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Imagination, Stories of Science and Fantasy, JUNE 1954

Kuru stood his ground bravely as the ship
flamed down from the sky. Truly this was a great
and terrible moment. He must warn his people to —

Beware The Star Gods

By S. J. Byrne

KURU paused, his stone knife poised above the half-skinned kill. He listened, at the same time twitching his sensitive nostrils in an effort to read the messages of the wind. But there was nothing in the air for his nose to read. Rather, it was sound that gave him warning.

He stood up and looked through the trees at the small valley beyond the ridge on which he stood. He could hear the raucous cry of birds and the tree people.

Kuru wanted very much to run to his people, but if he should do so what would he tell them? That he Was running from that which he had not even looked upon with his own eyes? That Kuru ran from the cry of birds and tree people?

Now the tree people saw him and they paused in their flight, concentrating their numbers in the trees over his head, looking down at him and chattering and gesticulating with their busy little furry arms. He was aware that they recognized him as a hunter and the enemy of the murder-beast, and he was proud, knowing that they were appealing to him now in the face of this new and greater enemy, whatever it was. He could see that they were pointing at the sky.

The sky! Only the gods lived in the sky! He felt the hair along the base of his neck stand out stiffly.

Something great and terrible was coming out of the sky!

THE thing was long and rounded and shone brightly like the stars. It sparkled in the blue-white light of the triple suns like a lovestone brought from the Faraway Caves beyond the Great River. And it was floating down on pillars of fire toward the valley. It was becoming bigger and bigger, as were Kuru's large, black eyes.

Fear began to give place to Kuru's wonder. How had such a thing ever come to be? And what was it doing in the sky? What was it?

It was big, far bigger than Kuru could have imagined. When it came to the ground it crushed and burned dozens of great trees. And there it sat, motionlessly and without sound, as though a mountain had dropped from the sky to stay there forever.

Suddenly, in the shining surface of the great sky-jewel a long, black hole appeared, and even as he watched something glittering began to emerge from it. At first it seemed that this was some sort of gigantic cocoon, breaking open to release the wing of an unimaginable insect. But in another moment he received the biggest surprise of all.

"Men!" he gasped. "What are men doing in that sky-jewel? They could not have made it and come out of the sky—unless they are gods!"

The "man-gods" wore strange garments. They were amazingly frail and beautiful looking people, like women in their fairness of skin and their almost complete lack of hair OH their bodies. Kuru felt that he could have broken one of them with each hand. But what strange strength of magic did they possess to make this shining cave that brought them from the sky?

He heard a ferocious roar which emanated from the region of the sky-cave. It was a murder-beast. He saw several of the "man-gods" run to a gleaming sort of fence at the edge of the wing that had extended itself out of the black hole. They were looking downward.

Now here was something Kuru could understand. In the face of the terrifying murder-beast he would be able to tell whether or not these people were weaklings. He saw one of them extract a small object from his garments. When this small object was pointed downward in the direction of the roaring murder-beast, a thin, bright line of light appeared below it. and the murder-beast's roar was cut off.

K...

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