Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: Warrior of Two Worlds
Author: Wellman, Manly Wade
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 "Warrior of Two Worlds" ***

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



                         Warrior of Two Worlds

                         By MANLY WADE WELLMAN

             He was the man of two planets, drawn through
             the blackness of space to save a nation from
                 ruthless invaders. He was Yandro, the
              Stranger of the Prophecy--and he found that
                 he was destined to fight both sides.

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
                      Planet Stories Summer 1944.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


My senses came to me slowly and somehow shyly, as if not sure of their
way or welcome. I felt first--pressure on my brow and chest, as if I
lay face downward; then the tug and buffet of a strong, probing wind,
insistent but not cold, upon my naked skin. Closing my hands, I felt
them dig into coarse dirt. I turned my face downwind and opened my
eyes. There was little to see, so thick was the dust cloud around me.
Words formed themselves on my thick tongue, words that must have been
spoken by so many reviving unfortunates through the ages:

"Where am I?"

And at once there was an answer:

"_You lie upon the world Dondromogon._"

I knew the language of that answer, but where it came from--above,
beneath, or indeed within me--I could not say. I lifted a hand, and
knuckled dust from my eyes.

"How did I get here?" I demanded of the speaker.

"It was ordered--by the Masters of the Worlds--that you should be
brought from your own home planet, called Earth in the System of the
star called Sun. Do you remember Earth?"

And I did not know whether I remembered or not. Vague matters stirred
deep in me, but I could not for certain say they were memories. I asked
yet again:

"Who am I?"

The voice had a note of triumph. "You do not know that. It is as well,
for this will be a birth and beginning of your destined leadership on
Dondromogon."

"Destined--leadership--" I began to repeat, and fell silent. I had
need to think. The voice was telling me that I had been snatched from
worlds away, for a specified purpose here on whatever windswept planet
Dondromogon might be. "Birth and beginning--destined leadership--"
Fantastic! And yet, for all I could say to the contrary, unvarnishedly
true.

"Dondromogon?" I mumbled. "The name is strange to me."

"It is a world the size of your native one," came words of information.
"Around a star it spins, light-years away from the world of your
birth. One face of Dondromogon ever looks to the light and heat,
wherefore its metals run in glowing seas. The other face is ever away
in cold darkness, with its air freezing into solid chunks. But because
Dondromogon wavers on its axis, there are two lunes of its surface
which from time to time shift from night to day. These are habitable."

My eyes were tight shut against the dust, but they saw in imagination
such a planet--one-half incandescent, one-half pitchy black. From pole
to pole on opposite sides ran the two twilight zones, widest at the
equators like the outer rind of two slices of melon. Of course, such
areas, between the hot and cold hemispheres, would be buffeted by
mighty gales ... the voice was to be heard again:

"War is fought between the two strips of habitable ground. War,
unceasing, bitter, with no quarter asked, given or expected.
Dondromogon was found and settled long ago, by adventurers from afar.
Now come invaders, to reap the benefits of discovery and toil." A
pause. "You find that thought unpleasant? You wish to right that
wrong?"

"Anyone would wish that," I replied. "But how--"

"You are going to ask how you were brought here. That is the mystery
of the _Masters_." The voice became grand. "Suffice it that you were
needed, and that the time was ripe. There is a proper time, like a
proper place, for each thing and each happening. Now, go to your
destiny."

I rose on my knees, shielding my face from the buffeting wind by
lifting a forearm. Somewhere through the murky clouds showed a dim
blocky silhouette, a building of sorts.

The voice spoke no more. I had not the time to wonder about it. I got
to my feet, bent double to keep from being blown over, and staggered
toward the promised haven.

I reached it, groped along until I found a door. There was no latch,
handle or entry button, and I pounded heavily on the massive panels.
The door opened from within, and I was blown inside, to fall sprawling.

       *       *       *       *       *

I struck my forehead upon a floor of stone or concrete, and so was
half-stunned, but still I could distinguish something like the sound
of agitated voices. Then I felt myself grasped, by both shoulders,
and drawn roughly erect. The touch restored my senses, and I wrenched
myself violently free.

What had seized me? That was my first wonder. On this strange world
called Dondromogon, what manner of intelligent life bade defiance to
heat and cold and storm, and built these stout structures, and now laid
hands--were they hands indeed?--upon me? I swung around, setting my
back to a solid wall.

My first glance showed me that my companions were creatures like
myself--two-legged, fair-skinned men, shorter and slighter than I, but
clad in metal-faced garments and wearing weapons in their girdles. I
saw that each bore a swordlike device with a curved guard, set in a
narrow sheath as long as my arm. Each also had a shorter weapon, with
a curved stock to fit the palm of the hand, borne snugly in a holster.
With such arms I had a faint sense of familiarity.

"Who are you, and where are you from?" said one of the two, a
broad-faced middle-aged fellow. "Don't lie any more than you can help."

I felt a stirring of the hair on my neck, but kept my voice mild and
level: "Why should I lie? Especially as I don't know who I am, or where
I'm from, or anything that has happened longer ago than just a moment.
I woke up out there in the dust storm, and I managed to come here for
shelter."

"He's a Newcomer spy," quoth the other. "Let's put him under arrest."

"And leave this gate unguarded?" demanded the other. "Sound the
signal," and he jerked his head toward a system of levers and gauges on
the wall beside the door-jamb.

"There's a bigger reward for capture than for warning," objected
his friend in turn, "and whoever comes to take this man will claim
'capture.' I'll guard here, and you take him in, then we'll divide--"

"No. Yours is the idea. I'll guard and you take him in." The second man
studied me apprehensively. "He's big, and looks strong, even without
weapons."

"Don't be afraid," I urged. "I'll make no resistance, if you'll only
conduct me to your commander. I can show him that I'm no spy or enemy."

Both stared narrowly. "No spy? No enemy?" asked the broad-faced one who
had first spoken. Then, to his comrade: "No reward, then."

"I think there'll be a reward," was the rejoinder, and the second man's
hand stole to the sword-weapon. With a whispering rasp it cleared from
its scabbard. "If he's dead, we get pay for both warning and capture--"

His thumb touched a button at the pommel of the hilt. The dull blade
suddenly glowed like heated iron, and from it crackled and pulsed
little rainbow rays.

There was no time to think or plan or ponder. I moved in, with a
knowing speed that surprised me as much as the two guards. Catching the
fellow's weapon wrist, I clamped it firmly and bent it back and around.
He whimpered and swore, and his glowing sword dropped. Its radiant
blade almost fell on my naked foot. Before the clang of its fall was
through echoing, I had caught it up, and set the point within inches of
its owner's unprotected face.

"Quiet, or I'll roast you," I told him.

The other had drawn a weapon of his own, a pistol-form arrangement.
I turned on him, but too late. He pressed the trigger, and from the
muzzle came--not a projectile but a flying, spouting filament of cord
that seemed to spring on me like a long thin snake and to fasten coil
after coil around my body. The stuff that gushed from the gun-muzzle
seemed plastic in form, but hardened so quickly upon contact with the
air, it bound me like wire. Half a dozen adroit motions of the fellow's
gun hand, and my arms were caught to my body. I dropped my sword to
prevent it burning me, and tried to break away, but my bonds were too
much for me.

"Let me out of this," I growled, and kicked at the man with my still
unbound foot. He snapped a half-hitch on my ankle, and threw me
heavily. Triumphant laughter came from both adversaries. Then:

"What's this?"

       *       *       *       *       *

The challenge was clear, rich, authoritative. Someone else had come,
from a rearward door into the stone-walled vestibule where the
encounter was taking place.

A woman this time, not of great height, and robust but not heavy. She
was dressed for vigorous action in dark slacks with buskins to make
them snug around ankles and calves, a jerkin of stout material that was
faced with metal armor plates and left bare her round, strong arms. A
gold-worked fillet bound her tawny hair back from a rosy, bold-featured
face--a nose that was positively regal, a mouth short and firm but not
hard, and blue eyes that just now burned and questioned. She wore a
holstered pistol, and a cross-belt supported several instruments of a
kind I could not remember seeing before. A crimson cloak gave color and
dignity to her costume, and plainly she was someone of position, for
both the men stiffened to attention.

"A spy," one ventured. "He pushed in, claimed he was no enemy, then
tried to attack--"

"They lie," I broke in, very conscious of my naked helplessness before
her regard. "They wanted to kill me and be rewarded for a false story
of vigilance. I only defended myself."

"Get him on his feet," the young woman said, and the two guards
obeyed. Then her eyes studied me again. "Gods! What a mountain of a
man!" she exclaimed. "Can you walk, stranger?"

"Barely, with these bonds."

"Then manage to do so." She flung off her cloak and draped it over my
nakedness. "Walk along beside me. No tricks, and I promise you fair
hearing."

We went through the door by which she had entered, into a corridor
beyond. It was lighted by small, brilliant bulbs at regular intervals.
Beyond, it gave into several passages. She chose one of them and
conducted me along. "You are surely not of us," she commented. "Men I
have seen who are heavier than you, but none taller. Whence came you?"

I remembered the strange voice that had instructed me. "I am from a
far world," I replied. "It is called--yes, Earth. Beyond that, I know
nothing. Memory left me."

"The story is a strange one," she commented. "And your name?"

"I do not know that, either. Who are you?"

"Doriza--a gentlewoman of the guard. My inspection tour brought me by
chance to where you fought my outposts. But it is not for you to ask
questions. Enter here."

We passed through another door, and I found myself in an office. A man
in richly-embossed armor platings sat there. He had a fringe of pale
beard, and his eyes were bluer than the gentlewoman Doriza's.

She made a gesture of salute, hand at shoulder height, and reported the
matter. He nodded for her to fall back to a corner.

"Stranger," he said to me, "can you think of no better tale to tell
than you now offer?"

"I tell the truth," was my reply, not very gracious.

"You will have to prove that," he admonished me.

"What proof have I?" I demanded. "On this world of yours--Dondromogon,
isn't it called?--I'm no more than an hour old. Accident or shock
has taken my memory. Let me have a medical examination. A scientist
probably can tell what happened to put me in such a condition."

"I am a scientist," offered Doriza, and came forward. Her eyes met
mine, suddenly flickered and lowered. "His gaze," she muttered.

The officer at the table was touching a button. An attendant appeared,
received an order, and vanished again. In a few moments two other
men came--one a heavily armed officer of rank, the other an elderly,
bearded fellow in a voluminous robe that enfolded him in most dignified
manner.

This latter man opened wide his clear old eyes at sight of me.

"The stranger of the prophecy!" he cried, in a voice that made us all
jump.

       *       *       *       *       *

The officer rose from behind the table. "Are you totally mad, Sporr?
You mystic doctors are too apt to become fuddled--"

"But it is, it is!" The graybeard flourished a thin hand at me. "Look
at him, you of little faith! Your mind dwells so much on material
strength that you lose touch with the spiritual--"

He broke off, and wheeled on the attendant who had led him in. "To my
study," he commanded. "On the shelf behind my desk, bring the great
gold-bound book that is third from the right." Then he turned back,
and bowed toward me. "Surely you are Yandro, the Conquering Stranger,"
he said, intoning as if in formal prayer. "Pardon these short-sighted
ones--deign to save us from our enemies--"

The girl Doriza spoke to the officer: "If Sporr speaks truth, and he
generally does, you have committed a blasphemy."

The other made a little grimace. "This may be Yandro, though I'm a
plain soldier and follow the classics very little. The First Comers are
souls to worship, not to study. If indeed he is Yandro," and he was
most respectful, "he will appreciate, like a good military mind, my
caution against possible impostors."

