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5 Peninah’s Comeuppance

Though it had taken over twenty thousand years, mutiny had finally broken out against the seemingly all-powerful cadre of blood-sucking “Master Race” Atlanteans led by Elektra.

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!

At last, however, those under her iron fist were prepared to resist. The conspiracy was comprised of those who knew how dearly it might cost them but, nevertheless, were prepared to risk all for the sake of the spoils, which should provide ample reward. The cabal was also comprised of strange bedfellows. A Poseidonian crystal, steering its own course, wary of the others but seeking a way to reduce Elektra and her starfleet to smoking embers. Next came the three Axis Powers that composed the far-flung Algol-Gorgon-Nergulian league. They had grown very powerful of late and had long felt they were equal to their former overlords. Given the opportunity, they would strike for dominance. No more would they meekly submit to Atlantean arrogance and oppression. With the discovery of the biform “mother crystal” in the Hidden City, the Axis was determined to wrest control of Earth from the Atlanteans forever. Neglecting the great crystal in favor of her smaller, less powerful crystals had to be Elektra’s greatest strategical mistake. Aiming to make her pay for her error, the Gorgons, after a hasty conference with their allies, set out to once again overcome the crystal’s security defenses and coded quality checks in order to enlist its stupendous powers for their war machine.

The Hidden City crystal, theoretically, was capable of defending the entire planet against a full-scale Atlantean attack. It was even possible that the Axis might preemptively take out the entire Atlantean fleet, eliminating further attacks in the future. Of course,, they hadn’t the power without either the Crystal or Elektra’s own trove of crystals. But with the Poseidonian Crystal, success glittered within grasp.

Molu, knowing nothing of the storm brewing both in the depths of the Earth and in the heavens, went about his mission as the E, assured beforehand of success. Sent against the Atlanteans’ plasma-harvesting ships, he flew as B had flown before him and caught a harvester just as it was starting to round up the remaining children at B’s home, but too late to save two dozen that had already been taken in the same ship that took their mother, Andromeda. He was empowered to take on starships, and he caught it on the ground, an easy kill with his lightning bolt since its hatch was open. The Atlanteans never knew what happened, though the incident did not escape Elektra’s attention. The children of Brun and Andromeda, those that were left, were treated to the spectacle of a bull-like monster blowfly shooting lightning bolts into an airship, which then spun out of control against a mountainside and exploded in a fireball that shot out plumes of smoke that twisted up from the crash like black snakes dancing before a charmer.

As for B, he would get to deal with the “Peninah” sea-monster. Peninah, through the age, rather than being mellowed by time had grown more vindictive and outraged. Despite the fact it did her own body some damage, she lashed out at rocks that even faintly reminded her of her enemy, Hanna the First Wife. When she found the ports and cities of the East and West Rom, she moved against them with utmost glee and venom. They were the Hanna-enemy, as far as she was concerned. Refining monstrousness to a fine art, she learned fast and continually tried new tactics that bewildered her prey. It did her black heart good to wreck ships, devouring the crews, and then smash all the warehouses in the ports that she could reach with her flailing tails and fins. She liked to lie in wait beneath the water until the people were thick on the wharves, then she would suddenly charge. Trade soon was ruined.

From a modest beginning of itinerant, universally-despised bands that barely subsisted on fortune telling, horse trading, and petty theft, the Romany had settled in the towns and cities of their former oppressors and developed a civilization built on extensive trade with tribes of East and West Bear/Turtle Islands of the North as well as the Axis Powers, who usually demanded slaves, which the warring tribes readily supplied the Rom in exchange for jewelry, trinkets, and metal arrow points. For centuries, actually for thousands of years, they had observed, and now they put into practice what was learnt from their unwilling hosts, with refinements in character with their Romany culture.

