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Title:      Prince of Peril
Author:     Otis Adelbert Kline
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Language:   English
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Date first posted:          June 2006
Date most recently updated: June 2006

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Title:      Prince of Peril
Author:     Otis Adelbert Kline


Many people have asked me how I came to write "The Swordsman of Mars,"
"The Outlaws of Mars," and "The Planet of Peril," and have wondered why
the character of Dr. Morgan appears in all of them. "It was all right for
the first story," one reader complained, "but it begins to get a bit
thick the third time. I hope you're not going to do it again." Another
thought that Dr. Morgan really belonged in the series, but that there
wasn't enough of him; I should justify his continuance by having him play
a more important role in the plot.

As an author, I agree with both of these critics. Dr. Morgan either
should have been dropped, or should have a more active and vital role;
and I certainly would have taken one of these alternatives in the second
novel, "Outlaws of Mars," were this series really my own to work out as I

You see, while the name "Dr. Morgan" is fictitious, the character is not.
It was quite by accident that I literally dropped in on him one day while
deer-hunting in the mountains. It was a cloudy day, and I lost my
bearings. I'd been foolish enough to forget my compass, so I climbed the
highest prominence to orient myself.

If you have ever met me, you will know that these were not tremendous
mountains. Now that I'm letting you in on a long-kept secret, I must
confess to further deception. If you will re-read the opening chapters of
the preceding books, you will see that while I've given the impression
that Dr. Morgan's retreat was amidst high mountains, I've never said
anything definite about the height. There were high enough for my own
purposes of sport and exercise, and Dr. Morgan's purposes of isolation,
but you may have been led to overestimate their eminence.

I had all but reached the summit I was approaching, when my feet suddenly
slipped from under me. Gun and all, I crashed through something which
felt and sounded like glass, and struck a hard, concrete floor. My right
leg crumpled under me, and all went black.

When I regained consciousness I thought I was in a hospital, for two men
in white garments were working over me.

The younger man I took to be an interne. The other was indeed a doctor,
as I was to learn. He was of gigantic stature, but well-proportioned and
athletic, and of most striking appearance. His forehead was far higher
than any other I had ever seen, bulging outward so that his shaggy
eyebrows, which grew completely together above the bridge of his aquiline
nose, half concealed his small, glittering, beady eyes. His
close-cropped, sharply pointed beard, in which a few gray hairs were in
evidence, proclaimed him as probably past middle age.

When he had finished bandaging my fractured leg, which throbbed
unmercifully, he dismissed his assistant, called me by name, and
introduced himself. I am not yet free to divulge his true identity, so I
shall continue to call him "Dr. Morgan."

"What hospital is this," I asked, "and how did you find me?"

"You are not in a hospital," he replied in his booming bass voice, "but
still on the mountain in my retreat. My men are now replacing the
skylight through which you fell."

For nearly a month I convalesced in the secret, perfectly-camouflaged
observatory. When he learned that I was an author (he had learned my name
from the mundane process of looking through my wallet) he asked
permission to question me under hypnosis, promising to explain when he
had finished, and assuring me that I need not worry about anything he
would ask me.

There are some human beings who inspire you with trust almost upon first
sight. Dr. Morgan was such a person. I agreed; and I learned later that,
had he not been trustworthy, it would have been very easy for him to have
tricked me into agreement. Actually, he would not have done it without my
full consent, honestly gained.

"I must ask your forgiveness," he said, after the session. "While my
impression of you was that you were both honest and reliable, I had to be
sure that you did not have particular character weaknesses through which
you could be easily led to betray confidences you really meant to keep. I
have some material which would be ideal for the sort of stories you
write, but it is vital that certain aspects of what you will learn do not
become public knowledge. Without these, few readers will suspect that
what you will write is anything but very imaginative romance, and those
few will not be able to ascertain more without facts which I now am
confident you won't reveal."

He stroked his beard. "I could, of course, with your consent, doubly
insure security by putting you under hypnotic inhibition--you would not
remember what you were not supposed to reveal. But this is a risky
process, not one hundred percent certain, and might have undesirable
side-effects upon you."

"I'll go along with your judgment on this," I told him.

In the days that followed I learned about Dr. Morgan's studies of
parapsychology, particularly in telepathy. I had done some reading in
this line myself, so knew something of the general theory--that the
communication of thoughts or ideas or moods from one mind to another
without the use of any physical medium whatever was not influenced or
hampered by either time or space.

Dr. Morgan had worked on telepathy for many years in his spare time, when
he was in practice; but on his retirement, he tried a different track. "I
had to amend the theory," he explained. "I decided that it would be
necessary to build a device which would pick up and amplify thought
waves. And even this would have failed had my machine not caught the
waves projected by another machine, which another man had built to
amplify and project them."

Now I had been a devotee of imaginative fiction for many years, and had
often thought of turning my hand to writing it. I prided myself on having
a better than usual imagination; yet, I did not think of the implications
of the theory of telepathy when Dr. Morgan told me that the man who built
the thought-projector was on Mars. While I deferred to no one in my
fondness for Edgar Rice Burroughs's stories of John Carter and others on
Barsoom, I was well aware of the fact that what we knew of the planet
Mars made his wonderful civilization on that planet quite impossible. I
said as much, going into facts and figures.

"Of course, we won't really know for sure about the exact conditions
there unless we land on Mars. But still we know enough to make
Burroughs's Mars probability zero," I concluded.

Dr. Morgan nodded. "Entirely correct," he said. "There is no such
civilization on Mars."

He then explained his own incredulity when his machine picked up the
thoughts of a man who identified himself as a human being--one Lal Vak, a
Martian scientist and psychologist. But Lal Vak was no less incredulous
when Dr. Morgan identified himself as a human being and scientist of
Earth. For Lal Vak was certain that there could be no human civilization
on Earth, and cited facts and figures to prove it.

And that was the clue. Both Dr. Morgan and Lal Vak were correct. Neither
man could possibly exist on the world he claimed to inhabit--if both were
living in the same area of space-time. But Lal Vak's description of Earth
was a valid description of the third planet from the sun as it existed
millions of years ago.

"I have read many weird and fantastic stories," Dr. Morgan said, "as have
you. Some of them have given me a most eerie feeling--but nothing to
compare with my feelings upon talking with a man who has been dead
millions of years, of whose civilization there may now linger not so much
as a single trace."

This was the beginning. Dr. Morgan brought me several thick typewritten
manuscripts which he had bound separately, and I read therein the stories
of Harry Thorne, of Morgan's own nephew, Jerry, and of Robert Grandon.
Thus I learned that Lal Vak was the contemporary of a Venusian named Vorn
Vangal and that a human civilization had also existed on Venus at this

With the aid of Lal Vak, Dr. Morgan had effected transfer of
personalities between two Martians and two Earthmen, whose physical and
brain-pattern make-up were similar enough to permit such exchange.
Through a means which I am still barred from describing in detail, it was
possible for Dr. Morgan to keep in rapport with his emissaries on
Mars--providing they co-operated. The first man broke contact, and turned
out to be a disasterously wrong choice. Thus, Harry Thorne was sent to
Mars, to exchange consciousness with a Martian whose body was holding the
personality of Frank Boyd, criminal Earthman.

From Vorn Vangal, Dr. Morgan learned the construction and operation of a
space-time vehicle, propelled by telekinesis. It was by means of this
vehicle that Morgan's nephew, Jerry, went to Mars physically. But
something went wrong on the return trip--Dr. Morgan had tried to bring
the vehicle back to Earth and his own time, empty, for use to transport
an Earthman to Venus later--and the vehicle was lost.

"It might have been possible to build another," Dr. Morgan told me, after
I had finished reading about the adventures of his nephew, "but Vorn
Vangal and I decided that it would be simpler to use the
personality-exchange system, if we could find an Earthman or two who
could qualify." He pointed to the other two manuscripts which I was yet
to read. "These tell of what happened to the two I sent to Venus: Robert
Grandon and Rorgen Takkor."

"Rorgen Takkor--but he's on Mars," I protested. "He's the Zovil of
Xancibar...Did something go wrong? A break-up between him and Neva...?"

Dr. Morgan smiled. "No, no, my friend--Harry Thorne is on Mars in the
body of Rorgen Takkor. The man who was my assistant for many years,
called Harry Thorne, is Rorgen Takkor." He coughed slightly. "Of course,
he is now known as Prince Zinlo of Venus."

I smiled. "If we can consider millions of years in the past as 'now.'"

"I am still in contact with him, as with the others who are 'still'
alive...At any rate, Rorgen Takkor asked me if he could go to Venus; he
was getting tired of Earth, and of course he could not return to Mars.
He was fascinated with what Vorn Vangal told me of the Venusian
civilization and was sure he'd feel more at home there, however strange
it might be. I'd say it would be roughly analogous to the case of a
crusader from 12th Century England transported and settled down into a
remote part of Islam, where there was not and probably never would be
direct contact with his native civilization."

So "Harry Thorne," and an Earthman named Robert Grandon went to Venus.

Here were four distinct stories, and Dr. Morgan went over them with me,
indicating what parts of them might be used for novels, and what had best
not be related in detail, or omitted entirely.

I have told you the story of Robert Grandon in "The Planet of Peril," and
those of you who have read it will recall that Harry Thorne and Grandon
met in the closing episodes of the story. You may remember that Grandon
asked Thorne to tell him of his adventures between the time of Thorne's
arrival on Venus and this meeting, as it was plain that much had
happened and that the other man had found his place and the woman of his
heart's desire. Before Thorne could tell the story, they were interrupted
by announcements that their airship had arrived at Vernia's capital.

Actually, the record shows that Thorne did tell his story to Grandon
later, during the visit--although like nothing in the detail present in
Dr. Morgan's records. But it was impossible to give even so brief an
outline in this place. It had no bearing on the story of Robert Grandon
and his rise on Venus, his winning of Vernia, and the defeat and death of
the traitor, Prince Destho. I decided to omit it entirely, leaving it for
another novel.

So now I offer you the story of Harry Thorne--and, with your permission,
I shall stop calling him "Harry Thorne." This is the story of Rorgen
Takkor's adventures on Venus, Rorgen Takkor, born on Mars, transferred to
Earth for a decade, and finally finding his career and place on Venus.

The Author.


"Good-bye, men and good luck to you."

My awakening, after I lay down on the cot in Dr. Morgan's observatory,
was quite sudden and startling. It seemed that not more than a few
seconds had elapsed since I had heard the doctor's parting words to
Grandon and myself.

I opened my eyes and sat up abruptly with an inexplicable sense of
impending danger. My first glimpse of my surroundings convinced me that I
had indeed arrived on Venus. The magnificent riot of vegetation
surrounding me--vegetation the like of which I had not seen on Mars, the
red, barren planet of my birth, nor on Earth, the more recent planet of
my adoption--was sufficient evidence.

I was seated on a bank of soft, violet-colored moss which sloped gently
to a limpid pool at my feet. The feathery fronds of a giant bush-fern
arched above my head, some of them dipping to the surface of the water,
where they were snapped at from time to time by playful, grotesque,
multi-colored amphibians.

I was dressed in garments of shimmering, scarlet material. There was a
broad, golden chain-belt about my waist, with a jeweled clasp in front.
Riveted to this belt on the right side was an oblong instrument about two
feet in length, with a button near the upper end, a small lever on the
side, and a tiny hole in the lower end. I had no idea what it was for;
but I recognized the weapon which hung at my left side, as it resembled a
scimitar. As I was examining the ruby-studded hilt of this beautiful
weapon, a noise at my left attracted my attention.

Cautiously, without turning my head, I glanced from the corners of my
eyes across a stretch of shrubbery to where a high wall of black stone
surrounded this estate, and hid the country beyond. Just on the other
side of the wall a tall fern-tree spread its mighty fronds. It must have
been the cracking of one of these that had attracted my attention, for a
heavy-set individual with a coarse red beard, cut off square below the
chin, had climbed out on it to a point where it would no longer sustain
his weight, in an effort to reach the top of the wall.

Someone in the shrubbery quite near me called a whispered warning to
him--or such I took it to be, for the language was unknown to me, and I
could only judge by the tones. The huge intruder was much more agile than
he appeared, for he flung an arm over the top of the wall and drew
himself up with catlike quickness. As he struck the wall there was a
metallic clank which, I saw as soon as he came into full view, was from
an edged weapon at his side, quite like my own but with a less ornate
hilt and broader blade.

As soon as the red-bearded man reached the top of the wall, the one who
had whispered from the bushes cautiously stood up. He was smaller and
more wiry than the first, and his beard, which was iron-gray in color,
was trimmed in the same manner.

Red-beard tiptoed stealthily along the top of the wall, glancing toward
me from time to time as if fearful that I would hear him or turn toward
him. Then he leaned out, caught his fingers in a tall cone-shaped growth,
swung his sandaled feet out, and descended.

I wondered if it could be possible that these two prowlers were bent on
injury to me, a total stranger on Venus. Then it dawned on me that they
could easily be mortal enemies of the prince with whom I had exchanged
bodies, and that I--so far as their knowledge went--was that prince.

I therefore drew my cutting weapon from its sheath in order to have it
ready, and pretended to examine its beautiful, highly polished blade. For
several minutes I neither saw nor heard anything of the two prowlers.
Then I suddenly glimpsed, reflected on the polished surface of my blade,
the red-bearded man standing directly behind me with his weapon upraised
for a downward cut that would have sheared my skull from crown to chin.
As swords of all kinds had been my principal playthings on Mars, and
fencing my favorite amusement on Earth, I did the thing which any
swordsman would have done instinctively in the circumstances. I raised
the blade of my weapon above my head with a downward slant from hilt to
point, and the descending blade of my would-be assassin, deflected by my
own, buried itself in the mossy turf on my left.

Springing to my feet, I whirled and attacked.

My opponent proved to be a hammer-and-tongs fighter, no match for
superior swordsmanship. I could have killed him any one of a dozen times
before he realized that I was playing with him. Then he bawled out
lustily, and the wiry fellow with the gray beard came rushing out of the
bushes. Not knowing the caliber of the second assailant, I stopped the
squawking of the first with a quick neck-cut that laid him low.

The wiry graybeard was much quicker and far more elusive than his huge
companion, and I did not play with him. He soon left me the opening I
sought, and I stretched him beside his fellow with a bone-shearing cut.

Having ascertained beyond doubt that both of my would-be assassins were
dead, I carefully cleaned my blade, sheathed it, and set out to explore
my surroundings.

I had been walking for perhaps ten minutes along the mossy bank, when a
monster, more hideous than anything I had ever seen or even dreamed
existed, emerged from the water and came toward me.

I whipped out my blade as it waddled forward on its thick, bowed legs.
Its long, scaly tail dragged in the moss, and its enormous jaws were
distended in a grin that disclosed huge, ivory-white tusks. It was so
fearsome a thing that, although I am no coward, I knew not whether to
stand and fight or take to my heels.

A gust of laughter at my right caused me to turn. I beheld a tall man,
apparently of middle age, smiling broadly at me. His garments were of
purple, and he wore a beard that had once been black, now slightly
streaked with gray, cut off square below the chin. His weapons were
similar to mine, though his belt was of silver.

"The 'ikthos' will not harm you," he said in English. "It is one of the
garden pets, and hostile only to strangers."

The thing he called an ikthos sniffed at my garments, rubbed its ugly
muzzle against my thigh, yawned, and crouched at my feet.

"You are surprised at my knowledge of English," continued my new
acquaintance. "After I tell you who you are and were, and also who I am,
the thing will not seem so mysterious. You are he who was Rorgen Takkor
on Mars, and later Harry Thorne on Earth. You have now become Zinlo, the
Torrogi or Imperial Crown Prince of Olba. I am Vorn Vangal, the Olban
psychologist, and have been communicating telepathically with Dr. Morgan
of Earth for several years."

"I have heard the doctor speak of you often," I replied. "It is a
pleasure to meet you, Vorn Vangal."

He acknowledged with a courtly bow. "I have but a few hours to spend with
you. Grandon has already arrived on the other side of the planet and will
shortly awaken to find himself a princely slave in the marble quarries of
Uxpo. I must fly to his assistance. Come with me and see what
preparations I have made for you."

I followed Vorn Vangal through the garden. There was a profusion of
ornamental trees, shrubs, fungi and jointed grasses, but no flowers or
fruits. Patches of gloriously colored water plants of divers odd shapes
flourished in the lagoons, and fungi of a thousand types and sizes grew
in the moister places.

Though it was without flowers, the garden did not lack color. All the
hues of the rainbow were represented in its rankly growing, primitive
vegetation. Toadstools as tall as trees bordered several of the lagoons,
some of them lemon-yellow, others orange, scarlet, black or brown, and
still others of pale, chalky whiteness.

Beautiful statues and statuettes stood here and there, some placed
conspicuously, but more of them showing unexpectedly in niches and
vine-covered bowers as we moved along.

The garden teemed with bird and animal life. The trees were alive with
gay-plumed songbirds that filled the air with their melodious, flute-like
notes. Waterfowl, both swimmers and waders, dotted the lagoons, and their
cries, though not musical, were far from unpleasant. Amphibians of many
species disported themselves in the water or dozed lazily on the banks. I
was astonished at sight of a huge yellow frog which must easily have
measured more than six feet from nose to toes, blinking contentedly and
fearlessly down at me from his seat on an enormous scarlet toadstool.

With our hideous ikthos trailing closely behind us, and from time to time
affectionately nosing either Vorn Vangal or me with its cold, moist
snout, we presently came before a tall building. It was of black marble,
and was my first glimpse of Olban architecture.

Its shape astonished me. I do not believe there was a straight line in
the entire structure. Everything was curved. The building stood on a
circular foundation, and its walls, instead of mounting skyward in a
straight line, bellied outward and then curved in again at the top. The
lower structure was surmounted by a second segment, smaller, but of
similar shape. This, in turn, supported others, still smaller, up to the
top segment, some thirty feet in diameter and no less than six hundred
feet from the ground.

We mounted a flight of steps, walked between two uniformed guards who
saluted stiffly, and entered a large circular door, where a slave took
charge of the ikthos and led him away. After following a broad hallway
for some distance we came to a huge pillar. It was in the center of the
building, and was decorated on one side with a large oval plate of
burnished silver on which was embossed what appeared to be a
coat-of-arms. As we stepped before it the plate slid back, revealing a
small room within.

At Vangal's invitation I stepped into the small room inside the huge
central pillar of the tower, and he followed. As soon as he stood beside
me the silver plate slid back across the entrance, a concealed light
flashed on somewhere above our heads, and the floor moved upward.

