Shortly before noon Brokols commenced filing past our cages. They were going toward the “bull ring” that Jonda and I had once cleaned. Many of them stopped and looked at us, commenting, usually in a most uncomplimentary manner, upon our looks and antecedents.
Presently they came for us—a couple of dozen warriors. I wanted to use my pistol, but I decided to wait until we got in the arena and I could wreak greater havoc.
The warriors were much concerned and not a little upset by the absence of Loto. They saw that the lock of the door had not been tampered with. When they asked me how she had escaped, I could only say that I did not know. They took us to the arena, which was crowded with Brokols. It was very quiet, nothing like a Spanish bull ring or an American baseball game when they have a large audience. There was little conversation, no cheering, no shouting. When Duma entered with his family and entourage, the place was as quiet as a tomb.
Jonda and I were standing in the center of the arena with our guards, one of whom left us and went and spoke with Duma. Presently he returned and said that Duma wished me to come to him. Half the guards accompanied me.
“What became of the woman?” demanded Duma, overlooking the fact that I had not bowed to him either four times or once.
“That is a stupid question to ask me,” I told him.
Duma turned the color of a green lime.
“You must know,” I continued, “that if I did know, I wouldn’t tell you. I don’t know, but if I told you that, you would not believe me. No, I don’t know; but I can guess.”
“What do you guess?” he asked.
“I guess that you can’t hold a goddess behind bars,” I said, “and I also guess that she has gone to arrange punishment for you and Ro-ton for the way you have treated her. You were very stupid to treat the Most High More Than Woman of the Fire the way you did.”
“It was Ro-ton’s fault,” said Duma.
Ro-ton was there and he looked very uncomfortable, and when Duma said again, “It was all Ro-ton’s fault,” he couldn’t contain himself.
“You wanted to be the Most High More Than Man of the Fire,” he blurted. “That was your idea, not mine. If she comes back, she’ll know whose fault it was.”
“Goddesses always do,” I said. “You can never fool ’em.”
“Take him away!” snapped Duma. “I do not like him.”
“I think I hear her coming now,” I said, looking up in the air.
Immediately Duma, Ro-ton, and all those around them looked up. It was a very tense moment, but no Loto-El-Ho-Ganja Kum O Raj appeared. However, I had upset their nervous equilibrium; which was all that I hoped to do; though it wouldn’t have surprised me much if a girl who could have disappeared so completely and mysteriously as Loto had the night before had suddenly materialized carrying a flaming sword. However, she didn’t; and I was hauled back to the center of the arena.
Jonda bowed to me seven times. Jonda had a sense of humor, but the Brokols hadn’t. There was a hissing noise, as though thousands of people had gasped simultaneously; and I guess that is exactly what happened; then the silence was deathly.
Duma shouted something that I could not understand, drums were beaten, and the warriors left us alone in the center of the arena.
“We are about to die,” said Jonda. “Let’s give a good account of ourselves.”
Two warriors came out and handed us each a spear, or gaff, and a sword. “See that you put on a good show,” said one of them.
“You are going to see one of the best shows ever put on in this arena,” I told him.
When the warriors had retired to places of safety, one of the small doors in the arena wall was opened and six nobargans came out. The nobargans are hairy, manlike cannibals. They have no clothing nor ornaments; hut they fight with slings, with which they hurl stones; and with the crudest kind of bows and arrows.
The derivation of the word nobargan may interest you. Broadly, it means a savage; literally, it means hairy men. In the singular it is nobargan. Gan is man; bar is hair. No is a contraction of not, meaning with; and is used as a prefix with the same value that the suffix y has in English. So nobar means hairy and no-bargan, hairy man. The prefix kloo forms the plural (hairy men) savages. I have preferred throughout this narrative to use the English form of plural as a rule, as the Amtorian is quite awkward; in this case, kloonobargan.
The nobargans came toward us, growling like wild beasts, from which they are not far removed. If they were proficient with their slings and bows, our gaffs and swords would offer no defense. We’d never be able to get close enough to use them.
