by Alan Edward Nourse
It was nearly sundown when Ravdin eased the ship down
into the last slow arc toward the Earth's surface. Stretching
his arms and legs, he tried to relax and ease the tension in
his tired muscles. Carefully, he tightened the seat belt for
landing; below him he could see the vast, tangled expanse of
Jungle-land spreading out to the horizon. Miles ahead was the
bright circle of the landing field and the sparkling glow of the
city beyond. Ravdin peered to the north of the city, hoping to
catch a glimpse of the concert before his ship was swallowed
by the brilliant landing lights.
A bell chimed softly in his ear. Ravdin forced his attention
back to the landing operation. He was still numb and shaken
from the Warp-passage, his mind still muddled by the abrupt
and incredible change. Moments before, the sky had been a
vast, starry blanket of black velvet; then, abruptly, he had
been hovering over the city, sliding down toward warm
friendly lights and music. He checked the proper switches, and
felt the throbbing purr of the anti-grav motors as the ship slid
in toward the landing slot. Tall spires of other ships rose to
meet him, circle upon circle of silver needles pointing skyward.
A little later they were blotted out as the ship was grappled
into the berth from which it had risen days before.
With a sigh, Ravdin eased himself out of the seat, his heart
pounding with excitement. Perhaps, he thought, he was too
excited, too eager to be home, for his mind was still reeling
from the fearful discovery of his journey.
The station was completely empty as Ravdin walked down
the ramp to the shuttles. At the desk he checked in with the
shiny punch-card robot, and walked swiftly across the polished
floor. The wall panels pulsed a somber blue-green,
broken sharply by brilliant flashes and overtones of scarlet,
reflecting with subtle accuracy the tumult in his own mind.
Not a sound was in the air, not a whisper nor sign of human
habitation. Vaguely, uneasiness grew in his mind as he entered
the shuttle station. Suddenly, the music caught him, a long,
low chord of indescribable beauty, rising and falling in the
wind, a distant whisper of life....
The concert, of course. Everyone would be at the concert
tonight, and even from two miles away, the beauty of
four hundred perfectly harmonized voices was carried on
the breeze. Ravdin's uneasiness disappeared; he was eager to
discharge his horrible news, get it off his mind and join the
others in the great amphitheater set deep in the hillside outside
the city. But he knew instinctively that Lord Nehmon,
anticipating his return, would not be at the concert.
Riding the shuttle over the edges of Jungle-land toward the
shining bright beauty of the city, Ravdin settled back, trying
to clear his mind of the shock and horror he had encountered
on his journey. The curves and spires of glowing plastic passed
him, lighted with a million hues. He realized that his whole
life was entangled in the very beauty of this wonderful city.
Everything he had ever hoped or dreamed lay sheltered here
in the ever-changing rhythm of colors and shapes and sounds.
And now, he knew, he would soon see his beloved city burning
once again, turning to flames and ashes in a heart-breaking
memorial to the age-old fear of his people.
The little shuttle-car settled down softly on the green terrace
near the center of the city. The building was a masterpiece
of smoothly curving walls and tasteful lines, opening a
full side to the south to catch the soft sunlight and warm
breezes. Ravdin strode across the deep carpeting of the terrace.
There was other music here, different music, a wilder,
more intimate fantasy of whirling sound. An oval door opened
for him, and he stopped short, staggered for a moment by the
overpowering beauty in the vaulted room.
A girl with red hair the color of new flame was dancing
with enthralling beauty and abandon, her body moving like
ripples of wind to the music which filled the room with its
throbbing cry. Her beauty was exquisite, every motion, every
flowing turn a symphony of flawless perfection as she danced
to the wild music.
The dancer threw back her head sharply, eyes wide, her
body frozen in mid-air, and then, abruptly, she was gone, leaving
only the barest flickering image of her fiery hair. The
music slowed, singing softly, and Ravdin could see the old
man waiting in the room. Nehmon rose, his gaunt face and
graying hair belying the youthful movement of his body. Smiling,
he came forward, clapped Ravdin on the shoulder, and
took his hand warmly. "You're too late for the concert—it's
a shame. Mischana is the master tonight, and the whole city
Ravdin's throat tightened as he tried to smile. "I had to
let you know," he said. "They're coming, Nehmon! I saw
them, hours ago."