We were in an elevator, of course, but what had started the thing and how
was my companion going to stop it when we reached our destination? There
were no levers or buttons of any sort. The thing seemed almost human in
its movements. Perhaps there was a hidden operator. I voiced my question
to Vorn Vangal.

"It is moved by a mechanism which amplifies the power of telekinesis," he

I had often heard Dr. Morgan use the word "telekinesis," and knew that it
described that mysterious power of the mind which enables psychics to tip
tables and lift imponderable objects without physical means. In short, it
referred to the direct power of mind over matter.

"I have heard of small objects being moved or lifted by telekinesis," I
marveled, "but to lift an elevator! Why, this is amazing!"

"We lift far heavier things than this little car," said Vangal, smiling
slightly. "Huge cranes and derricks are operated in the same way.
Airships of all sizes from small one-man flyers to huge battleships are
moved by it--propelled through the air at speeds ranging from two hundred
to one thousand miles an hour."

"But how is that possible?"

"It was made possible by that wonderful invention, the mechanism that
amplifies the mind's power. The manufacture of this mechanism is the
exclusive secret of the Olban government, and constitutes our defense
against aggression from the warlike torro-gats--or empires--surrounding
us. If those governments knew the secret, they would build aircraft and
use them for conquest. The Olbans, however, are committed to a policy of
'live and let live': We use our wonderful power only for commercial
purposes and as a defense against aggression."

We stopped before a metal plate which slid back noiselessly. I stepped
out of the car and Vorn Vangal came after me, whereupon the plate slid
back in place.

We were in a small, circular hallway around whose walls were metal doors
at intervals of about twenty feet. Vangal led the way to one of these
doors, pressed a button, and when it slid open, bowed me into a
luxuriously furnished suite lighted by enormous circular windows that
reached nearly from floor to ceiling.

"This is to be your retreat until my return from Uxpo," he said. "I have
been preparing for your coming these many months."

He walked to a beautifully carved table of red wood, and took a thick
scroll from a pile neatly stacked on its polished top.

"These are your lessons in patoa, the universal language of Venus. Our
patoan name for Venus is Zarovia. Some twenty thousand patoan words are
listed here with their pronunciations and English translations. If you
will study them carefully until my return it will perhaps be safe for you
to leave the Black Tower. Then I can take you to the Red Tower, the
Imperial Palace of Olba."

"Am I to infer that it would be unsafe for me to leave the tower at

"The tower and grounds are well guarded," Vorn Vangal replied; "but do
not under any circumstances wander beyond the walls. In the course of
your walks in the garden, always keep the ikthos with you. He will warn
you of lurking assassins, and will fight in your defense."

"He certainly wasn't on the job a short time ago," I said.

"What do you mean?"

I told him of the two assassins.

"The beast must have been lured away by his keeper!" cried Vangal, when I
had finished. "The traitor will be dealt with in due time. And those two
ruffians--they would be in the pay of Taliboz, of course."

"Who is Taliboz?"

"A man whom I suspect, but against whom I can prove nothing. Nothing! You
see--in the course of preparation for your coming, I cast about for an
excuse to bring your predecessor here in order that His Imperial Majesty,
Emperor Hadjez, might not learn that his son Zinlo was changing places
with an Earthman. A ready-made excuse presented itself when word came
through the intelligence department of the government that there was a
plot on foot to assassinate the male members of the imperial family.

"I immediately suggested that Prince Zinlo be brought here until the
plotters could be taken and executed. His majesty readily consented, thus
making it possible for me to obtain a quiet retreat for you in which you
could learn something of the language and customs of Olba, and at the
same time be guarded from danger.

"The plotters have not been apprehended, but I am firmly of the opinion
that Taliboz is the ringleader. They have already made an attempt on the
life of the Emperor and escaped with the loss of a single man. You can
see how you would be exposed by going out unguarded."

"I'm willing to stay here for a while," I replied, "for there is no
question about my having to learn this language, patoa, sooner or later.
But once I learn your language you won't catch me staying behind walls on
account of a few assassins. I was born on Mars, where men do not stay
indoors to avoid their enemies; and though I am not familiar with your
weapons, I believe I can give some account of myself with this cutting
implement at my side if attacked."

"No doubt you can," replied Vangal, "although the two ruffians you killed
were probably clumsy fighters. But please bear in mind that you are the
Torrogi of Olba--the crown prince--and that your life is not yours to
throw away heedlessly."

"Don't ever think I'm going to throw it away," I said. "The man who gets
it will have to put up a scrap."

"You might be shot from ambush with a tork."

"A tork?"

"You are wearing one attached to your belt."

Vangal explained the use of the oblong instrument at my side. It was
about two feet long and shaped like a carpenter's level. A rivet passed
completely through it, about eight inches from the top, fastening it to
the belt in such a way that it could be tilted at any angle or pointed in
any direction by moving the body.

He pressed a small lever on the side and removed two clips, explaining
that one was a gas clip containing a thousand rounds of condensed
explosive gas, while the other was a bullet clip which held a thousand
rounds of needle-like glass projectiles. These projectiles, he said, were
filled with a poison that would paralyze man or beast almost instantly,
though the paralysis was only temporary. Other projectiles, he explained,
were filled with deadly poison, and still others with explosives. The
effective range, he stated, was equal to about ten Earth-miles.

He led me to a window which was open.

"I have prepared a target for you," he said. "You will need to practice
with the tork if you are to be able to defend yourself on this planet. Do
you see that large white plate against the wall at the other end of the


"I had it erected for your use. It is coated with a substance that will
combine with the poison in your tork bullets, emitting a green gas. If
you see a green spot appear momentarily on the target you will know that
you have registered a hit."

I was eager to try this new weapon, and Vangal, smiling at my eagerness,
loaded it for me and showed me how to hold it when pressing the button
which fired the gas in the chamber by means of an electric spark. It fed
new bullets automatically, he explained.

I confidently fired at the target and waited for a green spot to appear.
It remained white. Again I fired with the same result.

"You will need considerable practice," said Vangal. "I am not accounted
much of a marksman, but watch."

He fired his tork and a green spot appeared in the center of the target.
Then, with no apparent effort, he planted a ring of green spots around

When the spots had disappeared I tried again, and managed to hit the
target once out of five shots.

"Now let me see what you can do with the scarbo," Vangal said.

"The what?"

"That cutting instrument at your side."

"Oh ho, friend Vangal!" I thought. "You won't find me utterly helpless
with this weapon."

He drew his scarbo and I mine. Thinking to best me as easily as he had
with the tork, he made as if he would lay my head open.

I parried the blow with ease, then whirled his blade on mine with a
movement so sudden that, strong as he was, it flew from his grasp and
flashing over his head, clanked in the corner behind him.

"Body of Thorth!" he exclaimed. "That is a marvelous trick!"

I recovered his weapon and handed it to him laughingly.

"On Mars I was raised on a diet of swords," I replied.

"Then I suggest that you confine your efforts to target practice and a
mastery of patoa," said Vanga. "I must leave you now to go to the
assistance of Grandon. My flyer is on the roof. Would you care to see me


I followed him into the elevator.


THE ELEVATOR stopped at the floor of the top segment, and we mounted
thence to the roof by a spiral stairway. Two guards armed with torks,
scarbos and broad-bladed spears, saluted when we appeared. The roof was
made of the same material as the walls, and the slabs of black marble
were fitted together so cunningly that the joints were all but
concealed. It was circled by a four foot wall perforated on the floor
level at intervals to carry off the heavy Zarovian rains.

There were four Olban airships on the roof. I examined the nearest one
with interest. It was shaped like a small metal duck-boat about ten feet
in length and three in the beam. The cockpit was covered with a glass
dome in the back of which was a small door. Within this dome I could see
an assortment of levers, buttons and knobs, and the cushioned seat for
the driver. The thing that amazed me the most was the fact that it was
not equipped with planes, rudder or propeller.

Vangal turned to me. "You seem astonished at our airships."

"They certainly do not resemble any aircraft I have previously seen."

"We have no need of planes, propellers or rudders for this type of
flyer," he went on. "As I told you, it is raised, lowered, turned, or
moved in any desired direction by amplified mindpower. The amplifying
mechanism is under the round bump on the forward deck. The small lids
that you see fore and aft conceal safety parachutes. That rectangular
protuberance from the front of the cab is a mattork, a weapon operated on
the same principle as a tork, but with a greater range and firing much
heavier projectiles."

"You told me that the Olban government alone possessed the secret for
manufacturing these flying mechanisms," I said. "Suppose one should be
forced to land in hostile territory. The craft would then, in all
probability, fall into the hands of your enemies, and they could thus
easily take the mechanism apart and duplicate it."

"That danger has been foreseen. A vial of powerful acid has been placed
in the mechanism of each Olban craft in such a way that it will be
immediately broken if tampered with. The acid thus released in the
secret mechanism will instantly destroy it."

"Certainly a far-sighted provision," I remarked.

"It has kept us at peace with our neighbors for many centuries," replied
Vangal. "I dislike leaving you thus precipitately, but the time has come
for departure."

So saying, he opened the door in the back of the cab and entered. After a
hurried examination of the control levers and the cannon-like mattork, he
said: "Farewell. Study diligently, practice assiduously, and be ever on
your guard against assassins."

"If I catch any prowling about I'll practice on them instead of the
target. Farewell, and a safe and pleasant journey to you."

The little craft rose slowly at first, then, gradually gathering
momentum, it shot to a height of a half mile or more, sped away with
amazing rapidity, and was soon lost to view.

I walked to the edge of the wall and looked over. The roof was at least
six hundred feet from the ground, though the drop from battlement to
battlement was only about sixty feet. Far to the northward I descried a
city of circular buildings, in the center of which towered an immense red
structure similar in design to the one on which I stood, but at least
twice as tall.

This must be the Red Tower of which Vorn Vangal had spoken--the Imperial
Palace of Olba. The city walls formed a circle, broken at each point of
the compass by a tower which evidently covered a gate.

The countryside, as far as I could see, was divided into well-kept farms
on each of which was a round building, probably the home of the owner.
People were working in the fields, and here and there I saw men driving
huge, grotesque beasts hitched to plows or cultivators.

The animals, which I afterward learned were called thirpeds, were great
hairless pachyderms; they stood about eight feet at the shoulder, and
weighed four to five tons apiece when full grown. They had huge heads and
mouths, sharp-pointed long ears, and relatively thin necks almost half as
long as their bodies. They moved with a lumbering gait that reminded me
of elephants.

The plants under cultivation were fungi of various kinds, and several
varieties of bush-ferns.

A smoothly paved road, straight as an arrow, led from the south gate of
Olba past the tower on which I stood, and thence to the great,
crescent-shaped Olban harbor of Tureno. This was the marine gateway of
the capital, whence Emperor Hadjez sent his mighty fleet of trading
vessels out over the rolling, steel-blue waters of the mighty Ropok

Along this straight, smooth road rumbled great, one-wheeled carts drawn
by thirpeds. The body of a Zarovian cart is inside the huge single wheel
that carries it, being suspended on an inner idling wheel that keeps it
from turning when the outer wheel revolves. There were also one-wheeled
motor-driven vehicles that moved over the road with great speed. I saw
some with wheels more than twenty feet in diameter, making all of a
hundred Earth miles an hour.

One of the guards accompanied me down the telekinetic elevator, which I
had not learned to operate, conducted me to the suite Vangal had prepared
for me, and bowing low, with right hand extended palm downward, left me
alone. I could hear him pacing back and forth in the hall while I studied
the patoa scrolls.

As I pored over the translations and pronunciations with keen interest,
it seemed to me that I was reading something I had known well, but had
forgotten. I tested myself on this and found, to my surprise, that having
once read and pronounced a patoan word, I had learned it.

When I told Vorn Vangal about it afterward, he explained that this was
because the brain of Zinlo, which had become mine, knew all of these
things already. The subjective mind, having once received an impression,
records it forever. Thus, having only to tap my subjective mind, I
learned instantly. It amazed and overjoyed me.

Long before the afternoon had waned, I had mastered the entire group of
lessons which Vorn Vangal had prepared for me. I was eagerly reading a
Zarovian book on natural history, when the advent of sudden darkness, so
common in tropical and semi-tropical Venus, interrupted my studies. A rap
sounded at the door.

"Enter," I said in patoa, eager to try my newly mastered language.

The door slid open, framing the figure of my guard in silhouette against
the lighted hall. He entered and pressed a button, flooding the room with
soft light. I could not see the points from which the radiance emanated,
so cleverly were the fixtures concealed.

"Your Highness's dinner," announced the guard.

Two slaves entered, bearing a huge double-decked tray laden with at least
fifty different dishes. A third followed with a small table, and a fourth
with gold service and scarlet napery.

Fish, flesh, and fowl were set before me, as well as numerous dishes
concocted from mushrooms and other fungi, and countless others whose
origin I could not fathom. There was also a colorless, pleasant-tasting
beverage which I afterward learned was called "kova," served hot in small
bowls. I found it fully as stimulating as strong wine, though with a
slightly different effect.

Having dined as became a prince of Olba, I turned once more to my

Late in the evening a second knock sounded at my door, and a new guard
admitted a man who was evidently my valet. He busied himself in the
adjoining room for a few minutes, then entered and, bowing before me,
announced that my bedchamber was ready.

I entered, to behold a sleeping shelf that curved out from the wall like
the nest of a cave-swallow. A scarlet canopy fringed with gold projected
above it, and the downy, silken coverlets--scarlet lined with golden
yellow--had been turned back invitingly.

My valet brought my scarlet sleeping garments, and I wondered at the
preponderance of this color; later, I learned that throughout Zarovia
scarlet is the exclusive color of royalty.

Though I had grown drowsy over my studies, the novelty of my situation
kept me awake. After several hours, I managed to drift off, only to be
awakened by a sharp, metallic clang.

The sound seemed to come from the direction of the battlement outside my
window, and I listened breathlessly for a repetition. As it was not
repeated, I decided that it could have no alarming significance, and was
once more composing myself for slumber when I heard a slight rustle as of
silken garments only a few feet distant from my head.

Without moving, I opened my eyes and endeavored to penetrate the pitch
darkness that enveloped me. Venus has no moon, and in consequence it was
fully as dark outside as anywhere in the room; I could not see the
window, nor could I have seen any one entering it.

It was plainly evident that there was someone in the room. I thought of
Vorn Vangal's warning, and a cold sweat broke out on my forehead. My
weapons lay on a low table only a few feet from me, yet I could not move
to reach them without making sufficient noise to apprise my stealthy
visitor of my whereabouts.

Another rustle, quite near me this time, was followed by the glow of a
flashlight which swept the room, rested for a moment on my recumbent
form, and then winked out. I sat up suddenly, at the sound of a scarbo
drawn stealthily from its sheath not two feet from me.

No sooner had I sat up in bed than there was a whistling sound, followed
by a thud, as the keen blade of a scarbo buried itself in the pillow
where my head had lain a moment before.

I leaped from the sleeping shelf and fumbled for the light switch while
my assailant, with a muttered exclamation of surprise and anger, flashed
his torch on the coverlets. Then he whirled it around the room just as I
found the switch and turned it.

Both of us were blinded for an instant by the glare of the light. I
reached the table and secured my scarbo just in time to ward off his
furious attack.

Back and forth we fought across the smooth floor, overturning furniture
and tripping on rugs, while the apartment echoed and re-echoed with the
clamor of our rapidly moving blades.

I found my assailant a dangerous antagonist; as a swordsman, Vorn Vangal
was but a child compared with him. He was dressed in purple raiment
trimmed with silver, and wore a heavy black beard.

At first his demeanor was one of sneering disdain; but when he found me
able not only to parry his lightning cuts and thrusts, but to return
them, measure for measure, a look of wonderment came to his hawk-like
features. "Body of Thorth, stripling!" he exclaimed. "You have been
practicing with the scarbo since I last saw you."

"I am but practicing now," I replied tauntingly, speaking slowly so that
I might not mispronounce the words which came to me so readily.

His face reddened at this, and he redoubled his efforts, his keen blade
flashing in shimmering arcs, alike bewildering and deadly. But his anger
gave me the opportunity I sought. Whirling his blade on mine, as I had
whirled that of Vangal some time before, I wrenched it from his hand and
sent it clattering to the floor.

With a startled look he leaped back just in time to avoid a lunge that
would have ended our conflict. As he sprang he shouted lustily, "Vinzeth!
Maribo! Attend me!"

Two burly ruffians responded to his call, leaping through the window.
They were armed with huge, broad-bladed spears and would probably have
made quick work of me had not my own retainers burst through the door at
my back, having heard the noise of our conflict.

For the moment the tide of battle turned in our favor. Then fresh
re-enforcements poured in from outside. The leader had recovered his
scarbo, and now they cut my men down until but a handful remained. Though
our attackers were not without casualties, we were outnumbered from the

Maddened with the lust of battle, I was cutting my way through the
spearmen in my endeavor to reach their leader when my tower guards made a
sudden charge in response to a sharp order from their commander. At the
same instant he plucked at my sleeve.

"The tower is lost, highness," he cried. "The traitors are too many for
us. You must flee."

"Never! Let me at these assassins!"

I succeeded in breaking from his grasp, but he seized my arm once more,
calling one of the guards to assist him. "Do not compel me to use force,
Highness," he pleaded. "I must get you hence at once. To do otherwise
would be treason to Your Imperial Sire."

The two of them dragged me through the doorway which they bolted. A
moment later we entered the elevator and shot to the top floor, whence we
climbed the spiral stairway to the roof. Far below us I heard the door
crash inward--proof that the last guardsman had fallen.

They hustled me to the largest of the three airships, opened the door of
the cab, and fairly hurled me onto the cushions.

"Raboth will take you to the palace," said the commandant. "I will bolt
the door and follow in a one-man craft."

Raboth, a lean wiry youth with a thin, ragged beard, climbed in beside me
and closed the door. As soon as he was seated, the ship began to
rise--slowly at first, but rapidly gaining momentum until we shot upward
with amazing rapidity.

My pilot, looking downward to take his bearings, drew back with a sudden
intake of breath. "They have seen us! Two of their battle planes are
rising to cut us off from the palace."

Scarcely had he spoken ere a searchlight flashed on our ship. An instant
later a bullet ricocheted from our deck, tearing way part of the railing
as it exploded. It had been fired from a mattork.

A terrific fusillade followed as we continued our rapid ascent. Suddenly
we plunged into a thick cloudbank, shielding us from the revealing glare
of the enemy searchlight. Continuing upward for several minutes more we
cleared this lower cloud stratum and Raboth immediately put on our
forward lights. Then he turned a switch, illuminating the interior of the
cab with the radiance of a tiny bulb above our heads.

My pilot leaned forward to examine a small instrument suspended on a thin
wire at the front of the cab. "I fear we are lost, Highness," he said,
with a look of consternation. "One of the shells must have carried our
magnet away. The compass is out of order."

