|Chapter 16: The Gaddhi's Punishment|
Too swiftly for any defense, the Sandgorgon raised one footpad and stamped at Ceer's leg.
He sprawled helplessly, with splinters protruding from the wreckage of his thigh and knee. Blood spattered the sand around him.
Seadreamer was at the edge of the parapet, straining to leap downward as if he believed he would survive the fall. Honninscrave and the First fought to restrain him.
The gaddhi's giggling bubbled like the glee of a demon.
Cail's fingers gripped Linden's arm as if he were holding her responsible.
As Ceer fell, Hergrom returned to the combat. Running as hard as he could over the yielding surface, he leaped into the air, launched a flying kick at the Sandgorgon's head.
The beast retreated a step to absorb the blow, then turned, tried to sweep Hergrom into its embrace. He dodged. Wheeling behind the Sandgorgon, he sprang onto its back. Instantly, he clasped his legs to its torso, locked his arms around its neck and squeezed. Straining every muscle, he clamped his forearm into the beast's throat, fought to throttle the creature.
It flailed its arms, unable to reach him.
Rant Absolain stoped giggling. Disbelief radiated from him like a cry.
Linen forced herself against the corner of the parapet, clung to that pain. A soundless shout of encouragement stretched her mouth.
But behind the beast's ferocity lay a wild cunning. Suddenly, it stopped trying to strike at Hergrom. Its knees bent as if it were crouching to the ground.
Savagely, it hurled itself backward at the Sandwall.
There was nothing Hergrom could do. He was caught between the Sandgorgon and the hard stone. Tremors like hints of earthquake shuddered through the wall.
The beast stepped out of Hergrom's grasp, and he slumped to the ground. His chest had been crushed. For a moment, he continued to breathe in a wheeze of blood and pain, torturing his ruptured lungs, his pierced heart. As white and featureless as fate, the Sandgorgon regarded him as if wondering where to place the next blow.
Then a spasm brought dark red fluid gushing from his mouth. Linden saw the thews of his life snap. He lay still.