Not twenty feet from the mound he seized her, held her tightly. She fought him furiously, and he was forced to prison her arms to her sides. She kicked him, but his tough boots saved him from injury.
And now within Kenworth's mind the blackness began to grow again. The thought-command grew more powerful, usurping his brain. He fought frantically, but still the summoning call dragged at him. He began to move toward the blue mound, still clutching Thona to him.
One half of his mind seemed to hold aloof, watching, while the other part, obeying the thought-summons, dragged him forward. Helpless bird moving toward a hungry snake's fangs! His breathing was harsh in the dead stillness.
His foot struck something, the ray-tube Arn had dropped. Somehow he bent over, scooped it up. But Thona pulled free, moved toward the waiting mound. It was nearly twenty feet high, pulsating, shot with glowing veins. Kenworth managed to lift the tube, although he felt as though he was lifting an impossibly heavy weight.
But he could not ray the monster. Thona was in the path of the beam. Moreover, Arn had tried the ray's power, and had failed. The monster had dragged him forward inexorably.
The thought flashed into Kenworth's mind, and he acted swiftly. He touched the button on the tube that adjusted the ray to half-strength, sent that paralyzing beam darting out. The blue mound was not troubled; but Thona stopped, crumpled in a limp heap to the ground. Paralyzed—unable to obey the monster's thought-command!
Kenworth turned the tube, sent its beam tingling through his body. Ice gripped him. He fell.
There was a queer numbness in his head, and the sense of movement within his brain grew more pronounced. But he could not move. He was safe—until the effects of the ray wore off!
He looked for the ray-tube. It was be- side him, and he knew that when the paralysis wore off he could seize it, send the ray through Thona and himself again. But eventually the tube would become exhausted. Death had not been avoided—it had merely been postponed.
Pacing into view came the Raider. Almost at Kenworth's side he stopped. Veins ridged his forehead with the tremendous effort he put forth. He remained like an image of stone, and Kenworth saw sweat running down his gaunt cheeks, dripping from his chin.
The terrible, silent battle went on. Still the Raider fought, glaring straight ahead at the blue mound.
It was a conflict that could have but one ending. Suddenly the Raider moved, made a hasty clutch for the ray-tube at his feet. But before he touched it he stiffened. His mask-like face turned toward the mound.
The Raider stood up.
He took a few slow steps—and rushed forward. A hoarse bellow of defiance roared out from his throat. He leaped upon the mound! The shining blue substance surged up around him in swift ameboid movement, engulfing him.
For a moment there was no change in the monster. Then, very suddenly, the blue light brightened. The sparkling veins gleamed coldly brilliant. The thing pulsated more swiftly.
The blue light shone brighter. The little veins were like white-hot threads of metal, and the pulsations became more rapid. The mound surged up! It rose into a great pillar of blazing blue light,