The last overtones of the music broke abruptly, like a glass
shattered on stone. The room was deathly still. Lord Nehmon
searched the young man's face. Then he turned away, not quite
concealing the sadness and pain in his eyes. "You're certain?
You couldn't be mistaken?"
"No chance. I found signs of their passing in a dozen places.
Then I saw them, their whole fleet. There were hundreds.
They're coming, I saw them."
"Did they see you?" Nehmon's voice was sharp.
"No, no. The Warp is a wonderful thing. With it I could
come and go in the twinkling of an eye. But I could see them
in the twinkling of an eye."
"And it couldn't have been anyone else?"
"Could anyone else build ships like the Hunters?"
Nehmon sighed wearily. "No one that we know." He
glanced up at the young man. "Sit down, son, sit down. I—I'll
just have to rearrange my thinking a little. Where were
they? How far?"
"Seven light years," Ravdin said. "Can you imagine it?
Just seven, and moving straight this way. They know where
we are, and they are coming quickly." His eyes filled with
fear. "They couldn't have found us so soon, unless they too
have discovered the Warp and how to use it to travel."
The older man's breath cut off sharply, and there was real
alarm in his eyes. "You're right," he said softly. "Six months
ago it was eight hundred light years away, in an area completely
remote from us. Now just seven. In six months they
have come so close."
The scout looked up at Nehmon in desperation. "But what
can we do? We have only weeks, maybe days, before they're
here. We have no time to plan, no time to prepare for them.
What can we do?"
The room was silent. Finally the aged leader stood up,
wearily, some fraction of his six hundred years of life showing
in his face for the first time in centuries. "We can do once
again what we always have done before when the Hunters
came," he said sadly. "We can run away."
The bright street below the oval window was empty and
quiet. Not a breath of air stirred in the city. Ravdin stared out
in bitter silence. "Yes, we can run away. Just as we always
have before. After we have worked so hard, accomplished so
much here, we must burn the city and flee again." His voice
trailed off to silence. He stared at Nehmon, seeking in the old
man's face some answer, some reassurance. But he found no
answer there, only sadness. "Think of the concerts. It's taken
so long, but at last we've come so close to the ultimate goal."
He gestured toward the thought-sensitive sounding boards lining
the walls, the panels which had made the dancer-illusion
possible. "Think of the beauty and peace we've found here."
"I know. How well I know."
"Yet now the Hunters come again, and again we must run
away." Ravdin stared at the old man, his eyes suddenly bright.
"Nehmon, when I saw those ships I began thinking."
"I've spent many years thinking, my son."
"Not what I've been thinking." Ravdin sat down, clasping
his hands in excitement. "The Hunters come and we run away,
Nehmon. Think about that for a moment. We run, and we run,
and we run. From what? We run from the Hunters. They're
hunting us, these Hunters. They've never quite found us, because
we've always already run. We're clever, we're fortunate,
and we have a way of life that they do not, so whenever they
have come close to finding us, we have run."
Nehmon nodded slowly. "For thousands of years."
Ravdin's eyes were bright. "Yes, we flee, we cringe, we hide
under stones, we break up our lives and uproot our families,
running like frightened animals in the shadows of night and
secrecy." He gulped a breath, and his eyes sought Nehmon's
angrily. "Why do we run, my lord?"
Nehmon's eyes widened. "Because we have no choice," he
said. "We must run or be killed. You know that. You've seen
the records, you've been taught."
"Oh, yes, I know what I've been taught. I've been taught
that eons ago our remote ancestors fought the Hunters, and
lost, and fled, and were pursued. But why do we keep running?
Time after time we've been cornered, and we've turned and
fled. Why? Even animals know that when they're cornered
they must turn and fight."
"We are not animals." Nehmon's voice cut the air like a
"But we could fight."
"Animals fight. We do not. We fought once, like animals,
and now we must run from the Hunters who continue to fight
like animals. So be it. Let the Hunters fight."