"Who might Yandro be?" I demanded, very uncomfortable in my bonds and
loose draperies.

Old Sporr almost crowed. "You see? If he was a true imposter, he would
come equipped with all plausible knowledge. As it is--"

"As it is, he may remember that the Conquering Stranger is foretold
to come with no memory of anything," supplied the officer. "Score one
against you, Sporr. You should have been able to instruct me, not I
you."

The attendant reentered, with a big book in his hands. It looked
old and well-thumbed, with dim gold traceries on its binding. Sporr
snatched it, and turned to a brightly colored picture. He looked once,
his beard gaped, and he dropped to his knees.

"Happy, happy the day," he jabbered, "that I was spared to see our
great champion come among us in the flesh, as was foretold of ancient
time by the First Comers!"

Doriza and the officer crossed to his side, snatching the book. Their
bright heads bent above it. Doriza was first to speak. "It is very
like," she half-stammered.

The officer faced me, with a sort of baffled respect.

"I still say you will understand my caution," he addressed me, with
real respect and shyness this time. "If you are Yandro himself, you can
prove it. The prophecy even sketches a thumb-print--" And he held the
book toward me.

It contained a full-page likeness, in color, of myself wrapped in a
scarlet robe. Under this was considerable printed description, and to
one side a thumb-print, or a drawing of one, in black.

"Behold," Doriza was saying, "matters which even expert identification
men take into thought. The ears in the picture are like the ears of the
real man--"

"That could be plastic surgery," rejoined the officer. "Such things are
artfully done by the Newcomers, and the red mantle he wears more easily
assumed."

Doriza shook her head. "That happens to be my cloak. I gave it to him
because he was naked, and not for any treasonable masquerade. But the
thumb-print--"

"Oh, yes, the thumb-print," I repeated wearily. "By all means, study my
thumbs, if you'll first take these bonds off of me."

"Bonds," mumbled old Sporr. He got creakily up from his knees and
bustled to me. From under his robe he produced a pouch, and took out a
pencil-sized rod. Gingerly opening the red mantle, he touched my tether
in several places with the glowing end of the rod. The coils dropped
away from my grateful body and limbs. I thrust out my hands.

"Thumb-prints?" I offered.

Sporr had produced something else, a little vial of dark pigment. He
carefully anointed one of my thumbs, and pressed it to the page. All
three gazed.

"The same," said Doriza.

And they were all on their knees before me.

"Forgive me, great Yandro," said the officer thickly. "I did not know."

"Get up," I bade them. "I want to hear why I was first bound, and now
worshipped."


                                  II

They rose, but stood off respectfully. The officer spoke first. "I am
Rohbar, field commander of this defense position," he said with crisp
respect. "Sporr is a mystic doctor, full of godly wisdom. Doriza,
a junior officer and chief of the guard. And you--how could you
know?--are sent by the First Comers to save us from our enemies."

"Enemies?" I repeated.

"The Newcomers," supplemented Doriza. "They have taken the "Other Side"
of Dondromogon, and would take our side as well. We defend ourselves
at the poles. Now," and her voice rang joyously, "you will lead us to
defeat and crush them utterly!"

"Not naked like this," I said, and laughed. I must have sounded
foolish, but it had its effect.

"Follow me, deign to follow me," Sporr said. "Your clothing, your
quarters, your destiny, all await you."

We went out by the door at the rear, and Sporr respectfully gestured me
upon a metal-plated platform. Standing beside me, he tinkered with a
lever. We dropped smoothly away into a dark corridor, past level after
level of light and sound.

"Our cities are below ground," he quavered. "Whipped by winds above,
we must scrabble in the depths for life's necessities--chemicals to
transmute into food, to weave into clothing, to weld into tools and
weapons--"

The mention of food brought to me the thought that I was hungry. I said
as much, even as our elevator platform came to the lowest level and
stopped.

"I have arranged for that," Sporr began, then fell silent, fingers
combing his beard in embarrassment.

"Arranged food for me?" I prompted sharply. "As if you know I had come?
What--"

"Pardon, great Yandro," babbled Sporr. "I was saying that I arranged
food, as always, for whatever guest should come. Please follow."

We entered a new small chamber, where a table was set with dishes of
porcelain-like plastic. Sporr held a chair for me, and waited on me
with the utmost gingerly respect. The food was a pungent and filling
jelly, a little bundle of transparent leaves or scraps like cellophane
and tasting of spice, and a tumbler of pink juice. I felt refreshed and
satisfied, and thanked Sporr, who led me on to the next room.

"Behold!" he said, with a dramatic gesture. "Your garments, even as
they have been preserved against your coming!"

It was a sleeping chamber, with a cot made fast to the wall, a metal
locker or cupboard, with a glass door through which showed the garments
of which Sporr spoke.

The door closed softly behind me--I was left alone.

Knowing that it was expected of me, I went to the locker and opened
the door. The garments inside were old, I could see, but well kept and
serviceable. I studied their type, and my hands, if not my mind, seemed
familiar with them.

There was a kiltlike item, belted at the waist and falling to
mid-thigh. A resilient band at the top, with a series of belt-holes,
made it adaptable to my own body or to any other. Then came an upper
garment, a long strip of soft, close-woven fabric that spiralled
around the torso from hip to armpit, the end looping over the left
shoulder and giving full play to the arms. A gold-worked fillet bound
the brows and swept back my longish hair, knotting at the nape of the
neck. The only fitted articles were a pair of shoes, metal-soled and
soft-uppered, that went on well enough and ran cross-garters up to
below the knee, like buskins. The case also held a platinum chain for
the neck, a belt-bag, and a handsome sword, with clips to fasten them
in place. These things, too, I donned, and closed the glass door.

       *       *       *       *       *

The light struck it at such an angle as to make it serve for a
full-length mirror. With some curiosity I gazed at my image.

The close-fitting costume was rich and dark, with bright colors only
for edgings and minor accessories. I myself--and it was as if I saw my
body for the first time--towered rather bluffly, with great breadth
of chest and shoulder, and legs robust enough to carry such bulk. The
face was square but haggard, as if from some toil or pain which was now
wiped from my recollection. That nose had been even bigger than it was
now, but a fracture had shortened it somewhat. The eyes were deep set
and dark and moody--small wonder!--the chin heavy, the mouth made grim
by a scar at one corner. Black, shaggy hair hung down like brackets.
All told, I looked like a proper person for physical labor, or even
fierce fighting--but surely no inspirational leader or savior of a
distressed people.

I took the military cloak which Doriza had lent me and slung it over my
shoulders. Turning, I clanked out on my metal-soled shoes.

Sporr was waiting in the room where I had eaten. His eyes widened at
sight of me, something like a grin of triumph flashed through his
beard. Then he bowed, supple and humble, his palms together.

"It is indeed Yandro, our great chief," he mumbled. Then he turned and
crossed the room. A sort of mouthpiece sprouted from the wall.

"I announce," he intoned into it. "I announce, I, Sporr, the reader and
fore-teller of wisdom. Yandro is with us, he awaits his partners and
friends. Let them meet him in the audience hall."

Facing me again, he motioned most respectfully toward the door to the
hall. I moved to open it, and he followed, muttering.

Outside stood Doriza. Her blue eyes met mine, and her lips moved to
frame a word. Then, suddenly, she was on her knee, catching my hand and
kissing it.

"I serve Yandro," she vowed tremulously. "Now and forever--and happy
that I was fated to live when he returned for the rescue of all
Dondromogon."

"Please get up," I bade her, trying not to sound as embarrassed as I
felt. "Come with me. There is still much that I do not understand."

"I am Yandro's orderly and helper," she said. Rising, she ranged
herself at my left hand. "Will Yandro come this way? He will be awaited
in the audience hall."

It seemed to me then that the corridors were vast and mixed as a
labyrinth, but Doriza guided me without the slightest hesitation past
one tangled crossway after another. My questions she answered with a
mixture of awe and brightness.

"It is necessary that we live like this," she explained. "The hot air
of Dondromogon's sunlit face is ever rising, and the cold air from
the dark side comes rushing under to fill the vacuum. Naturally, our
strip of twilight country is never free of winds too high and fierce to
fight. No crops can grow outside, no domestic animals flourish. We must
pen ourselves away from the sky and soil, with stout walls and heavy
sunken parapets. Our deep mines afford every element for necessities of
life."

       *       *       *       *       *

I looked at my garments, and hers. There were various kinds of fabric,
which I now saw plainly to be synthetic. "The other side, where those
you call the Newcomers dwell and fight," I reminded. "Is it also
windswept? Why can two people not join forces and face toil and nature
together? They should fight, not each other, but the elements."

Doriza had no answer that time, but Sporr spoke up behind us: "Great
Yandro is wise as well as powerful. But the Newcomers do not want to
help, not even to conquer. They want to obliterate us. There is nothing
to do--not for lifetimes--but to fight them back at the two poles."

We came to a main corridor. It had a line of armed guards, but no
pedestrians or vehicles, though I thought I caught a murmur of far-off
traffic. Doriza paused before a great portal, closed by a curtainlike
sheet of dull metal. She spoke into a mouthpiece:

"Doriza, gentlewoman of the guard, conducts Yandro, the Conquering
Stranger, to greet his lieutenants!"

I have said that the portal was closed by a curtainlike metal sheet;
and like a curtain it lifted, letting us through into the auditorium.

That spacious chamber had rows of benches, with galleries above, that
might have seated a thousand. However, only a dozen or so were present,
on metal chairs ranged across the stage upon which we entered. They
were all men but two, and wore robes of black, plum-purple or red. At
sight of me, they rose together, most respectfully. They looked at me,
and I looked at them.

My first thought was, that if these were people of authority and trust
in the nation I seemed destined to save, my work was cut out for me.

Not that they really seemed stupid--none had the look, or the
subsequent action, of stupidity. But they were not pleasant. Their
dozen pairs of eyes fixed me with some steadiness, but with no
frankness anywhere. One man had a round, greedy-seeming face. Another
was too narrow and cunning to look it. Of the women, one was nearly
as tall as I and nobly proportioned, with hair of a red that would be
inspiring were it not so blatantly dyed. The other was a little wisp of
a brunette, with teeth too big for her scarlet mouth and bright eyes
like some sort of a rodent. They all wore jewelry. Too much jewelry.

My mind flew back to the two scrubby, venial guardsmen who had first
welcomed me; to stuffy Rohbar, the commander; to Sporr, spry and clever
enough, but somehow unwholesome; Doriza--no, she was not like these
others, who may have lived too long in their earth-buried shelters. And
Doriza now spoke to the gathering:

"Yandro, folk of the Council! He deigns to give you audience."

"_Yandro!_"

They all spoke the name in chorus, and bowed toward me.

Silence then, a silence which evidently I must break. I broke it:
"Friends, I am among you with no more memory or knowledge than an
infant. I hear wonderful things, of which I seem to be the center. Are
they true?"

"The tenth part of the wonders which concern mighty Yandro have not
been told," intoned Sporr, ducking his bearded head in a bow, but
fixing me with his wise old eyes.

One of the group, called Council by Doriza, now moved a pace forward.
He was the greedy-faced man, short but plump, and very conscious of
the dignified folds of his purple robe. One carefully-tended hand
brushed back his ginger-brown hair, then toyed with a little moustache.

"I am Gederr, senior of this Council," he purred. "If Yandro permits, I
will speak simply. Our hopes have been raised by Yandro's return--the
return presaged of old by those who could see the future, and more
recently by the death in battle of the Newcomer champion, called Barak."