The Byzantines were their chosen model (never forgotten!, but they also incorporated elements of whatever civilization they happened to favor, from Seljuk Turk, to Greek, to Roman, to Egyptian, to Renaissance Italy, to Mad Ludwig’s Bavaria, Queen Marie’s Romania and other such realms and times so long gone only the Rom could recall them in detail in order to recreate their best features. Since they were so good at turning out gaudy, eye-catching trinkets and goods, which were inexpensively produced and reaped large dividends because they were so well-liked, trade was lucrative for the Rom, and they had grown wealthy, and perhaps too comfortable. Their portion of the continent was well-watered and supplied with its own foodstuffs, so they had no need of anything outside their borders except customers for their luxury goods.

The only fly in the ointment was the plasma tribute paid yearly to the Atlanteans via the neighboring Algol. But the supply of captives had always been sufficient, until lately. All in all, it was the best life the Rom had ever experienced. So when the sea-monster started its attacks and trade began to suffer, they were prepared to fight and sent out warships, but none returned. Then, stripped of the war fleet, the coast was virtually defenseless. Shore batteries of giant catapults hastily set up were to no avail, for the sea-monster moved too swiftly, and the shells fell harmlessly wide of their target. The only thing the monster respected in the least was lethal “Dutch fire,” a liquid concoction of elements that incinerated anything they touched. This weapon was used whenever the monster struck a port city, but she came and went so quickly it was seldom brought into play before she dove out of sight in deep water.

The two joint-empires were in despair over what to do! Their navies and trade ruined, they faced not only bankruptcy but a default on their treaty. If they could no longer supply the Algol the yearly tribute in captive humans, the Atlanteans, who received the plasma after the Algol completed extraction and processing, might move against their territory’s inhabitants to secure the desired plasma. Into the turmoil and confusion, the Atlanteans stepped, offering a captive they thought might be useful.

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.

It was a stiff price for the Romany to pay, but they agreed to the capitulations of the new treaty, since they had no choice. Either they starved and were pushed into the sea by the Algol when they failed to render tribute, or they survived as slaves of the Atlanteans. Indeed, they were being pressed between a Sylla and a Charybdis.

Andromeda? She was chosen as the sacrifice that would lure the sea-monster out into the open, where the Atlanteans would catch and destroy her. Why Andromeda? She had transgressed the laws of the Romany religion and become ceremonially unclean. Having been the wife of a barbarian, though she was a captive to him, no one in the royal court would come near her. In their Romany view, she was irreparably soiled and contaminated. Rejected as a Rom and a princess and a human being, her best use was seen to be bait, an irresistible decoy to draw the sea-monster into a trap.

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.

“How can I do it, O God? I was not trained to carry another’s letter!” B responded to God’s call. The Lord God of Hosts could be curt when it served divine purpose.

“I will show you how and what to do. Now go, thou mighty man of valor!”

With the green light to go shining clearly on him, Brun felt it behooved him to obey. He was not one for making excuses, anyway. A man of action, he felt his training would hold him in good stead and that mopping up the Algol would proceed without undue difficulty.

“Mighty B and E, you will proceed first against the foul daughter of Rahab, who was the seed of bitterness and strife.”

So! His mission, first, was to seek and destroy the sea-monster marauding along the coasts. As for the rest of the mission, the part that Molu had thrown to the winds, that could wait until he had finished off the old sea-hag. “Yes, Lord Commander, whatever you say! I will do it!” Brun shouted up at the heavens, impressed by the resolute tone of his warlike voice. He was gratified that the Almighty took him so quickly into confidence, for three specific instructional Words from the combat manual quickly followed--words that had been meant to carry the errant Molu to final triumph. By now, Brun knew these were mighty words, and a warrior could do almost anything with them, for they would produce seemingly unlimited power. Brun naturally felt confident he would have little trouble accomplishing what he was commanded to do. His Commander in heaven showed such confidence in him, Brun thought it was deserved. His mission? He was to seek out and destroy the sea-witch, Peninah, then rescue the captive and escort her to safety on land, whereupon he was to fly and attack the Algol towers deep in the hinterland of the country, as well as destroy any air forces coming against him.

It was difficult to resist the lure of the enchantingly beautiful Rom cities on the land, but he persisted and flew down over the coast toward the isles where he was supposed to look for a boat cast adrift. The captive princess would be in the boat, lying in chains and awaiting the jaws of the sea-monster.