I threw down my gaff and drew my pistol, carrying the sword in my left hand to use to fend off the missiles of the savages. Jonda wanted to barge ahead and get to close quarters, but I told him to wait—that I had a surprise for him, the nobargans, and the Brokols; so he dropped back at my side.
The savages were circling to surround us as I raised my pistol and dropped the first one; then all I had to do was pan, as the photographers say. One by one the creatures went down. Some missile flew by our heads; and three of the beast-men had time to charge us, but I dropped them all before they reached us.
Utter silence followed, and endured for a moment; then I heard Duma raving like a madman. He had been cheated out of the sport he had expected. There had been no contest, and we had not been killed. He ordered warriors to come and take my pistol from me.
They came, but with no marked enthusiasm. I told them to stay back or I would kill them as I had killed the nobargans. Duma screamed at them to obey him. Of course there was nothing else for them to do; so they came on, and I dropped them just as I had the savages.
The Brokol audience sat in absolute silence. They are the quietest people! But Duma was not quiet. He fairly jumped up and down in his rage. He would have torn his hair, had he had any. Finally he ordered every armed man in the audience to enter the arena and get me, offering a splendid reward.
“Good work!” said Jonda. “Keep it up. After you have killed all the inhabitants of Brokol, we can go home.”
“I can’t kill them all,” I said. “There are too many of them coming now. We’ll be taken, but at a good price.”
Thousands of armed men were jumping over the barrier and coming toward us. I can’t say they were hurrying much. Everyone seemed to be quite willing to let some one else win the reward; but they were coming, nevertheless.
As they were closing in on us, I heard a familiar sound above me. But it could not be true! I looked up; and there, far overhead, circled an aeroplane. It could not be true, but it was. As far as I could see it, I could recognize that ship. It was the anotar—my anotar: Who had repaired it? Who was flying it? Who else could it be but Duare, the only person in all this world who could fly an aeroplane.
“Look!” I cried, pointing up. “She comes! Loto-El-Ho-Ganja Kum O Raj comes for vengeance!”
Everybody looked up. Then they turned and looked at Duma and Ro-ton. I looked at them, too. They were beating it out of that arena as fast as they could go. I’ll bet they’re running yet.
The anotar was circling low now, and I was waving wildly to attract the attention of Duare, or whoever was in it. Presently Duare leaned out and waved.
I called to the Brokols to fall back out of the way or be killed by the bird ship coming with a new Loto-El-Ho-Ganja. I thought they might notice too soon that Duare was not the original Loto. They made room in a hurry, scrambling out of the arena and leaving the stadium as fast as they could go.
Duare landed in the arena—a beautiful landing—and a moment later I had her in my arms. I would have done the same thing had we been on the corner of 42nd and Broadway.
Doran was in the ship with her, and a moment later Jonda was in and I was at the controls with Duare at my side. We were both so full of questions that we almost burst, but eventually I learned that one of Kandar’s first acts after he became jong of Japal was to send a strong body of warriors to Timal to bring Duare and Artol back to his court. He also, following my instructions, had had a new propeller made for the anotar. Knowing that I had been captured by the Brokols, they knew where to look for me; though they had little hope of reaching me in time.
We were flying at a couple of thousand feet altitude when I looked back at Jonda. He was gazing around and down, wideeyed with excitement.
“What do you think of it?” I asked him.
“I don’t believe it,” he said. “I think Ka-at was right—you are the greatest liar in the world.”
Not that it has any bearing on this story, but just as an example of a remarkable coincidence, I want to reproduce here a news item that appeared in the daily press recently.
Brooklyn, Sept. 24. Special Correspondence. The body of Betty Callwell, who disappeared twenty-five years ago, was found in the alley back of her former home here early this morning. The preservation of the body was remarkable, as Miss Callwell must have been dead for twenty-five years. Friends who viewed the body insist that it did not look a day older than when she disappeared. The police fear foul play and are investigating.