camp guards. These were large beasts and they were killers, that was to be read in their stance as they watched and waited. He could pick them off one by one, but he dared not waste his ammunition.

Although the day had been so lowering, he knew that night would be worse with its full darkness, and it was coming fast. The wind sweeping wetly from the bogs was searching out their shelter with its chill.

Simon moved and one of the hounds jumped to alert, putting its forepaws on the rock and lifting a moaning howl of threat. Firm fingers closed about Simon’s upper arm, drawing him back, to his former position. Again through touch he received a message. As hopeless as their case appeared, the woman was not daunted. He gathered that she was waiting for something.

Could they hope to climb to the top of the escarpment? In the dusk he caught the shake of her unkempt head as if she had read that thought.

Once again the hounds were quiet, lying at the foot of the crag, their attention for the prey above. Somewhere — Simon strained to see through the dusk — somewhere their masters must be on the move, planning to close in about the fugitives. He knew his skill as a marksman, but conditions were now rapidly changing to the others’ favor.

He nursed the automatic tensely, alert to the slightest sound. The woman stirred with a bitten-off exclamation, a gasp of breath. He did not need the urgent tug at his arm to make him look at her.

In the dusky quarter light a shadow moved up the end of the ledge. And she snatched his gun, gaining it by surprise, to bring down its butt with a vicious deadliness upon that creeping thing.

There was a thin squeal cut sharply in the middle. Simon grabbed the weapon and only when it was back safely in his grasp, did he look at that broken backed, squirming creature. Needle teeth, white and curved in a flat head, a narrow head mounted on a furred body, red eyes alive with something which startled him — intelligence in an animal’s skull! It was dying, but still it wriggled to reach the woman, a faint hissing trilling between those fangs, malignant purpose in every line of its broken body.

With squeamish distaste Simon lashed out with his foot, catching the thing on its side, sending it over to plop among the hounds.

He saw them scatter, separate and draw back as if he had tossed a live grenade into the gathering. Above their complaint he heard a more heartening sound, the laughter of the woman beside him. And he saw her eyes were alight with triumph. She nodded and laughed again as he leaned forward to survey that pool of shadow which now lapped about the base of the pinnacle, concealing the body of the thing.

Had it been another form of hunter loosed upon them by the hidden men below? Yet the uneasiness, the swift departure of the dogs that now milled yards away, seemed to argue otherwise. If they coursed with the dead creature it was not by choice. Accepting this as just another of the mysteries he had walked into — of his own free will — Simon prepared for a night on sentry-go. If the silent attack of the small animal had been some move on the part of the besiegers, they might now come into the open to follow it up.

But, as the darkness thickened, there were no more sounds from below which Simon could interpret as attack. Again the hounds lay down in a half circle about the foot of the pinnacle, dimly visible because of their white hides. Once more, Tregarth thought of climbing to the top of the outcrop — they might even cross it if the woman’s lameness abated.

When it was almost totally dark she moved. Her fingers rested for a moment on his wrist and then slipped down to lay cool in his palm. Through his own watchfulness, through his listening for any sound, a picture formed in his mind. Knife — she wanted a knife! He loosened her hold and took out his pen knife, to have it snatched from him eagerly.

What followed Simon did not understand, but he had sense enough not to interfere. The cloudy crystal strapped to her wrist gave off a faint graveside radiance. By that he watched the point of the knife stab into the ball of her thumb. A drop of blood gathered on the skin, was rubbed across the crystal, so for a moment the thick liquid obscured the scrap of light.

Then up from that oval shone a brighter glow, a shaft of flame. Again his companion laughed, the low chuckle of satisfaction. Within seconds the crystal was dim once again. She laid her hand across his gun and he read in that gesture another message. The weapon was no longer necessary, aid would come.

The swampland wind with its puffs of rottenness moaned around and between the tongues of rock. She was shivering again and he put his arm about her hunched shoulders drawing her to him so that the warmth of their bodies could be joined. Along the arch of the sky flashed a jagged sword of purple lightning.



Another vivid bolt of lightning rent the sky, just above the pinnacle. And that was the opening shot of such a wild battle of sky, earth, wind and storm as Simon had never seen before. He had crawled over battlefields under the lash of manmade terrors of war, but this was worse somehow — perhaps because he knew that there was no control over those flashes, gusts, blasts.

The rock shook and pitched under them as they clung as frightened little animals to each other, closing their eyes to the shock of each strike. There was a continuous roar of sound, not the normal rumble of thunder, but the throb of a giant drum beaten to a rhythm which sang angrily in one’s blood and set the brain to spinning dizzily. The woman’s face was pressed tight against him and Simon enfolded her shaking body as he would the last promise of safety in a reeling world.

It went on and on, beat, crash, lick of light, beat, wind — but as yet no rain. A tremor in the rock under them began to echo the thud of the thunderblasts.

A final spectacular blast left Simon both deaf and blind for a space. But as the seconds lengthened into minutes and there was nothing more, when even the wind appeared to have exhausted itself, sinking into small, fitful puffs, he raised his head.

The stench of burned animal matter poisoned the air.

A wavering glow not too far away marked a brush fire.

But the blessed quiet held and the woman stirred in his arms, pushing free. Once again he had an impression of confidence, a confidence mixed with triumph, some game had come to a victorious end and to the woman’s satisfaction.

He longed for a light with which to survey the scene below. Had the hunter or hounds survived the storm? Orange-red light lapped out from the fire toward the escarpment. Against the foot of the pinnacle lay a tangle of stiff white bodies. There was a dead horse in the road, a man’s arm resting on its neck.

The woman pushed forward, searching with eager eyes. Then, before Simon could stop her, she had swung over the ledge and he followed, alert for attack, but seeing only the bodies in the firelight.

Warmth of flame reached them and it was good. His companion held out both arms to the glow. Simon skirted the dead hounds, scorched and twisted by the bolt which had killed them. He came to the dead horse with the idea of taking its rider’s weapons. Then he saw the fingers in the animal’s coarse mane move.

The hunter must be mortally injured, and certainly Simon had little feeling for him since that harrying chase across the moor and bog. But neither could he leave a helpless man so trapped. He struggled with the weight of the dead mount, got that broken body free where the light of the fire could show him who and what he had rescued.

Those strained, bloodstained, harshly marked features held no sign of life, yet the broken chest rose and fell laboriously and he moaned now and then. Simon could not have named his race. The close-cropped hair was very fair, silver-white almost. He had a boldly hooked nose between wide cheek bones, an odd combination. And Simon guessed that he was young, though there was little of the unformed boy in that drawn face.

Still on its cord about his shoulder was a dented horn. And the rich ornamentation of his habit, the gem-set brooch at his throat, suggested that he was no common soldier. Simon, unable to do anything for those extensive hurts, turned his attention to the wide belt and its arms.

The knife he tucked into his own belt. The strange sidearm he took from its holster to examine carefully. It had a barrel, and something which could only be a trigger. But in his hand the balance felt wrong, the grip awkwardly shaped. He pushed it inside his shirt.

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