"Barak!" I repeated. "I--I--" And I paused. When I had to learn my own
name, how could it be that I sensed memory of another's name?

"Barak was a brute--mighty, but a brute." Thus Gederr continued.
"Weapons in his hands were the instruments of fate. His hands alone
caused fear and ruin. But it pleased our fortune-bringing stars to
encompass his destruction." He grinned, and licked his full lips. "Now,
even as they are without their battle-leader, so we have ours."

"You honor me," I told him. "Yet I still know little. It seems that I
am expected to aid and lead and save the people of this world called
Dondromogon. But I must know them before I can help."

Gederr turned his eyes upon the woman with the red hair, and gestured
to her "Tell him, Elonie." Then he faced me. "Have we Yandro's
permission to sit?"

"By all means," I granted, a little impatiently, and sat down myself.
The others followed suit--the Council on their range of chairs, Doriza
on a bench near me, Sporr somewhere behind. The woman called Elonie
remained upon her sandalled feet, great eyes the color of deep green
water fixed upon me.

       *       *       *       *       *

Elonie was taller than any of her fellow Council members, taller than
Sporr, almost as tall as I. Her figure was mature, generous, but fine,
and set off by a snugly-draped robe as red as her dyed cascade of hair.
Red-dyed, too, were the tips of her fingers, and her lips were made
vivid and curvy beyond nature by artificial crimson. She made a bow
toward me, smiled a little, showing most perfect white teeth. She began:

"Dondromogon began with the First Comers. Many ages they ruled here,
the Fifteen of them. Forever they were fifteen, for when one died,
another was bred; when one was born, the oldest or least useful was
eliminated. It was they who planned and began this shelter-city, found
the elements that support life and give comfort.

"Others came, from far worlds. The Fifteen changed their policy of a
fixed number, and became rulers of the new colonists. But after some
study, it was decided to set a new limit. Seven hundred was decided
upon, and seven hundred we still remain."

"Wait," I interrupted. "You mean that, when new children are born among
you, someone must die?"

She nodded. "Exactly as with the Fifteen. We eliminate the least
useful. Sometimes we eliminate the child itself. More often, an older
and worn-out individual."

I thought that I sensed an uncomfortable wriggle in Sporr, behind me.
"Why is this?" I demanded.

"Because, Yandro, there cannot be room and supplies enough for a
greater number."

I scowled to myself. So far I had seen luxury enough in Dondromogon's
chambers and tunnels. But there remained so much to learn. "Go on," I
bade her.

She nodded again, and obeyed: "Thus we on Dondromogon live and have
lived. This world is ours, its good and evil. But," and her voice, from
a soft, shy murmur, turned hard, "there are those who do not wish it
so. The Newcomers--the invaders!"

"Ill be their fate," growled Gederr beside her, as if rehearsed.

"They came to us, not long ago in years ... but I forget, Yandro does
not know as yet the length of Dondromogon's year, or Dondromogon's
day. They came, then, no longer ago than the time needed for a baby to
become a child."

Three years of my own reckoning I decided, and wished she had not
mentioned babies and children. I still disliked that arbitrary
survival-of-the-fittest custom. "Where did they come from?" I asked.

"Who can tell? Perhaps from the forgotten world where came our
ancestors. Somehow they had learned of our conquest here, our advances
and wealth-gathering in spite of natural obstacles. That is what they
hope to plunder from us, these conquering Newcomers!"

"Ill be their fate," repeated Gederr, and two or three of the Council
with him.

"But the winds are too high for a final battle to happen quickly. After
some fighting, they seized upon the other strip of habitable land,
on Dondromogon's other side. We fight them at the two poles--mostly
underground. Do you understand?"

"I seem to," I replied. "But now what about me? The story of Yandro?"

"Did not Sporr tell everything?" broke in Gederr. "He should have done
so. Sporr, the Council is not pleased."

"I had to go slowly," apologized the old man, and Elonie took up the
tale:

"It is known to all on Dondromogon. The days of the First Comers held
great minds that could see the future. Then it was foreseen that, in
Dondromogon's hour of peril and need, a time set by the destruction of
an enemy great and mighty--"

"Barak," I said aloud, still puzzling over that strangely familiar name.

"At that time," finished Elonie, "a leader to be called Yandro, the
Conquering Stranger, would come. Even clothing was supplied--clothing
not like that we wear today."

       *       *       *       *       *

She gestured toward me. Indeed, the garments I wore were different from
those of my companions. I shook my head slowly, and tried to digest
what I had heard once again. But one bit of it still clamored for
rejection.

"About these eliminations," I harked back. "Who decides on which person
must die to keep the number down to seven hundred?"

"We do," replied Gederr, almost bleakly.

"And the Newcomers, have they a similar custom?"

"Not they, the greedy interlopers." Gederr looked very greedy himself.
"They delve and destroy in Dondromogon, feeding ever new spates of
arrivals."

"It seems," I offered, "that you would be well advised to grow in
number, and so win this war."

But Gederr shook his head. "We check-mate them at the two poles, where
the way into our territory is narrow. And more than seven hundred would
be hard to make comfortable."

"Friends, I do not like it," I stated flatly. "There seems to be
ruthlessness, and waste."

"Why waste?" spoke up another of the Council, the narrow man, whose
name was Stribakar. "This war has begun only recently, but it will last
forever. At least, so I see it."

"Now that Yandro is here, it shall be brought to an end," pronounced
Elonie, her green eyes fixed on me. "Will it please Yandro to see
something of this war?"

"Since you make it so much my business, I would be pleased indeed," I
told her, and Sporr rose from his seat. He went to an oblong of white
translucency, on a side wall of the stage within sight of us all. It
was about twice a man's height by thrice a man's width.

"The screen of a televiso," he said to me, and touched a dial beside
it. The screen lighted, with confused blurrings of color and movement.
He dialed quickly and knowingly.

"We see an underground passage," he said. "And those who dispute
therein."

I could see a gloomy stretch of earth-walled passage, lighted from
somewhere by a yellow radiance that became dim and brown toward one
end. I had no way of judging the true size of the object whose image
I saw, until I made out stealthy movement at the darker end. Sporr's
dialing made parts of the scene clear, and the movement proved to be
that of a human figure, prone and partially concealed in a depression
of the floor. That figure was no more than half-height, by which I
estimated the passage itself to be some fifteen or eighteen feet to the
top of its rough-dug ceiling.

"A scout," breathed Doriza beside me, pointing to the prone man. "See,
Yandro, he wears earth-colored cloth over his armor, and his arms and
face are smeared with mud. The thing he holds is a ray-digger, whereby
he burrows his way forward to the enemy.

"Enemy in the same tunnel with him?" I asked.

"Right." I saw her blond head dip. "Our tunnel broke into one of
theirs, by accident or plan. At point of contact, both forces are
cautious, fearing ambush. Now--"

She said no more. The scout on the screen was apparently creeping
forward through the solid soil of the floor, only the top of his head
and shoulders showing. Once or twice I saw the object he employed,
a baton-like tool of black metal with a bulb or ball at one end. It
emitted faint sparks and shudders of light, which melted or vaporized
the earth ahead of him.

"See! He senses danger near."

Indeed he did; for he paused, and took something else from his belt--a
disk the size of his palm. This he held close to his face, studying it.

"Televiso," explained Doriza. "It has limited power of identifying both
sound and sight near at hand. The scout knows that enemy approach."

       *       *       *       *       *

Still working his dials, Sporr made the scene slide along. The bright
end of the tunnel came into view for some yards. All who watched leaned
forward excitedly.

"Newcomers," breathed Gederr, and added his familiar curse, "ill be
their fate! They have one of those vibration-shields."

"Warn the advance party," bade Stribakar, and Sporr, turning from his
dials, muttered quickly into a speaking tube.

The situation that thus interested and activated my companions was hard
to make out. I saw only an indistinct fuzziness in a sort of niche
against the tunnel wall. Doriza pointed.

"A vibration-shield," she told me. "The Newcomers have such things.
Some machine or other power stirs the molecules of air to such a new
tempo as to create a plane of force. No missile, no light even, can
penetrate. They are sheltered and all but indistinguishable. See, they
go forward."

The eddying cloud moved along the tunnel. We could see the scout again.
He tucked away his disk and employed the ray-digger. Quickly he sank
deeper and out of sight.

"Burrowing in," pronounced Gederr. "If he succeeds in what he hopes--"

"Spare him, you mean?" asked Stribakar, and Gederr nodded.

The eddying blotch that marked the power-shield of the invaders came
closer. I saw it approach the place where the scout had burrowed away.
It paused there, as if those hidden by it were investigating. Then--

"Brave fellow!" cried Elonie, like someone at an exciting sports event
or play.

The scout had dug himself a little channel beneath the floor. Now
he burst into view, beyond and behind the invaders. He held a
pistol-weapon in each hand. One spat sparks--some sort of pellets or
projectiles. The other was plainly a web-spinner like the one that
first had bound me, and this he poised ready for use.

His projectiles seemed to find an opening behind the power-shield. A
human form lurched into view--a glowing, writhing form, like a man
of red-hot metal. An agonized leap, a shudder, and the body fell,
abruptly falling into clinkered bits. A moment later, the power-shield
disturbance vanished, and there stood revealed two others, clad like
the scout in earth-colored jumper over armor.

"He got the power-shield man!" exulted Elonie. She was on her feet,
applauding wildly. In the same second, I saw the scout point and
discharge his spinner-gun. Whirling coils of cord struck, wound and
tangled the two foremen. The scout's bearded mouth opened, as if he
yelled in exultation.

But that was his last cry and action. Another eddy, larger and swifter,
suddenly came into the picture behind him. From it sprang a pale shaft
of light. The scout went down on his face as if in sudden prayer. He
moved no more.

Toward the dark end, Dondromogon figures seemed to move. There was a
great spatter of spark-pellets. But the eddy of the new power-shield
had scurried forward, enveloping and vanishing the two bound men. It
retired as quickly. No movement, no figure, except those of the dead
scout and the charred remains of the man he had killed.

"There will be little action here for some time to come," announced
Gederr. "Switch it off, Sporr."

Sporr did so. I shook myself, as if to rid my body of unpleasant
dampness and chill.

"Exciting," I said. "Unusual. I suppose this goes on all the time."

"Not all the time," Elonie demurred. "As Yandro has heard, the
battle-areas are limited, in the region of the poles. There is much
maneuvering, but not too much contact. This incident was an order."

"Order?" I repeated.

"We sent the man you saw, knowing that you would want this televiso
view of how we made war."

I snorted and faced her angrily. "You sent him to his death? So that I
could see a show? You value life very cheaply, Elonie."


                                  III

She smiled, as if I had complimented her. "Oh, the man was up for
elimination. He was supernumerary. Of course, if he had succeeded
in his capture of prisoners and one of the devices that make those
power-shields--"

I remembered what Stribakar had said to Gederr. "He was brave," I said,
"and it was a shame that he had to die. You want me to be a leader in
war like that? I have other ideas of warfare."

All of them looked at me, and one spoke from behind Gederr: "We had
hoped that Yandro would say that. Yandro means to lead us in person--in
a great and decisive battle."

"At least it would be cleaner than this mole-digging and sneaking," I
said hotly.

Gederr rose. "Sporr, tune in whatever terminal you can find among the
Newcomers. I shall say something to them."