A quick examination proved his statement correct. The magnet, which is
fastened to the rear deck of all Olban airships to counteract the strong
magnetic pull of the motive mechanism, had been snapped off by one of the
mattork bullets. Now the needle pointed to the front of our craft no
matter which way we turned.

A sudden glare of light at our backs, followed by the rending impact of a
mattork shell on our hull, warned us that the enemy had sighted us. This
time we dived into the stratum beneath us and then with level keel,
hurtled forward at a pace that held me breathless with wonder.

"How fast are we traveling, Raboth?" I asked, trying to adjust my senses
to the sight of cloud masses made iridescent by our lights, and moving
past the cab in swift, bewildering kaleidoscopic display.

"This ship is rated at three-quarters of a rotation," he replied. "We are
moving at top speed."

"What do you mean by three-quarters of a rotation?"

He seemed astonished at my question. "Why, a rotation is the speed at
which Zarovia rotates on her axis. We are traveling three-fourths of that

I made a rapid calculation. As the circumference of Venus is slightly
less than that of Earth, and her day twenty-three hours and twenty-one
minutes, Earth time, she rotates on her axis at a speed of more than a
thousand miles an hour. Roughly, then, we were traveling at seven hundred
and fifty miles an hour.

My companion held the ship to her course through the clouds for a
considerable period, then dipped beneath them. This move almost resulted
in our undoing; the second enemy craft, which had evidently been flying
below us all the time, opened fire. I replied with our stern
mattork--whether effectively or not, I could not tell--while Raboth again
shot our craft up to the concealment afforded by the clouds. Once more we
hurtled forward on a level keel.

"Our would-be assassins are certainly persistent," I remarked casually to
my companion.

"And well they may be. This is the first time their leader has been
recognized. No doubt we are the only two survivors of the fight in the
tower, and consequently the only ones able to expose Taliboz."

"Who is this Taliboz?" I asked thoughtlessly.

"Is it possible that Your Highness does not remember Taliboz? He is the
most powerful noble in Olba. For some time it has been hinted that he was
conspiring against the throne, but there was no direct evidence. Now he
must kill us all--both to do away with the heir to the throne, and to
silence the witnesses of his perfidy."

We sped along for some time in silence. I calculated that if we had
traveled in a reasonably straight line we were at least a thousand miles
from our starting point. At length, feeling that we must have shaken our
pursuers, Raboth once more descended beneath the lower stratum, taking
the precaution of switching off all lights as he did so.

He looked about carefully, saw no sign of pursuit, and made the fatal
mistake of turning on the lights. Scarcely had he done this ere a missile
crashed through the back of the cab and exploded with a deafening noise.
It struck on Raboth's side and killed him instantly, tearing his body to

Our lights were extinguished by the explosion, but a powerful searchlight
played on us from behind and another shell carried away our stern. Then
the craft lurched violently and fell, turning end-over-end while I clung
desperately to my seat.


As THE wreck hurtled downward it gathered momentum each instant, and I
expected nothing less than a terrific crash. To my surprise, however, the
craft plunged nose first into water and sank rapidly. The cabin filled
instantly through the great hole, torn by the mattork shell; but this
same hole proved to be my salvation, for after the first cold shock of
immersion was past I managed to scramble through it.

For several seconds I continued to sink in spite of my frantic efforts,
due to the downward momentum of the craft I had just left. Then I
stopped, and slowly began to make some progress upward, though it seemed
at every stroke that my lungs must burst for want of oxygen.

After what seemed an age of lung-straining torture, my head bobbed above
the surface, and I trod water while inhaling great breaths of the moist,
salt air.

In the blackness of the Zarovian night, broken only at infrequent
intervals by the momentary twinkle of a star or two through a rift in the
ever-present cloud envelope overhead, I was unable to see in any
direction. But I heard a familiar sound, far to my right--the roll of
breakers on a windward shore. Toward this sound I swam slowly.

The sound grew louder as I progressed, and presently I lowered an
exploring foot to find the bottom. Not reaching it, I swam onward once
more. The second test proved more successful, and I stood erect, only to
be knocked flat by a huge wave. I scrambled to my feet and, half wading,
half swimming, at length dragged my weary body up on a sandy beach beyond
reach of the breakers.

After a brief rest I arose and walked still farther inland, where I soon
ran into a thick copse of bush-fern. The ground beneath the curved fronds
was covered with moss, and on this I stretched, thankful for so soft a
couch. In a short time, I was asleep.

I was awakened by the sound of voices quite near me. It was broad
daylight and promised to be an exceptionally warm day. My silky scarlet
garments had long since dried, as had my leather trappings, which had
stiffened as a result of their soaking.

I judged from the tones that two people were conversing--a man and a girl.
At first I did not hear what they said as I lay there on the soft moss
only half awake, looking drowsily up through the rustling, wind-shaken
fern leaves. Then the man raised his voice.

"Well you know, Cousin Loralie, that your parents desire the marriage as
much as mine," he said in mincing patoa. "Is this not enough for you? Are
you so lacking in respect for the wishes of your father and mother that
you would set them aside for an idle whim?"

"Not for an idle whim, Cousin Gadrimel," replied the girl in a clear,
musical voice. "I do not love you. What more need be said?"

"How do you know?" he demanded. "Yesterday we saw each other for the
first time. We had but a few moments alone. I have not more than touched
your hand. I could make you love me as I have..."

"As you have countless others, no doubt. Understand me, once and for all.
No man can make me love him, nor could I make myself love any man, even
if I desired to do so as a matter of filial duty."

Not wishing to play the part of an eavesdropper, however unintentional, I
stood up, intending to offer my apologies and take my departure. As I did
so I heard a muttered, "We'll see," from the man, followed by the sound
of a struggle and a little scream of fear.

Pushing my way through the shrubbery, I came out on a moss-covered sward
in the middle of which played an ornate fountain. Just beyond the
fountain I saw a girl struggling to free herself from the embrace of a
tall blond youth, whose yellow beard had just begun to grow. Both wore
the scarlet of royalty.

"Let me go, you beast!" The girl's big brown eyes were flashing--her
disheveled, dark brown ringlets flying as she struggled to free herself.
Even in anger she was beautiful--more beautiful than any woman I have seen
on three planets.

I sprang forward, seized the youth by the collar, and twisting it said,
"If you are bent on wrestling this morning, Prince Gadrimel, permit me to
offer you a more even match."

He released the girl and tried to turn, whereupon I twisted his collar
the tighter. Then he reached for his tork, but I seized his wrist and
bent it up behind his back. At this he began to bellow for the guard,
whereupon I sent him crashing headfirst into the fern-brake.

I turned and bowed to the girl, who was still flushed and panting from
her struggle. "Your Highness's pardon, if I intrude. It appeared to me
that you were being annoyed."

"You were right, and I am indebted to you, Prince...?"

"Prince Zinlo of Olba," I finished for her, "at your service."

"I am the Princess Loralie of Tyrhana," she replied with a smile that
revealed two adorable dimples. "Pray tell me..."

Our conversation was interrupted by the youth, who, after extricating
himself from the bushes, rushed between us with drawn scarbo.

"Body and bones of Thorth," he snarled. "You have sealed your death
warrant, Prince Zinlo."

Then he made a slash at me that would have severed my head from my body
had I not leaped back. As I did so, I drew my own blade and engaged him.
Finding in a moment that he was no master of fence, I disarmed him--then
retrieved his weapon before he had time to recover from his amazement.

"You have dropped your scarbo," I said. "Permit me." And I presented it
to him, hilt first.

Again he lunged at me, and again I disarmed him, with as much ease as
before--then leaped and picked up his weapon before he could reach it.

"Perhaps I had better keep this," I said. "You seem so unfamiliar with
its use that you may injure yourself."

He reached for his tork, but I was expecting this, and with a quick slash
cut his belt. The weapon fell onto the soft moss, and I kicked it into
the shrubbery.

He cringed as if expecting the death blow, then suddenly looked beyond
me, exclaiming, "By the sixteen kingdoms of Reabon! Look behind you!"

Thinking it a trick, I did not look until I heard a scream from Princess
Loralie and the clank of weapons. Then I whirled, and saw her struggling
in the grip of a purple-clad noble whom I instantly recognized as my
opponent of the tower--Taliboz! An Olban airship resting on the ground
behind him explained his presence here. Four burly warriors were rushing
toward me with drawn scarbos.

"It seems that we have some real fighting to do," I said to Gadrimel,
tossing him his weapon. He caught it, and came manfully enough to guard,
just as the four armed retainers of Taliboz bore down on us. I crouched
low and extended my point as my first assailant made a vicious swing at
my neck.

He died on my blade with an ear-piercing shriek, and I wrenched it free
just as my second assailant came up. This fellow was not only more wary,
but quite expert with the scarbo. He laid my cheek open with a quick cut
just as I was coming on guard. His second blow was aimed at my legs, and
would have mowed me down as grain is cut had I not leaped back. As it was,
the point of his weapon raked my thigh.

Stung by the pain of my two wounds, I forgot my swordsmanship for the
moment, and brought my blade straight down in a blow which he should have
easily parried. It was the unexpected clumsiness of the stroke which
told, as he did not come on guard in time; my blade divided his head as
cleanly as a knife divides a Zarovian spore-pod.

Over at my left, Prince Gadrimel was sorely beset by the other two
ruffians. His face and body were bloody as my own, yet he gave them back
blow for blow and thrust for thrust. But he was plainly weakening. With
the princess being carried off, there was no time for the niceties of
dueling, and I felt no compunction about leaping up behind his nearest
assailant and striking off his head. The other, seeing the blow, turned
to face me; but to his own undoing, for he left Gadrimel the opening he
sought. With a quick slash the prince disemboweled him.

"Come," I snapped, dashing toward the airship. "We must rescue the
princess from that fiend."

He followed close at my heels, but we had not covered more than half the
distance to the airship when it began to rise. Then a mattork projectile
screamed past our heads, exploding in the shrubbery behind us, followed
by another and another. We took shelter behind the marble rim of the
fountain, and Taliboz's bombardment ceased.

The cannonading was suddenly resumed; but this time it came from the
castle behind us. The castle guards, evidently believing themselves
attacked by the Olban ship, were returning its fire with a vengeance.

Gadrimel and I both rose from our hiding place, and he shouted, "Don't
shoot! The princess is on board."

The firing ceased, but too late, for the airship, its motive mechanism
put out of commission by a mattork shell, was falling into the bay. I
watched breathlessly as it hurtled downward, expecting to see it plunge
beneath the water as my own had done the night before; but, to my
astonishment, two parachutes flew upward from the fore and aft decks and
effectively broke its fall. It alighted on an even keel with a great
splash that nearly capsized a small sailing vessel anchored near by.
Sinking no deeper than its deck railing, it rose again to ride the waves
as evenly as if it had been built especially for the purpose.

Washed shoreward, it drifted closer and closer to the small sailing
vessel while Gadrimel and I rushed down to the shore. Then, as we stood
helplessly watching, a dozen armed men swarmed into the sailing vessel
from the airship. The sailors instantly dived over the opposite side and
swam for shore. The last man to step into the captured ship was the
purple-clad Taliboz, carrying in his arms the limp form of Princess

"To the docks!" shouted Gadrimel, racing madly off to the right. "They
are raising the sails!"

As I hurried along, I saw the sails go up, billowing in the breeze, while
four of Taliboz's men at the prow hoisted the anchor.

Gadrimel and I rounded a bend in the wooded shore line, and a crescent of
docks to which several hundred ships were moored came into view. At the
same time, the vessel which Taliboz had captured, with all sails up and
anchor hoisted, veered about in the considerable breeze and made swiftly
for the open sea.

A party of soldiers from the castle had reached the dock ahead of us.
With them was a tall, broad-shouldered figure in the scarlet of royalty,
whose grizzled beard was cut off square below the chin, and whose regal
countenance was empurpled with anger.

"It's my father, Emperor Aardvan of Adonijar," said Gadrimel.

"Prepare six warships for pursuit, at once," I heard Aardvan shout.

A thousand men hurried to carry out his orders.

As we approached this commanding individual, the prince and I both bowed
low, with right hands extended palm downward, in the universal Zarovian
salute to royalty. I was struck by the contrast between this brawny,
bull-necked emperor and his mincing, effeminate son.

Aardvan, glaring down at us, roared, "Two brawling princelings, all
spattered with blood. What did you do? Scratch each other like a couple
of marmelot cubs? Who is your playmate, Gadrimel? Were those his men who
carried off the princess?"

"This is Torrogi Zinlo of Olba, Your Majesty," replied Gadrimel.

"The Imperial Crown Prince of Olba! What does he here?"

I explained briefly.

"We slew four men, sire," boasted Gadrimel.

"I've heard of this Taliboz," growled Aardvan. "A traitorous and
dangerous fellow. You are welcome to Adonijar, Prince Zinlo. Stay as long
as you like, and when you are ready to depart I'll send a guard of honor
to accompany you to your own country."

"With your majesty's permission," I said, "I should prefer to accompany
the fleet which is preparing to follow Taliboz."

"That will be as Gadrimel says," rumbled his father. "He will command the

"Come along," said Gadrimel. "Our private quarrel can wait. For the
present we have common interests, and your blade may be needed."

A gray-bearded naval officer came running up and saluted.

"What is it, Rogvoz?" inquired Emperor Aardvan.

"The fleet is ready, Your Majesty," replied the officer.

"Then let's be off," said Gadrimel.

We hurried aboard one of the six vessels, all of which swarmed with armed
men, accompanied by the gray-bearded officer. A few moments later, with
all sails set, the fleet plowed out of the harbor in pursuit of the small
fishing boat, which was now but a speck on the horizon.


The tiny sailboat in which my mortal enemy, Taliboz, was carrying off
the Princess Loralie, was making steadily northeast toward Olba with our
six battleships in hot pursuit, when suddenly I saw her come about and
head directly south.

Gadrimel, Admiral Rogvoz and I were watching together on the forward deck
of the flagship. The admiral stared for a minute through his long glass.
Then he carefully scanned the horizon toward the northeast.

"They have good reasons for turning," he announced excitedly. "A great
ordzook approaches from the north!"

He passed the glass to Gadrimel, who looked for a moment, then with an
exclamation of horror, passed it on to me.

When I had adjusted the glass to suit my vision, I saw a most fearsome
sight. Not more than a half mile behind the small sailboat, and gaining
on it rapidly, a gigantic and terrible head projected from the water,
swinging on a thick arched neck. The head alone was half as long as the
sailboat it pursued; and although the body was submerged, I could see, at
intervals of fifteen to twenty feet, sharp spines flashing intermittently
above the waves to a distance of fully a hundred feet behind the head.

"Do you think we can save them, Rogvoz?" asked Gadrimel.

"We can but try, Highness," replied the admiral. "It is doubtful." He
turned to the captain of the boat. "Order the mattork crews to start
firing on the ordzook, and signal all other captains to do likewise."

The captain shouted his orders to the waiting cannon crews, and a moment
later the din of these rapid-fire weapons was terrific. From the high
forward deck our signal man meanwhile busied himself semaphoring with two
huge disks, one red the other yellow. The other ships immediately opened
fire with their mattorks, adding to the deafening noise which our own
ship had started.

We were approaching closer to the marine monster now, as the path of the
fishing boat crossed our own. I could see the ordzook turn from time to
time, snapping at the stinging mattork projectiles as they struck the
spiny ridges of its undulating scaly body, which was a shimmering,
bluish-green in color. The head and neck were a brilliant shade of
yellow, except where neck and shoulders joined, for at this point a broad
band of scarlet formed a flaming ring--a danger signal which all creatures
might beware.

The speed of the mighty amphibian was impeded by its constant turning to
snap at its wounds, enabling the small boat containing Taliboz and
Loralie to gain on it gradually.

Suddenly changing its course, the monster wheeled and swam toward our
fleet. "To the right!" called Rogvoz. "Veer to the right!"

The ship on which we stood came about suddenly, her starboard rail for a
moment submerged beneath the waves. All hands grabbed for such fixed
objects as they could cling to.

Behind us trailed the fleet, and on came the ordzook, not stopping now to
snap futilely at the stinging projectiles, but bent on more deadly

With all the port mattorks trained on the monster, I thought to see it go
into a death struggle at any moment, but the projectiles seemed merely to
irritate it. We were so close in a few moments that I could see its
relatively tiny jet black eyes, set just above the corners of the great
gaping mouth which was filled with a formidable array of saw-edged teeth.

We passed it safely, as did the second, third, fourth and fifth boats,
but the last of the fleet, lagging behind because of improper
manipulation of its sails, could not escape.

The enormous yellow head reared upward for an instant on the arched,
spiny neck. Then, with formidable jaws distended, it struck downward at
the fore deck. The captain of the ship and three of his men standing with
him disappeared into the huge maw along with most of the deck on which
they stood.

Again and again the creature struck at the doomed craft, until sails,
masts, men, and most of the upper works were gone. Then it reared upward
in the water and came down with a tremendous crash on the middle of the
defenseless hulk. Broken in two by the terrific impact, both halves of
the ship sank almost instantly, and the fearful creature which had
wrought this destruction before our eyes plunged into the waves after
them. Nor did we see it more.

Once more we turned our attention to the boat containing Taliboz and the
princess. Hemmed off from Olba by our five vessels, they were now sailing
due south at a speed apparently equaling our own, for as time passed the
distance between us did not seem appreciably to alter.

Because of the presence of Princess Loralie on board the fishing boat we
were constrained to withhold our mattork fire, with which otherwise we
could soon have brought Taliboz to terms. He fired no shots, either,
except a few stray projectiles from the torks, which led us to believe
that he had not salvaged any mattorks from his wrecked airship.

As we sailed southward over the blue-gray waters of the Ropok Ocean, the
point of land on which the city of Adonijar is situated receded from
view, and in all directions showed only a cloud-lined sky meeting and
almost blending with the rolling waters.

But even this vast expanse of sky and sea was not a lonely place. It
teemed with life of a thousand varieties--with creatures of striking
beauty and of the most terrifying ugliness. Quite near our boat several
large white birds with red-tipped wings and long, sharply curved beaks
skimmed the water in search of food. Mighty flying reptiles, some with
wingspreads of more than sixty feet, soared high in the air, scanning the
water until they saw such prey as suited them; then, folding their webbed
wings, they plunged with terrific speed, to emerge with struggling prey
and leisurely flap away.

With the advent of sudden darkness, common to tropical and semi-tropical
Zarovia, bright searchlights flashed out from the mast-heads of the
entire fleet, and the boat we pursued was thus kept in sight.

