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´╗┐Title: Castle of Terror
Author: Liston, E.J.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Castle of Terror" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                            CASTLE OF TERROR

                            By E. J. LISTON

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from Amazing Stories November
1948. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
copyright on this publication was renewed.]


[Sidenote: What strange dimension was this where giants, gangsters,
Lucretia Borgia, dwarfs and Rip Van Winkle lived at the same time?]


"Too bad, Griffin," Hale Jenkins said to the man alongside. "Now if
you'd have just stuck to bank stick-ups, you'd have been all right."

"Nah!" Bud Griffin said, his mouth twisted in a wry grin. "I'd have been
all right if you'd have just stuck to being a traffic cop. But you had
to show the Commissioner you were on the ball, so he sent you after me.
That's all."

The light suddenly flashed over the pilot's compartment with its warning
to fasten safety belts. A few seconds later, the stewardess came around
with a smiling warning that they were coming over some bad pockets, and
that there was no need to worry.

Both men fastened their belts, as did all the other passengers on the
giant airliner, and after a while the elevator began its ride. Griffin
reached up and pulled the air vent down, so that the cold air of the
upper reaches at which they were flying could send its refreshing drafts
of air down the vent. Jenkins had been airsick once and didn't want any
more of the same. He followed Griffin's gaze, and looked into the grey
fog of a huge cloud bank.

Jenkins, to get his mind off the possibility of getting sick again, took
up where the other had left off: "Yeah. But like I say, you shoulda
stuck to robbin' banks."

His lean, strong face with the unusual bone structure which made it a
face of highlights and plane surfaces, broke into a wide-angled grin. He
threw the shock of black hair from his eyes, and continued: "Guys like
you never learn. Gotta work with a heater."

Griffin's opaque eyes shifted from the greyness which had encircled the
plane, and met the dancing grey ones of the detective beside him.
Griffin's lips mimicked the grin of the other. But his words were not so
light-hearted: "Look, copper! You just got lucky. If it weren't for that
dame.... Aah! I shoulda been smart. I shoulda known she'd of sung. No
dame can keep her yap shut! But get this. We ain't in yet! So be smart
and don't think Bud Griffin's fryin'. Not yet he ain't."

Jenkins was, for a detective, a rather amiable sort. In Griffin's case,
however, he could not help but give an occasional needle. The hoodlum
and murderer's bragging rasped on Jenkins' nerves.

"Now, don't blame the girl," Jenkins said. "She was just the last step
in my trail. The guy who really talked was Bud Griffin. There's a
character who'll never stop talkin'. If you hadn't talked to the
bartender in that joint on the waterfront, I'd have never found out
about Myrtle. But he knew Myrtle and the kind of girl she was; he knew
she only went for the hoods who had dough, and no guy who drinks beer
like you do and leaves no tips ought to have dough. So when Myrtle walks
in with a platina fox jacket and says you bought it, he gets mighty
suspicious.

"It was a cinch then, Bud. All I had to do was tell the girl she was
going to be named as an accessory after the fact, and she spilled her
load."

       *       *       *       *       *

Pin points of flame suddenly danced in Griffin's eyes. His hands, lying
quiescent on his lap, curled into balls of bone and muscle. Griffin had
many weaknesses; of them all, anger was his greatest. For in the heat of
anger he would do anything, and not care about the consequences. It had
proved his undoing many times. His last surge of anger had resulted in
murder during a robbery. The victim had resisted Griffin and had been
shot in cold blood. As always, that anger showed in visible signs: there
came the pin points of flame to the eyes, the clenching of fists, and an
odd curling of the mouth. But Jenkins, either because he did not know of
these signs, or because he was so wrapped in his own glory, did not
notice the other's shifting movement.

When Griffin struck, it was with electric speed. Certainly, he had
nothing to gain by his attack on Jenkins. For had he thought it out
logically, he would have realized there was no way of escape. Even a
fool would have realized that there was no way of getting out of a plane
which was flying at ten thousand feet, and coming down alive, unless one
had a chute. So it was sheer berserk anger which prompted the attack.

