shelter as the field afforded so he did not burst rashly out onto the scene of the combat.

Lura had tackled big game! He caught the sun flash on her tawny fur as she leaped away from an inert red- brown body just in time to escape the charge of a larger beast. A wild cow! And Lura had killed her calf!

Fors’ arrow was already in the air. The cow bellowed again and tossed her wickedly horned head. She made a shambling run to the body of her calf, snorting in red rage. Then crimson froth puffed from her wide nostrils and she stumbled to her knees and fell on her side. Lura’s round head shot up above a stand of thick grass and she moved out to the side of her prey. Fors came from the trees where he had taken cover. He would have echoed Lura’s rasping purr had it been in his power. That arrow had gone straight and true to the mark he had set it.

It was a pity to have to waste all that meat. Enough to keep three Eyrie families for a week lay there. He prodded the cow with a regretful toe before starting to butcher the calf.

He could, of course, try to jerk the meat. But he was unsure of the right method and he could not carry it with him anyway. So he contended himself with preparing what he could for the next few days while Lura, after feasting, slept under a bush, rousing now and then to snap at the gathering flies.

They made camp that night a field or two beyond the kill, in the corner of an old wall. Piles of fallen stone turned it into a position which could be defended if the need arose. But neither slept well. The fresh meat they had left behind drew night rovers. There was a scream or two which must have come from Lura’s wild relatives and she growled in answer. Then in the early dawn there was a baying cry which Fors was unable to identify, woods learned as he was. But Lura went wild when she heard it, spitting in sheer hate, her fur rising stiff along her backbone.

It was early when Fors started on, striking across the open fields in the line set by his compass. Today he made no effort to keep cover or practice caution. He could see no menace in these waste fields. Why had there been all the talk back in the Eyrie about the danger in the lowlands? Of course, one did keep away from the “blue” patches where radiation still meant death even after all these years. And the Beast Things were always to be dreaded—had not Langdon died in their attack? But as far as the Star Men had been able to discover those nightmare creatures kept to the old cities and were not to be feared in the open. Surely these fields must be as safe for man as the mountain forests which encircled the Eyrie.

He took an easy curve and came out suddenly on a sight which brought him up—blinking. Here was a road —but such a road! The broken concrete was four times as wide as any he had seen—it had really been two roads running side by side with a stretch of earth between them, two wide roads running smoothly from one horizon to another.

But not two hundred yards from where he stood gaping, the road was choked with a tangle of rusting metal. A barrier of broken machines filled it from ditch to ditch. Fors approached it slowly. There was something about that monstrous wall which for forbidding—even though he knew that it had stood so for perhaps two hundred years. Black crickets jumped out of the weeds before him and a mouse flashed across a stretch of clear stone.

He rounded the jumble of wrecked machines. They must have been traveling along the road in a line when death had struck mysteriously, struck so that some of the machines had rammed others or wavered off to pile up in wild wreckage. Others stood solitary as if the dying driver had been able to bring them to a safe halt before he succumbed. Fors tried to pick out the outlines and associate what he saw with the ancient pictures. That—that was certainly a “tank,” one of the moving fortresses of the Old Ones. Its gun still pointed defiantly to the sky. Two, four, five more he counted, and then gave up.

The column of machines stretched out in its forgotten disaster for almost a mile. Fors brushed along beside it in the waist-high weeds which bordered the road. He had a queer distaste for approaching the dead machines more closely, no desire to touch any of the bits of rusted metal. Here and there he saw one of the atom-powered vehicles, seeming almost intact. But they were dead too. All of it was dead, in a horrible way. He experienced a vague feeling of contamination from just walking beside the wreckage.

There were guns on the moving forts, guns which still swung ready, and there had been men, hundreds of men. He could see their white bones mixed with the rust and the debris driven in by years of wind “and storm. Guns and men—where had they been going when the end came? And what was the end? There were none of the craters he had been told were to be found where bombs had fallen—just smashed machines and men, as if death had come as a mist or a wind.

Guns and men on the march—maybe to repel invaders. The book of air-borne messages treasured in the Eyrie had spoken once or twice of invaders coming from the sky—enemies who had struck with paralyzing swiftness. But something must have happened in turn to that enemy • —or else why had the invaders not made the land their own? Probably the answer to that question would never be known.

Fors reached the end of the blasted column. But he kept on walking along the clean earth until he topped a rise and could no longer sight the end of a wasted war. Then he dared once more to walk the road of the Old Ones.


About half a mile farther on the shadow of a woodland swallowed up the road. Fors’ heart lifted when he saw it. These open fields were strange to a mountain-born man but he felt at home in a thick cloak of trees as the one before him now.

He was trying to remember the points on the big map which hung on the wall of the Star House, the map to which was added a tiny mark at the return of each roving explorer. This northern route crossed the wedge end of a portion of territory held loosely by Plainsmen. And the Plainsmen had horses—useless in the mountains and so untamed by his people—but very needful in this country of straight distances. To have a horse at his service now—

The cool of the woods lapped him in and he was at home at once, as was Lura. They padded on, their feet making but the faintest whisper of sound. It was a scent carried by a tiny puff of breeze which brought them up- Wood smoke!

Fors’ thought met Lura’s and agreed. She stood for a long moment, testing the air with her keener nostrils, and then she turned aside, pushing between two birches. Fors scraped after her. The guiding puff of wind was gone, but he could smell something else. They were approaching a body of water—not runing water or the sound of its passing would be heard.

There was a break in the foliage ahead. He saw Lura flatten herself out on a rock surface which was almost the same color as her own creamy hide, flatten and creep. And he hunkered down to follow her example, the gritty stone biting knees and hands as he wormed out beside her.

They were belly down on a spur of rock which overhung the surface of a woods-hemmed lake. Not far beyond a thread of stream trickled away and he could sp»t two islands, the nearest joined to the mainland by a series of stepping stones. On the shores of this islet crouched someone very busy over a cooking fire.

The stranger was no mountainer, that was certain. In the first place his wide-shouldered, muscular bronze body was bare to the waist and at least five shades darker as to skin tint than the most deeply tanned of the Eyrie men. The hair on his round skull was black and tightly curled. He had strongly marked features with a wide-lipped mouth and flat cheekbones, his large dark eyes set far apart. His only clothing was a sort of breechclout kilt held in place by a wide belt from which hung the tassel-ornamented scabbard of a knife. The knife itself, close to eighteen inches of blue steel, flashed in his hand as he energetically cleaned a fresh-caught fish.

Stuck upright in the ground close to his shoulder were three short-shafted spears, a blanke.t of coarse reddish wool draped over the point of one. Smoke rose from the fire laid on a flat stone, but there was no indication as to whether the stranger had merely halted for a meal or had been camping on the islet.

As he worked the fisherman sang—a low, monotonous chant, which, as he listened to it, affected Fors queerly, sending an odd shiver up his backbone. This was no Plainsman either. And Fors was just as sure that he was not spying on one of the Beast Things. The few mountaineer men who had survived a meeting with them had painted a far different picture—Aey were never to be associated with peaceful fishing and an intelligent, pleasant face.

This dark-skinned newcomer was of a different breed. Fors rested his chin on his folded arms and tried to deduce from the evidence this stranger’s background—as was the duty of an explorer.

The lack of clothing, now—that meant that he was accustomed to a warmer climate. .Such an outfit could

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