Table of content

Chapter 10 The Wizard of Venus by Edgar Rice Burroughs

I am never certain that I shall obtain results from the exercise of that strange power which Chand Kabi taught me. Sometimes it fails. This may be due partially to the fact that I use it so seldom and partially to my own lack of confidence in myself. Chand Kabi used to say to me, “You must know, my son, for knowledge is power.” He meant that I must know that I should succeed whenever I brought into play the mysterious mental force that he had taught me to develop.

As I saw Morgas and his followers approaching our hiding place, I cautioned Ero Shan and Vanaja to crouch down out of sight and remain very quiet; then I mobilized all of my mental resources and directed them upon Morgas. I seemed to know that they were speeding across the lessening distance that separated me from the object of my attack, concentrating into a pinpoint of irresistible suggestive force which bred into the ganglia of his brain that motivated his ocular perceptions and his power of volition.

I did not question that I should succeed in influencing him. I knew! But Morgas continued to ride toward us. He was so close now that I could see his eyes. I was certain that he could not see me, as I had adopted an age-old camouflage of the Indians of that far Southwest of my native land. Only my head from my eyes up were above the boulder which hid the rest of my body, and this was hidden from Morgas by the leafy branch of a shrub which I held before it.

Had I permitted myself to doubt, I should have been quite certain by this time that I had failed and that, unarmed and helpless as we were, we should soon be recaptured. And just then Morgas turned his head and looked back. Instantly he drew rein (a figure of speech, as zorats are ridden without bridles, being guided and controlled by pulling upon their long, pendulous ears).

“There he goes!” shouted Morgas, pointing down the valley.

Wheeling his mount, he dashed away, followed by his entire band. I had won! The reaction left me a trifle limp, for it had been a close call.

“They have gone,” I said to Ero Shan and Vanaja; “but I think that we should go farther into the hills, as they may return.” I did not know how much longer I could lure Morgas upon that wild goose chase in which he thought that he saw me racing fleetly ahead of him. I grinned as I thought of his consternation as he contemplated my speed, which was swifter than that of his fastest zorat.

“What did he mean when he said, ‘There he goes!’” asked Vanaja.

“He must have seen something,” I said. “Perhaps he thought that he saw me.” Ero Shan smiled.

We went far up the canyon and climbed to the summit of a wooded hill from which we had a good view of the valley from perfect concealment. We could see Morgas and his men racing madly in pursuit of a figment.

“What are they chasing?” demanded Vanaja. “I see nothing.”

I shook my head. “Perhaps not,” I said, “but Morgas sees something.” Then I thought that I would have a little fun at the expense of the great wizard. I caused the figment to zig-zag. Morgas and his men chased wildly this way and that. I led them up a rocky hill, from the summit of which the figment leaped over a cliff to the floor of the valley. The pursuers wheeled and dashed down again the way they had come. They found the figment sitting on a rock, waiting for them. I wish that I might have heard Morgas’s remarks, but he was too far away.

As the party galloped toward the figment, it leaped to its feet and started across the valley, straight toward the river. I could see Morgas waving his arms and I knew that he was shouting commands to his men, for they suddenly spread out fan-wise in a pincer movement that would have the figment surrounded when it reached the river, which was, at this point, a couple of hundred feet wide and both deep and swift.

They were closing in on the figment when it leaped nimbly across the river! I guess that was too much for Morgas. He sat there with his men for a few minutes, staring at the quarry which had seated itself upon another rock across the river from them; then he turned and rode slowly back up the valley toward his stronghold. We watched them as they passed below our hill, puzzled and dejected.

“I don’t understand it,” said Vanaja.

“Neither does Morgas,” said Ero Shan.

Although our recent pursuers no longer were a menace, we could not continue on toward the castle of Tovar, as Morgas’s herdsmen were grazing their zaldars slowly down the valley. It would be necessary now to wait until night had fallen.

The remainder of the day dragged slowly for us. Late in the afternoon, we saw the herds returning up the valley; but we decided to wait until darkness had fallen before we ventured down from our hiding place. During the day, the spell of Morgas appeared to have entirely dissipated from Vanaja’s mind. She became a normal and exceedingly likable girl, keenly interested in all that went on and quite courageous—a far cry from the fear ridden creature I had first met in the garden of Morgas. She continued to speculate with growing enthusiasm and excitement upon the reactions of her family when they realized that she was actually restored to them safe and unharmed. I, too, speculated upon this. I wondered what the reaction of the mad Noola would be. We had not long to wait.

Immediately darkness had fallen, we set out again for the castle of the Pandars. Within an hour we were pounding upon the massive gates. Presently a voice from within demanded to know who we were and what we wanted.

“Galahad returns with the beauteous princess,” Ero Shan whispered to me.

“Together with Sir Gawain, from the grim castle of the mad wizard of Amtor,” I added; and then, aloud: “Ero Shan and Carson of Venus have brought Vanaja home.”

