For all she knew, the channel extended a hundred miles or more. While she was searching for her man, the channel might close up. Or it might broaden out into a lake. Kickaha could be dead, injured, or alive and healthy. If hurt, he might need help. If he was dead, she might find his bones and thus satisfy herself about his fate.
On the other hand, if she went to the mountain pass to the sea, she could wait there, and if he was able he’d be along after awhile.
Also, her uncle and the black man would surely go to the sea. In which case, she might be able to ambush them and get the beamer.
While standing in water and .indecision, she had her mind made up for her. Out of the duskiness two figures emerged. They were too distant to be identified, but they were human. They had to be her pursuers.
Also, they were on the wrong side if she wanted to look for Kickaha. Her only path of flight, unless she ran for the mountains again, was toward the sea.
She set out trotting, the water splashing up to her knees. Occasionally, she looked back. The vague figures were drawing no closer, but they weren’t losing ground either.
Time, unmeasured except by an increasing weariness, passed. She came to the channel, which had by now risen to its former height. She dived in, swam to the other side, and climbed up the bank. Standing there, she could hear Urthona and McKay swimming towards her. It would seem that she’d never been able to get far enough ahead of them to lose herself in the darkness.
She turned and went on towards the mountains. Now she was wolf-trotting, trotting for a hundred paces, then walking a hundred. The counting of paces helped the time to go by and took her mind from her fatigue. The men behind her must be doing the same thing, unable to summon a burst of speed to catch up with her.
The plain, now drained of water, moved squishily under her. She took a passage between the two mountains and emerged into another plain. After a mile of this, she found another waterway barring her path. Perhaps, at this time, many fissures opened from the sea to the area beyond the ringing mountains to form many channels. Anyone high enough above ground might see the territory as a sort of millipus, the sea and its circling mountains as the body, the waterways as tentacles.
This channel was only about three hundred yards across, but she was top tired to swim. Floating on her back, she propelled herself backwards with an occasional hand-stroke or up-and-down movement of legs.
When she reached the opposite side, she found that the water next to the bank came only to her waist. While standing there and regaining her wind, she stared into the darkness. She could neither see nor hear her pursuers. Had she finally lost them? If she had, she’d wait a while, then return to the first channel.
An estimated five minutes later, she heard two men gasping. She slid down until the water was just below her nose. Now she could distinguish them, two darker darknesses in the night. Their voices came clearly across the water to her.
Her uncle, between wheezes, said, “Do you think we got away from them?”
“Them?” she thought.
“Not so loud,” McKay said, and she could no longer hear them.
They stood on the bank for a few minutes, apparently conferring. Then a man, not one of them, shouted. Thudding noises came from somewhere, and suddenly giant figures loomed behind the two. Her uncle and McKay didn’t move for a moment. In the meantime, the first of the “day” bands paled in the sky. McKay, speaking loudly, said, “Let’s swim for it!”
“No!” Urthona said. “I’m tired of running. I’ll use the beamer!”
The sky became quickly brighter. The two men and the figures behind them were silhouetted more clearly, but she thought that she still couldn’t be seen. She crouched, half of her head sticking out of the water, one hand hanging on to the grass of the bank, the other holding the Horn. She could see that newcomers were not giants but men riding moosoids. They held long spears.