The Lavalite World by Philip Jose Farmer. Chapter 5, 6, 7, 8


THE THREE MEN HAD stopped and were looking suspiciously at them. When the two came up to them, Red Ore greeted them.

“What the hell are you two plotting?”

Kickaha laughed. “It’s sure nice traveling with you paranoiacs. We were discussing that,” and he pointed toward the ridge.

McKay groaned and said, “What next?”

Anana said, “Are all the natives hostile to strangers?”

“I don’t know,” Urthona said. “I do know that they all have very strong tribal feelings. I used to cruise around in my flier and observe them, and I never saw two tribes meet without conflict of some kind. But they have no territorial aggressions. How could they?”

Anana smiled at Urthona. “Well, Uncle, I wonder how they’d feel if you were introduced to them as the Lord of this world. The one who made this terrible place and abducted their ancestors from Earth.”

Urthona paled, but he said, “They’re used to this world. They don’t know any better.”

“Is their lifespan a thousand years, as on Jada-win’s world?”

“No. It’s about a hundred years, but they don’t suffer from disease.”

“They must see us,” Kickaha said. “Anyway, we’ll just keep on going in the same direction.”

They resumed their march, occasionally looking at the ridge. After two hours, the caravan disappeared over the other side. The ridge had not changed shape during that time. It was one of the areas in which topological mutation went at a slower rate.

“Night” came again. The bright red of the sky became streaked with darker bands, all horizontal, some broader than others. As the minutes passed, the bands enlarged and became even darker. When they had all merged, the sky was a uniform dull red, angry-looking, menacing.

They were on a flat plain extending as far as they could see. The mountains had disappeared, though whether because they had collapsed or because they were hidden in the darkness, they could not determine. They were not alone. Nearby, but out of reach, were thousands of animals: many types of antelopes, gazelles, a herd of the tuskless elephants in the distance, a small group of the giant moosoids.

Urthona said that there must also be big cats and wild dogs in the neighborhood. But the cats would be leaving, since they had no chance of catching prey on this treeless plain. There were smaller felines, a sort of cheetah, which could run down anything but the ostrich-like birds. None of these were in sight.

Kickaha had tried to walk very slowly up to the antelopes. He’d hoped they would not be alarmed enough to move out of arrow range. They didn’t cooperate.

Then, abruptly, a wild cluttering swept down from some direction, and there was a stampede. Thousands of hooves evoked thunder from the plain. There was no dust; the greasy earth just did not dry enough for that, except when an area was undergoing a very swift change and the heat drove the moisture out of the surface.

Kickaha stood still while thousands of running or bounding beasts raced by him or even over him. Then, as the ranks thinned, he shot an arrow and skewered a gazelle. Anana, who’d been standing two hundred yards away, ran toward him, her beamer in hand. A moment later he saw why she was alarmed. The chittering noise got louder, and out of the darkness came a pack of long-legged baboons. These were truly quadrupedal, their front and back limbs of the same length, their “hands” in nowise differentiated from their “feet”.

They were big brutes, the largest weighing perhaps a hundred pounds. They sped by him, their mouths open, the wicked-looking canines dripping saliva. Then they were gone, a hundred or so, the babies clinging to the long hair on their mothers’ backs.

Kickaha sighed with relief as he watched the last merge into the darkness. According to Urthona, they would have no hesitation in attacking humans under certain conditions. Fortunately, when they were chasing the antelopes, they were single-minded. But if they had no success, they might return to try their luck with the group.

Kickaha used his knife to cut up the gazelle. Ore said, “I’m getting sick of eating raw meat! I’m very hungry, but just thinking about that bloody mess makes my stomach boil with acid!”

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