Table of content

Chapter 5 The Wizard of Venus by Edgar Rice Burroughs

“What do you make of it all?” demanded Ero Shan, when we were alone. “They all seem to be afraid of us.”

“Noola has gotten it into her mad mind that we are emissaries of Morgas, and she has evidently convinced the servants of this. Yonda doesn’t believe it, and Tovar isn’t sure: I don’t know about Endar. I think that Yonda is the only perfectly sane member of the household.

“It all reminds me,” I continued, “of a very old legend of the world of my birth. Among other things, it recounts the exploits of an old magician named Merlin, who could turn his enemies into members of the lower orders, such as pigs; just as Morgas is supposed to turn people into zaldars.

“Then there were a lot of brave knights who rode around the country rescuing beautiful damsels who were shut up in towers or had been turned into Poland China sows. There were Sir Galahad, Sir Gawain, Sir Lancelot, Sir Percival, and Sir Tristram, that I recall, who sallied forth on the slightest provocation or on none to rescue somebody; but right there the analogy ends, for there don’t seem to be any brave knights here to rescue the fair damsels.”

Ero Shan yawned. “We are here,” he said with a grin. “Now I am going to bed. I am very tired.”

The room in which we were seemed large because the faint light of the cresset, an emaciated, anaemic little light, lacked the stamina, or perhaps the fortitude, to travel outward to the four walls, which consequently seemed far away. There were two very low beds, a couple of benches, a chest of drawers: a poor room, poorly furnished: a dismal, gloomy room. But I went to bed in it and went to sleep almost immediately.

It must have been about midnight that I was awakened. In that dark room, it took me several seconds to orient myself: I couldn’t recall where I was nor interpret the creaking noise that I could plainly hear. Presently I heard whispering voices, and then gradually I came to full awakefulness and a realization of where I was: the voices were just outside our door.

I got up and lighted the cresset, and by that time Ero Shan was awake and sitting up in bed. “What is it?” he asked.

“They are outside our door,” I replied in a whisper. “I do not like it.”

We listened, and presently we heard footsteps moving away. Whoever had been out there must either have heard our voices or seen the light shining under the door.

“Let’s bolt the door,” said Ero Shan: “we shall sleep better.”

There was a heavy wooden bar with which the door could be secured, and I quickly dropped it into place. I don’t know why we hadn’t done so before we retired. Then I blew out the cresset and returned to bed. Now, with a sense of security, we both must have fallen asleep immediately.

The next thing I knew I had what seemed like a whole regiment of soldiers on top of me: my arms and legs were pinioned: I was helpless. Nevertheless, I struggled; but it didn’t get me anything but a punch on the jaw.

Pretty soon a light was made in the room, after which my antagonists bound my arms behind my back; then they got off of me, and I saw that Ero Shan had been similarly trussed up. About a dozen warriors and servants were in the room, and the four members of the family. Behind them I could see an open door: it was not the door I had so carefully bolted: it was another door in another part of the room: it had been hidden in the shadows.

“What is the meaning of this, Tovar?” I demanded.

It was Noola who answered my question. “I know you,” she cackled; “I have known you all along. You came to take us to Morgas in that magic ship that flies through the air: only a wizard could make such a ship as that.”

“Nonsense!” I said.

“No nonsense about it,” she retorted. “I had a vision: a woman without a head came and told me that Vanaja wished to tell me something; so I went out and had a long talk with Vanaja. She told me! She told me that you were the same men who stole her and took her to Morgas.”

Yonda had come over and was standing close to me. “I tried to warn you,” she whispered. “She is quite mad: you are in great danger.”

“If you wish to live,” cried Noola, “restore Vanaja; make her a human being again.”

“But I can’t,” I said; “I am no wizard.”

“Then die!” screamed Noola. “Take them out into the courtyard and kill them,” she ordered the warriors.

“That would be very dangerous,” said Yonda.

“Shut up, you fool!” shouted Noola.

“I will not shut up,” retorted Yonda. I had had no idea that the girl had so much spunk; she always looked so frightened. “I will not shut up; because what you wish to do would endanger my life as well as yours. If these men are indeed the agents of Morgas, Morgas will be avenged if they are harmed.”

“That’s right,” said Endar.

This made Noola pause and think. “Do you believe that, too?” she asked Tovar.

“There would be great danger in it,” he said. “I think that we should make them go away, but I do not think that we should kill them.”

Finally Noola gave in and ordered us expelled from the castle.

“Give us back our weapons and we will get into our anotar and fly away,” I said, “nor will we ever return.”

“You cannot have your weapons, with which you might kill us,” objected Noola; “nor can you have your foul, magic ship until Vanaja is restored to us.”

I tried to argue the point, but I got nowhere. “Very well,” I said, “if we have to leave it here, we’ll have to leave it; but you’re going to be very sorry that you didn’t let us take it away, for some day someone is going to touch it.” I stopped right there and let her guess.

“Well,” she inquired presently, “what if someone does touch it?”

“Oh, it won’t hurt the anotar any,” I assured her; “but whoever touches it will die.”

We were taken from the castle and started down the steep trail toward the valley, accompanied by admonitions never to return; but I had left a thought in every mind there that it might be wise to give the anotar a wide berth. I hoped that they would believe me: and why not? People who would believe that human beings could be turned into zaldars, would believe anything.

As we groped our way down to the floor of the valley our situation seemed rather hopeless. At the edge of the river we sat down to discuss our problem and wait for daylight.

“You and I are in a fix, Ero Shan,” I said: “unarmed, friendless, and five thousand miles from Korva with no means of transportation across unknown and unmapped lands and at least one ocean.”

“Well,” he said, “what are we going to do about it?”

“The first, and as far as we are concerned, the only consideration is to get the anotar back.”

“Of course, but how?”

“Rescue Vanaja and return her to her parents.”

“Excellent, Sir Galahad,” he applauded with a grin; “but Vanaja is already in a pen behind their castle.”

“You don’t believe that, Sir Gawain, do you?” I demanded.

“Of course not, but where is she?”

“If she is alive, Morgas must have her; therefore we go to Morgas.”

“Can it be possible that insanity is contagious!” exclaimed Ero Shan. “If you are not crazy, just why would you contemplate placing yourself in the power of an insane criminal?”

“Because I do not think that Morgas is insane. As far as I have been able to judge, I should say that he is probably the only sane and intelligent person in the valley.”

“How do you arrive at such a conclusion as that?”

“It is quite simple,” I said. “The other three families were stealing Morgas’s zaldars. Morgas already had a reputation as a wizard; so, banking on that, he started this cock-and-bull story about turning their relatives into zaldars. Thereafter, no one would kill or eat a zaldar; so Morgas’s herds were safe and he was able also to take over the abandoned herds of the others.”

Ero Shan thought this over for a while, and at last he admitted that I might be right. “It’s worth trying,” he said, “for I can’t think of any other way in which we can get the anotar.”

“Let’s start then,” I said; “there’s no use waiting for daylight.”

 Table of content