But who was this Elektra with all the high-sounding titles? Dreaded as Lord Atlas’s merciless, predatory daughter, there was some considerable legitimacy to her claims to imperial rights. She was the last Emperor’s highest ranking female descendant by virtue of being the surviving eldest daughter of his Second Wife, but her authority derived not from the Emperor but his brother Atlas, her uncle, entitling her to call herself both his daughter and the Emperor’s. How convenient that Atlas and the Emperor and all the Imperial Family (except herself) had not survived. She could do virtually what she pleased!
They handed over to the royal court at New Constantinople a princess they had taken as a plasma source in the South Continent. Andromeda! For this favor, the Atlanteans, who had got wind of the Gorgon-Algol-Nergul conspiracy, required absolute obedience and help with setting up a new world order.
First, the Atlanteans determined to crush the Axis Powers, then reinstate themselves on the throne with the East-West Romany as their slaves.
Knowing nothing of these maneuvers, B the Jaguar-Caped Knight proceeded on his dangerous mission in the very depths of the Noche Triste. Since Molu had already attacked the Algol on his own initiative, it was left for B to finish the job that the Two-Horned had started. While repairs were being made by the Algol, they were most vulnerable. B, in other words, took up the E letter, though nothing of the sort had been envisioned by Daniyel.
Brun was to be given a word that would send him forth so that he would reach the spot at the exact time, or otherwise he would arrive late, or too soon--equally disastrous for the captive, and perhaps himself.
The Jaguar-Caped understood all this, and so he kept faithfully to his course. he was just about to pass the outermost isle when he caught a glint of gold. Dropping, he saw a little boat, and the woman in it was raising an arm with a gold bracelet shining in the sun!
Not so impulsive as U, especially after hearing what it had cost the Pea of Chezib, Brun was reluctant to go all the way down. The Peninah could be waiting to leap from the water, to catch him in her jaws. She had been known to pick sailors off ships’ masts, who had climbed there, thinking themselves safe.
Andromeda! Brun nearly dropped like a stone, he was so astonished. Wavering, he wanted to rush right down to her, yet a tremendous Hand seemed to be holding him back. His mind and heart whirling with uncountable thoughts and feelings, he sought to make sense of what he faced. His own wife the captive bait for the monster! What, then, had happened after he left the pa? And what about the children?
He couldn’t bear the suspense. He fought against the restraining Hand and suddenly broke free and reached Andromeda.
Just then she screamed again, what she had tried to communicate before. “No, stay back! Stay back!”
But it was too late. A great force of fallen nature slammed into him just as he reached for her in the boat. Tumbling up and over the lunging body of the Leviathan, the boat snapped in two like twig, and Andromeda vanished in the surge of waters.
That was the beginning of yet more unanticipated trouble for him. Drawn by the roars and thrashings of the sea monster, a crowd of people had rushed down to the shore. Many were armed, but quickly saw that the monster was caught up on the reef and was doomed. They had no idea Brun was their champion. They only saw Andromeda, who was proscribed--a captive that no one wanted to see returned alive to contaminate Rom soil.
He saw he couldn’t get help among such people, so he treated them to the spectacle of human flight. They fell back away as he rose up with Andromeda, all thinking they must have seen a god in their midst. Yet, astonished and impressed as they were, some Rom drew bows and tried to shoot him, just in case he might be a devil.
Indeed, he would have--since he had forgotten much already of his training amidst the actual conditions of warfare.
“Nothing was going as it was supposed to!” he thought. He was upset despite the triumph over the sea-monster. Not only had he been attacked after doing so much good, Andromeda was lying limp in his arms as though dead. He must get her down as soon as possible, and find someone who could doctor her. But where? Who? His instructions said nothing to him about this emergency. He was to leave her on land, then proceed against the next enemy. That was all: the command was explicit, and he was not to improvise on it.
Looking for any suitable place where he could set down, he was unaware that Andromeda was struggling in his arms.
“Put me down! “ she cried, and he heard her. “How dare you take me away from my city! It’s that way, not this way!”
