Complete El Borak - By Robert E. Howard Page 0,1

Far to the north rose another more broken range.

Between those barriers lay a great expanse of rolling table-land, broken by solitary peaks and lesser hill ranges, and dotted thickly with copses of ash, birch, and larch. Now, in the beginning of the short summer, the slopes were covered with tall lush grass. But here no herds were watched by turbaned nomads and that giant peak far to the southwest seemed somehow aware of that fact. It brooded like a somber sentinel of the unknown.

“Come into my tent!”

Pembroke turned away quickly, motioning Ormond to follow. Neither of them noticed the burning intensity with which the Punjabi Ahmed stared after them. In the tent, the men sitting facing each other across a small folding table, Pembroke took pencil and paper and began tracing a duplicate of the map he had scratched in the dirt.

“Reynolds has served his purpose, and so has Gordon,” he said. “It was a big risk bringing him, but he was the only man who could get us safely through Afghanistan. The weight that American carries with the Mohammedans is amazing. But it doesn’t carry with the Kirghiz, and beyond this point we don’t need him.

“That’s the peak the Tajik described, right enough, and he gave it the same name Gordon called it. Using it as a guide, we can’t miss Yolgan. We head due west, bearing a little to the north of Mount Erlik Khan. We don’t need Gordon’s guidance from now on, and we won’t need him going back, because we’re returning by the way of Kashmir, and we’ll have a better safe-conduct even than he. Question now is, how are we going to get rid of him?”

“That’s easy,” snapped Ormond; he was the harder-framed, the more decisive, of the two. “We’ll simply pick a quarrel with him and refuse to continue in his company. He’ll tell us to go to the devil, take his confounded Punjabi, and head back for Kabul--or maybe some other wilderness. He spends most of his time wandering around countries that are taboo to most white men.”

“Good enough!” approved Pembroke. “We don’t want to fight him. He’s too infernally quick with a gun. The Afghans call him ‘El Borak,’ the Swift. I had something of the sort in mind when I cooked up an excuse to halt here in the middle of the afternoon. I recognized that peak, you see. We’ll let him think we’re going on to the Uzbeks, alone, because, naturally, we don’t want him to know we’re going to Yolgan--”

“What’s that?” snapped Ormond suddenly, his hand closing on his pistol butt.

In that instant, when his eyes narrowed and his nostrils expanded, he looked almost like another man, as if suspicion disclosed his true--and sinister--nature.

“Go on talking,” he muttered. “Somebody’s listening outside the tent.”

Pembroke obeyed, and Ormond, noiselessly pushing back his camp chair, plunged suddenly out of the tent and fell on someone with a snarl of gratification. An instant later he reentered, dragging the Punjabi, Ahmed, with him. The slender Indian writhed vainly in the Englishman’s iron grip.

“This rat was eavesdropping,” Ormond snarled.

“Now he’ll spill everything to Gordon and there’ll be a fight, sure!” The prospect seemed to agitate Pembroke considerably. “What’ll we do now? What are you going to do?”

Ormond laughed savagely. “I haven’t come this far to risk getting a bullet in my guts and losing everything. I’ve killed men for less than this.”

Pembroke cried out an involuntary protest as Ormond’s hand dipped and the blue-gleaming gun came up. Ahmed screamed, and his cry was drowned in the roar of the shot.

“Now we’ll have to kill Gordon!”

Pembroke wiped his brow with a hand that shook a trifle. Outside rose a sudden mutter of Pashto as the Pathan servants crowded toward the tent.

“He’s played into our hands!” rapped Ormond, shoving the still smoking gun back into his holster. With his booted toe he stirred the motionless body at his feet as casually as if it had been that of a snake. “He’s out on foot, with only a handful of cartridges. It’s just as well this turned out as it did.”

“What do you mean?” Pembroke’s wits seemed momentarily muddled.

“We’ll simply pack up and clear out. Let him try to follow us on foot, if he wants to. There are limits to the abilities of every man. Left in these mountains on foot, without food, blankets, or ammunition, I don’t think any white man will ever see Francis Xavier Gordon alive again.”


When Gordon left the camp he did Copyright 2016 - 2022