Ravdin shook his head. "Do you mean that the Hunters are
not men like us?" he said. "That's what you're saying, that
they are animals. All right. We kill animals for our food, isn't
that true? We kill the tiger-beasts in the Jungle to protect
ourselves, why not kill the Hunters to protect ourselves?"
Nehmon sighed, and reached out a hand to the young man.
"I'm sorry," he said gently. "It seems logical, but it's false
logic. The Hunters are men just like you and me. Their lives
are different, their culture is different, but they are men. And
human life is sacred, to us, above all else. This is the fundamental
basis of our very existence. Without it we would be
Hunters, too. If we fight, we are dead even if we live. That's
why we must run away now, and always. Because we know
that we must not kill men."
On the street below, the night air was suddenly full of
voices, chattering, intermingled with whispers of song and occasional
brief harmonic flutterings. The footfalls were muted
on the polished pavement as the people passed slowly, their
voices carrying a hint of puzzled uneasiness.
"The concert's over!" Ravdin walked to the window, feeling
a chill pass through him. "So soon, I wonder why?" Eagerly
he searched the faces passing in the street for Dana's face,
sensing the lurking discord in the quiet talk of the crowd. Suddenly
the sound-boards in the room tinkled a carillon of ruby
tones in his ear, and she was in the room, rushing into his arms
with a happy cry, pressing her soft cheek to his rough chin.
"You're back! Oh, I'm so glad, so very glad!" She turned to
the old man. "Nehmon, what has happened? The concert was
ruined tonight. There was something in the air, everybody felt
it. For some reason the people seemed afraid."
Ravdin turned away from his bride. "Tell her," he said to
the old man.
Dana looked at them, her gray eyes widening in horror.
"The Hunters! They've found us?"
Ravdin nodded wordlessly.
Her hands trembled as she sat down, and there were tears
in her eyes. "We came so close tonight, so very close. I felt
the music before it was sung, do you realize that? I felt the
fear around me, even though no one said a word. It wasn't
vague or fuzzy, it was clear! The transference was perfect."
She turned to face the old man. "It's taken so long to come
this far, Nehmon. So much work, so much training to reach a
perfect communal concert. We've had only two hundred years
here, only two hundred! I was just a little girl when we came,
I can't even remember before that. Before we came here we
were undisturbed for a thousand years, and before that, four
thousand. But two hundred—we can't leave now. Not when
we've come so far."
Ravdin nodded. "That's the trouble. They come closer every
time. This time they will catch us. Or the next time, or the
next. And that will be the end of everything for us, unless we
fight them." He paused, watching the last groups dispersing on
the street below. "If we only knew, for certain, what we were
There was a startled silence. The girl's breath came in a
gasp and her eyes widened as his words sank home. "Ravdin,"
she said softly, "have you ever seen a Hunter?"
Ravdin stared at her, and felt a chill of excitement. Music
burst from the sounding-board, odd, wild music, suddenly
hopeful. "No," he said, "no, of course not. You know that."
The girl rose from her seat. "Nor have I. Never, not once."
She turned to Lord Nehmon. "Have you?"
"Never." The old man's voice was harsh.
"Has anyone ever seen a Hunter?"
Ravdin's hand trembled. "I—I don't know. None of us living
now, no. It's been too long since they last actually found
us. I've read—oh, I can't remember. I think my grandfather
saw them, or my great-grandfather, somewhere back there.
It's been thousands of years."
"Yet we've been tearing ourselves up by the roots, fleeing
from planet to planet, running and dying and still running.
But suppose we don't need to run anymore?"
He stared at her. "They keep coming. They keep searching
for us. What more proof do you need?"
Dana's face glowed with excitement, alive with new vitality,
new hope. "Ravdin, can't you see? They might have changed.
