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Authors: Gilbert L. Morris

Winged Raiders of the Desert

BOOK: Winged Raiders of the Desert
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© 1995 by

G
ILBERT
L. M
ORRIS

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

ISBN: 978-0-8024-3685-6

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Chicago. IL 60610

10

Printed in the United States of America

To Daisy and Rocky
—
two swell cats!

1
A Plea for Help

L
ook out, Sarah—you're going to lose him!” Sarah Collingwood had been dozing, holding her fishing pole lightly in her hand. At Josh's yell she made a wild grab for the pole. It slid across the grassy bank and hit the water with a splash. Sarah cried out, “Oh no—!” staring at it.

Josh Adams, age fifteen, was a tall, gangly boy. He had auburn hair and dark blue eyes—and loved to fish. With another yell he plunged into the water, stabbed at the swiftly disappearing pole, and managed to catch the end of it. “I've got it!” he yelled excitedly. “I've got it!”

Sarah watched Josh splash back to the bank, slipping in the mud once and falling headlong. He struggled to his feet, rolled over to a sitting position, then hauled up sharply on the pole. It bent double, and he held it with both hands yelling, “Sarah, it's a real pole-bender!”

Sarah danced around crying out advice as Josh held onto the pole. Finally, with a mighty heave Josh sent a wet fish right into Sarah's face. It knocked her over backward, and she grunted, “Umph!” Falling headfirst, she tried to brush the fish away, but it seemed determined to nestle inside her clothing. “Get him off of me, Josh!” she screamed, shoving desperately with both hands. Josh stood up, muddy from head to foot, and began to laugh. “Hang on to him, Sarah. I think he likes you. He must think you're his momma.”

Sarah finally managed to push the fish away and stood up, her eyes flashing. She was a small girl of fifteen, the
same age as Josh. She was very graceful, but her brown eyes flashed with anger. “You did that on purpose! Look—it's got my hair all slimy.” She pulled her hand through her long black hair and patted it. “I ought to throw that fish back.”

”Not on your life!” Josh picked up the fish carefully and took it off the hook. It flopped mightily, and the sun caught its silver scales so that they flashed and made a beautiful sight. Holding it up, Josh said, “Look, isn't it a nice one? I think that will feed you and me, and we already have enough for all the others.”

Sarah was still peeved and walked over to the clear stream that trickled over mossy rocks. Kneeling down she washed her hands carefully and then dabbed at her face. “Well, I'm not going to clean these fish,” she declared. “You'll have to do that.”

”No way,” Josh said. “We made a bet, remember?” He pulled a stringer up, added the fish to it, held it up, and admired the fish, flopping and trying madly to escape. “The one that caught the most fish doesn't have to do any of the cleaning,” he said. “I've caught six, and you've caught three. That means you lose.”

Sarah gave him a disgusted look, then shrugged. Suddenly a light came into her eyes, and she smiled slightly. Stepping a little closer to him she put her hand on his arm and said softly, “Joshua, I just thought of something.”

Josh stared at her suspiciously. “When you talk soft like that,” he said, “I know you're going to try to get me to do something—but you won't.”

”Oh, Josh, you know how I hate cleaning those nasty old fish! If you'll clean them for me, I'll make you a fresh pie tonight—all your own.”

Josh's face lightened. “Well now, that's business,” he said. “But it has to be apple, though, with cinnamon, just like I like.”

”That's a deal,” Sarah said quickly. She smiled and patted his arm fondly. “Come on, let's go home. It's getting late anyway.”

They followed the path that traced its way along the stream. They talked about the fishing trip, and when they came in sight of the house, Josh said, “You know, I wouldn't care if we stayed here for another month. I'm
tired of going out on quests
and fighting dragons and things like that.”

Sarah giggled and looked at him mischievously. “I don't remember you fighting any dragons,” she teased. “That was Reb, if you'll remember.”

Josh reached over and hit her lightly with his fist. “Never mind that. Living in the caves of Mondar was enough adventure for me,” he declared. “Remember those T-rexes?” He gave a shiver. “They had teeth six inches long, just like sharpened knives. They could bite a horse in two.”