Griffin's right elbow shot up and sideways, and landed with telling
force against Jenkins' jaw. At almost the same instant, he slipped loose
of his safety belt, whirled on his companion and struck him two savage
blows with his fists. Those blows stunned the detective. And like a
snake in movement, Griffin's hand reached for the pistol in Jenkins'
holster and drew it.

Dazed as Jenkins was, he tried to stop Griffin. The barrel of the gun
slashed a furrow in his cheek for the try. The blow rocked the
detective's head back, and allowed him to get out of his seat. In an
instant he was in the aisle, leaping for the pilot's compartment. He had
no plan; he wasn't even thinking. In the background of his mind he knew
the panic he had created; he could see it reflected in the face of the
woman in the front seat, in the wide, suddenly terror-stricken eyes of
the man at her side. But what he was going to do when he reached the
closed door that was his goal, he did not know.

There were screams and hoarse commands. From the rear, the stewardess
shouted for him not to go beyond the door. Griffin reached it, whirled
and faced the length of the plane, a snarl on his lips, and the .38 in
his hand, a small-barreled threat of death to whoever was fool enough to
attempt to stop him.

And there was one who was going to be a fool.

       *       *       *       *       *

Whether Jenkins was just dazed by the last blow, or whether he really
thought he could stop the other, is a matter of conjecture. But he rose
to his feet and started forward in a stumbling run.

"Come on, copper," Griffin grunted, a terrible smile of anticipation on
his lips. "I been wantin' to knock you off."

Everyone on the plane froze in horror as the gun muzzle came up. The
finger on the trigger tightened in a sort of slow-motion action until it
seemed as if the smallest pressure would set it off. And still Jenkins
stumbled forward, until only a couple of feet separated the two. Then
the grin became a snarl on Griffin's lips, and all knew the instant of
death had arrived.

Jenkins must have felt it also, for he took the last few steps in a
shambling, wide-armed leap, as if he were welcoming it. It was at that
instant that the co-pilot decided to step through the door. The steel
door slammed against the bent figure of the gunman just as he pulled the
trigger. The gun went off with a roar, and Jenkins hit Griffin like a
tackler slamming into a ball carrier.

But louder than the pistol's sound, was the sound from without the
plane. It was as if all the fury of hell had exploded out there. The
plane became a straw licked upward and outward, sucked downward and
inward, in some vortex of sound and fury which was completely
unrecognizable. It was as if some external force was venting its spleen
on the craft. In the space of split seconds, in the time a picture forms
in a mind, the plane and all its occupants lost their meaning.

There was a great rending sound and, following, the disintegration of
the great ship into space.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hale Jenkins felt himself spinning, whirling, falling into a vast empty
fog. There was peace and contentment in that fog, and a sort of
forgetfulness. There was nothing above and nothing below, just the grey
murk. For a last instant of awareness, Jenkins saw not far from him the
body of Griffin describing the same gyrations as his own. Then there was
a wrenching at his bowels, a tearing at his brain, and unconsciousness
slipped over him like the noose over the hanged man.

Odd piping voices penetrated into Jenkins' brain. He stirred and rolled
over, and after a few seconds got his hands under him and pushed himself
erect. He felt rather than saw the tree close to him, and put one hand
out to its friendly trunk, steadying himself against it. His head came
up after a second and his eyes cleared of the fog before them. He stared
in disbelief as he looked out over a great valley.

In the distance, made plain by the brilliant light of the sun, he saw a
tremendous castle with many-turreted immense sides. It shimmered and
danced in the brilliant light, like a mirage conjured by a fevered mind.
Yet he knew, without being told, that it was real--as real as the three
tiny men who regarded him with passionately intent though oddly
frightened eyes from a few feet off.

But sight was not the only sense of which Jenkins had the full use. He
was aware of an odd, rumbling sound in the distance, as of thunder, yet
not quite thunder. He noticed that the gnomes had also heard the sound,
for their eyes turned from their intent regard of him, to the castle
perched on the mesa in the distance. He could not see their eyes now,
yet he was aware that they held fear--cold, numbing fear--fright so
great it binds the entrails, makes a stone statue of a man, even a
dwarf.

They held their poses even after the dying sounds of the strange rumble
had passed in the distance. When Jenkins spoke, it took several seconds
for them to bring their attention to him:

"Where am I and who are you?"