They might not be the same. Things can happen. Look at us,
how we've grown since the wars with the Hunters. Think how
our philosophy and culture have matured! Oh, Ravdin, you
were to be master at a concert next month. Think how the concerts
have changed! Even my grandmother can remember
when the concerts were just a few performers playing, and
everyone else just sitting and listening! Can you imagine anything
more silly? They hadn't even thought of transference
then, they never dreamed what a real concert could be! Why,
those people had never begun to understand music until they
themselves became a part of it. Even we can see these changes,
why couldn't the Hunters have grown and changed just as
Nehmon's voice broke in, almost harshly, as he faced the
excited pair. "The Hunters don't have concerts," he said
grimly. "You're deluding yourself, Dana. They laugh at our
music, they scoff at our arts and twist them into obscene
mockeries. They have no concept of beauty in their language.
The Hunters are incapable of change."
"And you can be certain of that when nobody has seen
them for thousands of years?"
Nehmon met her steady eyes, read the strength and determination
there. He knew, despairingly, what she was thinking—that
he was old, that he couldn't understand, that his
mind was channeled now beyond the approach of wisdom.
"You mustn't think what you're thinking," he said weakly.
"You'd be blind. You wouldn't know, you couldn't have any
idea what you would find. If you tried to contact them, you
could be lost completely, tortured, killed. If they haven't
changed, you wouldn't stand a chance. You'd never come
"But she's right all the same," Ravdin said softly. "You're
wrong, my lord. We can't continue this way if we're to survive.
Sometime our people must contact them, find the link that
was once between us, and forge it strong again. We could do
it, Dana and I."
"I could forbid you to go."
Dana looked at her husband, and her eyes were proud.
"You could forbid us," she said, facing the old man. "But
you could never stop us."
At the edge of the Jungle-land a great beast stood with
green-gleaming eyes, licking his fanged jaws as he watched the
glowing city, sensing somehow that the mystifying circle of
light and motion was soon to become his Jungle-land again.
In the city the turmoil bubbled over, as wave after wave of
the people made the short safari across the intervening jungle
to the circles of their ships. Husbands, wives, fathers, mothers—all
carried their small, frail remembrances out to the ships.
There was music among them still, but it was a different sort
of music, now, an eerie, hopeless music that drifted out of the
city in the wind. It caused all but the bravest of the beasts,
their hair prickling on their backs, to run in panic through
the jungle darkness. It was a melancholy music, carried from
thought to thought, from voice to voice as the people of the
city wearily prepared themselves once again for the long
To run away. In the darkness of secrecy, to be gone, without
a trace, without symbol or vestige of their presence, leaving
only the scorched circle of land for the jungle to reclaim,
so that no eyes, not even the sharpest, would ever know how
long they had stayed, nor where they might have gone.
In the rounded room of his house, Lord Nehmon dispatched
the last of his belongings, a few remembrances, nothing more,
because the space on the ships must take people, not remembrances,
and he knew that the remembrances would bring only
pain. All day Nehmon had supervised the loading, the intricate
preparation, following plans laid down millennia before.
He saw the libraries and records transported, mile upon endless
mile of microfilm, carted to the ships prepared to carry
them, stored until a new resting place was found. The history
of a people was recorded on that film, a people once proud and
strong, now equally proud, but dwindling in numbers as toll
for the constant roving. A proud people, yet a people who
would turn and run without thought, in a panic of age-old
fear. They had to run, Nehmon knew, if they were to survive.
And with a blaze of anger in his heart, he almost hated the
two young people waiting here with him for the last ship to be
filled. For these two would not go.
It had been a long and painful night. He had pleaded and
begged, tried to persuade them that there was no hope, that
the very idea of remaining behind or trying to contact the
Hunters was insane. Yet he knew they were sane, perhaps unwise,
naive, but their decision had been reached, and they
would not be shaken.
The day was almost gone as the last ships began to fill.
Nehmon turned to Ravdin and Dana, his face lined and tired.
"You'll have to go soon," he said. "The city will be burned,
of course, as always. You'll be left with food, and with weapons
against the jungle. The Hunters will know that we've been
here, but they'll not know when, nor where we have gone."
He paused. "It will be up to you to see that they don't learn."
Dana shook her head. "We'll tell them nothing, unless it's
safe for them to know."
"They'll question you, even torture you."
She smiled calmly. "Perhaps they won't. But as a last resort,
we can blank out."
Nehmon's face went white. "You know there is no coming
back, once you do that. You would never regain your memory.
You must save it for a last resort."
