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Chapter II

PHOBOS had set in the east. Diemos was no more than a red ember, low over the desert. The King City of Ruh lay silent under the sullen glow, its empty towers open to the wind. The moonlight was like a splashing of old blood on the stones.

Only in the lower tiers, that had been the rooms of state, the public offices, the libraries and treasure-houses, were the walls still sound. There was life there.

One flaring torch burned in the throne room, where kings of the line of Karadoc once sat, when there were salty blue seas on Mars, and green hills above them. Only the high seat and the people around it were in the light. Surrounding them was spacious, empty darkness, rustling with old flags, heavy with the ghosts of old glories, breathing out the dry sharp taint of death.

Llaw the dwarf crouched on the ceremonial rug, woven from the long bright hair of virgins whose dust had long since been blown away by wandering winds. The dwarf had been talking for a long time, half chanting, his voice ringing thin against the stone walls. His green eyes were crazy and wild in the torchlight. Suddenly he had ceased to be a child.

From the left side of the throne a woman watched him. She was not old in years, but she was ancient in pride and sorrow, as though some inner fire, banked but unquenchable, had sapped and dried her.

At the right of the throne stood a man. His tough, sinewy body was half bared in the harness of a common soldier, much worn, but his arms and accoutrements were bright. His face was lean, scarred, sullen, and savage, and his eyes were the eyes of a caged wolf.

This was Beudach, chief of the fighting men of the Ruh—a warrior without a battle. His soul hung with the tattered banners in the hall. To his King he had given his heart, and his whole knowledge of arms and the way of using them. Now he watched the grandson of the seeress as a prisoner watches the turning of the key in his cell lock.

On the throne itself sat a boy.

He was dark, and bright, and beautiful. He was like a sword-blade, or a new spear, and the fire that smoldered in his mother blazed in him. He was Haral, last of the line of Karadoc, with the plain ancient iron Collar of Ruh locked proudly on his young throat.

Llaw the dwarf stopped speaking.

For a while there was silence. Then Haral spoke.

"His shadow over Mars," he said slowly.

"My grandmother saw it, Lord," insisted the dwarf. "She was a great seeress."

"The rule of Mars to an Earthman," mused Haral. "The outland yoke hammered on our necks to stay."

The woman cried out, but the wolf-faced man was before her, bending over the throne.

"Now, Lord! Now is the time to strike, if there's any blood or pride left in the men of Mars!"

The boy rose, slowly. The torchlight crimsoned his white skin.


The wolf-faced man dropped to one knee. "Send Parras to me."

Beudach went away, smiling.

"Do you know where this Earthman is?" Haral asked Llaw.

"No, Lord. But I will find him." He licked his lips. "There is a blood debt."

"It shall be paid."

The woman set her hands on the arm of the high seat and laughed, once, silently.

Beudach returned. There was a man with him, a plump, smiling, youngish man in a sky-blue robe. His eyes were like those of the dead seeress, moonstones flecked with red.

"I want word given to the leaders of every city that pays seizin to Ruh," Haral said to him. "Say that the old Banner of the Twin Moons is raised again, this time against the tyrants of Earth. Tell them to gather what strength they can, and hold it in readiness, and to send their chief warriors here to Ruh, secretly, for a council of war. Llaw!"

The dwarf sprang up.

"Go with Parras. Give him the description of this Earthman, Rick, so that he can warn the cities to watch for him. Then go yourself and spread the word through Ruh."


LLAW and Parras bowed and started out. Haral stopped them.

"Wait. You must give them a slogan." He laughed, boy-like, his face aglow with excitement. "Give them the old one, the oldest one on Mars—the cry of the sailors and the seaboard men when the oceans rose out of their beds, and after that the cry of the people who live in the deserts and the wastes where the seas were. Tell them, Parras—The wind is rising!' "

The dwarf and the seer went out. Haral sprang down from the high seat. He caught his mother and whirled her around and kissed her, and then pulled Beudach's sword from the scabbard behind his left shoulder.

He shouted and threw it high in the air. The blade turned over and over in the torchlight, hurling red sparks at the darkness, and fell. Haral caught it deftly by the hilt.

Beudach watched him. There were tears in his eyes.

Ten days later Ed Fallon, head of the Company, was standing at his high window, gazing out at the vast panorama of Mars. He heard the door of his office open, but he didn't turn his head. He didn't have to. Only Jaffa Storm's tread had that particular strong, uneven rhythm.

