I had desired adventures; but recently I had had little else than misadventures, and I must admit that I was getting pretty well fed up on them; so, when Duare and Doran arrived in the nick of time over the arena in Brokol, while Jonda and I were facing the impossibility of withstanding the assault of several thousand warriors armed with swords and gaffs, and bore us off in the anotar, I made up my mind then and there that we were to have no more adventures or misadventures, but were heading south in our search for Korva just as quickly as possible.
Under ordinary circumstances I should have been glad to take Jonda to Tonglap, his homeland; but I was not going to risk Duare’s safety any further; so, when Doran told Jonda that he would be welcome in Japal until he could find the means to return to Tonglap, I was more than pleased, since Japal was in the general direction we would have to travel to get to Korva, and Tonglap was not.
We were given a royal welcome in Japal, the anotar was stocked with food and water; and as quickly as we decently could, we bade our friends good-by and took off.
Duare and I had discussed our course and had come to the conclusion that if we flew in a southwesterly direction we would come pretty close to hitting the land mass known as Anlap, or Birdland, on which Korva is situated. This course took us down the length of the Lake of Japal for about five hundred miles and then out over a noellat gerloo, or mighty water, which is Amtorian for ocean.
“Isn’t it restful!” sighed Duare.
“After what we’ve been through, almost anything would be restful,” I replied. “This is almost too restful and too good to be true.”
“I thought that I should never see you again, Carson. They told me some of the horrible customs of the Brokols—their drinking of human blood and all that. I was nearly frantic before I was able to take off in the anotar to search for you. Won’t it be wonderful to get back to Korva, where we are loved?”
“And, for the first time since we met, have peace and security. My dear, if it’s humanly possible, I think I shall never leave Korva again.”
“Won’t Taman and Jahara be amazed and delighted to see us again! Oh, Carson, I can hardly wait to get back.”
“It’s a long flight,” I told her, “and after we reach Korva, we may have a long search before we can locate Sanara—it’s a very little city in a very big country.”
The ocean across which we were flying proved to be enormous, and it was a very lonely ocean. We saw a few ships at the lower end of the Lake of Japal and a few more close to the coast on the ocean; but after these, we saw nothing—just a vast expanse of gray sea, a sea that was never blue, for it had no blue sky to reflect; only the gray clouds that envelop Venus.
Amtorian shipping seldom sails out of sight of land, for all maps are wildly inaccurate; because of their belief that Amtor is a saucer shaped world floating on a sea of Molten rock with what is really the nearer Pole as the periphery, or outer edge, of the saucer and the Equator at the center. You can readily see how this would distort everything. Then, too, the mariners have no celestial bodies to guide them. If they get out of sight of land, they are sunk, figuratively; and very likely to be sunk literally.
Duare and I were much better off, as I had built a compass in Havatoo; and I had roughly corrected the Amtorian maps from my knowledge of the true shape of the planet. Of course, my maps were pitifully inadequate; but at least had some claim to verity.
We were getting pretty tired of that ocean, when Duare sighted land. I had been confident that Japal lay in the northern hemisphere; and from the distance we had travelled since leaving it, I was certain that we had crossed the Equator and were in the southern hemisphere, where Korva lies. Perhaps this was Korva that we were approaching! The thought filled us both with elation.
It was really a lovely land, although a barren rock would have looked lovely to us after the monotony of that long ocean crossing, during which we had seen nothing but water for a full week. As we neared the land, I dropped down for a closer view. A great river wound down a broad valley to empty into the sea almost directly beneath us. The valley was carpeted with the pale violet grass of Amtor, starred with blue and purple flowers. Little patches of forest dotted the valley. We could see their glossy, lacquer-like boles of red and azure and white, and their weird foliage of heliotrope, lavender, and violet moving to a gentle breeze.
There is something strangely beautiful about an Amtorian landscape, beautiful and unreal. Perhaps it is the soft, pastel shades, that make it look more like a work of art than a creation of Nature. Like a gorgeous sunset on Earth, it is something that could never be reproduced by man. I sometimes think that man’s inability to reproduce the beauties of Nature has led to the abominable atrocities called modern art.
“Oh, how I’d like to get down there among those flowers!” exclaimed Duare.
“And get captured or killed by some of the weird creatures that roam your fantastic planet,” I retorted. “No, young lady! As long as our food, our water, and our fuel hold out, we stay right up in the air, where we’re safe, until we find the city of Sanara. “
“So my planet is fantastic, is it?” demanded Duare, coming to the defense of her world like the Travel Bureau of Honolulu or the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. “I suppose your planet is perfect, with its crooked politicians, its constants warring religious sects, its gangsters, and its funny clothes.”
I laughed and kissed her. “I should never have told you so much,” I said.
“From what you have told me, I gather that the best thing about your planet isn’t there any more,” she said.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“You.” So I kissed her again.
“Look!” I exclaimed presently; “there’s a city!”
Sure enough, several miles up the river and close to it, there lay a city.
“It can’t be Sanara, can it?” asked Duare, hopefully.
I shook my head. “No; it is not Sanara. The river near Sanara runs due east; this one runs due south. Furthermore, this city doesn’t resemble Sanara in any respect.”
“Let’s have a closer look at it,” suggested Duare.
I couldn’t see any harm in that; so I headed for the city. It reminded me a little of Havatoo, except that it was entirely circular, while Havatoo is a half circle. There was a large central plaza, with avenues radiating from it like the spokes of a wheel; and there were other avenues forming concentric circles spaced equidistant from one another between the central plaza and the high outer wall of the city.
“It looks like two Havatoos stuck together,” observed Duare.
“I wish it were Havatoo,” I said.
“Why?” demanded Duare. “We just escaped from that city with our lives. I don’t ever care to see it again. The very idea! I, the daughter of a thousand jongs, was not good enough to live in Havatoo; so they were going to destroy me!”
“That was a bit stupid,” I admitted.
I dropped down close over the city. Everything about it was round—the central plaza was round, the buildings were all round, the whole city was round; and many of the buildings were capped with spheres.
Now people were running into the streets and the great central plaza and out upon their roofs, looking up at us. Many of them waved to us, and we replied.
“What an interesting city,” said Duare. “I’d like to visit it. The people look very friendly, too.”
“My dear,” I replied, “you are becoming a veritable glutton for disaster.”
“I wouldn’t go down there for the world,” said Duare. “I just said I’d like to visit it.” Just then my propeller flew off.