Obediently Sporr manipulated levers, push-buttons and dials near the
speaking-tube. Gederr crossed to it and spoke harshly:

"Newcomers, ill be your fate! Your defeat is at hand! We give you
warning! Our engines will burrow a mighty cave near the north pole. Let
you come there, with all your hosts--and so shall we, so shall we!"
His voice rose to a scream. "With us--leading us--comes the greatest
fighter that Dondromogon has ever known, and the sight of him shall
_break your hearts_!"

My ears rang, as the ears of all listeners must have rung, with those
last words. Gederr turned away, and Sporr dialed the power off.

"Now," Gederr said, "is there not some plan for amusement? A pleasant
hour in the Pavilion? Great Yandro's heart is troubled--for it is as
great as himself--by thoughts of war and its pains. Let him come with
us for solace."

"Amen to that," said Elonie, and she walked toward me. I rose, and she
slid her bare arm through mine. Her face was close to mine, smiling and
full of invitation. It seemed that Doriza was going to say something,
but Elonie spoke first: "He will need no military aide, Doriza. Nothing
military about the Pavilion, you remember."

We walked out together--Elonie and myself, then the others. We found
a wider corridor, and one full of hum and motion. The smooth floor
of the passage was seamed with metal-shod grooves, in which moved
vehicles--ovoid vehicles, of various sizes, balancing, it seemed,
on one whirring wheel apiece. Elonie escorted me to one such car,
which stood poised on its wheel like a dancer on tiptoe. There was
room inside for the two of us only, among luxurious cushions. At her
respectful invitation I sat inside, and she operated controls.

"Thus we travel in this city," she chatted as we rolled along. "Not
swiftly, of course, in this nor in our other city, near the South Pole.
The real speed is in the way-tunnels between."

"Way-tunnels the width of a world?" I asked, wondering. "How can only
seven hundred persons do such work?"

"You saw the ray-digger on the televiso. There are larger and more
complex diggers of that type, by which we can journey almost anywhere
underground--clear through the core of Dondromogon and up into Newcomer
lands, were it not for the inner fires. Perhaps we shall dig them out
by the roots in time, despite their defenses."

Once again I thought of so much science and wealth, and of people dying
because their rulers thought seven hundred were none too few to enjoy
the benefits of a world.

We stopped down a fork of the vehicle-corridor, and Elonie dismounted
before another of the metal curtain-doors. At her touch of a button and
a word into a speaking tube, it opened to us. We passed into a smaller
passageway, and then out into a place of aching beauty.

My first impression was of pastel lights, changing and mingling
constantly--blue, violet, pink, green, orchid, pale. They struck from
starlike points in a great domed ceiling, over a floor like a mirror.
And the pastel-tinted air was filled with music, soft but penetrating
and heady. There was a breeze from somewhere, scented and warm. In
and out of other doorways across the floor wandered figures, male and
female, murmuring together and helping themselves to cups from great
trestles and tables.

"The refreshments are provided," Elonie told me softly. "We need not
wait for the others. Come, Yandro. They have poured wine--Yandro knows
what wine is? And we have music, perfume, light, laughter, and for
companions all of Dondromogon."

"All?" I repeated.

"All save those on guard or garrison duty. Come, mighty one. Know
happiness that is worth fighting and conquering to keep."

She tugged at my arm, urging me toward the wine-tables.

And now there was a louder murmur, excitement and even apprehension, at
my entrance. I suppose I was an extraordinary figure--taller than any
person there, indeed none were anywhere near my height save the nobly
proportioned Elonie herself. And I was more sinewy, and darker, as if
of another race entirely. Timid memories struggled somewhere within
me, as if knocking at the closed doors of my consciousness. Somewhere,
somehow in the past, things had happened that might explain so much,
make my present position clearer to me.

Gederr was following close behind, muttering something to Doriza. Then
he pressed on beyond me, and mounted a sort of dais or platform.

"You of Dondromogon!" he called, and such was his voice, or perhaps the
acoustic properties of that hemispheric room, that all could hear him
easily. "Have you not heard rumors of a great happening? The ancient
legend of a mighty leader to come among us--"

"Yandro!" cried a deep-voiced fellow in the front belt of listeners.
His eyes were on me, studying, questioning.

"Yes, Yandro, champion of our cause, sent by the First Comers
themselves!" That was Elonie, and with a hand on my elbow she urged me
up on the platform beside Gederr.

Applause burst out, some of it a little drunken, but quite hearty and
honest. "Yandro!" cried the deep-voiced man again, and others took it
up: "Yandro! Yandro!" Whatever my own doubts, they had none.

Gederr held up an authoritative hand for silence. "He came from far in
space and time, and one look will assure you of his leadership. The
time for deliverance is at hand, men and women of Dondromogon! We trust
in mighty Yandro!"

There was louder applause, in the midst of which Gederr sidled close.
"Speak to them," he mumbled in my ear.

Like him, I lifted a hand for silence. It came, and I eyed my audience,
as I sought for words to speak.

       *       *       *       *       *

The first thought that came was that, if Elonie were right and these
people were the selected best of the race, then Dondromogon was
decadently peopled. Not only were they smallish and mostly frail, but
few had a distinguished or aggressive cast of countenance. The Council
members had been wise-seeming, perhaps, but even they had not struck me
as healthy types. To one side stood Doriza, militarily at attention,
blue eyes fast upon me--she was a notable exception, compact and strong
and healthy of body and mind, and at the same time quite as feminine as
the more flashy and languorous Elonie just beside my platform. Through
the rear ranks of listeners moved old white-bearded Sporr, who had much
to say to certain members of the throng, perhaps explaining me and my
legend.

"Friends," I began at last, "I am new here. A little child might have
more experience of your ways and wishes. Yet it becomes apparent that
great service is expected of me, and such a service I would greatly
love to do."

"Hear! Hear! Wise are the words of Yandro!" Thus went up a new chorus.
I felt reassured, and spoke more confidently.

"Your Council has explained much. Now I come to the people represented
by that Council. If I am to help, you are to explain how. For the voice
of a people is seldom wrong or foolish."

"Wise are the words!" They chorused again, and the man with the deep
voice suddenly put up his hand and moved forward. I saw that he
had the armor and weapons of a soldier, and in one hand he held a
cup, from which he had been drinking. He was fairly well knit for a
Dondromogonian, and, though his face was simple, it was manly enough.
He cleared his throat diffidently.

"We have been told of Yandro's coming, throughout our halls and
dwellings," he began. "That he should ask for our word is an honor. But
since he asks, I make bold to reply--" He choked a little. "Peace!" he
cried hoarsely. "Peace--and comfort--"

"Peace! Peace!" cried the others around him, and "Peace!" bellowed
hundreds of voices.

I was a little perplexed. After the war-like talk of the Council, this
was different, and disturbing. But Gederr, beside me was not at a loss.

"Peace you shall have, as Yandro's gift!" he cried. "The Newcomers--ill
be their fate--have been warned and promised of his coming, and now
they shake in dread! He shall lead you to victory, complete victory,
and the fruits of victory!"

It was powerfully said, and the cheering was greater than ever. Under
cover of the din, Gederr took my elbow and escorted me from the
platform.

"They have been despondent, Yandro. They grow unwilling to face death
and wounds. But you have changed all that. Hark to their cries of your
name! Now there shall be no more speaking, only happiness."

Elonie had joined us again. Her hand dropped warmly over mine. "This
way," she bade. "This wine is for the Council only--the best on
Dondromogon. Honor us by taking some."

She gave me a goblet, of some transparent substance clasped in bright
metal, and brimming with a red liquor. I took it with a bow, and she
lifted her own goblet. As we drank together, I had another impression
of Doriza's studying, wondering eyes. Did the warrior-woman, appointed
as my military aide, disapprove? But the wine was excellent, and my
spirits rose.

"Come," said Elonie. Her arm was through mine again, warm and gently
urging. She led me toward a niche, set deep and shadowy into the wall.
There was a divan with cushions, and a table with cups and flagons
for drinking. The music had begun again, and some of the people were
dancing together.

"Yandro is gracious to grant me these moments alone," purred Elonie.
"Yandro is overwhelming."

"Can't we drop the third person?" I asked. "I do not feel much taste
for formalities."

She clutched at that with a little cry of gladness and her eyes and
smile were radiant. "You offer me intimacy!" she exclaimed. "It's
honor--it thrills--" She lifted her glass. "Drink again, I beg you! You
and I shall drink to each other."

"Why not?" I said, and touched her glass with mine. "To you, Elonie."

"To you, Yandro, my dear lord!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The wine was galvanizingly strong. I felt my ears ring a little,
and--why not admit it?--Elonie's nearness and adulation were wine
in themselves. She leaned toward me on the divan, so that our bare
shoulders touched. Her lips, full and trembling, were very close.

"Yandro," she whispered. "Yandro ... you could make me happy, and
yourself happy, too...."

Suddenly I shook my head a little, to clear it. For her eyes, a moment
ago so fascinating, suddenly made me uneasy. It was as if claws had
reached from their brightness and fastened upon me. She steadfastly
fixed my gaze with hers.

"Yandro...." Her voice was soft, monotonous. "All is well with you ...
trust us, trust me, Elonie ... I shall guide you to victory, you need
have no qualms...."

Her arm stole across my chest, curved around my neck. She drew my head
toward hers. Her brilliant eyes seemed to fill the whole field of my
vision, impelling, hypnotic--

_Hypnotic--that was it!_

The strange half-lost thoughts from my unknown former life sized the
idea and held it up to me. Danger, danger, they were crying at me. Most
ungallantly I took her wrist and disengaged myself from her embrace.

"Since I am destined for war, is there time for this?" I asked, trying
to laugh.

"Is there not?" she murmured.

I rose from where I sat, and sipped more wine. Where it had fuddled
me before, it cleared me now. "Elonie, you are charming. I do not know
whether I have standards by which to judge, but you do things to men.
Perhaps I should have time to make up my own mind."

"If I have offended--" she began to stammer.

"Oh, not in the least. But there is so much for me to be sure of."

She, too, rose, and left me without a word. Had I made her angry?
Yet her last words had been of apology. I sat down again, alone and
mystified.

But I did not remain alone for more than two minutes. Outside the
niche, Elonie was talking to Gederr. Gederr scowled, nodded, then with
an air of inspiration beckoned to Doriza. Doriza joined them, listened
respectfully to Gederr. Finally she nodded, as if in acceptance of
orders, and walked toward me.

I rose to meet her. She looked me steadily in the eye, but when she
spoke it was hesitantly, and with a shyness most womanly, too womanly
for a military person.

"Great Yandro is not pleased with Elonie of the Council. Is it possible
that he would prefer another woman--me?"

Just like that, she offered herself. And if ever I had made up my mind
in a hurry, it had been to the effect that Doriza was nothing but
reserve and prudence.

What answer I might be able to give was suddenly unnecessary.

Just outside the niche angry voices rose. An officer, all fair beard
and flapping cloak, was accosting Gederr with something less than the
respect due a member of the Council.

"I say, she was promised to me--to me! And to me she goes, for my part
in bringing him to you!"

"Silence, Rohbar," commanded Gederr in a voice as sharp as a dagger,
but the officer pushed him roughly aside and strode into the niche.

It was the man who had interviewed me after my first capture. His pale
eyes gave off sparks in the subdued light, and one hand sought the hilt
of his pistol.

"Yandro, they call you!" he flung out. "Yandro, sent from out of space
and time to Dondromogon! Well, be that true or no, Doriza is not for
you--and deny me if you dare! I'll send you back out of space and
time, with whatever weapon you choose!"


