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The Door Through Space
by Marion Zimmer Bradley
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Then I hoisted Miellyn across my shoulders. She was heavier than she looked, and after a minute, half conscious, she began to struggle and moan. There was a chak-run cookshop down the street, a place I'd once known well, with an evil reputation and worse food, but it was quiet and stayed open all night. I turned in at the door, bending at the low lintel.

The place was smoke-filled and foul-smelling. I dumped Miellyn on a couch and sent the frowsy waiter for two bowls of noodles and coffee, handed him a few extra coins, and told him to leave us alone. He probably drew the worst possible inference—I saw his muzzle twitch at the smell of shallavan—but it was that kind of place anyhow. He drew down the shutters and went.

I stared at the unconscious girl, then shrugged and started on the noodles. My own head was still swimmy with the fumes, incense and drug, and I wanted it clear. I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do, but I had Evarin's right-hand girl, and I was going to use her.

The noodles were greasy and had a curious taste, but they were hot, and I ate all of one bowl before Miellyn stirred and whimpered and put up one hand, with a little clinking of chains, to her hair. The gesture was indefinably reminiscent of Dallisa, and for the first time I saw the likeness between them. It made me wary and yet curiously softened.

Finding she could not move freely, she rolled over, sat up and stared around in growing bewilderment and dismay.

"There was a sort of riot," I said. "I got you out. Evarin ditched you. And you can quit thinking what you're thinking, I put my shirtcloak on you because you were bare to the waist and it didn't look so good." I stopped to think that over, and amended: "I mean I couldn't haul you around the streets that way. It looked good enough."

To my surprise, she gave a shaky little giggle, and held out her fettered hands. "Will you?"

I broke her links and freed her. She rubbed her wrists as if they hurt her, then drew up her draperies, pinned them so that she was decently covered, and tossed back my shirtcloak. Her eyes were wide and soft in the light of the flickering stub of candle.

"O, Rakhal," she sighed. "When I saw you there—" She sat up, clasping her hands hard together, and when she continued her voice was curiously cold and controlled for anyone so childish. It was almost as cold as Dallisa's.

"If you've come from Kyral, I'm not going back. I'll never go back, and you may as well know it."

"I don't come from Kyral, and I don't care where you go. I don't care what you do." I suddenly realized that the last statement was wholly untrue, and to cover my confusion I shoved the remaining bowl of noodles at her.

"Eat."

She wrinkled her nose in fastidious disgust. "I'm not hungry."

"Eat it anyway. You're still half doped, and the food will clear your head." I picked up one mug of the coffee and drained it at a single swallow. "What were you doing in that disgusting den?"

Without warning she flung herself across the table at me, throwing her arms round my neck. Startled, I let her cling a moment, then reached up and firmly unfastened her hands.

"None of that now. I fell for it once, and it landed me in the middle of the mudpie."

But her fingers bit my shoulder.

"Rakhal, Rakhal, I tried to get away and find you. Have you still got the bird? You haven't set it off yet? Oh, don't, don't, don't, Rakhal, you don't know what Evarin is, you don't know what he's doing." The words spilled out of her like floodwaters. "He's won so many of you, don't let him have you too, Rakhal. They call you an honest man, you worked once for Terra, the Terrans would believe you if you went to them and told them what he—Rakhal, take me to the Terran Zone, take me there, take me there where they'll protect me from Evarin."

At first I tried to stop her, question her, then waited and let the torrent of entreaty run on and on. At last, exhausted and breathless, she lay quietly against my shoulder, her head fallen forward. The musty reek of shallavan mingled with the flower scent of her hair.

"Kid," I said heavily at last, "you and your Toymaker have both got me wrong. I'm not Rakhal Sensar."

"You're not?" She drew back, regarding me in dismay. Her eyes searched every inch of me, from the gray streak across my forehead to the scar running down into my collar. "Then who—"

"Race Cargill. Terran Intelligence."

She stared, her mouth wide like a child's.

Then she laughed. She laughed! At first I thought she was hysterical. I stared at her in consternation. Then, as her wide eyes met mine, with all the mischief of the nonhuman which has mingled into the human here, all the circular complexities of Wolf illogic behind the woman in them, I started to laugh too.

I threw back my head and roared, until we were clinging together and gasping with mirth like a pair of raving fools. The chak waiter came to the door and stared at us, and I roared "Get the hell out," between spasms of crazy laughter.

Then she was wiping her face, tears of mirth still dripping down her cheeks, and I was frowning bleakly into the empty bowls.

"Cargill," she said hesitantly, "you can take me to the Terrans where Rakhal—"

"Hell's bells," I exploded. "I can't take you anywhere, girl. I've got to find Rakhal—" I stopped in midsentence and looked at her clearly for the first time.

"Child, I'll see that you're protected, if I can. But I'm afraid you've walked from the trap to the cookpot. There isn't a house in Charin that will hold me. I've been thrown out twice today."

She nodded. "I don't know how the word spreads, but it happens, in nonhuman parts. I think they can see trouble written in a human face, or smell it on the wind." She fell silent, her face propped sleepily between her hands, her hair falling in tangles. I took one of her hands in mine and turned it over.

It was a fine hand, with birdlike bones and soft rose-tinted nails; but the lines and hardened places around the knuckles reminded me that she, too, came from the cold austerity of the salt Dry-towns. After a moment she flushed and drew her hand from mine.

"What are you thinking, Cargill?" she asked, and for the first time I heard her voice sobered, without the coquetry, which must after all have been a very thin veneer.