“You can’t go to them--they’ll kill you!” he shouted at her.
“So what if they do! My children have been stolen from me! I won’t go back with you to the life of a barbarian! Let them kill me! I won’t leave my own people and country again! I will die her, since all the children are gone!”
He had no time to question her about it. He could see a sheepman’s ranch, and something about the peacefully grazing flocks and the modest, well-kept house and grounds invited him to try it for a place of refuge for Andromeda. Since this was many miles from any city, perhaps the country folk were more kindly, and they might not have even heard of the princess.
So he hoped anyway, and he landed beside the sheepman’s little house--not much more than a hut, with several small sheepsheds joined to make more room. What a fierce and strange appearance he must have presented the sheepman hurrying in from the fields! A woolen Phrygian cap falling off his matted head, his mild face showing utter bewilderment, the sheepman paused as he came up, unsure of how to proceed. A savage man clothed in a jaguar cape, the like of which no one had never seen in these parts! And a woman with him--a creature with refinement written all over her, despite her torn garments and grief in her eyes. What was he to do with such guests? What?
It was Andromeda who broke the strain.
Startled that she was being spoken to in her own rapid-fire language, the old woman scurried away at Andromeda’s bidding, then returned quickly with the only chair the home could boast, a very homespun contraption with carved wood frame. Andromeda seated herself on to it with grace and dignity as if it were a gilded, cushioned divan drawn out from a palace by a servant. The woman, sensing she was in the presence of a noblewoman, was all the more agog. She spoke to her husband, and Andromeda shrugged.
Brun listened as Andromeda translated and paraphrased the exchange. “These simple fools will keep us, since they are afraid to turn us away, in case we are nobility. They can make nothing of our coming here, to such as they have here, but no doubt she will be asking many questions soon. I have knowledge of these simple, country women and their ways, from the servants I used to know in the palace nursery. They made good beast-feeders for the babies and now and then furnished cleaning maids, if nothing more.”
“You speak her magpie tongue. Tell her we need her to care for you, until I return. Will she do that? I will work for them on my return, if I must, to pay for your keep!”
Andromeda looked insulted at his suggestion. “Pay them? I should say not! They are commoners, I am a princess from the palace. My staying is the greatest honor to them, and they would be grossly insulted if you offered to pay them anything. That is the way of my people. It cannot be changed.”
Andromeda’s eyes shot Gypsy fire. “No! You are a barbarian, we are the civilized ones!”
Brun sighed, rolling his eyes upwards. It was no use, he knew, getting her dander up. The argument could go on all day and night, and she never acknowledged defeat. After all, she was the royal princess, he the barbarian. He had never once convinced her of his own noble lineage, which he truly believed extended to many more generations than hers.
“Have it your way, wife!” he shouted, startling the sheepman and his good wife. He stomped away a few paces. “I must go to war! You remain here with them, your people! I will return for you later, when I am able and free to do so!”
Brun was taking a step away her when her barb struck, and he winced, then continued.
Far enough away from the sheepman’s house to be concealed, his great loss got the better of him. Andromeda could hold her grief, but he began to weep. His children! All sons and daughters taken away and killed? All? So she had said!
Now the truth was he felt no desire to continue fighting. The realization was a blow that doubled him up. He sank down, his head in his hands. Without his home and children, what was there? A hundred doubts concerning his training by Daniyel assailed his mind and heart. It all seemed a terrible, false thing, as he struggled with his great losses. It might even be better if he just returned to his deserted home island, and live out his days among the ruins of his fathers’ pa. For his people were gone too--swept away as if they had never existed!
Finally, she had got the entire story out, but she was not at all enraged in finding that this was the princess that had been taken captive, then returned, only to be given as a lure to a sea creature. Despite the fact that her household was contaminated by the very presence of Andromeda, she made no move to turn them out or even suggest such a thing.
As for Brun, the barbarian who had contaminated the princess by taking her to wife, he was welcome too, though he sat against her oven wall, a wool blanket of the house drawn up to his chin, oblivious to her hospitality. Of course, if the old pair had turned hostile, that would have been most foolish, for even a despairing Brun was not to be trifled with. As for Andromeda, she was as content to go as remain--for she cared nothing for herself since her fate had turned so bitter.