Down below on the street the last groups of people were
passing; the last sweet, eerie tones of the concert were rising
in the gathering twilight. Soon the last families would have
taken their refuge in the ships, waiting for Nehmon to trigger
the fire bombs to ignite the beautiful city after the ships
started on their voyage. The concerts were over; there would
be long years of aimless wandering before another home could
be found, another planet safe from the Hunters and their ships.
Even then it would be more years before the concerts could
again rise from their hearts and throats and minds, generations
before they could begin work again toward the climactic expression
of their heritage.
Ravdin felt the desolation in the people's minds, saw the
utter hopelessness in the old man's face, and suddenly felt the
pressure of despair. It was such a slender hope, so frail and
so dangerous. He knew of the terrible fight, the war of his
people against the Hunters, so many thousand years before.
They had risen together, a common people, their home a single
planet. And then, the gradual splitting of the nations, his own
people living in peace, seeking the growth and beauty of the
arts, despising the bitterness and barrenness of hatred and killing—and
the Hunters, under an iron heel of militarism, of
government for the perpetuation of government, split farther
and farther from them. It was an ever-widening split as the
Hunters sneered and ridiculed, and then grew to hate Ravdin's
people for all the things the Hunters were losing: peace, love,
happiness. Ravdin knew of his people's slowly dawning awareness
of the sanctity of life, shattered abruptly by the horrible
wars, and then the centuries of fear and flight, hiding from the
wrath of the Hunters' vengeance. His people had learned much
in those long years. They had conquered disease. They had
grown in strength as they dwindled in numbers. But now the
end could be seen, crystal clear, the end of his people and a
Nehmon's voice broke the silence. "If you must stay behind,
then go now. The city will burn an hour after the
"We will be safe, outside the city." Dana gripped her husband's
hand, trying to transmit to him some part of her
strength and confidence. "Wish us the best, Nehmon. If a link
can be forged, we will forge it."
"I wish you the best in everything." There were tears in the
old man's eyes as he turned and left the room.
They stood in the Jungle-land, listening to the scurry of
frightened animals, and shivering in the cool night air as the
bright sparks of the ships' exhausts faded into the black starry
sky. A man and a woman alone, speechless, watching, staring
with awful longing into the skies as the bright rocket jets
dwindled to specks and flickered out.
The city burned. Purple spumes of flame shot high into the
air, throwing a ghastly light on the frightened Jungle-land.
Spires of flame seemed to be seeking the stars with their fingers
as the plastic walls and streets of the city hissed and shriveled,
blackening, bubbling into a vanishing memory before
their eyes. The flames shot high, carrying with them the last
remnants of the city which had stood proud and tall an hour
before. Then a silence fell, deathly, like the lifeless silence of
a grave. Out of the silence, little whispering sounds of the
Jungle-land crept to their ears, first frightened, then curious,
then bolder and bolder as the wisps of grass and little animals
ventured out and out toward the clearing where the city had
stood. Bit by bit the Jungle-land gathered courage, and the
clearing slowly, silently, began to disappear.
Days later new sparks of light appeared in the black sky.
They grew to larger specks, then to flares, and finally settled
to the earth as powerful, flaming jets.
They were squat, misshapen vessels, circling down like vultures,
hissing, screeching, landing with a grinding crash in the
tall thicket near the place where the city had stood. Ravdin's
signal had guided them in, and the Hunters had seen them,
standing on a hilltop above the demolished amphitheater.
Men had come out of the ships, large men with cold faces and
dull eyes, weapons strapped to their trim uniforms. The Hunters
had blinked at them, unbelieving, with their weapons held
at ready. Ravdin and Dana were seized and led to the
As they approached it, their hearts sank and they clasped
hands to bolster their failing hope.
The leader of the Hunters looked up from his desk as they
were thrust into his cabin. Frankle's face was a graven mask
as he searched their faces dispassionately. The captives were
pale and seemed to cringe from the pale interrogation light.
"Chickens!" the Hunter snorted. "We have been hunting down
chickens." His eyes turned to one of the guards. "They have
"Of course, master."