I answered her simply and literally. "I am thinking of Dallisa. I thought you were very different, and yet, I see that you are very like her."

I thought she would question what I knew of her sister, but she let it pass in silence. After a time she said, "Yes, we were twins." Then, after a long silence, she added, "But she was always much the older."

And that was all I ever knew of whatever obscure pressures had shaped Dallisa into an austere and tragic Clytemnestra, and Miellyn into a pixie runaway.

Outside the drawn shutters, dawn was brightening. Miellyn shivered, drawing her thin draperies around her bare throat. I glanced at the little rim of jewels that starred her hair and said, "You'd better take those off and hide them. They alone would be enough to have you hauled into an alley and strangled, in this part of Charin." I hauled the bird Toy from my pocket and slapped it on the greasy table, still wrapped in its silk. "I don't suppose you know which of us this thing is set to kill?"

"I know nothing about the Toys."

"You seem to know plenty about the Toymaker."

"I thought so. Until last night." I looked at the rigid, clamped mouth and thought that if she were really as soft and delicate as she looked, she would have wept. Then she struck her small hand on the tabletop and burst out, "It's not a religion. It isn't even an honest movement for freedom! Its a—a front for smuggling, and drugs, and—and every other filthy thing!

"Believe it or not, when I left Shainsa, I thought Nebran was the answer to the way the Terrans were strangling us! Now I know there are worse things on Wolf than the Terran Empire! I've heard of Rakhal Sensar, and whatever you may think of Rakhal, he's too decent to be mixed up in anything like this!"

"Suppose you tell me what's really going on," I suggested. She couldn't add much to what I knew already, but the last fragments of the pattern were beginning to settle into place. Rakhal, seeking the matter transmitter and some key to the nonhuman sciences of Wolf—I knew now what the city of Silent Ones had reminded me of!—had somehow crossed the path of the Toymaker.

Evarin's words now made sense: "You were clever at evading our surveillance—for a while." Possibly, though I'd never know, Cuinn had been keeping one foot in each camp, working for Kyral and for Evarin. The Toymaker, knowing of Rakhal's anti-Terran activities, had believed he would make a valuable ally and had taken steps to secure his help.

Juli herself had given me the clue: "He smashed Rindy's Toys." Out of the context it sounded like the work of a madman. Now, having encountered Evarin's workshop, it made plain good sense.

And I think I had known all along that Rakhal could not have been playing Evarin's game. He might have turned against Terra—though now I was beginning even to doubt that—and certainly he'd have killed me if he found me. But he would have done it himself, and without malice. Killed without malice—that doesn't make sense in any of the languages of Terra. But it made sense to me.

Miellyn had finished her brief recitation and was drowsing, her head pillowed on the table. The reddish light was growing, and I realized that I was waiting for dawn as, days ago, I had waited for sunset in Shainsa, with every nerve stretched to the breaking point. It was dawn of the third morning, and this bird lying on the table before me must fly or, far away in the Kharsa, another would fly at Juli.

I said, "There's some distance limitation on this one, I understand, since I have to be fairly near its object. If I lock it in a steel box and drop it in the desert, I'll guarantee it won't bother anybody. I don't suppose you'd have a shot at stealing the other one for me?"

She raised her head, eyes flashing. "Why should you worry about Rakhal's wife?" she flared, and for no good reason it occurred to me that she was jealous. "I might have known Evarin wouldn't shoot in the dark! Rakhal's wife, that Earthwoman, what do you care for her?"

It seemed important to set her straight. I explained that Juli was my sister, and saw a little of the tension fade from her face, but not all. Remembering the custom of the Dry-towns, I was not wholly surprised when she added, jealously, "When I heard of your feud, I guessed it was over that woman!"

"But not in the way you think," I said. Juli had been part of it, certainly. Even then I had not wanted her to turn her back on her world, but if Rakhal had remained with Terra, I would have accepted his marriage to Juli. Accepted it. I'd have rejoiced. God knows we had been closer than brothers, those years in the Dry-towns. And then, before Miellyn's flashing eyes, I suddenly faced my secret hate, my secret fear. No, the quarrel had not been all Rakhal's doing.

He had not turned his back, unexplained on Terra. In some unrecognized fashion, I had done my best to drive him away. And when he had gone, I had banished a part of myself as well, and thought I could end the struggle by saying it didn't exist. And now, facing what I had done to all of us, I knew that my revenge—so long sought, so dearly cherished—must be abandoned.

"We still have to deal with the bird," I said. "It's a gamble, with all the cards wild." I could dismantle it, and trust to luck that Wolf illogic didn't include a tamper mechanism. But that didn't seem worth the risk.

"First I've got to find Rakhal. If I set the bird free and it killed him, it wouldn't settle anything." For I could not kill Rakhal. Not, now, because I knew life would be a worse punishment than death. But because—I knew it, now—if Rakhal died, Juli would die, too. And if I killed him I'd be killing the best part of myself. Somehow Rakhal and I must strike a balance between our two worlds, and try to build a new one from them.

"And I can't sit here and talk any longer. I haven't time to take you—" I stopped, remembering the spaceport cafe at the edge of the Kharsa. There was a street-shrine, or matter transmitter, right there, across the street from the Terran HQ. All these years....

"You know your way in the transmitters. You can go there in a second or two." She could warn Juli, tell Magnusson. But when I suggested this, giving her a password that would take her straight to the top, she turned white. "All jumps have to be made through the Mastershrine."

I stopped and thought about that.

"Where is Evarin likely to be, right now?"

