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.Whitey, firing the machine gun with one hand, somehow managed to hang on until the rocking of the plane subsided.Then the firing-pin of the machine gun fell on an empty chamber; the ammunition belt was exhausted.I grabbed up another belt and threw it toward Whitey, kicking as I did so at a flat, oval-eyed face that appeared suddenly over the lower sill of the door.Then I was sent hurtling backward, knocked off my feet by a huge furry shape that shot in through the door with outstretched paws and bared fangs.Sprawling on my back I threw up my pistol against the pony-sized wolf crouching over me.I looked straight into the eyes of death as the beast’s hideous muzzle descended.Then my bullet went in through his dripping jaws to blow out the back of his skull, lifting him from me with the shock of its impact.I rolled out of the way as the toppling, shuddering carcass collapsed with a crash where I had lain.Through all of this it dawned on me that I had not heard the crack of Jimmy Franklin’s rifle since the jarring crash when the totem struck the plane.Similarly the spitting sounds of Tracy’s pistol had been absent.Now, as I leaped to my feet, the machine gun began to snarl once more to the accompaniment of Whitey’s whooping.Mercifully, when the great wolf had leaped at me, it had done little more than pass over Whitey’s head, causing him to duck down and momentarily lose control of his weapon.I saw this and barely had time to breathe a sigh of relief before a gasp from Tracy swung me in her direction.She was spreadeagled against the curving wall of the plane, moving slowly away from the shattered nose section, staring back hypnotized at a squat white figure that moved after her with outstretched arms.She pointed her empty pistol at the Eskimo warrior, repeatedly, uselessly pulling at the trigger.Over and over she gasped my name.At Tracy’s stumbling feet, stretched on his back with a great bruise shining on his forehead, Jimmy Franklin lay, his rifle inches from hands that were limp and motionless.Faster the Eskimo moved after Tracy, black eyes glittering as he grabbed at her.In that same moment the head and shoulders of a second wolf-warrior appeared at the gaping hole where half the plane’s nose had been caved in.I aimed my pistol as carefully as my shaking hand would allow, pulled the trigger, aimed and fired again.My first shot went high, but was nonetheless effective for that.It seemed that the face of Tracy’s attacker had barely flown apart, his corpse slamming backward into the nose section like a felled tree, before the second Eskimo was flying out through the gaping hole in the nose of the plane.As he went his arms flapped loosely, nervelessly, while the white furs on his upper body turned red in a sudden spouting.I dropped to one knee beside Jimmy, snatched up his rifle and pumped off one quick shot into the wreckage of the nose section where I thought I saw a movement beyond the shattered windows.Then I slapped the downed man’s face until he opened his eyes.Groggily he lifted his head from the floor and tried to get up; he was not seriously hurt.“What happened?” he asked.“You got a knock on the head,” I told him.“Here, take your rifle.”As I began to busy myself, swiftly reloading magazines for Tracy’s and my own weapon, suddenly the lunatic chatter of the machine gun died.There came an abrupt, unbelievable silence: then, filling that silence, springing up all around the aircraft, came the moaning of vast winds.Listening to that wind I felt the hair of my neck rise.I knew that it was unnatural, this wind, but I was equally sure that its source was not Ithaqua.This wind was—different.I felt no chill in my heart, my soul, listening to the blowing of this wind—only a sense of awe, of wonder.“Whitey, what is it?” I cried.“Why have you stopped firing?”“Gun jammed,” he hoarsely answered, his hands tearing ineffectually at the breech-block mechanism of his weapon.“Can’t be fixed this side of—of Earth!”“But what’s happening?” Jimmy Franklin asked, staggering to a window.Whitey’s eyes went wide and his black eyebrows lifted.He peered out through the door and across the white wastes.The moaning of the wind grew louder, intermingled now with strange low cries of—fear?—from the horde outside.Snow blew into the shattered nose section, whirling along the inside of the plane and settling on our parkas.The wind howled more mournfully yet.I went to the door, stood there beside Whitey and gazed out onto the plains of Borea.The wolf-warriors were lining up, reforming their ranks parallel to our battered aircraft, but their faces were turned away from the plane and they gazed as one toward the enigmatic plateau.Though the bodies of hundreds of their erstwhile fellows littered the snow, they had momentarily forgotten us and their attention was centered upon something else.Then, from the direction of the pyramid altar, two more sledges rushed forward toward the lines of warriors.They were hauled by howling wolves that answered to the crack of Eskimo whips, and they were laden with weapons; large, tomahawk-like axes, harpoons and spears.“I wondered where all their weaponry was,” Jimmy Franklin said.“It looked for a while as though we were supposed to be taken alive.But now—now it looks like we’re really in for it!”Whitey studied the scene out on the snows a moment longer and his eyebrows knitted as his frown deepened.“No, no.Those weapons are not intended for use on us.”“What do you mean?” I questioned.He grinned in answer, then pulled me over to the opposite window.Louder and louder howled the eerie wind, blowing now quite perceptibly from the direction of the plateau, bringing with it the sound of—slapping sails and creaking rigging!“It’s my hunch we’re about to be rescued,” Whitey grinned again.“Look, here comes the cavalry!”I looked, and at first could not believe my eyes.Down the gradual slope from the plateau they sailed, majestic and awesome on huge skis, with billowing triangular sails reaching high into whistling air—platforms with shallow hulls, upon whose decks crouched half-naked warriors amid what at first appeared to be great heaps of furs—ships, a dozen of them, sailing the snows! I snatched my binoculars up to my eyes incredulously, cursed the flurries of snow blown up by the phantom wind to obscure my vision, then finally managed to focus on one of the snow-ships [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]