge which the ancient ones of Azorra had placed inside the Hall of Learning.
On the floors above the mezzanine, there were many small rooms. Tuarra and I were to be assigned one of these. Guards would be placed outside the building, front and rear, at the oily doors giving entrance and exit from the Hall. Otherwise, we were free to roam the building where and when we would.
The mezzanine itself was part of the museum. As we paced through it, I found my gaze being drawn to the walls which were recessed to form dioramas and tri-dimensional Scenes out of the forgotten past of Llarn. I caught glimpses of strange boats with triangular sails and high, curving rows, of painted oceans with towering mountains in the background. There were no mountains like that on Llarn today, I felt sure, and could only guess at the incalculable age of this world I was on. I gazed on scenes where men and women whose skins were like my own laughed and played at games and walked under three great moons.
There were no moons on Llarn now, only that great band of brilliant matter always circling the ancient planet. I made a mental note to ask Tuarra about this when she got around to acknowledging my existence again. At the moment she was too engrossed in haughtily tossing her head to speak to me. She went into the room assigned to us and lay down on a pile of sleeping silks spread close to one wall. She put a forearm over her face and appeared to sleep. I was too excited, too filled with the spirit of my adventure to doze in the middle of the day.
“Why not walk through the Hall with me?” I asked her. She made no reply, but I saw her lips stiffen. “This is a marvelous opportunity for me to learn more about your world,” I went on. Still there was no reaction. “I’m sorry if I offended you by turning back to look at Ulazza. After all, she’s the first blue woman I’ve ever seen.”
When she remained silent, I said gently. “I’ll leave you alone then, for the spoiled little child you are.” Ah, she quivered to that remark! The forearm came down and she half rose to an elbow. Her lips parted as if to speak, but she thought better of it. Instead she lay down, turning on her side so that her face was to the wall.
I sighed. She was so lovely and so small, so helpless, a captive to the barbaric might of the Azunn, that I wanted to hold her in my arms, comfortingly. Words of apology trembled on my tongue, but I did not speak them.
Instead I turned on my heel and went out in the dimly lighted corridor, closing the door gently behind me. The fact: that I had the run of the building roused a faint glimmer of hope in my chest. Somehow, I had to escape from Azorra. How I could get away from the blue people was a question that seemed impossible of solution. I could not go on foot; the Azunn would soon overtake me on their fleet drals. I could steal a dral, I suppose, but search parties would follow its tracks and recapture me. And there were no fliers among the seven cities that comprised the world of the Azunn.
Nevertheless, I ascended to the rooftops of the Hall, finding them flat in many places, steeply ridged in others. I possessed a clear view of the city and the grasslands that lay in green richness on all sides of its high walls, but found no inspiration in them. Those oceans of grass, where once flowed the waves of a true ocean, were far too vast to be crossed with any hope of success except in a flier.
It was with a heavy heart that I turned back inside the building. I walked more slowly now, for I had no desire to sit back to back with an insulted Tuarra. I moved along corridors fitted out with display cases in which were the ancient costumes, on lifelike dummies, of the people who had lived long ago in Azorra. At one time Llarn must have been a colder world than it was now, for the men and women both wore bulkier garments, of fur and cloth. They were a handsome people, too. I was unable to read the dusty plaques attached to the cases, but the displays themselves were more or less explanatory.
I found a science room and studied the machines and engines which had powered the boats and aircraft of the Ancient Ones, the motors that had lighted and heated their cities and their homes. Some of these I found vaguely familiar, for they were constructed in fairly similar fashion to their Earth counterparts. Others I did not understand at all, for many operated on scientific principles of which I was totally ignorant.
I found paintings and splendid groups of statuary, and an exhibit that held the stuffed remains of what at one time must have been ferocious beasts. Felines with horns, horses with horns, birds with horns, I found in great abundance. All animal life, even the blue people, had horns growing from their skulls. It was the reason Tuarra did not consider them quite human.
In one corner I came upon a family of blue apes. Horns protruded from their foreheads as they did from those of the Azunn and I began to wonder if the blue people had evolved from them. I had no way of knowing. When Tuarra was talking to me again, I would ask her.
One thing alone eluded me in the museum. Usually at least on Earth there is always a wing or a section of a museum devoted to weaponry and armor, to swords and firearms. I found no such display, no matter how hard I looked. Knowing that I could not begin to think of escape until I possessed some means of defense and attack, I searched more carefully.
Here and there in my wanderings I discovered doors, some bolted and some open to the touch. These doors led into other wings of the vast building, in some of which I found models of early Llarn cities, steles and artifacts which related the story of the planet when it was young. Someday I would learn to read those carved surfaces, but at the moment I was infinitely more concerned about a weapons room.
I was positive that one existed. The people of Llarn were too warlike not to have a past that was studded with militarism. Somewhere in this great stone pile was a wing that held such weapons.
I wandered far and long. As I walked I noted that the rooms never grew any darker though their windows showed it to be dusk outside. Gradually it was borne in upon me that the metallic strips running about the base of the walls and the edges of the ceilings were emitting a blue glow. The glow was a gradual thing, attuned as it was to the band of brilliant matter eternally circling the planet, which fed the strips with a radioactive form of luminescence. As the day brightened, this radiance died out. As the day darkened, it grew in power so that there was no visible moment when the bands began their glow. Inside the museum, it seemed always to be daylight, even though the windows turned black with night.
Then I chanced upon a corridor I had not as yet been in. At its far end were two great double doors, strongly bolted. The bolts looked as if they had been added long after the doors had been standing. To guard against some terror that lay behind them? To keep out a menace which had no other way of gaining admittance into the building? I had no way of knowing but I was too anxious to find the weapons wing to worry about new dangers.
I slid back the bolts with a creak of metal long unused. I yanked hard at one of the doors and it opened slowly. I stepped into a galleried room, almost as wide as it was long, and pulled the door shut behind me.
