Grimly Eric John Stark slogged toward that ancient Martian city—with every step he cursed the talisman of Ban Cruach that flamed in his blood-stained belt Behind him screamed the hordes of Ciaran, hungering for that magic jewel—ahead lay the dread abode of the Ice Creatures—at his side stalked the whispering spectre of Ban Cruach, urging him on to a battle Stark knew he must lose!
Through all the long cold hours of the Norland night the Martian had not moved nor spoken. At dusk of the day before Eric John Stark had brought him into the ruined tower and laid him down, wrapped in blankets, on the snow. He had built a fire of dead brush, and since then the two men had waited, alone in the vast wasteland that girdles the polar cap of Mars.
Now, just before dawn, Camar the Martian spoke.
“I am dying.”
“I will not reach Kushat.”
Camar nodded. He was silent again.
The wind howled down from the northern ice, and the broken walls rose up against it, brooding, gigantic, roofless now but so huge and sprawling that they seemed less like walls than cliffs of ebon stone. Stark would not have gone near them but for Camar. They were wrong, somehow, with a taint of forgotten evil still about them.
The big Earthman glanced at Camar, and his face was sad. “A man likes to die in his own place,” he said abruptly. “I am sorry.”
“The Lord of Silence is a great personage,” Camar answered. “He does not mind the meeting place. No. It was not for that I came back into the Norlands.”
He was shaken by an agony that was not of the body. “And I shall not reach Kushat!”
Stark spoke quietly, using the courtly High Martian almost as fluently as Camar.
“I have known that there was a burden heavier than death upon my brother’s soul.”
He leaned over, placing one large hand on the Martian’s shoulder. “My brother has given his life for mine. Therefore, I will take his burden upon myself, if I can.”
He did not want Camar’s burden, whatever it might be. But the Martian had fought beside him through a long guerilla campaign among the harried tribes of the nearer moon. He was a good man of his hands, and in the end had taken the bullet that was meant for Stark, knowing quite well what he was doing. They were friends.
Black Amazon of Mars
Publication date: 10/12/2015
Grimly Eric John Stark slogged toward that ancient Martian city
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