Escape on Venus

Chapter IX

Edgar Rice Burroughs

“WE were twenty,” he said, “twenty warriors of the Jong’s own bodyguard. A great ship with two banks of oars manned by a hundred slaves and carrying a huge sail for fair winds was fitted out to carry a great cargo of wares to Torlac, which lies five hundred klookob to the west on the shores of the Noellat-gerloo.

“We knew that the cargo was valuable because we twenty were sent along to guard it—twenty warriors of the Jong’s own bodyguard, picked men all, from the best warriors of Japal.

“It was to be a long journey—two hundred klookob down the great Lake of Japal, five hundred klookob along the coast of the Noellat-gerloo to Torlac; and then back—fourteen hundred klookob (3500 miles) altogether.”

(Note: Noellat-gerloo, the name of the ocean, means mighty water. Ellat is might, and the prefix no is identical with our suffix y; so noellat means mighty. Gerloo is water.)

“But it turned out to be a short journey,” said Kandar; “you came only as far as Mypos.”

“On the contrary, my prince, we completed our journey to Torlac; but not without incident. While we were lying at the lower end of the Lake of Japal, waiting for the tide that would float us through the channel into the Noellat-gerloo, we were attacked by a Myposan ship of war—fifty oars and a hundred warriors.

“They slipped up upon us at night and swarmed our deck. It was a great battle, Prince—twenty against a hundred; for our galley slaves were no good to us, and the sailors of our ship were little better.

“Our officer was killed in the first clash; and I, Artol, took command. The captain of the ship, terrified, was in hiding; so the command of the ship as well devolved upon me. We fought as only the jong’s bodyguard knows how to fight, but five to one are heavy odds. And then they armed their galley slaves and turned them upon us, forcing them to fight.

“Still we held our own. The decks were red with blood. As we cut them down, more threw themselves upon us—two for every one we killed; and then I saw that the tide had changed—it was running out of the lake into the ocean.

“So far we had been able to hold the hatch leading from the fighting deck to the deck where the galley slaves sat at their oars, and I sent a good man down there with his orders; then, with my own hands, I slipped the anchor. I shouted the command to row, and leaped to the tiller.

“The ship swung around and headed for the ocean, dragging the enemy ship with it. It was certain that one of the ships would be wrecked, and quite probably both. The Myposans ran for their own ship just as some of their fellows cut her loose from us. We were caught in the swirling rush of the waters racing from the lake into the ocean.

“I could hear the crack of the whips on the slaves’ backs as the galley masters urged them to greater effort, for only by tremendous effort could they give the ship steerage way in that racing torrent.

“I am a soldier and no sailor, but I guided the ship through the channel in the darkness of night until it floated at last on the bosom of the ocean; then the captain came out of hiding and took command. Instead of thanking me for saving his ship, he berated me for slipping the anchor.

“We had words, then; and I told him that when we returned to Japal I should report to the jong himself that he had hidden all during the battle when he should have been on deck defending this ship. That is why I am here.”

“But I do not understand,” said Kandar.

“Wait. I am not through. Presently you shall know. When I checked up after the fight, I found that only ten of us remained; and five of these were wounded. Also, we had eleven Myposan prisoners—eleven who had been unable to reach the deck of their ship after it had been cut loose. These were sent down to the galley masters to help man the oars.

“In due time we reached Torlac, unloaded our cargo and took on another for Japal. The return trip was uneventful until after we entered the Lake of Japal. We lay to at the lower end of the lake so that we should pass Mypos after dark, as is the custom. Then we rowed slowly and silently up the lake, with no lights showing on the ship.

“It was quite dark. One could not recognize faces on deck. There was a great deal of movement there I thought, men passing to and fro constantly. We came opposite Mypos. The lights of the city were plainly discernible.

“Some one said, ‘What is that—right there to starboard?’ At that, I and my warriors moved to the starboard rail. I had no more than reached it than some one seized me around the waist, leaped to the rail with me, and then into the lake.

“It was a Myposan! You know how these fellows swim, my prince. Half the time he had me under water, half drowned; but at last he dragged me ashore at Mypos, more dead than alive. When I could gather my breath and my wits I found myself in a slave compound with all my men. Later I learned the truth.

“The captain, fearful that we would report him to the jong, had liberated the Myposans with the understanding that they would take us prisoners. As a matter of fact he had stipulated that they were to drown us, but the temptation. to take us in as prisoners whom they might sell into slavery was too much for them. It saved our lives.

“So that, my prince, is how I came to be a slave in Mypos; and I live only to return to Japal and have the life of the coward and traitor who sent ten of the jong’s bodyguard into slavery.”

“Who was this captain?” asked Kandar.

“His name is Gangor.”

Kandar nodded. “I know much of him,” he said, “but nothing good. It was rumored that he was high in the councils of the party that has long sought to overthrow the jong, my father.”

That name meant nothing to me then. It was to mean much, later.

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