King and Emperor by Harry Harrison. Chapter 16, 17, 18

Eyes turned to the captive. Boy he was, face screwed up in pain, one leg lifted to keep it from touching the ground. Dark face, ragged clothes. A native. After the sight of the crashed kite and its dead pilot Bruno had half-expected to see another damned Englishman.

“Have you tried to talk to him?”

Wolfram nodded. “Can’t understand a word he says. Nor he us.”

“I will find an interpreter,” said Erkenbert. “Then we will do what needs to be done. Take him outside the gate.”

“One thing,” said Bruno. “I know you will not be over-kind. Nor will you hold back in any way from what I must have from him. But my advice is this. Never begin by hurting anyone just a little, and then working up. Courage grows with resistance. Hurt him very badly to begin with, more badly than he can bear. Then offer him the way out.”

“As soon as I can find a local priest to interpret for us,” promised Erkenbert.

The trapped youth looked from side to side. He had already seen what he needed to. What must he do now? Did he need to die like Marcabru and the garrison? He did not know.

A hundred yards down the path to safety, in a stream of evicted invalids and their helpers, Straw and his mates struggled with their burden: Shef, lashed firmly to the center-pole of the graduale itself, braced by the rungs that stuck out to either side as handholds for the bearers, his face with its betraying one eye covered like that of a burnt or dying man. Richier trotted behind them, face grey with fear, still clutching his precious pack of books. He had passed within twenty feet of the devil’s incarnation on earth, the Emperor himself. Thank God, the true God whose power in this world had been usurped by the lying deity of the Christians, that all his attention had been on poor Maury. What would happen now to Maury—ah, that showed the power of the princeps huius mundi, whom even the true God could not entirely set aside in this his proper realm.

As they hurried down the hillside the terrible screams that began from behind them urged them on. Screams in a voice familiar to the other boys, even in its agony.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Categories: Harrison, Harry