Sarah nodded. “I wonder how they're getting along? They were good people, weren't they, Josh? You usually think about cave people as being thickheaded—but they're not. They didn't know as much about some things as we did. Down deep, though, they were just like us.”

The two walked along thinking of the adventure they had just had. They were part of a group called the Seven Sleepers. The group had been miraculously preserved, surviving a nuclear war. They had awakened in a world they had never imagined, filled with strange beings, and discovered that they had slept for many, many years. All things were changed now. Earth was gone, and the place they now inhabited was called Nuworld.

They discovered that they had been preserved to serve a strange man called Goél, a leader who fought against the powers of darkness that threatened to overcome the world. Many adventures they had known, facing
danger and trial, often failing but learning to trust in the power of Goél. They had just returned from a strange land inhabited by primitive people. They had been glad to get back to a very nice house. Goél said before he left, “You need rest. Enjoy yourselves. Someday I will come again, and you must once again go forth to combat the powers of darkness.”

Now as the two young people moved along, light-hearted and laughing, they were suddenly alarmed by a horseman that burst out of the dense woods to their left. He was upon them almost before they knew it, and Josh saw that he was a fierce, warlike man.

“Look out, Sarah!” he yelled, for the stranger had drawn a shining sword that flashed in the red rays of the dying sun. Josh threw himself in front of Sarah, wishing desperately that he were armed. Now there was nothing he could do but try to stand between the warrior and Sarah. “What do you want?” he cried out, standing straight.

The warrior was mounted on a fine, clean-limbed horse that looked swift as the wind. He was not a large man but slender and muscular. His eyes were almost black, and he swept the two with a careful glance. His skin was darker than usual, burned golden by the sun. He had a black beard and trim mustache. He wore a light robe that was almost white and reminded Josh at once of pictures of inhabitants of the desert back in Oldworld.

“What is your name?” the rider demanded.

Josh ignored the whirling sword that was held almost at his chest. He was afraid but was determined not to let it show. “My name is Adams—Joshua Adams,” he said. “Why do you come at us with a sword? Are you a bandit?”

For one moment the lean, tanned bronze face of the rider relaxed, and his white teeth showed as he smiled. “No, I'm not a bandit. If I were I would have what I wanted from you already.”

Sarah stepped from behind Josh. “What is it you want?” she demanded.

The rider examined the girl carefully and seemed to like what he saw. “You have courage,” he said. He nodded as if pleased and added, “I like that.” He sat on his horse for one moment, then seemed to make a decision.

In one swift move he came off the animal in a smooth, gliding motion. He slipped his blade back into the sheath at his side, then shoved the hood back from his face. His hair was black as hair can be, and he was a handsome man, though somewhat the worse for wear. He looked tired, and when he spoke again his voice sounded weary. “My name is Abdul,” he said. “I serve Chief Ali Shareef.”

“Ali Shareef?” Josh shook his head. “I've never heard of him. What's he the chief of?”

“My people live far away,” Abdul said. “As you see, my steed is weary.” He slapped the coal black stallion fondly on the shoulder and said proudly, “It takes a long, hard ride to tire him out.”

“Who are you looking for?” Sarah asked. She had appeared frightened at the rough appearance of the heavily armed rider, but now she came to stand beside Josh saying, “If we can help you, we will.”

Abdul stared at her. “I seek Goél,” he said and watched their faces. “Do you know of such a one?”

Sarah and Josh exchanged glances, then Josh nodded. “We are the servants of Goél.”

“Good!” Abdul seemed to sigh with relief. He suddenly seemed very tired, and his lips grew white. He leaned against his horse, and his head drooped. “I-I want to—” He grabbed at the horse and seemed to be falling.

Josh leaned forward and held him up. “He passed out—or he's about to!” he cried. “We've got to get him back to camp.”

“Let's see if we can get him back on his horse—then we can lead him in.” Sarah came up and asked, “Can you hear me, Abdul?”

He didn't answer but nodded slightly.

