The Daughter of Thor and Other Fantastic Adventures and Weird Tales [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Edmond Hamilton
eBook Category: Science Fiction
eBook Description: With the coming of the Nazi invaders, war came once again to the gods; who loved to fight. But how could they know which was the right side? Should they fight Nazis? Edmond Hamilton, a fan favorite, wrote exciting fantastic stories. Gods enlisted against Nazis, journeys into the past, men with wings, gateways in time, mythology are just some of the subjects of these enchanting stories that were first published in the 1930s and 40s.
eBook Publisher: Wonder Audiobooks, LLC/Wonder eBooks, Published: 2012
Fictionwise Release Date: May 2012
From far in the north, colossal banners of cold radiance streamed up across the brooding night sky. They pulsated in a shifting glory of red and green, waving stronger and reaching higher toward the zenith. Beneath that weird, quivering glow of the Northern Lights, the snow-clad mountains were like cowled white giants guarding the black reaches of Narvik Fjord.
Mart Fallon watched from the barred window of his dark prison. His lean, tired faced, haggard and unshaven, showed deep lines of fatigue in the shifting glow. His black eyes were dull and somber, and his shoulders sagged inside his torn RAF uniform jacket. He was feeling a bitterness of despair that was not his alone in these first fateful weeks of the Nazi invasion of Norway.
The heavy, rumbling voice of his fellow-prisoner came out of the darkness behind him.
"There will be battle and death tonight," Helverson muttered. "When those lights flame in the sky, the Valkyries are riding."
Fallon turned to peer at the other. "What are you talking about, Nels?"
He spoke, a little haltingly, in the Norwegian that his fellow-prisoner had taught him during the weary time of their confinement.
Nels Helverson had risen to his feet. More clearly even than Fallon, he showed the effects of terrible ordeal. A Norwegian soldier of giant frame, beneath his shock of yellow hair his massive face was gaunt, his blue eyes wild and burning.
"The Valkyries," Helverson repeated, staring out fixedly at the unearthly flare of light. "The warrior-maids, the messengers of Odin, who bear those slain in battle to Valhalla."
Fallon looked at him a little uneasily. "You surely don't believe those old superstitions."
"They are not superstitions," rumbled the Norwegian gutturally. "The old hero-gods of my people still live! They will come to our aid--Odin the one-eyed, Thor of the lightnings, and all the others. They will sweep these treacherous invaders into the sea."
Helverson's eyes were blazing, his gaunt face wild with passion. He towered huge in the quivering glow of the shifting rays outside.
The young American pilot felt deepened dismay. His, big fellow-prisoner had been increasingly strange and moody of late. Dazed by the hammer-shocks of sudden invasion, exhausting battle and disastrous defeat, Helverson's half-crazed mind was turning now to the ancient beliefs of his race.
It was not to be wondered at. All Norway was dazed and reeling. Without warning the Nazis had struck, sweeping in from the sea and in a single night seizing nearly a thousand miles of coastline from Oslo to this far northern port of Narvik. Their tanks, planes and guns had shattered the bewildered defenders, and now the invaders were ruthlessly and rapidly marching up the valleys to complete their conquest.
Britain had been equally unprepared for the audacious Nazi stroke, but had rallied to counter it. Big patrol bombers of the Royal Air Force had roared northward to reconnoiter the invaded Norwegian ports and ascertain at which ones an Allied counter-invasion could best succeed. Mart Fallon, American volunteer pilot, had flown one of those bombers to this Nazi-held port of Narvik, far north, of the Arctic Circle.
He had not flown it back. He had been shot down over Narvik Fjord, and ever since had been caged in this improvised prison which the Nazis had established on the heights above the town. And here, for day after day, he had been mercilessly questioned about British preparations by Victor Heysing, the wolf-like young Gestapo officer in charge.
"I know how you feel, Nels," he told the Norwegian. "Heysing's prodding has nearly driven me crazy myself. But don't let it get you."
Helverson's bull neck corded, and his eyes were fanatic as he glared out at the witchery of the Northern Lights above the snows.
"Comes soon the time when the old gods rise against these spawn of Hell," he muttered. "The sword of Odin and the lightnings of Thor will blast them."
He pointed a quivering hand at the shifting rays. "Already the sign is in the sky! The Aesir are awake, and shield-maidens ride this night! Blood and vengeance are near!"