She gave a nervous shudder. "He's everywhere!"

"Rubbish! He's not omniscient! Why, you little fool, he didn't even recognize me. He thought I was Rakhal!" I wasn't too sure, myself, but Miellyn needed reassurance. "Or take me to the Mastershrine. I can find Rakhal in that scanning device of Evarin's." I saw refusal in her face and pushed on, "If Evarin's there, I'll prove he's fallible enough with a skean in his throat! And here"—I thrust the Toy into her hand—"hang on to this, will you?"

She put it matter-of-factly into her draperies. "I don't mind that. But to the shrine—" Her voice quivered, and I stood up and pushed at the table.

"Let's get going. Where's the nearest street-shrine?"

"No, no! Oh, I don't dare!"

"You've got to." I saw the chak who owned the place edging round the door again and said, "There's no use arguing, Miellyn." When she had readjusted her robes a little while ago, she had pinned them so that the flat sprawl of the Nebran embroideries was over her breasts. I put a finger against them, not in a sensuous gesture, and said, "The minute they see these, they'll throw us out of here, too."

"If you knew what I know of Nebran, you wouldn't want me to go near the Mastershrine again!" There was that faint coquettishness in her sidewise smile.

And suddenly I realized that I didn't want her to. But she was not Dallisa and she could not sit in cold dignity while her world fell into ruin. Miellyn must fight for the one she wanted.

And then some of that primitive male hostility which lives in every man came to the surface, and I gripped her arm until she whimpered. Then I said, in the Shainsan which still comes to my tongue when moved or angry, "Damn it, you're going. Have you forgotten that if it weren't for me you'd have been torn to pieces by that raving mob, or something worse?"

That did it. She pulled away and I saw again, beneath the veneer of petulant coquetry, that fierce and untamable insolence of the Dry-towner. The more fierce and arrogant, in this girl, because she had burst her fettered hands free and shaken off the ruin of the past.

I was seized with a wildly inappropriate desire to seize her, crush her in my arms, taste the red honey of that teasing mouth. The effort of mastering the impulse made me rough.

I shoved at her and said, "Come on. Let's get there before Evarin does."



CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Outside in the streets it was full day, and the color and life of Charin had subsided into listlessness again, a dim morning dullness and silence. Only a few men lounged wearily in the streets, as if the sun had sapped their energy. And always the pale fleecy-haired children, human and furred nonhuman, played their mysterious games on the curbs and gutters and staring at us with neither curiosity nor malice.

Miellyn was shaking when she set her feet into the patterned stones of the street-shrine.

"Scared, Miellyn?"

"I know Evarin. You don't. But"—her mouth twitched in a pitiful attempt at the old mischief—"when I am with a great and valorous Earthman...."

"Cut it out," I growled, and she giggled. "You'll have to stand closer to me. The transmitters are meant only for one person."

I stooped and put my arms round her. "Like this?"

"Like this," she whispered, pressing herself against me. A staggering whirl of dizzy darkness swung round my head. The street vanished. After an instant the floor steadied and we stepped into the terminal room in the Mastershrine, under a skylight dim with the last red slant of sunset. Distant hammering noises rang in my ears.

Miellyn whispered, "Evarin's not here, but he might jump through at any second." I wasn't listening.

"Where is this place, Miellyn? Where on the planet?"

"No one knows but Evarin, I think. There are no doors. Anyone who goes in or out, jumps through the transmitter." She pointed. "The scanning device is in there, we'll have to go through the workroom."

She was patting her crushed robes into place, smoothing her hair with fastidious fingers. "I don't suppose you have a comb? I've no time to go to my own—"

I'd known she was a vain and pampered brat, but this passed all reason, and I said so, exploding at her. She looked at me as if I wasn't quite intelligent. "The Little Ones, my friend, notice things. You are quite enough of a roughneck, but if I, Nebran's priestess, walk through their workroom all blown about and looking like the tag end of an orgy in Ardcarran...."

Abashed, I fished in a pocket and offered her a somewhat battered pocket comb. She looked at it distastefully but used it to good purpose, smoothing her hair swiftly, rearranging her loose-pinned robe so that the worst of the tears and stains were covered, and giving me, meanwhile, an artless and rather tempting view of some delicious curvature. She replaced the starred tiara on her ringlets and finally opened the door of the workroom and we walked through.

Not for years had I known that particular sensation—thousands of eyes, boring holes in the center of my back somewhere. There were eyes; the round inhuman orbs of the dwarf chaks, the faceted stare of the prism eyes of the Toys. The workroom wasn't a hundred feet long, but it felt longer than a good many miles I've walked. Here and there the dwarfs murmured an obsequious greeting to Miellyn, and she made some lighthearted answer.

She had warned me to walk as if I had every right to be there, and I strode after her as if we were simply going to an agreed-on meeting in the next room. But I was drenched with cold sweat before the farther door finally closed, safe and blessedly opaque, behind us. Miellyn, too, was shaking with fright, and I put a hand on her arm.

"Steady, kid. Where's the scanner?"

She touched the panel I'd seen. "I'm not sure I can focus it accurately. Evarin never let me touch it."

This was a fine time to tell me that. "How does it work?"

"It's an adaptation of the transmitter principle. It lets you see anywhere, but without jumping. It uses a tracer mechanism like the one in the Toys. If Rakhal's electrical-impulse pattern were on file—just a minute." She fished out the bird Toy and unwrapped it. "Here's how we find out which of you this is keyed to."

