The Pnume | Chapter 10 of 15 - Part: 1 of 8

Author: Jack Vance | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1057 Views | Add a Review

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THE MORNING SUNLIGHT entered the cubicle, strained by the withes of the wall.

Going out upon the pavilion, Reith and Zap 210 found Cauch making a breakfast of Page 46

pilgrim-pod cakes and a hot broth redolent of the shore. He inspected Reith and Zap 210 narrowly, paying particular attention to the turbans and their gait.

"Not too bad. But you tend to forget. More swagger, lady, more shrug to your shoulders.

Remember when you leave the pavilion you are Hedaijhans, in case suspicions have been aroused, in case someone waits and watches."

After breakfast, the three went out upon the avenue which led northward under the ouinga trees, Reith and Zap 210 as thoroughly Hedaijhan as turban, shawl and mincing gait could make them, to a pair of carts drawn by a type of animal Reith had not previously seen: a gray-skinned beast which pranced elegantly and precisely on eight long legs.

Cauch climbed aboard the first cart; Reith and Zap 210 joined him. The carts departed Zsafathra.

The road led out upon a damp land of reeds, water-plants, isolated black stumps trailing lime-green tendrils. Cauch gave a great deal of his attention to the sky, as did the Zsafathrans in the cart behind. Reith finally asked: "What are you watching for?"

"Occasionally," said Cauch, "we are molested by a tribe of predatory birds from the hills yonder. In fact, there you see one of their sentinels." He pointed to a black speck flapping across the southern sky; it appeared the size of a large buzzard. Cauch went on in a voice of resignation.

"Presently they will fly out to attack us.

"You show no great alarm," said Reith.

"We have learned how to deal with them." Cauch turned and gestured to the cart behind, then accelerated the pace of his own cart, to open up a gap of a hundred yards between the two. Out of the southern skies came a flock of fifty or sixty flapping birdcreatures. As they drew near Reith saw that each carried two chunks of stone half the size of his head. He looked uneasily toward Cauch.

"What do they do with the rocks?"

"They drop them, with remarkable accuracy. Assume that you stood in the road, and that thirty creatures flew above you at their customary height of five hundred feet. Thirty stones would strike you and crush you to the ground."

"Evidently you have learned how to frighten them off."

"No, nothing of the sort."

"You disturb their accuracy?"

"To the contrary. We are essentially a passive people and we try to deal with our enemies so that they disconcert or defeat themselves. Have you wondered why the Khors do not attack us?"

"The thought has occurred to me."

"When the Khors attack-and they have not done so for six hundred years-we evade them and by one means or another penetrate their sacred groves. Here we perform acts of defilement, of the most simple, natural and ordinary sort. They no longer can use the grove for procreation and must either migrate or perish.

Our weapons, I agree, are indelicate, but typify our philosophy of warfare."

"And these birds?" Reith dubiously watched the approach of the flock. "Surely the same weapons are ineffectual?"

"I would presume so," Cauch agreed, "though for a fact we have never tested them. In this case we do nothing whatever."

The birds soared overhead; Cauch urged the dray-beast into a sinuous lope.

One by one the birds dropped their stones, which fell to strike the road behind the cart.

"The birds, you must understand, can only compute the position of a stationary target; in this case their accuracy is their undoing.„



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Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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