Chapter 20 Escape on Venus by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Old yat was tremendously interested in the anotar. He walked all around it, occasionally poking it with a finger. "It is not alive," he remarked to Jantor, "yet it flies like a bird."

"Would you like to get in it and see how I control it?" I asked.

For reply he crawled into the forward cockpit. I got in beside him and explained the controls to him. He asked several questions, and they were all intelligent questions. I could see that, despite horns and tail, Yat was a high type of reasoning human being.

"Would you like to go up in it?" I asked.

"Yes."

"Then tell your people to move away and not to come out on this level ground until I have taken off."

He did as I asked, and I came about and taxied down the valley onto the little plain. The wind was blowing right down the canyon; so my take-off was uphill, and we were going pretty fast practically up to the village before I left the ground. We skimmed over the heads of the watching Timals, and then I banked and climbed. I glanced at Yat. He showed no sign of nervousness; but just sat there as unconcerned as a frozen goldfish, looking all around at the scenery and peeking over the side of the cockpit at the panorama of landscape below.

"How do you like it?" I asked.

"Fine," he said.

"Tell me when you want to go back to your village."

"Go there," he said, and pointed.

I flew through a pass in the mountains as he had directed. Ahead and far below stretched a broad valley.

"Go there," he said, and pointed again. "Now, lower," he directed a moment later; and presently I saw a village beneath us. "Go low above that village."

I flew low above a thatched village. Women and children screamed and ran into their huts. A few warriors stood their ground and hurled spears at us. Yat leaned far over the side as I circled back at his request. This time I heard a warrior cry: "It is Yat, the Timal!"

Yat looked as happy as a gopher with a carrot. "Go home now," he directed. "Those were the enemies of my people," he said, after a while. "Now they will know what a great man is Yat, the Timal."

All the Timals of Yat's village were waiting when we returned. "I was sure glad to see you coming back," said Kandar. "These fellows were getting nervous. Some of them thought that you had stolen Yat."

Warriors gathered around their chief. "I have seen a new world," said Yat. "Like a bird I flew over the village of the Valley People. They saw me and knew me. Now they will know what great people the Timals are."

"You flew over the village of the Valley People!" exclaimed a warrior. "Why, that is two long marches away."

"I flew very fast," said Yat.

"I should like to fly in this bird ship," said a sub-chief, and then a dozen others voiced the same wish.

"No," said Yat; "that is for chiefs only."

He had now done something that no one else in his world had ever done. It set him apart from other men. It made him even a greater chieftain than he had been before.

We learned to like these Timals very much. They were very courteous to Duare, the women especially going out of their way to be kind to her. One would never have expected it in such primitive savages.

We rested there for a few days; and then I flew Jantor, Kandar, and Doran back to Japal to reconnoiter. As the anotar does not carry more than four comfortably, I left Duare and Artol behind. I knew that she would be safe with the Timals; and, anyway, I expected to be back before dark.

We circled low over Japal, causing quite a commotion in the streets. Jantor hoped that in some way he might get in touch with some of his friends and learn what was going on in the city. There was always the chance of a counterrevolution that would place him back on the throne; but either his friends were all dead or imprisoned or afraid to try to communicate with him, for he never saw one whom he could trust.

As we prepared to leave and return to Timal, I circled far out over the lake, gaining considerable altitude; and from this vantage point Jantor discovered a fleet of ships far down the lake.

"If it's not asking too much," he said to me, "I'd like to fly down there and see who that is."

I headed for the fleet, and presently we were circling above it—fifty ships of war packed with fighting men. Most of them were biremes, and there were several penteconters, open galleys with decks fore and aft and propelled by fifty oars as well as sails. Some of the biremes had a hundred oars on each side and carried several hundred warriors as well. All had their sails set, and were taking advantage of a gentle breeze.

"The Myposan war fleet," said Jantor, "and it's headed for Japal."

"Gangor is going to have his hands full," remarked Kandar.

"We must warn him," said Jantor.

"But he is your enemy," expostulated Doran.

"Japal is my country," replied Jantor. "No matter who is jong there it is my duty to warn him."

On the way back to Japal, Jantor wrote a message. We dropped down low over the palace grounds, Jantor making the sign of peace by raising his right hand. Almost immediately people commenced to come from the palace, and presently Jantor recognized Gangor and called to him.

"I have an important message for you," he said, and dropped the weighted note over the side. A warrior caught it before it reached the ground and took it to Gangor.

The fellow read it carefully and then motioned us to come lower, which I did, circling close above them.

"I appreciate your warning, Jantor," said Gangor when we were within easy earshot. "I wish you would land. We shall need your help and advice in defending the city. I promise that you will not be harmed."

I looked at Jantor; so did Kandar and Doran. We waited for his curt refusal of the invitation.

"It is my duty," he said to us. "My country is in danger."

"Don't do it," counselled Kandar. "Gangor is not to be trusted."

"He would not dare harm me after making that promise," said Jantor; "too many warriors heard him, and they are not all dishonorable men."

"All those with him are traitors like himself," said Doran.

"My duty lies there," insisted Jantor. "Will you take me down, please?"

"If you insist, I'll land you outside the city," I said; "it is your right to risk your life at the hands of a scoundrel like Gangor; but I will not risk my ship and the safety of my mate."

I circled low above them again, and Kandar exacted a new promise from Gangor that his father would not be harmed and that he would be permitted to leave the city whenever he chose. Gangor agreed volubly—far too volubly, I thought.

"Bring that thing that you fly in right down here in the palace grounds," he said; "I'll have them cleared."

"Never mind," I said, "I shall land outside the inland gate."

"Very well," said Gangor, "and I myself will come out to meet you, Jantor, and escort you into the city."

"And don't bring too many warriors with you," I cautioned him, "and don't come within trident range of my ship. I shall take off immediately after the jong has disembarked."

"Bring Kandar and Doran with you, Jantor," invited Gangor. "They will both be welcome; and I promise again that you shall all be perfectly safe the moment that you step foot within the walls of Japal."

"I shall feel better now that Doran and I are going along with you," said Kandar, as we rose and headed for the plain beyond the city.

"You are not going to accompany me," said Jantor. "You do not trust Gangor. Possibly you are right. If I die, the future of our country lies with you and Doran—the future of our dynasty. You must both live to bring men-children into the world. If all three of us placed ourselves in Gangor's power simultaneously, the temptation might prove too much for him to resist. I think that I alone shall be safe enough. Neither of you may accompany me."

"Come now, sir," exclaimed Kandar, "you must let us go with you."

"Yes," said Doran, "you must. We are your sons; what will the people of Japal think of us if we let our father go alone into the hands of his greatest enemy?"

"You shall not accompany me," said Jantor, with finality. "It is a command," and that ended the matter.

I set the ship down three or four hundred yards from the inland gate, and presently Gangor came out of the city and approached us with a dozen warriors. They halted at plenty of distance from the ship; and Jantor, who had already dropped to the ground, advanced toward them.

"I wish we had never come here," said Kandar. "I can't help but feel that our father has made a grave mistake in trusting Gangor."

"He seems quite sure that Gangor will live up to his promise," I said. "You heard him ask me to wait and witness the battle and then come for him when it was over."

"Yes," said Doran, "but I don't share his faith. Gangor has always been notorious for his perfidy, but no one paid much attention to it because he was only captain of a merchant ship at the height of his fortunes. Who could have dreamed that he was to make himself jong of Japal!"