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.

His approach and descent were slow. He sensed that caution was the better part of valor, and he circled the drifting pleasure craft with the dragon painted on the bow and a green, star-spangled sail hanging slack without wind. At that moment the woman turned her face upwards. She might have been asleep and had just awakened, or the effects of drugged wine had worn off. In any case, she cried out at the sight of him. He could hear her voice clearly, and without any doubt he knew it.

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.

Brun realized he had made a mistake. Things were not working out very well for him and Andromeda. He was horrified as he saw the Peninah turn and plow straight back toward him, clearly intent on finishing him off. Grief-stricken, assured he had drowned Andromeda by his action, he did the right thing in the circumstance--he called on his Commander for help. Instantly, a Word leaped into his mind.

Establish Your word to Your servant, who is devoted to fearing you.

With the Word came power beyond any human origin. He felt an unconquerable surge of devotion and reverence, and was thrilled to the core of his being. He felt he could seize the sea-monster in his bare hands and throttle the life out of her. The only problem was the thing was too large for him to get his hands around any single part of her loathsome, stinking anatomy. Instead he was hard-put to elude her snapping jaws and the clapping of her immense flippers and thrashing tail flukes. If they weren’t formidable enough, she also wielded barbed Manta-ray-like stingers and long, wrap-around arms with suckers that could tear the flesh from his body. “Yes, I fear and revere you!” he cried out to his God. “What should I do to the monster?”

That is all he had time to do, but it was enough. The waters, where the Peninah had been drawn in pursuit of Brun were turning shallow, with corals rising toward foaming waves. The monster had forgotten, in blind fury and haste to get the Hanna arch-enemy, all about the surrounding reef. Leaping after Brun she landed smack on the reef, and was suddenly grounded, her belly pierced on the jagged and razor-sharp corals. Thrashing furiously did her no good, she could not get off, and every movement tore her belly open wider. Pouring out streams of bitter, ammoniated blood, the Peninah roared, but was no longer a threat to Brun or anyone.

Next Site

Seeing his chance, Brun swept down close to the waters where the smashed timbers of the boat lifted on the waves. He cried her name over and over, making a pass this way and then another, without stopping until he saw a body floating some distance away. Darting toward her, he scooped her up and flew landwards.

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.

Seeing Rom raise swords, shouting at him, Brun grew angry in turn. He could understand just enough Romany to know he and Andromeda were most unwelcome. Furious, he felt rocks pelt his shoulders, thrown by children who had run around behind him as he carried Andromeda.

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.

“So this is how these Rom of hers treat us!” Brun thought as he soared skyward. “I hate them! I would kill them all if I didn’t have Andromeda to care for!”

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!”

Brun should have known better than to try to argue with such as Andromeda. She grew all the more angry. What was he to do? He could not just dump her down on the land for the first person to attack. He’d kill every one of her countrymen if they tried that! Despite his wife’s temperamental ways, she was still his wife, and the bearer of his children. But was she telling the truth? Were the children--?”

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?

The shepherd’s eyes widened all the more as he edged closer, halted, then gripped his staff hard and moved away toward the house. He vanished inside. A curtain moved, and Brun and Andromeda felt themselves being peered at, and some time went by, very silently, and then the door opened. An elderly woman’s face, tightly bound by a flowered scarf, appeared, followed slowly by the rest of her, which wasn’t very much. But she was not alone, for her hand was drawing the sheepman, who seemed even more reluctant than she to find out who these imposing strangers were, who seemingly had dropped out of the very heavens!

It was Andromeda who broke the strain.

“Bring me a chair so I may sit!” she demanded of the old woman.

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.”

Brun felt his blood surge. He had no time for listening to women’s affairs and idle chatter.

“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.”

Brun shook his head. “I cannot understand your people’s ways! They seek to kill you, yet they won’t take anything for your keep! These are crazy people--crazy!”

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!”

“That is fine with me!” she cried, her eyes still glinting with fire. “Find my children, if you, O mighty warrior, are able!”

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!