"Come over here," Fallon said. "By gosh, it's worth looking at."

Storm put down his sheaf of reports on Fallon's desk and went over to the wide glassite window. He was a big man, nearly seven inches over six feet, with a body like a gladiator's under his black, close-fitting coverall, and his slight limp gave no impression of weakness. There was a "Mickey" bolstered on his lean hip.

He stood beside Fallon, dwarfing even his thick-chested, powerful build. He said nothing, but his black eyes saw everything with a somber, rather terrible thoroughness.

"My baby," said Fallon. He struck his red-haired hands together and laughed. "She's growing up, Jaffa. Pretty soon she'll have all of Mars to play with."

His eyes had sparks in them, watching the surging strength of his baby—the Terran Exploitations Company, called simply, The Company.

Fallon's office was on the top floor of the Administration Pylon. It was walled with glassite, and gave a full-circle view of the Company world—laboratories, processing division, foundries, forges, tool shops, the vast pit-head housings with their train sheds, and beyond them, far enough away to be safe from the rocket-blasts, the Company spaceport, whence the cargoes of Fallonite went Earthward.

Apart from all these, behind charged walls of metalloy, were the barracks where the Company work-gangs lived, while they lived.

The pylon was high enough to show other things too. The sea bottom, spreading away into pale distance under the Martian sun, its gaunt ribs showing naked through the blue-gray moss. And to the south, the Old City of Ruh, like the broken crown of a dead king dropped and forgotten on its soaring crag.

Death was out there. Age and cessation. Fallon thought no more of it than he did of last year's worn-out shoes. He watched the life of his Company, the thunder and sweat and surge of machinery and the men who bossed it, and it was his own life, his own blood and sweat and surging energy.

Young, that baby, like Earth's intrusion onto dying Mars, but already stretching out muscular hands to close around a planet. A planet whose central government was no more than a feeble token, with the real power scattered wide among the city-states still clinging to the deserts and the sea-bottoms and the barren hills. A planet practically untouched by outland hands until the discovery of Fallonite. It was disunited, in-grown, weak, an easy touch for the first strong man who could see wealth and power springing out of its fallow fields.

"By gosh," said Fallon again, softly, "it's worth looking at."

"Yes," said Storm, also softly. He limped over and sprawled his huge length onto a couch, pulling cigarettes from his breast pocket. His thick hair was blacker than his coverall, his skin hardly lighter. He was a Terro-Mercurian, born and bred in the blazing thundering valleys of the Twilight Belt, where legend had it that the babies came with horns and tails, and with all the heart burned out of them with the heat,

Fallon turned back to his desk, looking with distaste at the stack of papers.

"Bah! I'd rather be back in the foundry than mess with this stuff."

"You're a liar," said Storm. "You're a conniving, crafty old fox, and you love it. You never were a laboring man at heart, anyway."


FALLON looked at him. He decided to laugh.

"You're not a comfortable guy to have around." He sat down. "How you coming with those new men?"

"Like always. There's one big yellow-eyed devil I may have to kill. I hope not. He's strong as a horse."

Fallon chuckled. "Nothing like a cheap labor supply! And as long as I pull the strings that make the New Town go, it'll be jammed with the best supply there is—floaters, homesteaders, placer men, spacehands, bums—guys who can vanish with no kicks but their own."

"Until the law moves in."

Fallon roared with mirth. "Yeah! That worries me a lot!"

"Uh huh. Just the same, I hope they don't get leery about going into the Old City. I'd rather take 'em there. Not so tough on our men. The Marshies just sit tight and hope we'll kill each other off. In the New Town, they don't like crimpers."

Fallon shrugged. "That's your worry, Jaffa. Just keep those pits open that's all I want."

"You'll get what you want."

Fallon nodded. He sweated over the papers for a time in silence. Storm sat still, smoking. Outside, the Company hurled its rude and alien noise against the quiet of Mars.

Presently Storm spoke. "I was in Ruh last night. Old Ruh."

"Have a good time?"

"Fallon, I smell trouble."

The red-haired man looked up. "Trouble?"

"The city feels different. It has felt different, since that last raid ten days ago."

"What the devil! Are you going psychic on me? The Marshies won't even say good morning to us. And besides, those ancient, washed-out little twerps wouldn't have the getup to make trouble."

"Listen, Fallon." Storm leaned forward.

"I spent four seasons in the cliff-caves of Arianrhod, down on the edge of Darkside. The people aren't human, but they know things, and I learned a few of them."