Their answering voices were childish pipings, making even less sense of
a confused situation:

"I am Loti ..." said the smallest, who wore a fringe of beard from his
forehead all the way around a pointed, slat-like chin.

"I am Gaino," said the second. He had a hooked nose so long it almost
touched his chin.

"I am Mikas," said the third, who had a round face, a bulbous nose whose
color was that of a ripe tomato, flapping pointed ears too large for his
face, and a pair of perfectly round eyes.

"Yeah? But where am I?" Jenkins persisted.

"In the land of Gnat," all three piped in unison.

Slowly the brain-fog was clearing for Jenkins. The miracle of his
landing safely was still not quite clear, nor could he understand the
presence of these odd beings. But as reason returned to Jenkins, it told
him something had happened which would perhaps be unexplainable.

He pointed toward the castle and said: "Who lives there?"

"Lucretia ..." they answered again in unison.

Now there's a familiar name, Jenkins thought, while at the same time a
horrifying idea occurred to him. If it were Lucretia Borgia, he thought,
then he might be dead. Suddenly, there was a spine-chilling roar, a vast
crashing in the underbrush close by, and a tremendous boulder sailed by
and disappeared over the lip of the chasm. Its crashing echoes could be
heard for a long time afterward. When Jenkins recovered his balance, the
gnomes had disappeared.

Jenkins' eyes narrowed in search of them, but after one look at the
thick underbrush, he turned aside and began to search for a path leading
either through the brush or down the steep sides of the cliff. There
wasn't much choice, he discovered. In fact, there was no choice at all.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Ho-ho!" a stentorian voice bellowed, seemingly from at his very heels.
"Look what we have here!"

Once more Jenkins did a pirouette. Facing him were three men. They
seemed to come in series of threes in this screwy place, he thought. But
these were quite different than the gnomes he had first seen.

These were giants, all dressed in the same manner. Each wore the skin of
a wild animal draped about him. Only their middles were covered, and
their immensely broad and hairy chests and legs, which were like
tree-trunks, stood out in naked and unpretty relief. They had not known
the touch of a razor for a very long time. Their beards reached almost
to their waists, while their heads were crowned with a tangled growth of
wiry brush.

Each man was armed with a spiked club, on which he was resting as he
regarded the stranger.

"He's mine," one said suddenly. "I saw him first."

"No!" the second said. "You're the youngest. I'm the oldest. I get him."

"And I'm the strongest," said the third. "I'll take him." The last one
didn't wait for a reply, but leaped for Jenkins in a clumsy jump.

Only Jenkins didn't wait for him. He stepped aside as the giant came on,
and as he went past Jenkins tripped him by simply putting out his leg.
The giant went sailing off into space and as he stumbled over the lip of
the chasm, his scream of fear was drowned in the roars of rage which
came from the other two. They came at him on splay feet, their clubs
raised high, their mouths opened and their eyes slitted in rage. But
they were slow and clumsy, and Jenkins danced out of range.

The giants recovered their balance, turned and came at him again, this
time from opposite sides. Jenkins waited until they were almost upon him
before moving. The two had their clubs raised as they ran, and just as
Jenkins leaped, they swung their murderous weapons. If it weren't for
the deadly seriousness of the situation, Jenkins would have found vast
humor in it. For in the swinging, both missed him, but one, the
youngest, caught his partner squarely on the skull with the spiked club.
The stricken one fell like an ox at the slaughter.

       *       *       *       *       *

Slobbering sounds of rage came from the remaining giant. His beady eyes
were red-rimmed, and his voice shook in passion as he charged again. And
once more Jenkins danced away. But this time the smile was wiped from
the Earthman's lips, as his moving steps struck against a protruding
root, and he went sprawling backward.

Rage turned to triumph! The club came on high and began its descent. And
Jenkins could only watch it in horror. The terrible club gained speed,
size, terror in its immensity, as it descended. And Jenkins seemed
chained to the earth by a power greater than his will. The club was
inches away, and Jenkins closed his eyes to it and made a silent prayer.

