The Languages of Pao | Chapter 24 of 26 - Part: 1 of 2

Author: Jack Vance | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1206 Views | Add a Review

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Behind him there was sudden movement, a spatter of blue light, a hoarse cry, a clatter of metal.

Wheeling, Beran saw Finisterle standing over the body of a Valiant officer. A hammer-gun lay on the floor; Finisterle held a smoking energy-needle.

Carbone struck out with his fist, hit Beran hard on the jaw. Beran toppled back upon the desk.

Finisterle turned to shoot, but was forced to hold his fire for the confusion.

A voice cried, "To Eiljanre! Death to the Paonese tyrants!"

instead of a mob. For a space there was silence, while Mamarone and Myrmidon weighed each other.

At the necks of the squad leaders vibrators pulsed. The voice of Grand Marshal Esteban Carbone issued from a filament. "Attack and destroy.

Spare no one, kill all."

The battle was the most ferocious in the history of Pao. It was fought without words, without quarter. The Myrmidons outnumbered the

Mamarone, but each neutraloid possessed three times the strength of an ordinary man.

Within the headquarters Beran called into his microphone.

"Marshal, I beseech you, prevent this spilling of blood. It is unnecessary, and good Paonese will die!"

There was no response. In the plaza only a hundred feet separated Mamarone from Myrmidon; they stood almost eye to eye, the neutraloids grinning in humorless rancor, contemptuous of life, unconscious of fear;

the Myrmidons seething with impatience and verve, anxious for glory. The neutraloids, behind their screens and with backs against the wall of the corps headquarters, were secure from small weapons; however, once they should move away from the wall, their backs would be vulnerable.

Suddenly they dropped the screens; their weapons poured death into the nearby ranks: a hundred men fell in an instant. The screens returned into place and they took the retaliating fire without casualty.

The gaps in the front line were filled instantly. Horns blew a brilliant fanfare; the Myrmidons drew scimitars and charged against the black giants.

The neutraloids dropped the screens, the weapons poured out death, a hundred, two hundred warriors were killed. But twenty or thirty sprang across the final few yards. The neutraloids drew their own great blades, hacked, hewed; there was the flash of steel, hisses, hoarse calls, and again the Mamarone stood free. But while the shields had been down, lances of hoped to build--and he, lord of fifteen billion, could find insufficient strength to subdue a few thousand rebels.

In the plaza the Myrmidons at last split the neutraloid line into two, battered back the ends, bunched the giant warriors into two clots.

The neutraloids knew their time had come, and all their terrible detestation for life, for men, for the universe boiled up and condensed in a clot of pure fury. One by one they succumbed, to a thousand hacks and cuts. The last few looked at each other, and laughed, inhuman hoarse bellows, and presently they too died, and the plaza was quiet except for subdued sobbing. Then behind, by the Stele, the Valiant women set up a chant of victory, forlorn but exulting, the survivors of the battle, gasping and sick, joined the paean.

Within the building Beran and his small company had already departed, flying back to Eiljanre in the air-boat. Beran sat steeped in misery. His body shook, his eyes burnt in their sockets, his stomach felt as if it were caked with lye. Failure, the breaking of his dreams, the beginning of chaos!

He thought of Palafox's tall spare form, the lean face with the wedge-Page 57

shaped nose and opaque black eyes. The image carried such intensity of emotion to become almost dear to him, something to be cherished from all harm, except that destruction which he himself would deal.

Beran laughed aloud. Could he enlist the aid of Palafox?

With the last rays of sunset flickering over the roofs of Eiljanre, he arrived at the Palace.

In the great hall sat Palafox, in his usual gray and brown, a wry sad smile on his mouth, a peculiar shine to his eyes.

Elsewhere in the hall sat Cogitants, Palafox's sons for the most part.

They were subdued, grave, respectful. As Beran came into the room, the Cogitants averted their eyes.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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