The glowing metal strips made this room as bright as the others. My heart lurched in delight. Along every wall were great wooden racks fronted by sliding glass panels. Behind these transparent doors were swords, pole-arms, spears, of every make and variety. My palm itched to open a case and lift out a sword and its scabbard, to hang it to the chains riveted to my wide leather belt.
I merely paced along the walls, studying the weapons hanging in their racks. Finally, when I could resist the urge no longer, I opened a small case and drew out a long dagger with an ornate hilt and crosspiece. The braiding on the hilt crumbled to powder as my hand went around it, leaving only the thin metal tang. This metal was strong, unharmed by time, as I proved by rapping it hard on the marble floor. I thrust the dagger into my belt and moved on.
At the far end of the weapons chamber I came upon another door. It resisted my every effort to open it. Yet it had a lock of sorts and so, thrusting the tip of my dagger into it, I wriggled and rotated the point to such good effect that I heard a protesting creak and the lock slid back. My palm on the door thrust it open.
Ahead of me lay a staircase leading into blackness. The metal strips did not go into the museum cellars. Well, no matter. It was a simple matter to pry a small strip loose and carry it down into those dark subterranean depths.
I found myself in a maze of tunnels. Everywhere there was dust that seemed to have been undisturbed since before the blue men had come to dwell in Azorra.
The metal strip I held gave off its weird blue glow, lighting the way ahead of me for more than fifty feet. There were jars here, laden with gray dust, heavy cases and trunks along the walls. I wondered what strange objects I might find were I to open the lid of one. I did not pause for idle curiosity, however. I was too concerned with finding my way through this underground labyrinth.
Hope was a strong flame in my chest, now. If I could find a way out of these cellars into open country, beyond the walls of Azorra it might be possible to escape. Our captors would not know we were gone until long after the event. Tuarra and I would be on foot, true, but we could still walk the five hundred ern between Azorra and the ruins of Paloranis. I put out of my mind the awful trek across those burning red sands. No need to think of them until we were safely out of this city.
There was a faint blue glow ahead of me. My heart began pounding in my rib case. Had I been walking in a fool’s paradise? If there was a light up ahead, it meant human habitation. I wondered what kind of man would live this far below the metropolis, content with stale air and dust for his only companions. But I was forgetting. These metal strips that afforded light in Azorra were automatic things. They worked with the radiation they received from the band of minute moons that circled Llarn. They could have been operating silently and unseen for half a million years.
I thrust my own metal strip into my belt and drew my dagger. As well go armed into that chamber up ahead as blunder in unprotected. I walked on silent feet. I turned a corner.
An old man lay asleep on rotting rags. He must be asleep, but he did not breathe; at least, his chest was motionless, nor did his nostrils quiver to undrawn breaths. He was naked except for a black and silver kilt and a weapons belt that carried nothing on it besides two black leather purses. I came closer and with my dagger poised to strike, put a hand on his chest beneath which his heart should be.
He was cold and still. Dead, then. I breathed easier, wondering how many centuries might have passed since he had lain down to sleep. In this dry cellar air his corpse would remain unrotted until Llarn fell into its sun.
From the body I turned to look about the chamber. On the walls were scrawled odd words and stranger numerals. It was as if the man had spent all his days in calculating abstruse mathematical problems, then had lain down to die. I found a jar or two that held the remnants of what once might have been a liquid. All the jar contained now was a dark, sticky substance with a sweetish odor.
I was sniffing at the stuff when I heard a sound. The dagger came into my hand as I whirled. The body had not moved. Ah! Again. I heard the sound, coming from the tunnel up which I had walked. An Azunn search party, hunting for me? I stepped into the shadows cast by a recessed door and waited.
The sounds were coming faster now, as if someone or something were trotting more swiftly. My hand tightened on the bare metal of my dagger’s tang.
I froze.
I was bent forward in a crouch, staring straight into the most hideous face I had ever seen. The face was that of a beast—a blind beast to judge by the white eyes that stared at me without moving. There was no iris, no pupil, only that cloudy opalescence. Two great fangs like tusks jutted from a thin mouth that gaped to show big white teeth. I have no comparison by which to measure it with Earth animals. It was a rodent of some sort, as big as a tiger, with a straight hairless tail and sharp talons thrusting from its mighty paws. Its head lifted as it sniffed me out.
Its mouth opened and a high-pitched wail of indescribable malevolence almost shattered my eardrums. At the same moment, the thing charged.
Without the dagger I would have been a dead man almost instantly. I leaped sideways, striking at the paw that came ripping toward my chest even while the beast was in midair. Blade and paw met and the sharp metal of the dagger cut into the flesh of the animal. The rodent screamed in mixed pain and rage. It fell lightly, turned.
Long used only to the narrow tunnels in which it hunted its prey—what prey could there be in these labyrinthine ways for such a meat-eater as this?—the animal was slow in maneuvering. It had counted too heavily on that first piercing scream to paralyze its prey. When its paws failed to sink into living meat, it was baffled.
As it swung about I was moving sideways, dagger at the ready. The thing was fully a hundred pounds in weight and stood close to three feet at his shoulders. It was a mean antagonist, one which I would sooner have given a wide berth, but it was allowing me no choice.
The brute turned, but slowly. Again I danced to one side, knowing now it could not see but that its actions were governed solely by its keen ears. I saw those ears twitching, moving this way and that like antennae.
With a hand that made no sound I lifted one of the dark jars filled with a sticky substance. I tossed it across the room. Instantly as it crashed the beast whirled, its ears vibrating as it gathered muscles to leap.
I hurled myself onto it, stabbing deep behind the left foreleg. Three times I struck before the rodent humped its back and flung me from it. The thing was immensely strong, amazingly fast. I was flying through the air and seeing it whirling and leaping for me—huge pads outstretched, razor sharp claws extended to rip before I knew what was happening.
I thudded into the far wall with the wind knocked from my lungs. The brute dropped on top of me. My every muscle was strutted against the excruciating pain of disembowelment; I had seen it lifting its hindquarters for the movement even as it flew through the air.
The momentum of its body drove me into the wall a second time. My head snapped back against solid stone and I was out only a few seconds. When I came to, I found myself smothering under the weight of the heavy rodent. It was dead—it must have died in mid leap.
I thrust the loathsome thing from me and got to my feet. And the hair lifted on the nape of my neck. The dead man was gone.