While these lights were an absolute necessity in the blackness of the
moonless Zarovian night, they were also a nuisance, as they attracted to
the vessel countless droves of flying creatures, mostly reptilian; many
of them, blinded by the bright beams, flew against masts, sails or
rigging and fell, squawking, croaking or hissing to the deck. Some of
them, infuriated and only partly crippled or stunned, menaced our lives
until dispatched and tossed overboard.

After several hours I grew weary and retired for the night. Despite the
constantly repeated disturbances above deck and the frequent colliding of
the craft with some marine monster, I soon fell asleep.

I was awakened late the following morning by Prince Gadrimel's valet, who
insisted on ministering to my wants as became a prince of the blood
imperial. After a breakfast of stewed mushrooms and succulent grilled
fish, washed down with a bowl of steaming kova, I went on deck where I
found Gadrimel and Rogvoz in consultation.

"They swing gradually but surely toward the southwest, Highness," said
Rogvoz as I came up. "They are trying to circle us and sail once more
toward Olba."

"Is there no way we can prevent their doing this?" asked Gadrimel.

"We can only follow them so that their circle must be so large that they
will be cornered by land."

I took up the glass which he had put down in order to make some
calculations, and focused it on the ship we were pursuing. On the rear
deck I made out the slim figure of the princess, who also held a
telescope in her hand. She raised it a moment later, and I saw that it
was pointed at our ship. I waved my left arm.

Her reply was instantaneous, as her shapely white arm flashed above her
head. Then I saw Taliboz, glowering with rage, come up behind her, wrench
the glass from her grasp and with significant gestures order her forward.
With little head held high, she defied him, but he grasped her wrist and
dragged her away. As she disappeared from view, I lowered my glass, and
Gadrimel, who had evidently been watching me, said, "Beard of Thorth,
Prince Zinlo! Your usually serene and smiling countenance has suddenly
become as stormy and forbidding as the Azpok at change of seasons. What
have you seen?"

"Enough," I replied, "to make me long for the day when I can once more
meet Taliboz face-to-face, scarbo in hand!"

For five days we followed in tormenting nearness, sometimes close enough
to be within hailing distance, sometimes so far back that we feared to
lose them. It was late on the fifth day that a lookout at the masthead
above us suddenly shouted: "Land! Land!"

Instantly Gadrimel, Rogvoz and I rushed to the foredeck. Taliboz, now
hemmed in from all sides by our fleet, was doing the only thing left for
him to do, steering directly for a sheltered inlet. He rounded a curve in
the shore line, disappearing from view, and some time later, when we
sailed into the inlet, we saw his craft beached.

Rogvoz, who had the glass, exclaimed, "The fool! The utter fool! To
escape us he plunges into worse danger, dragging the princess with him.
We, at least, would not eat him."

"What do you mean?" demanded Gadrimel.

"Just now I saw the entire party disappear into the fern forest."

"But this danger you mention. What is it?"

"I had forgotten, Highness, that you are unfamiliar with this part of
Zarovia. This is the land of the terrible, flesh-eating cave-apes--huge
creatures, any one of which is said to be a match for a dozen men, but
with intelligence far greater than that of other apes. Some of the few
men who have landed here and had the good fortune to escape them say they
not only have a peculiar clucking language of their own but can also
speak patoa."

"We must catch up to them quickly," I cried.

The five ships were brought up as close to the sloping, sandy beach as
was safe, then boats were lowered. Soon a force of five hundred fighting
men stood on shore.

After a short consultation, it was decided that we should form a long
line, the men keeping about ten feet apart, and so enter the forest in
the direction which Taliboz had taken. This line, if kept unbroken, would
form a great net nearly a mile across in which the fugitives, we felt
sure, must inevitably be snared. Rogvoz took charge of the extreme left
end of the line, Gadrimel directed the center, and I had charge of the
extreme right end.

Tripping over clinging creepers, floundering through sticky morasses,
cutting our way through matted, tangled ropelike vines which hung
downward from the mighty branches of the tree-ferns, and constantly
slapping at the biting and stinging insect pests which abounded in these
lowlands, we soon found ourselves progressing with exasperating slowness.

Not only did the vegetable and insect world seek to detain us, there was
the menace of animals and reptiles as well. A giant whistling serpent--a
hideous creature fully forty feet in length, with long, upright ears and
sharp spines the full length of its back--struck down one of our men and
succeeded in killing two others before it was finally dispatched by the
bullets from a score of torks.

Soon the men had banded in groups of about twenty each for mutual

The group nearest us lost three men to a ramph, a great hairless bearlike
creature, whose scaly hide was a brilliant chlorophyl green above, fading
to a greenish yellow below. After they had slain it they fell to with
their scarbos, cutting it up and bearing portions of the meat with them,
for ramph steaks were considered the most delicious meat on Zarovia.

Some time near noon, my party was attacked by a marmelot, a vicious
feline fully as large as a terrestrial draft horse, its hairless, scaly
hide a mottled orange and black, its great saber tusks fully a foot in
length. Seven of our men were slain by this, one of the fiercest of the
Zarovian jungle creatures, before it was dispatched.

Brave men were these soldiers of Adonijar; in spite of the sudden death
which hovered over us in these tangled jungles, they cut their way
forward without grumbling or word of turning back.

Because they had stopped to cut up the ramph they had slain, we had lost
sight of the party next to us, and it was not until darkness suddenly
descended that I thought to communicate with them. I called out to them
then to halt, but received no reply. Again I called at the top of my
voice, but there was no answer.

"Remain here," I told my men, "and I will go and find them. They cannot
be far away."

Glad for a rest after their arduous march, the group quickly cleared a
place for a fire, and got out their kova and provisions to prepare their
evening meal.

I then set out in the direction which I felt sure would lead me to the
next group of warriors, flashing my light ahead of me. I must have
traveled for at least two miles, shouting from time to time without
receiving any reply, when suddenly I heard a quavering, mournful howl
from the darkness at my right.

Swinging my light around in the direction of the noise, I saw three huge,
slinking forms and three pairs of blazing eyes. They slightly resembled
terrestrial wolves, but were fully twice as large as any wolves that ever
lived on Earth. Their scaly hides were slate gray in color, and each had
a ruff of long, sharp spines which stood out around the neck like a
spiked collar. Upon describing them later, I learned that they were
awoos--so called, no doubt, because of their doleful, nerve-racking cries.

Swinging my tork into line, I instantly brought down the foremost beast,
whereupon the others crouched, disappearing from view. Howl after howl
resounded from all directions. They began to close in on me.

I whirled this way and that, and where the light was caught by the
glowing eyes of the wary creatures, my tork spat death, but I soon saw
that it was a hopeless fight. It seemed that as soon as I killed or
wounded one creature, two more stepped in to take its place.

There was nothing left for me to do but to climb into the branches above
me, hoping they would be unable to follow. Accordingly I swarmed up one
of the trailing, rope-like vines which hung from the mighty fronds of a
tree-fern fully sixty feet above my head, and soon found myself in a huge
leaf crown which afforded a temporary resting place.

The howling chorus below was terrible to hear. The pack, now more than a
hundred in number, milled about the base of the tree while the more
impatient of the creatures leaped up, snapping and snarling. Time and
again I used my tork, littering the ground with their carcasses, but the
dead brutes were instantly replaced by others.

Wondering how long this sort of thing would last, I was slipping a fresh
clip of gas and one of projectiles into my weapon when I heard a rustle
of the leaves above me. Glancing upward, I beheld a huge gorilla-like
face surmounting a mighty chest fully three feet across. Then a great
hairy hand descended on my head with terrific force, and I lost


When I had once more become aware of my surroundings, I was lying in
semi-darkness on a cold stone floor. The top of my head was bruised and
tender, and my neck so lame that a sharp twinge of pain shot through it
each time I turned my head to look about. The belt, to which my tork and
scarbo had been fastened, was gone.

I sat up, and my brain swam dizzily for a moment. My vision cleared
presently, and I saw that the source of the light which but faintly
illuminated the spot I occupied was a jagged opening--evidently the mouth
of a huge cave.

Quite close to me on my left, I became aware that some creature was
breathing heavily, apparently in sleep. Turning, I beheld the recumbent
form of a gigantic hairy female--head pillowed on arm, and knees drawn up
as if for warmth, sleeping not four feet from me.

The face was neither ape nor human, but partook of the characteristics of
both. The form, slender of waist, full-breasted and broad-hipped, was
more like that of a human female than a she-ape, though covered with
short, reddish-brown hair. The limbs were not ungraceful, but the toes
were long and evidently prehensile. I judged that the creature, when
standing erect, must be at least eight feet in height and so powerfully
muscled as to be a formidable antagonist.

Stealthily I stood erect, then tiptoed toward the mouth of the cave. I
had not taken more than a dozen steps when something tripped me and I
fell headlong to the jagged floor. At the same time there came the sound
of a fearful growl behind me.

Before I could scramble to my feet I was pounced upon from behind and
jerked erect. Then, with my arms pinioned behind me by two powerful hairy
hands, I was marched out into the sunlight. Looking up, to the
considerable inconvenience of my injured neck, I saw that my captor was
the big female who had been sleeping so peacefully a moment before. She
had been awakened by a thin but exceedingly tough twisted string of gut,
tied to my ankle and her wrist.

We were high up on a rugged hillside which seemed honeycombed with caves.
In the valley far below us, I saw the waving fronds of huge tree-ferns
above the tangled mass of jungle vegetation.

"So, food-man, you would escape Chixa, and thus have Chixa slain," said
my captor in a peculiar, clucking patoa.

"It is high time you were taken before Rorg. Perhaps he is hungry."

"Release my wrists," I replied, "and I'll be glad to go with you before
Rorg. Who is he, and what has his hunger to do with me?"

"Rorg is the king, the Rogo of the Cave-Apes." The tall female released
my wrists and stepped up beside me, taking a firm grip on my right arm.
"If he is hungry he may want to eat you."

"What makes you think I will be good to eat?" I asked.

"I have tasted the flesh of many food-men, and most of it is good, though
it is sometimes too salty. Are you very salty?"

"Very. I'm afraid your ruler would be displeased."

"If you are very salty he will be greatly pleased," said Chixa. "He likes
salty food-men, though I do not."

About the furry waist of my captor there was a string like the one bound
to my ankle. Swinging from this string on the side opposite me, by a
short hook in the handle, was a weapon I greatly coveted.

It was a club of hard wood about three feet in length, shaped something
like the blade of an oar, but thicker and heavier, and pointed at the
end. Set in the two edges of this club were small bits of sharp flint
which gave it a formidable saw-like appearance. It was heavy enough to
crush a skull or break a limb, and sharp enough to lacerate the toughest
muscle. A large flint knife also swung between her breasts from a cord
around her neck.

The cave-ape walking beside me was in some ways like a woman, and because
of that faint similarity I hesitated for a moment to carry out the plan
which had come to me. But life has ever been dear to me--even though I
love adventure so greatly that I have risked death in many terrible forms
on three planets--so my hesitation was but momentary.

Suddenly turning with my right arm bent at the elbow, I put all my weight
in a blow that landed in the furry solar plexus. With a terrible
sound--half scream, half roar--my tall captor clasped her hands to her
abdomen and bent over. As she did so I pivoted the other way with a left
to the point of her jaw, and she fell unconscious at my feet.

Quickly slipping the knife cord from around her neck, I sawed the gut
tether from my ankle. Then I seized the club which dangled from her belt,
and looked about me for the most likely avenue of escape.

To my surprise and horror, I saw that there was none, for at the sound of
Chixa's voice, the caves had suddenly spewed forth not less than a
thousand of these gigantic creatures, all armed as I now was, with flint
knives and sawedged clubs. The mature females varied in height from seven
to nine feet and the males from ten to twelve.

Those nearest me had spied me as I got to my feet, and now approached
menacingly from all sides with bared fangs and low, throaty growls--the
males displaying long, downcurving tusks which greatly increased their
ferocious appearance.

With the club held swordlike in my right hand, and the flint knife
gripped in my left, I leaped for a great leaning boulder, one side of
which could afford me protection from above and behind.

A huge tusked male sprang forward to bar my progress, and swung his
saw-edged club in a terrific blow. He was fully eleven feet in height,
and towering above me as he did, offered no opportunity for quick club

There was, however, a chance to use the knife, which I did without
compunction. Leaping beneath his swinging arms, I buried it in the right
side of his abdomen and ripped him across the belly. While he swayed
drunkenly, I completed my rush to the temporary protection of the
boulder, and as I turned with my back against it to meet the attack of
the others, I saw him topple to the ground.

A moment later I was confronted by a semicircle of growling, roaring
cave-apes, swinging their clubs menacingly, but a little different about
approaching me too closely--probably because of what had happened to their
companion. Mixed with the growling and roaring I could distinctly hear
the patoan words "kill" and "meat," which sounded ominous enough.

The great tusked males seemed to be working themselves into a frenzy of
fury as they came closer and closer--evidently their primitive way of
attempting to overcome their fear of me.

Presently one leaped out ahead of the closing line, and swung his club
for my head with a terrific downward, twohanded stroke. I stepped to the
left, and forward, and as his club was shattered on the stone where I had
been standing, the flinty edge of my own bit deeply into his cervical
vertebrae. He fell on his face without a sound.

I sprang to a new position, brandishing my club menacingly, and the line
of attackers moved back a little.

"Kill! Kill!" The word was repeated constantly now as the savage
semicircle closed in once more.

"Come and be killed!" I replied.

"You will be next to die, food-man," roared a huge male who stood near
the center of the line, "for Urg is about to kill you." Urg stood at
least twelve feet in height, a head taller than the other males in the
front line, and his great downcurving tusks, fully seven inches in
length, gave him a most ferocious aspect.

He seemed about to spring forward, and I had braced myself for his
attack, when there was a sudden commotion behind him. The milling crowd
of apes drew back respectfully to make way for a huge male, taller and
heavier even than Urg.

Just behind him walked two young females, one waving a fern frond to keep
annoying insects away from him, while the other carried a huge gourd-like
fungus with a bottle neck and a bowl made from a split sporepod. Behind
these two walked more ape-maidens, some carrying fresh meat, while others
bore bowls heaped high with fragments of edible fungi or sporepods,
cracked, and ready for eating.

Coming up behind Urg, the newcomer carelessly pushed him aside and stood
in the front line, surveying me with apparent boredom. At this, Urg gave
a low growl, whereupon the larger ape smote him in the mouth.

"Growl again at Rorg, and you will feel the weight of his club."

"I did not know it was Rorg who pushed me," replied Urg.

"Why do you hesitate before this little food-man?" asked Rorg. "Do you
fear him?"

"Of course not," answered Urg. "I was playing with him. I was about to
kill him when you came up."

"I believe you fear him," continued Rorg. "I notice he slew your brother,
Arg, who was as good a fighter as you. This is unusual for a food-man. He
must be a mighty warrior among his people. It shall be for Rorg,
mightiest of the cave-apes, to slay him."

"It is my right to kill him," growled Urg, "for he slew my brother."

"He will be killed when and how I ordain, for I am king." He swung on me
once more. "Who are you, food-man," he asked, "and how did you slay my

"I am Zinlo," I replied, "and I slew your people with the weapons of
Chixa which I took from her."

"How could you take Chixa's weapons from her?" asked Rorg incredulously.
"Why, she is ten times as strong as you. I do not believe it. Chixa gave
you her weapons, so Chixa shall be slain."

"Chixa lies unconscious on the ground, Rorg," clucked a female. "This
food-man must have taken her weapons by force."

"Chixa is feigning and shall be slain," said Rorg. "Such a thing would
not be possible. Go and slay her, Urg."

All this time I had been standing guardedly, saying nothing; but when it
became apparent that the female ape was about to be killed through no
fault of her own, but because of something I had done, I felt a wave of
pity for her. Brute and man-eater though she was, she had been
considerate of me. After all, she was something like a woman.

"Rorg," I said, "I did not lie about taking her weapons from her, and I
can prove it."


"By taking the weapons from your strongest warrior in the same manner."

"Can you take Urg's weapons from him?" asked Rorg.

"Of course."

"Then you must be very strong or very clever. I like clever food-men.
Sometimes I keep them for a long while when they are exceedingly clever.
When they fail to amuse me they die. Let me see you take Urg's weapons,
and I will spare your life for today, at least."

"But what of Chixa?"

"I will spare her life, also."

"Good. I will need plenty of room, and I demand your promise that I will
not be attacked by any one other than Urg."

"You will have plenty of room, and you have my word that you will not be
attacked or interfered with," said Rorg.

"Move back, then, all of you," I said, "until I tell you to stop."

The crowd drew back until the front line was a hundred feet from the rock
in all directions.

"That is enough. Now, Urg, come here and I will take your weapons. I will
go unarmed, and you must not have your weapons in your hands. You will
walk beside me as if I were your prisoner fastened to a tether." With
this I dropped weapons to the ground.

"It is a trick," growled Urg, but at Rorg's command he hung his flint
knife around his neck, and hooked his club in the string around his
waist. As the brute lumbered up beside me, and I saw what a mighty tower
of strength he was, I must confess that I felt considerable doubt about
being able to knock him out.

He strode along beside me, his great arms swinging at his sides. I timed
my swing for the instant when the great paw nearest me was back, leaving
the abdomen unguarded. Then I pivoted, landing my right fist in his solar
plexus--all the force I could muster behind it.

With a grunt of surprise, he doubled forward as Chixa had done; but
before I could swing for his jaw, he stood erect once more and reached
for his club. His chin, by this time, was so high in the air that I could
not reach it, and he had his plexus covered by his great forearm; there
was nothing I could do with my fists. His shins; however, were exposed; I
kicked the right one with my sandaled foot.

Uttering a howl of pain, he raised his foot and launched it at me,
whereupon I grasped it with both hands, and twisting it with a sudden
jerk that caused the bones to creak, turned his toes downward and his
heel upward at the same time. This turned him completely around, and a
quick push sent him on his face.

Before he could scramble erect, I leaped on his back, planting a heavy
blow just beneath his ear. He shook himself in an effort to dislodge me,
but I grasped one of his tusks with my left hand, and with my legs
wrapped around him, continued to hammer him behind the furry ear.

Standing erect, he bellowed angrily, and releasing his grip on his club,
grasped my left arm in his huge right hand. Wrenching my hand away from
his tusk, he jerked me forward over his left shoulder and threw me to the
ground fully twenty feet away. Fortunately for me, I alighted on my feet,
and although I stumbled and fell, was unhurt.

I saw Urg coming toward me, but he reeled drunkenly.

Quickly springing to my feet, I leaped forward, whereupon he jerked his
club from his belt and made a wild swing for my head. As his momentum
bent him forward, I dodged, and leaping in, planted a blow in his right
eye. He straightened, and I struck him in the solar plexus once more.

