Adventure Tales #4 [Special classic 'Weird Tales' Authors Issue] [MultiFormat]
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eBook by John Gregory Betancourt & Robert E. Howard & E. Hoffmann Price
eBook Category: Fantasy/Mystery/Crime
eBook Description: Adventure Tales features the best short stories and novelets from classic pulp magazines. #4 is a special issue devoted to authors who made "Weird Tales" magazine famous! Included in this issue are: Features: THE BLOTTER, by the Editor; ADVENTURE THRILLS; THE MORGUE (letters); Fiction: THE MONKEY GOD, by Seabury Quinn; DOUBLE-SHUFFLE, by Edwin Baird; EVERY MAN A KING, by E. Hoffmann Price; BLIND MAN'S BLUFF, by Edwin Baird; THE MAD DETECTIVE, by John D. Swain; SON OF THE WHITE WOLF, by Robert E. Howard; Verse: ADVENTURE, by Clark Ashton Smith; ASTROPHOBOS, by H.P. Lovecraft; ALWAYS COMES EVENING, by Robert E. Howard
eBook Publisher: Wildside Press, Published: USA, 2007
Fictionwise Release Date: March 2007
SON OF THE WHITE WOLFby Robert E. HowardCHAPTER I
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THE BATTLE STANDARD
The commander of the Turkish outpost of El Ashrat was awakened before dawn by the stamp of horses and jingle of accoutrements. He sat up and shouted for his orderly. There was no response, so he rose, hurriedly jerked on his garments, and strode out of the mud hut that served as his headquarters. What he saw rendered him momentarily speechless.
His command was mounted, in full marching formation, drawn up near the railroad that it was their duty to guard. The plain to the left of the track where the tents of the troopers had stood now lay bare. The tents had been loaded on the baggage camels which stood fully packed and ready to move out. The commandant glared wildly, doubting his own senses, until his eyes rested on a flag borne by a trooper. The waving pennant did not display the familiar crescent. The commandant turned pale.
"What does this mean?" he shouted, striding forward. His lieutenant, Osman, glanced at him inscrutably. Osman was a tall man, hard and supple as steel, with a dark keen face.
"Mutiny, effendi," he replied calmly. "We are sick of this war we fight for the Germans. We are sick of Djemal Pasha and those other fools of the Council of Unity and Progress, and, incidentally, of you. So we are going to the hills to build a tribe of our own."
"Madness!" gasped the officer, tugging at his revolver. Even as he drew it, Osman shot him through the head.
The lieutenant sheathed the smoking pistol and turned to the troopers. The ranks were his to a man, won to his wild ambition under the very nose of the officer who now lay there with his brains oozing.
"Listen!" he commanded.
In the tense silence they all heard the low, deep reverberation in the west.
"British guns!" said Osman. "Battering the Turkish Empire to bits! The New Turks have failed. What Asia needs is not a new party, but a new race! There are thousands of fighting men between the Syrian coast and the Persian highlands, ready to be roused by a new word, a new prophet! The East is moving in her sleep. Ours is the duty is to awaken her!
"You have all sworn to follow me into the hills. Let us return to the ways of our pagan ancestors who worshipped the White Wolf on the steppes of High Asia before they bowed to the creed of Mohammed!
"We have reached the end of the Islamic Age. We abjure Allah as a superstition fostered by an epileptic Meccan camel driver. Our people have copied Arab ways too long. But we hundred men are Turks! We have burned the Koran. We bow not toward Mecca, nor swear by their false Prophet. And now follow me as we planned--to establish ourselves in a strong position in the hills and to seize Arab women for our wives."
"Our sons will be half-Arab," someone protested.
"A man is the son of his father," retorted Osman. "We Turks have always looted the harims of the world for our women, but our sons are always Turks.
"Come! We have arms, horses, supplies. If we linger we shall be crushed with the rest of the army between the British on the coast and the Arabs the Englishman Lawrence is bringing up from the south. On to El Awad! The sword for the men--captivity for the women!"
His voice cracked like a whip as he snapped the orders that set the lines in motion. In perfect order they moved off through the lightening dawn toward the range of saw-edged hills in the distance. Behind them the air still vibrated with the distant rumble of the British artillery. Over them waved a banner that bore the head of a white wolf--the battle-standard of most ancient Turan.* * * *CHAPTER II
When Fräulein Olga von Bruckmann, known as a famous German secret agent, arrived at the tiny Arab hill-village of El Awad, it was in a drizzling rain, that made the dusk a blinding curtain over the muddy town.
With her companion, an Arab named Ahmed, she rode into the muddy street, and the villagers crept from their hovels to stare in awe at the first white woman most of them had ever seen.