The guard frowned. "Yes, sir. But their language is almost
"You've studied the basic tongues, haven't you?" Frankle's
voice was as cold as his eyes.
"Of course, sir, but this is so different."
Frankle stared in contempt at the fair-skinned captives, fixing
his eyes on them for a long moment. Finally he said,
Ravdin glanced briefly at Dana's white face. His voice
seemed weak and high-pitched in comparison to the Hunter's
baritone. "You are the leader of the Hunters?"
Frankle regarded him sourly, without replying. His thin
face was swarthy, his short-cut gray hair matching the cold
gray of his eyes. It was an odd face, completely blank of any
thought or emotion, yet capable of shifting to a strange biting
slyness in the briefest instant. It was a rich face, a face of
inscrutable depth. He pushed his chair back, his eyes watchful.
"We know your people were here," he said suddenly. "Now
they've gone, and yet you remain behind. There must be a
reason for such rashness. Are you sick? Crippled?"
Ravdin shook his head. "We are not sick."
"Then criminals, perhaps? Being punished for rebellious
"We are not criminals."
The Hunter's fist crashed on the desk. "Then why are you
here? Why? Are you going to tell me now, or do you propose
to waste a few hours of my time first?"
"There is no mystery," Ravdin said softly. "We stayed behind
to plead for peace."
"For peace?" Frankle stared in disbelief. Then he shrugged,
his face tired. "I might have known. Peace! Where have your
Ravdin met him eye for eye. "I can't say."
The Hunter laughed. "Let's be precise, you don't choose to
say, just now. But perhaps very soon you will wish with all
your heart to tell me."
Dana's voice was sharp. "We're telling you the truth. We
want peace, nothing more. This constant hunting and running
is senseless, exhausting to both of us. We want to make peace
with you, to bring our people together again."
Frankle snorted. "You came to us in war, once, long ago.
Now you want peace. What would you do, clasp us to your
bosom, smother us in your idiotic music? Or have you gone on
to greater things?"
Ravdin's face flushed hotly. "Much greater things," he
Frankle sat down slowly. "No doubt," he said. "Now understand
me clearly. Very soon you will be killed. How quickly
or slowly you die will depend largely upon the civility of your
tongues. A civil tongue answers questions with the right answers.
That is my definition of a civil tongue." He sat back
coldly. "Now, shall we commence asking questions?"
Dana stepped forward suddenly, her cheeks flushed. "We
don't have the words to express ourselves," she said softly.
"We can't tell you in words what we have to say, but music
is a language even you can understand. We can tell you what
we want in music."
Frankle scowled. He knew about the magic of this music,
he had heard of the witchcraft these weak chicken-people
could weave, of their strange, magic power to steal strong
men's minds from them and make them like children before
wolves. But he had never heard this music with his own ears.
He looked at them, his eyes strangely bright. "You know I
cannot listen to your music. It is forbidden, even you should
know that. How dare you propose—"
"But this is different music." Dana's eyes widened, and she
threw an excited glance at her husband. "Our music is beautiful,
wonderful to hear. If you could only hear it—"
"Never." The man hesitated. "Your music is forbidden,
Her smile was like sweet wine, a smile that worked into the
Hunter's mind like a gentle, lazy drug. "But who is to permit
or forbid? After all, you are the leader here, and forbidden
pleasures are all the sweeter."
Frankle's eyes were on hers, fascinated. Slowly, with a
graceful movement, she drew the gleaming thought-sensitive
stone from her clothing. It glowed in the room with a pearly
luminescence, and she saw the man's eyes turning to it, drawn
as if by magic. Then he looked away, and a cruel smile curled
his lips. He motioned toward the stone. "All right," he said
mockingly. "Do your worst. Show me your precious music."
Like a tinkle of glass breaking in a well, the stone flashed
its fiery light in the room. Little swirls of music seemed to swell
from it, blossoming in the silence. Frankle tensed, a chill running
up his spine, his eyes drawn back to the gleaming jewel.
Suddenly, the music filled the room, rising sweetly like an
overpowering wave, filling his mind with strange and wonderful
images. The stone shimmered and changed, taking the
form of dancing clouds of light, swirling with the music as it
rose. Frankle felt his mind groping toward the music, trying
desperately to reach into the heart of it, to become part of it.