                                  IV

Rohbar glared, but I could have smiled. Smiled in welcome. He was
extricating me from a most embarrassing position. I faced him and spoke
steadily.

"My friend, you were rude to me at our first meeting. Now you threaten.
I begin to think you don't like me, and that we'll only be happy
shedding each other's blood."

"Amen to that!" he snarled. And to Doriza: "Get out, get away from him."

I moved a step closer, and rapped him on the chest with my knuckles.
"She came to speak courteously to me, and she shall go only if she so
desires." As I spoke, I reflected that she might be worth fighting for,
after all. I turned to her.

"Doriza, is this true? Do you belong to Rohbar."

She shook her bright head, and for once her eyes did not meet mine.
I felt a sudden joy and relief, such as Elonie's frank throwing of
herself at my head could not bring.

But Rohbar had drawn his pistol-weapon. Another moment, and he would
have brought it in line with my chest. But I caught his weapon wrist in
my left hand, and with the heel of my right I whacked him solidly on
his bearded chin. His head bobbed, and a moment later I had twisted the
pistol away from him, throwing it back into the niche. A moment later,
Gederr and several others had hurried in, seizing him. He struggled and
cursed.

"Put him under arrest!" Gederr bade, and Rohbar ceased struggling. He
drew himself up.

"So that's it!" he roared. "Do you think you dare treat me thus,
Gederr? I do not care if you're of the Council--I know a secret very
close and very valuable--"

"Stop his mouth!" Elonie was imploring, and he cursed her, too.

"It seems," I put in, "that Rohbar makes a practice of rudeness to
women."

I got smiles from Elonie and Doriza both, and Rohbar fairly blackened
in the face as he strove to pull free and get at me.

"You!" he choked. "Yandro you call yourself--you're a fraud, a
figurehead, foisted by these scheming, sneaking Council folk--a living
lie!"

"Let him go," I bade those who held him. "Nobody says 'lie' to me and
goes unpunished."

There was silence, as far as my voice had reached. Only in the
background did music and pleasant conversation continue. It was Elonie
who spoke first:

"Yandro, you have privileged me in my speech to you. May I dare point
out that this is dangerous--that Rohbar, long a guard officer, is
skilled in every weapon--"

"Elonie, you now make it impossible for me to withdraw, without being
thought cowardly," I said. I put my hand to the saber I wore. "Is there
a quiet place apart? Let the two of us fight."

Rohbar was quiet again, in the hands of his captors. He now spoke,
almost as gently as Elonie: "I have no friends here. The fight might
not be fair."

"Nonsense," I snapped, and looked past the little group. There was a
face I knew--the man with the deep voice. "You," I hailed him, "come
here."

He came respectfully, and stood at attention.

"Who are you?" I asked.

"Klob is my name, great Yandro. Under-officer of the guard."

"Klob, do you know Rohbar?"

"I do, sir."

"If I, Yandro, ordered you to act as second for a man in a duel, would
you perform the office faithfully?"

He braced more stiffly to attention. "Though I died for it, sir."

"You shall not die, but be commended if you do well. Represent Rohbar
in the formal duel he is about to fight."

"As Yandro commands. And his adversary--the man he will fight?"

"Me."

       *       *       *       *       *

Klob was embarrassed, and so were the others. I spoke sharply. "Am
I the one you take for your war leader? Then obey. This man has
threatened me. I have been placed in a position where I must fight or
be thought cowardly. Come into this passageway."

They followed me. Nobody was in the corridor. I spoke again, and they
released Rohbar. "What weapon?" I asked him.

"Ray-sabers," he growled, and drew his. A touch of his thumb on the
hilt-stud, and it glowed brilliantly.

"I shall be second to Yandro, if it pleases him." That was Doriza, my
appointed aide. But I waved her back.

"Since we fight, partially at least, for you, it is not well that you
take, sides," I reminded. "I need no seconds. If play does not continue
fair, I can change it."

I drew my own ray-saber. My thumb, seemingly wiser than my blank brain,
touched the stud and the blade pulsed out its heat-rays. Those of the
Council who had come along moved back out of the way. Rohbar and I
touched blades, and the fight was on.

From the first, it was no contest.

[Illustration: _And then I, Yandro, was upon the officer._]

Rohbar wore armor, on chest and head, while I fought without. He was in
a cold rage, and I was only puzzled. Despite his lesser height, he had
strangely long arms, that gave him an inch or two of reach beyond mine.
But he was like a child before me. Indeed, I had leisure to observe
myself, to wonder and puzzle over my own skill. I knew this weapon,
that should be strange to me, as if it were born a part of me. Rohbar
slashed and fenced; I parried easily, almost effortlessly. Avoiding an
engagement, I clanged home against his armored flank. He moaned and
swore, for even through that metal protection the heat of the blade
must have hurt him. A moment later I sped a back-hand blow that knocked
his helmet flying. He threw caution to the winds, and charged close. So
sudden was his attack that I was caught almost unawares, and parried
his blade within inches of my own chin. Our blades crossed, close to
the guards, and we stood for a moment looking into each other's eyes at
a bare foot's distance.

"You ignorant fool!" he spat at me. "To be made a tool, and then to
_believe_--"

"Silence, you crawling informer!" bawled Gederr, and his deadly warning
startled Rohbar, who sprang back from me. At the same time I advanced
in my turn, touched his blade as if to engage, then cut under quickly
and came solidly home where the neck and shoulders join.

The ray-mechanism in my weapon hummed and sang. A great red spark
leaped from the point of contact, and Rohbar, stricken with heat and
current alike, spun around like a top. His saber fell, and he went down
beside it. There was life in him, for he struggled up on an elbow,
turning an agonized face toward me.

"You haven't forgotten _that_ skill!" he cried, as if charging me with
a crime. "Have you forgotten anything, then? Are you truly here without
memory, or are you a traitor to--"

Gederr stepped close to him. He leveled a pistol-device, which threw
rays. Rohbar suddenly lacked a head.

"That was the most merciful thing to do," said Gederr, holstering his
weapon. "Send someone to drag the rest of him away." He faced me.
"Yandro will please accept my admiring congratulations. What better
proof of his great gifts and high destiny than this easy conquest
of one who was judged skilful with the ray-saber." He strode toward
the sound of faint music. "Come, you others. The entertainment has
certainly not been spoiled."

       *       *       *       *       *

I switched off my saber's power, and sheathed it. I had just killed a
man, because I felt I had to, but I had no sense of triumph. I walked
at the rear of the group, Doriza moving respectfully beside me.

"Doriza," I said, "he tried to tell me something. What?"

She shook her head. "I did not know Rohbar's mind."

"Yet he felt close to you. Wanted to fight to keep you from me. That's
another thing. Why did you ask me if I wanted you?"

She smiled a little, with a certain shy humor. "Do not all things on
Dondromogon belong to Yandro?"

I smiled back. "Doriza, perhaps I should act complimented. Yet it seems
to me that Gederr and Elonie told you to make the offer. And I'm not
sure--I can say this to my personal aide, can't I?--that I want any
favors at their hands."

"Or at mine?" And she smiled again.

"Come off it, Doriza, you're not the best of flirts. Shall we take a
drink together? It wasn't pleasant, killing that man, though you don't
seem to mourn him."

Back in the great chamber, a sort of cloud of light was thrown in
the center by several reflectors, and a sort of motion picture show
was going on in the midst of it. I drank much, but the wine did not
affect me greatly. Finally I felt tired, and said so. Gederr and Doriza
escorted me to sumptuous apartments, where I quickly slept.

I do not know how many hours I lay asleep, but I woke refreshed. A
breakfast of strange synthetic foods was waiting, on a lift that rode
up in a slot of the wall. I ate with relish, took a brisk shower in a
room behind my sleeping quarters, and resumed the costume of Yandro.
Then came a buzz at the door, and a voice came through a speaker
system: "Gederr requests that Yandro admit him."

I opened the door. Gederr was there, and Doriza behind him. I felt the
gaze of her blue eyes, very soft and pretty. Gederr smiled respectfully.

"We have talked much about the duel, we of the Council. It is agreed
that great Yandro's value is more than inspirational. If a single
combat could be arranged, with some champion of the Newcomers, ill be
their fate! Some boasting successor to Barak--"

"Barak," I repeated and wondered again why his name stuck so in my
fogged mind. "I--I do not know how to say it, but I seek no quarrel
with Barak. I do not fear him, or anyone else; but I do not wish to
fight him."

"Barak is dead," snapped Gederr, quite ungraciously. "Yandro need have
no apprehensions."

"I have said I fear nobody," I reminded, stiff and lofty.

Gederr bowed. "Who could doubt it? But to return to our talk of battle;
at the South Pole an inner blaze of flame from within Dondromogon has
kept opposing forces from contacting each other. Only here at the
North Pole can we fight, and there has been a lull since--since the
destruction of their champion, Barak. We have taken advantage to hollow
out a great pocket underground. See, I will show you."

He went to a little televiso screen, and switched on the power, then
dialed. I saw a great domed cavern, larger than the hemisphere room
of last night's recreation period. Around its edges toiled men with
ray-batons, shaping and enlarging.

"Elsewhere we have set up cunning defenses," explained Gederr. "Great
force-fields, that interfere with their digging advance. But at one
point we have purposely allowed their advance tunnels to come along
easily. What you see here is behind that point. We fall back--"

"Fall back?" I repeated.

       *       *       *       *       *

Gederr winked. "Their forces will follow, and fill this chamber.
Beyond, we have entrenchments, sortie tunnels, weapons. And the
floor of the chamber is mined--enough explosive even to wreck those
power-shields. Their van, with its heavy equipment, will perish. We'll
wipe out the others easily!"

"How many?" ventured Doriza.

"Who can say?" Gederr responded. "They are many, but most of them must
work to sustain life and action in the section of Dondromogon they have
seized. They have not the sunken cities, the synthesizing advances, the
other time-seasoned devices for living that we have developed. Several
hundred fighting men, not many more than ours, are all that can be sent
against us."

"Are they brave?" I demanded.

"They have stubborn courage. They will rush after their comrades who
fall. Perhaps if we capture a few, they will try a rescue. It will
bring them to defeat--us to glory!"

His voice rose in exultation, and I chose to disagree.

"Not glory, Gederr. We can claim cunning for such a plan--yes. The
pride of successful ambush and deceit--yes. But there is hardly any
glory in trickery. Not as I see it, anyway."

He bowed again. "Great Yandro is bravest of the brave, but his thoughts
are those of the First Comers, ages ago. He does not understand modern
sophistication and practicality."

"I understand the practicality," I assured him, "but I don't glory
in it. A fair combat, like the one last night with Rohbar, is like a
game--grim, but like a game. Not so these strategems and pitfalls,
which are only an unpleasant job to be done."

"The strategems need not affect Yandro," stated Gederr. "As for a
simple single combat, I say that will be arranged. We broadcast,
Yandro will remember, a warning and a challenge. The enemy has sent
back a message that they are making ready a fighter to face anyone we
can furnish."

"I see," said I. "Well, they speak my language." Both Doriza and
Gederr started violently, and stared. "Probably they are simple of
battle-viewpoint, like me. They'll blunder easily into your trap." I
said those last two words to assure Gederr that I considered the whole
deception his. "Now, when is all this to happen?"

"Perhaps within twenty hours. Perhaps within thirty."

"I feel like a puppet," I said. "Like the figurehead poor Rohbar
called me. Perhaps I am, and perhaps it is as well, because I'm not
in tune with your strategy. Understand me, I see its need and its
practicability. That is all I see, though."