This time he doubled up, exposing his jaw, on which I planted a crashing
right hook. Once more he stood erect, tottering unsteadily, and once more
I doubled him up with a plexus blow, getting in a left to the jaw. He
fell on his face as I sprang out of his way, finishing him with a blow
behind the ear.

I slipped the knife cord from around his neck, and picked up the great
saw-edged club which he had dropped. Then I leaped upon his back, and
with one foot on his neck, brandished the weapons aloft, while a great
howl went up from the mob around me.

From his place in the center of the line, Rorg walked slowly toward me,
attended only by the female with the fern frond. I stepped down from the
prostrate body of Urg as he approached, and slung the knife about my
neck, also hooking the club in my belt. "Are you convinced?" I asked.

"I am convinced," replied Rorg. "You are clever enough to be kept alive
for a while, and Chixa shall be spared."

It was then I noticed a gold bangle about Rorg's wrist. I saw that it was
stamped with the coat of arms of Taliboz, and it followed that this must
have belonged to one of his retainers.

"Where did you get the man who wore that bangle?" I asked.

"My warriors captured him with twelve other food-men, and a food-woman.
We have eaten them all, except one man who is very clever, and the woman,
who is very beautiful."

"Do you know the name of this clever food-man?" I asked.

"His servants called him Lord Taliboz," was the reply.

"And the food-woman?"

"A royal princess, fit only for royalty. I intend to wed her at the
beginning of the next endir. Although I should like to wed her sooner, I
will not depart from the customs and traditions of my forefathers, who
married but one wife at a time and her at the beginning of each endir,
thus taking but ten mates a year. I had intended Chixa for my next wife,
but now she will have to wait for another endir."

"Is it customary for cave-apes to mate with food-people?"

"It is not," replied Rorg, "but we have no old law against it. I make all
the new laws, and I have decreed that, hereafter, all Rogos of the
Cave-Apes may marry food-women if they choose to do so."

"I have a great curiosity to see this food-man who is so clever and this
beautiful food-woman," I said.

"You shall see them," replied Rorg. "Come with me. I want you to do some
more clever tricks, anyway, to amuse my wives and children."

As I strolled away with Rorg I saw Urg stir slightly, then roll over and
sit up, after which he tenderly felt his bruised jaw and the battered
spot behind his ear.


Rorg and I climbed high up the mountainside while his female attendants
and the mob of cave-apes which had been so bent on killing me scrambled
after us.

We were ascending the tallest peak of a chain of mountains which extended
toward the north and south, their rugged slopes partly concealed by the
various strata of gray clouds which floated lazily westward. And these
mountains, as far as I could see, swarmed with cave-apes.

As we mounted steadily upward we passed many ape families, some of which
were breakfasting while others appeared to be starting out on their
morning quest for food. Tiny helpless infant apes were at their mothers'
breasts. Spindle-legged, round-bellied ape children played about on the
rocky slopes, or gnawed at bones, scraps of meat, edible fungi, and

All of them, from babes to adults, watched me with their beady black eyes
as I passed, but none made a hostile move or sound, evidently because of
the awesome presence of Rorg.

At length we climbed over the rim of what had once been an active
volcanic crater. It was shallow, filled with the litter of centuries. In
the center a volcanic cone projected upward, and toward this we made our
way across the debris-strewn crater floor. The walls of the crater, I
noticed, were honeycombed with caves.

Enormous male apes, some of them nearly as large as Rorg, patrolled the
rim of the crater, their saw-edged clubs swinging in their hairy paws.
With these alert sentries always on duty, it was plain that escape from
the crater would be most difficult and dangerous.

As we drew near to the mouth of the great central cave a number of
females and young ones of assorted ages and sizes came out.

"These are my wives and children," said Rorg. "If you are as clever as I
think you are, you will find a way to amuse them."

"I will find a way," I promised, "but first let me see this clever
food-man and beautiful food-woman of whom you have told me."

"I will send for them at once."

Searching in the debris near the cave mouth, I picked up two well-dried
finger bones which looked exactly alike. Palming one and displaying the
other as I stood with my face to the audience and my back to the wall of
the volcanic cone, I proceeded to perform some very simple tricks, such
as making a finger bone disappear from my right hand--then seemingly
plucking the same finger bone out of my ear with my left. I even appeared
to remove six finger bones, one after another, from the ear of one of
Rorg's half-grown male children.

My audience seemed intensely interested in what I was doing, but I
noticed that no matter what tricks I performed, not one of them laughed.
Then I remembered that, to them, I was actually doing the things I seemed
to do.

Before I had performed many tricks I saw two figures coming toward me,
each tethered by the ankle to the wrist of an enormous she-ape.
Instantly, I recognized the purple-clad, black-bearded Taliboz, and the
slender, scarlet-draped figure of Loralie.

Rorg, who had seated himself on a low boulder with his female attendants
behind him, ordered Loralie to a place on his right and Taliboz on his

With right hand extended palm downward, I bowed low to the princess in
the customary salute to royalty, but she did not respond, nor even give
any indication that she had seen me. Instead, with a haughty toss of her
pretty little head, she sat down at Rorg's right and, looking across at
Taliboz, said something in a low voice which I could not quite catch. He
smiled unpleasantly at me.

Puzzled at this singular and inexplicable show of dislike on the part of
the princess, I mechanically went through several more tricks from the
book of magic--then pocketed my bones and bowed.

"You are indeed clever, food-man," said Rorg. "You are even more clever
than Taliboz. To pluck six bones from the ear of Vork! I will not eat
you today. You may go now, without tether or guard, but do not attempt to
pass the crater rim or you will die."

I walked away with the black beady eyes of the cave-apes staring after me
and the sardonic grin of Taliboz following me. But Princess Loralie
deliberately looked in another direction.

As I wandered about the crater I pondered the strange conduct of the
princess. What could I have done--or what could Taliboz have told her--to
arouse her anger and disdain to such a degree that she showed it even
when we were both in deadly peril and should have united forces against a
common enemy?

I was half oblivious of my surroundings until a hairy paw was laid
heavily on my shoulder. Quickly whirling, I faced a huge ape about eleven
feet in height whose scarred fur was spotted with gray, attesting his
considerable age.

"I am Graak," he said. "Rorg sent me to feed you. I have food in my cave.

The old warrior turned and I followed him across the crater past many ape
families, who looked at me curiously, but manifested no special
hostility. Presently we came to a rather small cave, the floor of which
was littered with old and malodorous gnawed bones. From the partly
devoured body of a huge ptang, or giant sloth with sharp upcurved claws,
he carved a slice of raw meat which he handed me.

"I slew the ptang this morning," he said, "so it is fresh and good."

Casting about for fuel, I found a pile of dried fern fronds near the
entrance. After powdering a quantity of them, I at length succeeded in
igniting them by striking my flint knife against one of the buckles of my
leather trappings, and soon had a small cooking fire crackling. Over
this I held my ptang steak impaled on a fern frond.

Graak watched me with evident wonder. "You are indeed a sorcerer."

For three days and nights I ate the food which Graak brought me and slept
in his cave. Although his manner was surly, he was never openly hostile.
But all my attempts at cultivating his friendship failed.

I spend most of my daylight hours searching for the cave in which the
princess was confined, but it was not until the morning of the fourth day
that I found her, seated in the doorway of a cave quite near my own. She
must have been purposely avoiding me.

I swallowed my injured pride, and stepping before her, bowed with right
hand extended, palm downward. "Prince Zinlo craves a word with Her
Highness, Princess Loralie."

She did not answer, but turning her head away as if she had not heard me,
addressed something to her huge female guardian.

Without moving, I repeated my request.

She rose with flashing eyes. "Begone!" There was withering scorn in the
look she gave me. "Annoy me further and I will call the apes and have you
driven away."

I bowed and departed. There was nothing else left for me to do.

Just before I reached Graak's cave, I came face-to-face with Taliboz,
walking with his huge female guard. He grinned maliciously and said,
"Tomorrow is the first day of the fourth endir."

"Any fool knows that," I retorted.

"Perhaps any fool also knows that on the first day of each endir, Rorg
takes a mate. And that if food-men are available, a food-man is served at
the wedding feast." As I stared at him, he added, "Rorg has just promised
me that I shall not be eaten tomorrow."

I sat down before Graak's smelly cave. On the morrow, Rorg was to take
Princess Loralie as his mate, and there were but two food-men held
prisoner by the cave-apes--Taliboz and myself.

As we breakfasted on fungi and sporepods the following day, Graak was
more talkative than he had yet been. "Today is Rorg's mating day with the
food-woman--if he lives," he said.

"What do you mean?"

"Some of our bravest warriors do not want our race to degenerate by
intermarriage with weaklings. There has been much talk, and I believe
Rorg will be challenged."

"Who will challenge the king?"

"It is the privilege of any warrior to challenge the Rogo to a duel to
the death on the mating-day. The warrior who succeeds in killing him
becomes Rogo in his stead, and takes his prospective bride as well as his
other wives, children and possessions."

"But suppose one of your warriors who does not believe as Rorg believes
slays him. What will then become of the food-woman?"

"She will be eaten, and Chixa, who was cheated of her turn, will be taken
as a mate."

As Graak and I finished our meal, I noticed that the crater was beginning
to fill with apes. Young and old, male and female, they came at first in
scattered family groups, but later in great droves, until the huge pit
was literally seething with moving brown figures.

Presently a tall, yellow-tusked male shouldered his way through the crowd
and stopped at the door of our cave.

"Rorg commands the presence of Zinlo, the food-man," he said.

As I trailed the huge ape through the jostling throng, I tried to
formulate some plan of action by which the princess might be saved.
Although I resented her attitude toward me, I felt the urge to fight in
her defense.

We came at length to the mouth of Rorg's lair in the great central cone.
Passing through the deserted cave, dimly illuminated by reflected light
from the exterior, we stepped into a narrow runway which slanted upward
in a long curving spiral.

As we progressed steadily upward, the way grew so dark that I was forced
to hold out both hands to avoid running against the walls. Presently it
became lighter once more, and in a few moments we emerged onto the flat,
narrow top of the cone.

Squatting in a semicircle near one edge of the platform were a dozen
cave-ape warriors. At one end of the semicircle I recognized Urg, the
huge ape I had disarmed, leaning on his great, saw-edged club and looking
as belligerent as before.

Near the rim just opposite this ring of warriors stood Taliboz and
Princess Loralie. Although their huge female guards stood behind them, I
noticed that their tethers had been removed. The traitorous Olban noble
favored me with a leer as I emerged from the runway, but the princess
would not so much as notice my coming.

In the very center stood Rorg, evidently awaiting my arrival as he looked
down at the vast sea of upturned faces in the crater. I was placed with
my back to the twelve warriors.

As soon as I had taken my position, Rorg held his sawedged club aloft.
Instantly the vast murmur of voices from below was stilled.

"Your Rogo takes a mate," he bellowed, his deep tones reverberating from
the surrounding crater walls. Then he leaped high in the air, brandishing
his saw-edged club until the air sang and whistled through its teeth.
Alighting with a loud smack of his leathery feet on the hard rock, so
that he faced in a direction opposite to that in which he had previously
looked, he roared once more, "Your Rogo takes a mate." Leaping, whirling,
and alighting as he had done before, he made his announcement in four
directions so that all might hear.

He then hurled his club high above his head, caught it deftly as it fell.
"Who will fight Rorg for his bride? Who will fight Rorg for his kingdom?
Speak now, or for another endir, keep silence."

There was a deep grumbling growl behind me, and, turning, I beheld Urg,
fangs bared, stepping from his place at the end of the line, whirling his
great club. "I will fight Rorg," he shouted in a voice as deep as that of
the king-ape.

Rorg appeared surprised--annoyed. For a moment he stood motionless,
glowering at his challenger. Then, with a bellow of rage, his club held
high in one huge paw and his flint knife gripped in the other, he leaped
to the attack.

The club descended in a deadly, whistling arc, but did not connect, for
with cat-like quickness Urg leaped to one side and struck back. His club
bit deep into Rorg's left shoulder, eliciting a roar of pain and rage
from the Rogo, who instantly swung for his legs.

Urg sprang back, but not far enough. The flint-toothed point raked one
knee, and blood spurted forth. As he danced about the larger ape, looking
for another opening, he limped, and the limp grew more pronounced as the
fight progressed.

Again and again Rorg rushed in. How Urg succeeded in evading those
rushes, lame as he was, I was unable to understand. Presently his leg
became useless, dangling, and he was forced to hop on one foot.

Over the brutal face of Rorg there crept a look of triumph. Deliberately,
now, he advanced toward his opponent, forcing him backward until he stood
on the very brink of the plateau.

He leaped in, and as Urg swung a slashing blow for his neck, he ducked,
at the same time whirling his club in a low, horizontal arc. It caught
the challenger halfway between knee and ankle; there was a snap of
severed bones, and Urg toppled backward to alight on his head on the
rocks seventy-five feet below.

Scarcely had he struck ere the milling horde beneath rushed to the spot,
brandishing their flint knives. In less time than it takes to tell, the
body had been dismembered, and a snarling group of apes was fighting over
the fragments.

Again Rorg leaped in the air, bellowing forth his deep-voiced challenge.
Although there were low growls from the ape-warriors standing behind me,
none answered the challenge.

"Who will fight Rorg for his bride and his kingdom?" The final challenge
was flung out by the victorious king-ape as he looked triumphantly about
him. "Speak now, or..."

"I'll fight you, Rorg," I said, drawing club and knife and stepping in
front of the giant. As I did so I caught a fleeting glimpse of Taliboz
and Loralie. On the face of the traitor was pleased anticipation. The
eyes of the princess showed surprise, and something more. Incredible as
it appeared from her recent actions, it was undoubtedly concern for my

But these were only fleeting impressions.

Rorg stared incredulously down at me for a moment, evidently unable to
believe that I had actually challenged the king of the cave-apes. Then he
struck at me quickly, but not exerting his full strength, as if I were
some insect annoying him.

Instinctively I used my club as if it had been a sword--parrying the blow
with ease and countering with a thrust which bit into his furry abdomen,
drawing blood and eliciting a grunt of rage and pain.

Although the club was so constructed that I could not hope to inflict a
mortal wound by thrusting the sharp flint teeth with which it was armed,
it could and did cause considerable pain and annoyance. As the cave-ape
system of fighting was merely that of striking and dodging. I hoped to
offset my adversary's enormous advantage of strength and reach by
employing the technique of a swordsman.

With an angry bellow, Rorg swung a terrific blow for my legs. Again I
parried, and countered with a neck cut which would probably have
terminated the engagement in my favor had it not been blocked by one of
his huge tusks. The tusk snapped off and clattered to the rock; but as a
result, the club wounded him only slightly, adding to his fury.

Foaming at the mouth and gnashing his teeth in his rage, the king-ape
beset me with a rain of blows that would have been irresistible to any
but a trained swordsman. Splinters and bits of broken flint flew from our
clubs as time and again I parried his terrific blows.

After each blow I countered with a cut or thrust, and soon my opponent
was bleeding from head to foot; yet his strength and quickness seemed
rather to increase with each fresh wound. Had he possessed a swordsman's
training, I verily believe that ape would have been invincible on his own
planet or any other.

Presently I succeeded in raking him across the forehead with the point of
my weapon, so that the blood ran down in his eyes, half blinding him. But
he wiped the blood away with the back of one huge paw and countered with
a blow, the force of which numbed my wrist and splintered my club into

I leaped back, then hurled the club handle straight for the great,
snarling mouth as he bounded forward to finish me. It struck him in the
front teeth, breaking off several and momentarily bewildering him.

In that moment I leaped, and with the fingers of my left hand entwined in
the wiry hair of his chest and my legs gripping his waist, I buried my
flint knife again and again in his brawny neck. Blood spurted from his
pulsing jugular as he endeavored to shake me off, to reach me with his
sharp fangs, and to gore me with his single remaining tusk. But his
mighty strength was spent--his lifeblood draining.

A quiver shook the giant frame and like some tall tree of the forest
felled by the woodman's axe, he toppled backward, crashing to the ground.

Leaping quickly to my feet, I seized the club of the fallen ape-monarch
and, brandishing it aloft, said, "Rorg is dead, and Zinlo is king. Who
will fight Zinlo? Who will be next to die?"

From the throats of several of the ape-warriors in the semicircle from
which Urg had come, came low growls, but none advanced, and the growls
subsided as I singled out in turn with my gaze each of the truculent ones
who had voiced them.

Far below me, the mob of apes was clamoring, "Meat! We want our meat!"

I knew that, spent as I was, the enormous body of Rorg was more than I
could raise aloft and hurl to the mob below, so I had recourse to an old
wrestling trick. Seizing the limp right arm of the fallen king-ape, I
dragged the body to the edge of the cliff. Then, bringing the arm over my
shoulder in an application of the principle of the lever, I heaved the
remains of Rorg over my head.

A moment later the milling beasts below were tearing the carcass to
pieces, snarling and snapping over their feast. This custom, I afterward
learned, had been established in consequence of the belief that the flesh
of a strong, brave individual would confer strength and bravery on the
one who devoured it.

Again I brandished my club aloft, shouting, "Who will fight Zinlo for his
kingdom? Speak now, or keep silence for another endir."

This time I heard not even a single growl from the warriors on the cone

An old warrior who had lost both tusks, an ear, and several of his
fingers, stepped from the ranks and advanced to the cliff edge. "Rorg is
dead," he announced. "Farewell to Rorg."

Following his words, a peculiar, quavering cry went up from the throats
of the thousands of apes congregated in the crater, as well as from those
on the plateau. So weird and mournful did it sound that I shivered

As the last plaintive notes died away, the old warrior shouted, "Zinlo is
king. Hail, Zinlo!"

A deafening din followed as the ape-horde, brandishing knives and clubs
aloft and clattering them together, cried, "Hail, Zinlo!"

I turned in triumph toward the spot where Taliboz and Loralie had been
seated, intending to assure the princess that it would not be necessary
now for her to marry the king of the cave-apes. To my surprise, I saw
that both of them had disappeared. The two huge females who had been
guarding them sat, side by side, slumped against a large boulder, their
chins sunk forward on their hairy chests.

Bounding forward I seized one of the she-apes by the shoulder and shook
her, shouting, "Where are your prisoners?"

Her limp body sagged forward, falling on the ground. The second female,
when shaken, showed some signs of returning consciousness.

"What happened?" I asked. "Where are your prisoners?"

Weakly she pointed to a needlelike glass sliver embedded in her arm.
Extracting it, I instantly recognized it for a tork projectile of the
type which temporarily paralyzes its victim. In the arm of the other, a
similar projectile was embedded.

