ANANDA stood on the warm white sands and stretched. She was tall and slender. Her golden flesh shined in the sun. The hot yellow rays of the sun played across her chest and the curves on her hips. Ananda smiled. It was good to be alive, even if she was a god.
She wondered when they would come to worship her again. They always called to her with the suota-horns. The trumpets resounded out across this place called, Lyalar. The silver deserts and blue lakes were home to Ananda.
She hoped it would be soon, for she had, despite herself, grown to like sitting on the ruby throne. She could see the upturned faces of her people from where she sat. Looking across the groined vastness of the Ruler's Chamber, she adored those faces. Even the rat-face of Ortho who always seem to up to no go. His face was opposite to the beautiful one of Jaio and her smiling red lips.
Ananda gave many gifts to Jaio from the treasures that the Lyalar people heaped upon her. And always it seemed she was eager for more. Her green eyes flickering like those of a greedy child. Jaio thought of Ananda as an older sister.
Ananda spread her arms. She could feel millions of tiny mouths in her skin open wide to drink in the energy. The life that poured from the titanic orb of fire in the heavens that was the sun to the planet Lyalar.
Ananda ate no food and breathed no air. All that she needed for her existence she got from the glorious sun. As the energy flooded into her, making her tingle in every fiber of her being. Ananda also felt the effects of that energy on her brain. The power she fed on was so great that it opened the deeper spaces of her mind so that any problem was no problem at all.
She had found the stone tower a place of escape.
Ananda did not sleep. At times, her mind would race to the sun and back. Always thinking, will they ever think of me as one of there on?
She came upon the tower when she was out exploring the stark silver sand of Lyalar. Built of basalt stones, round as the trunk of a tree. It was something new to her. I thought I had explored all the strange places of this planet.
Ananda had run to it, testing her swift feet. She could out run a dozen swey-cats, one after another. Ananda was more than swift. She was inhuman.
With all that energy flooding through her, the lock was easy to break. She took it in her hands and her muscles writhed and bulged, and the red metal of the old lock snapped. With the flat of a hand, she pushed open the door and went in.
It was dim and cool inside, and at first, Ananda did not like it. There were queer objects all about the room, some made of glass, some made of metal. There were curves and cones. There were vibrating rods of the thickness of a man's little finger. And books!
Even the libraries of the Tryall, her people, contained no books such as these. She lifted one down and browsed, and found that her mind became calmed by the words. She understood the words. She knew what those terms and symbols meant. Her mind frightened Ananda at times. She was never taught how to read and write. Her mind almost felt like it was not a part of her.
Many hours Ananda spent in that odd place. Calming her mood. It was a change from the deserts and the ruby throne. Throughout the years, she found that she had amassed an education from the books—Su-oh-ta!
A LOUD and clear shrill from narrow trumpets rang sweet and clear. They brought Ananda erect. The peculiar ring chained to her neck bounced on her chest. She looked toward the dim horizon and the city of Yara-goth. Her people and the ruby throne resided there. This was the call to the god of the Lyalar.
Ananda ran, like a perfect machine that never tired. She ran across the white sands to the eerie forest in which all the trees resembled snow flakes. The forest reflected silver-white light in the sun. Deep in the heart of the forest lay an azure pool, its blueness contrasted the silver glimmer of the forest.
The towers of Yara-goth were slim and dark beyond the grassy fields. They were like drops of blood on a satin pillow they brooded. The city reminded the people of Lyslar that they were lesser to the Ardoth.
As she made her way to the entrance of the city, a girl was standing before a golden door set flush with the hillside.
“Jaio!" Amanda shouted.
“Speak not, on your life!” Jaio whimpered back.
They stood for the moment. Ananda heard the voices then. Harsh voices, where they were in contrast to the Tryallians who spoke in musical tones.
“The Ardoth! They have returned?" Jaio whispered again.
"Yes. They swear to kill you, Ananda.” Jaio eyes were wide with fear. “They are hunting you now, along with the tunnels to the door.”
Ananda bent and scooped the girl high to her chest, cradling her, grinning. "They will never catch Ananda.
Ananda began to run. Her legs blurred with the speed of her motion. She stepped out along the grassy slope, and down it, and then was running free on the flat desert plains.
She heard Jaio's gasp as she grew aware of her pace. She buried her head against Ananda's shoulder to catch her breath. Her red hair whipped and stung Ananda's face as the wind tossed it.
For hours Ananda ran. Not needing to breathe, she held a pace with the wind. When she swung the girl down, she was as composed as though she had only moved ten feet.
Jaio stared up at her with warm green eyes. "You are a god, Ananda. Only a god could run without effort.”
"No god. Only—only—” Ananda halted. She had no word to describe herself. Neither did the Tryall, except "god.”
So god she had become, yet she was aware that she was unique among men and women.
"We are far from the Ardoths now!” Jaio said with staring wide eyes. “They have returned, Ananda!”
Ananda said. "It would be easy to hide here on the deserts until they have left.”
Jaio stirred, saying, "I do not want to stay on the deserts. They are bare places. No people, no laughter.”
"I don't blame you. There must be something I can do.” Ananda rubbed her hands on the soft white fur that hung on her rounded hips. A hot anger beat up inside her, making her nostrils flare.
The Ardoths. They had come back to Lyalar, where Ananda ruled. They considered themselves, the masters of planets.
She was one, and the Ardoth were many. Nothing could ever defeat Ananda, that she was aware of.
But one against a race? She shook her head with doubt.
“You could fight them, Ananda. You are a god!” Jaio grabbed at Ananda's forearm. “What can the Ardoths do to you?”
Ananda didn't answer. She stared out over the desert sand that burned under the blazing sun.
Jaio insisted, “There is no way of killing you!”
Ananda went back in time in her mind. She remembered an afternoon like today. While she sat on the ruby throne, an assassin had made an attempt on her life.” She then looked after the bright sand around her feet and thought, But no one has ever succeeded in killing me. That was true.
Yet she did not tell Jaio that her own uncanny speed saved her from the blade.
There was no sense in testing fate, by letting a weapon strike her. She had a subtle knowledge that she might be immune to certain types of weapons, but she was uncertain.
"You could walk into Yara-goth and slay them all, Ananda,!" The girl said, watching her with her big green eyes. "Then we could go back to the old ways. You could give me that emerald necklace I want.”
Ananda wondered at the greed in the juvenile eyes. It disturbed her.
But it did not disturb her as much as the thoughts of the Ardoths. The thought of them brought a yearning for a battle that rose inside her chest. The continual thoughts made her heart pump with fury? Was she to walk unarmed into Yara-goth and blast the Ardoth with some sort of supernatural power? Ananda walked around on the white sand, brooding at her moving feet. She looked into her mind for the words, stumbling and then finally halting.
“Jaio, the Tryall have made of me a god. Now I know I am no god. I am not such a god as the legends of the Tryallian cults tell of. I am only a woman. Like you! A human being, who is something of a curiosity.”
There was a patient smile on the girl's red mouth. Jaio shook her head and the soft fiery hair tumbled around her bare shoulders. "We have spoken of this before, Ananda! Always you say that you are not a god, and then you turn around and do what only a god can do.”
ANANDA SIGHED. Am I a god. I expect a god to be too much. But that is not exactly the point.
It is this: the Tryall call me god, no matter what I call myself. Thus I must act like a god, for their
Jaio nodded, innocent eyes fastened on Ananda.
Ananda said , "A god would not let oppressors molest her people, would she, Jaio?”
Jaio's eyes widened, "That is what I have said. You must go into Yara-goth and slay and slay—”
"No. No, I do not think that is what a god should do.”
Jaio frowned and furrowed her brow. She kicked at a clump of sand and watched it fly apart. She ran a finger through her thick red hair and twirled it.
"Of course you may be right,” she said tartly. "I am not versed in the way of gods.”
"Nor am I,” scowled Ananda. “But, in the heart of me, something says there is another way. If I can convince the Ardoth that I could defeat them, smash them in some way—then that would be the triumph of a true god.”
"That might take a long time, Ananda. I would like very much to have that emerald necklace. Ortho said a Queen of Yara-goth two thousand years ago wore it. Please, Ananda?”
She came close to her, seething in her perfumed warmth and soft white skin. Her mouth was very red.
But Ananda looked away, frowning.
“The Ardoths derive their powers from a thing called science,” she said slowly.
"It says so in a book I found in the Tower. If I could learn what that science is, I should defeat them with their own weapons. But that would take a long time. Many years.”
SHE STARED up into the sun and smiled , feeling its hot rays beat down on her chest and face. Like bubbles of air surging up through water, she felt the dormant strength of her muscles. She had strength. A strong man can fight with his hands and with his legs. Ananda would fight. She turned to Jaio and asked, "What is the Barrow that the Tryall often mention? Where is it?”
"The Barrow is the pride of the Tryall. Without it there would be no hope.”
"Yes, yes. I know. But what is it?”
"With the last invasion of the Ardoths, the Barrow was the place where all the wartime secrets are."
"Could you find the Barrow?” Jaio shuddered. Ananda put out her hands and held Jaio's shoulders. "It is for the Tryall that I ask.” said the staring Ananda.
"I—I know. I can find the Barrow.” Her chin lifted defiantly. "Of what use are old legends if they make those who hear them weaklings and cowards? Better to—to die bravely than to hold up like the tabtub-bug at the first cry of the hungry cat!"
Ananda grinned at her, wondering if she believed in her own words. She was so lovely, so childishly and greedy for pretty things.
Her green eyes flirted up at her from under their long lashes and caught Ananda's warm grin.
Jaio muttered, "The Barrow is five days' journey from the Desert of the Dead. And that lies two days' traveling from here.”
"So near?” Ananda said with assurance.
