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The Frightened Planet   By:

The Frightened Planet by Sidney Austen

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[Illustration: With a tremendous heave, Karn hurled the giant idol to the floor]

The Frightened Planet

By Sidney Austen

Karn was only a savage, but he knew a thing or two about the way justice should be meted out and he did it

Against the blackness of the early morning sky the huge ball traced an arc of flame. Had Karn been watching the sky he would have seen the ball slow in its descent and then come to a landing some distance ahead of him. But he was too busy for that.

On the back of his neck the short hairs told him that pursuit was still close behind. He put on a fresh burst of speed, his bare feet making no sound on the trail he followed. Soon the early breeze would shift and they would lose his scent.

Until then he was in danger from the males of Tur's tribe. Tur the coward, Karn thought. Tur the bully. Tur the leader of the tribe. Tur had never liked Karn. He had liked him even less as he grew into magnificent Cro Magnon manhood. Karn represented the challenge that must come to every leader sooner or later.

Then the wind shifted and Karn slowed. They'd give him up now. He was certain of that. But what to do next? He was all alone, an outcast from his tribe. For a full grown man to find another tribe was impossible.

Still, he wasn't sorry about the fight. It had been a good one. Tur was still in his prime. He'd used his teeth and his feet and every trick he knew. He wasn't quite as strong as Karn, nor as fast, but he'd had the advantage of experience.

Only one thing Tur lacked, in common with the other members of the tribe, and it was that which had lost him the fight. He had almost no inventiveness. For Karn's questing mind Tur hated him. He could not understand a man who found interest in new situations. And what Tur could not understand he hated.

So they had fought. For a while Tur held the upper hand. He had met every rush of Karn's and repulsed it. But Karn had noticed that every attack from Tur's left was met by a singular twist of the chief's body.

Once Tur twisted. Twice; a third time; and a fourth time he swung around. The fifth time Karn was not there. He'd stopped himself in mid stride, reversed himself and caught Tur off balance. Then steel fingers had fastened on Tur's throat in unshakable tenacity.

That was when the other males had charged to his rescue. Tur, they hated. But Karn they hated more. Karn made up his mind quickly. Glat alone he could have torn limb from limb. Waan alone would have fared no better. But they and the others together represented for him a quick and certain death.

Then it had been run, run, run. Run with all of them after him. Run into the forest in the night. Only the giant wolf and the saber tooth there. But they were not half so deadly as his own blood relatives.

Now the chase was over. Karn paused, his chest heaving. In a few minutes his breathing was back to normal. It didn't take this man long to recover. Karn grinned into the darkness. It would take Tur longer. He'd wear those welts on his throat for a while.

Karn shrugged and sniffed the night air. Better move ahead. No smell of the big cats. But there was a nest of wolves off to his right. They slept now, but soon they'd be awake. Up ahead there was a strange scent, one he didn't recognize.

Should he go on or turn aside? Ahead there was a glade where a spring bubbled. Small animals came to drink there in the morning. That meant food and water to a man who needed both. Karn moved ahead, but warily.

The rising sun found him only a short distance from his objective. Now there were mingled sounds as the forest came awake. Early opening flowers filled the air with fresh sweetness. It was good to be alive.

Then, through a thin screen of trees, Karn saw the great ball. It almost filled the glade, reached nearly to the height of the trees. Gleaming gray green it was, like the eyes of the wolf. The association made Karn pause... Continue reading book >>

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