I looked at the fledgling bird, lying innocently in her palm, as she pushed aside the feathers, exposing a tiny crystal. "If it's keyed to you, you'll see yourself in this, as if the screen were a mirror. If it's keyed to Rakhal...."

She touched the crystal to the surface of the screen. Little flickers of snow wavered and danced. Then, abruptly, we were looking down from a height at the lean back of a man in a leather jacket. Slowly he turned. I saw the familiar set of his shoulders, saw the back of his head come into an aquiline profile, and the profile turn slowly into a scarred, seared mask more hideously claw-marked and disfigured than my own.

"Rakhal," I muttered. "Shift the focus if you can, Miellyn, get a look out the window or something. Charin's a big city. If we could get a look at a landmark—"

Rakhal was talking soundlessly, his lips moving as he spoke to someone out of sight range of the scanning device. Abruptly Miellyn said, "There." She had caught a window in the sight field of the pane. I could see a high pylon and two of three uprights that looked like a bridge, just outside. I said, "It's the Bridge of Summer Snows. I know where he is now. Turn it off, Miellyn, we can find him—" I was turning away when Miellyn screamed.

"Look!"

Rakhal had turned his back on the scanner and for the first time I could see who he was talking to. A hunched, catlike shoulder twisted; a sinuous neck, a high-held head that was not quite human.

"Evarin!" I swore. "That does it. He knows now that I'm not Rakhal, if he didn't know it all along! Come on, girl, we're getting out of here!"

This time there was no pretense of normality as we dashed through the workroom. Fingers dropped from half-completed Toys as they stared after us. Toys! I wanted to stop and smash them all. But if we hurried, we might find Rakhal. And, with luck, we would find Evarin with him.

And then I was going to bang their heads together. I'd reached a saturation point on adventure. I'd had all I wanted. I realized that I'd been up all night, that I was exhausted. I wanted to murder and smash, and wanted to fall down somewhere and go to sleep, all at once. We banged the workroom door shut and I took time to shove a heavy divan against it, blockading it.

Miellyn stared. "The Little Ones would not harm me," she began. "I am sacrosanct."

I wasn't sure. I had a notion her status had changed plenty, beginning when I saw her chained and drugged, and standing under the hovering horror. But I didn't say so.

"Maybe. But there's nothing sacred about me!"

She was already inside the recess where the Toad God squatted. "There is a street-shrine just beyond the Bridge of Summer Snows. We can jump directly there." Abruptly she froze in my arms, with a convulsive shudder.

"Evarin! Hold me, tight—he's jumping in! Quick!"

Space reeled round us, and then....

Can you split instantaneousness into fragments? It didn't make sense, but so help me, that's what happened. And everything that happened, occurred within less than a second. We landed in the street-shrine. I could see the pylon and the bridge and the rising sun of Charin. Then there was the giddy internal wrenching, a blast of icy air whistled round us, and we were gazing out at the Polar mountains, ringed in their eternal snow.

Miellyn clutched at me. "Pray! Pray to the Gods of Terra, if there are any!"

She clung so violently that it felt as if her small body was trying to push through me and come out the other side. I hung on tight. Miellyn knew what she was doing in the transmitter; I was just along for the ride and I didn't relish the thought of being dropped off somewhere in that black limbo we traversed.

We jumped again, the sickness of disorientation forcing a moan from the girl, and darkness shivered round us. I looked on an unfamiliar street of black night and dust-bleared stars. She whimpered, "Evarin knows what I'm doing. He's jumping us all over the planet. He can work the controls with his mind. Psychokinetics—I can do it a little, but I never dared—oh, hang on tight!"

Then began one of the most amazing duels ever fought. Miellyn would make some tiny movement, and we would be falling, blind and dizzy, through blackness. Halfway through the giddiness, a new direction would wrench us and we would be thrust elsewhere, and look out into a new street.

One instant I smelled hot coffee from the spaceport cafe near the Kharsa. An instant later it was blinding noon, with crimson fronds waving above us and a dazzle of water. We flicked in and out of the salty air of Shainsa, glimpsed flowers on a Daillon street, moonlight, noon, red twilight flickered and went, shot through with the terrible giddiness of hyperspace.

Then suddenly I caught a second glimpse of the bridge and the pylon; a moment's oversight had landed us for an instant in Charin. The blackness started to reel down, but my reflexes are fast and I made one swift, scrabbling step forward. We lurched, sprawled, locked together, on the stones of the Bridge of Summer Snows. Battered, and bruised, and bloody, we were still alive, and where we wanted to be.

I lifted Miellyn to her feet. Her eyes were dazed with pain. The ground swayed and rocked under our feet as we fled along the bridge. At the far end, I looked up at the pylon. Judging from its angle, we couldn't be more than a hundred feet from the window through which I'd seen that landmark in the scanner. In this street there was a wineshop, a silk market, and a small private house. I walked up and banged on the door.

Silence. I knocked again and had time to wonder if we'd find ourselves explaining things to some uninvolved stranger. Then I heard a child's high voice, and a deep familiar voice hushing it. The door opened, just a crack, to reveal part of a scarred face.

It drew into a hideous grin, then relaxed.

"I thought it might be you, Cargill. You've taken at least three days longer than I figured, getting here. Come on in," said Rakhal Sensar.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN

He hadn't changed much in six years. His face was worse than mine; he hadn't had the plastic surgeons of Terran Intelligence doing their best for him. His mouth, I thought fleetingly, must hurt like hell when he drew it up into the kind of grin he was grinning now. His eyebrows, thick and fierce with gray in them, went up as he saw Miellyn; but he backed away to let us enter, and shut the door behind us.

