The Incredible Planet by John Wood Campbell

By John Wood Campbell

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The Ernan was not a tower but an ancient palace, and it was built for pleasure. It had been added to and changed by successive rulers over countless centuries until it was the largest single building in the city surrounded by wide gardens planted with perfumed trees and rare flowers. The palace spiraled inside high walls of stone, room after graceful room connected by archways or doors wrought of brass or iron in intricate grilles. The floors were of polished marble or mosaics of glazed tiles, depicting abstract patterns of flowers or stars.

Saliman's Bardhouse seemed empty, as only a few people remained there; he had been mentor mostly to younger students. Hem's chamber no longer echoed with the faint sounds of conversation and music and laughter, which usually filtered through from the many rooms. He was unsettled by the quiet; it brought home what was happening in the city and sparked a growing sense of foreboding. And as the stream of people pouring out of Turbansk toward the west dwindled and then ceased, others came in from the east and filled the empty houses, pausing briefly before they too - those who were not too ill or exhausted to move, or who were not staying to defend Turbansk - took the long road west.

She must have arrived late in Turbansk, and somehow missed the last wagons that had carried the children to Car Amdridh. He thought she must be about his own age. She had tangled black hair, which spilled in loose curls around her face, and delicate features, which were somewhat mitigated by the anger of her expression. She was filthy; her tattered cloak was so stained it was almost impossible to tell its original color, and she carried a battered leather bag that clearly held all her few possessions.

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