"The journey for us will be across treacherous out in the open. The Barrow is inside the tallest mountain on all the planet." Jaio continued to complain.
"That makes it so much harder for the Ardoths to find it," Ananda said.
"The Ardoths can fly. The Tryall must walk. Our monorails run only in the cities. Oh, Ananda, the only way you can win is to go into the Ruler's Chamber in Yara-goth and destroy the leader of the Ardoth. You can do it no other way!”
"If Haraj the Ancient still lives in the Barrow," Ananda dreamed, "He could help me fight. He was the greatest of the Tryallian warriors. There are rumors he does live, in the Barrow. That is why I must find it. I need Haraj."
The girl nibbled at her red mouth sullenly, saying, "I don't see why you don't do as I say. In that way, you'd get to power faster. We wouldn't have to share the glory with Haraj.”
"The Ardoth aren't standing there waiting to fall under the sway of an arm, Jaio. They are dangerous men. Wise men with enough savagery in their blood to make them vicious.”
Ananda knew she could never hope to walk into the secret chambers of the Ardoth alive. She knew her limitations. She was human, after a fashion. She bled when cut, and she ached when bruised.
And the Ardoth—The Ardoth were a strange race.
They are nomads who traveled the trails of the stars in great vessels, that jumped from planet to planet.
Never happy for too long. Their unrest was cancerous. It drove them on and on, to the outermost rims of the galaxies, always hunting for that which they could not possess.
They had a home planet, but they were seldom returning home. They chose to lock themselves in ships of metal and fling themselves out between the suns.
Five hundred years ago they had come to Lyalar. The Tryallians, then a great race, had fought them and had driven them off.
Three hundred years after that, they came again; this time they came for war. That war lasted seventy-two years and, at its end, the Tryallians were a broken race.
With their victory, the Ardoths stayed and installed the Cortera deep into Lyalar.
NO ONE knew what the Cortera was. It made the Ardoths powerful and was as closely guarded by them as was the Barrow by the Tryall. Without the Cortera, the Ardoth were nothing. They hid the Cortera deep in Lyalar's biggest city, Brennus.
"If we could go to Brennus and get to the Cortera,” said Ananda out of her deep thought.
Jaio laughed, “One can find the Barrow by rolling downhill. To find the Cortera and use it against the Ardoths? That is insanity!”
It was hard, being a god. Sometimes she wished she were no different then the Tryalls or the Ardoths. Then she would have no people to protect. No people that looked to her for guidance and protection. Often she had thought that the Ardoths might be gods, but Ananda knew that none of them could do what she could do.
Her god-ship prodded her into saying, "Let us find the Barrow and Haraj.”
“Haraj is old, very old,” replied the girl. "He is so old that he must be a toothless madman by now.”
“But his brain would be young," Ananda argued. “And it is the brain that is trained in war from which I seek wisdom.”
The girl sat on a rock and undid a sandal and shook the sand from it. She shrugged petulantly and fastened her sandal. "Must we go now? It is almost night.”
Ananda looked at the sun low on the horizon. She did not like to travel by night. She preferred the heat of the day. When the sun rays beat heavy, with insistent heat about her golden chest and shoulders, she acted more like a god.
But there was a need for hurry. The Ardoths did not stop for darkness, and neither would she.
"Come!” she said shortly.
They went swiftly. The way was easy, at first. They saw the sand before them, rise and dip. The winds molded the sand into graceful curves and whipped the barrens night and day. Slowly the stars loomed in the darkening sky above them. They grew silent and more intimate in unspoken thought.
Once or twice Jaio's hand brushed Ananda's, and she helped Jaio across the higher dunes. On a hard swirl of sand, they stood close.
Jaio whispered, "All those stars, Ananda. You would think the Ardoths would be content by now.” She then sighed heavily, “I wish that they would leave Lyalar alone and find another place to plunder.”
Ananda felt surprised at the emotion within her. It was almost like a sympathy with the nomad oppressors.
They have curiosity. I have it myself. I have lived on every desert that Lyalar can boast, yet I am ever searching for a bigger and a hotter one. I'm more like the Ardoths than the Tryalls?
She looked down at the girl, smiling wistfully at the pale loveliness of her, at the warm glow of her eyes. Ananda shivered, watching Jaio drag along in the night covered desert. She wanted so much to take Jaio and go out into the desert with her, away from everything that dictated godhood.
They could go to the Tower and live there in safety. The Ardoth would not find them there. There would be none to tell her yes or no. If—she was a god?
Ananda sighed and turned from Jaio and looked out across the never ending dunes. The inner voice whispered, The Tryall need you, Ananda. You are their god, and a god does not run away. When is a god needed more than in the time of trouble? You cannot leave them, for they are as children. You must fight. She nodded in the darkness, grimly.
Side by side they went on through the night.
And now they went apart from each other, as though the decision were a final parting.
Words were unnecessary.
The Tryall needed Ananda.
It was dawn when they saw the others trudging wearily across a far bank of sand. Ananda shouted and waved, summoning them.
Dragging deadened limbs they came, in torn clothes and with smears and streaks of dirt on gaunt faces. They stood before Ananda. In their eyes was the dull glaze of despair and in their voices the sullen acceptance of their fate.
"We fled after seeing the Ardoth ships come.” one of them said aloud.
"They will find us, though. We want a few more days of freedom."
A young woman shouted at Ananda. "All Yara-goth has fallen to the Ardoths. They have made Ortho governor and threw Zarman into chains. Zarman, the one whom you appointed ruler, is now in a cell.”
Ananda just listened quietly to them.
"And they have sent out commands that you return to Yara-goth at once. They have offered rewards in exchange for information of your whereabouts.”
Ananda grinned, shaking her golden head. A return to Yara-goth meant torture and death.
If the Ardoths thought enough of her, they might feed her to the Cortera.
Ananda said, "Jaio and I are bound for the Barrow. We will find Haraj and call him to lead new armies against the Ardoth. Join with us. We will win.”
"We cannot win . . . alone.”
They looked at Ananda out of dull eyes in which tiny flames of hope sprang alive and flickered, and then died. They shuffled their feet. They looked tired enough to fall where they stood.
"Sleep,” said Ananda gently. “You need rest. Dawn is coming up, and I can go on in the sunlight to survey the path before us.”
She drew Jaio with her, over the crest of a dune. Her fingers rose to touch the ring of dull gold that gleamed from the chain about her neck. She unfastened it as Jaio watched and stared.
It bruised her ribs or bounced on her back and against her jaw when she ran. The ring was a part of her, for Ananda had worn it ever since she could remember. Now she wanted Jaio to wear it.
But more than that, every Tryallian knew that ring. It would be a symbol of power in Jaio's hands.
"Use it well,” Ananda said, closing her white fingers about it.
Jaio's green eyes were wide, looking up at her.
Ananda put out her hands and caught her arms above her elbows. Ananda held her like that, looking at her beauty, for a short moment.
Then Ananda turned and ran. She muffled the thunder in her blood, should it smash the resolutions her brain had welded so firmly.
SAND slipped away in the back of her, as the wind passes the arrow in flight. The air was cool on her chest and on the powerful thighs that rippled with muscles as she ran. The sun beat at her, leading her in its warmth. Ananda grew strong and powerful as the cells of her skin sucked in energy.
Run, Ananda, Run—so that the thoughts teeming in your brain will be behind you.
You are a god, and a girl named Jaio is not for you.
You have only the Ardoth to confront now, Ananda.
They are your enemies, and I must vanquish them!
But how? But how?
Her brain howled in desperation. They are so many. They know sciences, and they have weapons. You have two bare hands and a strong body, a strange body, a body that frighten you at times, it is so different.
Something dug into the sand ahead of her and exploded. Ananda swerved like a frightened fawn and then came to a sudden stop.
Something else blew up a little closer to her. Hard granules of sand sprayed and stung her flesh.
Ananda saw them in the sky.
Three sleek aircraft with stubby wings and long fuselages hovered above her. She saw out of them shoot tiny glints of red pulsating beams.
Ananda drew her hands down her ribs, lips twisted. By the god that she was to be! She'd show them a race, even if they could fly and she could only run. The sun was hot and searing. Good! It was her ally, that immense orb. While it shone, they could not catch her.
Ananda ran. Her pace was a blurred thing. Her flight was that of the kala-bird whistling before the sand-hawk. She swerved and she darted. She made fools of the men in the shiny things above and behind her. It was an incredible thing that she did, but Ananda was an incredible being.
The rules were not made for her, for who made the rules knew nothing of Ananda.
She outran those aircraft. All day long, while the sun beat upon her, Ananda flew over the dunes.
She realized that she was a living, functioning thing of energy. She was not pure energy, but energy translated into a human being. She was human, and the fliers were machines.
She lost them among the rocks, but the aircraft spread in widening circles and one of them found her again.
And so Ananda ran on.
Once or twice she stumbled, toward the end of the day.
The thunder of the jet planes was loud in her ears.
They swooped low and cast long shadows before them.
There were no more explosions. Those had stopped once she began his mad race.
She thought, At least, Jaio and the others are safe. I've led the Ardoth a long way from them.
But the sun starts to set on the horizon.
The muscles in her legs were hardening, knotting. They grew heavy and inert.
The planes had landed, and the men were coming for her.
She stood and waited. Her chest rippled with sweat, and her long arms hung limply on either side of her curved frame.
Ananda could fight and die here.
Ananda's body was pouring the energy through her system again. Her muscles grew less heavy.
"By Keegan!” swore the first Ardoth-man. He stared at her with round eyes over the muzzle of a lifted solar-pistol. "Who are you, woman? What are you?”
"She's their god,” rasped another, appraising Ananda with his knowing eyes.