Although he had been disarmed by the apes, it was evident that Taliboz
had managed to keep his ammunition belt, and that during the excitement
of my fight with Rorg, he had found the opportunity to paralyze the two
female guards and slip away with the princess.

That she had gone with him willingly I could not doubt, for she had made
no outcry, and her previous treatment of me had led me to believe that
she would sooner have accepted Rorg for a mate than me.

I turned away, the sweetness of victory grown bitter in my mouth. I was
about to enter the runway which led to the cave below, when a small,
glittering object attracted my attention. Stooping, I picked it up and
examined it minutely for a moment. Then a great light dawned on me.


HURRYING DOWN the runway into the great cave below, I was about to rush
out into the daylight to examine the small object I had found, when a
long, muscular arm suddenly went about my shoulders, my head was crushed
against a soft, furry breast, and a pair of pendulous lips caressed my

With the heel of my hand I pushed the face of a she-ape from mine and
broke her embrace. Surprised, I recognized Chixa. She advanced toward me
again, arms outstretched, but I motioned her off.

"Stand back," I warned her. "What do you mean by this familiarity?"

"But I am your mate," replied Chixa. "You have slain Rorg and the other
she has run away. Rorg chose me for his mate before the food-woman came."

"Rorg chose his own mates, and I'll choose mine," I retorted. "What's
this you say about the other she running away?"

The food-man and she came down the runway together. I let them escape. I
did not want the food-woman to take my place."

"But how could they escape when the place is surrounded?"

"The food-man knew of the inner passageway," replied Chixa. "I showed him
where it was...Am I not as comely as the other shes of my people?"

"No doubt you are the most comely, Chixa, but I will never mate with a
cave-ape. You say this she went willingly with the food-man?"

"She did. I think they will be mates."

"Chixa," I said, walking to the entrance and examining the small
glittering object that I had picked up, "you have lied to me."

"I lied," admitted Chixa, not one whit abashed, "but how do you know? You
must be a sorcerer, as Graak said."

"I know by this small, broken glass needle, one end of which is stained
with blood," I replied. "Call it magic, if you like, but this needle
tells me that the she was carried away by the food-man."

"It is even as you say," conceded Chixa. "She was unconscious from the
magic of the food-man, and her arm was bleeding."

"Show me the entrance to the inner passageway," I commanded.

Chixa sulked, and crouched in a corner.

"Show me the entrance," I said again, "or I will kill you by magic and
feed you to the crowd outside."

Evidently the threat to kill her by magic--the fear of the unknown--was
more potent than any ordinary death threat could possibly have been, for
she rose, and, walking to the back of the cave, heaved a great slab of
rock to one side, disclosing the dark mouth of a runway.

"It was this way they went," she said, "but you will never find them. By
this time they will have taken trails where none but our greatest
trackers could scent them out.

"Who is your best tracker?"

"Graak is the greatest of them all."

"Go instantly," I commanded, "and bring Graak to me. See that my command
is carried out at once, or my magic will follow and slay you."

"I go," she responded fearfully, and hurried from the cave.

I fidgeted impatiently until she returned with Graak, who unhesitatingly
offered to obey his new Rogo. Stooping, he entered the passageway. I
hurried after him with my hands outstretched in the inky blackness in
front of me to prevent dashing myself against the curving walls. We must
have gone two miles in this manner before twilight loomed ahead, followed
by daylight, and we emerged in the open air on a narrow shelf of rock
against which the topmost fronds of a giant tree fern brushed. Around and
beyond this mighty fern stretched a forest of its fellows, coming up to
the very edge of the mountains that held the homes of the cave-apes.

Graak sniffed the air for a moment, then leaped for the nearest fern
frond, which sagged beneath his weight as he caught it with both hands.
His great body swung precariously a full seventy feet above the ground as
he went up the slanting frond, hand over hand, until he reached the
trunk. After sniffing at this for a moment, he descended, feet first, to
the ground.

I followed his example, making much more work of it than he, and
descending so slowly that he stamped impatiently before I reached the
ground. I wondered how Taliboz had been able to negotiate this route with
his inert burden until I noticed a long, slender cord dangling from the
end of one of the fern fronds, its lower end about ten feet from the
ground. The traitorous noble had evidently lowered Loralie by means of
this cord to within reach of the ground, where he had evidently cut her
loose and carried her off.

While Graak fidgeted impatiently, I leaped and caught the end of the
cord. I called him to help me, and together we pulled until the frond
broke off and came crashing to the ground. With my flint knife I quickly
cut the cord from the branch and, coiling it about my body, told Graak to
proceed. Feeling that we might have a journey ahead of us, I thought of
several ways in which the cord might be useful.

We had not gone more than a mile in the fern forest when the cave-ape
pointed to a set of smaller footprints beside Taliboz's and said, "The
she walked from here."

Recovering at this point from the paralysis induced by the tork
projectile, she had gone on with her abductor, willingly or not.

Although the footprints led at first toward the west, they presently
began to turn southwest, toward the coast.

For many hours we followed the trail without food or drink; then Graak
stopped in a clump of bush ferns which furnished us pure, fresh water. He
next plucked some sporepods, cracking them with his teeth. I split some
open with my knife. They had a pleasant, nutlike flavor.

We resumed our journey until the advent of sudden darkness, when we
climbed into the leaf-crown of a tall tree fern to pass the night there.

Graak fell asleep at once, but I could not. No sooner had darkness
descended on the forest than the night-roaming carnivora were astir,
making the night hideous with their cries--howling awoos, the horrid,
mirthless laughter of hyenalike hahoes, the terrific roars of marmelots,
the death-cries of the victims.

I think the gentle rocking of the trees, together with the rustling of
the countless millions of fern leaves, lulled me to slumber. At any rate,
I was awakened by the great hairy paw of Graak pulling at my arm, which I
had thrown across my face--a habit of mine while sleeping. "The light has
come," he said, "and Graak is hungry. Let us find food and be gone."

As I followed him down the rough, scaly trunk, I was struck by the
contrast of the daylight sounds. I could hear only the buzzing of
insects, the silvery toned warbling of the awakened songbirds, the
occasional snort or grunt of some herbivore feeding, and the peculiar
squawking cries of the queer bird-reptiles called aurks.

Graak and I had only traveled a short distance on the trail when he
suddenly stiffened and, looking upward, said, "Good food! A ptang!"

Following the direction of his gaze, I saw a large, hairless slothlike
creature hanging upside down on a thick fern frond which bent downward
beneath its weight. The ptang was unconcernedly munching leaves without
so much as a glance in our direction.

The cave-ape bounded to the base of the tree and quickly ascended, to
climb out on the limb where the stupid creature was feeding, paying no
attention to the approaching danger.

Graak swung by a prehensile foot and hand, and struck with his saw-edged
club, laying the side of the creature's head wide open at the first blow.
It ceased its feeding, but did not attempt either to fight or run away,
though its powerful legs were armed with long, hooked claws. Again Graak
swung his club. The animal's head hung limply downward and a shiver ran
through its frame.

Replacing his club in his belt string, the cave-ape drew his flint knife
and pried the hooked claws one by one from their grip on the limb. The
ptang crashed downward through the branches to the ground.

When we had eaten our fill, the ape and I each cut off as large a portion
of the animal as could conveniently be carried, and started once more on
the trail.

We had not gone far when Graak pointed out a place where Taliboz and the
princess had stopped to eat, the night before. A little farther on the
trail, we came to the base of a large tree fern in whose leaf crown they
had passed the night. Evidently they were not more than an hour ahead of

As we hurried forward and the scent grew stronger and stronger, the
cave-ape showed all the excitement of a hound on a fresh game trail--which
it was, to his mind.

Presently he stopped, tensely alert, sniffing and listening.

"What is it?" I asked in a whisper.

"A marmelot follows them," replied Graak, pointing to the footprints in
the leaf mold.

Looking down, I saw, sometimes between their tracks, sometimes
obliterating part of them, the spoor of a gigantic feline, so heavy that
it sank to a depth of nearly a foot with each step.

Then carne the scream of a woman in deadly terror, only a short distance
ahead, followed by the crashing of underbrush and a terrific rumbling
growl which I recognized only too well.

Graak instantly took to the trees, but I unlimbered my club and knife and
dashed forward.

Hurrying as fast as I could in the soft leaf mold, dodging through
fern-brakes and tripping over creepers, I presently floundered out into a
little glade where a most fearsome sight met my eyes.

Rolling about on the ground, snapping, tearing and clawing at everything
that came within its reach, was a magnificent marmelot, apparently in its
death throes.

I had not taken three steps before the creature quivered, subsided, and
lay still.

Looking about for the princess and her abductor, I was startled by a
warning cry from almost directly above me, "Zinlo! Behind you!" It was
the voice of Loralie.

Whirling, I saw Taliboz standing behind the broad trunk of a tree fern.
In his left hand he held an object which I recognized as a clip for tork
projectiles. Balanced in his right hand with its base against his palm
and its length parallel with his fingers was one of the needle-like glass
bullets, ready to throw. Even as I looked, he hurled it straight for my

I ducked my head just in time, heard the bullet strike a fern trunk
behind me, and sprang forward. But he quickly pulled another from the
clip and I saw that I could not reach him in time to use my weapons; nor
could I, close as I was, again hope to avoid the throw by dodging.

With a grin of triumph on his features, he swung back his arm, poised it
for a moment to get his aim, then brought it swiftly forward, his fingers
pointing directly at my breast.

"Die, stripling!" he grated between clenched teeth.

But a strange thing happened. Instead of feeling the sting of the needle
in my breast, I saw him go limp and slump down in his tracks.

I learned the cause as I bent over to, examine him. The needle bullet
which he had intended for my breast had pierced one of his fingers
instead. Rolling him over, I took his tork ammunition belt and buckled it
about my own waist. I picked up the clip which he had dropped when he
fell, and, closing the ejector, replaced it in the belt.

Then I looked up in the direction from which the warning voice of Loralie
had come down to me. For a moment only I saw her beautiful face peering
down at me between the parted fronds of a leaf-crown. Then a huge hairy
arm reached downward, encircled her slender waist, and drew her backward.
She cried out in deadly fear as the parted fronds snapped back in place,
hiding her from view.

I caught a glimpse of Graak mounting one of the rope-like vines; beneath
his left arm he carried the drooping form of Loralie. Then they both
disappeared into the thick tangle of vegetation above.

"Stop, Graak!" I called. "Come back, or I will slay you with my magic."

No answer.

I leaped for the nearest fern trunk, intent on following, when suddenly,
without the slightest hint of warning, a long sinuous object whipped
through the air and coiled itself about me. With its deadly fangs
gleaming in gaping jaws quite close to my face, and cloven tongue darting
forth menacingly, the glistening beady eyes of a gigantic whistling
serpent stared hypnotically into mine.

Swiftly, relentlessly, the mighty coils tightened about my body while the
horrible head moved rhythmically back and forth, just above my face. My
club was caught beneath the scaly folds of my assailant, but I managed to
jerk my flint knife free, and with this I struck at the swaying,
silver-white throat. But the covering was tougher than I had thought, and
I only succeeded in chipping off a few scales.

The muscular coils that encircled me grew tighter. It seemed to me that
my ribs must crack at any moment. My breathing was reduced to short,
spasmodic gasps.

Then I thought of the tork projectiles. With my flint knife I pried the
ammunition belt up from beneath an encircling coil. Quickly extracting a
clip, I opened the ejector, pressed the button, and a small, sharp needle
popped out. I slid it under the edge of a scale and pressed. Scarcely had
I done so when the crushing folds about me began to relax; the swaying
head dropped limply downward, and I tugged and wriggled until I was free.

Still gasping for breath, I closed the safety catch of the clip and
replaced it in my belt. I noticed that it was marked in patoa: "Tork

As soon as I was able to breathe with reasonable normality once more, I
climbed the tallest tree fern in the vicinity, and from its lofty
leaf-crown looked out over the tree-tops in the hope of locating Graak
and the princess. But although I scanned the forest in every direction I
could not catch sight of them.

Far back toward the northeast, the mountains of the cave-apes were barely
discernible through the gray-blue mistiness that hung over the jungle.
Toward the southwest, and closer, was another mountain range--gray,
forbidding peaks much higher than those of the cave-apes.

As he was, by nature, a cave dweller, I decided that Graak would
eventually seek a mountain home. Having disobeyed me, King of the
Cave-Apes, he would not dare return to the mountains of his tribe. I
might very logically expect him to head for the other mountains. When I
had caught my last glimpse of him he actually was starting toward the
southwest. I decided to travel that way, zigzagging across my plotted
course in the hope that I might eventually pick up his trail.

Having made my decision, I descended to the ground and set out toward the
unknown mountains.

I was in the middle of my second zigzag toward the south when I came
across the trail of Graak. Dainty but significant beside those of the
cave-ape were the tiny footprints of Loralie. As I followed the trail I
twice saw the records of her attempts at escape--where she had tried to
run away, but had been caught.

Now travel became far more difficult. My first warning of the changed
terrain was when I sank hip-deep into a sticky quagmire, only saving
myself from complete immersion in the soft mud by grasping a stout vine
that hung across my path, and swinging up into firmer ground. I noticed
that fungi and lichens were beginning to predominate.

Gradually the tree ferns and cycads were replaced by gigantic toadstools
of variegated forms and colors, and huge morels, some of which reared
their cone-like heads more than fifty feet in the air. Jointed reeds
rattled like skeletons in the breeze; lichens upholstered rotted stumps
and fallen logs, and algae filled the treacherous, stagnant pools that
grew more numerous as I advanced, making it difficult to tell which was
the water and which the land.

It was comforting for me to know that the flight of Graak was being even
more retarded than mine. He had to test each bit of ground before
treading on it, while I had but to follow his footsteps.

Suddenly I heard, only a short distance ahead of me, the angry roar of
the cave-ape, followed by a woman's scream of terror.

At first I thought Graak had sighted me, and I dashed forward to meet him
with club and knife ready. But before I had taken a dozen steps I heard
his voice raised in a howl of pain, and soon he was alternately bellowing
and snarling as if in intense agony.

I caught sight of Graak and the princess at the same time. The ape, his
fierce cries now reduced to mere whimpering, was on his back surrounded
by a half dozen of the strangest and most horrifying creatures I have
ever seen.

Writhing, squirming, extending, contracting, they had no set form, but
could change themselves instantly from limbless, egg-shaped bodies three
feet long to the semblance of snakes fifteen feet in length, or any of
the intermediate lengths between the two. They were clinging to the
fallen cave-ape with grotesque, three-cornered sucker mouths, and from
the edges of some of them I could see blood dripping.

Before I could reach him, Graak's whimpering subsided, his struggles
ceased, and I knew that he was beyond help. His assailants, finding him
quiescent, settled down uniformly in the shape of extended ovoids about
four feet in length, to drain the rest of his blood.

From a position of temporary safety, the princess looked down in horror.
She was on the umbrella-like top of a toadstool about fifteen feet in
height, evidently having been tossed there by Graak when he had been
attacked, for there was no way she could have reached that point
unassisted. Climbing rapidly toward her were two more of the hideous
things, leaving slimy trails on the stem.

Bounding forward, I swung my club at the nearest creature, expecting to
cut it in two with the sharp, saw-edge of my weapon. To my surprise and
consternation, the club failed to make the slightest impression, but
bounced off as if it had struck extremely springy rubber, and nearly flew
from my grasp.

The hideous head with its three-cornered suck mouth was instantly
extended toward me, and again I struck--this time from the side. Although
the blow made no more impression on the tough skin of the creature than
before, it broke the hold of the thing on the stem of the mushroom and
sent it whirling and writhing a full twenty feet away.

The other thing on the stem stretched out to seize me, but I dealt it a
backhand blow which sent it squirming and wriggling in the opposite

A quick glance around showed me that the surrounding marsh was literally
alive with these horrible creatures. Evidently excited by the sound of
the conflict--or possibly by the smell of blood--they erected ugly swaying
heads to investigate, then came crawling toward us, leaving slimy trails
in their wake.

There was only one thing for me to do in order to save the princess, or
even to save myself: I must find a way to get to the top of the toadstool
with her. But this was a good fifteen feet from the ground, and the
marshy soil was not particularly conducive to high jumping, as it clung
to the feet with each step.

As I looked about for some means wherewith to accomplish my purpose the
ring of attackers closed in on me. Then came an inspiration. About twenty
feet from the toadstool on which the girl stood was a clump of huge,
jointed reedlike growths. Several of them, which reached to a height of
more than forty feet, bent slightly toward it.

I managed to reach them just ahead of the advancing army of attackers and
climbed the largest one with an agility of which I had never even
imagined myself capable. One of the slimy things that sought my lifeblood
instantly wound its body around the reed and followed, then another and
another, until the stalk below me was covered with their snaky forms.

As I climbed upward, the reed gradually bent over toward the top of the
toadstool, so that when I reached a height of a little over thirty feet,
I was directly above it. Swinging my legs free, I hung on for a moment
with my hands, then let go. As I alighted on the center of the toadstool
cap, the reed shot upward like a steel spring, hurling its slimy
occupants far out across the marsh as if they had been shot from a

No sooner had I alighted than there was a cry of terror from Princess
Loralie. Turning, I saw her crouching in fear beneath the ugly head of
one of our attackers, its neck arched and its three-cornered sucking
mouth, armed with thousands of razor-sharp cutting teeth, ready to

I swung my club, knocking the thing to the ground, but no sooner had I
done so than another came up over the edge of the toadstool, quickly
followed by two more. Soon the entire rim became alive with the swaying,
wriggling heads, and I was kept busy every second of the time knocking
them back to the ground.

"Give me your club, Prince Zinlo," said Loralie after I had been at this
strenuous work for some time, "and let me help you. If we take turns with
rests between for each, we can last longer. The swamp dwellers are
persistent, and we are doomed, it seems--but let us fight while life

"I am not tired," I insisted, rather breathlessly, but she came and
seized the club, making it necessary for me either to use force with her
or surrender it. I yielded, watching her to see if she could manage it.
Despite her small size she proved surprisingly strong.

But she soon grew weary, and I took the club once more. It was a hopeless
fight; day was fast waning, and in the black, moonless darkness of Venus
we would soon be dragged down to meet the fate of the bloodless carcass
that had once been Graak, now staring sightlessly up into the leaden sky.


I WAS running around the rim of the toadstool cap, knocking off the slimy
things that sought to drink our blood, and Princess Loralie was crouching
fearfully in the center, when suddenly I heard a crashing and splashing
through the marsh behind me, accompanied by queer noises that sounded
much like a combination of a bleat and a bellow.