There was a dull thud as the club dropped from the giant's hand to the
ground. And another thud as the body of the giant landed with
breath-taking force across that of the Earthman. Jenkins grunted in
pain. He shoved at the inert figure sprawled across him and rolled it to
one side. His breath whistled through his nostrils as he arose and
brushed the dirt from him and he wondered dully how he had been saved.

"They are as children," a voice replied to his unspoken question. "And
like children, they can't reason ..."

The whistle came from his lips this time, as he did a double-take at the
figure which confronted him. She was standing not three feet from him, a
tall, lissome figure, dressed in a sheer costume which hid her figure,
yet left enough to be seen to entrance the eye. Midnight black hair, a
beautifully carved throat, perfection for nose and lips, and eyes
haughty as a queen's, made up the rest of her. He could only stare,
open-mouthed in admiration, lost in her beauty.

A faint smile touched her lips as she advanced toward him. He caught the
movement of others, also, and from the corners of his eyes saw that she
had not come alone. Attending her were mailed bodyguards wearing
sixteenth century armor.

"I thought the other came alone," Lucretia said, "but now I see I was
wrong. He is up there. You will be there, too."

"Up there?" Jenkins asked somewhat foolishly, pointing to the castle in
the distance.

"Yes. Up there. Come along, now." She turned and moved away from him,
and the mailed men took her place.

This time Jenkins made no move of protest. The long swords and small
knives these men carried in their belts made foolish any attempt to
fight them.

       *       *       *       *       *

It took a great deal less time to reach the castle than Jenkins would
have thought possible. Yet, there were no means of transportation other
than walking. The castle was much like one Jenkins remembered in a movie
he had seen. A huge drawbridge swung down over the wide and deep moat
before the perpendicular walls of the castle, trumpets sounded and
mailed guards ran to appointed places at the castle's entrance. The
beautiful creature nodded in acknowledgment of their salute as she
stepped past them, Jenkins at her side and the eight bodyguards, two
abreast, walking behind. Thus they proceeded up the long and narrow
courtyard through another entrance, and into an inner courtyard which
preceded the entrance hall proper to the castle.

Things happened at a greater pace from then on. At her signal men came
forward, took Jenkins with them and, from then until his return to the
woman, he was bathed, shaved, and dressed in a wondrously brocaded gown.
When he returned, it was to find her in the immense banquet hall.

She motioned him forward and bade him sit at her right. His eyes went
wide when he saw who was at her left--Griffin. And dressed in a gown
similar to his own.

"Hi, chum," Griffin said. "Nice layout, huh?"

"I like him," Lucretia said, as she signalled for the food to be brought
in. "He has such ill manners and such a boorish way of expressing
himself."

Jenkins swallowed in haste as his eyes took in the rest of the company
around the table. Never in all his days of police work had he seen such
a collection of cutthroats. Yet they, as he, were dressed in finery that
was worth a fortune. They saw his stare and answered him with wide
grins, which somehow had the power to make his blood run cold.

"Aah!" she continued. "They like you, I see. Ah, well. It's company fit
for a Borgia."

Borgia--Lucretia Borgia--the infamous poisoner--the most hated woman of
her time. He turned for another quick look and wondered how a woman with
such beauty could.... He shook his head violently. And again she seemed
to read his mind.

"My beauty is something I had nothing to do with. Perhaps you may come
to hate it."

       *       *       *       *       *

Suddenly a vast anger filled Jenkins' breast. His nostrils dilated in
passion, and when he spoke his voice was hoarse with it: "Look! I don't
know what's going on. But whatever it is, I don't like it. Now get this!
I'm a cop, and the character sitting alongside of you is my prisoner.
And I'm going to take him come hell or high water!"

A ripple of laughter began which swelled to a roar as he finished. And
the one who laughed the loudest was Lucretia.

"Now tell me, my valorous warder," she said in dulcet tones, "how will
you do this?"

"I don't know," Jenkins answered darkly and somewhat foolishly. "But
I'll manage. And another thing," he went on after a few seconds, "what's
with this rigmarole you're playing?"

"Rigmarole?" Her voice broke into tinkling laughter. "Oh, come now! We
don't play games here. I'm really Borgia. So let us sup. Talk will come
later."

