people from the Empire, he might be the last. Or if cabals and
guerrillas remained, he might not know where they hid. Or if he brought
her to them, what could she hope for?
She tossed her head. A chance to fight. Maybe to win home in the end,
likelier to die here: as a soldier does, and in freedom,
Drowsiness overflowed. She curled herself as best she could on the
ground. Heavy garments blunted its hardness, though she hated the sour
smell they’d gotten. To be clean again … Flandry had saved her from
the soiling which could never be washed off. He had that much
honor–and, yes, a diamond sort of mercy. If she’d done his bidding,
tried her best to lead him to whatever was left of her fellows, he would
surely have sent her back, manumitted–he’d have the prestige for such a
favor to be granted him–unscathed–No! Not whole in her own honor! And
release upon a Dennitza lashed to the Empire would be a cruel joke.
Then rest while you can, Kossara. Sleep comes not black, no, blue as a
summer sky over the Kazan, blue as the cloak of Mary … Pray for us,
now and in the hour of our death.
A small callused hand shook her awake. Hunger said louder than her watch
what a time had passed while the sun brooded nightless. She stared into
yellow eyes above a blunt muzzle and quivering whiskers. Half open, bat
wings made a stormcloud behind. He carried a blaster.
His face–She sat up, aware of ache, stiffness, cold. “Eonan?”
“Torcha tracked me.” Apart from the piping accent, mostly due to the
organs of speech, his Anglic came fluent. “But you do not know him, do
She struggled to her feet. “I don’t know you either, quite,” she got
out. “They made me forget.”
“Ungn-n-n.” He touched the butt of the gun, and his crest erected.
Otherwise he stood in taut quietness. She saw he had arrived on a
gravsled, no doubt to carry her.
Resolution unfroze him. “I am Eonan Guntrasson, of the Wendru clan in
the Great Flock of Lannach. And you are Kossara Vymezal, from the
distant planet Dennitza.”
Gladness came galloping, and every weakness fled. “I know that, barem!
And you dared meet me? Then we are not finished yet!”
Eonan drew the membranes over his eyes. “We?”
“The revolution. Yours and mine.” She leaned down to grip his upper
shoulders. Beneath fur and warmth, the flight muscles stood like rock.
“I must be careful.” His tone underlined it. “Torcha said you promised
him a reward for fetching me. I paid him myself, not to have him along.
Best we go aside and … talk. First, in sign of good faith, let me
The place he chose was back in the highlands. Canyon walls rose darkly
where a river rang; fog smoked and dripped till Kossara was soaked with
chill; at moments when the swirling grayness parted, she glimpsed the
black volcanic cone of Mount Oborch.
On the way, Eonan had fed her from a stock of preserved Terran food, and
explained he was the factor for Nakamura & Malaysia in the area where he
dwelt. This gave him wide contacts and sources of information, as well
as an easy excuse to travel, disappearing into the hinterland or across
the sea, whenever he wished. Thursday Landing had no suspicion of his
clandestine activities. He would not speak about those until she related
her story in full.
Then he breathed, “E-e-e-ehhh,” and crouched in thought on the gravsled
bench. Finally, sharply: “Well, your Terran officer has likeliest
concluded you slipped off in search of the cloudflyers–the, keh, the
underground. A spacecraft was seen to lift from hereabouts not many
sunspins ago. When I heard, I wondered what that meant.”
“I imagine he went to warn the resident and start a hunt for me,”
Kossara said. “He did threaten to, if I deserted.” Anxiety touched her.
“Yes, and a tightened space watch. Have I caused us trouble?”
“We shall see. It may have been worth it in all events. To learn about
that spy device is no slight gain. We shall want your description of the