When Duare, Ero Shan, and I escaped from Voo-ad in the anotar we flew directly south, for there I believed lay Korva, the empire ruled by my friend, Taman.
How far away lay Sanara, the Korvan seaport which Taman had made capital of the empire since the overthrow of the Zani revolutionists, we had no idea. Duare had flown a considerable distance in this direction while preparing to effect the escape of Ero Shan and myself from Voo-ad, and she had told me that farther progress south had seemed effectually blocked by forests of tremendous height and a great mountain range, the top of both of which were eternally hidden in the innermost of the two great cloud envelopes which surround Venus, protecting her from the terrific heat of the sun. We were to learn later that Anlap is roughly divided into three parts by this mountain range and another one much farther to the south. Both of these mighty ranges run in an east-west direction and between them is an enormous, well-watered plateau, comprising vast plains of almost level land.
I would have been glad to have returned Ero Shan to his native city of Havatoo, had Duare’s safety not been my first and almost only consideration; and I may say that I also longed for that peace and safety and relaxation which Sanara seemed to offer and which I had enjoyed for only a few brief intervals since that fateful day that my rocket ship had sped into the void from desolate Guadalupe on my projected trip to Mars which had ended on Venus.
Ero Shan and I had discussed the matter and he had been most insistent that we fly directly to Sanara and thus ensure the safety of Duare before giving any thought to his return to Havatoo; but I had assured him that once there, I would assist him in building another anotar in which he could return home.
After we reached the mountains I turned east, searching for a break in them where I might continue our southward journey, for it would have been suicidal to attempt to fly blind through the lower cloud envelope without the slightest knowledge of the height to which the mountain range rose. But I will not bore you with an account of that tedious search. Suffice it to say that the lower cloud envelope does not always maintain the same altitude, but seems to billow upward and downward sometimes as much as five thousand feet; and it was at one of those times that it was at its highest that I discerned the summits of some relatively low peaks beyond which there seemed to be open country.
I was flying just below the inner cloud envelope at the time and I immediately turned south and, with throttle wide, sped across those jagged peaks which, since creation, no man, doubtless, had ever looked upon before.
Speed was of the utmost importance now, as we must get through before the cloud envelope billowed down and enveloped us.
“Well,” said Duare, with a sigh of relief, as the vast plain which I have previously mentioned opened out below us, “we got through, and that augurs well, I think, for the future; but this doesn’t look much like the country surrounding Sanara, does it?”
“It doesn’t look at all like it,” I replied, “and as far as I can see there is no sign of an ocean.”
“It may not look like Korva,” said Ero Shan, “but it is certainly a beautiful country.”
And indeed it was. As far as the eye could reach in every direction the plain was almost level, with only a few low, scattered hills and forests and rivers breaking the monotony of its vast, pastel-shaded expanse.
“Look,” said Duare, “there is something moving down there.”
Far ahead I could see what appeared to be a procession of little dots, moving slowly parallel with a great river. “It might be game,” said Ero Shan, “and we could use some meat.”
Whatever they were, they were moving with such exact military precision that I doubted very much that it was game; however, I decided to fly over them, drop down, and investigate. As we came closer and could see them better they resolved themselves into the most amazing things that any of us ever had seen. There were about twenty enormous man-made things crawling over the plain. In front of them, on their flanks, and bringing up the rear, were a number of smaller replicas of the leviathans. “What in the world are they?” demanded Duare.
“The whole thing looks to me like a battle fleet on land,” I replied. “It’s the most amazing sight I have ever seen; and I am going to drop down and have a closer look at it.”
“Be careful,” cautioned Duare. “Don’t forget that thing you call a jinx, which you say has been camping on our trail for so long.”
“I know you are perfectly right, my dear,” I replied, “and I won’t go too close, but I’d like to see just what those things are.”
I circled above that Brobdingnagian caravan and dropped down to about a thousand feet above it; and this closer view revealed that its individual units were far more amazing and extraordinary than they had appeared at a distance. The largest units were between seven hundred and eight hundred feet long, with a beam of over a hundred feet; and they rose to a height of at least thirty feet above the ground, with lighter superstructures rising another thirty feet or more above what I am constrained to call the upper decks, as they resembled nothing so much as dreadnoughts. Flags and pennons flew from their superstructures and from their bows and sterns; and they fairly bristled with armament.
The smaller units were of different design and might be compared to cruisers and destroyers, while the big ones were certainly land dreadnaughts, or, I might say, superdreadnaughts. The upper decks and the superstructures were crowded with men looking up at us. They watched us for a moment and then suddenly disappeared below decks; and I realized instantly that they had been called to their stations.
That didn’t look good to me and I started to climb to get away from there as quickly as possible; and simultaneously I heard the humming of t-ray guns. They were firing at us with that deadly Amtorian t-ray which destroys all matter.
With throttle wide I climbed, zig-zagging in an attempt to avoid their fire, upbraiding myself for being such a stupid fool as to have taken this unnecessary chance; and then a moment later, as I was congratulating myself upon having made good our escape, the nose of the anotar disappeared, together with the propeller.
“The jinx is still with us,” said Duare.