Fallon saw the madness in the giant Norseman's flaming eyes. The ancient faith of a race had awakened to life in him. The young American groaned inwardly. This monomania of his friend was almost the last straw.
"Nels, get a grip on yourself and forget those myths," he begged. "The Northern Lights aren't any omen. They're nothing but--"
Boom--crash! Like a burst of sudden thunder, the nearby sound struck Fallon silent. It was followed by more thunderous reverberations.
"By Heaven, that's guns!" the American yelled. "Big guns, too! It's from down in the fjord!"
He ran to the window. But it faced away from the fjord. He could see nothing but the eerie light upon the snow outside, and the stockade of barbed wire that enclosed this makeshift warehouse prison.
Nazi soldiers were running out there, dark figures against the snow. The thudding of guns from the west was rising to a crescendo. A siren began its warning scream at the Nazi airfield near the prison.
"Those are British ships that are shelling the town!" Fallon yelled excitedly. "Twelve-inchers, too! There must be a battleship in the squadron!"
He and Helverson, pressing against the barred window, saw searchlights stab into the heavens from the nearby airfield. Anti-aircraft guns coughed frantically out there, at planes swooping from overhead.
Then came a sound of a gigantic door slamming, and a great gout of red flame exploded at the edge of the airdrome. Another British bomb exploded two seconds later, much nearer the prison. Fallon, from his experience as bomber-pilot, knew the third bomb of the stick was coming.
"Down, Nels!" he yelled, throwing himself and the big Norwegian to the floor.
As they hit the cement, the whole world seemed to go up in the explosion of the third bomb. The floor heaved and rocked under them, there was a shattering crash of falling masonry, a clang of iron on stone.
Wounded Nazis were yelling thinly somewhere nearby, when Fallon dragged himself groggily back to his feet. The stone outer wall of their cell was cracked above and below the barred window. The bomb had evidently hit one end of the prison, or near it.
Nazi fighter-planes were roaring up from the neighboring field, into the swinging sweep of the Northern Lights. Machine-guns stuttered up there in the sky, hardly audible over the thunder of the distant shelling.
"Did I not say that blood and vengeance were near?" shouted Helverson. "The sign in the sky was true!"
Fallon was scrabbling with sudden furious hope at the bars of the window. The bomb-blast had blown in the glass, and the split of the stone wall had wrenched half the bars loose in their sockets.
"Nels, help me! If we can get out of here before Heysing and his devils get over their surprise--"
Helverson's fanatic excitement did not prevent him from grasping immediately the opportunity of escape. The giant Norwegian brushed Fallon aside, and exerted his great strength to bend the loosened bars. His hunched back cracked audibly--but the bars gave inward.
In a second, Fallon and he were outside the window. They crouched a moment in the shadow of the wall, knee-deep in snow and shivering to the icy wind. They could see now that the whole western end of the long, low stone building had been smashed in.
Beyond it, they glimpsed the battle going on down in the fjord. The darkness down there was constantly torn by red gun-flashes. By that uncertain illumination, Fallon glimpsed a British battleship and a half-dozen destroyers pouring shells into moored Nazi destroyers and into the Nazi batteries that were fiercely answering from the town.
The British planes were now swooping down to spot and bomb those batteries, hampered by a savage swarm of Messerschmitts. The battle was nerve-chilling in this uncanny setting of snowy peaks and dark sea lit by the flaring Northern Lights.
Fallon perceived that a section of the stockade had been leveled by the bomb. He dragged Helverson with him through the snow, in a run.
"Can we reach the British ships?" gasped the Norwegian as they ran.
"No chance of that," Fallon panted., "This is just a raid, not a landing-party, for there's no transports. But that airfield is near, and if we can get our hands on a Nazi plane--"
A rifle blam-blammed behind them and a hoarse German voice shouted the alarm. The prison-guards, recovering from the demoralization caused by the bomb-hit, had sighted the two fugitives.
Fallon and Helverson flung themselves behind a snowy hillock as more rifles went off. As they stumbled on through the hip-high snow, the American heard Victor Heysing's clear voice blaring orders.
He judged from the sound of voices that the Nazi guards were making for the fjord, assuming that the escaped men would try to reach the British ships still shelling the town. Fallon breathed a prayer of, thanks for that, as he and the Norwegian pitched on toward the airfield.
