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.Her five men-at-arms moved closer to her, two on one side, three on the other.All six, they gazed outward upon the spell-stricken invaders of their tomb.And:“FRESHLY AWAKE,” said the Black Princess, “WE ARE STILL WEAK.SUSTAIN YOURSELVES, MY WARRIORS.”She beckoned with a creaking arm, and Zubda Druff stepped forward, paced zombie-like, to stand before her.She reached out her hands and touched him.A touch merely, all ten of her fingertips, widespread, contacting his shoulders simultaneously—and the slaver began to twitch and flop like a strangled chicken.He did not scream, made no attempt at flight, merely jerked and throbbed and fluttered; and before Hero and Ula’s eyes he withered, deflated, became a bag of bones in Yath-Lhi’s sucking hands.Finally she released him, a canvas sack that crumpled to the floor—its only resemblance to a man lay in its general shape and the black, blindly-staring marbles gazing out from a shriveled skull—and waited while her men-at-arms took similar sustenance.They, too, chose blacks, one a Kledan and the others Pargan slaves, and each went to his maker as unprotesting as Zubda Druff.And all the while, Raffis Gan and the rest stood frozen, and those in the outer corridors, too, like statues under the spell of the vampire Yath-Lhi.And yet Hero and Ula, they were untouched by that spell.They saw and comprehended all that occurred but, hugging each other and trembling, they were blessedly immune.Half-fainting, Ula clung to her man; and him propping her up lest she fall, his hand over her mouth lest she cry out.Even Hero himself, he could not have told how he held silent, how fearful he was that at any moment Eldin would be called to that same fate as Druff and the slaves.For in that event, what could he do but leap forward, snatch a sword from one of Yath-Lhi’s warriors, have at her and them until … until whatever.But it did not come to that.“ENOUGH!” said Yath-Lhi in the minds of all.“FOR NOW, ENOUGH.”No longer black and mummified but having metamorphosed into a color like marble, and being now fully mobile, she turned on her heel through one-third of a circle, took in all before her at a glance.And at last her sulphur eyes settled on Raffis Gan.“YOU! I PERCEIVE YOU BROUGHT THESE DOGS IN HERE—TO RAVAGE MY TOMB OF ITS TREASURES, EH?” Laughter welled up from her black soul, was cut short in a trice.“VERY WELL, NOW YOU CAN LEAD THEM OUT AGAIN!”Out! thought Hero, aghast.This vampire princess—out, free, loose in the unsuspecting dreamlands! No, it must not be.This thing, this exodus from the tomb, must be stopped.But how? Spring forth and Yath-Lhi would merely point and turn all those under her spell, even Eldin, against him! And then what of Ula? Hero couldn’t bear the thought of Ula as a bag of bones …Orderly as a small army, single-file through the narrow doorway, all in the tomb filtered out into the maze beyond.Raffis Gan led the way, stiff-legged, arms like lead at his sides, eyes glazed and staring straight ahead.Behind him slaves and Kledans in no set order, with Yath-Lhi and her soldiers central in the column, then more slaves, Kledans, and finally Eldin the Wanderer bringing up the very rear.The official column.But behind Eldin, all unobserved, twin shadows moved apace with the procession, drawing courage and strength from their anonymity.LEAD THE WAY OUT!—Yath-Lhi’s command repeated in Gan’s numb brain.THE WAY OUT!—which the ex-Chief Regulator knew as well as any other man: WAY OUT!—for all he had to do was follow the yellow arrows painted on these walls.And the column wound through bowels of rock, coiling like a snake along a route of many angles toward the Lake of Yath.“We’re unaffected!” Ula whispered in Hero’s ear, the merest breath of sound as she grabbed him in the shadows and drew his head down to her lips.“How?”“The wine!”“Ah!—eh?”“It’s all I can think—that it somehow put us outside her power, protected us.”“What do we do about Eldin?”“First we try to reason with him.Difficult at the best of times! Come on, let’s catch up, join the column.”“What!?” She was alarmed.“Let’s play at zombies,” said Hero, and he stooped and picked up a guttering torch from where it had fallen from the nerveless fingers of a slave.For all the stiff-leggedness of the ensorcelled procession, still it was making good speed.Striding awkwardly at the rear, it took Hero and Ula some little time to draw level with Eldin, who walked perhaps four or five paces behind the next hindmost.Ula took up a position on his left, Hero on his right.They couldn’t talk to him, nor even whisper now, for fear of being overheard.And so, trying as best they could to match his lumbering gait, they gently took hold of his elbows.Gently wasn’t good enough; he just kept right on forging ahead.Hero dug his heels in, Ula too—and still Eldin strained forward.The column ahead had reached a crossroads, was turning sharp right.Hero nodded grimly to Ula, straightened up, resumed his stiff-legged striding.She did likewise.The slaves immediately in front were beginning to turn the corner, now less than five paces away.One, Hero counted to himself [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]