Ravdin and Dana stood there, trancelike, staring transfixed
at the gleaming center of light, forcing their joined minds to
create the crashing, majestic chords as the song lifted from the
depths of oblivion to the heights of glory in the old, old song
of their people.
A song of majesty, and strength, and dignity. A song of
love, of aspiration, a song of achievement. A song of peoples
driven by ancient fears across the eons of space, seeking only
peace, even peace with those who drove them.
Frankle heard the music, and could not comprehend, for
his mind could not grasp the meaning, the true overtones of
those glorious chords, but he felt the strangeness in the pangs
of fear which groped through his mind, cringing from the wonderful
strains, dazzled by the dancing light. He stared wide-eyed
and trembling at the couple across the room, and for an
instant it seemed that he was stripped naked. For a fleeting moment
the authority was gone from his face; gone too was the
cruelty, the avarice, the sardonic mockery. For the briefest moment
his cold gray eyes grew incredibly tender with a sudden
ancient, long-forgotten longing, crying at last to be heard.
And then, with a scream of rage he was stumbling into the
midst of the light, lashing out wildly at the heart of its shimmering
brilliance. His huge hand caught the hypnotic stone
and swept it into crashing, ear-splitting cacophony against the
cold steel bulkhead. He stood rigid, his whole body shaking,
eyes blazing with fear and anger and hatred as he turned on
Ravdin and Dana. His voice was a raging storm of bitterness
drowning out the dying strains of the music.
"Spies! You thought you could steal my mind away, make
me forget my duty and listen to your rotten, poisonous noise!
Well, you failed, do you hear? I didn't hear it, I didn't listen,
I didn't! I'll hunt you down as my fathers hunted you down,
I'll bring my people their vengeance and glory, and your foul
music will be dead!"
He turned to the guards, wildly, his hands still trembling.
"Take them out! Whip them, burn them, do anything! But
find out where their people have gone. Find out! Music! We'll
take the music out of them, once and for all."
The inquisition had been horrible. Their minds had had no
concept of such horror, such relentless, racking pain. The
blazing lights, the questions screaming in their ears, Frankle's
vicious eyes burning in frustration, and their own screams,
rising with each question they would not answer until their
throats were scorched and they could no longer scream. Finally
they reached the limit they could endure, and muttered
together the hoarse words that could deliver them. Not words
that Frankle could hear, but words to bring deliverance, to
blank out their minds like a wet sponge over slate. The hypnotic
key clicked into the lock of their minds; their screams
died in their brains. Frankle stared at them, and knew instantly
what they had done, a technique of memory obliteration
known and dreaded for so many thousands of years that
history could not remember. As his captives stood mindless
before him, he let out one hoarse, agonized scream of frustration
But strangely enough he did not kill them. He left them
on a cold stone ledge, blinking dumbly at each other as the
ships of his fleet rose one by one and vanished like fireflies in
the dark night sky. Naked, they sat alone on the planet of the
Jungle-land. They knew no words, no music, nothing. And they
did not even know that in the departing ships a seed had been
planted. For Frankle had heard the music. He had grasped the
beauty of his enemies for that brief instant, and in that instant
they had become less his enemies. A tiny seed of doubt had
been planted. The seed would grow.
The two sat dumbly, shivering. Far in the distance, a beast
roared against the heavy night, and a light rain began to fall.
They sat naked, the rain soaking their skin and hair. Then one
of them grunted, and moved into the dry darkness of the cave.
Deep within him some instinct spoke, warning him to fear
the roar of the animal.
Blinking dully, the woman crept into the cave after him.
Three thoughts alone filled their empty minds. Not thoughts of
Nehmon and his people; to them, Nehmon had never existed,
forgotten as completely as if he had never been. No thoughts
of the Hunters, either, nor of their unheard-of mercy in leaving
them their lives—lives of memoryless oblivion, like animals
in this green Jungle-land, but lives nonetheless.
Only three thoughts filled their minds:
It was raining.
They were hungry.
The Saber-tooth was prowling tonight.
They never knew that the link had been forged.