"No wonder,” grunted the third, holstering his weapon. "A god such as she would find me among her worshipers!”
"Do you yield?” asked the first.
They did not seem so frightening, close up. They were like Ananda. like the Tryalls. They were men, a bit smaller than her, but men. She could kill them all, here and now, but—Ananda owned a desire to see more of these Ardoth.
She could reason with their commander. She could make some sort of compromise. Ananda would do anything to save the Tryall. Jaio and the others were safe. Let them go to the Barrow. She would know where to find them when she escaped from the Ardoth. And she would escape. There was no prison made that could hold Ananda.
She said, "I yield. I will go with you.” Despite all her hopes and plans, Ananda knew herself a complete and total failure as a god.
HIS HAIR was white as the tip of a dove's tail, parted in the middle, and drawn back over his ears. He had blue eyes and a wide, crimson mouth that kept smiling at her.
He stood in the midst of the cloaked Ardoth men who stared at her. One by one the airmen told of their observations of Ananda's physical prowess.
Ananda grew uncomfortable under the dark man's steady gaze. She shifted her feet and loomed above the smaller pilots. She felt that they all were laughing at her.
No wonder they laughed at her. A god who was the protector of her people, allowing capture by three pilots. She could have killed them with three blows of her left hand.
The eyes and the mockery of the men, she did not mind, but the steady eyes of the dark man did. A thought reminded her of her mission; Forget him, and look about you, Ananda.
This is a room of the Ardoths. It was silver and black, with glass windows arching a hundred feet up along the wall. A hooded eagle design carven into the stone and wood. There was high-backed chair which stood empty at a podium. The man who usually filled it stood with the others, watching Ananda.
This was wealth, from the priceless red damask drapes at the windows to the hand laid tiles beneath her feet.
It was no use. His blue eyes were too steady.
"A lie,” said one of the Ardothian pilots. "No man could do what she did!”
"She is no man, sire. She is the one the Tryall worship. She is the god—Ananda!"
They stared at her.
The pilot had told his story.
Ananda grinned with self-appreciation as the murmurs and the cries admired her. She knew the closer scrutiny of the eyes beneath drawn brows. They ate her up, those eyes. Especially the eyes of the dark man.
A lean man with a bald head and iron gray mustache stepped forward and walked around Ananda. His glittering eyes probed her. Shaking his head dubiously, he said, “Locelis, you're our chief biochemical expert. Can this all be true?”
The dark man with the white hair came toward Ananda. "I must make tests, Commander,” he said, and Ananda liked the hoarse vibrancy of his voice. It sent tingles down her spine. But maybe that was the blue eyes of his that smiled up at her as he asked, "Is it true, what our pilot said?”
"Yes, it's true. I outran their planes. Yes. I could have killed them, but I did not choose to.”
"Then why didn't you?” he smiled.
"Because I—“ She stepped forward and changed her answer. “Who is your commander? I want to treat with him. That is why I suffered capture. I will offer peace for peace. All I ask—“
The bald headed man and gray mustache came around to stand in front of Ananda and stared at her with his cold eyes.
"I am Commander Masno,” flatly he said. "I am in charge of this Expeditionary Force here on Lyalar. You offer peace? But there is no war.”
Ananda held the snarl in her throat, as she replied, "But there will be war! Unless the Ardoth is willing to deal with me for the liberty of the Tryallian people.”
Masno smiled, but Ananda saw the flecks of passion deep in his ice-blue eyes. "The Tryallians are a free people.”
Ananda said with ease, "The Tryall worship me. They believe I am a god. I know, and you know, that I am nothing of the sort. Yet I would help them if I could.” She paused and became aware of everyone in the room. “You cannot keep me here if I seek to escape. I can plunge this planet into the bloodiest war you ever saw. But I do not want to do that. I seek only peace. Peace, and some sort of pride for the Tryall, that they may once again hold up their heads—“
THE ROOM was big and white. The walls, covered in chrome and plasti-cite, gleamed and shone under the bluish-white ceiling lights. A fluoroscope machine stood against the north wall. On tables were set scalpels and needles and rolls of cotton. Electronic ray-machines, microscopes, and cyclotron peered beyond them. The four walls of this room housed all the biochemical science of the Ardoths.
A dark man closed the door behind him and loosed his black cloak. His black shirt and tight trousers gave him a streamlined look.
"Please be comfortable. What I am about to do, will not harm you.”
Ananda watched him roll a big machine out, saw him thrust a needle with a handle into a jar of white liquid.
Locelis saw her watching him, and laughed softly.
"You are like a caged animal. You do not like walls, do you?”
"No. I prefer the desert.”
"You have spent all your life on the desert?”
"All. Ever since I was small.”
He turned from a wad of cotton that he was unrolling to regard her from under long black brow.
"A little girl without parents?”
"I don't remember them if there were any to remember. The first thing I recall is sand under my feet and running. The sun was always my friend. I love the sun. It feeds me. I need nothing to exist, other than the sun.”
His left hand was warm where it caught her wrist. The damp cotton swept across her flesh.
Ananda continued to answer Locelis's question, "I remember a lot of things about my youth. Unconnected things, like the first day I found the blue lake in the silver forest. The day I killed a nheptar with my bare hands. The first night I saw the stars, and recognized them for what they were.”
Locelis held Ananda's hand in his and said, "I am going to draw blood. It might hurt—a little.”
As the ruby liquid oozed from her wrist, the dark man went on speaking. "And you cannot recall anything beyond that? Only that you were a girl, and that you grew up?”
"Only that.” Ananda replied. “It was many years before I saw another . . . human. The Tryall are not desert-dwellers. They like their cities. But I saw a caravan and came close to examine it, and when the guards saw me, I ran so fast they started rumors.”
His mouth smiled in amusement as he walked across the room. "No wonder. A woman who can outrun three air-crafts is quite a runner.”
Ananda continued, "From that began the tales about me. A hunter had shot at me one day and miss.
That started my invincibility legend. After many years, during which I found the Tower, they sent a delegation to meet me. They needed me to be their god, to take their ruby throne in the Ruler's Chamber.”
"How did you learn to speak, if you never knew other men and women?”
Ananda paused. Some of her education she had gotten from the books in the Tower. Everything else she came to know by eavesdropping in the narrow alleys of the Tryall city, Yara-goth.
But she said, "Oh, I picked it up one day.”
“The tower you mention. What is that?”
"An old building I found it in my wandering and broke into it. It stands by itself on the Desert of the Whipping Wind.”
"Can you read?”
"No," Ananda lied.
He was sliding a small glass plate under a frosted screen, and depressing buttons. Ananda watched, wondering what he sought.
"That is too bad,” he murmured. “For if you—you—you—oh—holy Keegan!!”
His face whitened as he stared at Ananda.
“What is it?” Ananda questioned.
"Your blood . . . if it is blood. It is so—o different!”
The dark man put out a hand and deflected a switch on the wall. A section of paneling slid back. On a screen stood the three-dimensional image of a black cloaked man in a throne room.
The dark man's voice was shaking. "Commander, I must see you. Already the preliminary test has disclosed a revolutionary reaction.”
It made the bald and lean man jump a little. Ananda saw him stride toward her, walk out of the screen and disappear.
A moment later, the laboratory door opened and Commander Masno entered.
"What is it, Locelis?" he asked.
"Her blood. It is not blood that we know of, that carries food and oxygen, and any toxins necessary to sustain one's self. It is alien.”
He paused for a moment and glanced at Ananda then said, “Her cell structure is apparently designed to transmit. This is going to sound silly. I haven't had the opportunity of checking my first impressions, to make sure. But the cells appear constructed to transmit pure energy from sheer heat.”
"But the tissues, man. In a normal person, the food becomes energy in the tissues. How—?”
"I don't know. Look for yourself.”
He stood away from the microscope, gesturing toward it.
The Commander bent towards the screen. His right hand raised the electronic power a hundred units. He stood like that for many minutes, frowning and breathing heavy. When he straightened, he looked at Ananda for a long time.
He said, "It seems to be a blood that carries nothing but radiating heat pulses. That means she intakes her energy solely from the sun. The efficiency rate is perfect. Locelis, she isn't human. Not a human such as we know ourselves.”
Locelis took Ananda by the arm and led her to a fluoroscope machine, saying, "Stand here, please.”
The Commander was eyeing her steadily as he stood in front of the screen.
Ananda grinned to herself. They were in for a shock if this machine did what she thought it would do.
The room darkened. A pale green glow came and pulsated. The plate before her seemed to hum softly. The dark outlines of the Commander and Locelis grew still. Deadly still.
"The machine is wrong!” croaked The Commander.
"The machine is in perfect order, Commander. Besides, she has a heart and a blood stream.”
"No stomach! No lungs! No intestines!” The Commander yelled.
"And in place of them, strange organs that we know nothing of. Commander, let me take her to the home planet for study! What an experience. A mutant that—“
The light once again came from the ceiling.
Commander Masno stood beside the switch, staring at Ananda. His eyes were wild, having seen a miracle. He shuddered and drew his cloak tighter about him.
"A mutant. And what a mutant!!”
Ananda fidgeted a little, then looked down to gaze upon her golden body. She was proud of it.
Locelis said, "She has organs in place of digestive tracts that have some sort of purpose. But what purpose?”
Ananda slid away from the fluoroscope machine. She flexed her muscles and then stared out at the men that were gazing back at her. Then she said, "Commander, about my offer—“
"Quiet, please. Quiet! I need to think. A long time ago I knew a man who said—but no! What I am thinking is incredible. It could not be. And yet—and yet—“
Ananda picked up a bar of steel and balanced it lightly in her palms. Slowly her fingers closed around it. Muscles lifted on arms and back. She pushed her hands together and bent the bar into a circle.