“Come on, Josh, help me boost him up.”

The two youngsters managed to get the warrior back in the saddle.

“You lead the horse, Sarah. I'll get on behind him and hold him.” Josh leaped up behind Abdul and supported him so that he would not fall. “All right, let's go.”

Ten minutes later they reached the small rest house, set back in a grove of trees. As Sarah led the black steed into the yard, the house seemed to erupt with young people. The first out was Bob Lee Jackson, age fourteen. Bob, whose nickname was Reb, was a tall young man with pale, bleached hair and very light blue eyes. He wore a white cowboy hat and came at once to help Josh get the man out of the saddle.

When he spoke, his voice had a distinct Southern twang. “Well, where in the cat-hair did you come up with this one?” he demanded. He was very strong, and between the two they helped the man to a chair on the porch. “He looks like he's done run out of spizerintum—and he sure does look thirsty.”

A small-boned girl of fourteen, Abigail Roberts, ran at once to get water. She was a pretty girl with light blue eyes and fine blonde hair, very conscious of her appearance. She brought a glass of water and put it to the lips of the stranger.

He drank thirstily, and when he opened his eyes she smiled at him. “There—is that better?”

Abdul swallowed, then looked around. “Yes, much better.” He looked at Josh and said, “Are these your friends?”

“Yes, that's Bob Lee Jackson with the funny hat, and this is Abigail Roberts. This little guy here is Wash.” He indicated a small black boy no more than thirteen who had come to watch with round eyes. “And this is Jake Garfield.”

Jake was small—the same age as Abigail and not much larger. He had flaming red hair and alert brown eyes.

“And my name is Dave Cooper.” The speaker was the largest and obviously the oldest of the young people. At sixteen, he was tall, athletic, and handsome enough to have been a movie star back in Oldworld. He had yellow hair and blue eyes and looked down curiously at the visitor. “Where did you spring from?”

Josh interrupted. “His name is Abdul and he's looking for Goél. He's come a long way, he says.”

Jake demanded, “What do you want with Goél?” He was a suspicious boy by nature, and some of the hard adventures he had undergone had made him more so. He looked around, and his eyes narrowed. “How do you know he's not a spy?”

“Oh, Jake, you'd be suspicious of your own grandmother!” Wash said in disgust. “Give the poor fellow a chance, can't you?” He was almost diminutive, certainly not as long as his name, which was Gregory Randolph Washington Jones. There was a kindly light in his light brown eyes. “Don't pay any attention to Jake.” He smiled, his white teeth flashing. “He was born suspicious.”

Josh had been the leader of the Sleepers from the beginning, except for those times when Goél had indicated otherwise. Now he said, “You're obviously tired and haven't eaten. Suppose we fix you something and afterward you can tell us about yourself?”

“That would be good,” Abdul said. “I am very hungry. I've not eaten in two days.”

Josh said, “Well, I've got enough fish for all of us. Come on, Jake, you and I'll clean them. The others can get the rest of the meal thrown together.”

The Sleepers at once became very active. They were all curious about the visitor, and Abbey insisted on leading him inside and putting him in an easy chair. She sat down and talked with him while the meal was being prepared. Finally she came and whispered to Sarah, “Isn't he the handsomest thing! He looks like a desert sheikh.”

“Yes, he's nice looking all right,” Sarah said, putting a platter of fried fish on the table. “I wonder what he wants with Goél?”

At that moment Josh came in and said, “Looks like supper's ready. Come on, let's get at it. Abdul, you sit right here. I hope you like fried fish.”

Abdul sat, his eyes going over the food, and soon he and the others were eating heartily. Josh kept the conversation going, but every eye kept going back to the man of the desert.

Finally Sarah brought out two pies and said, “Josh, you'll have to share your pie with everyone else.”

Josh's face fell, but he shrugged. “All right, I guess I'll have to do it then. Sure hate to give up my pie though.” He ate his slice, and when he had finished he leaned back and said, “Well, Abdul, if you want to tell us your story, I guess we're ready to listen.”

BOOK: Winged Raiders of the Desert
3.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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