Escape on Venus

Chapter III

Edgar Rice Burroughs

THE TORNADO died out in a last few fitful gusts. The air was suddenly calm. It was like the peace of Heaven.

“You must be very tired,” said Duare. “Let me take the controls. You have been fighting that storm for sixteen or seventeen hours, and you have had no sleep for two days.”

“Well, neither have you; and do you realize that we’ve had neither food nor water since before we left Vepaja?”

“There’s a river down there, and game,” said Duare. “I hadn’t realized before how thirsty I was—and hungry, too. And so sleepy! I don’t know which I am the most.”

“We’ll drink and eat, and then we’ll sleep,” I told her.

I circled around, looking for some sign of human habitation; for it is always men that must be feared most. Where there are no men, one is comparatively safe, even in a world of savage beasts.

In the distance I saw what appeared to be a large inland lake, or an arm of the sea. There were little patches of forest, and the plain was tree dotted beneath us. I saw herds grazing. I dropped down to select my quarry, run it down, and shoot it from the ship. Not very sporting; but I was out for food, not sport.

My plan was excellent, but it did not work. The animals discovered us long before we were within range, and they took off like bats out of Hell.

“There goes breakfast,” I said.

“And lunch and dinner,” added Duare, with a rueful smile.

“The water remains. We can at least drink.” So I circled to a landing near a little stream.

The greensward, close cropped by grazing herds, ran to the water’s edge; and after we had drunk, Duare stretched out upon it for a moment’s relaxation and rest. I stood looking around in search of game, hoping that something would come out of the near-by forest into which it had fled, effectively terminating my pursuit of it in the anotar.

It couldn’t have been more than a minute or two that I stood there in futile search for food on the hoof, but when I looked down at Duare she was fast asleep. I didn’t have the heart to awaken her, for I realized that she needed sleep even more than she did food; so I sat down beside her to keep watch while she slept.

It was a lovely spot, quiet and peaceful. Only the purling murmur of the brook broke the silence. It seemed very safe, for I could see to a considerable distance in all directions. The sound of the water soothed my tired nerves. I half reclined, supporting myself on one elbow so that I could keep better watch.

I lay there for about five minutes when a most amazing thing happened. A large fish came out of the stream and sat down beside me. He regarded me intently for a moment. I could not guess what was passing in his mind, as a fish has but one expression. He reminded me of some of the cinema stars I had seen, and I could not repress a laugh.

“What are you laughing at?” demanded the fish. “At me?”

“Certainly not,” I assured him. I was not at all surprised that the fish spoke. It seemed quite natural.

“You are Carson of Venus,” he said. It was a statement, not a question.

“How did you know?” I asked.

“Taman told me. He sent me to bring you to Korva. There will be a great procession as you and your princess ride on a mighty gantor along the boulevards of Sanara to the palace of the jong.”

“That will be very nice,” I said; “but in the meantime will you please tell me who is poking me in the back, and why?”

At that the fish suddenly disappeared. I looked around, and saw a dozen armed men standing over us. One of them had been prodding me in the back with a three pronged spear. Duare was sitting up, an expression of consternation on her face. I sprang to my feet. A dozen spears menaced me. Two warriors were standing over Duare, their tridents poised above her heart. I could have drawn my pistol; but I did not dare use it. Before I could have killed them all, one of us would have been killed. I could not take the chance, with Duare’s life at stake.

As I looked at the warriors, I suddenly realized that there was something very peculiar and inhuman about them. They had gills, which their heavy beards did not conceal; and their fingers and toes were webbed. Then I recalled the fish which had come out of the stream and talked to me—I slept, and I was still dreaming! That made me smile.

“What are you smiling about?” demanded one of the warriors, “me?”

“I am laughing at myself,” I said. “I am having such an amusing dream.”

Duare looked at me wide-eyed. “What is the matter with you, Carson?” she demanded. “What has happened to you?”

“Nothing, except that it was very stupid of me to fall asleep. I wish that I could wake up.”

“You are awake, Carson. Look at me! Tell me that you are all right.”

“Do you mean to tell me that you see what I see?” I demanded, nodding toward the warriors.

“We both slept, Carson; but now we are awake—and we are prisoners.”

“Yes, you are prisoners,” said the warrior who had spoken before. “Come along with us, now.”

Duare arose and came and stood close to me. They did not try to prevent her. “Why do you want to make us prisoners?” she asked the warrior. “We have done nothing. We were lost in a great storm, and we landed here for food and water. Let us go our way. You have nothing to fear from us.”

“We must take you to Mypos,” replied the warrior. “Tyros will decide what is to be done with you. I am only a warrior. It is not for me to decide.”

“Who are Mypos and Tyros?” asked Duare.

“Mypos is the king’s city, and Tyros is the king.” He said jong.

“Do you think he will let us go then?”

“No,” said the warrior. “Tyros the Bloody releases no captives. You will be slaves. The man may be killed at once, or later, but Tyros will not kill you.”

The men were armed with tridents, swords, and daggers; they had no firearms. I thought I saw a possibility for Duare’s escape. “I can hold them off with my pistol,” I whispered, “while you make a run for the anotar.”

“And then what?” she demanded.

“Perhaps you can find Korva. Fly south for twenty-four hours. You should be over a great ocean by that time; then fly west.”

“And leave you here?”

“I can probably kill them all; then you can land and pick me up.”

Duare shook her head. “I shall remain with you.”

“What are you whispering about?” demanded the warrior.

“We were wondering if you might let us take our anotar with us,” said Duare.

“What would we do with that thing in Mypos?”

“Maybe Tyros would like to see it, Ulirus,” suggested another warrior.

Ulirus shook his head. “We could never get it through the forest,” he said; then he turned suddenly on me. “How did you get it here?” he demanded.

“Come and get in it and I’ll show you,” I told him. If I could only get him into the anotar, along with Duare, it would be a long time before Ulirus would see Mypos again; and we would never see it. But Ulirus was suspicious.

“You can tell me how you did it.” he countered.

“We flew it here from a country thousands of miles away,” I told him.

“Flew it?” he demanded. “What do you mean?”

“Just what I said. We get in it, and it flies up into the air and takes us wherever we wish to go.”

“Now you are lying to me.”

“Let me show you. My mate and I will take it up into the air, and you can see it with your own eyes.”

“No. If you are telling me the truth about the thing, you would never come back.”

Well, finally they did help me shove the anotar among a clump of trees and fasten it down. I told them their jong would want to see it, and if they let anything happen to it he’d be very angry. That got them, for they were evidently terribly afraid of this Tyros the Bloody.

We started off through the forest with warriors in front and behind us. Ulirus walked beside me. He wasn’t a bad sort. He told me, in a whisper, that he’d like to let us go; but that he was afraid to, as Tyros would be sure to learn of it; and that would be the end of Ulirus. He was much interested in my blond hair and gray eyes, and asked me many questions about the country from which I came.

I was equally interested in him and his fellows. They all had beautiful physiques—smooth-flowing muscles and not an ounce of unnecessary fat; but their faces were most peculiar. Their full black beards and their gills I have already mentioned; these, with their protruding lips and pop eyes, resulted in a facial pulchritude of something less than zero.

“They look like fish,” Duare whispered to me.

Just how piscine these Myposans were we were to learn later.

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