The room was bare and didn't look as if it had been lived in much. The floor was stone, rough-laid, a single fur rug laid before a brazier. A little girl was sitting on the rug, drinking from a big double-handled mug, but she scrambled to her feet as we came in, and backed against the wall, looking at us with wide eyes.

She had pale-red hair like Juli's, cut straight in a fringe across her forehead, and she was dressed in a smock of dyed red fur that almost matched her hair. A little smear of milk like a white moustache clung to her upper lip where she had forgotten to wipe her mouth. She was about five years old, with deep-set dark eyes like Juli's, that watched me gravely without surprise or fear; she evidently knew who I was.

"Rindy," Rakhal said quietly, not taking his eyes from me. "Go into the other room."

Rindy didn't move, still staring at me. Then she moved toward Miellyn, looking up intently not at the woman, but at the pattern of embroideries across her dress. It was very quiet, until Rakhal added, in a gentle and curiously moderate voice, "Do you still carry a skean, Race?"

I shook my head. "There's an ancient proverb on Terra, about blood being thicker than water, Rakhal. That's Juli's daughter. I'm not going to kill her father right before her eyes." My rage spilled over then, and I bellowed, "To hell with your damned Dry-town feuds and your filthy Toad God and all the rest of it!"

Rakhal said harshly, "Rindy. I told you to get out."

"She needn't go." I took a step toward the little girl, a wary eye on Rakhal. "I don't know quite what you're up to, but it's nothing for a child to be mixed up in. Do what you damn please. I can settle with you any time.

"The first thing is to get Rindy out of here. She belongs with Juli and, damn it, that's where she's going." I held out my arms to the little girl and said, "It's over, Rindy, whatever he's done to you. Your mother sent me to find you. Don't you want to go to your mother?"

Rakhal made a menacing gesture and warned, "I wouldn't—"

Miellyn darted swiftly between us and caught up the child in her arms. Rindy began to struggle noiselessly, kicking and whimpering, but Miellyn took two quick steps, and flung an inner door open. Rakhal took a stride toward her. She whirled on him, fighting to control the furious little girl, and gasped, "Settle it between you, without the baby watching!"

Through the open door I briefly saw a bed, a child's small dresses hanging on a hook, before Miellyn kicked the door shut and I heard a latch being fastened. Behind the closed door Rindy broke into angry screams, but I put my back against the door.

"She's right. We'll settle it between the two of us. What have you done to that child?"

"If you thought—" Rakhal stopped himself in midsentence and stood watching me without moving for a minute. Then he laughed.

"You're as stupid as ever, Race. Why, you fool, I knew Juli would run straight to you, if she was scared enough. I knew it would bring you out of hiding. Why, you damned fool!" He stood mocking me, but there was a strained fury, almost a frenzy of contempt behind the laughter.

"You filthy coward, Race! Six years hiding in the Terran zone. Six years, and I gave you six months! If you'd had the guts to walk out after me, after I rigged that final deal to give you the chance, we could have gone after the biggest thing on Wolf. And we could have brought it off together, instead of spending years spying and dodging and hunting! And now, when I finally get you out of hiding, all you want to do is run back where you'll be safe! I thought you had more guts!"

"Not for Evarin's dirty work!"

Rakhal swore hideously. "Evarin! Do you really believe—I might have known he'd get to you too! That girl—and you've managed to wreck all I did there, too!" Suddenly, so swiftly my eyes could hardly follow, he whipped out his skean and came at me. "Get away from that door!"

I stood my ground. "You'll have to kill me first. And I won't fight you, Rakhal. We'll settle this, but we'll do it my way for once, like Earthmen."

"Son of the Ape! Get your skean out, you stinking coward!"

"I won't do it, Rakhal." I stood and defied him. I had outmaneuvered Dry-towners in a shegri bet. I knew Rakhal, and I knew he would not knife an unarmed man. "We fought once with the kifirgh and it didn't settle anything. This time we'll do it my way. I threw my skean away before I came here. I won't fight."

He thrust at me. Even I could see that the blow was a feint, and I had a flashing, instantaneous memory of Dallisa's threat to drive the knife through my palms. But even while I commanded myself to stand steady, sheer reflex threw me forward, grabbing at his wrist and the knife.

Between my grappling hand he twisted and I felt the skean drive home, rip through my jacket with a tearing sound; felt the thin fine line of touch, not pain yet, as it sliced flesh. Then pain burned through my ribs and I felt hot blood, and I wanted to kill Rakhal, wanted to get my hands around his throat and kill him with them. And at the same time I was raging because I didn't want to fight the crazy fool, I wasn't even mad at him.

Miellyn flung the door open, shrieking, and suddenly the Toy, released, was darting a small whirring droning horror, straight at Rakhal's eyes. I yelled. But there was no time even to warn him. I bent and butted him in the stomach. He grunted, doubled up in agony and fell out of the path of the diving Toy. It whirred in frustration, hovered.

He writhed in agony, drawing up his knees, clawing at his shirt, while I turned on Miellyn in immense fury—and stopped. Hers had been a move of desperation, an instinctive act to restore the balance between a weaponless man and one who had a knife. Rakhal gasped, in a hoarse voice with all the breath gone from it:

"Didn't want to use. Rather fight clean—" Then he opened his closed fist and suddenly there were two of the little whirring droning horrors in the room and this one was diving at me, and as I threw myself headlong to the floor the last puzzle-piece fell into place: Evarin had made the same bargain with Rakhal as with me!