"My muscles may be different, too,” she said. "About my offer. Is it peace or war? All I want—“
The Commander moved his right hand downwards. It came up from beneath his cloak with a solar-pistol. He smiled, "You're big and you're powerful as a giant, and you're different. I don't want to test your skin with a shower of light photons, but—“
Locelis came up to Ananda. Standing between the Commander and Ananda.
There was a hungry look in his eyes and about his mouth.
He whispered, "Be sensible, god of the Tryalls! Come with me. Later you can meet the Commander when his surprise has worn off.”
She knew that Commander Masno possessed a will of steel and power as great as her own, among his people.
Ananda nodded. “I will come with you.”
Locelis lifted his black cloak and threw it around his slender shoulders.
He cast a red lipped smile at Ananda and tucked his arm through hers'.
"Come along to my apartment,” he laughed.
"I want you to tell me more about yourself.”
THE ALLEYS were dark and deserted. Underfoot the rounded edges of the calanian cobblestones bit into their thin sandals. The cyclopean stone structures towered black and forbidding. The stars hung inside the pale grayness of the night sky.
They walked through the warm night, and others walked faster around them. Ananda heard the clanking of a guard's accouterments. It was the thumping of a holstered solar-pistol that drew her attention away.
Her hand dragged Locelis against her, and they backed into the shadows of a recessed door.
Many men were coming down the street. There were a lot of chains, too.
A silver moonlight touched the leading man who walked stooped with the pain of open whip cuts.
"Zarman!" breathed Ananda.
Her brain raced.
Zarman was the governor appointed by Ananda. The Ardoth had taken him and flogged him. It was a sign of their power over me. The people needed a sign from their god. If I were to free Zarman and send him back to the people—
Ananda was across the cobblestones and her right fist was coming up in a short arc.
A startled guard did not have time to open his mouth before the back of his head touched his spine. His neck cracked under that blow.
Ananda lowered him with her left hand in the small of his back.
She snatched up the solar-pistol from his holster.
“Ananda!” sobbed Zarman, straightening.
The others with Zarman knew her too, and in place of the blind pain and despair, came the laugh of hope.
"Beware,” Zarman whispered. “There are more of them.”
Ananda moved into the shadows, saying, "Keep marching. Turn at the corner and wait.”
The three more guards came on unsuspecting, talking and jesting with one another.
Ananda came out of the shadows with naked hand. She hit so fast that one guard writhed to the stone street before the others had their solar-pistols out.
Another dropped with splintered ribs.
The third opened his mouth to scream.
Two gold glinted hands took his throat and viced on it.
Ananda dropped the guard and nodded to the prisoners, "Keep moving. Zarman waits for me around the corner.”
There were only two more guards.
Ananda charged low. Her fists pumped. The last two guards never knew what hit him.
Ananda shook herself. Standing alone in the alley, with the stars above beaming down at her, bathing her in silver.
It was only a dark face above a dark cloak, and Ananda in the deserted street.
The Locelis had his solar-pistol pointed at Ananda.
"Shoot,” Ananda said, tensing herself.
“We must go.” whispered the dark man, and bent his head to watch his hand holster his weapon.
“Why did you not shoot?” Ananda exclaimed.
"Oh, I don't know. I always was a sucker for an underdog.”
But there was another explanation in his blue eyes. Locelis looked up at her which made Ananda blink. She caught his elbow and walked with him around the corner.
Zarman and the others stood along the wall in darkness. Zarman came forward and looked at the dark man, and whispered, "He is an Ardoth.”
“Forget him. Tell me about yourself.”
“The Ardoths caught us with ease. Ortho blabbed with his traitorous mouth. They came and took us, though we fought.”
"If I set you free, what will you do for your freedom?” Ananda asked.
"We can fight, god Ananda. We can burrow like the mole, and battle like a cornered rat. Allow us to show you god Ananda!”
Locelis went around the corner for the key to the manacles. He searched the implements of the guards and brought it back proudly. The men discarded the chains and manacles. One of them took the solar-pistol Locelis handed him. The other savaged their own weapons from the fallen guards.
Zarman made a motion to his men, and they began to fade down a dark stairway.
“We will go underground. Into the old tunnels dug during the war against the Ardoths. Only the Tryall know these labyrinths. We will be safe and wait your orders, god Ananda.” Zarman bowed deeply and turned to follow his men.
"Good. I will get word to you soon.”
Locelis sighed when Zarman was out of sight.
Ananda asked as they walked on, "Why did you not shoot me? You had your solar-pistol out.”
"That was for the guards—in case your fists were not enough.”
"But you are an Ardoth!”
The dark man sighed and said, "It is such a nice evening. And we are almost at my living quarters.”
He laughed softly, and Ananda wondered why.
ANANDA had never seen such luxury. When she stepped through the arched doorway into Locelis living quarters became overwhelmed. The blue tinted walls that radiated warmth. The richly toned murals and the hidden lights bespoke limitless wealth. Low bookcases crammed the walls. Perfume pervaded the cool air. It was a feminine scent, cloying, lingering.
Locelis lifted a scarlet jug and poured a cool white liquid into two crystal hemispheres. One he handed to Ananda, the other he raised in his dark, red-nailed hand.
"To freedom,” he laughed quietly and drank.
The white wine was rich and heady, and it warmed her throat going down. Ananda sipped again, and again. She looked around the room with unveiled eyes. This was one apartment for one man. He ranked high in the councils of the Ardoth, but this was a planet far from their home. And all the luxury before her came from other worlds the Ardoths had conquered!
She thought, One of those pillows would make Jaio's eyes bulge in jealousy. And she thought of why was she pitting herself against a race that could give a man all this!
She grimaced. What could one person—even such as Ananda—do against such a race? She should quit now and enjoy herself with this man who looked at her with those steady blue eyes. She told herself all that and hating the truth of it. A cool hand came to rest on the top of her hand.
“Tell me more about yourself, god Ananda” Locelis smiled.
"There isn't anything more to tell."
"You have incredible strength and speed. But what are your other powers?”
Ananda scowled and said, “I have no powers!”
“You are a mutant, one of a kind.” Locelis immediately responded. “You know this. Nature doesn't try changes unless she is fitting a being for something new.”
Locelis was very close to her. He wore perfume and he was a man, and Ananda understood neither. Where Jaio was as transparent, in her childish hunger for pretty things. Locelis was attractive. It may have been the wine. But all she saw now was his red mouth and the mocking amusement swimming in his blue eyes. She kissed him, holding him close in her arms.
Locelis backed away from the embrace. "We're straying from the subject,” he smiled up at her from her entangling arms.
Then there was a cough that sounded from behind the golden drapes hanging in front of the door. Ortho stood smirking in the opening. His eyes leering. From head to toe, he glistened in a rainbow colored silk that bellied and sank about his form. He appeared as if he were a part of the Ardothian race. He had a solar-pistol in his hand and it pointed at Ananda.
"I am sorry to interrupt your—amusements — “
Ananda did not think. She moved so fast that she was in front of Ortho even as the eyes of the others were commencing to widen in fright. Ananda hit the solar-pistol upward. It slammed against Ortho's sneering mouth where it made a wide gash. The solar-pistol then fell to the rug. Ananda put out her hands and took hold of the sleazy toad of a man and lifted him up into the air. Ortho's feet dangled a foot from the floor.
"I could break your spine," Ananda whispered.
Ortho was white. He dared not speak.
"All I have to do is squeeze these hands around your fat neck and snap it.”
Ortho closed his eyes and shuddered.
Ananda dropped him.
Ortho fell to the floor and rolled to his hands and knees.
The golden god of the Tryall loomed vast and massive above his crouching form. "You do not show respect to your god, Ortho,”
Ananda grinned dangerously.
“Nor to a woman. At least, you might be courteous, if you are not faithful.”
Ananda listened to the mumble that came from the man's mouth, watched him crawl away. She turned to Locelis, "That is the governor Masno gave the Tryall.”
Locelis let his hip rest against the onyx tabletop as his dark fingers sought for an hydroette. The end lit up green at his first intake of breath. He began to exhale green smoke from between his red lips. He leaned back and laughed.
"You know, you are a god in some ways. Your very bigness, the titanic strength, and speed of you is magnificent. If you swore allegiance to the Ardoth, you would rise to the top. You would be a commander in a few years.”
"Is that a promotion over being a god?”
"Ananda, listen to me. Be sensible. Use that brain of yours. You have a brain and a good one. It soaks up knowledge as a Venusian sponge does oxygen. I saw your eyes moving in that laboratory of mine. You deduced the uses of the fluoroscope, the electronic microscope. You needed only to see them in action—“
He caught his breath. The skin around his lips showed intensity, as his mouth tightened.
“You could even duplicate them, given time and the materials, from only seeing them. Couldn't you, Ananda?”
Ananda wondered to herself. She remembered the diagrams she had seen in books in the Tower. Her mind held a confused jumble of plates and wires to ponder upon. Left alone, she rather imagined she could do what Locelis was hinting at. Especially if she worked in the sunlight. For the sun would open the facets of her mind, make her brain as keen and alive as her body. It would give her that subconscious awareness of knowledge that awe inspired her.
"It may only be memories,” she said. "In most men, those become too deep for practical use. But with me, it may be different. I do know that things do not long remain a mystery with me, once I ponder on them.”
Locelis walked across the room, staring at the cushions that he kicked idly aside. His thin brows puckered.
"I said you could be a commander, Ananda. You could be more than that. You could be Presider itself, if—if what I know about you is true.”
Ananda sighed, "The Tryall think the Ardoth a heartless crew.”
Locelis return with a sigh, “Oh, I know. But what the Tryall and the other inhabitants of these planets we have taken over do not know, is this. We Ardoth are facing a fight against extinction. It won't come for some time, but it is coming, as surely as you live to stand here.”