His dark face twitched slightly. "I walked through Ruh last night, and I felt it, through the walls and the darkness and the silence. There's a new feeling in the people. Fear, restlessness, a peculiar urgency. I don't know why, yet, or what it will lead to. But there's a new thing being whispered back of those closed doors. They're telling each other 'The wind is rising! ' "

His somber black gaze held Fallon. After a while, in the stillness, Fallon repeated the phrase.

"The wind is rising."

He laughed suddenly. "Well, let it! It'll take a bigger wind than any old Mars has left to blown my walls down!"

The telescreen hummed, calling for attention. Fallon flipped the connection.

"Kahora calling—Mr. Hugh St. John," the operator said.

"Put him through." Fallon winked broadly at Storm and then composed his face to a friendly smile. The screen flickered and cleared.

"Hello, Fallon," Hugh St. John said. "Are you busy?"

"Not for you. What's on your mind?"

"Mind? I'm beginning to wonder if I have one!" St. John's sensitive, aquiline face looked tired and discouraged. He had untidy fair hair and blue eyes that were unexpectedly shrewd and penetrating.

"Things not going well, huh?" Fallon said.

St. John laughed bitterly. "The whole purpose of the Unionist movement is to promote understanding between Earthmen and the Martians, so that each can give his best to the other without hurting either. And what have we done so far? We've caused a complete break between the Pan-Martians and the Moderates, and the feeling between our two races gets worse every day. No, Fallon. Things are not going so well."

"Are there any new rumors of—well, trouble? Rioting, let's say?"

"We have contact now only with the Moderates, and there aren't many of them, as you know. They're shunned as bitterly as we are. And of course here in Kahora we don't know much about the Outside. You know what a Trade City's like. I should think you'd have more chance of hearing than we."

"There's nothing that I know of," Fallon said innocently. "Look here—you need more money?"


ST. JOHN nodded. "Well, if we could carry on our work in the Polar Cities, there's a bare chance. The Thinkers are revered all over Mars, and if we could win them over they might swing native opinion our way. But you've already given so much it seems wasteful."

"I still got plenty. How much?"

"Well, about five thousand U.C.'s ought to be about right."

"Make it six, and let me know when you need more. I'll send the draft through right away."

St. John's eyes glowed mistily. "Fallon, I don't know what we'd do without you!"

"I'm not giving away anything. Mars means as much to me as it does to you." Fallon raised his hand. "So long pal."

"Good bye. And thanks."

The screen went dead. Fallon leaned back in his chair and grinned.

"The fool," he said. "The dear, sweet, lily-livered fool!"

Storm watched him with faint amusement. "Sure of that?"

"What do you mean?" snapped Fallon. "I've brought that Union Party up practically by hand. Give them something to focus their opinions on, and they start tearing each other's heads off in no time, never knowing it's what I want them to do."

Storm shrugged. "I wonder?" he said.

"By heavens, Jaffa, you're so suspicious I wonder you trust yourself."

"I don't," said Storm quietly. "That's why I've stayed alive."

Fallon stared at him. And then, for the second time, the telescreen hummed—emitting a series of short, nervous sounds. The "urgent" signal.

Both men went to it, quickly. The screen sprang to life. A man in greasy coveralls leaned forward as though he were trying to come through physically. There was blood running down his face.

"Trouble in Number Five drift. That new gang has gone wild."

"How bad is it?" demanded Fallon, his tones sharp, hoarse.

"They took the guards. Beat 'em down with their shackle chains. That big guy Rick, he's leading them. After grabbing four Mickeys, they dug in behind some ore cars, and they got four Mickeys."

"A Mickey never gave you that."

The man wiped blood off his face with his fingers. "They're throwing ore fragments. My guess is they'll make a rush for the shaft."

"Very well, I'll be right down." Fallon killed the screen and turned to his companion. "How many men in that gang, Jaffa?"


Fallon made another connection and spoke briefly to the huge white Venusian on the visaplate. The picture showed racks of arms and other huge men in the background. It had been Jaffa Storm's idea to have an all-Venusian corps of Middle-Swampers for his strong-arm work. Being outlanders and fairly savage, they had interest in two things only—food and fighting. Storm saw to it they had plenty of both.

"Vargo send fifteen men down to Number Five drift." Fallon said. "Take high-power Banning shocker. There's thirty-two guys down there want to play rough, and they're all yours!"

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