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 Oh, Ortyg! Whatever can be the matter?
Coper shot that shrewd look at me and then leaned forward and patted his wife s knee.
 This is terrible news, Sinkie, and you must be brave. I will tell you now, for Notor Prescot is not of
Djanduin and is not concerned with our affairs, for all that he is a guest and will be made truly welcome in
our house.
 Of course, Ortyg! Notor Prescot saved us from those horrible leemsheads and I am very fond of him.
But, my dear, the news . . . ?
The news was, in truth, enough to shake any Pallan of the kingdom. The king and queen have been
assassinated. Chuktar Naghan has certain news of the Gorgrens invasion. The two terrible events are
linked. Now, Sinkie! You must be brave. We will win through, in the end, as we have always done
before.
 Oh, the poor dear king! And the queen  Sinkie burst into tears that shook her little body. She looked
absolutely woebegone, with the tears dripping from the ends of her drooping whiskers.
Coper looked at me meaningfully.
 You are our honored guest, Notor Prescot. I can judge a man, even if he is apim, and I know you to be
a Horter and a Notor. You will not divulge any of this until it is generally known?
 You may rely on me, Pallan Coper. And, as you say, this is not my business. I have no wish to become
involved. I had just been brought from the horror of the Heavenly Mines, and had fought damned hard,
and I meant what I said. In my prison of time I intended to live it up and have a good time  nothing
more.
CHAPTER EIGHT
In Djanguraj
I, Dray Prescot, of Earth and of Kregen, fell into low ways and low company.
I make no excuses.
The taverns I explored, the dopa dens, the theaters, the fighting arenas (Djanduin is mightily
contemptuous of the Jikhorkduns of Hamal and Hyrklana and instead flocks to see real fighting by
professionals that almost invariably results in no one dying at all), the dancing girls I gawped at, the zorca
races and the sleeth races, the dicing, the gambling, the drinking! Money came in, for I have skills at
certain of the hairier games of Kregen, and I never went hungry or thirsty  or, at least, not often.
Pallan Coper and his charming wife Sinkie had shown me tremendous hospitality and they had been
horrified by my antics and pleaded with me to give up such a terrible life. But they would not hear a word
spoken against me.
And the cause of all this wanton debauchery?
As I have told you, calendars and dates are highly individual idiosyncrasies on Kregen, and every people
and every race and every country keep some kind of time in their own way, and to the Ice Floes of Sicce
with everyone else s.
By the expenditure of a great deal of time and effort and by constant application at the observatory of
the Todalpheme of Djanduin  a small and humble group compared with other Todalpheme I have
known  I calculated out dates. The Todalpheme are those austere and dedicated men whose charge it
is to work out the tides of Kregen, and give timely warning. So I worked on my figures and when I had
finished I stared in appalled horror at the final figure, under which I scrawled a great slashing red line.
Ten years.
Ten Terrestrial years, it was going to take, for the present in which I now lived to catch up with the time
I had left the Heavenly Mines.
I did not go mad; after all, this was a mere matter of waiting, and patience is a virtue, even for me, sinner
that I am. And I would wait in as much comfort and pleasure as I could contrive. My only true comfort
was that Delia would not know of my durance, and her sufferings could, if I ranked my Deldars correctly,
be curtailed or obviated altogether.
So I plunged into the heady nightlife of Djanguraj and found most of the strong young men gone off to
war, and their womenfolk moping after them, and war and talk of war filling everyone s horizons. This
suited me ill.
Chuktar N. Stolin Rumferling had gone off to war.
Seeing him briefly before he flew off I was struck by the cunning way nature can produce entirely
different end products from the same original material. Imagine a meek and mild little clerk, with contact
lenses and a sinus drip, hunched over a computer in a glass-walled office in a great city of Earth,
weak-chested, scrawny-armed, flabby where it would do the most harm, prim and precise  there, to
slander him, you have a defamatory picture of O. Fellin Coper. Imagine a fullback, bulky, powerful,
superbly muscled, charging head-down into a mess of footballers in his way, chunking them aside with
massive energy  there you have a not unflattering picture of Chuktar N. Stolin Rumferling. They are
both men. They both come from the same stock. But what a difference between them!
 This will be a bloody business, Notor Prescot. Rumferling spoke in a gruff way that told me he was
perfectly capable of cowing the roistering, rough-and-tough barbaric Djangs he would command.  Those
cramphs of Gorgrens must be taught a lesson, once and for all.
 They will return and return, Naghan, squeaked Coper.  We all know that, Djan rot  em!
There was no gentle Sinkie present to protest his language.
So the fighting-men went off to war and I frolicked about town, enjoying what I could of the fleshpots.
Ten years! Ten long damned years!
I witnessed the new king s coronation. It was a rushed affair, with a hushed and spartan wartime
atmosphere. This king was a nonentity, the old king s nephew by marriage, and he would not, I fancied,
last long in some places of Kregen I had been  Sanurkazz or Magdag, for example, or Vallia herself.
He did not last.
A palace revolution was the first upheaval and that placed another nephew on the throne. He was
strong, but a fool. He was murdered after a season and the Chuktar of the palace crowned himself as
king. He lasted until the next Chuktar of the palace bribed enough of the king s personal bodyguard and
overthrew him. His body was dragged though a pool of fighting fish, something like piranha, and the new
king was crowned.
All this time I caroused and drank and sang and watched the dancing girls  for they were dancing girls,
unlike those fine free girls of my clansmen who danced for us beneath the moons of Kregen  and they
were very skilled in the arts of the dance. Their four arms weaved arabesques of beauty, and their oiled
bodies and gleaming masses of silver bangles and golden bells, of waving fans and swirling silks, charmed
me even as they bored me.
I would have none of them. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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