The Aeolian Master - Book One - Revival HTML version

The three of them remained silent for several minutes—they were too physically tired, too mentally
exhausted, and too depressed about the deaths of their fellow runners to say anything.
Finally, Gaal put his empty bottle in the holder on the arm of his chair. "Only one more Zone," he stated.
"And even then, according to your information, we won’t be free."
“Don’t be so sure,” said Dahms.
Ben knew it was about time to leave the safety chamber, so he stood up and looked at Dahms, and said, “You
keep making references to our getting out of this place. Would you mind being a little more specific?”
Dahms put her fingers to her lips. “Not now,” she said. “We don’t want Hurd to know any more than he
needs to.”
“Yeah,” said Ben.
Just then the soft, feminine voice told them it was time to leave and the door opened.
Sam was about ten meters from the chamber. When he saw them coming out the door. He stomped his cigar
in the dirt and motioned them over. As they formed a group he said, “I was just thinking about the time I stole
twenty-two Mithian Cigars out of Hurd’s desk. You know Mithian Cigars, being shipped from another planet
many light years away, are extremely expensive and very difficult to acquire, and when I learned that Hurd had
purchased two dozen of them, it became my duty to liberate this most precious commodity from this tyrant.
And believe me I had no compunctions about doing it. As it turned out, it was easier than I realized. I waited
until Hurd was in a council meeting, then I sent a phony memo to Hurd’s secretary—sending her on a wild
goose chase. I slipped into his office, confiscated the remaining cigars, and slipped out.
“That was you,” said Dahms. It was the first time since Ben had met her that she laughed. “That’s great,”
she said, as she continued to chuckle.
“Hurd was furious,” said Sam. “For weeks he stomped around different floors of the tower, questioning
everybody in sight, but he never found out who did it.
“Before I die,” he said, “I’m going to tell that bastard it was me who took his cigars. And if I don’t make it
through the next zone I’m going to yell it up at the rafters. But if I die too quickly, and don’t have time, and if
one of you should make it through, please tell him it was me, okay?”
“It’ll be my pleasure,” said Dahms as she turned and started up the path.
When they topped the small hill, they came to a halt and searched ahead for the last obstacle. Whatever this
monstrosity was, it was so deadly they had to keep it locked behind a barrier. A short distance ahead of them
was a tall transparent wall, at least forty feet high with a sliding door, and on the other side was a dirty, brown
path leading straight across the last zone to another door, which was the exit from the “Run.”
This section was flat and nearly barren with no bushes, no grass, and nothing to slow them down when they
made their run for the door. All appeared safe, until they looked to the far right where a single tree rose from
the barren land. Its trunk seemed short in relation to its wide-spreading, gnarled branches, which ran parallel to
the ground and radiated out nearly forty feet. A purplish fruit was hanging from the smaller limbs. Beneath the
tree lie six Toral napping in the shade.
"I should have known the last zone would be impossible," said Gaal. "Hurd's not going to give anyone a
sporting chance."
“Yes, but we know that two runners made it.”
“It seems to me,” said Ben, “there must have been three, and while the toral were tearing one of the runners
apart the other two made it to the door.”
“Probably right,” said Dahms. “My information never told me how they got across this zone.”
“That has to be right,” said Sam. “So, I see it like this. When we go through the door we'll run as fast as we
can for the exit." He pointed across the zone to the last door. "When the lead Toral overtakes us, I'll turn and
stand my ground, delaying him as long as possible. That should give the three of you enough time to make it
through the door."
"Impossible," whispered Gaal. "They'll attack all of us."
"The leader always attacks first," said Sam. "The rest of the pack may be as much as two or three seconds
behind. That should give you enough time to make the last twenty or thirty yards."
Dahms stood silent.
Gaal looked at the Toral. "I know why you have chosen Dahms to get through to the door," he said. "But
why me? Why not you?"
"You can run faster," said Sam. “And that gives you a better chance."
"I don't think so," said Gaal.