The Summer Books Giveaway


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Kothar and the Wizard Slayer Book #5

Sword & Sorcery

Someone—or something—was systematically killing all the world’s magicians. Kothar, the blond barbarian, had to link up with his enemy, the she-devil temptress Red Lori, to find and vanquish the slayer. Beautiful Lori was his partner but Kothar’s best friend was still his magic sword Frostfire.

Wizard’s Revenge . . .
A great hand—a thing of stone and rock, hideously carved and with strange spells and incantations limned on its rock surface—reached in the opening it had made, and stabbed forward. Blunt fingers closed around the squirming, screaming necromancer.
“Dread Omorphon! Awful being of the nether hells—aid me!
He tried to fight it, but his hands could do nothing against the solid rock out of which that other hand was formed. The fingers tightened, and now the magician began to swell curiously at chest and legs, as if other parts of his body were being forced into them by that frightful grip. His face became purple with congested blood. His eyes bulged hideously. A trickle of blood ran from his open mouth.

Kothar and the Conjurer’s Curse Book #4

Sword & Sorcery

This is Gardner F Fox’s fourth classic Sword & Sorcery story for paperbacks. There are 5 books in this series. Mr. Fox’s was heavily inspired by Robert E. Howard’s Sword & Sorcery stories: Conan, Kull & Bran Mak Mor. The Kothar books are listed in Gary Gygax’s Appendix N as one of the few books that inspired the creation of Dungeons & Dragons.

