Children of the Gates
    It was a moment or two before he could claw his way to his feet again. Linda had gone, only a swinging branch guided him. But he could still hear the barking and her calls. The little fool—stronger names came to his mind as he went on. Doubtless his folly was as great as hers in following. But if he went back for help she could be lost. He would have to take the chance as it was the only one he had.
    Thrusting his way through bushes at the cost of bloody scratches, Nick won to an open space under the trees. Though the direction of those barks and calls might mislead, they were all he had to guide him. And somehow the sounds were reassuring, at least they were both able yet to make them.
    “Lung—Lung!” Between those two words there was a change in tone. The first utterance had been a call, the second—what? A protest?
    Nick pushed on at the best pace he could, and, without warning, stepped into an open, treeless glade. Before him stood Linda, but she was making no effort to capture Lung.
    The small dog was still barking, sitting up on his haunches, waving his forepaws excitedly in the air. While she whom he was wooing with all his might smiled and enticed him with something held tantalizingly in her hand.
    Linda moved just as Nick caught up with her. Before he could reach out to restrain her—
    “No!” she shouted. Her hand swept through the air to strike at the other’s.
    Swept out—and passed through!
    Linda screamed. The other shrank back. But Linda threw herself to the ground and seized the Peke who struggled wildly in her hold, actually snapping at her in fury.
    Nick pushed her behind him, confronting the other—perhaps a phantom.
    There was a nebula of light about her, seemingly thrown off by the unusual white skin of her face and hands. In part that light misted her, made her from time to time harder to see. But, in spite of what had happened when Linda had tried to strike the morsel from her hand, she seemed to be entirely real and solid. And she looked more human than had the Green Man.
    Her hair was a warm chestnut brown, reaching a little below her shoulders. She wore breeches of forest green, with matching boots and shirt, the sleeves of which showed from beneath a tabard like the Herald’s. Only hers was not multicolored but green, bearing across the breast glittering embroidery, in silver and gold, of a branch of silver leaves and golden apples.
    “Who are you?” Nick demanded. “What do you want?”
    But the stranger continued to back away, and, as she went, the mist about her deepened, clung tighter to her body, until all that could be seen was her face. There was nothing there of threat. Instead from her eyes came the slow drip of tears. And her mouth moved as if she spoke, only he heard nothing. Then the mist covered ail of her, dwindled again to nothingness and they were alone.
    “She wanted Lung!” Linda still held the dog to her with tight protectiveness. “She tried to take Lung!”
    “She didn’t get him,” Nick pointed out. “Get up! We have to get out of here quick.”
    “Yes.” For the first time Linda seemed to realize how far they might have ventured into danger. “Nick, she tried to take Lung!”
    “Maybe? You saw her! She was going to give him something—You saw her!”
    “She was teasing him with it. But she might have had a bigger capture than Lung in mind. You followed him, didn’t you?”
    “Me?” Linda stared at him. “But she didn’t even look at me—it was Lung she called—”
    “Could it be she knew you would follow him?” Nick persisted. Looking back he could not swear that the girl had seemed any menace at all. But he had no way of evaluating the many traps this world could offer. At any rate Linda had better be well frightened now so that she would not be so reckless again.
    “Do you really believe that, Nick?”
    “More than I can believe she was only after Lung. And—”
    He had been looking ahead, his grasp on Linda’s

Similar Books


Selena Kitt


Viola Grace

Planting Dandelions

Kyran Pittman

Dead by Morning

Beverly Barton

Horse Spy

Bonnie Bryant

Summer Rose

Elizabeth Sinclair

The Wizard's Map

Jane Yolen