The statement held more complete and quiet confidence than any wordy boast. "And I am Ross Murdock!" The Terran matched the Rover tone for tone. "But does a fish swim with its fins bound to its sides? Or does Vistur fear a free fish too greatly to face one?" His taunt brought the result Ross wanted. The ties were cut from behind, to flutter down as withered, useless strings. Ross flexed his arms.
"The Sea Maid has told us that this ship sits on the bottom of the harbor. If we could board it " began Torgul. "Yes!" Vistur brought his fist down against the end of the bunk on which the Terran still sat, jarring the dull, drug-borne pain in Ross's head. "Take it then turn it against its crew!" There was an eagerness in all Rover faces.
From above came a strong light, centering from a point on the mainmast and giving him good sight of his opponent. Vistur was being urged to make a quick end of the reckless challenger, his supporters shouting directions and encouragement. But if the Rover had confidence, he also possessed the more intelligent and valuable trait of caution in the face of the unknown.
So much so that he blurted out: "You think that I we " "You have named yourself of the sea, stranger, and you have magic which is not ours. Tell me this in truth: Could you not have killed Vistur easily with those two blows if you had wished it?" Ross took the bold course. "Yes, but I did not. My people kill no more wantonly than yours."
"What happened?" He turned to Vistur for enlightenment. "As a salkar it leaps now and then above the surface. But that is no salkar. Unless, Ross, you who say you are from the sea have servants unlike any finned one we have drawn in by net or line before this day." The dolphins! Could Tino-rau or Taua or both be in steady pursuit of the ships?
Those we took were naked to any force, for their broadcast had failed them. But to smash blindly against their main base would be the act of madmen." "The salkars opened a way for us " That was Torgul. "But we can not move a pack of those inland to the mountains," Vistur pointed out reasonably. Ross studied the Captain.
"You ... Rosss " Vistur fronted them, his face a mixture of bewilderment and awe. "The Foanna " said in a half whisper, echoed by crewmen gathering around, but not too close. "Gordon!" Karara elbowed her way between two of the Hawaikans and ran across the deck. She caught the Agent's both hands as if to assure herself that he was alive and there before her. Then she turned to the three Foanna.
There were some jeers, a sprinkling of threats as to Vistur's intentions. But Ross caught also the fact that two or three of them had gone silent and were eyeing him in a new and more searching fashion and that Torgul was one of those. Vistur laughed. "Well said, fish. So shall it be." Torgul's hand came out, palm up, facing Ross. In its hollow was a small object the Terran could not see clearly.
A new weapon? Only the officer made no move to touch it to Ross, the hand merely moved in a series of waves in mid-air. Then the Rover spoke. "He carries no unlawful magic." Vistur nodded. "He's no Foanna. And what need have I to fear the spells of any coast crawler? I am Vistur!" Again the yells of his supporters arose in hearty answer.
His hands and feet could be as deadly weapons as any crook-bladed sword or gun provided he could get close enough to use them properly. Vistur stripped off his weapon belt, put to one side his helmet, showing that under it his hair was plaited into a braid coiled about the crown of his head to provide what must be an extra padding for that strangely narrowed helm.