Escape on Venus

Chapter XVI

Edgar Rice Burroughs

A WARRIOR tried to bar my way as I ran toward the pool. I swung a right to his chin, and he went down. A trident whizzed past my head as I dove, and another cut the water beside me after I had submerged. But no one followed me. Perhaps they felt that Tyros was safe in his own element and needed no protection. Perhaps they didn’t care what happened to Tyros, for they all feared and hated him.

The pool was deep, very deep. Ahead of me and below I could see the figures of Tyros and Duare going deeper and deeper. Could I reach them before Duare drowned? Could either of us survive a struggle with the amphibian king and reach the surface alive? These questions harassed me, but I swam on.

As I reached the bottom, I saw Tyros slither into a dark hole at the very bottom of the pool’s side wall; and as I followed him, my lungs seemingly on the verge of bursting, I saw something lying on the floor of the pool. It was my pistol, lying where Plin had thrown it. I had only to reach out my hand and pick it up; then I was in a dark corridor fighting for my life and Duare’s.

I thought that corridor would never end, nor did it add any to my peace of mind to realize that it might end in a watery cavern from which there would be no escape for me or for Duare. My only hope and encouragement lay in what Kandar had told me of these pools and passageways. I prayed that this passageway led to another, near-by pool. It did. Presently I saw light ahead and then above. Almost unconscious from suffocation, I shot to the surface—just in time. Another second, I honestly believe, and I should have been dead.

I saw Tyros dragging Duare from the pool. Her body was limp. It was evident that she was dead. Had I been absolutely certain of that, I could have shot Tyros then; but I hesitated, and in the brief instant of my indecision he bore her through a doorway and was gone.

I was absolutely exhausted. I tried to climb from the pool only to discover that I did not have the strength. What I had gone through had sapped it all. I looked about me as I clung to the edge of the pool. I was in a small apartment or court, which the pool almost entirely filled. It had no roof. Several doors led from it. There was one small window.

My strength came back rapidly, and I dragged myself from the pool and followed through the doorway which had swallowed Tyros and Duare. Here I encountered a veritable labyrinth of corridors. Which way had Tyros gone?There was no clew. Every precious moment counted if, Duare alive, I was to rescue her; or, Duare dead, I was to avenge her. It was maddening.

Presently I heard a voice, and I followed it. Soon I recognized it. it was Tyros’ drunken voice exhorting, commanding. At last I found him. He was bending over the lifeless form of Duare demanding that she arise and follow him. He was telling her that he was tired of carrying her. He didn’t seem to realize that she was dead.

When he saw me and my levelled pistol, he screamed; then he swept Duare’s body up and held it before him as a shield; as he hurled his trident. It was a poor cast, and missed. I advanced slowly toward him, taking my time, gloating over my vengeance.

All the time, Tyros was screaming for help. I didn’t care how much help came—I could always kill Tyros before they could kill me. I expected to die in that chamber; and I was content; because I would not live without Duare.

Tyros tried to draw his sword as he saw me coming nearer, but Duare’s body interfered. At last he let it slip to the floor; and, still screaming, he came toward me. it was then that a door flew open and a dozen warriors burst into the room.

I let Tyros the Bloody have it first. He collapsed in a heap; then I turned the weapon upon the advancing warriors. They nearly got me as a veritable shower of tridents drove through the air at my almost naked body. it was the very number of them that saved me. They struck one another and their aim was diverted—just enough to permit me to dodge and elude them. After that it was simple. The warriors with their swords were no match for me. I mowed down ten of them before the remaining two turned and fled.

At last I was alone with the body of my mate. I turned toward it. Duare was sitting up, looking at me wonderingly.

“How did you do it, Carson?” she demanded. “However in the world did you do it?”

“I could do much more than this for you,” I said, as I took her in my arms.

“What now?” asked Duare presently. “We are trapped. But at least we shall die together.”

“We are not dead yet,” I said. “Come with me!”

I led the way to the pool from which we had just emerged. Through the one small window I could see the great lake scarcely a hundred yards away. I was certain that a corridor led from this pool to the lake. “Can you swim another hundred yards under water?” I asked her.

“I can try,” she said.

“Wait until I make sure that there is a corridor leading to the lake;” then I dove into the pool. I found an opening near the bottom of the end of the pool nearest the lake; so I was reasonably certain that it led into a corridor that would take us out of the city of Mypos. The only drawback to the plan was that we should be swimming in the lake right off the quays of Mypos in broad daylight. It didn’t seem possible that we could escape detection.

As I broke the surface of the pool after locating the corridor, Duare whispered to me that she heard someone approaching. I listened. Yes, I could hear them plainly—the sound of sandalled feet and the rattling of accouterments; then we heard men shouting, and the sounds were very near.

“Come, Duare!” I called and she dove in.

I led her to the mouth of the tunnel and followed her in. I must have been wrong in my estimate of the distance to the lake. It was far more than a hundred yards. I marvelled at Duare’s endurance, for I was almost all in and virtually at my last gasp, had I dared to gasp, when I saw light shining from above. As one, we shot up to the surface; and as our heads broke it, almost simultaneously, Duare flashed me a reassuring smile. Ah, what a girl! In two worlds; yes, even in all the Universe I doubt that there is like her.

We found ourselves in a small, circular pool in the bottom of a roofless, windowless tower. A ledge, a few feet wide, encircled the pool. We dragged ourselves on to it to rest and plan. We decided to remain where we were until after dark; then try to reach the lake. If we were followed into this pool, I could account for our pursuers as fast as they stuck their heads above the surface. How I thanked Heaven for that pistol!

Well after dark we swam through the remainder of the passageway to the lake; and followed the shore line to a point beyond the city. What hideous terrors of the deep we were fortunate enough to escape, I can only guess; but we came through all right. More by intuition than anything else, I made our way back to the point at which we had left the anotar. Our hearts were in our mouths as we searched for it. The night was dark. Even the strange Venusian luminance seemed lesser than usual. At last we gave up, disheartened, and lay down on the soft grass to rest.

We both must have fallen asleep almost instantly, for the next I remember it was daylight. I sat up and looked around. Duare lay asleep beside me; and a hundred yards away, just inside the forest, was the anotar!

I shall never forget with what a sense of gratitude to God and with what relief we felt the ship rise above the menaces of this inhospitable land.

The only blemish on our happiness was that Kandar and Artol were still prisoners in Mypos.

Escape on Venus - Contents    |     Chapter XVII

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