There were only three or four Nazi planes left on the snowy field, he saw when they reached its edge. But they were in luck, for one of those planes was near them. It was a Messerschmitt whose pilot was hastily hammering and cursing at something in the cockpit. The motor idled.
"I'll take him," Helverson rumbled as they crept out across the field, keeping that nearest plane between them and the Nazis farther away.
The Norwegian's, great hands reached in and clamped the neck of the Nazi pilot, before he knew they were behind him. In terrible silence, Helverson drew the squirming man out of the ship. There was a dull cracking sound. The Nazi's choking utterances ceased, and Helverson dropped him.
"There's one of Hel's children who will blast no more of our villages!" flamed the giant.
Fallon had scrambled into the cockpit. "Quick, Nels--squeeze in here! Unless we--"
The clean crack of a pistol punctuated his words, and Helverson staggered with blood suddenly spouting from his shoulder.
The American turned, and saw a single man racing from the direction they themselves had come, his pistol raised for another shot. In the eerie rays that painted sky and snow, there was no mistaking that slender, black-uniformed figure, that blond, wolf-handsome face.
Victor Heysing had not made the same mistake as the Nazi prison-guards who had taken it for granted they would head for the fjord. The Gestapo officer had trailed them through the snow.
Helverson's right arm hung useless. With a frantic movement, Fallon tugged the staggering Norwegian into the cockpit, jamming the narrow space. A second bullet from Heysing's pistol slammed into the thin armor around the pilot's seat, as Fallon gunned the idling motor.
The Messerschmitt roared down the field and took off so heavily that it barely cleared the hillocks beyond. Almost instantly, Fallon found himself flying out over the deep fjord. Down there the battle was drawing to a close. The British warships, their guns still thundering, were steaming out to sea. Two Nazi destroyers and a half-dozen transports had been reduced to flaming wreckage.
Fallon banked around and headed northward, into the full flare of the Northern Lights. Fighting for altitude, he won over the nearby snowy peaks and laid a course slightly east of north.
"We can't make Scotland in this fighter--not half enough fuel," he jerked over his shoulder to Helverson.
"And even if the Allies have counter-invaded in the south, we can't reach those ports either. We'll have to make for the fishing villages on the far northern coast, that are still in Norwegian, hands."
Helverson, holding his hand over his wounded shoulder, nodded his great head. His blue eyes still held that fanatic glare.
"We go toward Odin's land--the north. That is well!"
Fallon glanced around worriedly at his half-crazed comrade. He stiffened as he glimpsed a black speck far behind them in the aurora sky.
"That's a Nazi fighter following us!" he cried. "That devil Heysing! He didn't have time to get word to other pilots to follow us. He must be in that plane himself!"
Fallon knew the young Gestapo officer was a pilot--Heysing's technical questions during that long torment of inquisition had shown that. And he knew that Heysing thought he possessed valuable information, and was determined at any risk to prevent their escape.
The relentless single-mindedness of the Nazi in his pursuit woke new rage in Fallon. Remembering those days when Heysing had bullied, slapped and hectored him for hours on end, Fallon was tempted to turn back and meet his pursuer in combat.
But he knew that his chances in such a fight would be slim, for his overloaded plane could not maneuver to match the other. And it was his duty to make good his escape to those far Arctic coastal villages beyond the northern wilderness, for from them he could reach England with information on Narvik's defenses that would be vital to the Allied cause.
He opened the throttle to the limit. But the plane behind crept closer. At a roaring pace of miles a minute, pursued and pursuer rushed above the vast, almost uninhabited wilderness that is north Norway.
Fallon saw it as a forbidding vista of towering, jagged white mountains and somber shadowed valleys, and great glaciers creeping like glittering serpents toward the distant sea. Nowhere was there a light of house or village. Not even the wild Lapps who herded their reindeer on the barren plains far eastward would come into this lifeless, icy land.
And over snow-clad peak and glacier shot and shimmered the stupendous brilliance of the Northern Lights. The whole sky ahead was a palisade of luminous splendor, from which the wheeling rays stabbed south across the frosty heavens. He had never seen such an aurora.
Helverson made an archaic gesture of reverence toward that blazing sky, his eyes burning.
"The old gods have awakened this night! And we go toward them."
Fallon could not find utterance for disbelief, this time. He felt hypnotized by the aurora. Its fierce rays were still growing in intensity. It was as though they were flying into the sun.
