Chapter 24 Escape on Venus by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Beneath the soud of the gongs and trumpets, we could hear men shouting.

"It is the call to arms!" cried a warrior. "The city has been attacked."

"The Myposans have returned," said another. "Who will lead us? We have no jong."

"You have a jong," I cried. "Follow Kandar! He is your jong."

They hesitated for a moment; then a warrior said, "Kandar is jong. I will follow him. Who will come with me?"

Kandar, taking advantage of their indecision, started for the door; and Doran and I followed him. "Come!" commanded Kandar. "To the streets. To the defense of Japal!" Like sheep they followed him.

When we arrived in the palace grounds and the warriors there saw Kandar and Doran leading some of their fellows, they cheered; then Kandar took command, leading a strong party out into the city streets where fighting was in progress. It was then that I saw that it was not Myposans who had attacked Japal, but strange, repulsive-looking warriors of a sickly greenish hue and entirely hairless—no hair on their heads, no whiskers, no eye-brows, no eyelashes—and right on the tops of their heads was a little knob of flesh. They fought with swords and long-handled hooks, holding the latter in their left hands. With these hooks they would catch an antagonist and draw him close; then cut or thrust at him with the sword. Oftentimes, the hook was enough if the point caught at the base of the brain. They were nasty weapons.

If my pistol had been serviceable they wouldn't have worried me much, but with only a spear I felt very much at a disadvantage. I had had no time to examine the pistol since I had recovered it, but now I stopped before getting into the thick of the fight and went over it carefully. Evidently some one had been tampering with it, probably in an effort to discover how it worked; and I was much relieved to see that they had merely changed an adjustment. In a few seconds I had remedied the trouble; and when I looked up I saw that I was just in time, or almost just in time. I wasn't quite sure which, for a big green devil was reaching for me with his hook.

I was in a most disadvantageous position, as I had rested my spear in the hollow of my left elbow with the butt on the ground while I worked on my pistol; and the hook had already passed over my shoulder to take me in the back of the neck. It was just a matter of a split second before I should be gaffed.

I did what was probably the best thing, but I did it quite mechanically—there was no time for conscious reasoning. I sprang toward my antagonist. Had I sprung away, the hook would have impaled me; but by springing toward him I confused him. At the same time I struck his sword aside with my left arm and sent a stream of r-rays through his heart. It was a close call.

Kandar and Doran were in the thick of the fight a little ahead of me. Kandar was closer, and he was hotly engaged with one of the invaders. He, too, had nothing but a spear; and I hurried to his aid. He had so far successfully knocked the gaff to one side every time his antagonist reached for him with it; and then he would have to parry a sword thrust; so he never got a chance to bring his spear into play as an offensive weapon. He was always on the defensive, and no duel or war was ever won that way.

I reached him just as a second enemy attacked him. The r-rays hissed from the muzzle of my gun, and both Kandar's antagonists went down; then I started right through the ranks of the enemy, spraying r-rays to the right and left and ahead, cutting a path wide enough to drive a combine through. I was having a glorious time. I felt as though I were winning a war all by myself.

Suddenly I realized that the invaders were fleeing before me and on both sides. I looked back. I could see nothing but these hideous warriors. They had closed in behind me, and I was being carried along with them. Presently I was tripped; and as I fell, I was seized on either side, my pistol was snatched from my hand, and I was hustled along with the defeated army.

Down the main street of Japal they dragged me and out through the inland gate, nor did their retreat end there; for Japal's fighting men followed them far out onto the plain, constantly harassing their rear. It was almost dark when they abandoned the pursuit and turned back toward the city. It was then that I became convinced that Kandar did not know I had been made prisoner. Had he, I am sure that he would never have given up the pursuit until I had been rescued.

A warrior on each side had been dragging me along up to the time; but now that the pursuit had ceased a halt was called; and while the creatures rested, a rope was tied about my neck; and when the march was resumed, I was led along like a cow to the slaughter.

I saw my pistol tucked into the loincloth of a warrior; and I kept my eyes on the fellow, hoping that I might find an opportunity to retrieve it. I knew that only as a forlorn hope could I use it if I had it; for my captors were so numerous that, though I might have killed many of them, eventually they would have overwhelmed me.