A servant had placed a dish before Jenkins from which the most
appetizing odors arose. Saliva formed in his mouth, and his empty belly
reminded him he hadn't eaten for a long time. He raised his fork and
started to dig in, but the gesture was never completed. For suddenly he
became aware that every eye was on him and that every mouth was twisted
in a grin, that laughter hung silently on the air ready to explode at
the right second. They were but waiting for him to taste the food.

Nerveless fingers dropped the fork, and Jenkins' gulp was audible. He
knew why the grins and stares. _The food was poisoned!_ Yet the others
were eating, loudly, gaspingly, tearing at the food with fingers and
jaws, eating as though it was the last meal they were ever to have.

"Come, man! Eat!" the woman said between mouthfuls. She, like the rest,
held little regard for manners.

"I--I'm not hungry," Jenkins said lamely.

"Too bad. It's so good!" Lucretia remarked. Her eyes were daring him.

There seemed to be dozens of courses, and Jenkins' hunger grew with each
serving. More than hunger seethed in his breast, however. Anger also
gnawed at him. Anger got the better at last. He shoved his chair from
the table, and it clattered backward on stumbling legs. All eyes turned
to him as he stood, his hands on his hips, his head shoved forward, chin
jutting out like a rock.

"I've had just about enough of this!" Jenkins announced loudly. "I'm
going. And you, Griffin, are coming with me."

Gone now were the smiles; gone the laughter. The eyes were cold and
oddly expectant. Jenkins grew aware of the tense silence. He grinned,
and began to withdraw slowly.

"Okay," he said softly, "so I'll go alone."

"Not even that way," Lucretia said. "My guests leave only at _my_
bidding."

       *       *       *       *       *

As though her words were a command, two of the men at opposite ends of
the table rose and started for Jenkins. Their hands were wrapped about
the hilts of the short swords stuck in their belts. Jenkins continued to
retreat slowly, though, until his foot struck against the chair which
he'd shoved back. Then he moved like greased lightning.

His right hand swept around, gathered up the chair and flung it skidding
across the floor, so that it wound up among the folds of the robe worn
by one of the men. At the same time Jenkins leaped toward his other
would-be attacker and chopped a right hook to his whiskered chin.

It was the signal for a general rush in Jenkins' direction, but Jenkins
wasn't waiting. He hadn't even waited to see the effect of his hook. The
instant the blow was delivered, he had turned and leaped for the wide
entrance. He ran with all speed, his mind busy trying to remember the
turns and danger points which might lie before him.

There was no need of that, he discovered. The shouting voices which
bayed the alarm brought other guards to the chase. Jenkins came to a
sliding halt as he made a turn in the corridor. The grin was still wide
on his lips when his capturers brought him back to face Lucretia.

"I find it unseemly," she said as the guards forced him into a chair,
"that a guest should feel so strongly about not wanting my hospitality.
Surely, I have not been amiss in my attentions? If so, I must remedy
that."

A roar of laughter went up at the words.

"Therefore," she went on, "we will do more than we have. Take him below
and make him feel as welcome as he should have felt from the beginning."

       *       *       *       *       *

Sweat streamed from the dank walls. Feeble light came from a pair of
torches set into wall brackets, light which was offset by the heavy
smoke the resinous torches gave forth. A dozen cloaked figures stood
around the almost naked figure of a man chained wrists, ankles, and neck
to the wall. Standing directly in front of the chained man, and facing
him, was another man, with a look of cunning cruelty on his face. The
one chained to the wall was Jenkins; and the man facing him was Griffin.

[Illustration]

"Look, my friend," Lucretia Borgia said to Griffin, "all about you are
the implements of the trade. Here," she pointed with daintily gesturing
fingers to a many-thonged whip, "is a tickler to make this fool dance.
And when he tires, why here," she pointed to something which looked like
a coal scuttle, "we have a bucket in which he can rest his wearied feet.
Of course you may have to heat it a trifle, but I'm sure he won't mind."

The others shouted in glee at the humor they found in her remark.

Jenkins listened in bitter silence. The only visible sign of his
desperate feelings was a tiny trickle of blood which seeped from one
corner of his mouth and ran down to the side of his chin. He had given
up straining against the steel chains which bound him. They had been set
too strongly into the wall. He prayed that he could take the physical
tortures to be inflicted on him without weakening.

