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.'Soon the dark sea could be seen glinting ahead.Hawkmoon felt his stomach muscles tighten as he anticipated the encounter with the mysterious pyramid which had tried to get his friends to kill him.But the shore, when they reached it, was empty save for a few clumps of seaweed, some tufts of grass grow- ing on sandhills, the surf which lapped the beach.Count Brass took them to where he had erected an awning of his cloak behind a sandhill.Here was his food and some of the equipment he had left behind when he set out to meet Hawkmoon.On the way the four had told Hawk- moon how they had come to meet, each, at first, mis- taking another for Hawkmoon and challenging him.'This is where it appears, when it appears,' Count Brass said.'I suggest you hide in yonder patch of reeds, Duke Dorian.Then I'll tell the pyramid that we have killed you and we'll see what happens.''Very well.' Hawkmoon unshipped the flame-lances and led his horse into the cover of the tall reeds.From a distance he saw the four men talking for a while and then he heard Count Brass's great voice calling out:'Oracle! Where are you? You may release me now.The deed is done! Hawkmoon is dead.'Hawkmoon wondered if the pyramid, or those who manipulated it, had any means of testing the truth of Count Brass's words.Did they peer into the whole of this world or merely a part of it.Did they have human spies working for them?'Oracle!' called Count Brass again.'Hawkmoon is dead by my hand!'It seemed to Hawkmoon then that they had entirely failed to deceive the so-called oracle.The mistral con-tinued to howl across the lagoons and the marshes.The sea whipped at the shore.Grass and reeds waved.Dawn was fast approaching.Soon the first grey light would begin to appear and then his friends might vanish alto- gether.'Oracle! Where are you?'Something flickered, but it was probably only a wind-borne firefly.Then it flickered again, in the same place, in the air just above Count Brass's head.Hawkmoon slipped a flame-lance into his hand and felt for the stud which, when pressed, would discharge ruby fire.'Oracle!'An outline appeared, white and tenuous.This was the source of the flickering light.It was the outline of a pyramid.And within the pyramid was a fainter shadow which was gradually obscured as the outline began to fill in.And then a diamond-like pyramid about the height of a man was hovering above Count Brass's head and to his right.Hawkmoon strained both ears and eyes as the pyra- mid began to speak.'You have done well, Count Brass.For this we will send you and your companions back to the world of the living.Where is Hawkmoon's corpse.'Hawkmoon was astonished.He had recognised the voice from the pyramid but he could hardly believe it.'Corpse?' Count Brass was nonplussed.'You did not speak of his corpse? Why should you? You work in my interest, not I in yours.That is what you told me.''But the corpse.' The voice was almost pettish now.'Here is the corpse, Kalan of Vitall!' And Hawkmoonrose from the reeds and strode towards the pyramid.'Show yourself to me, coward.So you did not kill your- self, after all.Well, let me help you now.' And, in his anger, he pressed the stud of the flame-lance and the red fire leapt out from the ruby tip and splashed against the pulsing pyramid so that it howled and then it whined and then it whimpered and became transparent so that the cringing creature within could be seen by all of the five who watched.'Kalan!' Hawkmoon recognised the Dark Empire sci- entist.'I guessed it must be you.None saw you die.All thought that the pool of matter left on the floor of your laboratory must be your remains.But you deceived us!''It is too hot!' screamed Kalan.'This machine is a delicate thing.You'll destroy it.''Should I care?''Ayethe consequences.They would be ter- rible.'But Hawkmoon continued to play the ruby fire over the pyramid and Kalan continued to cringe and to scream.'How did you make these poor fellows think it was a netherworld they inhabited.How did you make it per- petual night for them?'Kalan wailed: 'How do you think? I merely made a split-second of their days so that they did not even notice the sun's passing.I speeded up their days and I slowed down their nights.''And how did you make the barrier which meant they could not reach Castle Brass or the town?''Just as easy.Ah! Ah! Every time they reached the walls of the city, I shifted them back a few minutes so that they might never quite reach the walls.These were crude skillsbut I warn you, Hawkmoon, the machineis not crudeit is hyperdelicate.It could go out of control and destroy us all [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]