The Pirates of Ersatz-Seventy-Seven

The Pirates of Ersatz-Seventy-Seven

There were screams and flight and utterly hopeless defiances by sword-armed and spear-armed men. In instants Hoddan went limping into the castle with Thal by his side, searching for Fani. Ghek had not fallen at the first fire. He vanished, and the castle was plainly fallen and he made no attempt to lead resistance against its invaders. Hoddan’s men went raging happily through corridors and halls as they came to them. They used their stun-pistols with zest and at such close quarters with considerable effect. Hoddan heard Fani scream angrily and he and Thal went swiftly to see. They came upon the young Lord Ghek trying to let Fani down out of a window on a rope. He undoubtedly intended to follow her and complete his abduction on the run. But Fani bit him, and Hoddan said vexedly:”Look here! It seems that I’m disgraced if I don’t fight you somehow–“

The young Lord Ghek rushed him, sword out, eyes blazing in a fine frenzy of despair. Hoddan brought him down with a buzz of the stun-gun.

One of Hoddan’s followers came hunting for him.

Sir,” he sputtered, “we got the garrison cornered in their quarters, and we’ve been picking them off through the windows, and they think they’re dropping dead and want to surrender. Shall we let ’em?”

“By all means,” Hoddan said irritably. “And Thal, go get something heavier than a nightgown for the Lady Fani to wear, and then do what plundering is practical. But I want to be out of here in half an hour. Understand?”

“I’ll attend to the costume,” said the Lady Fani vengefully. “You cut his throat while I’m getting dressed.”

She nodded at the unconscious Lord Ghek on the pavement. She disappeared through a door nearby. Hoddan could guess that Ghek would have prepared something elaborate in the way of a trousseau for the bride he was to carry screaming from her home. Somehow it was the sort of thing a Darthian would do. Now Fani would enjoyably attire herself in the best of it while–

“Thal,” said Hoddan, “help me get this character into a closet somewhere. He’s not to be killed. I don’t like him, but at this moment I don’t like anybody very much, and I won’t play favorites.”

Thal dragged the insensible young nobleman into the next room. Hoddan locked the door and pocketed the key as Fani came into view again. She was splendidly attired, now, in brocade and jewels. Ghek had evidently hoped to placate her after marriage by things of that sort and had spent lavishly for them.Now, throughout the castle there were many and diverse noises. Sometimes–not often–there was still the crackling hum of a stun-pistol. There were many more exuberant shoutings. They apparently had to do with loot. There were some squealings in female voices, but many more gigglings.

“I need not say,” said the Lady Fani with dignity, “that I thank you very much. But I do say so.”

“You’re quite welcome,” said Hoddan politely.

“And what are you going to do now?”

“I imagine,” said Hoddan, “that we’ll go down into the courtyard where our horses are. I gave my men half an hour to loot in. During that half hour I shall sit down on something which will, I hope, remain perfectly still. And I may,” he added morbidly, “eat an apple. I’ve had nothing to eat since I landed on Darth. People don’t want to commit themselves to not cutting my throat. But after half an hour we’ll leave.”

The Lady Fani looked sympathetic.

“But the castle’s surrendered to you,” she protested. “You hold it! Aren’t you going to try to keep it?”

“There are a good many unpleasant characters out yonder,” said Hoddan, waving his hand at the great outdoors, “who’ve reason to dislike me very much. They’ll be anxious to express their emotions, when they feel up to it. I want to dodge them. And presently the people in this castle will realize that even stun-pistols can’t keep on shooting indefinitely here. I don’t want to be around when it occurs to them.”

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