Then Griffin was reaching for the steel-tipped whip, and Jenkins braced
himself for the pain.

"Make him dance!" Lucretia commanded. "Pride needs music...." She
stopped suddenly and her head came up. The others also froze into
listening attitudes.

Jenkins had been aware of the odd sound for several minutes. He had
presumed that the others were too interested in what was going on down
in the cold, dank dungeon to be disturbed by sounds from the upper
world. The sound had a rumbling vibration, the rumble grew louder and
louder, and suddenly there was an ear-splitting crash. Dust and chips
flew from the walls.

"The giants!" Lucretia screamed in wild terror. "They are bowling
again."

       *       *       *       *       *

As one, everybody turned and began a pell-mell race for the stairs,
until there was only the chained man left. And hard at their heels came
another of the ear-splitting crashes. More chips flew, and now tiny
streamers of water leaped from cracks which appeared in the stone. Again
there was the roar, another crash, and Jenkins moaned in pain as a large
chunk of rock struck his side and tore the flesh.

He strained against the steel chains which bound him until he thought
his blood would burst the bounds of his veins. He pulled again and again
and until he could strain no more, until he could only fall limply
against his prison-links.

His mind was fevered and his thoughts jumbled. He had to escape somehow.
Again there was heard that terrorizing crash. He gasped, and turned his
head aside, as a torrent of water poured from a fissure in the rock
close to his head and shot into his face.

He turned his head and felt the metal tear from the wall. His head was
free. Like a madman, Jenkins tried again to loose himself. This time he
succeeded. And where the chains pulled free, water dribbled from that
spot.

With a desperate intensity, Jenkins made a superhuman effort and pulled
at the chains binding his wrists. The chains came apart, tearing the
flesh and leaving raw wounds. Wincing at the pain, he placed his fingers
behind his neck and felt of the steel. After a few seconds of probing,
he twisted at the nut, which separated from the bolt with a single easy
twist. He did the same with the chain binding his ankles--and Jenkins
was free!

The last length of chain fell into the water, which by now had formed a
foot-deep puddle on the floor, and splashed loudly, as Jenkins raced
against a new danger. Whatever was causing those crashing sounds was
also weakening the foundations of the castle. Water was beginning to
pour in a perfect torrent from many cracks. The stairs to the floor
above was but twenty feet from where he had been chained, but even in
that short distance the water rose another foot.

       *       *       *       *       *

Jenkins took the wide stone steps three at a time, and raced like wild
around the short curves. He had oriented himself as they brought him
down, and he knew exactly where he was going. Danger lay at the very top
of the stairs, for here they were heavily guarded. Yet, when he reached
the head of the stairs, not a soul was to be seen.

He became cautious, then. Being weaponless, Jenkins knew he would have
to rely on stealth. Slowly he advanced, until he was at the very
threshold of the large banquet hall. Now he heard voices, voices raised
in anger.

The loudest, most shrill of these voices, the one who commanded
attention, was that of Lucretia Borgia: "You fools! Dolt heads! When
this is over I shall have you all flayed alive. Did not any of you
recognize the king of the giants as the one who was fighting the
stranger? Now they are _bowling_ against us. And who among us can
challenge them?"

"I can, baby." Jenkins recognized that voice. It belonged to Griffin.
"Duck pins, ten pins or any other kind. I'll match my hook with the best
of them."

There was a short interval of silence. When Lucretia broke it, she spoke
in more natural tones: "It isn't the giants I'm worried about. I have
seen them bowl. They rely on strength only. The dwarfs are the ones I'm
worried about. We beat them the last time because they used the man from
Earth and we got him drunk. They are cunning little men. Are you sure,
my friend, that you have the skill?"

But Jenkins didn't wait to hear the answer. He knew Griffin had the
skill. For Griffin, in his varied and checkered career, had once won an
A.B.C. tournament. It was the clue by which he had been able to trace
Griffin in his chase across the continent.

