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6

They flew at me in unison, and at once.

What a fight! said Mirri, squeezing my arm, and I could see his male eyes already looking forward to the next female session he planned with me. What a fight!

Thinta and her cats meowed in my ears, which were beginning to din thickly:

Ooma, are you all right?

Hes excellent, said Kley. That hulking dope didnt stand a chance.

Even Doval was smirking: Ever so good.

Only Hergal wasnt therelooking green, hed gone behind a tree. I could conjecture how he felt. There was no triumph now, only a grizzly, clammy horror, heightened by the extraordinary attitude of my friends, not to mention the crowd, most of whom were dissolving into hysterics of nausea or delight. The blood loss was telling also, and any split I was going to repeat my famous action of twelve vreks ago, and faint dead at their spangled feet.

Above, dimly heard by me, the wailing of robot sirens as the rescue squad homed in on Zirk. The sirens seemed to fill my lungs and push them out of my temples. Then a solid bulk inserted itself between me and the black pit I was about to fall backward into. Some kind of strong hand got hold of me, and I became aware, through the swarming black stars that were invading my eyes, of a scarlet presence on my left.

Hang on to me, said Hatta in a voice so full of conspiracy that a feeble laugh reverberated my shattered frame. Or do you fancy being carted to Limbo too, along with Zirks last body?

No thanks. Hatta, youre amazing.

Hatta got me around, and we began to make it toward the avenue and away from the clearing. Not even Thinta, apparently, tried to stop us; maybe they were fascinated with the approaching Limbo teamI was too far gone to see or care.

Hatta, three-legged monster that he was, managed me reasonably well, but somewhere on the avenue I imagine I dropped in my tracks, for the next thing I knew I was hanging over his unrestful balloon shoulder, and we were jogging along at a cracking pace.

Hatta, I mumbled, do you have to run so fast? Two legs would be bad enough.

Clearly, said Hatta, you dont know what youve done, do you?

I think so.

Then if you know, youll know why Im going fast.

My head swam with the motion of our career. I could no longer feel the wound of Zirks sword. I must have said so, for Hatta panted:

I put stuff on it, of course. Now quiet.

Quiet came, black as the mountains of the desert, soft as Danors hair.


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