Escape on Venus

Chapter XI

Edgar Rice Burroughs

GUYPALS! They were large birds and ferocious. There must have been a dozen of them. They dove for us and for the pool. We poked and struck at them with our wooden tridents, and they zoomed and dove again.

People came running from the house. Yron and his mate were among them. There was a great deal of noise and a great deal of excitement. The warriors who came had metal tridents, but these the guypals eluded. They seemed to know that the wooden weapons wielded by the slaves could not do much damage.

The Myposans were blowing furiously and flapping their gills. All were screaming orders and advice. It was bedlam. The noise should have frightened off almost anything. We were doing pretty well; and keeping the guypals at a distance, when one of them eluded us and dove straight for the pool. It looked as though one of Mrs. Yron’s little darlings was about to get his.

You can’t get up much enthusiasm about succoring a fish. At least I can’t; but I had a job to do; and it was only natural that, being what I am, I should do the best I could to acquit myself worthily.

I imagine that I just don’t think such things out. I act quite mechanically. Had I stopped to think, I should have said to myself, “These may be children to some; but they are just fish to me, and if I save them they will grow up to be three more enemies. I shall let them die;” but I said nothing of the kind to myself. I imagine that what crossed my mind and influenced me was a subconscious reminder that I had been given the job of protecting these creatures and that nothing else counted. Of course it all happened in the fraction of a second. The guypal dove for the pool, and I drew my r-ray pistol and blew a hole through it. It crumpled and fell into the pool; then I turned the pistol on the others which were circling about awaiting another opportunity to elude us. Three more dropped, and the others flew away.

Yron approached me. I thought he was going to express his indebtedness to me, but he did nothing of the sort. He didn’t even thank me for saving his little darlings.

“What is that thing?” he demanded.

“A pistol,” I replied.

“What is a postol?” he asked.

“This,” I said.

“And it killed the guypals?” he asked.

“I killed the guypals. Without me the pistol could not kill them—unless,” I added, “they had touched it.”

“Could it kill anything else?” he asked.



“You and all your people,” I assured him.

“Give it to me, slave,” he demanded.

“Certainly,” I said, holding it out toward him, “but if you touch it it will kill you.”

He drew back, and commenced to blow. His gills flapped. “Throw it away!” he commanded.

He might as well have asked me to cut off my right hand and throw it away. I was saving that pistol for some future emergency. You may wonder why I had never used it on these people in a break for freedom. It was because I had never yet found conditions such that I might hope to escape and take Duare with me, and I certainly had no intention of trying to escape without her.

I just grinned at Yron and shook my head. “I may need it,” I said, “if the people of Mypos do not treat my mate and me well.”

Yron fairly danced up and down. “Throw it away, slave!” he screamed. “I, Yron, a noble of Mypos and your master, command you.”

“And I, Carson of Venus, a prince of Korva, refuse.”

You could have heard Yron’s gills flap a city block away, and he was blowing like a whale—which he didn’t at all resemble. I don’t know whether or not fish have high blood pressure; but I am sure Yron didn’t, as otherwise he would have exploded. I think I have never seen any other creature in the throes of such a terrific rage—the more terrific because of its futility.

“Seize him!” he screamed at several of his warriors who had come to the pool following the alarm. “Seize him and destroy that thing!”

The warriors had been interested listeners to our altercation. They had heard me say that whoever touched my pistol would die; so they came forward warily, each one intent upon permitting some one else to be first. They were very polite in this respect. There was no rude elbowing of others aside in order to be the first to seize me.

“That is close enough,” I said, pointing the pistol at them.

They halted in their tracks, looking very uncomfortable.

“Spear him!” commanded Yron.

I pointed the pistol at Yron. “When the first spear is raised, you die,” I told him. The warriors looked questioningly at him.

“Hold!” cried Yron. “Do not spear him—yet. Wait until I have gone.”

“You are not going until you have countermanded that order,” I told him. “I think that perhaps we had better discuss this matter so that there may be no more misunderstandings; they are always annoying and sometimes fatal.”

“I do not discuss anything with my slaves,” replied Yron, haughtily.

I shrugged. “It is all the same to me,” I said, “but remember this: If my mate and my friend Kandar, here, and I are not treated well, you die. I can kill you any time I wish.”

“Your mate? You have no mate here.”

“Not here, but in the palace of Tyros. She was purchased for him in the slave market. You’d better advise him to treat her well. At the same time arrange to release us and return us to the place where we were captured.”

“Such insolence!” he cried. “Wait until Tyros hears of this. He will have you killed.”

“Not before I have killed Tyros. Tell him that.” I thought I might as well play up my advantage while I could, for it was evident that he was already afraid of me.

“How can you reach Tyros in his palace?” he demanded.

“By killing every one who tries to stop me—commencing with you,” I said, twirling my pistol around my index finger.

“I don’t believe that you could do it; you are just boasting,” said Yron.

“I shall prove it,” I said, leveling my pistol at him.

At that, he dove into the pool and disappeared. I found it difficult not to laugh, he cut such an amusing figure in his fright. All the slaves and warriors were standing around watching me—at a respectful distance.

I waited for Yron to come to the surface. I was going to give him another scare, but he didn’t come up. Five minutes passed, and nothing happened—except that the warriors slowly dispersed, going back into the building. Finally only we slaves remained in the patio.

“Yron must have drowned,” I said to Kandar.

“By no means,” replied Kandar. “He may be out in the lake by this time, or in a grotto at the bottom of the pool, or back in his palace.”

“But how?” I asked.

“These people are amphibians,” explained Kandar. “They can remain under water for considerable periods of time. Also, they have underwater corridors that lead from their pools out into the lake, as well as other corridors that lead to smaller pools within their palaces; and there are usually grottos, which are really parts of the pools, far under water, where they can remain in hiding, breathing through their gills.”

Kandar told me a great deal about these Myposans, but nothing that was later to stand me in better stead than the description of these underwater corridors. He did not like the Myposans, upon whom he looked with the utmost contempt. He said that they were neither fish nor human, and their arrogant egotism irked him no end.

“They consider themselves supermen whose destiny it is to rule the world, forcing what they call their culture on all other peoples Culture!” he snorted, and then words failed him.

“We have had peoples like that in my own world,” I said, “led by such men as Genghis Kahn and Attila the Hun who wrecked the culture and civilization of their times and set the world back many centuries; and I suppose we shall have others.”

“And what happened after them?” asked Kandar.

“Civilization struggled slowly from the mire into which they had plunged it, as I suppose it always will struggle back after each such catastrophe; but to what glorious heights it might have attained had they never lived!”

Escape on Venus - Contents    |     Chapter XII

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