Jenkins peered into the hall. The men were all clustered around the
woman, listening intently to her words. Silently, he fled from the
banquet hall, and in a single leap crossed the open courtyard. From
there on he threw caution to the winds. Oddly enough he could have
walked, for not a single guard was to be seen even at the gate to the
drawbridge. Although the bridge was up, Jenkins didn't hesitate for an
instant. He dived in, and the waters of the moat closed over him.

But the moat was not wide, nor was it too deep. Ten strokes and he was
across. The moon flooded the night with light, and his path was clear
before him. After reaching the opposite bank, Jenkins started for the
depths of the forest. But just as he reached it an odd procession
marched out.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the head were the three dwarfs Jenkins had first met upon recovering
consciousness. Behind them streamed a host of other dwarfs. And from
what was evidently another path into the forest came another procession.
Although this group was not as large in number, in size the men were
gigantic. The two processions saw Jenkins at the same time, and both
groups started toward him. Had it not been for the three little men,
Jenkins couldn't imagine what fate might have befallen him.

"Ho!" shouted the dwarf called Loti. "It is the one who was taken to the
castle. Come, my friend, we go to the castle. To bowl. For the _good
woman_ who rules there has made the mistake which might free us of her
rule.

"She permitted one of our giant brethren to be killed by one of her men.
And now we go to bowl against her champions. See, Mikas carries our
ball."

Jenkins looked at the one to whom Loti had gestured, and saw that in
truth the little man was carrying a bowling ball, a ball which was in no
way different from those Jenkins had himself used in his world.

"Aye," Loti continued. "Now we have again the chance to rid ourselves of
her shackles."

The leaders of the giants had joined them while they were talking. One
of them interrupted: "Aye. Loti is right. We sent the boulders down
against them from the heights. Now we go to bowl."

Jenkins grinned as he started back for that castle of terror which he'd
just quitted. He blinked in surprise when he saw that the drawbridge had
been lowered. The dwarfs and the giants were apparently expected, but
they would certainly be amazed to see him.

"You!" Lucretia exclaimed when she saw him. "How did you escape?"

He shrugged his shoulders and stared coldly into her beautiful eyes. She
frowned back at him, then turned and motioned for her men to follow.
Their way was lit by torchbearers, and led up a winding path which ended
on a level bit of highland directly behind the castle. Here was grass
land smooth as velvet; here were the grounds of combat, bloodless but
just as decisive.

There was a single alley, at the far end of which stood ten pins.
Jenkins measured the alley with his eyes and figured it to be just about
the length of a conventional bowling alley. The backstop was built up of
earth and was soft enough so that the pins would not splinter on
striking it.

"We all know the rules," Lucretia said. "To the victor goes the rule of
our land. To the loser, slavery. Therefore, let us begin. Since I hold
title, I choose to have my champion bowl last."

       *       *       *       *       *

The giant's man bowled first against Loti. Just as Lucretia had said, he
had speed but that was all. Loti had a much slower ball, but one that
knocked down more pins on his hits. The giant got too many splits and
railroads to be able to beat the little man.

Then, after a short wait, Griffin took the alley against Loti. And from
the first ball, Jenkins saw that the little man stood no chance.
Griffin's hook worked beautifully on the velvet grass lawn. He literally
swamped Loti, whose shoulders slumped in weariness and discouragement as
Griffin struck out.

"And so we remain slaves once more," Loti said, as the pin setter set up
the last rack. "Once, when the man called Rip Van Winkle bowled, I
thought we had a chance. But she got him drunk and we lost that match.
Now this."

Lucretia was elated. As the last strike scattered the pins, she ran up
to Griffin and planted a kiss on his lips.

"My champion!" she crowed. "Now we will take care of these big and
little creatures once and for all. Once I was generous. Now I will be
otherwise."

"Maybe!" Jenkins suddenly spoke. "But we're not through bowling. I am
now of the people here, and I challenge the winner of the two matches."

Loti caught up the other's words:

"He speaks true. He has the right to challenge."

"Is it true," Jenkins asked, "that the winner has the right to give
terms?"

"Aye," Loti said.

"Then let's bowl," Jenkins said.