"Will Yandro walk forth?" asked Doriza. "There are troops waiting to be
reviewed."

We went into a corridor, and entered one of the purring vehicles. It
took us away--toward the fighting sector, I judged--and I dismounted in
a great low stretch of subterranean cavern. This was lighted by great
glowing bulbs hung to the ceiling, and men were drawn up in triple
rows, armed and at attention. An officer was speaking to them, and
toward one side stood the two unarmed men, under guard.

"Not yet, mighty Yandro," counselled Doriza beside me. "There is--a
ceremony."

I could hear the officer speaking, though not clearly:

"In this moment, the eve of certain triumph over the enemy, two men see
fit to circulate lies that calculate to dismay and destroy our plans.
For them is only one fate, as judged by the Council. Attention to that
fate!"

The two unarmed men were marched forward. I stared and scowled.

"I've seen them before," I said to Doriza. "The broad face of one--the
figure of the other! Aren't they--"

"Yes!" Doriza said tonelessly.

The officer lifted his hand, with a disintegrator pistol in it. Pale
green rays leaped. The two familiar figures gyrated, great parts of
them vanished. They fell, and two men carried the bodies away.

"They were the two guards I first met!" I cried.

"Yes," she agreed softly. "Men who served under Rohbar, and who spoke
rebelliously because Yandro killed him. They said that Yandro was not
Yandro."

I smiled ruefully. "From the first they didn't seem to believe that.
Nor did Rohbar. Nor did you, until Sporr identified me." I looked into
her blue eyes, calculatingly. "It comes to mind, Doriza, that of all
who doubted me you are the only one left alive."

"I, too, have thought that," she said, and her voice was quiet but not
frightened. "Perhaps my turn is next."

I shook my head. "I seem to have power on Dondromogon, and I will not
let you be destroyed without more warrant than I see now."

"Yandro is kind," she said.

"And Doriza is attractive," I rejoined. "Well, that unpleasant little
formality seems to be at an end. Shall we inspect the troops?"

       *       *       *       *       *

So saying, I moved forward. The officer in charge saluted and
accompanied me on my inspection. The first two ranks of soldiers were
men of various builds and feature, solemn-looking fellows for the most
part. The first rank was headed by Klob, whom I had named for Rohbar's
second last night. I was struck by the efficient air of their armor and
equipment, as contrasted with their almost frail physiques. Again I
thought, the stock of Dondromogon's natives must be running down.

The third rank was women.

They, too, wore armor, and bore weapons and tools, but I judged that
they were more of a reserve than a first fighting force. More thoughts
coursed through my head--if my earlier memories were departed, they
left the more room for recent happenings and speeches. The Council had
insisted that it was necessary to keep the population of Dondromogon
small, for the sake of good living. Yet it seemed false reasoning if
even women must be armed for battle. And the women, on the whole, were
better specimens than the men. They were not large--none anywhere near
as tall as Elonie or as compactly vigorous as Doriza--but seemed
healthy and intelligent for the most part, and some were even handsome.
One or two gave me an appraising, admiring look, such as soldiers
should not give frankly to commanders.

I concluded the inspection, and returned to a position in front of the
force. "At ease," I bade them. "I have words to say.

"Some, at least, must have seen me last night at the recreation hour. I
spoke then as to the general population of Dondromogon. Now I speak to
you specifically, as soldiers facing battle duty. Your commanders think
that the time is at hand for a victorious termination of the war with
those strangers you call the Newcomers."

I paused, and watched the expressions of my listeners. At the phrase,
"termination of the war," some of them positively yearned. As Gederr
had admitted, the commoners of Dondromogon wanted no more fighting.
Perhaps my coming was indeed by providence, to bring peace. A better
peace, I now decided, than they had ever known.

"When the war is over," I went on, "I propose to lead you still. Since
I am accepted as a leader, I have a right to do that. It seems that
your health and happiness will be bettered if, in some way, we achieve
a new conquest--conquest of the outdoors. There may be storms, but
there are also natural sunlight and fresh air. Yes, and perhaps fresh
natural foods, that will strengthen you more than synthetics. Does that
appeal to you?"

Plainly it did.

"As to the Newcomers, I do not know them. Yet it seems that, with the
fighting ended, some friendly agreement may be reached. If they do
not harm us, they may help us. That will follow victory. I feel thus
assured. That is all I have to say." I faced the officer in charge.
"Take over."

Doriza and I walked away, back to our vehicle. "Where now?" I asked.

For answer, she pointed to a white oblong on the inner wall of the
vehicle. It was a little screen, on which figures appeared. "Gederr
requests that we return to him. He feels that we may be too close to
possible violent action, and he is not yet ready that Yandro risk
himself."

We rolled back toward the main passages of the community, and
eventually to an office, where Gederr was in close, muttered
conversation with Sporr and Elonie. They greeted my entrance in various
ways--Sporr with a senile smirk that he hoped was ingratiating, Elonie
with a most inviting smile, Gederr with blank embarrassment. Gederr
bowed and gestured toward an inner door. "Will Yandro pleasure me with
a private conference?"

I bowed in turn, and followed him in.

"I heard Yandro's words to the troops, by speaker system," he began
silkily. "Eloquent and inspiring--but Yandro must realize some salient
facts."

"Such as?" I prompted.

"The talk of friendly agreement with the Newcomers--ill be their fate!
They must be wiped clean off of Dondromogon."

"Perhaps," I agreed, and he smiled.

"I am honored that Yandro agrees so quickly--"

"I said, perhaps. Because I do not know the Newcomers as yet. It may
be that they deserve death to the last man. But they may also deserve
honorable treatment, alliance even."

He opened his mouth to speak again, but interruption came from outside.
Sounds of struggle, and the cry of Doriza:

"Help me--help!"

I bounded to the door and tore it open, injuring the automatic lock. An
officer stood in the outer office, and two soldiers had Doriza by the
wrists. I made a lunge, knocked one of them spinning against a wall.
"What is this?" I roared. "She is my aide."

"Her arrest has been commanded," spoke up Elonie in a sullen voice.

"Who commanded it? I countermand it!" I faced the roomful of protesting
faces. "You call me Yandro, your leader from divine source. Let me say
that nothing will happen to Doriza except by my will."

Gederr spoke from the inner doorway: "Great Yandro speaks in riddles. I
had thought that he had no attachment for Doriza."

"Oh, you tried to make me a gift of her last night," I exploded, "but
that has nothing to do with the present case. Doriza lives. She remains
free. Understand?"

"Perhaps," mused Sporr, as if to himself. "There have been
accidents...."

"Come," I said to Doriza. "To my quarters." I faced the others again.
"Danger to her shall be answered by me. Is it understood?"

We rode silently in the vehicle, and came to the rooms set aside for
me. Once inside, I made sure that speaking tubes and televiso were
turned off. Then:

"Doriza! There are things I do not know. Tell them to me."

She hung her head. "They would have seen me dead, like the others, to
shut my mouth."

"And I saved you. Now speak. All I seem to find familiar is the name of
Barak."

She looked up again. "You remember the name?"

"Faintly. Vaguely. But what is happening just beyond my knowledge?"

She caught me by the forearm, her small, strong hands gripped like
vises.

"I'll tell you! Tell you everything! Those devils of the Council have
long exploited and drained Dondromogon--with lies about the First
Comers, and the exclusive use of science! The Newcomers are to be
trapped through you, the natives deluded through you! But you--you are
to die when your usefulness is through!"

"They'd do that?" I demanded. "After they name me as Yandro, their
legendary hero?"

"That's part of the great lie!" And Doriza was sobbing. "You aren't
Yandro--you're _Barak of the Newcomers_!"


                                   V

I stared at her, astounded, shocked--and suddenly remembering things.

"Barak," I repeated foolishly. "Barak. Yes, I _am_ Barak. I--how did I
get here? Things are still so shadowy--but I'm beginning to recollect--"

"Try," she begged. "Try hard. It's the only way you can save yourself.
Let me remind you; this world called Dondromogon was settled long ago
by adventurers. For centuries their descendants built up a luxurious
way of living. Messages filtered back to the old home planet--Earth, in
the Solar System--"

"I remember that much," I told her. "Something about a group of chiefs
growing fat on the labor of the community, and killing those who
threatened to rival them?"

"Yes. Calling those deaths necessary for the good of the race, but
preserving really the soft and easily ruled of the race. And an
expedition was sent, to point out that Dondromogon really was a colony
of Mother Earth. Gederr received the Newcomers with false welcome, and
tried to have them assassinated. But reinforcements arrived, and the
war goes on--"

Again I did not let her finish. "And Gederr has been deceiving his
followers, by the line of talk I heard from him! That the Newcomers
are not rescuers or dealers of justice, but invaders and destroyers! I
remember that, too!"

"Do you remember yourself?" she demanded. "Barak, the wonder warrior,
who met the enemy by twos and threes, and conquered them like flies,
like puffs of wind? Barak, mighty in battle, who offered to fight the
whole Council of Dondromogon single-handed? Who led one digging assault
after another, and who fell only to a stupid trick?"

"I don't remember that last," I confessed. "It is in my mind that I was
somewhat rash, and had skill and luck enough to live in spite of my
rashness, through several combats."

"No time for modesty!" she chided me, and smiled despite the
desperation of our plight. "You were a natural engine of warfare,
Barak. And once you pursued your retreating adversaries far--too
far--until it was Gederr himself who squirted anaesthetic gas upon you
and felled you, senseless. Then they gathered around you, like carrion
feeders, that whole Council, to see how they could profit best. And
Gederr and Elonie, with Sporr's help, made the decision."

Her eyes held mine earnestly. "As you began to revive, with your wits
still unguarded and baffled, Sporr and Elonie hypnotized you. They both
know how to do that--"

"I fought off Elonie's hypnotism last night," I remembered.

"Because your knowledge of its danger remained in your subconscious.
After that, you were placed outside--naked, without memory or
knowledge. And a speaking device brought what would sound like a
cosmic voice of destiny. After that, all was prepared to draw you into
their plot as a tool."

I groaned. It had been as simple and raw as all that. "But the legend
of Yandro?" I asked.

She waved it aside. "Someone named Yandro did exist, in the old days
when Dondromogon was not Council-ridden. When he died, it was suggested
that he would return again in time of need. Many a time did Gederr
inspire some better-than-ordinary fighting man to face you, Barak, by
telling him that the soul of Yandro had wakened in him. But when you
fell into their hands and they decided to use you, they twisted the
legend to suit your coming--even with a picture and your own thumb
print to help convince you." She sighed. "Very few had seen your
capture. Only Rohbar and the two guards you saw die would recognize
you. Those three men, and myself, were in the farce."

       *       *       *       *       *

"You!" I said, and gazed at her. That lost former life was creeping
back, like a dream becoming plain and fusing into reality.

"You, Doriza! I--remember you--"

"You should," she murmured, pink-cheeked. "We used to say kind things
to each other. With the Newcomers--remember?"

"You were one of us--a year ago! A technician in the synthetics
department! But you vanished--and now you're here! Why?"

"I--I--oh, don't ask me that!"

I clutched her elbow, so fiercely that she whimpered. "Did you turn
traitor? Answer me, Doriza!"

"You hurt me--don't--Barak, before you call me a traitor, answer this.
Are you wholly for destruction of this people of Dondromogon? Haven't
you changed?"

"Why--why--" And I paused. "I want to crush the Council, but the
people--"

"Barak, I want to help them, too! The people--and you, Barak!" She
looked at me beseechingly. "Can't you trust me?"