Her strapping sons had been taken captive, vanished one day when she was churning butter and her husband was gone to the village with a cart of sheepskins and woolen goods.
Her daughter had taken a fever--her mouth turned all black inside--when she was a little thing--could not be helped since they abode so far from other folk and any doctor’s medicine.
Losing children was to be expected. But all her sons! Her dear sons! Such strapping lads! One day they were out herding sheep, happy as larks, then--poof! Vanished! As if the clouds themselves reached down and swallowed them up! Sighing, the old woman went for more soup, another homespun, woolen blanket, and tried all the more to make the disdainful Royal Princess Andromeda comfortable.
Nevertheless, he leaped up off the burning ground and began to run, not thinking, just running. He ran straight back to the sheepman’s house, and before his eyes it exploded in a fireball, struck by a huge, forking thunderbolt.
Thrown flat on his back, he could not take it in. The thing that had just slain his wife and the aged pair was like nothing he had ever imagined or seen. A burning blackness, gathered in a ball, and the smoke and foul fumes that trailed after it were slaying the sheep that lay, huddled in heaps, terrified to death.
One, two, three bolts struck the far mountain slopes as well, incinerating other sheepman’s dwellings.
Horror in his face and eyes, Brun staggered away.
Once again, the golden words of his training returned to him in a flood. His spirit chastened, he no longer thought of himself with his recent self-confidence. Only one thing was sure to him: the strength of the Almighty One Daniyel had revealed to him. Only HE could fight this foulness that flooded the heavens with its power and then burned the Earth without pity, stalking and destroying all that lived and breathed, man or beast. “Yes!” Brun wept. “Yes! I see!”
What he had not dreamed in his worst nightmare was now spread before his gaze. As he came up on the domes and towers, everything he saw was appalling, and the clouds that overhung the enemy sickened him with a foul, turpentine stench. Reduced to a tiny gnat beside such gargantuan structures, he clung to the instruction he had received previously:
Feeling boldness return, he was assured as he flew further and saw signs of damage inflicted on a Spaceport, with gaping holes in domes and towers. So the spider-scorpions were not invincible behind their armor! They could be hurt!
Not very long before Molu had inflicted grave damage on the Algol, but this was complete disaster--a cataclysm that swept their civilization from the Earth.
Yet not without a battle. Countless death rays pierced the sky of the type that felled mighty U, even though the defenders were blackened crisps. Criss-crossing the entire spectrum of flying space, Brun was the single target, though an invisible giant Hand flew in front of him, deflecting every ray.
Brun, entranced at the sight of what he had accomplished, could hardly tear his eyes away when the Voice reminded h im where he was, and that there remained work to do.
Instantly, that lack was rectified. A blaze of light turned into a figure, a solemn faced being that was clothed in reddish-gold garments. A broad collar danced with changing numbers, like the large emblem on his outer garment. He held a golden staff as well, and Brun bowed, for he knew it had to be the dread Angel of the Book, Palmoni. Palmoni the Wonderful Numberer, his special aid and guide! Brun realized.
Despite the peril of the situation, with the hostile Nergul fleet so near, the Numberer took time to study Brun, and only then spoke.
When all this was accomplished Brun saw it, that his work was done. Strong as he had been in his body, he felt shattered by the enormity of the day’s events. He staggered and fell to the floor, but a Voice caught him.
“Won’t you take me to the beautiful sky island kingdom?” he pleaded shamelessly. Palmoni seemed to hesitate at the unexpected request. He had been turning away toward the first doorway that had come with him. Now he gazed back at Brun, with a look that said far more than words could say, an expression that lit a star of hope within Brun that he, too, would stride through the portals of heaven. Slowly, Brun’s desperate, searching eyes filled with a peace and assurance never known by any former chief of Seri-i-i.
Familiar voices and faces cried out to him, reaching hands through the bars of cages. His children! All were there! They cried out to him, and he burst open the compartments, gathering them in his golden arms.