Glancing back for a moment between gasps, I saw coming toward us an
immense humpbacked reptile sinking flankdeep in the watery ooze with each
step as it crashed through the reeds in its apparent endeavor to escape
from some mortal enemy, and uttering the queer cries of distress I had
heard. I could see its long snakelike neck curved back as, with its small
jaws it would jerk the swamp creatures first from one side then the

Coincident with the appearance of this huge reptile, the heads of the
swamp dwellers stopped reappearing above the edge of our toadstool cap.
They had abandoned their attack on us in favor of the larger quarry.

Thicker and thicker they swarmed around the great dinosaur. For every
blood-hungry thing the giant lizard tossed in the air, at least ten
squirmed up to fasten their sucker mouths on its heaving sides, until the
reptile's back resembled the wave-tossed bottom of a capsized ship
covered with immense barnacles.

Gradually the speed of the great beast slowed down. It stopped. Then its
struggles grew weaker, and the doomed saurian uttered a final cry and
sank down in the ooze.

So absorbed had I been in this titanic battle that I had momentarily
forgotten our own danger.

"Our enemies have momentarily forgotten us," I said then. "Shall we make
a dash for liberty?"

"It is our only chance," she replied.

Swinging over the edge of the toadstool, I dropped to the ground. Loralie
swung her small, athletic body over the edge as I had done, and dropped
into my waiting arms.

As I stood there, ankle deep in the ooze with that shapely young form
close to me, I suddenly forgot our danger--forgot everything except that
she lay there in my arms, her head thrown back, glorious dark eyes that
were pools of lambent flame looking up into mine. But when, intoxicated
with her nearness, I would have crushed her to me, she suddenly twisted
free from my arms and ran, leaping lightly as a startled fawn in the
direction of the mountains to the southwest.

Club in hand I followed her as closely as I could, meanwhile keeping a
sharp lookout for swamp dwellers. But they were too busy feasting.

As we approached the foothills the ground became drier and firmer, and
the character of the vegetation once more underwent a gradual change;
cycads and low-growing conifers were mostly in evidence. Soon we were
climbing steep hillsides, with the ground continually becoming more
rugged and the vegetation more sparse.

During our progress Loralie had not addressed a word to me, or noticed my
presence in any way. I felt I must have offended her by holding her
over-long in my arms. Yet for that fleeting moment I would have sworn I
had seen in her starry eyes the reflection of emotions akin to my own,
and quite unlike her unnatural aversion to me in the caves of the ape.

When we arrived in a small isolated copse of water ferns, I decided it
was time to halt for rest and refreshment.

"Here are food and drink," I said. "Let us stop for a while."

Without answering, she sank down wearily on a mound of soft moss and
turning, buried her face in her arms. In a moment she began weeping

I broke off a branch of water fern and knelt beside her, trying to get
her to sit up.

"Don't touch me!" she wailed. "Go away."

"Oh, very well," I snapped, and ate and drank by myself--without much
appetite. Then, I set about equipping myself with more efficient weapons.

I soon fashioned a bow, which I strung with a piece of the tough cord I
had brought with me. Some reeds which I had gathered en route I made
into arrows by tipping them with slivers of stone bound in place with
the cord. I bound bits of fern leaf in place of feathers. A quiver I
made from ptang-hide which was wrapped around the piece of meat I had
brought with me.

Several hours elapsed in these pursuits, and my too temperamental
companion had in the interval sobbed herself to sleep.

I had scarcely finished cooking some ptang meat when I saw the princess
stir and open her eyes. For a moment she seemed startled by the
strangeness of her surroundings. Then she sat up, and catching the
appetizing scent of my roasting meat, looked hungrily toward it--then
resolutely away.

"The Prince of Olba," I said, "would be greatly honored if the Princess
of Tyrhana would join him at dinner. The royal butler is about to serve."

Despite her attempt at severity, I saw a slight smile play around the
corners of her adorable little mouth. Then she turned her head away once

Placing my roast on some broad, clean leaves which I had spread over the
moss for the purpose, I walked over to where she sat.

"I say, young lady," I remarked severely. "Don't you think you have
carried this foolish perversity of yours about far enough? I can't
imagine what makes you act like a badly spoiled child. I've a notion to
spank you."

She tried to maintain her dignity, but I saw her lips quivering.

"Forgive me," I said. "Perhaps it is I who am wrong. If I have done
anything to hurt your feelings, I'm sincerely sorry. I am not desirous of
forcing my attentions on you, but I can't leave you alone in this
wilderness. You make it hard, extremely hard for me to be of service to

She looked up at me, her beautiful eyes brimming--tears clinging to the
long dark lashes. "You are so kind, and so brave. I wish those other
things were not true."

"What other things?" I asked in surprise, sitting down beside her. "Has
someone been talking about me?"

"I cannot betray those who have reposed confidence in me," she said, "nor
can I doubt the testimony of many witnesses. Yet it does not seem

"I'm sure I don't understand what you are driving at. Pray tell me of
what monstrous crime I am accused, and permit me at least a chance to
defend my character."

"You were accused...Oh, I cannot say it!" She looked at me reproachfully,
then turned her head away and swallowed bard to keep from crying.

"It must have been horrible. Won't you tell me what it was?"

"Of making love to that Chixa," she faltered.

The evidence might seem to point that way, I realized, particularly if it
were distorted by someone bent on maligning my character. I quickly told
her how I had won the she-ape's weapons and my freedom. "Do you not
believe me?" I demanded at last.

"On this matter I believe you," she answered with some relief, "but there
is still that other affair."

"What other affair?" I asked.

"Your affair with the young sister of Taliboz. Why did you betray that
trusting child--betray her and run away--so that her brother must needs
come after you to bring you back at the point of a tork? It was
dastardly-cowardly. I denied it--fought against believing it, but there
were so many witnesses I was at last convinced."

"If Taliboz has a sister, I do not know it, nor have I ever seen her.
This story was fabricated from whole cloth. There is not even seeming
evidence in this case as there was with Chixa."

"But Taliboz himself told me," she insisted, "and five of his men
substantiated his story at various times. I wanted to disbelieve this
thing, but what could I do?"

"You were convinced of a monstrous falsehood, for which Taliboz will one
day answer, as he will for his numerous other crimes--if he has not
already answered, back there in the fern forest, to some jungle creature.
I swear to you that if Taliboz has a sister I do not even know of her

"It seems strange," she answered, "that the sister of an illustrious
noble of Olba should be unknown to the Crown Prince. Surely she must
have been much at court."

"Perhaps she was. Never having been there myself, I cannot say."

She looked at me in amazement--unbelief so clearly written on her features
that I saw that I had gone too far. I must either tell all now, or have
nothing believed.

"In order that you may understand this singular statement," I said, "I am
going to tell you who I really am."

"No doubt you are a reincarnation of the god Thorth. Pray do not weary me
further with lies."

"The story I am going to tell," I answered, "will tax your credulity to
the uttermost, yet I hope some day to be able to prove it to you. I am
not of Olba, nor even of this planet."

I explained to her, as best I could, how I had been transported from Mars
to Earth and thence to Venus-Zarovia. To my surprise, she seemed not only
credulous, but actually well versed on the subject.

"You seem to know more about these phenomena than most scientists," I

"There is a reason for my intense interest in the subject," she replied.
"My uncle Bovard is one of the greatest scientists on all Zarovia. There
is but one who is considered greater than he."

"Vorn Vangal?"

"Yes, but how did you know?"

"Vorn Vangal," I answered, "is Dr. Morgan's Zarovian ally, the man who
made it possible for me to come to this planet."

"Dr. Morgan? What an uncivilized sound the name has! Vorn Vangal I know well."

"Then you believe my story?" I asked.

"Implicitly." And she smiled thrillingly at me.

"And you know Taliboz was lying?"

"Of course. Are you going to sit there and question me all day, or will
you have the royal butler serve dinner? I am famished."

The roast had grown cold but was nonetheless delicious. I carved as best
I could with my flint knife, and we made out very well, finishing up with
the contents of a few spore pods, washed down with drafts of cold water
from the fronds of the water fern.

"And now," I said, when we had finished dinner, "we must look about for a
place of shelter from the night-moving meat-eaters."

There were many caverns in the rocky hillsides, but the mouths were too
large or too numerous to be barricaded. And an unbarricaded cave in the
Zarovian wilderness would prove to be a trap.

We traveled far before we found a cave that seemed suited to our purpose.
Without taking time to explore its interior--for I knew that the sudden
darkness would soon be upon us--made haste to collect heavy rocks for the
doorway, delegating Loralie, meanwhile, to gather sticks for fuel which I
intended to keep in the cave as a fiery defense against possible

Darkness caught us with our labors unfinished, and I kindled a small fire
just outside the cave mouth that we might complete our work by its light.

I was just rolling up the great stone which was to finish my barricade
when the hideous roar of a marmelot sounded near by. It was taken up, a
moment later, by others of its kind, until the echoing hills resounded
with the thunderous cries of these fierce beasts.

"Quick!" I called to Loralie. "Into the cave with you!"

She started in, then backed out in terror. "There's something in there
now, and it's coming out after us."

Then, as the frightened girl cowered against me, I heard a hoarse,
booming croak from the cave and saw two glowing, menacing eyes moving
toward us from the darkness of the interior.


STANDING WITHIN the ring of light cast by our small fire, with Loralie
crouching fearfully at my feet, I fitted an arrow to my bowstring. I drew
it back to the head, took careful aim between the two glowing eyes that
were advancing from the dark interior of the cave, and let fly.

Immediately after the twang of the bow there came a deep bellow of rage
from the interior of the cave.

As I fitted a second arrow in place, there was a terrific roar behind me.
Turning, I beheld the gleaming eyes of a marmelot not more than fifty
feet distant. I let fly, and the arrow struck the huge feline just as the
enraged cave creature came forth.

Prepared as I was for the appearance of one of the fierce creatures of
the Zarovian jungle, a chill of horror ran down my spine when the
grotesque tenant of the cave waddled out into the light.

It was obviously a reptile--not an animal as I had supposed. Although its
entire length was not more than six feet, fully two-thirds of that length
was mouth--enormous jaws four feet long and a yard across, armed with row
upon row of sharp, back-curved teeth. The other third was a round sack,
or pouch, attached to the back of the head.

It walked on two short, thick legs growing from beneath its ears, each
armed with three sharp talons. There were no forelegs. Both head and body
bristled with a profusion of sharp spines like those of a horned toad.

"A kroger!" cried Loralie. "We are lost!"

As the thing charged toward us with enormous jaws distended, I heard the
marmelot bounding through the brush from the opposite direction.

"Come," I cried, taking the girl's hand. Together we leaped across the
fire and into the shadow of the bushes beyond. Scarcely had we gained
this place of temporary safety ere the two formidable creatures, beast
and reptile, met on the spot where we had been standing.

The marmelot, apparently surprised at being confronted by this strange
anomaly, stopped, spat, and arched its back like a startled cat. But the
kroger, undaunted at sight of the huge king of the jungles, which was
easily twice its size, charged on. With a snap of its immense jaws, the
reptile took in at one bite the head and neck of the mighty carnivore.

Like a cat caught in a salmon tin, the marmelot alternately shook its
head, clawed at the scaly throat, or belly--I know not which to call
it--and ran blindly about. Presently it rolled over on its back, and
drawing the round body of the kroger toward it with its two front legs,
literally scratched it to ribbons with its terrible hind claws. Yet the
immense jaws held firmly, inexorably; in fact, they seemed to be clamping
down tighter and tighter all the time, sinking more deeply into the flesh
of the great feline with every move it made.

The struggles of the combatants presently grew weaker, but as the sounds
of battle died down the noises in the fern brakes around us grew closer
and more alarming. Evidently attracted by the sounds of battle or the
smell of blood, the denizens of the hills drew nearer and nearer in an
evernarrowing circle. The weird howling of the awoos, mingled with the
grisly laughter of the hahoes and the cries of other night-roving beasts,
produced a most uncanny effect.

If we did not find shelter soon, our bodies would go to appease the
flesh-hunger of one or another of these hunters.

Warning Loralie to keep out of sight in the bushes, I dashed over to the
fire, seized a burning brand and hurled it into the cave. As nothing
charged out after me, I peered in. By the flickering light of the burning
stick I could see that the cave was small and apparently empty, except
for a pile of dry fern fronds against the back wall.

Entering, I picked up the torch and investigated this. It proved to be a
nest about four feet across, in the center of which was a round egg,
covered with a membranous shell mottled green and yellow--the same color
as the outer scales of the kroger.

Flurrying out of the cave once more, I softly called to my companion.
"Carry the fuel into the cave at once, while I build our barricade."

While we both worked in frenzied haste, the sounds in the surrounding
darkness grew ominously closer. The struggles of the marmelot and kroger
had ceased altogether, and our fire was burning low.

Perspiring from every pore with my strenuous labor, I presently got the
cave mouth closed except for a narrow hole on one side barely large
enough to admit the body of a man.

Loralie had meanwhile carried all of the fuel into the cave and was
waiting for me in its dark interior.

Seizing a flaming faggot from the remains of the fire, I squeezed through
the narrow opening, then lifted into place the rock I had reserved for
the purpose while the princess held the torch for me. Scarcely had I done
this ere a half dozen lean gray forms bounded into the glow that was shed
by the last few coals of our fire and began tearing at the two mighty
carcasses which were locked in a death embrace beside it.

As I watched through the interstices between the rocks, I saw that these
were awoos. The more cowardly hahoes soon joined them, and there ensued a
fierce medley of growling, snapping and snarling as the beasts fought
over their bloody feast.

Because there was no way of ventilating our cave, I disliked building a
fire inside; but I felt constrained to do so when a huge hahoe came
sniffing up to our rock barrier, then threw back its head and gave vent
to the horrid cry which gives it its name. I piled a few faggots against
the barricade and lighted them with the flaming brand I still held. It
was well I did so, for the cry of the first brute quickly brought a half
dozen others and they began sniffing and scratching at the loosely piled

The smoke nearly strangled us at first, and got in our eyes, making tears
stream down our cheeks. But as it billowed out between the crevices in
the barrier the besieging beasts sneezed and backed away.

When the moisture had burned out of the fuel it smoked less, and I found
that by feeding the fire gradually I could cut its smoking down to a
minimum which, though still disagreeable, was bearable.

Glancing across the fire at my companion, I was about to speak to her
when I saw that, in spite of her fear, exhaustion had claimed her, and
she slept. She lay on her side, her tousled head pillowed on one white
arm, her seductive curves outlined in the flickering firelight against
the smoky background of the cave's interior.

Despite the tremendous din outside the cave, I presently felt myself
growing drowsy. Twice I caught myself wearily nodding, only being able to
rouse with an effort at thought of what might happen if our watch fire
should go out.

Taking a three-foot length of fern frond, I thrust one end into the fire
and laid my hand over the other. At the rate these fronds burned I should
catch ten minutes or more of sleep before the flames should reach my hand
and awaken me.

I awakened with a start. Daylight was streaming through the crevices in
our rock barrier. The fire had ceased to smolder, and the frond on which
I had counted to awaken me had gone out more than a foot from my hand.
Loralie was still sleeping quietly across from me.

Near the dead embers of our outdoor fire lay the bones of the marmelot
and the kroger, picked clean. The vegetation was torn, trampled and
spotted with blood, but of the flesheaters that had threatened us the
night before I saw no other sign.

Only a short distance away I saw a large clump of water ferns, and toward
this I made my way in quest of food and drink. I found these useful
shrubs heavily laden with spore pods and, after a refreshing drink,
pulled up a number of fronds to take back with me.

As I was walking back toward the cave I caught sight of a small animal
browsing on the steep hillside above me. Silently putting down my
water-filled fronds, I extracted bow and arrow from my quiver, took
careful aim at the animal, and loosed a shaft. Struck just behind the
shoulder and pierced clear through, it gave a piteous bleat, sank to its
knees, then rolled over and came tumbling down the hillside to fall dead
at my feet.

It was a wild frella, one of the hairless, sheeplike creatures which are
such highly prized food animals on Venus. I had already tasted the flesh
of the domestic variety in the Black Tower.

After returning to the cave mouth with the spoils of my brief excursion,
I kindled a new fire on the dead embers of the old one outside, and soon
the appetizing aroma of grilling frella steak filled the morning air.

Stepping into the semidarkness of the interior I saw that Loralie was
already awake and intently watching the large nest in the rear. "I heard
something move back there," she whispered, "and I'm afraid."

Club in hand, I advanced toward the nest. As I did so I heard a peculiar
scratching sound which seemed to come from the center where the round egg
lay. Yet I could detect no sign of any movement.

Reassured by my presence, the princess came up beside me and peered into
the nest. "What can it be?"

Before I could reply, her question was answered from the nest itself. The
egg split open and a tiny kroger--like the one slain by the marmelot in
every respect except size--rolled out, got unsteadily to its feet, and
blinked inquiringly up at us, cocking its head to one side.

I swung my club aloft, bent on quickly dispatching this miniature
monstrosity, but the princess caught my arm. "Don't you dare hurt that
poor little thing."

The kroger toddled toward her, balanced itself on the edge of the nest,
and uttered a rasping, mournful croak.

"The darling!" exclaimed Loralie. "I believe it likes me. Isn't it cute?"

"Cute! It's hideous. I could choke it--if it had a throat"

"Brute! How could you do such a thing?"

"I'm brute enough to be thoroughly hungry," I answered, "and the royal
butler is about to serve breakfast. Will you join me or stay here and
play with this walking nightmare?"

She held out her hand to the kroger, which instantly opened its enormous
mouth to full capacity, and gave vent to a series of high-pitched croaks.
"Poor little orphan, it's hungry. I couldn't think of eating a morsel
without feeding it. Help it to get down, won't you?"

I extended the flat of my club, intending to shove it beneath the
creature's belly, or throat, whichever it might be, and lift it down to
the floor. But it sidled away from the weapon--then hopped down by itself
and toddled toward the princess. With a little scream of alarm she turned
and darted out of the cave, the kroger waddling after her.

I squeezed through the opening as quickly as I could, getting out just in
time to see her snatch one of the deliciously grilled frella steaks which
I had prepared and toss it into the cavernous maw of the young reptile.
It instantly clamped its jaws shut, and dropping the grayish film of its
eyelids, settled down beside the princess with its chin between its feet
to sleep.

"I told you the little thing was hungry," she said as we sat down to

When we had eaten, Loralie insisted that I make her a bow, arrows and
quiver. After I had cut a number of reeds into the correct length for
arrows I set her to feathering the shafts with bits of fern leaf while I
manufactured a number of crude sharp flint slivers for the heads.

