Helplessly trapped, the machine men heard the ultimatum of the terrible Heolons of Bhem:
"Give us back the secret that has been dust these thousands years-or, as living metal statues, adorn our halls throughout all eternity!"
Klaemten paused in his flight through the richly verdured foothills of the Mlopts which towered in the blue haze of distance. He heard the shrill screeches of the pursuing Chebs, and he turned in the direction of that sound, the deep-set eyes in his spherical head searching for them. Klaemten's body was also round, but flattened slightly in front and back. Powerfully muscled legs had given him a good start on the Chebs, but their animal speed and endurance was closing the distance. A pair of tentacles, like snakes, curled gracefully from the sides of his round body, while sharp ears projected from his head to give him an alert and listening appearance.
Escape lay in the mountains, but a desperate despair struck at his heart. He would never make it.
He had come far, indeed, on his strength and endurance and had even successfully employed a bit of trickery on the pursuing Chebs. Had he only to reckon with the ignorant animals, he might now be free. But not all the Chebs were ignorant. Many of them, including those pursuing him, were mentally endowed by the master race, the Heolons, for whom Klaemten had lately slaved. Klaemten was an Urgyul, one of the slave race, who not only were slaves of the Heolons but served as food for their great pets, the Chebs. By a secret art of their own, the Heolons gave many of these fearsome carnivores intellects.
Klaemten had been purposely released by his masters so that he might be hunted by the Chebs for their amusement. Moreover-and this was the worst-Klaemten was not the only one who had been condemned. His mate, Eulud, at that moment lay in the crypt at Thoth, the food store-house for the Chebs.
Klaemten looked longingly at the mountains on the horizon. Safety and security lay in the upper readies of the high peeks where dwelt a colony of free Urgyuls, one of the few known strongholds of that subjugated race. Neither the Heolons nor the Chebs could stand the thin, cold air of the mountains.