I was terribly depressed. Ill fortune seemed to dog my footsteps. Right on the threshold of freedom that would have permitted me to rejoin Duare immediately, my rash impetuosity had plunged me into a predicament which was probably as fraught with danger as any I had ever encountered. Why should I have tried to fight a battle practically singlehanded? I don't know. Probably I am overconfident in my own prowess, but I have reason to be. I have come through some mighty trying experiences and escaped hundreds of dangers.

Where were these strange, silent creatures taking me? What fate lay in store for me? I had not heard them speak a word since I had seen them. I wondered if they were alalus, lacking vocal organs.

One of them approached me as we resumed the march. He wore three gold armlets, and the haft of his gaff was circled by three golden rings. "What is your name?" he demanded in the universal language of Amtor.

So they were not alalus. "Carson of Venus," I replied.

"From what country come you?"

"The United States of America ."

"I never heard of it," he said. "How far is it from Brokol?"

"I never heard of Brokol," I replied. "Where is that?"

He looked disgusted. "Everyone has heard of Brokol," he said. "It is the greatest empire in Amtor. It lies forty kob from here on the other side of those mountains." That would be a hundred miles. I not only had to get myself captured, but now I had to walk a hundred miles!

"Then my country is ten million four hundred thousand kobs from Brokol," I said, doing some lightning mental calculating.

"There is nothing that far away from anything," he said, petulantly. "You are lying to me, and that will make it worse for you."

"I am not lying," I said. "That is the nearest my country ever gets to Brokol; sometimes it is farther away than that."

"You are the greatest liar I have ever heard of," he said. "How many people live in your country?"

"If I tell you, you won't believe me."

"Tell me anyway. It is probably a little country. Do you know how many people live in Brokol?"

"I'm afraid I could never guess."

"You are very right that you could never guess—there are fifty thousand people living in Brokol!" I guess he expected me to faint.

"Indeed?" I said.

"Yes, fifty thousand; and I am not lying to you. Now how many live in your little country? Tell me the truth."

"Somewhere around a hundred and thirty million."

"I told you to tell me the truth. There are not that many people in all Amtor."

"My country is not on Amtor."

I thought he was going to explode, he became so angry. "Are you trying to make a fool of me?" he demanded, turning a dark green.

"Not at all," I assured him. "There is no reason why I should lie to you. My country is in another world. If Amtor were not surrounded by clouds, you could see it at night shining like a tiny ball of fire."

"I said you were the greatest liar I had ever heard of," he said. "I now say that you are the greatest liar any one ever heard of; you are the greatest liar in the world."

I do not like to be called a liar, but what was I to do about it? Anyway, there was something of awe and respect in the way he said it that made it sound more like a compliment than an insult.

"I don't see why you should doubt me," I said. "The chances are that you have never heard of Vepaja, or Havatoo, or Korva, yet they are countries which really exist."

"Where are they?" he demanded.

"Right on Amtor," I said.

"If you can lead us to countries we have never heard of, you will probably not be sacrificed to Loto-El-Ho-Ganja; but you had better not lie to her or to Duma."

Loto-El-Ho-Ganja, literally translated into English, means most high more than woman. None of the various peoples of Amtor with whom I had come in contact had any religion, but this name and his mention of sacrifice in connection with it suggested that she might be a goddess.

"Is Loto-El-Ho-Ganja your vadjong?" I asked. Vadjong means queen.
"No," he said, "she is not a woman; she is more than a woman. She was not born of woman, nor did she ever hang from any plant."

"Does she look like a woman?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied, "but her beauty is so transcendent that mortal women appear as beasts by comparison."

"And Duma?" I asked. "Who is Duma?"

"Our jong—the richest and most powerful jong in Amtor. You will probably see him when we reach Brokol, and maybe Loto-El-Ho-Ganja, too. I think they will wish to see such a great liar, one whose hair and eyes, even, are lies."

"What do you mean by that?" I demanded.

"I mean that there can be no such thing as a man with yellow hair and blue eyes; therefore they must be a lie."

"Your powers of reasoning are amazing," I said.

He nodded in agreement, and then said, "I have talked enough," and walked away.

If these Brokols have anything to recommend them, it is their lack of garrulity. They talk when they have something to say; otherwise they remain silent, in which they differ greatly from most of my own species. I am always amazed, if not always amused, by the burst of feminine gabble which follows the lowering of a theater curtain for an intermission. There can't be that much important conversation in a lifetime.