face, impassive, up to his. He grinned as he unsheathed his weapon, obviously savoring the helplessness of his prey.

Then the slug from Simon’s gun caught him dead center. With a scream he tottered forward and fell into the gully.

Before echo of shot and scream had died away, the other huntsman took cover, which told Simon a little of the caliber of those he faced. And the hounds went mad, racing wildly up and down, filling the air with their yapping.

But the woman made a last effort and found foothold on the ledge. She sped down that path to the floor of the gully, taking cover among the rocks and brush which choked it. Simon saw a flash in the air. Point deep in the earth, not two inches away from where he had crouched to make his shot, a small dart quivered back and forth and then stood still. The other hunter had given battle.

Ten years ago Simon had played such games almost daily, relished them. And, he discovered, some actions once learned by muscles and body are not quickly forgotten. He wriggled into denser cover to wait. The hounds were tiring, several had flung themselves down, to lie panting. It was now a matter of patience, and Simon had that in abundance. He saw that tremor of vegetation and fired for the second time — to be answered by a cry.

A few moments later, alerted by a crackling of brush, he crept to the edge of the valley, and so came face to face with the woman. Those dark eyes, set at a provocative slant in her triangular face, searched his with a keen intentness Simon found a little disconcerting. Then, as his hand closed about her shoulder to draw her into deeper cover, he gained a sharp impression of danger, of a desperate need to keep moving across the moor. There was only safety beyond the edge of the moor, back in the direction from which he had come.

So strong was that warning that Simon found himself crawling back among the rocks before getting to his feet and running, matching his stride to hers, the yammering of the hounds growing fainter behind them.

Although she must have already been running for weary miles, his companion held to a pace which he had to stretch to match. At last they came to a place where the moor began to give way to boggy ponds edged with waist-high weeds. It was then that a down wind brought them again the faint call of a horn. And at that echo the woman laughed, glancing at Simon as if to ask him to share some jest. She indicated the bog patches with a gesture which suggested that here lay their safety.

About a quarter of a mile before them a mist curled and curdled, thickening, spreading to cut across their path, and Simon studied it. In such a curtain they might be safe, but also they might be lost. And, oddly enough, that mist appeared to rise from a single source.

The woman raised her right arm. From a broad metal band about her wrist shot a flash of light, aimed at the mist. She waved with her other hand for him to be still, and Simon squinted into that curtain, almost certain he saw dark shapes moving about there.

A shout, the words of the cry incomprehensible, but the tone of challenge unmistakable, came from ahead.

His companion answered that with a lilting sentence or two. But when the reply came she staggered. Then she drew herself together and looked to Simon, putting out her hand in half-appeal. He caught it, enfolding it in his own warm fist, guessing they must have been refused aid.

“What now?” he asked. She might not be able to understand the words but he was certain she knew their meaning.

Delicately she licked a finger tip and held it into that wind rising to whip her hair back from a face on which a purple bruise swelled at jawline and dark shadows deepened the hollows beneath her high cheekbones. Then, still hand in hand with Simon, she pulled to the left; wading out into evil-smelling pools where green scum was broken by their passing and clung in slimy patches to her legs and his sodden slacks.

So they made their way about the edge of the bog, and that fog which sealed its interior traveled on a parallel course with them, walling them out. Simon’s hunger was a gnawing ache, his soaked shoes rubbed blisters on his feet. But the sounds of the horn were lost. Perhaps their present path had baffled the hounds.

His guide fought her way through a reed thicket and brought them out on a ridge of higher ground where there was a road of sorts, hardened by usage, but no wider than a footpath. With it to follow they made better time.

It must have been late afternoon, though in that gray neutral light hours could not be marked, when the road began to climb. Ahead were the escarpments of the red rock, rising almost as a crudely constructed wall, pierced by a gap which cradled the road.

They were almost to this barrier when their luck failed. Out of the grass beside the trail burst a small dark animal to run between the woman’s feet, throwing her off balance, sprawling on the beaten clay. She uttered her first sound, a cry of pain, and caught at her right ankle. Simon hastened to push her hands aside and used knowledge learned on the battlefield to assess the damage. Not a break, but under his manipulation she caught her breath sharply, and it was plain she could not go on. Then, once more, came the call of the horn.

“This tears it!” Simon said to himself rather than to the woman. He ran ahead to the gap. The trace of road wound on to a river in a plain, with no cover. Save for the rock pinnacles which guarded the pass, there was no other break in the flat surface of the ground for miles. He turned to the escarpment and examined it with attention. Dropping his coat, he kicked off his soggy shoes and tested handholds. Seconds later he reached a ledge which could be seen from road level only as a shadow. But its width promised shelter and it would have to do for their stand.

When Simon descended the woman came creeping toward him on her hands and knees. With his strength and determination added to hers they gained that shallow refuge, crouching so closely together in that pocket of wind-worn rock that he could feel the warmth of her hurried breath on his cheek as he turned his head to watch their back trail.

Simon also became aware of her trembling, half-clothed body as shudders shook her from head to foot when the wind licked at them. Clumsily he wrapped his coat, damp as it was, about her and saw her smile, though the natural curve of her lips was distorted by a torn lip marked by a recent blow. She was not beautiful, he decided; she was far too thin, too pale, too worn. In fact, though her body was frankly revealed by the disarray of her rags, he was conscious of no male interest at all. And as that thought crossed his mind Simon was also aware that she did in some way understand his appraisal and that it amused her.

She hitched forward to the edge of the hollow so that they were shoulder to shoulder, and now she pulled back the sleeve of his coat, resting her wrist, with its wide bracelet, on her knee. From time to time she rubbed her fingers across an oval crystal set in that band.

Through the keening of the wind they could hear the horn, the reply of the hounds. Simon drew his automatic. His companion’s fingers flashed from the bracelet to touch the weapon briefly, as if by that she could divine the nature of the arm. Then she nodded as those white dots which were hounds came from the trees down the road. Four riders followed and Simon studied them.

The open method of their approach argued that they did not expect trouble. Perhaps they did not yet know the fate of their two comrades by the ravine; they might believe that they still trailed one fugitive instead of two. He hoped that that was the truth.

Metal helmets with ragged crests covered their heads and curious eye-pieces were snapped down to mask the upper halves of their faces. They wore garments which seemed to be both shirt and jacket laced from waist to throat. The belts about their waists were a good twenty inches wide and supported bolstered sidearms, as well as sheathed knives, and various pouches and accouterments he could not identify. Their breeches were tight-fitting and their boots arose in high peaks on the outside of the leg. The whole effect was a uniform one, for all were cut alike of a blue-green stuff, and a common symbol was on the right breast of the shirt jackets.

The lean, snake-headed hounds swirled up the road and dashed to the foot of the rock, some standing on hindlegs to paw at the surface below the ledge. Simon, remembering that silent dart, shot first.

With a cough the leader of the hunters reeled and slipped from his saddle, his boot wedging in the stirrups so that the racing horse jerked a limp body along the road. There was a shout as Simon snapped a second shot. A man caught at his arm as he took to cover, while the horse, still dragging the dead man, bore through the gap and down into the river plain.

The hounds ceased to cry. Panting, they flung themselves down at the foot of the pinnacle, their eyes like sparks of yellow fire. Simon studied them with a growing discomfort. He knew war dogs, had seen them used as

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