He turned his back to her.
"The Corteras are dying!”
He then placed his empty glass on the corner of the table.
"And when the Corteras dies, all our cities, spaceships and the Ardoth race will come to a stop.
If only you—“
SUDDENLY men came through the doorway, and Commander Masno was in front of them. Ortho poked his fat and sneering face between two Ardoth guards and laughed at Ananda. The men laid out in front of Masno as he walked into the room, a grim smile on his lips.
"You've left quite a trail behind you tonight, Ananda," he said. "Those guards, then Ortho. I tried to treat you as an equal. Your word means much with the Tryall. But I made a mistake.”
Locelis ran before the Commander and said swiftly, "Locelis reporting on mutant Ananda of the planet Lyalar. From observations, my conclusions are that she is an advanced form of life. She requires no food but takes her energy directly from the source of the sun. That her strength is phenomenal. That her brain is superhuman. That she must go under further testing. My recommendation is—“
Masno pushed him aside and gestured to his men. "—that she go to the home planet for study.”
Ananda shook her head and said, “No,” never taking her eyes off Commander Masno.
The men laid out in front of Masno as he walked into the room, a grim smile on his lips. Masno lifted his hand suddenly.
Then Ananda moved. She went fast, so fast that her arms were mere blurs. Lifting Masno off his feet and flinging him. She swung up over a table and drove both heels into another man's chest. She hit another on the jaw as the man's finger tightened on the trigger and a bolt of fire went through the low ceiling. Now their solar-pistols were aiming and shooting yellow bolts at Ananda.
She caught three of them in the chest. The yellow flames moved over her pores and sucked their raving power into her system. But they filled her with a wild, savage elation. Her throat keened as she charged the men by the entrance. They knelt and fired as their eyes widened, seeing her coming at them. She did not stop.
She ran over the men and left them broken on the floor. Ananda chuckled, her bare feet treading a rug.
Her right fist held a solar-pistol that she had wrenched from a falling soldier. A weapon for the Tryall!
She shoulder into the door and splintered it with all of her energy. The lock went through the wood and Ananda was onto the cobblestone streets of Brennus.
The street was dark and empty.
She ran with the wind, dodging around corners and leaping along straight streets. Far behind her, there came shouts and the dull thumping of pounding feet. The massive irregular block filled walls of Brennus rose before him. Up then she went, her arms lifting her energized body with ease. From bastion to ledge she went up the wall like a scurrying spider. Now she stood on the broad top, beneath the stars. She raised an arm and waved it at the city, and went over the other side.
She ran free, far away from Brennus.
Behind her, she could hear the phift—phift of the jet planes rising to pursue her. They leaped upwards like hounds from the racing barriers.
Ananda grinned and stretched her long legs out so that the ground sped by eerily.
They could not catch her under the stars, not with this weapon in her hand.
The wind whistled past her ears.
She headed for the silver forests she could see in the dim distance. She would be under their shelter soon.
Beams of light showered the ground, hunting her. They slid all around, missing her as she dodged gracefully.
Soon she would be beneath those trees. Nothing on all Lyalar could catch her then.
Ananda swung the solar-pistol upward. Placing the cold muzzle to her naked chest and pulled the trigger.
SUNLIGHT tinted the bluffs in pale amber. The light spread a gossamer gold across the shelving stone ledges. It caused dark shadows in rock crevices to cascade brilliant red and yellow from veins of quartz. The cliffs towered high above the rolling green countryside.
Ananda stood erect on the jagged tongue of rock, staring down at a file of men and women walking across the hills. She stood only in the white fur at her middle into which the butt of the solar-pistol protruded at a rakish angle. Towering huge in the morning sun, she looked the godly part, by every inch of her, that the Tryall thought her to be. She grinned and patted the walnut handle of the weapon. That blast of power had given her needed energy last night when the sun was on the other side of the planet. Her follicles had drunk it in, and her strange organs filtered it throughout her body. All night long had she run, yet she was fresh and strong.
Now she looked across the brown valley and saw the Tryall walking across it. Here and there she recognized familiar figures. Jaio was at the head of the column, just ahead of young Trexal and grim old Gaan.
Ananda scanned the blue sky. No Ardoth-men in sight!
She lowered herself over the jagged edge of the bluff.
Her canny feet felt about like sensitive fingers. They found chinks in the weather-worn rock. She went down foot by foot swiftly. When she dropped the last twenty feet to the crumbly valley bottom, the Tryall were only a few miles from her. Her straight descent had saved her hours of travel. She could catch them now in a matter of moments.
Jaio saw her first. Turning her red head almost as if some telepathic thought commanded her. She cried out, and the slender column wavered and halted. Ananda came up to her with outstretched hands and a smile on her lips, but the smile faded when she saw her eyes.
“Why have you returned?” she asked numbly. "You made your bargains with the Ardoth, with the man named Locelis. What else did they give you for Lyalar, besides a man?”
"For Lyalar? Besides a man? Are you mad, Jaio? And you others—do you believe what she says? Jaio, what—”
Gaan said sourly, "Deny it, then. Deny that you went alone with this dark man Locelis to plot our undoing. Deny that Zarman and others who trusted you were captured and flogged.”
"I plotted no one's undoing. And as for Zarman—”
"They flogged him, didn't they?” howled Trexal, his eyes two abysses of anguish.
“Flogged before I—”
Trexal spat at her, and Ananda quivered and her hands came up to her sides with fists. She let them fall again. Force would accomplish nothing. And a god must be understanding.
"I freed Zarman and the others as they were being taken to the streets,” she said patiently.
"As for Locelis, he is a biochemist of the Ardoth.”
"You were alone with him,” Jaio muttered sullenly. "Ortho saw you kissing him.”
Ananda thought for a moment, How did Ortho get this news to them so quickly?
“Ortho! So that is where you get your news.”
"The talking trees, the silver ones,” said Gaan between toothless lips. "They pick up subsonic messages. That was how we heard.”
"And of course, you believe all that you hear. It matters not that the Ardoth appointed Ortho in place of Zarman. Take his word over mine. It was Ortho that sent the messages out, wasn't it?”
"Yes,” said a woman from the crowd.
"Ortho wants me as a captive. So do the Ardoth. Ortho hopes that you will turn me in. There will be a reward for me. That is why he sent out that message. He wants to turn the Tryall against me.”
She talked to their eyes that reflected their feelings. She fought to recapture their trust, "If the Ardoth kill me, what hope is there for you? You all say I am a god, your god. Yet you desert me at the first lies of a toad like Ortho”
The men and women began to shuffle their feet. Their faces were haggard, and lined with bitterness and distrust. In some eyes, Ananda could read real hate.
“Why have you come back?” whispered Jaio, staring up at a distant mountaintop. "To turn us in? To give my back to the floggers? Am I that valuable to the Ardoth!”
Ananda pleaded, "Should I have returned alone if my purpose was your capture? If that were the case, the skies would be alive with aircraft! I knew you were on your way to the Barrow. I could have made you all prisoners by now if such was my intent. Reason it out. Ortho tells you lies to turn you away from the one thing that had any chance of helping you!”
LIKE CHILDREN, their faces grew hopeful. Their minds absorbed her words. Jaio was biting her lip. From under her fiery lashes, her green eyes studied Ananda. "But you kissed this Locelis, didn't you? You kissed the Ardoth-man! The god of the Tryall would never do that.”
Ananda could see her illogical reasoning was swaying the others. They were hesitant, disappointed. She said defiantly, "I kissed him because he was a man and I was—”
Jaio turned her back.
The others looked from the girl to Ananda and back to the girl.
"I am no traitor, because of that kiss. I—“
They were not listening.
They followed Jaio who was walking swiftly away. She was heading for the hills in the purple distance.
Ananda's fingers closed on empty bitterness as she stood there alone, miserable. Her people . . . following a girl toward destruction.
Sorrow gnawed in her heart. This was the fate of a god. That her children should misunderstand her. Even that they should hate her. Still, she did not blame them. They were alone, helpless, and afraid. Watching them move away, Ananda knew they needed her more than ever. They were leaving the only one who stood any chance of helping them. Without her, the Tryall were like toys before the hard, sure hands of the Ardoth.
She touched the handle of the solar-pistol and then let her fingers trail away. She would have to find the Barrow alone, now.
TWO DAYS PASTED and Ananda found the Barrow nestled among the green fronds of the mountain. It was a low rounded dome, nestled in the hard whitish rocks of the strange mountain peak. The Barrow was perfectly camouflaged.
From where she stood, she could make out arches receding back into the dome. many of them. The arches were so many that each looked like a reflection of the others.
The Barrow, she thought with hollow triumph. That roundness gave no glint to a watcher in the sky. As low as it was it cast no shadows. Its whiteness blended with the dazzling brilliance of the white mountain rocks. No wonder it had stood years without detection. Even looking for it as she was, Ananda almost missed it. Only the arches, seen at a certain angle, betrayed its existence.
She leaped toward it and burst into the open before its grandeur.
Only when she was near the arches did she see a man kneeling with his back to her. Before him, a man lay on his back.
Ananda went forward on the tips of her toes, as silent as a breeze moving across the rock.
The man knelt beside the fallen man and was moving his hands over him swiftly. Then he leaned back on his haunches and shook his white head. The black blouse and white slacks looked familiar. When Ananda saw his silhouette as he stood up, she knew.
“Locelis!!” she said.
The dark man whirled, reaching for the solar-pistol at his hip. But when he saw Ananda fully he gave an elated sound and scrambled to his feet.
"Ananda, Ananda, I'm so glad I've found you!” And was stepping to her.