His valor utterly fled from his breast, he lingered in the hills, then crept back to the sheepman’s house. After a grand bow and a smile that did not quite fit her narrow, age-pinched features, the old woman let him in the house, then handed him a bowl of soup and a blanket. Andromeda, put up in the couple’s carved and flower-painted cupboard bed, was too angry to even speak to Brun, and he was so taken with his losses that he just sank to the floor against a wall and remained there.

He listened numbly to the old woman as she inquired meekly of Andromeda how she had come to such a place, where she had lived, her circumstances, and other details.

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.

The old woman crept closer to Andromeda, leaning close enough to touch her arm, though she hardly dared to do that. Huge tears rolled down her crinkled, brown face. She told the princess that she was bereft of any sons. Her beloved daughter too had died.

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.

Seeing this, Brun’s senses returned. He rose, and without a word, slipped out. He started praying as he walked. “Thank you, O Mighty God, for fighting for me when I was unable to save myself!” The moment he finished expressing his gratitude, words flashed into mind:

When you see the boat in which she is cast adrift, you are to rescue her and carry her back to the land. But you must not fight for her. I will fight for her. You must go and slay the enemy who are gathered against you in the many dark towers...”

The words caused Brun to reconsider what had happened. His mind cleared. His heart calmed. He realized he had foolishly followed the turnings of his own spirit, angry as he was, not the truth God had revealed to him. As he opened to this, he recalled the things he had been taught. He felt a purpose revive in his whole body. He felt he could fight the enemy. “Yes, I will go against them!” he decided. Andromeda would be well cared for. The old woman seemed to look upon her as the long, lost daughter. “To the towers then!”

As the mighty, revived Brun O’Kele turned in the direction the Almighty had commanded, he was suddenly thrown to the ground. A blast of air, the fiery breath of something immense and burning with the heat of the Second Moon, scorched everything in its path, and the brightness was so blinding that Brun recoiled in shock and pain.

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.

A single thought raced through his mind: “My foe--this is my foe! the star of fire and stone!” But the Star-stone of old Sodom and the City of the Golden Gate moved swiftly. It left him no time to react, and after burning and poisoning all it wished, it vanished up into the mountains.

Stumbling through the ashes and still burning embers lying everywhere, the mighty man held his hand over his eyes, shielding them as he searched for any sign of life. But of anyone once alive there was nothing remaining--nothing!

Horror in his face and eyes, Brun staggered away.

Establish Your word to Your servant, who is devoted to fearing you.

The word that flashed again into his mind and heart almost threw him to the scorched ground. But it came at the right moment, restoring his fainting spirit. In agony, he turned his face upwards. First his home and children, then his wife, right before his eyes!

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!”

Brun left, flying up over the hills, then the foothills of the mountains, climbing swiftly. He reached the crest of the mountain range, and flew for several hours more over the peaks. After the day’s events, he was so weary in body and soul, but he felt impelled to continue. His whole body was tense and stiff beneath his flapping, badly scorched jaguar-cape. Yet his rage kept him flying toward the east, and then he saw the first of the sea of dark towers, stretched to the base of the sky. Not one green thing grew there, and the mountains were burnt black and all greenery erased by the poisonous clouds.

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:

...you must go and slay the enemy who are gathered against you in the towers. They will also send many ships against you in the air. Be careful to hear what Words I give you at that time.

His heart quailed within his breast. How could he slay so vast a host of enemies as this? It seemed utterly impossible, at first sight. Yet he had seen the arm of the Lord do wondrous things, had he not? Here was yet another opportunity. He would listen, and the Lord God would tell him what to do. That, he knew, was how Daniyel had taught him to regard the worst that could happen.

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!

“Go inside,” a Voice told him as he neared a damaged dome. “You will fight them inside their lairs. Be not afraid, I will be with you.

Assured, he flew down to a damaged dome and slipped through a crack wide enough for a house to plunge through with him. He could see nothing within the gloom as he hovered just inside.

“You do not need to see them. Now speak the Word I send to you."

At the same moment a power verse flashed through his mind and heart.

Entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.

Brun obeyed. The Word was no sooner uttered then the whole facility burst into flame.