Tingling forces seemed thrilling through his exhausted body. He felt somehow on the edge of tremendous revelation that made him forget the relentless pursuer behind. Like the fanatic Norseman, he too was feeling a strange, wild eagerness of superhuman expectation as they flew on.
* * * *
Brutal interruption drove all uncanny feelings from Fallon's mind. Machine-guns yammered behind him, and a stream of tracer screamed past the left wing of his plane.
Instant awareness that Heysing had overtaken them tripped the trained reflexes in the American pilot's brain. Without a second for thought, he slammed over the stick and kicked the rudder to bank sharply around. He caught just a glimpse of Heysing's plane, leaping around after him with relentless swiftness.
"The Nazi devil!" he thought ragingly, "He'd follow us to hell rather than see us escape."
Helverson was bellowing in stark fury. But Fallon's mind became ice-cold and clear as he tensely maneuvered for position.
He knew this battle was to the death. His overloaded plane could not escape Heysing. One or the other of them had to go down. The Nazi's lighter ship had superior maneuverability. But Fallon was hoping that the Gestapo officer might be rusty as a combat pilot.
Like two circling hawks, they clawed for position in the supernatural splendor of that incredible aurora. Down below, the howling wilderness of snowy ranges and creeping glaciers sheened in the wheeling rays. They must be far, far north, Fallon thought fleetingly, far up over the wild, unvisited Finmark mountains and near the Arctic Ocean coast and its few fishing villages. If he could down Heysing, they could--
No time to think of the future now! There wouldn't be any future if he let Heysing get on his tail as the Nazi had now almost succeeded in doing. Fallon gunned his heavy ship into a bewildering corkscrew, screamed steeply upward until his plane was almost hanging on its prop, and then looped back and down and found himself roaring a hundred yards behind the baffled Nazi.
In a split-second he had Heysing's plane in his sights, silhouetted blackly against the tremendous aurora. His finger savagely triggered. But there came no answering roar from the machine-guns of his ship. The fire-control of this Messerschmitt was jammed and dead.
Appalled, Fallon suddenly remembered the Nazi pilot of this plane had been hammering and cursing in the cockpit when they seized it. He knew now why that pilot hadn't been up in the fight over the fjord. But the knowledge came too late.
"No guns, Nels!" he shouted to Helverson. "We can't fight, and I don't think we can get away."
Heysing had already discovered their presence behind him and had banked startledly away. But now the Nazi came rushing back in from a rear quarter, with all guns spitting.
"He cannot kill us," Helverson's great voice was booming with fanatic confidence. "The old gods fight with us tonight."
Fallon had no such confidence, and his heart was cold with foreknowledge of doom as he flung the plane all over the sky to escape the Nazi. Seeming to sense their helplessness, Heysing was boring in recklessly at every opportunity, flinging bursts at them from every possible range. Up into the mad dance of dazzling rays in the aurora-painted heavens they thundered, and down again toward the wild, snowy peaks and valleys. It was only a question of time, Fallon knew. But the time ran out even sooner than he had expected.
A gust of rising wind smacked him as he zoomed steeply. As he fought frantically to avoid stalling, Heysing swooped from above. The Nazi's machine-guns flung a whiplash of lead that tore across Fallon's motor. His engine choked, coughed and died. His instruments showed him that at least two oil-lines were gone.
"Got us!" Fallon cried, his raging shout loud now that the motor was dead. "Hang on, Nels--we're going down."
A dead-stick landing down in the snowy mountains below was a hundred-to-one chance, he knew. But it was the only chance left.
Rising winds screamed past his wings and buffeted the crippled ship as he rushed down through the twitching auroral glare. Heysing came down over them and loosed another burst that tore through their fuselage. Fallon knew bitterness at not being able to take the Nazi with him.
He was aiming for a long, snowy gorge walled by marching ridges of icy peaks. Keeping the nose of the plane as far up as he dared, he craned tensely to estimate distances in the unreal illumination. Now the wind was a whistling shriek, and the floor of the gorge was slamming up toward him with appalling speed.
Fallon felt the wheels hit the snow and the frozen ground close beneath it. The plane, traveling at express-train speed, bounced crazily back up from the floor of the gorge. Then it smacked down again, hit deeper snow, and heeled over on its nose with a crash that stunned him.