My heart flopped over and over, like a falling leaf, but I could not
steel myself against her. "You were sweet once, Doriza, though you went
away from me." As if by long practice, my arm encircled her.

"Believe me, I'm not a traitor," she whispered against my shoulder. "I
want to save you--and others--and myself--"

I shook my head. "They want to kill you. They shan't. Let's defend
ourselves."

For answer, she pointed to the door. A quiet humming sounded. I saw
that a panel bulged and vibrated.

"Disintegrator," she whispered in my ear.

I thrust her into a corner and moved close to the door-jamb. A moment
later the rayed panel fell away in flakes, and a man stepped through,
the officer who had tried to arrest Doriza.

I clutched the wrist of the hand that held his disintegrator pistol,
and almost tore his head off with an uppercut. He went down, and
Doriza caught up his weapon as it fell. There was a spatter of sparks
as someone fired through the hole with electro-automatic pellets, but
already Doriza was using the ray to knock a lock from a door beyond.

"One side," I heard Gederr growl from the corridor. "I have a
disintegrator, too. I'll open a hole too big for him to defend!"

But we had hurried through the door Doriza opened. Beyond was a
vehicle, the same that had carried us earlier in the day. "In," she
said, took the controls.

We rumbled away, not daring to speed and thus attract too much
attention. Doriza drove us toward the point where conflict was being
centered, and at a deserted stretch of the tunnelway braked us to a
halt.

"We must know what they're doing about us," she said, and began to tune
the televiso apparatus.

Figures leaped into view on the screen. I stared. Members of the
Council--I recognized them--were marshalled against a wall, as if for a
firing squad. And a firing squad faced them. Someone lifted a hand as
a signal. The line of soldiers lifted their electro-automatics. I saw
the play of sparks, heard the whip and thud of pellets. A form fell,
another, another.

"They're rebelling!" I cried. "Overthrowing the Council! Somehow," and
my heart sang wildly, "they know the truth!"

But Doriza put her hand on mine, and it trembled. "No, Barak. Watch."

One of the riddled forms floundered and tried to rise. Elonie, no
longer lovely, but an agonized and gory victim. Someone stepped forward
and cooly shot her through the head. It was Gederr.

He faced forward. They brought broadcasting equipment to him, and he
suddenly grew huge on the screen.

"Attention," he bawled, "all true people of Dondromogon! We do not
hesitate to kill traitors, even the highest of rank! Those false folk
who made up the Council--they have died!"

He paused, glared, and swallowed. "I, Gederr, have discovered their
plot! They foisted off upon us a man of the Newcomers as Yandro--caused
us to accept him as a hero, when he was only the tool of their plan to
betray and sell us!"

A cheer came from somewhere, and he went on.

"They are dead! I remain to lead and protect you! And my command is,
find the false spy we accepted as Yandro! Search for him, find him and
kill him!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Doriza and I looked at each other. "Where now?" she asked.

"Toward the battle zones," I replied. She closed a circuit and steered
us away.

The main corridor was almost deserted--apparently non-combatants had
been cleared out in anticipation of the battle. Again the speaker began
to yammer, Gederr speaking again:

"All defenses on alert! Watch for this man, falsely called Yandro--very
tall, strongly made, dark, young, scar on chin. He wears a red cloak.
With him is a woman of medium height, young, light brown hair, blue
eyes, more robust than common--"

"Not flattering, are they?" Doriza said, and smiled.

Up ahead, two guards gestured and bawled. One pressed a wall-button,
and a folding barrier crept across our way. "Vehicles out of running,"
said a guard as we slowed up.

"We're on the trail of those spies!" I yelled from the dark interior.
"Get that barrier out of our way!"

They hesitated, and Doriza threw in the speed-ahead lever. We smashed
through and away. Cries rang in our wake, and slugs struck the rear of
the vehicle. Two burned clear through the metal. I opened a panel to
kick them out, and they scorched my foot, clear through the stout shoe
sole.

"We must abandon this car, it's marked." Doriza was cutting speed.
"Let's jump, here in the shadows."

I jumped through the open panel, and managed to stay on my feet,
catching and helping Doriza as she jumped after me. The car hummed
onward, and smashed loudly into the wall beyond. Guards ran into view
from a doorway, chattering loudly.

Every back was toward us. We stole forward, and into the guardroom they
had abandoned. I saw dials and mechanism of both televiso and speaker
system. A couple of twists and pulls, and I had them out of commission.

"Slovenly discipline," I growled. "They should have left at least one
man in charge."

Dropping the telltale red cloak Doriza had given me--how long ago?
Yesterday?--I caught up instead a blue military cape, the property
of some officer. There was also an ornate helmet, which I jammed on
my head. "Stoop," Doriza counseled. "You're taller than any man on
Dondromogon. Now, maybe you'll get away with--whatever you're getting
away with."

Emerging, I strode toward the wreck. A man saw my cape and helmet of
authority. "Attention!" he called, and they stiffened respectfully.

"How close is the point of contact with the enemy?" I demanded with
official brusqueness.

One pointed the way. "Not far, sir. We're the last message-relay
station. Everything's in order, and--"

"Thanks," I said, and beckoned Doriza. We walked past. I wondered what
I could have done if these men had paused to think I might be the
culprit for whom Gederr was clamoring.

Up ahead was a cross-tunnel, and beyond that a fork. We heard men
talking and moving in the distance. Doriza pointed to an inscribed door.

"The way to the works below. I've seen it on the televiso. The mined
floor of the main chamber has a second cavern below."

I scowled. "As I remember, Gederr said he had blocked all advance
tunnels of the Newcomers, except at one spot. What kind of explosives
will he use?"

"Glare-rays," said Doriza. "You wouldn't know, Barak, the Newcomers
haven't any such. It's a special vibration-speed that sets atoms at
a pitch ready to fly violently apart. Anything it involves can be
exploded at the first touch of fire."

"Anything?" I repeated. "Weapons, men, earth? Doriza, can you operate
such a ray?"

"I think I can."

"Then come," and I pushed open the panel.

The elevator cage was waiting, and its operation not hard to study out.
Quickly we sped down and stepped forth into another great chamber,
bright and echoing. A sentry confronted us.

"Your pass?" he demanded.

I chose to bluster it out. "What kind of idling goes on here?" I
snapped at him. "I'm from the Council, to see if the report is
true--that you haven't made all ready for the ambush."

"But we have," he protested.

"You give me arguments, you insolent upstart? Where's your commander?"
I turned to face an officer that hurried up. "This sentry needs to be
disciplined, taught respect for his superiors," I scolded. "What have
you to say, sir, about the laxity and slowness of work here?"

"But we're ready and more than ready," the officer assured me. "Look,
sir," and he pointed. "This whole cavern is dug out to completion, the
overhead roof thinned for the explosion. See the play of glares upon
it."

       *       *       *       *       *

I looked, and nodded as if in sour agreement. The earth floor was a
maze of cables and coils, and here and there, strategically placed,
were little wheeled stands with mechanisms atop. From each of these
beat upward a cone of glaring golden light against the rough ceiling.
It blinded me to look at them.

"The glares," Doriza murmured.

I gazed at the men on duty. "Is nobody armed? What if the Newcomers get
in here?"

The officer shook his head. "You know that weapons would be our own
destruction. Electro-automatics, disintegrators, ray-sabers--they all
give off flame. And a touch of flame in any one of these glare-fields
would explode the whole chamber, and the solid soil around it, into
atoms."

I glanced toward the far end. "Up yonder I see no glares."

"Of course not. Beyond and above is the point that coincides with
the narrow approach left for the Newcomers." The officer studied me
narrowly. "If you are from the Council, why are you ignorant of all
these things?"

It would be a difficult question to answer plausibly, but I was spared
the task. Someone hurried from a little televiso shack and saluted the
officer.

"Orders, sir. Important. We're to withdraw immediately. The Newcomers
are advancing, and the forces above will take over operation."

"Of course," the officer said, and turned from me to shout commands.
Men began to hurry away past us, toward the elevator, eager to quit the
post of danger.

"Come, Doriza," I said softly, and she followed me along a wall.
"Here's one of those explosion mechanisms. If we can bring it between
us--"

She did something to turn it off, and we trundled it along on its
wheels. I pointed to the spot above which the entry-point was said to
be, and toward it we went, unchallenged and unnoticed. We reached the
earthy far wall, and it was steep, but with the point of my ray-saber
I dug pits for hands and toes. Up I scrambled to the ceiling. There I
paused, hanging like a bat.

"Disintegrator," I called down to her.

"Dare we?"

"We must dare!"

She tossed me the disintegrator pistol. I turned it on and fate favored
me once again. No explosion occurred. I tunnelled upward, upward, and
climbed up the slanting chimney-like tunnel I made. Moments later, I
broke into open air above.

I was in a necklike passage. Lying flat, I looked each way. To one hand
was a great cavern, the ambush-space, in which Dondromogon's warriors
were cautiously ranging themselves. Opposite was a wide tunnel, empty
as yet--a work of the Newcomers, into which this passage had been
invitingly opened by the defenders. I was not observed as, rising to
my knees, I tore my cape into strips and knotted them into a line.

I lowered it. "Fasten on the glare-ray," I told Doriza, and when she
had done so I drew it up. After it climbed Doriza herself.

"Now what?" she demanded. "I haven't had time to ask."

"Turn on the glare. Like that, yes--set it against one wall, and let it
fall on the opposite, to fill this little passageway through which they
must pass to fight each other."

The golden glow sprang into being. At the same moment a shout rose from
the direction of the corridor. A patrol of Newcomers appeared, and
others behind.

I sprang erect.

"Attention, all!" I roared at the top of my lungs. "Fire no shots, send
no rays, or you will all perish in the explosion! You came to fight,
exterminate! But I--I, Barak, the foremost fighter on this planet--am
here to see that it does not happen!"

And I drew the saber at my side.


                                  VI

I struck a pose as I stood there. I hoped that a grim and heroic
attitude might give them pause.

"It's Barak!" said an officer at the forefront of the Newcomers.

"Barak!" echoed a warrior of Dondromogon. I heard a rattle and clink of
weapons.

"Remember," I made haste to call out, "a bullet or ray will tear this
place--and both forces--to bits! I'll perish, and so will every man on
either side, as far as the explosion reaches!"

The Newcomers were only a trifle mystified, but the Dondromogon party,
which knew what was beneath us, wavered. Those in the front rank
appeared to give back a little. The Newcomers saw this beyond me, and
made to move forward. Their officer, he who had recognized me, gestured
outward with his arms to make some sort of battle formation. "Rush
through," he said, "and fight it out in the clear beyond."

"Come on if you dare!" blared an officer of Dondromogon.

"Let nobody dare," I said, "unless he thinks he can fight his way past
me."

The Newcomers paused in turn. "Barak," said the officer, "don't you
know us? Don't you know me?"

I did know him, now that he spoke again. "You're Harvison, aren't you?"
I hailed him. "Don't be the first I must kill." I wheeled around. "My
challenge isn't to the Newcomers alone. I said, nobody shall pass
through. My sword, if not my voice, will stop this war, here and now."

I heard a laugh, deep and familiar. Gederr had come among his troops.

"That's logic for you!" he mocked me. "Barak was always a man of blood!
He'll kill us all to stop this slaughter. Someone finish him."

One of his lieutenants spoke to two of the foremost men, who stepped
forward, rifles at the ready.

"If they shoot--" began Doriza tremulously.

"If they do, they destroy everyone!" I reminded yet again. "Come, who
dares. Swords if you will, but no fire!"