I rolled over, dodging. Behind me in the room there was a child's shrill scream: "Daddy! Daddy!" And abruptly the birds collapsed in midair and went limp. They fell to the floor like dropping stones and lay there quivering. Rindy dashed across the room, her small skirts flying, and grabbed up one of the terrible vicious things in either hand.

"Rindy!" I bellowed. "No!"

She stood shaking, tears pouring down her round cheeks, a Toy squeezed tight in either hand. Dark veins stood out almost black on her fair temples. "Break them, Daddy," she implored in a little thread of a voice. "Break them, quick. I can't hang on...."

Rakhal staggered to his feet like a drunken man and snatched one of the Toys, grinding it under his heel. He made a grab at the second, reeled and drew an anguished breath. He crumpled up, clutching at his belly where I'd butted him. The bird screamed like a living thing.

Breaking my paralysis of horror I leaped up, ran across the room, heedless of the searing pain along my side. I snatched the bird from Rindy and it screamed and shrilled and died as my foot crunched the tiny feathers. I stamped the still-moving thing into an amorphous mess and kept on stamping and smashing until it was only a heap of powder.

Rakhal finally managed to haul himself upright again. His face was so pale that the scars stood out like fresh burns.

"That was a foul blow, Race, but I—I know why you did it." He stopped and breathed for a minute. Then he muttered, "You ... saved my life, you know. Did you know you were doing it, when you did it?"

Still breathing hard, I nodded. Done knowingly, it meant an end of blood-feud. However we had wronged each other, whatever the pledges. I spoke the words that confirmed it and ended it, finally and forever:

"There is a life between us. Let it stand for a death."

Miellyn was standing in the doorway, her hands pressed to her mouth, her eyes wide. She said shakily, "You're walking around with a knife in your ribs, you fool!"

Rakhal whirled and with a quick jerk he pulled the skean loose. It had simply been caught in my shirtcloak, in a fold of the rough cloth. He pulled it away, glanced at the red tip, then relaxed. "Not more than an inch deep," he said. Then, angrily, defending himself: "You did it yourself, you ape. I was trying to get rid of the knife when you jumped me."

But I knew that and he knew I knew it. He turned and scooped up Rindy, who was sobbing noisily. She dug her head into his shoulder and I made out her strangled words. "The other Toys hurt you when I was mad at you...." she sobbed, rubbing her fists against smeared cheeks. "I—I wasn't that mad at you. I wasn't that mad at anybody, not even ... him."

Rakhal pressed his hand against his daughter's fleecy hair and said, looking at me over her head, "The Toys activate a child's subconscious resentments against his parents—I found out that much. That also means a child can control them for a few seconds. No adult can." A stranger would have seen no change in his expression, but I knew him, and saw.

"Juli said you threatened Rindy."

He chuckled and set the child on her feet. "What else could I say that would have scared Juli enough to send her running to you? Juli's proud, almost as proud as you are, you stiff-necked Son of the Ape." The insult did not sting me now.

"Come on, sit down and let's decide what to do, now we've finished up the old business." He looked remotely at Miellyn and said, "You must be Dallisa's sister? I don't suppose your talents include knowing how to make coffee?"

They didn't, but with Rindy's help Miellyn managed, and while they were out of the room Rakhal explained briefly. "Rindy has rudimentary ESP. I've never had it myself, but I could teach her something—not much—about how to use it. I've been on Evarin's track ever since that business of The Lisse.

"I'd have got it sooner, if you were still working with me, but I couldn't do anything as a Terran agent, and I had to be kicked out so thoroughly that the others wouldn't be afraid I was still working secretly for Terra. For a long time I was just chasing rumors, but when Rindy got big enough to look in the crystals of Nebran, I started making some progress.

"I was afraid to tell Juli; her best safety was the fact that she didn't know anything. She's always been a stranger in the Dry-towns." He paused, then said with honest self-evaluation, "Since I left the Secret Service I've been a stranger there myself."

I asked, "What about Dallisa?"

"Twins have some ESP to each other. I knew Miellyn had gone to the Toymaker. I tried to get Dallisa to find out where Miellyn had gone, learn more about it. Dallisa wouldn't risk it, but Kyral saw me with Dallisa and thought it was Miellyn. That put him on my tail, too, and I had to leave Shainsa. I was afraid of Kyral," he added soberly. "Afraid of what he'd do. I couldn't do anything without Rindy and I knew if I told Juli what I was doing, she'd take Rindy away into the Terran Zone, and I'd be as good as dead."

As he talked, I began to realize how vast a web Evarin and the underground organization of Nebran had spread for us. "Evarin was here today. What for?"

Rakhal laughed mirthlessly. "He's been trying to get us to kill each other off. That would get rid of us both. He wants to turn over Wolf to the nonhumans entirely, I think he's sincere enough, but"—he spread his hands helplessly—"I can't sit by and see it."

I asked point-blank, "Are you working for Terra? Or for the Dry-towns? Or any of the anti-Terran movements?"

"I'm working for me", he said with a shrug. "I don't think much of the Terran Empire, but one planet can't fight a galaxy. Race, I want just one thing. I want the Dry-towns and the rest of Wolf, to have a voice in their own government. Any planet which makes a substantial contribution to galactic science, by the laws of the Terran Empire, is automatically given the status of an independent commonwealth.

"If a man from the Dry-towns discovers something like a matter transmitter, Wolf gets dominion status. But Evarin and his gang want to keep it secret, keep it away from Terra, keep it locked up in places like Canarsa! Somebody has to get it away from them. And if I do it, I get a nice fat bonus, and an official position."