She tried to be curt, but it was useless. There was too much joy shining out of those blue eyes, too much laughter and delight. And he was so radiate! She put out her hands and held his arms, making him stay a little away from her. Ananda wondered if he heard the wild pounding of her heart.
“Why?" she asked. “Why are you here? Why did you come searching for me?”
Laughter was like musical hoarseness in Locelis's throat. With his head flung back he held her with his eyes. He said, "Because Commander Masno ordered that you shot on sight. Because you are a doomed woman. And because you may yet save the Tryall.“
"You are Ardoth!”
"It makes no difference.
What are you, for that matter?”
"I—I'm a—” She did not know. Always that uncertainty tugged at the core of her. The unknowingness within her was like an emptiness. Who are you, Ananda? What are you?
And mad laughter answered, "You do not know. You will never know what you are. A god? Ho! Not you, not Ananda.” He saw the blankness in her eyes and the misery. His voice was soft, tender. "Ananda, can't you see? You are—Ananda!”
She shook her head, heart dull within her chest.
He chuckled, "But you are the first, Ananda, the first of your kind! I can tell you that. You are a biochemical wonder.”
"What does that mean?” Ananda cocked her head in reply.
"I don't know. No one knows. You have to prove it to yourself first. You have to learn about you, and then others will know. Who can best understand a new thing but the thing itself! Explore yourself, Ananda—and know!” Locelis hooked a finger in the black braid of his belt and made traceries in the sand with the toe of his sandal. "I had to come and find you. I could not let you die. Besides, there is something in what you do. If the Tryall could make peace with the Ardoth they would help us. They could find the way to keep the Corteras from dying. The Ardoth need help. You will be the agent to bring Ardoth and Tryall together.”
From the depths of her bitterness, Ananda laughed harshly. "I am but one against the Ardoth. I have no allies. Even the Tryall turn their faces from me. The only thing that keeps me going is the thought that a god must protect his people. Even if they hate her.”
"Then think of the rewards that the Tryall may reap, if you unite them with the Ardoth in friendship. The Ardoth are not only conquerors but colonizers as well. In the far-flung span of cities that spread from our home planet, there are many marvels. You have never been to Zafira on Fomalhaut-2. You have not beheld the creata-screens, where your dreams become reality. An instrument that takes the depths of your subconscious, captures it in raw data and then translated it into pictures. No one is ever the same, having beheld their dreams in a waking moment. Then there are the histo-rays that recapture the past, making a living, breathing thing of it. You could see the history of all Lyalar, Ananda. Witness from its primordial beginnings until the—“
Ananda whispered roughly, “That sight would make me realize even more what it means to be alive these days.”
Locelis turned his back to her, looking at the rock and sand to a distant fringe of silver trees.
Ananda bit her lip, staring at his shapely shoulders. Fool! To alienate the one person on all the planet who cared whether—
From the corner of her eye the old face lying on the ground. Gaunt brown cheeks, and sparse gray hair on a round skull. Haraj! The ancient one with a brain filled with the knowledge of war and the magic of sciences lost to all the Tryallians.
Haraj was dead.
LOCELIS killed him! That was why he was here. He cared not a fig for her chances of freeing the Tryall. He was a spy. And she believed his talk of screens and luxuries and the joys of joining the Ardoth way of life.
Her hand vised at his wrist and twisted him around to face her. His blue eyes went wide, frightened at the mad rage in Ananda's face. Under the grip of that hand, his knees dug into the sand.
"You murdered him. You—“
"No! no, Ananda!” Locelis pleaded and tried to explain. “His heart stopped from excitement. He thought this Ardothian had found the Barrow. It is the Barrow, isn't it?”
"Yes,” she muttered, looking away from him toward the receding arches.
Accuse him again, Ananda. Do not let those big blue eyes fool you. He is a traitor, is he? He is a spy. Accuse the one thing on all Lyalar that believes in you. Smash his belief. Kill him with your hands. Stand alone, as always you have done.
"No!” she moaned, swaying on widespread golden legs.
The dark man knelt, looking up at Ananda.
Her eyes closed as thoughts rocketed across her brain.
He killed Haraj. He wears no solar-pistol. Haraj's body bears no mark of violence! He is a spy for Masno, and will betray you. He has come alone to you! Kill him, and be safe. Trust not in your strength to fight what may come.
She put out her hands and caught his shoulders. She lifted him up and held him against her. She rained kisses on his soft mouth.
He gently stirred after a while. He whispered, his white head nestled to her chest, “You want me, Ananda?”
“Yes.” She said staring out the entrance of the Barrow.
"You came to the Barrow, Ananda. Let us do what you would have done. Rumor has it that there are weapons here.”
Ananda nodded, "Haraj was the only one who knew their use.”
He rubbed his arms with his palms, caressing the bruise where Ananda's hands had dwelt. He rebuked, “A god can understand any weapon.”
And when she glanced to seek mockery in his eyes, he said, "I mean it. You can understand them. If you will it. Your mind is different. Try it!”
As they made their way beneath the myriad of arches. Their feet stepping loudly on the marble flooring in the stillness. Ananda said, "If I cannot use these weapons the cause of the Tryall is forever lost.”
A labyrinth of strange things and objects, set before her on shelves and counters. And none of it was even remotely understandable to the golden god who stood and stared.
Locelis slipped a hand to her and said, "You can do it, Ananda. Yes, you can!” She shook her head, but she went and stood before the machines.
With narrowed eyes, she studied curving generators and domed turbines. Slowly, almost reluctantly, she began to understand them. If only—
A beam of yellow sunlight swam through a glassine vent in the wall, quivering, and moving.
It moved to touch Ananda. The light came to her golden face and hair with radiance. The sunlight was hot and soothing.
Ananda smiled faintly, knowing that the light was opening the secret facets of her brain. It fed energy to her consciousness and made her mind work whether she wanted it to or not. She was understanding these silent machines, now.
She touched a button and watched an engine throb and hum. One by one these mysteries came to life. Where the blue discs were was its outlet. They turned red and glowed. When they went white, a blast of power would splay out, and she did not want that to happen, yet.
She shut the power off.
Locelis walked to her. "You know.” He said softly.
He asked. "Then tell me your plans!”
Ananda turned to the metal giants, touching levers and rods. She lost herself in their intricacies as a child does with new and complicated toys. She did not hear Locelis. She did not hear the footsteps.
She did not see the girl who came with Gaan and Trexel to stand in the doorway, a solar-pistol in her white hand.
A BALL of flame exploded amid the coils and antennae of the big machine. Another fell onto a huge dynamo. Still, another whistled as it clove a path through cones and hoops.
Ananda whirled around, but it was too late. Jaio was firing rapidly, as fast as she could depress the stud on her solar-pistol. The yellow blasts ate their way through the machines until everyone lay smashed and wrecked.
Ananda laughed bitterly. "Destroy your every chance,” she said. "Your freedom lies on the floor, amid those twisted metal things.”
Jaio lifted the solar-pistol and aimed it at Ananda. She said coldly, "The Ardoths will never take our weapons, Ananda. I destroyed them before you could bring to the Ardoth.”
"What mad poison eats in your brains, you ignorant little girl? Without weapons, what can I do against the Ardoth?”
"The Ardoths will never get them,” Jaio said coldly.
"The Ardoths do not need these things.” Ananda replied. “They have better ones. A hundred years ago they beat men who used these weapons. In that time they have new weapons, better weapons! What would the Ardoth want with things like these?” There was doubt in the eyes of some, but Jaio held her solar-pistol on Ananda. Ananda walked toward her, seeing the red hate in her eyes.
Her finger touched the stud and balls of yellow fire leaped for Ananda. They splashed across her chest. Jaio went on with her unstoppable firing. The energy from the yellow balls poured into Ananda.
Ananda slowly marched into the energy blasts. Muscles rippled on her arms as she reached out and took the solar-pistol away from Jaio.
With a white hand pressed to her writhing mouth, Jaio stared at her in dumb awe.
Ananda wrapped her fingers around the solar-pistol. The metal crumbled in her hand. When she opened her hand the remnants fell to the floor as dust.
Ananda put a hand to Jaio's shoulder and pushed her aside.
Gaan and young Trexal watched her with fascinated, frightened eyes.
She lunged into the chamber where Locelis had cried out.
“Locelis!” she called.
He lay on a long white table, and there were strong steel straps holding him down. His clothing was somewhat torn. His blue eyes met her from the corners as his red mouth smiled a little.
"I tried to warn you. The Tryall do not like the Ardoth. They wanted me alive to learn secrets from me.” He made a grimace.
"I don't know whether I could have stood up to any amount of torture.”
"There's no need for it now,” Ananda grunted, putting her hands under the straps and busted them apart. She lifted him and held him to her chest.
"I am no longer god of the Tryall,” she rasped bitterly, looking down at Locelis. "I am hated by them all. Now I am—nothing!”
He was very warm and soft on her chest. Ananda tightened her arm, watching his mouth.
Locelis made a face and mocked her. “Man or god—you feel!”
She eased her arms a little, still holding him tightly.
Ananda went down the corridor of the arches as Jaio and the others watched from the shadows. Her footfalls were soft but deadly. It was as though her feet intoned a danse macabre for the Tryallian race. Ananda carried the dark man to his jet plane, hidden among the rocks. She lifted him into it and swung up, both hands on the smooth plasticine handles. The door clicked behind Ananda.
Locelis dropped into a red leather seat before an intricate control-board. His dark fingers touched a few buttons and switches.
The ship rumbled and shuddered. Slowly it trundled upward, gathering momentum as if got higher. From the port window, Ananda watched the white dome of the Barrow falling away below them. Ananda turned her eyes to the front. Watching him lift the plane over a fringe of hibithius trees to arrow into the cloudless sky.