Kothar rescued the beautiful gypsy girl Stefanya, helper to the wizard Zoqquanor, and carried her off on a journey filled with danger and mystery. His mission was to deliver a magic amulet to Herklar, the Regent of Phalkar. But Herklar was held a prisoner in his own dungeon. When Kothar found him, he learned the secret of the true ruler of Phalkar . . . .

The five warriors moved forward toward Kothar, separating slightly and drawing their swords. They planned to attack him from five sides at once. He had fought with such men before, and he felt no fear of their kind—only contempt,
Yet their steel could cut. He shouted to his warhorse Greyling to surge forward. To the left and right, Kothar savagely laid his sword, and two men quickly went down with cloven skulls erupting-blood and brains.
The gray warhorse reared high, and Kothar brought the singing blade downward through flesh and blood into the shoulder of a third man. As he pulled his red-stained steel free, the blond barbarian saw that the remaining two warriors were backing away from him, glancing at one another in amazement . . .

Kothar and the Demon Queen – 3rd book in the series

Sword & Sorcery

This is Gardner F Fox’s third classic Sword & Sorcery story for paperbacks. There are 5 books in this series. Mr. Fox’s was heavily inspired by Robert E. Howard’s Sword & Sorcery stories: Conan, Kull & Bran Mak Mor. The Kothar books are listed in Gary Gygax’s Appendix N as one of the few books that inspired the creation of Dungeons & Dragons.

As a boy, Kothar had been cast upon the desolate shores of Grondel Bay. Since that time, he had grown to lusty manhood, to become the greatest Swordsman in the World. He had well earned the name of Magnificent Barbarian. Nothing daunted him, not demons, not sorcerers, nothing Creeping or Crawling or flying; even the cunning White Worm had been slashed by his magic blade, the enchanted Frostfire. Yet now Kothar was challenged by the Demon-Queen, a beautiful she-devil of limitless cunning and unspeakable passions. For the Mighty Swordsman, it was his greatest trial.

Kothar of the Magic Sword – 2nd book in the series

Sword & Sorcery

This is Gardner F Fox’s second classic Sword & Sorcery story for paperbacks. There are 5 books in this series. Mr. Fox’s was heavily inspired by Robert E. Howard’s Sword & Sorcery stories: Conan, Kull & Bran Mak Mor. The Kothar books are listed in Gary Gygax’s Appendix N as one of the few books that inspired the creation of Dungeons & Dragons.

Four illustrations from Johnny Hazard Artist; Frank Robbins

The enchanted sword Frostfire
Kothar stole the helix from the fat Emperor of Avalonia. It was the only way he could hope to recover his magic Sword Frostfire from the belly of the Great Eagle of Nirvalla. But the original theft of the helix was to embroil Kothar in even more uncanny adventures. An ‘ice being’, an eerie creature even in Kothar’s World, used the helix for his own dark purpose.
Trying to forget the beautiful Laella – driven away by the Witch Red Lori — Kothar agreed to deliver another lovely girl from the Sinister followers of the god Polthoom. Even with the Magic Sword flashing in his powerful hands, it was the bloodiest, Weirdest, most blood-Chilling adventure of his life.

Includes the stories:

The Helix from Beyond
A Plague of Demons

Kothar: Barbarian Swordsman – his first Sword & Sorcery story

Sword & Sorcery

This is Gardner F Fox’s first paperback attempt at writing a Sword & Sorcery story. There are 5 books in this series. Mr. Fox’s was heavily inspired by Robert E. Howard’s Sword & Sorcery stories: Conan, Kull & Bran Mak Mor. From the world beyond–or past–time Kothar comes. His Sword & Sorcery books read like Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. All they need is a great Game Master to orchestrate the adventure.
From out of the deepest, most violent recesses of mankind’s collective memory, Kothar the gigantic barbarian strides, the enchanted sword Frostfire glittering in his mighty hand. Lusty, hot-blooded, masterful, unafraid of things real or unreal, Kothar dominates the misty, bloody world before recorded time. Yet, though Kothar’s world existed in another age–perhaps another dimension–it springs vividly to life. Mapped, charted, chronicled, Kothar’s fantastic world suddenly becomes real–the sorcerers, dragons, witches, evil potions, unspeakable monsters. And Kothar, an epic hero for any age, overshadows everything.

Includes the stories:

“The Sword of the Sorcerer”
“The Treasure in the Labyrinth”
“The Woman in the Witch-Wood”
with an introduction by Donald MacIvers, Ph.D.