I believed that, where I would have suspected too much protestation of altruism. Rakhal tossed it aside.

"You've got Miellyn to take you through the transmitters. Go back to the Mastershrine, and tell Evarin that Race Cargill is dead. In the Trade City they think I'm Cargill, and I can get in and out as I choose—sorry if it caused you trouble, but it was the safest thing I could think of—and I'll 'vise Magnusson and have him send soldiers to guard the street-shrines. Evarin might try to escape through one of them."

I shook my head. "Terra hasn't enough men on all Wolf to cover the street-shrines in Charin alone. And I can't go back with Miellyn." I explained. Rakhal pursed his lips and whistled when I described the fight in the transmitter.

"You have all the luck, Cargill! I've never been near enough even to be sure how they work—and I'll bet you didn't begin to understand! We'll have to do it the hard way, then. It won't be the first time we've bulled our way through a tight place! We'll face Evarin in his own hideout! If Rindy's with us, we needn't worry."

I was willing to let him assume command, but I protested, "You'd take a child into that—that—"

"What else can we do? Rindy can control the Toys, and neither you nor I can do that, if Evarin should decide to throw his whole arsenal at us." He called Rindy and spoke softly to her. She looked from her father to me, and back again to her father, then smiled and stretched out her hand to me.

Before we ventured into the street, Rakhal scowled at the sprawled embroideries of Miellyn's robe. He said, "In those things you show up like a snowfall in Shainsa. If you go out in them, you could be mobbed. Hadn't you better get rid of them now?"

"I can't," she protested. "They're the keys to the transmitter!"

Rakhal looked at the conventionalized idols with curiosity, but said only, "Cover them up in the street, then. Rindy, find her something to put over her dress."

When we reached the street-shrine, Miellyn admonished: "Stand close together on the stones. I'm not sure we can all make the jump at once, but we'll have to try."

Rakhal picked up Rindy and hoisted her to his shoulder. Miellyn dropped the cloak she had draped over the pattern of the Nebran embroideries, and we crowded close together. The street swayed and vanished and I felt the now-familiar dip and swirl of blackness before the world straightened out again. Rindy was whimpering, dabbing smeary fists at her face. "Daddy, my nose is bleeding...."

Miellyn hastily bent and wiped the blood from the snubby nose. Rakhal gestured impatiently.

"The workroom. Wreck everything you see. Rindy, if anything starts to come at us, you stop it. Stop it quick. And"—he bent and took the little face between his hands—"chiya, remember they're not toys, no matter how pretty they are."

Her grave gray eyes blinked, and she nodded.

Rakhal flung open the door of the elves' workshop with a shout. The ringing of the anvils shattered into a thousand dissonances as I kicked over a workbench and half-finished Toys crashed in confusion to the floor.

The dwarfs scattered like rabbits before our assault of destruction. I smashed tools, filigree, jewels, stamping everything with my heavy boots. I shattered glass, caught up a hammer and smashed crystals. There was a wild exhilaration to it.

A tiny doll, proportioned like a woman, dashed toward me, shrilling in a supersonic shriek. I put my foot on her and ground the life out of her, and she screamed like a living woman as she came apart. Her blue eyes rolled from her head and lay on the floor watching me. I crushed the blue jewels under my heel.

Rakhal swung a tiny hound by the tail. Its head shattered into debris of almost-invisible gears and wheels. I caught up a chair and wrecked a glass cabinet of parts with it, swinging furiously. A berserk madness of smashing and breaking had laid hold on me.

I was drunk with crushing and shattering and ruining, when I heard Miellyn scream a warning and turned to see Evarin standing in the doorway. His green cat-eyes blazed with rage. Then he raised both hands in a sudden, sardonic gesture, and with a loping, inhuman glide, raced for the transmitter.

"Rindy," Rakhal panted, "can you block the transmitter?"

Instead Rindy shrieked. "We've got to get out! The roof is falling down! The house is going to fall down on us! The roof, look at the roof!"

I looked up, transfixed by horror. I saw a wide rift open, saw the skylight shatter and break, and daylight pouring through the cracking walls, Rakhal snatched Rindy up, protecting her from the falling debris with his head and shoulders. I grabbed Miellyn round the waist and we ran for the rift in the buckling wall.

We shoved through just before the roof caved in and the walls collapsed, and we found ourselves standing on a bare grassy hillside, looking down in shock and horror as below us, section after section of what had been apparently bare hill and rock caved in and collapsed into dusty rubble.

Miellyn screamed hoarsely. "Run. Run, hurry!"

I didn't understand, but I ran. I ran, my sides aching, blood streaming from the forgotten flesh-wound in my side. Miellyn raced beside me and Rakhal stumbled along, carrying Rindy.

Then the shock of a great explosion rocked the ground, hurling me down full length, Miellyn falling on top of me. Rakhal went down on his knees. Rindy was crying loudly. When I could see straight again, I looked down at the hillside.

There was nothing left of Evarin's hideaway or the Mastershrine of Nebran except a great, gaping hole, still oozing smoke and thick black dust. Miellyn said aloud, dazed, "So that's what he was going to do!"

It fitted the peculiar nonhuman logic of the Toymaker. He'd covered the traces.

"Destroyed!" Rakhal raged. "All destroyed! The workrooms, the science of the Toys, the matter transmitter—the minute we find it, it's destroyed!" He beat his fists furiously. "Our one chance to learn—"

"We were lucky to get out alive," said Miellyn quietly. "Where on the planet are we, I wonder?"

