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The People of the Crater
written by "Norton, Andre, 1912-2005"
...tains—" Garin hurled himself forward, felt Kepta's lips mash beneath his fist; his fingers were closing about the other's throat as Dandtan, who was trying to pull him away from his prey, shouted a warning: "Watch out!" A morgel had leaped from the grass, its teeth snapping about Garin's wrist, forcing him to drop Kepta. Then Dandtan laid it senseless by a sharp blow with his belt. On hands and knees Kepta crawled back to his men. The lower part of his face was a red and dripping smear. He screamed an order with savage fury. Dandtan drew the still raging flyer behind the screen. "Be a little prudent," he panted. "Kepta can be dealt with in other ways than with bare hands." The towers were swinging their tips toward the entrance. Dandtan ordered the screen wedged tightly into place. Outside, the morgel Dandtan had stunned got groggily to its feet. When it had limped half the distance back to its master, Kepta gave the order to fire. The broad beam of black light from the tip of the nearest tower caught the beast head on. There was a chilling scream of agony, and where the morgel had stood gray ashes drifted on the wind. A hideous crackling arose as the black beam struck the screen. Green grass beneath seared away, leaving only parched earth and naked blue soil. Those within the Cavern crouched behind their frail protection, half blinded by the light from the seared grass, coughing from the chemical-ridden fumes which curled about the cracks of the rock. Then the beam faded out. Thin smoke plumed from the tips of the towers, steam arose from the blackened ground. Dandtan drew a deep breath. "It held!" he cried, betraying at last the fear which had ridden him. Men of the Folk dragged engines of tubing before the screen, while others brought forth the globes of green liquid. Dandtan stood aside, as if this matter were the business of the Folk alone, and Garin recalled that the Ancient Ones were opposed to th...

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