The officer who had given the order stepped between the two soldiers,
saber drawn. "Ready to rush," he said. "My blade, your butts--"

They approached, side by side. Their faces were set, grim. They
faltered for only a moment at the entry to the glare field.

In that moment I rushed them.

They hadn't expected that, three against one. I shouted, and hurled
myself at the soldier on the left. He made to dodge, and the officer
opposed his own saber; but I spun away from it and before the other
soldier knew my mind I was upon him. I could not use the ray in my
blade, but it drove past his hastily lifted gun-barrel and struck his
mailed shoulder so heavily that he dropped his weapon. Stepping in
close, I uppercut him with the curved hilt as with a mailed fist.

Leaping over his falling form, I was upon the officer. A single twist,
and I had his saber in my left hand. Two blows sent him staggering
back. I parried a blow from the rifle-stock of the remaining soldier
with my left-hand blade, while with my right I stabbed him in the side.
He, too, retreated, clutching his wound. I waved my blood-streaming
weapons.

"Who next?" I called.

Harvison made stout reply:

"You're mad, Barak. I know I'm no match for you, nobody is--but here I
come!"

He came, and his fellows. They all tried to crowd at once into that
narrow corridor, and hampered each other. I had a mighty sweep with
both my swords, spanning twelve full feet with them--enough for my
purpose. At my first parry I turned aside three points at once,
disengaged, and got home on poor Harvison, through the shoulder. He
sank to one knee, and further impeded his friends. I made a sweeping
cut with both blades, and despite themselves they gave back.

"This is monotonous," I taunted them. "Make it exciting."

"Rush at his back," I heard Gederr yelling.

"Careful!" Doriza warned me. And then another voice I knew, deep and
stout:

"I won't let them! Yandro, or Barak, or whoever you are--I'm with you!"

"Klob!" I yelled joyously over my shoulder. "I should have known I
could count on you!"

He had rushed, facing about at my very shoulder-blades. I heard the
snick of his blade against another weapon. Doriza again cried a
warning, to Klob this time, and he scored on his adversary, for he
snorted triumphantly. Then the Newcomers surged at me again.

       *       *       *       *       *

I could not kill my own people. I strove to wound only. Three staggered
back, out of the fight, but the others pressed me bravely. Both my
swords must be everywhere at once. My breath began to come quickly, my
mind floundered here and there for new stratagems. The saving answer
came, not from my own brain, but from Klob.

"You!" I heard him address a new adversary. "You want to kill me?
Truly?"

"Why--" panted the other. "Why, no--Klob--why kill--"

"You were my friend!" Klob harangued him. "Turn here with me! A chance
for an end of war! Will you--won't you? If not, defend yourself, and I
could always fence better--"

"I'm with you, Klob," the other agreed, rather sullenly. And then he
stood by Klob.

At that moment I beat the biggest of my own adversaries to his knees,
and the others stood off. I stole a quick glance around. Klob had been
joined by his late opponent, a short but well-knit warrior armed with
both sword and rifle. It gave me hope and an inspiration.

"Fools!" I said, pointing my swords. "You won't trust me, when I only
want to help you, and these other fools who have been fighting you! You
can't conquer me! So join me!"

"Why?"

That was Harvison, again on his feet, holding a bloody hand to his
wound. The query was enough to slow up the others. They listened, and I
had time and wit to reply.

"A handful of rulers, with blind ambition, caused the war. They're
mostly gone. I want peace, a chance to bring both sides together."

"Stop his traitor mouth!" cried someone far back.

"Who's afraid to hear?" I yelled. "You almost walked into a trap, and I
stopped you. These defenders have mined the cavern beyond--"

"He tells the truth, you Newcomers!" Klob seconded me. "If you can't
understand truth and tell it from lies--_look out_, they come!"

He meant his own late comrades. Gederr had urged a fresh body at us.

"Quick!" I cried. "They heard me tell of their ambush, they want to
silence me! Won't anyone help!"

"I will," gurgled Harvison, wounded as he was. He stepped past me,
sword in his left hand, and engaged a Dondromogon warrior. Another big
Newcomer leaped forward to do likewise. I seized my opportunity.

"Don't move without my order!" I addressed the remainder of Harvison's
party, as if they were my allies again. "These defenders have the
advantage of you in their planted explosives!"

"Then destroy them some other way," growled an under-officer.

I whirled toward the Dondromogon front. The attackers fell back.

"You still scare any man you look at, Barak," said Harvison. He was a
little tottery from loss of blood, but game. "Well, shall we charge?"
He managed a grin.

"I've been trying to keep you from doing that," I groaned. "I don't
want tragedy here and extermination afterward. Can't this world stand
peace--"

"If you can do it," someone said behind me, "I give you full authority."

I knew him. He was Dr. Thorald--high in the Newcomer command. With him
were the other leaders, Parkeson and Captain Cross.

"Danger!" I gasped at them. "Don't come through here. Doriza, see that
they do not--" I looked for her. She was not there.

"She slipped away while we fought," said Klob. "First setting the
glare-lamp to run--"

My heart sank. "Which way did she go? Toward the Newcomers, or toward
Dondromogon?"

"Toward Dondromogon," he said, and my heart sank the rest of the way.

She had decided to betray me after all.

"Wait here, all," I commanded, and moved clear of the glare-field.
Moved straight toward the host of Dondromogon.

Gederr laughed again. I could read his thoughts. He had clinched his
own power by judicious murders. Now he thought I was in his hands.
"Shoot him down," he bade.

"Let no man shoot," I warned. "A pellet flying past me will strike and
set off the glare-field. It's still swords, and in the open we can use
their rays."

I flicked on my own. The blade glowed like hot iron.

"Come and fight," I invited. "All of you. Or withdraw and explode this
trap on me alone."

"He's tired of life," snarled Gederr, hidden in the ranks.

"I'm tired of this fighting," was my reply. "If I die alone, the
Newcomer force remains intact. It can move upon you and force you to
peace. Men of Dondromogon, overthrow this coward tyrant Gederr, who
defends his pride and power with your bodies!"

I think they indicated that they knew the truth of that, and Gederr
knew it, too. At any rate, he moved boldly to reestablish his influence.

"I'll prove he lies! I hide nowhere!" The words fairly rang out.
"Retreat, quickly, to the positions behind. Leave me to face him."

       *       *       *       *       *

They fell back, quickly and orderly. Of a sudden I found myself in that
big cave, and Gederr before me, no more than twenty paces distant. He
held his ray-saber, glowing and ready, in his right hand. In his left
was some sort of silvery cylinder. He grinned murderously.

"You offer yourself as a sacrifice," he said, "and I accept you."

I moved toward him, my body in line with the glare-field.

"You overgrown bully-swordsman," he taunted. "An ounce of my brain can
defeat a ton of your big lumpy muscles."

"Explode the mine," I said. "It will take us both. You can't retreat
out of both my reach and the explosion's."

"Can't I?"

He held up his cylinder. "Here's the fuse. By remote control it can set
off all, or any part I select. Understand before you die, Barak. I'll
blow up a small area, and you with it, as soon as you set foot where I
want."

His broad face sniggered. "Oh, you've played into my hands from the
first! You tried to disrupt--you only gave me an excuse to wipe out the
rest of that Council, and take all power for myself. Now I'll kill you.
Will you come on? Or retreat, and die as you flee? Or just stand there,
like a captive statue?"

I continued my advance upon him. "You're lying," I said, but my heart
told me that for once he was not.

"Your life is in my hands," he said. "You don't know what moment will
see your own feet carrying you to your death. Come, pursue me, brave
Barak, stupid Barak. Let your last thought be this--your death helps me
immeasurably."

"You're lying," I said again, and he laughed again.

"Reflect. Let your thick skull filter these facts. I shall destroy you.
To my followers I will be a hero. Your own Newcomers will pause and
wonder. I can re-order my defenses, and most of the planted mines will
remain to check any advance--"

Forgetting all caution, all planning, I charged him. He turned and ran
like Dondromogon's outer winds.

But I had taken no more than half a dozen steps in pursuit when all the
thunders and lightnings of the universe seemed to burst around me.

I fell, swiftly and deeply, into black nothingness.

       *       *       *       *       *

I was able to establish which way was up, which down, and that I lay
horizontally, as if floating in liquid or upon clouds. My ears hummed a
trifle, and a voice spoke.

"He will be all right."

Dr. Thorald! I opened my eyes, and they were blurred. I lifted a hand
to them, and moaned despite myself.

"Were you killed, too?" I muttered.

"Killed? Not me. Nobody was killed, except that fat pig you met in the
cavern. Not enough of him left to make a funeral worth while." Thorald
looked behind him. "Ahoy, Parkeson! Cross! Barak's going to be all
right."

The other two heads of the Newcomer expedition pushed into view, and
looked down upon me where I lay.

"High time," grumbled Parkeson. "They're yelling for him--both sides.
Barak, you'll have to drop all your weapons and take up political
economy. I greatly fear you'll have a world to run."

"World?" I echoed stupidly. "What world?" My head cleared a bit.
"Where's Doriza?"

"The fighting's over," Parkeson soothed me. "Just as you forced it to
be. I'm still trying to decide whether you were an epic hero or an epic
idiot, there at the crossways of battle, making us all stop, or fight
you! But your hunch paid off. The entire Council of Dondromogon is
dead, and--"

"Doriza," I said again.

"Somebody named Klob, a sturdy soldierly chap, is taking charge. An
old sneak named Sporr tried to foment a counter-rising, but Klob
disintegrated him. However, the army of Dondromogon still holds an
inner defense--says it doesn't trust us quite. Wants only you to assure
it that we mean peace. Feel like getting up, Barak?"

Dr. Thorald leaned over. "You've engineered this yourself, Barak, or
maybe you didn't engineer it--maybe you only bulled it through. So I
won't put words in your mouth, or thoughts in your head. But tell those
deluded people to start by trusting us. And you know that they can.
Nobody wanted war less than I. Peacetime endeavor on Dondromogon is
quite difficult and exciting enough."

"Doriza," I said yet again, and then, "All right, gentlemen. You won't
tell me about her. Maybe you don't dare. But how did I survive?"

"Oh, that?" put in Captain Cross. "Don't you know? The explosion was
set off prematurely, to trap and destroy Gederr. It blew him to atoms,
but you were clear of it. You had a bad tumble into the lower chamber--"

Now I sat up. "Never tell me that he bungled it that badly! Gederr was
a tyrant and coward and murderer, but not a bungler!"

"He was to some extent. Is your head clear? Now we can begin to
explain."

Cross subsided, and Dr. Thorald took up the tale: "We sent a spy among
them, a long time back, a spy that would pretend to be renegading
from us. The spy was good, but got a rather visionary idea, like your
own--that peace was better than war between us."

"Practically treason," opined Parkeson sagely.

"We might have held a court-martial and an execution," went on Dr.
Thorald, "but for you. Because you seemed to plan out all this
Horatius-at-the-bridge coup. And just when we thought it had achieved
success--we thought you were failing."

"And up bobs our ex-spy, and sets off the explosion," chimed in Cross.
"Sets it off to destroy Gederr and save you. And that left them without
a leader to order battle, and they were more than glad to talk peace."

"What," I growled, "has all this to do with Doriza?"

"Why," grinned Dr. Thorald, "they're yelling for her, too, to lead
in the final peace talks. Because, you see, she was our spy, our
pseudo-renegade, who set off the explosion!"

Doriza came forward to where I had sagged back on the pillows. At sight
of her smile, I thought no more of strife and wounds and worries.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Warrior of Two Worlds" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home