A Sample from Chapter 5 of Thief of Llarn

Sword & Planet

CHAPTER FIVE

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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.”

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A Sample from Chapter 3 of Warrior of Llarn

Sample Chapter

CHAPTER THREE

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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.”

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Thief of Llarn: Book 2 in the Llarn cycle

Sword & Planet

Thief of llarn gardner f fox edgar rice burroughs sword and planet kurt brugel

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The original cover art was painted by the legendary Gray Morrow.

Thief of Llarn is a Sword & Planet classic from Gardner F. Fox. Originally published in 1966, written as an homage to Edgar Rice Burrough’s John Carter of Mars series. Gardner F. Fox takes us to another world, where Alan Morgan, an Earthman, was now a true citizen of the planet Llarn. Through his master swordsmanship and quick wits, he had risked his life at great odds to finally win the beautiful Tuarra, daganna of Kharthol, as his wife.

And he would do it again . . . for now, even more, was at stake. The world of Llarn itself was threatened with a disaster even greater than the atomic war of eons ago, which had dried up the oceans and shredded the land to desert and desolation and peopled it with monstrous mutated beings.

On a curious chess board that crossed the barriers of time, Alan Morgan was moved from adventure to adventure by the powers of a godlike master, and his swift sword was his only means of staving off the enemies of the planet and saving the life of his loved princess.

Warrior of Llarn: Book 1 in the Llarn cycle

Sword & Planet

warrior of llarn edgar rice burroughs gardner f fox sword and planet kurt brugel amazon kindle

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The original cover art was painted by the legendary Frank Frazetta.

Near Canopus there is a small red sun, around which eleven planets revolve. One of these is Llarn a world which resembles Earth in some ways, but in others is exotically different. There were men and women there, fallen empires, forgotten cities, and roving barbarians striving to rise. And there were the dreaded remnants of a hideous atomic disaster eons past–things that once were men with powers that bordered on the evilly miraculous.

Alan Morgan came to Llarn at the behest of one of these warped man-monsters to act as his envoy on a world-shaking mission. But Alan was no puppet…and the story of his extraordinary adventures on that world of swordplay and wonders is a constantly exciting novel.

This is a Sword & Planet classic from 1964. Warrior of Llarn was written as an homage to Edgar Rice Burrough‘s John Carter of Mars series.