He tried the grip of the ball Loti passed to him. It was a two-fingered
grip, and just a little small. As the challenger, Jenkins had to bowl
first. He measured the distance carefully, tried to figure the angle
into the pocket, took a three-step run and let his ball go in a medium
swing. The ball hooked in neatly, and left a four-seven split. A laugh
arose from Lucretia's followers. But silence fell among them as Jenkins
made the pickup.

"Nice shot, copper," Griffin said, as he stepped up to bowl, and made a
strike. From then on, they matched strikes to the eighth frame when
Griffin hit the head pin directly and got a seven-ten railroad. He
picked up the ten-pin. Jenkins had gotten a nine count and made the
spare.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the ninth frame, Jenkins struck. Griffin stepped up, wiped his right
hand carefully against the trousers he had donned, took aim with great
care, and sent the ball down the side of the alley. It hooked in nicely
and again hit the head pin directly, only this time the six, ten, four
and seven pins were left standing. So badly shot was he by the bad
break, that he fumbled the ball as he started for his second shot. But
he recovered quickly and neatly made the spare, the four pin barely
grazing the ten.

The score as they started the tenth frame was 206 for Griffin and 209
for Jenkins.

Jenkins knew he had to mark at the least to win, and a double to make it
close if Griffin got a double. Minutes went by while Jenkins made his
last sight. Then he took three quick steps and let the ball go. But just
as he reached the foul line, Jenkins slipped. The grass had become slick
with all the running being done on its surface. And the ball, instead of
hooking, went straight in, and left a very bad railroad, the four-ten.

Griffin's sigh of relief was the only sound to break the silence, as
Jenkins stepped up for his second shot. He knew there was but one chance
to make it, one chance alone.

If he could but get the ball over just right, it could make the four
slide over against the ten.

Thunderous roars rent the air, and piping screams of delight, as the
giants and the dwarfs saw the dreaded four-ten split made! The strike
Jenkins hit for his last shot was an anti-climax. The score stood at 249
for Jenkins.

"Nice shot," Griffin said as he stepped up. "But all I need is a
double." He threw, and the ten pins fell. His second ball was also a
strike.

"And just to show you how good I am," Griffin declared, as he held the
ball for the last throw, "I'm going to make just four pins so you won't
feel too bad."

Only he didn't! For what had happened to Jenkins, happened to him. His
foot also slipped on the grass, and this time he got three pins. The
score was tied.

Suddenly Jenkins sat down, removed his shoes and stood erect. He wasn't
going to take a chance on his last ball, for that was the rule on a tie.
One ball until the tie was broken, and a strike was just a strike. There
was no question of what Jenkins threw the instant he released the ball.
Right in the pocket!

Griffin's ball left the hard one, the ten pin. Griffin was still
stooped, his hands on his hips and his face forlorn, when Jenkins' hand
fell on his shoulder.

"I said I was taking you in, Griffin," Jenkins said. "And come hell or
high water, I'm going to."

Griffin shrugged the hand off as he whirled on the other. "Don't be a
fool!" he spat. "Do you think we're alive?"

"Rip Van Winkle was," Jenkins said, cryptically. "And I think we are,
too."

"He is quite right, my friend," Loti said, as he stepped up to them. "I
can send you back, both of you, back to the time and place of your
leavetaking. This instant...."

       *       *       *       *       *

Jenkins felt a wave of blackness wash over him, a terrible wrenching at
his innards, and a sudden thrust. He opened his eyes and looked about.
There was a pain in his left shoulder, and he could feel a sticky
wetness running down his arm. Griffin stood before him, and in Griffin's
eyes was a dazed look. Behind Griffin, the door to the pilot's cabin
swung crazily. Before Griffin knew what hit him, Jenkins had leaped upon
him. It took one blow, a terrific hook to the man's jaw, and Griffin
slumped to the floor.

"What happened?" Jenkins asked as the stewardess bandaged his shoulder
where Griffin's shot had caught him.

"Why," she said, "he shot, you went backward. Then, and it's the only
way I can describe it, you both seemed to freeze up for an instant. The
next thing I knew, you had recovered and the fight was over."

But Jenkins knew better. He knew that in those few seconds, space and
time had changed for himself and Griffin, and it was a lucky bowling
match which had brought them back.





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