“Now go to the tower beside the dome.”

Bruno did so. Word came. He spoke it, and the entire structure also lit up like a torch. Wonderful! the Jaguar-Caped exulted. It seemed so easy. Just say the Word of God, and everything was consumed by flame.

By this time the Algol were fully alerted, and city-wide civil defenses were on red-alert, but Brun, led by his Commander, darted from point to point, a pyro-warrior, torching particular buildings. At the same time a violent wind blew up, and the seemingly isolated fires in minutes became advancing walls of fire, and the city’s defenses were overwhelmed. Everything was burned, nothing escaped.

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.

“...be careful to hear what Words I give you at that time, for the enemy in the air are stronger than the enemy on the land.”

That was the needed instruction that came to mind.

Just then Brun saw the incoming Nergulian fleet of fully armed warships. It was so horrible in appearance, his mouth fell open. Pop-eyed black fish, with long, trailing tails that spouted fire, they neared him with incredible speed, looming so enormous that he felt he would be snapped up in the next instant. Brun listened hard, he needed a Word desperately.

“One of their ships will become yours. Fly into the first that comes against you. Then speak this Word given you--”

The entire fleet hurtled at Brun with Leviathan-sizes. Just as quickly as they overwhelmed him, they passed. And guided and shielded by the Hand Brun found himself without harm, for he was not detected. Then Brun saw a ship turning back toward him, slowing down completely until the ship and Brun were flying alongside each other. In the dense smoke of the burning Algol city Brun could see almost nothing of the ship except for the green lights that pulsed up and down between the main body and the catamaran propulsion units.

Obeying his instructions, Brun gritted his teeth and made for the foe. He clung to the side as he reached it, and scrambled along the side, the wind tearing at his body to pull him off.

“The door nearest you will open. Speak the Word: Entrance of Your word gives light; it gives understanding to the simple."

Feeling the armored door, Brun spoke the word, and immediately the door slid aside, and he tumbled into a compartment, and the door shut again over his head. He was inside!

“Go on into the ship. You will find them all sleeping. They will not awaken.”

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So he found the ugly, stag-antlered, bone and hair-uniformed creatures that were the Algol’s allies, according to his Commander’s word. In the command room, no one jumped to stop him as Brun crept forward, all the way to the glowing screen that showed the wide heavens and the burning, smoking ruins beneath them that had been the great center of Algolian colonization on Earth.

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.

“Instruct the ship to attack the others. They are defenseless against this one, which is their commander’s ship. They will not resist.”

“I cannot!” Brun protested. “I have no training in these things, no knowledge of them.”

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.

At the same time Brun gazed at his heaven-sent helper, he saw that the Numberer stood in a doorway, which in turn led to another, and another, each more engulfed in splendor.

Despite the peril of the situation, with the hostile Nergul fleet so near, the Numberer took time to study Brun, and only then spoke.

“Repeat my words, for you could not have knowledge of this ship, as you say.”

Brun repeated each word exactly, and the ship fell into his control, responding instantly to each command. The flagship turned its full fire-power on its own fleet. In seconds the fleet was swept from the skies, and the Nergul, the fighting air arm of the Algol, were off the gameboard.

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.

“Go to the hold. Then you may rest from your grief, and may find some comfort.”

Brun sank to his knees before Numberer.

“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.

A flash of light burst from the portals, and Palmoni vanished. The Jaguar-Caped leaped forward, passing his hands through the air. Then he recalled the angel’s instruction. Work remained to be done. Brun dragged himself down into the hateful depths of the ship. Sleeping guards lay everywhere. None rose to prevent him as he searched until he found the hold.

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.

This reunion was the greatest joy of his life. His dark, troubled life was transformed in an instant. Now, with his children, there was a future shining before his eyes. After they had landed and the children had been gotten safely to a refuge, Brun, instructed by Voice of Palmoni, sent the ship on command back into the sky. And it shrank to a pin-point and vanished entirely. It returned the comatose Nergulians to the depths of space, with an additional, irreversible command that would utterly destroy the ship if, when they awoke, they dared turn Earthward again.

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