A few words from Ahmed and the shaykh salaamed and showed her to the best mud hut in the village. The horses were led away to feed and shelter, and Ahmed paused long enough to whisper to his companion:
"El Awad is friendly to the Turks. Have no fear. I shall be near, in any event."
"Try and get fresh horses," she urged. "I must push on as soon as possible."
"The shaykh swears there isn't a horse in the village in fit condition to be ridden. He may be lying. But at any rate our own horses will be rested enough to go on by dawn. Even with fresh horses it would be useless to try to go any farther tonight. We'd lose our way among the hills, and in this region there's always the risk of running into Lawrence's Bedouin raiders."
Olga knew that Ahmed knew she carried important secret documents from Baghdad to Damascus, and she knew from experience that she could trust his loyalty. Removing only her dripping cloak and riding boots, she stretched herself on the dingy blankets that served as a bed. She was worn out from the strain of the journey.
She was the first white woman ever to attempt to ride from Baghdad to Damascus. Only the protection accorded a trusted secret agent by the long arm of the German-Turkish government, and her guide's zeal and craft, had brought her thus far in safety.
She fell asleep, thinking of the long weary miles still to be traveled, and even greater dangers, now that she had come into the region where the Arabs were fighting their Turkish masters. The Turks still held the country, that summer of 1917, but lightning-like raids flashed across the desert, blowing up trains, cutting tracks and butchering the inhabitants of isolated posts. Lawrence was leading the tribes northward, and with him was the mysterious American, El Borak, whose name was one to hush children.
She never knew how long she slept, but she awoke suddenly and sat up, in fright and bewilderment. The rain still beat on the roof, but there mingled with it shrieks of pain or fear, yells and the staccato crackling of rifles. She sprang up, lighted a candle and was just pulling on her boots when the door was hurled open violently.
Ahmed reeled in, his dark face livid, blood oozing through the fingers that clutched his breast.
"The village is attacked!" he cried chokingly. "Men in Turkish uniform! There must be some mistake! They know El Awad is friendly! I tried to tell their officer that we are friends, but he shot me! We must get away, quick!"
A shot cracked in the open door behind him and a jet of fire spurted from the blackness. Ahmed groaned and crumpled. Olga cried out in horror, staring wide-eyed at the figure who stood before her. A tall, wiry man in Turkish uniform blocked the door. He was handsome in a dark, hawk-like way, and he eyed her in a manner that brought the blood to her cheeks.
"Why did you kill that man?" she demanded. "He was a trusted servant of your country."
"I have no country," he answered, moving toward her. Outside the firing was dying away and women's voices were lifted piteously. "I go to build one, as my ancestor Osman did."
"I don't know what you're talking about," she retorted. "But unless you provide me with an escort to the nearest post, I shall report you to your superiors, and--"
He laughed wildly at her. "I have no superiors, you little fool! I am an empire builder, I tell you! I have a hundred armed men at my disposal. I'll build a new race in these hills." His eyes blazed as he spoke.
"You're mad!" she exclaimed.
"Mad? It's you who are mad not to recognize the possibilities as I have! This war is bleeding the life out of Europe. When it's over, no matter who wins, the nations will lie prostrate. Then it will be Asia's turn!
"If Lawrence can build up an Arab army to fight for him, then certainly I, an Ottoman, can build up a kingdom among my own peoples! Thousands of Turkish soldiers have deserted to the British. They and more will desert again to me, when they hear that a Turk is building anew the empire of ancient Turan."
"Do what you like," she answered, believing he had been seized by the madness that often grips men in time of war when the world seems crumbling and any wild dream looks possible. "But at least don't interfere with my mission. If you won't give me an escort, I'll go on alone."
"You'll go with me!" he retorted, looking down at her with hot admiration.
Olga was a handsome girl, tall, slender but supple, with a wealth of unruly golden hair. She was so completely feminine that no disguise would make her look like a man, not even the voluminous robes of an Arab, so she had attempted none. She trusted instead to Ahmed's skill to bring her safely through the desert.
"Do you hear those screams? My men are supplying themselves with wives to bear soldiers for the new empire. Yours shall be the signal honor of being the first to go into Sultan Osman's seraglio!"
"You do not dare!" She snatched a pistol from her blouse.
Before she could level it he wrenched it from her with brutal strength.
"Dare!" He laughed at her vain struggles. "What do I not dare? I tell you a new empire is being born tonight! Come with me! There's no time for lovemaking now. Before dawn we must be on the march for Sulaiman's Walls. The star of the White Wolf rises!"* * * *