"Locelis, I am homeless.”
She was homeless and a wanderer, without a people. The Tryall had been her people if a god ever had a people. Now they had turned against her, broken with her, even tried to kill her. There was bitterness on Ananda's tongue and in her heart. A bitterness that burned and galled.
From the depths of her anguish, she cried, "I want to be a part of something, Locelis! I am neither Tryallian nor Ardoth. What am I?”
The dark man caught her hand and pressed it to his lips. He whispered softly, "To me, you are always a god, Ananda. I need you. You want me.”
"I have you. Yes, that makes up for everything else.” She sighed, "But I keep telling myself that I have failed. That I have not done all I could to free the Tryallian people from enslavement.”
“What of the tower, Ananda? You said it had strange things in it. it is a laboratory, of sorts. I could make tests there on you. I want to seek to know your purposes and come to understand all your abilities.”
"Yes, the tower. I'd forgotten that place. It could be a home to us. An Ardoth-man and a—an unknown”
"I am Ardoth no longer.” Cheerfully Locelis said. “I gave that up when I came after you. I knew what I was doing.”
Ananda knelt and caught him to her, saying, "There is no place for either of us, except with each other. Two wanderers.”
"Two wanderers,” he sighed.
“With a purpose. A mad, insane belief in themselves. To fight even when there is no chance of victory!”
THE TOWER stood gaunt and lonely, rising up into a blue sky. Baked dirt powdered into clouds under their feet as they walked toward it. The tower was strong and it towered above the flat earth in its loneliness.
In that respect, it was a little like Ananda herself, Locelis thought. He studied the flat buttresses and arched windows. "An Ardoth-man built that,” he said. "If he did, he made it a laboratory and home at the same time.” Locelis furrowed his thin black brows. "But what Ardoth ever built such a tower on Lyalar?” he wondered.
Ananda pushed open the big wooden door. The round room walled with dim dials and cool panels. It gave off a faint and musky smell. A circular table covered with vials and bell jars. Shelves lined the walls, and bottles sat on those shelves.
At the far side of the room, a metal stairway twisted its way to the upper floors.
Locelis wandered around, delight shined in his eyes. He lifted vials and smelled at chemicals. Laughter gurgled in his throat. "But this is marvelous. It's almost as complete as my own lab. Now, who built this place, Ananda? Can you tell me?”
She showed him a big book bound in tooled leather.
“Wiam Riorh!” he cried at the sight of the letters scrawled into the cover. "Why—why, he was an Ardoth genius! We often wondered what became of him. He was to travel to Antares, to study life conditions on one of its outer planets. Commander Masno would delight in—“
He broke off, glancing sideways at Ananda.
She said, "If it were not for me, you could go back. You can go anyhow. I—“
His dark palm covered her mouth. "Don't say it, Ananda. We'll see this through, you and I.”
"If there were only some way in which I could convince the Ardoth that they and the Tryall could live in peace! The Tryall mistrust me and the Ardoth hate me, for I threaten their power. Locelis! Locelis! There is no answer.”
"There is always an answer to a problem. The only trouble is, it takes the time to see it through.”
While Ananda worked at the table, making tests and experiments under Locelis's guidance. Locelis made the tower his own to test the powers of her mind.
Sunlight bathed Ananda through an open window. Above her, she heard his footsteps going to and fro. He was lifting things and unearthed a notebook that had once been Riorh's. They spent their days in work and laughter. Locelis made many tests on her, saying, "You are a biological miracle. I don't know much about miracles, but I will learn.”
BUT he never completed his findings. For one day he discovered, tucked into a corner of the big desk on the second floor, a dusty old diary. For three hours he sat entranced with it. Never stirring, until Ananda came hunting for him. She was anxious over his silence. Ananda found him with tears in his eyes, his teeth nibbling at his full lower lip. He looked up at her and whispered, “Do you know your name, Ananda? Your full name?”
"Ananda. I once had a ring round my neck which bore my name.”
"It means happiness. Your father was a very wise man. Your father was Wiam Rohrig. You are Ardoth, Ananda !”
She stared at him.
He clapped his hands, blue eyes glowing. "He knew about you. Oh, he was brilliant, Ananda! He knew your function. He called you a future being! No stomach, no lungs, no need for water. I can see, now that my eyes are open. It is Nature, striving all the time for perfection. Equipping herself with products, with the necessities to get along in their environments. In you, he was fitting humans for space travel! Light-years wouldn't mean a thing to you. A battery of sun-lamps to feed you. You wouldn't age hardly at all. You derive your energy from outside sources, instead of generating it in your tissue, as normal humans do! Your organs transmit the heat and energy into your muscles and brain. There would be no food to digest. The energy churned into heat energy in your cells. Your energy comes from outside!”
"You make it sound important.” Ananda stared.
"It is important! I don't understand how important you really are.”
Grimly she said, "Now if only we could convince the Ardoth and the Tryall of that!"
Locelis caught her arm, saying fiercely, "Ananda! You can't give up. You must fight. The Ardoth are fighters, Ananda. Your father was a fighter. He came here with his wife because he had to die! That's right. And his wife came with him. You were born on Lyalar. Far, so far from your home planet. Wiam Rohrig died a long time ago. But his fighter's heart didn’t die.”
A red fingernail stabbed into the golden flesh of Ananda's chest. "That heart is in you, Ananda. It wants to fight. Maybe it doesn't know how, but you are sad only for that reason. You aren't fighting!"
Ananda whispered hoarsely, "Tell me how, Locelis. How will I fight?”
"How do you want to fight? What do your heart and your brain tell you?”
She stood and let the sunlight hit her face. It grew hotter and hotter as she stood there. Inside her skull, she felt something stirring and knew it for her opening brain. Fight them where they are most vulnerable, Ananda. Hit them at their core! The inner voice whispered again, Destroy the Cortera!
"I must destroy the Cortera," she said to Locelis.
Locelis shuddered, whispered in horror, “You cannot! You would die from it long before you ever got to it. The Cortera is terribly awesome, Ananda!”
The sunlight made a pattern on her chest as she turned. "Nevertheless, that is what I must do.” Locelis bowed his head and took her hand.
THE CITY OF Brennus sprawled like a lazing slug upon the prairie. Aircraft sped across its walls, winging into illimitable distances. The deep hum of trades-men's voices as they called their wares for sale. All this mingled with the smooth roll of gyro-cars, rising to form the soul of the great metropolis. Armed guards clanged along the tops of the pyramidal walls.
A tall figure clad in wool cloak and hood walked beside a dark man who went with the down-bent head. Once in a while, the man whispered to the figure, and they made a turn into a different street. They had dust on their cloaks and dust on their feet.
“We are almost at the Commune,” whispered the dark man to the cloaked figure.
"There are no people here,” the cloaked figure responded.
"The Tryall do not come near to the building that houses the Cortera. They fear it too much.”
They went faster, lengthening their steps. They stopped opposite a tall white building that had Ardoth lettering graven into it.
The dark man spoke again. "That is where the Cortera is, hidden deep in the bowels of earth beneath the Citadel. Always are always guards there. They must be overcome.”
The cloaked figure threw back the hood, revealed her naked chest of gold and long arms. Head flung back, she studied the building eagerly.
"They will be overcome!”
The cloak fell to the street and the golden god was gone in long strides that carried her to the doors of the Citadel.
Locelis stood watching. Then bent and lifted Ananda's fallen cloak, threw it over his arm, and walked off.
Inside the darkness of the Citadel, Ananda, with uncanny silence, went on bare feet. A guard came toward her, and she darted into the shadows. When the guard was five paces away, Ananda struck.
She lowered the guard and went on. Voices came from ahead.
"This Ananda will know how strong the Ardoth are whens she learns what has befallen Zarman!” "Aye! What has become of him? Is he dead?”
"Not he. He bides his time. He hopes for a rising of the Tryall”
"With Zarman and his crew being executed today, what chance have the Tryall?”
Ananda turned to stone. Her heart hammered inside her chest. Zarman will die! But how had the Ardoth taken him? Once captured, he would be twice as wary!
Her hands lifted in the shadows toward the guards, but she held them still. Ananda swung about and went on.
She did not know of the men outside in the street who halted suddenly and looked at Locelis. They ran across the street toward him. Ananda raced along the corridors of the Citadel. Locelis had no chance to scream. A wrist jammed his throat and an Ardoth voice whispered, "Traitor!”
Ananda ran on. A heavy throb pounded through the steel corridors. Ananda made her way along the polished runways, and into the paneled rooms of the Citadel. Deep down, in the guts of the planet, came the monotonous, frightening beat and thunder of the Cortera. It pulsed in a powerful rhythm. Few men stayed long in this building, and the guards changed every few hours. No one had run into it with such gladness as Ananda ever did. Her feet barely touched the floor as she ran.
She flexed her muscles, testing her strength. A guard saw Ananda and yanked at a solar-pistol. Ananda took his face in the palm of her hand and banged his head against the polished steel wall. She left him twitching but alive. Ananda ran now, heading down and always downward along the ramps, deeper into the earth. The farther she went, the more sullen grew the throb and roar. It pounded and surged all around Ananda.
On a horizontal support above a metal elevator inscribed with an Ardoth word. Ananda knew it to be the warning of the Cortera. But she put out her hand and opened the elevator door and stepped within. She threw the switch. There was a falling sensation for a moment, but that passed as Ananda walked around the little cell. She worked her arms and legs in anticipation of whatever awaited her. Waiting, waiting, she was tense and excited. This was to be the test.
Locelis said if she lived through it, that it would be a marvelous sensation of her entire life. That it would, in some alchemic way, transmute her to another level.
