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Roland of Gilead found himself remembering a cook named Hax, dangling at the end of a rope while the rooks pecked up scattered bread-crumbs from beneath the dead man's feet. Hax had died for Farson. But before that, he had poisoned children for Farson.

"I think they daren't wait much longer to strike Farson a mortal blow. If they do, the Affiliation will simply rot out from the inside. And if that happens, a good deal of Mid-World will go with it."

Roland inspected along the line of tangled pine branches, then stopped and plucked several aside. This created an opening like a door-way, and he gestured her to go through. "Be sharp in your looks," he said. "I doubt if they've bothered to set traps or tripwires, but 'tis always best to be careful."

There was a kind of rough path behind the tankers. Roland walked slowly along it, pacing like a preacher with his hands clasped at the small of his back, reading the incomprehensible words writ upon the tankers' rear decks: citgo. sunoco. exxon. conoco. He paused once and read aloud, haltingly: "Cleaner fuel for a better tomorrow." He snorted softly. "Rot This is tomorrow."

She led him down one of the lanes to where she had tied her horse. Pylon nodded his head and whickered softly at Roland. He saw the horse had been rigged for silence-every buckle padded, and the stirrups them-selves wrapped in felt.

It seemed to the lovers (for so they now were, in all but the most physical sense) that hours had passed, but it had been no more than forty-live minutes. Summer's last moon, diminished but still bright, continued to shine above them.

Roland of Gilead found himself remembering a cook named Hax, dangling at the end of a rope while the rooks pecked up scattered bread-crumbs from beneath the dead man's feet. Hax had died for Farson. But before that, he had poisoned children for Farson.

"Roland-Will, I mean-what are they for? "

"But why?" She took him by the arm and asked her question again. "What are they for? "

"Death," he said, "is what John Parson's all about."

Roland shook his head in frustration. How much their fathers knew was one question. What they made of what they knew was another. What forces drove them-necessity, fear, the fantastic pride which had also been handed down, father to son, along the line of Arthur Eld-was yet a third. He could only tell her his clearest surmise.

She recalled looking around and thinking that times had been good for sai Hookey, and of course she had been right. Work in the blacksmithing line had been plentiful. Hookey had been making lots of wheels and rims, for one thing, and someone must have been paying him to do it. Eldred Jonas was one possibility; Kimba Rimer an even better one. Hart? She simply couldn't believe that. Hart had his mind-what little there was of it-fixed on other matters this summer.

Roland nodded again. "My fa-my folk in the Inner Crescent know that as well. And count on it. But if Farson has gone to this trouble-and split aside a troop of men to come and get these tankers, as we have word he has done-he either knows a way to thin it to usefulness, or he thinks he does. If he's able to lure the forces of the Affiliation into a battle in some close location where rapid retreat is impossible, and if he can use machine-weapons like the ones that go on treads, he could win more than a battle. He could slaughter ten thousand horse-mounted fighting men and win the war."

"Roland-Will, I mean-what are they for? "

"I think they daren't wait much longer to strike Farson a mortal blow. If they do, the Affiliation will simply rot out from the inside. And if that happens, a good deal of Mid-World will go with it."

Roland inspected along the line of tangled pine branches, then stopped and plucked several aside. This created an opening like a door-way, and he gestured her to go through. "Be sharp in your looks," he said. "I doubt if they've bothered to set traps or tripwires, but 'tis always best to be careful."

"But mayhap they're not broken. Mayhap they only need this stuff. And mayhap Farson knows it."

She recalled looking around and thinking that times had been good for sai Hookey, and of course she had been right. Work in the blacksmithing line had been plentiful. Hookey had been making lots of wheels and rims, for one thing, and someone must have been paying him to do it. Eldred Jonas was one possibility; Kimba Rimer an even better one. Hart? She simply couldn't believe that. Hart had his mind-what little there was of it-fixed on other matters this summer.

"But mayhap they're not broken. Mayhap they only need this stuff. And mayhap Farson knows it."

Roland nodded again. "My fa-my folk in the Inner Crescent know that as well. And count on it. But if Farson has gone to this trouble-and split aside a troop of men to come and get these tankers, as we have word he has done-he either knows a way to thin it to usefulness, or he thinks he does. If he's able to lure the forces of the Affiliation into a battle in some close location where rapid retreat is impossible, and if he can use machine-weapons like the ones that go on treads, he could win more than a battle. He could slaughter ten thousand horse-mounted fighting men and win the war."

"They were trigged quite some time ago, I imagine," he said. "I doubt if the Big Coffin Hunters did it all themselves, but they no doubt oversaw it ... first the fitting of the new wheels to replace the old rotten rubber ones, then the filling. They used the oxen to line them up here, at the base of the hill, because it was convenient. As it's convenient to let the extra horses run free out on the Drop. Then, when we came, it seemed prudent to take the precaution of covering these up. Stupid babies we might be, but perhaps smart enough to wonder about twenty-eight loaded oil-carts with new wheels. So they came out here and covered them."

She led him down one of the lanes to where she had tied her horse. Pylon nodded his head and whickered softly at Roland. He saw the horse had been rigged for silence-every buckle padded, and the stirrups them-selves wrapped in felt.

She recalled looking around and thinking that times had been good for sai Hookey, and of course she had been right. Work in the blacksmithing line had been plentiful. Hookey had been making lots of wheels and rims, for one thing, and someone must have been paying him to do it. Eldred Jonas was one possibility; Kimba Rimer an even better one. Hart? She simply couldn't believe that. Hart had his mind-what little there was of it-fixed on other matters this summer.

Roland of Gilead found himself remembering a cook named Hax, dangling at the end of a rope while the rooks pecked up scattered bread-crumbs from beneath the dead man's feet. Hax had died for Farson. But before that, he had poisoned children for Farson.

"Then it's best you kiss and touch me no more-not tonight. I can't stand it if ye do."

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