Escape on Venus

Chapter XV

Edgar Rice Burroughs

WHEN I returned to the compound, I found that the slave whom I had refused to kill had spread the story of my encounter with Tyros; and, as is usually the case with such a story, it had lost nothing in the telling. The other slaves looked at me as they might at one who had returned from the grave; or, what might probably be a better simile, as one on his way to the death chamber. They crowded around me, asking many questions; some of them just content to touch one who had bearded the lion in his den. Plin was loudest in his praise. Kandar seemed worried. He thought that I had finally sealed my doom. Artol was genuinely proud of me. He had the warrior’s reaction—that what I had done was worth dying for. Somehow Plin’s praise seemed tinged by envy. After all, Plin was a Myposan.

Kandar, Artol, and I finally detached ourselves from the others and sat down on the hard packed ground to talk. They were both very grateful that I had included them in my demand for freedom, but neither of them thought that there was the slightest chance that Tyros would free us.

“He’ll find some way to destroy you,” said Kandar. “After all, one man can’t overcome a city full of enemies.”

“But how?” asked Artol. “Have you a plan?”

“S-s-s-t!” cautioned Kandar. “Here comes Plin.” So Kandar mistrusted the Myposan. I was not surprised. The fellow was too oily, and his protestations of friendship were overdone.

Kandar, Artol, and I had maintained something of a night watch, one of us always trying to remain awake; but we must have slipped up that night, for the next morning my pistol was gone. It had been stolen while we slept. I discovered my loss almost immediately I awoke; and when I told the others, Kandar said, “Where is Plin?”

Plin was not in the slaves’ compound. We wondered how he had dared touch the weapon. Either the proffered reward or the threat of punishment had been too great for him to resist. You see, we did not doubt that it was Plin.

I expected to be put to death immediately, but a circumstance intervened to save me temporarily. It was a royal celebration. One of Tyros’ young had developed arms, and legs, and lungs, and was ready to emerge from the pool—the future jong of Mypos. Many slaves were required in connection with this celebration, and we were all herded into the great royal patio, covering several acres, in the center of which was the jong’s pool, where the royal monstrosities developed.

The patio was filled with nobles, warriors, women, and slaves. I saw Plin and approached him, but he went quickly away into that part of the garden reserved for free men. So that had been Plin’s reward! Of course I could not follow him there. Warriors saw to that.

A palace slave saw the little drama as Plin eluded me and the warriors roughly turned me back. The fellow smiled at me. “You must be the slave from whom Plin stole the strange weapon,” he hazarded.

“I am,” I said. “I wish I knew where it was.”

“It is in the pool,” he said “Tyros was so afraid of it that, in his terror, he ordered Plin to throw it into the pool.”

Well, at least I knew where my pistol was, but little good it would do me. It might lie there forever, for it would never corrode. The metal of which it was fabricated insured that. And, doubtless, no Myposan would dare retrive it.

There was a great deal of drinking going on, mostly a potent brew that the Myposans concoct. Tyros was drinking a great deal, and getting rather drunk. I saw Skabra, his vadjong—a most brutal looking female. I did not wonder that Tyros was afraid of her. And I saw Duare, too; but I could not catch her eye. I could not get close enough to her; and there were hundreds of people there, constantly milling.

In the afternoon a great cry arose; and every eye was turned upon the pool, from which a hideous little amphibian emerged. It still had the head of a fish. Nobles ran forward to catch it; but it eluded them, scampering here and there to avoid capture. Finally, however, it was brought to bay; and a net was thrown over it; then it was borne away to the royal nursery, where it would have a private pool and could complete its development.

By this time Tyros was quite drunk. I saw him approach Duare, and I saw Skabra rise from her bench and move toward them. I couldn’t hear what Tyros said to Duare, but I saw her little chin go up as she turned her back on him. Skabra’s voice was raised in anger—shrill, harsh—and Tyros, ordinarily afraid of her, screamed back at her, brave with liquor. They were calling each other all the unroyal names they could lay their tongues to. Every eye was upon them.

Suddenly Tyros seized Duare and started to drag her away; then it was that I started for him. No one paid any attention to me. All were too interested in the actions of the principals in this royal triangle, for now Skabra had started in pursuit.

Tyros was running toward the pool, carrying Duare with him. He reached the edge; and, to my horror, dove in, dragging Duare beneath the surface with him.

Escape on Venus - Contents    |     Chapter XVI

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