Planet of Adventure Omnibus

Planet of Adventure Omnibus by Jack Vance Read Free Book Online

Book: Planet of Adventure Omnibus by Jack Vance Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jack Vance
and women.
    The caravan
commander was a cautious man. Before the drays attempted the ford, he stationed
gun-carts to command all the approaches, then sent Ilanths to scout the
opposite bank.
    In Bellbird
Covert the Emblem warriors cursed and fumed. “Wealth, wealth! Goods galore!
Sixty prime wagons! But suicide to attempt an attack.”
    “True. The
sand-blasts would strike us down like birds!”
    “Is it this
for which we waited three tedious months in the Walgram Rolls? Is our luck then
so vile?”
    “The omens
were wrong; last night I looked up at blessed Az; I saw it jib and careen
through the clouds: a definite admonition.”
    “Nothing goes
right, all our ventures are thwarted! We are under the influence of Braz.”
    “Braz-or the
work of the black-haired sorcerer who slew Jad Piluna.”
    “True! And he
has come to scathe the raid, where we have always enjoyed success!”
    And sour
looks began to be turned toward Reith, who made himself inconspicuous.
    The war
leaders conferred. “We can achieve nothing; we would strew the field with dead
warriors and drown our Emblems in Ioba River.”
    “Well,
then-shall we follow and attack at night?”
    “No. They are
too well-guarded. The commander is Baojian; he takes no risks! His soul to
Braz!”
    “So,
then-three months dawdling for naught!”
    “Better for
naught than for disaster! Back to camp. The women will have all packed, and so
east to Meraghan.”
    “East, more
destitute than when we came west! What abominable luck.”
    “The omens,
the omens! All are at odds!”
    “Back to
camp, then; nothing for us here.”
    The warriors
swung about and without a backward look sent the leap-horses plunging south
across the steppe.
    During the
early evening, surly and glum, the troop arrived back at the campsite. The
women, who had all packed, were cursed for neglect; why were not cauldrons
bubbling? pots of beer ready to hand?
    The women
bawled and cursed in return, only to be drubbed. All hands finally pulled gear and
food helter-skelter from the drays.
    Traz Onmale
stood brooding apart, while Reith was pointedly ignored. The warriors ate
hugely, grumbling all the while, then, seated and exhausted, lay back beside
the fire.
    Az had
already risen, but now up into the sky sailed the blue moon Braz, angling
athwart the course of Az. The magicians were first to notice and stood with
arms pointing in awe and premonition.
    The moons
converged; it seemed as if they would collide. The warriors gave guttural
sounds of dread. But Braz moved before the pink disc, eclipsing it utterly. The
Chief Magician gave a wild bellow to the sky: “So be it! So be it!”
    Traz Onmale
turned and went slowly off to the shadows where by chance stood Reith. “What is
all the tumult?” Reith asked.
    “Did you not
see? Braz overpowered Az. Tomorrow night I must go to Az to expiate our wrongs.
No doubt you will go as well to Braz.”
    “You mean, by
way of fire and catapult?”
    “Yes. I am
lucky to have carried Omnale as long as I have. The bearer before me was not much
more than half my age when he was sent to Az.”
    “Do you think
this ritual has any practical value?”
    Traz Onmale
hesitated. Then: “It is what they expect; they will demand that I cut my throat
into the fire. So I must obey.”
    “Better that
we leave now,” said Reith. “They will sleep like logs. When they awake we will
be far from here.”
    “What? The
two of us? Where would we fare?”
    “I don’t
know. Is there no land where folk live without murder?”
    “Perhaps such
places exist. But not on Aman Steppe.”
    “If we could
take possession of the scout-boat, and if I were given time to repair it, we
could leave Tschai and return to Earth.”
    “Impossible.
The Chasch took the ship. It is lost to you forever.”
    “So I fear.
In any case, we’d do better to depart now than wait to be killed tomorrow.”
    Traz Onmale
stood staring up at the moons. “Onmale orders me to stay. I cannot pervert the
Onmale. It

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