A head was protruding from an embrasure in one of the towers and a voice demanded: “What’s that you say? Vanaja is there?” It was Tovar.

Then another voice and another head. “They lie! It is the wizards! Kill them!” That was Noola.

“It is I, mother,” called Vanaja. “These two have brought me back safely from the castle of Morgas.”

Noola’s mad laughter rang out above us. “You think that you can deceive Noola, do you? Well, you can’t. I know where Vanaja is—she’s safe in her apartments behind the castle. I have talked with her within the hour. Get out, all of you, before I have you killed.”

“But, mother, I am Vanaja,” insisted the girl. “Let someone you trust come down and see me.”

“I trust no one,” screamed the old woman. “Everyone is against me.”

“Then come down yourself and talk with me.”

Again that mad laughter. “You think to lure me into the clutches of those two wizards, but I am too smart for all of you. Now get out of here!”

We could now hear Tovar, Endar, and Yonda arguing and pleading with the woman, but she evidently remained adamantine. Vanaja appealed to her father, but he replied that he must abide by the counsel of his wife. It was commencing to look hopeless.

“How about Chand Kabi?” asked Ero Shan in a low voice. “He worked perfectly on Morgas; why not on the old woman?”

“I can try,” I said. I concentrated upon the mad mind of Noola, and presently an amazing thing happened. That which I had willed Noola alone to hear, I heard myself. Every one there heard it. A thin, squeaky voice from the ballium beyond the wall called, “Noola! Noola!”

Those in the tower turned away from the embrasure. I knew that they had heard that voice and had crossed to the opposite side of the tower to look down into the ballium. Then I heard Noola’s voice: “Why, Vanaja! How did you get out of your apartments, you naughty girl?”

In a squeaky grunt the answer came faintly to us: “I am not Vanaja, you old fool. I am only a zaldar that Morgas sent here in order to deceive you. Vanaja is outside, waiting to get in.”

“Marvelous!” whispered Ero Shan. “I am beginning to be afraid of you, myself.”

The “old fool” got Noola. She was furious. “How dare you, you dirty little runt!” she screamed. “I have known all along that you were only a zaldar.” I had been certain that Noola would not relish being called an old fool.

It was only a matter of seconds before the gates were swung open and Vanaja was in the arms of her mother. With recognition and the return of her daughter, Noola’s madness seemed to have passed. She was even quite cordial to Ero Shan and me. Tovar, Endar, and Yonda were delighted with the turn of events: two of their loved ones had been returned to them whole and unharmed.

The greetings over, Noola spoke to one of the servants, all of whom had gathered in the ballium by this time. “Find that zaldar,” she said, “and return the thing to its pen.” Then we all went into the great hall, we to recount, they to listen to, our adventures.

In a few minutes a servant entered. “I could find the zaldar nowhere in the ballium,” he said; “so I looked in its pen, and there it was, fast asleep. The gate was still locked and the pen was nowhere broken down.”

“That is very strange,” said Noola. “We all distinctly saw her standing in the ballium and heard her speak to me, the impudent creature.”

“It is very strange,” I said.

“If she is going to act like that, I shall be afraid to have her around,” said Noola.

“Then why not have her butchered and eat her?” I suggested.

“That is an excellent idea,” said Tovar.

“Tomorrow we shall have zaldar steaks once more,” exclaimed Noola. The spell of Morgas had been broken—at least so far as the Pandar family was concerned. But there were those hundreds of other poor souls locked in his prison fortress, constantly filled with terror as they awaited death. There were the deserted castles and the stolen herds. There were these and other wrongs that cried out for vengeance. And above all was the horrid fear that lay upon this entire beautiful valley, which should have been a scene of peace and happiness.

Once again Ero Shan and I were escorted to the room in which we had spent a night of danger. Now we anticipated sleep in this same room without a single thought of apprehension. As we were preparing for bed, Ero Shan said, “I have been thinking, Carson.”

“Yes?” I inquired, sleepily courteous.

“Yes,” he said. “I have been thinking that in rescuing one girl and uniting one family we have made but a beginning. Would Sir Galahad and Sir Gawain have stopped there? Didn’t you tell me that the Knights of the Round Table dedicated their lives to the righting of the wrongs of the oppressed?”

“Well, something like that, I guess. But if I recall my reading correctly, a victim of oppression usually had to have considerable pulchritude to arouse the chivalry of the noble knights.”

“Joking aside,” insisted Ero Shan, “don’t you think we should do something to rid the people of this valley of the terror that hangs over them?”

“I suppose you’re right,” I agreed, stifling a yawn.

“This is the first time that I ever knew you to be callous to the suffering of others,” said Ero Shan a little curtly.

“I’m not,” I assured him; “I’m just plain fagged out. Tomorrow morning, Sir Gawain and Sir Galahad will sally forth to right the wrongs of the whole world. Good night!”

Ero Shan mumbled something that sounded very much like words that might have been translated into English: Go to hell!

 Table of content