I looked down the hillside, and stared in amazement. Spread out on the hillside below us lay the Kharsa, topped by the white skyscraper of the HQ.

"I'll be damned," I said, "right here. We're home. Rakhal, you can go down and make your peace with the Terrans, and Juli. And you, Miellyn—" Before the others, I could not say what I was thinking, but I put my hand on her shoulder and kept it there. She smiled, shakily, with a hint of her old mischief. "I can't go into the Terran Zone looking like this, can I? Give me that comb again. Rakhal, give me your shirtcloak, my robes are torn."

"You vain, stupid female, worrying about a thing like that at a time like this!" Rakhal's look was like murder. I put my comb in her hand, then suddenly saw something in the symbols across her breasts. Before this I had seen only the conventionalized and intricate glyph of the Toad God. But now—

I reached out and ripped the cloth away.

"Cargill!" she protested angrily, crimsoning, covering her bare breasts with both hands. "Is this the place? And before a child, too!"

I hardly heard. "Look!" I exclaimed. "Rakhal, look at the symbols embroidered into the glyph of the God! You can read the old nonhuman glyphs. You did it in the city of The Lisse. Miellyn said they were the key to the transmitters! I'll bet the formula is written out there for anyone to read!

"Anyone, that is, who can read it! I can't, but I'll bet the formula equations for the transmitters are carved on every Toad God glyph on Wolf. Rakhal, it makes sense. There are two ways of hiding something. Either keep it locked away, or hide it right out in plain sight. Whoever bothers even to look at a conventionalized Toad God? There are so many billions of them...."

He bent his head over the embroideries, and when he looked up his face was flushed. "I believe—by the chains of Sharra, I believe you have it, Race! It may take years to work out the glyphs, but I'll do it, or die trying!" His scarred and hideous face looked almost handsome in exultation, and I grinned at him.

"If Juli leaves enough of you, once she finds out how you maneuvered her. Look, Rindy's fallen asleep on the grass there. Poor kid, we'd better get her down to her mother."

"Right." Rakhal thrust the precious embroidery into his shirtcloak, then cradled his sleeping daughter in his arms. I watched him with a curious emotion I could not identify. It seemed to pinpoint some great change, either in Rakhal or myself. It's not difficult to visualize one's sister with children, but there was something, some strange incongruity in the sight of Rakhal carrying the little girl, carefully tucking her up in a fold of his cloak to keep the sharp breeze off her face.

Miellyn was limping in her thin sandals, and she shivered. I asked, "Cold?"

"No, but—I don't believe Evarin is dead, I'm afraid he got away."

For a minute the thought dimmed the luster of the morning. Then I shrugged. "He's probably buried in that big hole up there." But I knew I would never be sure.

We walked abreast, my arm around the weary, stumbling woman, and Rakhal said softly at last, "Like old times."

It wasn't old times, I knew. He would know it too, once his exultation sobered. I had outgrown my love for intrigue, and I had the feeling this was Rakhal's last adventure. It was going to take him, as he said, years to work out the equations for the transmitter. And I had a feeling my own solid, ordinary desk was going to look good to me in the morning.

But I knew now that I'd never run away from Wolf again. It was my own beloved sun that was rising. My sister was waiting for me down below, and I was bringing back her child. My best friend was walking at my side. What more could a man want?

If the memory of dark, poison-berry eyes was to haunt me in nightmares, they did not come into the waking world. I looked at Miellyn, took her slender unmanacled hand in mine, and smiled as we walked through the gates of the city. Now, after all my years on Wolf, I understood the desire to keep their women under lock and key that was its ancient custom. I vowed to myself as we went that I should waste no time finding a fetter shop and having forged therein the perfect steel chains that should bind my love's wrists to my key forever.



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FANGS OF THE WOLF WORLD

At one time Race Cargill had been the best Terran Intelligence agent on the complex and mysterious planet of Wolf. He had repeatedly imperiled his life amongst the half-human and non-human creatures of the sullen world. And he had repeatedly accomplished the fantastic missions until his name was emblazoned with glory.

But that had all seemingly ended. For six long years he'd sat behind a boring desk inside the fenced-in Terran Headquarters, cut off there ever since he and a rival had scarred and ripped each other in blood-feud.

But when THE DOOR THROUGH SPACE swung suddenly open, the feud was on again—and with it a plot designed to check and destroy the Terran Empire.

* * * * *

Turn this book over for second complete novel

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TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE

LIST OF FIXED ISSUES

p. 024—typo fixed: changed 'scared' into 'scarred' p. 029—typo fixed: changed 'shiftcloak' into 'shirtcloak' p. 030—typo fixed: changed 'dozen' into 'dozens' p. 035—typo fixed: changed 'Kryal' into 'Kyral' p. 045—typo fixed: changed 'miscroscope' into 'microscope' p. 052—typo fixed: changed 'known' into 'know' p. 076—typo fixed: changed 'even' into 'ever' p. 078—removed an extra 'what' p. 088—spelling normalized: changed 'shirt cloak' into 'shirtcloak' p. 092—typo fixed: changed 'telling' into 'told' p. 100—typo fixed: changed 'her' into 'my' p. 101—typo fixed: changed 'thousand' into 'thousands' p. 105—typo fixed: changed 'harsly' into 'harshly' p. 108—typo fixed: changed 'has' into 'had' p. 108—typo fixed: changed 'her' into 'his' p. 109—removed an extra quote in front of 'I was afraid' p. 111—typo fixed: changed 'stetched' into 'stretched'

THE END

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