* * * * *
There was a sound from the door. All heads turned. The girl Dan had seen in the house stood in the doorway, glancing calmly from Snithian to Blote to Dzhackoon. When her eyes met Dan's she smiled. Dan thought he had never seen such a beautiful face--and the figure matched.
"Get out, you fool!" Snithian snapped. "No; come inside, and shut the door."
"Leave the girl out of this, Snithian," Dan croaked.
"Now I'll have to destroy all of you," Snithian keened. "You first of all, ugly native!" He aimed the gun at Dan.
"Put the gun down, Mr. Snithian," the girl said in a warm, melodious voice. She seemed completely unworried by the grotesque aliens, Dan noted abstractedly.
Snithian swiveled on her. "You dare--!"
"Oh, yes, I dare, Snithian." Her voice had a firm ring now. Snithian stared at her. "Who ... are you...?"
"I am the Ivroy."
Snithian wilted. The gun fell to the floor. His fantastically tall figure drooped, his face suddenly gray.
"Return to your home, Snithian," the girl said sadly. "I will deal with you later."
"But ... but...." His voice was a thin squeak.
"Did you think you could conceal your betrayal from the Ivroy?" she said softly.
Snithian turned and blundered from the room, ducking under the low door. The Ivroy turned to Dzhackoon.
"You and your Service are to be commended," she said. "I leave the apprehension of the culprits to you." She nodded at Blote. "I will rely on you to assist in the task--and to limit your operations thereafter to non-interdicted areas."
"But of course, your worship. You have my word as a Vegan. Do visit me on Vorplisch some day. I'd love the wives and kiddy to meet you." He blinked rapidly. "So long, Dan. It's been crazy cool."
Dzhackoon and Blote stepped through the Portal. It shimmered and winked out. The Ivroy faced Dan. He swallowed hard, watching the play of light in the shoulder-length hair, golden, fine as spun glass....
"Your name is Dan?"
"Dan Slane," he said. He took a deep breath. "Are you really the Ivroy?"
"I am of the Ivroy, who are many and one."
"But you look like--just a beautiful girl."