It was getting warm now. The elevator was falling faster and faster. Ananda wondered why the Ardoth bothered to have an elevator at all. If the Cortera lived up to its rumors, then the Ardoth would have to build a new elevator every time someone made this journey to it. But it was the ritual of the thing! The Ardoth must maintain their superstitious hold over the Tryall. She smiled. The Ardoth! She was an Ardoth.
Hot was the elevator. The light, brilliant, came seeping in through cracks in the joints of the door. The metal of the elevator was turning to a cherry red.
* * * * *
In the Auditorium of Ancestors, Commander Masno sat on the high-backed ivory throne under an arched canopy. In a semi-circle before him Ardoth officers. All them in a row, stiff-backed as they faced the man with white hair and blue eyes, Locelis. Fifteen feet from the throne, Locelis stood with head flung back. He smiled at Commander Masno. “Your men are efficient, Commander,” he said, "They found me quickly.”
"There is no one as brilliant as you, Locelis,” smiled Masno. "There is no one also as traitorous, either.”
"I fled to Ananda because I felt her to be of help to us. She will be a great help to our survival as a race.” He then began to laugh to himself as he said, “She has gone down to destroy the Cortera.”
Masno was out of his seat in one tremendous explosion of speed. His hands caught Locelis by the throat. "Destroy the Cortera? Are you mad? Is she? Nothing can destroy the Cortera! What secret does she know?” Masno released Locelis.
"No secret, other than herself. She is Ananda.”
Masno clenched a fist, saying, "You said she could help us. It is no help to us if she destroys the Cortera!”
Locelis answered with, "She cannot destroy it. She will learn from that!”
"I think it will destroy her, long before she reaches it.” Commander Masno stared in the direction of the citadel which housed the Cortera. He signed and said, “But I have spoken enough with you. You must die for your actions performed detrimental to the Ardoth welfare.” Commander Masno clapped his hands.
Guards entered a doorway, and behind them came ragged men with flogged backs, and wearing manacles.
Locelis started toward them before Masno caught him. Locelis called, "Which of you is Zarman?” A big man lifted a swollen face filled with beatings. His eyes were sullen as he looked across the room at Locelis and nodded.
Ortho smirked. Beside him was Jaio, who wore a gigantic emerald necklace around her white throat. Her hand fingered it lovingly. On her hand gleamed a golden ring with the letters Ananda engraved on it.
"She bears the ring of Ananda,” rasped Zarman. "She came to us with a lying message and we believed her. She led us to the Ardoth!”
Jaio tossed her ruby red curls indifferently and glanced down at the necklace.
Commander Masno cleared his throat. "Take them all, including Locelis, to the Square of Dying. We will witness their termination there.”
* * * * *
Ananda laughed aloud and stretched, feeling a mad inferno of fire bathing her. Her pores were opening. One by one, accepting that insane incandescence with a voracious hunger. A human would have died in madness long ago, but Ananda would not die. She watched the metal of the elevator weep itself into molten droplets that bulged and oozed. A cable snapped, and the elevator car plunged free.
There was brightness here, all around her as she watched the elevator car flare in riotous colors. The iridescent hues of red and blue flashed for a quivering instant, then puffed into a mist.
Ananda reached for an outcropping of volcanic rock and clung to it. She lifted herself and stood on a stone ledge. Beneath her, suspended in a mighty chasm, was the Cortera.
The Cortera was a tiny sun! It hung in an endless abyss. It pulsed and throbbed and quivered, and shot streamers of fire upwards and around it. From its moving core, the leaping tongues shot out, expending its energy. By its own inconceivable heat, restoring the elements to begin the process all over again.
Many ages ago, the Ardoth discovered solar energy. They discovered that it would hold hordes of hydrogen atoms that could heat to a point that made them an atomic sun. From these bits of power scientists built small suns of their own, and hung them in deep abysses.
From its everlasting power, they sapped the energy needed to drive their machines and light their cities. They fed the solar power through tentacles of spun carbornstung into generators and dynamos. The Ardoth took these suns with them across the voids, to planets like Lyalar. And strung them in their deepest chasms. These installed suns would ultimately become objects of dread and awe. This one was no object of dread to Ananda.
Standing on the lip of rock, she laughed and raised her arms. She felt that titanic heat and energy flow directly into her. Ananda had no need for carbornstung cables to power the dynamo of her body. The follicles of her skin opened their hungry mouths and sucked that energy deep into her. Ananda was changing. She was becoming energy itself. Every pore and organ of her filling to capacity with the heat and light of the Cortera sun. She drained it to a capacity that felt as if she were to burst at any moment.
Ananda turned to the jagged stone wall and began to climb out along the ledge.
* * * * *
A gallows stood in the Square of Dying, lifting its black arms toward a blue sky. From the crosspiece hung plasticine conductors, like silvery webs. Men stood below the transparent plastic on a raised platform. Their lives would end with a flip of a switch and a current of pure energy would zap them into oblivion.
Commander Masno said to Locelis. "You realize now that your woman-god Ananda is nothing compared to the Ardoth?”
"Ananda is the only hope the Ardoth have,” he shouted to Masno. "I have told you her father was Wiam Rohrig.”
“A tale calculated to amaze me. I do not believe you.”
"I told you how her body is different. She can soak up solar energy and translate it into the body. That she is a future human. A woman in a body fitted to venture out into space, far beyond where we have gone.”
"I still do not believe you.”
A man came to prime the black guillotine-like platform, Locelis, Zarman and the other stood on.
Their deaths would come quickly. Some of the other men began to sob. Locelis looked directly at Commander Masno and said, "I tell you now, Commander. That the only one who can renew the Corteras is Ananda. Our electro-astrogines have informed us that the elements needed to make new Corteras exists. Only on the planets close to the great suns. Every expedition we sent to those planets perished of heat before they reached them. One woman could make such a trip, Ananda.”
Masno grinned at him. "You're mad, Locelis. Executioner, throw the bolt.”
The executioner put his hand on the lever and swung it over.
* * * * *
Ananda climbed the black rock swiftly. Hands and feet felt for and found niches in the rough surface. Up and up she went. She stood on a narrow ledge and craned her neck, staring at the blackness where the carbornstung cables swallowed their dark orifices. She was going up there, to those cables, and rip them out. She would smash the dynamos, and nothing could stop her. Over the lip of a metal cable-mouth she went.
Her hands showed bright in the darkness as she seized the cables and pulled them from welded sockets. She tore and broke with her glowing hands, passing them under and over the cables, and tearing. As she walked, she destroyed. With her fists, she battered against a wall of metal and splintered it. She stepped through and walked toward the dynamos that were lazily rotating. Some of them already had come to a halt.
Ananda touched the engines with her hands and summoned the energies of her body. The metal cracked under the strain of that superhuman power. Casings split and bearings crumpled. Ananda walked on.
THE EXECUTIONER threw the lever, and nothing happened.
Locelis laughed softly, and there was a light in his blue eyes that made Commander cringe. He whispered, "She has won.”
Masno roared, "Throw the auxiliary engines over!”
But the auxiliary engines were dead, too.
Now the Ardoth murmured and whispered among themselves.
Then the unnatural quiet of the Citadel was hammering their eardrums.
Footsteps sounded on the street.
Something tall and something bright was crossing the street and entering the square. The shape of a woman, but it gleamed so brilliant that it hurt the eyes to gaze upon it. “Ananda!” screamed Locelis.
Commander Masno shuddered and put a trembling hand across his eyes. He looked smaller, frail in his dark cloak, standing before the giant who was coming toward him.
His officers fell away from him as Ananda came on. To one side a girl with an emerald necklace fainted and lay in a huddled heap on the ground.
From the throats of the manacled Tryallians, a roar went up. "Our god has come for vengeance!”
“Yield! Yield to Ananda!”
"See how she shines in her glory!”
Twenty feet from Masno, Ananda came to a stop, for fear that the heat her body emanated would blast the man.
“Free Locelis and Zarman and the others,” the golden woman said.
"Stay away from me,” she warned Locelis, seeing him leaping from the dais of the gallows.
"I am still overcharged with energy. It will fade in a little while.”
Ananda looked at Masno. "Zarman will be governor of Lyalar. You will leave Lyalar, Commander Masno, never to return. We will banish Ortho and Jaio for their treachery. Let her keep the emeralds. She will die if we take them from her. The Tryall will live in peace and friendship with the Ardoth peoples. It is my order.”
Zarman came forward and held out his land to Commander Masno who took it thoughtfully.
Zarman then said, “Farewell Commander. Our god has spoken.”
The man with the bald head swung up to Ananda. "Then it is true what Locelis said? Can you go near a sun? It makes your body like—that?”
“It fills it with heat and light. And heat and light are energy. My body is energy, right now. Later, the peak of pure energy will fade. I will resume my normal appearance. But potentially, it is always as you see it now. Needing only a sun to make it so."
Locelis looked at Masno, across the cobblestones of the square. He said, "I told you Ananda is the one to renew the Corteras. She would not die on a planet near enough to the sun for the elements we need.”
"I will do that,” agreed Ananda.
"I am no longer god of the Tryall. I brought them their freedom. I have discharged the responsibility they put on my shoulders when they made me their god.”
Ananda bowed her head and said, "My mother and father were human. I, too, am human. If I can save the humans here on Lyalar or anywhere, I will.”
She turned toward Zarman and said. “And, being a human, I will support you in all your efforts to improve the conditions of all those on Lyalar.”
Ananda bowed her head to Zarman.
Zarman drew a deep breath. His face wrinkled with amazement, changing to a shy smile. "My first orders for you, Ananda? Hmm? The first thing you ought to do is—cool off.”
The crowds of people roared with laughter. “Then, when you're able to do it, take this man Locelis into your arms and reward him for his belief in you! To the true ends of the universe and beyond I wish you both eternal happiness.”