He did not know exactly how long he had been unconscious, when he awoke. Dazedly, he felt around and found Helverson still unconscious. He squirmed weakly until he got the door of the jammed cockpit open. Then he hauled the senseless Norwegian out with him into the snow.
Freezing winds hit him in the face, blowing up the gorge from the west with increasing violence. To north and south rose sheer, icy cliffs. The sky above still flamed awesomely with that supernatural splendor of Northern Lights.
"Nels, wake up!" he cried hoarsely, slapping the unconscious giant's face. He could see now that Helverson had lost much blood.
The Norwegian stirred weakly, opened dazed blue eyes. He seemed not to see Fallon bending above him.
"Listen, they come!" he exclaimed huskily. "I hear them above the wind, riding toward us."
His eyes flared in exaltation. "The Valkyries come! We are dead and the messengers of Odin ride to bear us to Valhalla!"
So wild and eerie their surroundings, that the staggering Fallon himself seemed to hear thunder of rushing hoofbeats and a stabbing of silver-clear cries above the screeching wind.
Snow suddenly kicked up a yard from the American, and a shot rang through the uproar of tempest. He whirled, and stared unbelievingly. Victor Heysing was coming up the gorge toward them, his black figure clear against the aurora-lit snow. The Nazi triggered his pistol again and the slug whistled past Fallon and hit the Norwegian's lower arm.
Fallon could have admired the Nazi's relentless devotion to duty, at another time. It was clear that Heysing had watched their plane land, had seen that they could have escaped injury, and had himself landed down the gorge and come on foot to finish them while they lay unconscious.
Blind rage at the merciless pursuit exploded in Mart Fallon's brain. He flung himself with a crazy access of strength toward the other.
Heysing's gun kicked twice and searing flame grazed the American's temple. He was upon the Nazi before he could trigger again. He tore at the man's gun, his other fists weakly smashing at Heysing's face.
"You weak fool!" snarled the Nazi, contemptuous of the strengthless blows as he sought to free his gun-hand.
Heysing's blond, devilishly handsome young face had not a trace of apprehension in it. The superbly muscled officer had a wolf's tough strength, and Fallon knew that he himself was going fast.
That knowledge, and the red sting of hate, convulsed his body for a final effort. He jabbed both hands savagely into Heysing's chin. As the Nazi struggled to keep his balance, Fallon snatched fiercely at the gun.
He got it. But before he could use it, Heysing was charging back in at him with a snarl of fury. His cap had been knocked off and his blond hair and contorted, handsome face were clear in the spectral brilliance. Fallon's arms felt like lead as he struck clumsily with the clubbed gun.
The weapon rang on the Nazi's head, and he pitched into the snow. Fallon turned back toward the Norwegian, and as he did so, fell forward on hands and knees. He knew consciousness was running out of him but he crawled blindly forward through the snow.
But why, above the shriek and whistle of the winds, did he still seem, to hear the thunder of nearing hoofbeats and the squalling cry of a hunting beast? Why did the unearthly flare of the aurora seem waxing in brilliance all along the gorge?
Helverson was on his knees in the snow, his massive face flaming wildly as he pointed back down the gorge.
"The Valkyr-maidens!" he was shouting in a hoarse cry against the wind. "They come!"
Fallon tried to turn to look behind him, but everything seemed spinning around him now. His brain refused tocredit what his eyes saw.
Rushing up the gorge was thundering a wild troop of riders. They were Valkyries, warrior-maids of ancient legend, mailed and armed and with their pale gold hair flowing from beneath their winged helmets. Their silver cry streamed out on the shrieking wind.
"Yo to ho! Yo to ho!"
The messengers of Odin, the choosers of the slain, riding fast toward him through night and wind and flaming Northern Lights!
Fallon knew it was delirium as those incredible riders rushed upon him. In their lead, upon a black stallion, rode a mailed girl who wore no helmet and whose gold hair streamed back in the wind like flame. And by her knee, like a hunting dog, loped a huge white lynx.
This Valkyr-leader had seen the little group--the prostrate Nazi, the raving Norwegian, the drunkenly swaying American. Her voice pealed in a cry of command as she drew rein beside Fallon.
An incredibly beautiful white face looked down through the dark mists that were closing over Fallon's mind. It was a face fearless and dynamic, whose most wonderful feature was the stormy blue eyes in which little lightnings seemed to flash.