After I had a sufficient quantity of these rough tips made, I showed her
how to bind them to the shafts, while I scraped, dried, and rubbed with
hot fat a section of frella hide for the quiver. While it was hanging by
the fire I made a bow.

This work occupied several hours, during which time the kroger slept
contentedly beside the princess. When everything was completed and we
were ready to resume our journey, the hideous baby reptile promptly woke
up and followed us.

As we did not care to run the risk of another attack by the slimy swamp
dwellers we planned to follow the mountain range which gradually curved
toward the southeast, thus avoiding the marsh and eventually coming out
on the coast of the Ropok Ocean. Here we might meet the rescue party of
Prince Gadrimel, or failing in this, could try to follow the coast
northward to Adonijar.

After about five hours of travel, during which time the princess had been
practicing with her new weapons and keeping me busy retrieving arrows, we
decided to stop in a small clump of water ferns for food and rest. I had
just unslung the haunch of frella meat which I carried and hung it on a
fern frond so the young kroger couldn't get it, preparatory to building a
fire, when I heard a terrific roar come from over the brow of the hill,
followed by the shouting of men, the crashing of underbrush, and
intermittent snarls and growls.

I hurried to the hilltop to investigate, the princess running after me
and the kroger waddling behind her as fast as its short legs would carry

Taking cover behind the bushy fronds of a cycad, I peered down at the
scene of strife below. A party of men, about fifty in number, was engaged
in a battle with an enormous ramph. The huge, hairless, bear-like
creature reared up on its hind feet from time to time, towering above the
men around it like a giant among pygmies.

Half a dozen of the men already lay motionless on the ground, yet the
others, swarming about the fierce beast, seemed absolutely fearless. They
were armed with knives and long, straight-bladed, two-edged swords, and
were naked except for their sword-belts, which appeared to be of metal
links, and their gleaming, conical helmets or casques.

They were a white-skinned race--too white, I thought, as if they spent
nearly all their time indoors. And they wore no beards--an unusual thing
on Zarovia, where a beard, cut off square below the chin, was a mark of
fashionable manhood.

As I watched, a man darted in to deliver a thrust with his sword. Before
he could do so the ramph whipped out with a huge paw and stretched him,
crushed and still, on the ground a full twenty feet away. Another man who
succeeded in pricking the creature beneath the right shoulder met a like

Instinctively I reached for bow and arrow, but remembered that at that
range an arrow could not possibly do more than add to the fury of the
beast. Then a scheme came to my mind which I instantly put into
execution. Removing an ammunition clip marked Tork Projectiles, Deadly,
from the belt I had taken from Taliboz, I extracted one of the needlelike
missiles and with a bit of cord, bound it to the head of my arrow.

After replacing the clip in my belt, I took careful aim and released the
shaft. It struck the ramph in the shoulder and the deadly virus acted
almost instantly; in a few seconds it keeled over, to fight no more.

Apparently mystified at what had killed the great beast, the men
clustered curiously about the fallen brute, examining it intently. One
pulled the arrow from its shoulder and was instantly surrounded by a
group of his comrades, all eager to see and handle it.

"Shall we make ourselves known to them?" I asked the princess, who was
peering over my shoulder.

"As you will," she replied. "They seem to be soldiers of a civilized
nation, but one I do not recognize. No doubt they will be glad to help us
when they know who we are."

I stepped from behind the cycad and shouted the universal Zarovian word
for peace--"Dua!"

The entire armed band whirled toward me, and I was horrified at the
unhuman quality of their gaze--as if they were more, or less, than men.


THE LEADER of the hunters called out "Dua" and Princess Loralie stepped
from her hiding place to my side. Together we walked toward them.

"I am Pangar," said their leader, according us the royal salute in
deference to the scarlet we wore. He himself, although not clothed, had a
purple band on his metallic helmet and touches of purple on his
accouterments which marked him as a member of the nobility.

"I am Zinlo of Olba," I replied, acknowledging his salute, "and this is
the Torrogina Loralie of Tyrhana."

"In the name of my royal master, Tandor of Doravia, I bid Your Highness
welcome," he said. "Will you accompany me to the palace and permit my
emperor the pleasure of greeting you in person?"

"We'll be delighted."

"Your indulgence for a moment, then, while I see if any of my men can be

"Salvaged!" I was struck by the peculiarity of the term when applied to
men. It brought home to me that there was something extremely odd about
these people. The motions of many of them seemed to be quite stiff and
awkward--mechanical, that was it--like the motions of marionettes.

Their armor--accouterments and weapons, too--were not made of ordinary
metal, as I had first thought, but were constructed from a material which
greatly resembled glass. The blades of the swords and daggers were quite
transparent. The hilts resembled colored glass.

The helmets were also transparent, except for the colored band at the
base of each denoting the status of the wearer. The chain belts and
shoulder straps were of the same material, but lined with ramph leather,
evidently to prevent their contact with the body.

Pangar bent over one of the fallen men. "Think you can make it?" he

The stricken one spoke weakly. "Power unit is low. Was shorted for a
time, but I have it back in place now. If someone can spare some

"Who can spare power?" asked Pangar.

A man stepped up. "I can spare five xads."

"Good." From a hook on his belt, Pangar took two coiled tubes that
resembled insulated wires with metal sockets at each end. He inserted an
end of each wire in each ear of the fallen man and handed the other two
ends to the man standing. The latter instantly inserted an end in each
ear, meanwhile watching an indicator which was strapped to his wrist.
Presently he jerked a tube from one ear, then the other. The fallen man
arose, apparently restored to strength, and returned the wires to Pangar.

I noticed the next man. His entire breast had been torn away by the claws
of the ramph. There was a set expression on his features, as of death or
deep hypnotic sleep. But around the jagged wound was no sign of blood.
The flesh, if it was flesh, was a peculiar grayish-red shade. And where
the viscera would have been exposed in a normal human being, I saw a
conglomeration of coils, tubes, wheels and wires, tangled and broken.

Pangar passed him by with but a single glance. "No use to try to save
this one."

He rapidly examined the other fallen men. Two were picked up and slung
over the shoulders of comrades. The rest were stripped of their weapons
and helmets and left lying on the ground. A half dozen men, using their
keen knives, had already skinned the ramph. It seemed that they wanted
the hide only, not the flesh, for the great red carcass was left lying
near the broken figures of the fallen men when we went.

Men or machines--which? I pondered the matter as Loralie and I walked
beside the courteous and seemingly human Pangar, while the kroger waddled
at our heels.

After a walk of about two hours we reached the summit of the mountain
range and halted there for a few moments of rest while Pangar pointed
with pride to the various features of the fertile valley of Doravia which
was spread before us. It was oval in form, about twenty-five miles in
length, tapering down to points at both ends where the inclosing mountain
ranges ran together.

At the northwestern end of the valley a tremendous water fall, over a
mile in height and fully a half mile in width, tumbled into a
spray-veiled lake. From this flowed a river that wound through the center
of the valley, to emerge at the southeast end. According to Pangar, it
emptied into the Ropok.

At each side of the falls a conical, hive-shaped structure of immense
size towered for some distance above the upper water level. These two
enormous buildings were connected by an arched span that was fully a half
mile above the lower water level. Their bases were hidden by the mists
that arose from the bottom of the cataract.

The banks of the river, as it wound through the valley, were dotted at
regular intervals by smaller twin towers of similar construction. The
surfaces of all these buildings glistened with mirrorlike brightness.

In the very center of the valley, on an island of considerable size
around which the river flowed in two nearly equally divided streams, was
the largest structure of all. Cone-shaped like the others, but much
larger than any of them, it reared its pointed, gleaming top to a height
of fully two miles.

"The imperial palace of Tandor of Doravia," explained Pangar as he saw me
looking at it. "A wonderful building. We will be there in a short time

"But it's fully five kants from here," I said. Then I noticed something
which had previously escaped my observation. A thin cable stretching
beside a long narrow platform a short distance below us extended out
toward the tower, though it soon dwindled into invisibility. It was
composed of the same peculiar glistening material.

"I have signaled for a car," said Pangar. "It will be here soon."

As I watched, a tiny gleaming speck became visible far out over the
valley. Its apparent size grew larger with amazing rapidity, and in a few
seconds I saw that it was a long, octagonal vehicle, pointed at each end,
and constructed of the shimmering, transparent material.

It came to a stop beside the narrow landing platform without any
perceptible jar or sound, and we all hurried down to meet it. When we
reached the platform I found that round doors, hinged above, had been
thrown open along the entire length of the vehicle.

Into one of these the princess and I were ushered by Pangar. The small
kroger had kept close at our heels. We had no more than taken the
comfortable springy seats when the doors clamped shut; the kroger was
left alone on the platform, and we never saw it again--to my relief. The
car then started smoothly out over the valley. In a moment it was
speeding so rapidly that the landscape, though far below us, became a
mere blur.

It seemed that only a few seconds elapsed before the car slowed down once
more and we were entering an octagonal opening in the enormous central
tower I had previously noticed. Before we entered I had a brief view of
hundreds of other similar openings in the tower from which slender,
transparent cables radiated in all directions.

The door snapped open, and as we stepped out on the landing floor Pangar
said, "I will conduct you immediately to our Torrogo, as he wishes to
greet you in person."

"How do you know that?" I asked, puzzled.

"His majesty instantly communicates his wishes by thought-transference to
any of his subjects."

"Then you communicate with each other here by telepathy?"

"Not with each other," he replied, "except through our Torrogo or a
member of the Committee of Twelve--kings who are thought--censors for the
emperor. If I wish to communicate with a distant comrade, I send my
thought to the member of the committee whose duty it is to watch over my
mind. He receives the message and, if he approves, transfers it to my
comrade or to the Torrogo."

As he talked, Pangar led us through a maze of hallways, the decorated
floors, walls and ceilings of which were all of the same glasslike
substance, but opalescent, so that, with light coming from all
directions, we moved without casting shadows. It gave me a queer sense of
unreality--as if I were moving in a dream from which I should presently

But when we were suddenly ushered into a huge and magnificent throne
room, the many octagonal doors of which were guarded by warriors with
drawn swords, the ceiling of which was fully a mile above our heads
reaching to the very peak of the hive-shaped building, and my eyes beheld
for the first time the grandeur of the Imperial Court of Doravia, I felt
positive that only in a dream could such splendor have existence. I
pinched myself repeatedly to make sure that I was awake.

My illusion of unreality, however, was instantly dispelled as we were led
before the throne. Seated on its scarlet cushions was a powerful and
commanding figure of a man. His high forehead and heavy eyebrows, joined
at the center, reminded me of Dr. Morgan, but there the resemblance

The nose was Grecian rather than Roman in type, and the clean-cut
features had the pale beauty of chiseled marble. It was a face which
showed remarkable intellectual power and, at the same time, an utter lack
of all sentiment or human sympathy. Although every other man belonging to
this strange race was beardless, the ruling monarch wore, at the end of
his chin, a narrow, sickle-shaped beard which curved outward and upward,
ending in a sharp point.

Flanking each side of the throne was a row of six lesser thrones, on each
of which sat a scarlet-decked individual whose insignia proclaimed the
rank of rogo, or king. These rogos, I judged, must comprise the Committee
of Twelve referred to by Pangar. On still lower thrones sat the
purple-decked nobles of the land, while lining the walls on either side
stood the blue-decked plebeians. Beyond these, on the outskirts of the
throne, as it were, were massed a few of the gray-decked slaves.

Tandor stood up as we were brought before his throne--a deference due
visiting royalty--and smiled, his black eyes boring into mine as we
exchanged salutations. Although his smile was friendly, there was
something about the look of his eyes which was not quite human. They
appeared snakelike, with a sinister, hypnotic quality that was far from

"You find me in the midst of my multifarious court duties," said Tandor,
still smiling, "but I shall terminate them as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, permit me to offer you rest and refreshment. Pangar will show
you to the quarters provided for your entertainment. I shall join you

When we were outside the throne room, Pangar issued instructions to a
page, who hurried away, to meet us again down the corridor with a girl
who wore the scarlet insignia of royalty, followed by the others whose
purple ornaments proclaimed them daughters of the nobility. The six girls
were shapely and quite pretty, but their mistress was beautiful. With a
superb figure, glossy black hair and big black eyes, half veiled with
long dark lashes, she rivaled the beauty of Loralie herself.

Yet, on comparing the two I was struck by a marked contrast between them.
While the Princess of Tyrhana was the spiritual type of beauty, her every
lineament suggesting purity and strength of character, this royal girl of
Doravia appeared voluptuous, sensuous and apparently with great strength
of purpose--like an exalted odalisque, or perhaps a fallen houri.

According us the royal salute, to which we responded in kind, she spoke
softly with a low musical voice that, while it betokened culture and
refinement, yet had about it a certain husky undertone which was
puzzling. Her black eyes, too, I thought had something of that reptilian
quality which had shone forth from the orbs of Tandor.

"I am Xunia of Doravia," she said. "It is the wish of my brother, Torrogo
Tandor, that Loralie of Tyrhana be entertained in my apartments until
such time as suitable quarters can be prepared for her."

She held out her hand to Loralie, who took it without hesitation, and the
two moved off down a transverse corridor followed by the six handmaidens.
Pangar then conducted me to a luxurious suite, whose glasslike furniture
was upholstered with chlorophyl green ramph hide tanned to a softness
that was almost velvety.

After a bath and a shave I felt greatly refreshed.

"His majesty is now ready to receive you in his private dining room,"
Pangar then told me.

A short walk down the corridor brought me to a doorway, octagonal in
form, before which two guards stood, sword in hand. At a sign from Pangar
they drew back two scarlet curtains, and I entered the room. As the
curtains dropped into place behind me I beheld my royal host seated at an
octagonal-topped table of translucent scarlet material in a high-backed
golden chair upholstered with ramph hide, which was also stained a
brilliant scarlet. He arose as I entered and tendered me the royal
salute, which I returned. Then I took a chair at his right which an
unobtrusive servant placed for me.

"I trust that you will pardon the slimness and coarseness of the fare
which I am about to place before you," said Tandor after I had taken my
seat, "but, with the exception of the slaves, we of Doravia do not eat or
drink as you do in the outer world."

A slave set a crystal bowl before each of us. Mine was filled with
steaming kova, but that which was placed before the Torrogo contained a
heavier liquid which seemed to fume rather than to steam. It had an acrid
smell which reminded me of the odor of a corrosive acid.

"May your years be as many as the stars," pledged Tandor as he raised his
bowl to his lips.

"And may yours be as numerous as the rain drops that fall on all
Zarovia," I replied, tossing off a draught of kova.

"Your arrival, O Prince," said Tandor, setting down his bowl, "was timed
most opportunely, as you will realize from what I am about to relate to
you. For the past two thousand years I have been planning a great
experiment--one which if successful will revolutionize the lives both of
my kind and yours."

"That is indeed interesting," I replied as a platter of chopped mushrooms
and grilled ramph steak was set before me. "But--two thousand years?"

A disk-shaped vessel, black in color, was set before Tandor. Coiled about
the handles on each side of the vessel were two insulated wires with
electrodes on the ends. Uncoiling them, he inserted an electrode in each

"I was born five thousand years ago in your country of Olba," he said,
"the second son of the Torrogo. I did not covet the throne, preferring
scientific research in chemistry, physics and psychology. When I had
learned everything the greatest scientists of my time could teach me
about these subjects, I began to combine my knowledge of the three with a
view to realizing a dream of mine which is perhaps the universal dream of

"As I look back on my earlier efforts I realize how exceedingly crude
they were, but alter countless experiments and untiring efforts, they
worked. No doubt you have noticed the great difference between yourself
and my people--between my sister Xunia and Princess Loralie."

"I saw the chest of one of your men, which had been torn open by a
ramph," I replied, "and he was evidently no ordinary human being. I also
heard talk of depleted power units, and I have noticed that you drink a
beverage which smells and looks like fuming acid and that your food is
evidently transmitted to you in the form of fluid power."

"In other words," said Tandor, "you have deduced that we are a race of
automatons--machine men. You are right, but I do not believe that there
exists anywhere else on any world a race of man--created beings with
souls. Nearly five thousand years have elapsed since I cast off forever
the frail shell with which nature endowed me to take up my existence in a
more enduring body of my own creation.

"You are of course familiar with the phenomena of personality exchange
and telekinesis. You are aware that two men can permanently or
temporarily exchange their physical bodies.

"My problem, then, was to construct a duplicate material body into which
my personality could enter, and which would respond to the direction of
my will by amplifying the power of telekinesis. The first body which I
succeeded in so entering collapsed because of faulty construction, and I
barely got back to my own body in time to save it from dissolution and
myself from being projected into the great unknown. But I made many
others, and when they were at last perfected, I published my discovery in
the Empire of Olba.

"My father had been received into the mercy of Thorth in the meantime,
and my brother had succeeded him to the throne. I called on him to join
me in immortality, and offered to make every person in the empire an
immortal. To my great surprise and disappointment, my offer not only met
with rebuff, but a systematized persecution against me and my followers
was begun by the more religious of the Thorthans.

"Influenced by the religious leaders, my brother presently ordered the
banishment of myself and my followers, who remained faithful to me. With
less than a thousand of these I came to these shores and subsequent
explorations revealed this valley."

I murmured my astonishment at all this.

"The only member of my family to accompany me," he went on, "was my
sister, Xunia, who had been in sympathy with my plans from the first. As
rapidly as I could, I prepared duplicate bodies for my followers, it
being necessary to give each body the outward semblance of the body and
brain which was to be quitted, else the personality would not enter it.

"I have always kept many bodies in reserve for myself and for my sister,
so we were prepared for almost any emergency. In case the body I occupied
broke down I could instantly enter another. If that one broke down or was
destroyed, I could enter still another, and so on.

"The slaves were the only class which was never completely immortalized.
Today, immortalization of a slave is a reward for faithful service. You
may readily see, therefore, why the food and drink for which I am forced
to apologize are of the cruder sort. I am compelled, for the moment, to
offer you but the fare of slaves."

"It is excellent," I replied, "and quite good enough for any king's son."

"I will find the means to improve it, however, as I expect you to remain
here permanently. I have planned a great honor for you."


"I will explain. As you probably have surmised, there has been no such
thing as propagation of the race among my immortals. This did not bother
me in a material way. When I lost a follower--which was rarely, as every
one has at least one extra body and most of them several--I could
immediately replace him from the ranks of my slaves. But there was no
love; and after about three thousand years had passed, the defect
bothered me emotionally.

"I knew that the problem which confronted me was considerably more
difficult than any on which I had previously worked, but undaunted, I
plunged into my studies. Two thousand years of anatomical, histological,
embryological, biological, biochemical and psychological research have
brought their reward, so that, although today I differ from you
physically as much as ever, I have built into my newest bodies and into
those of my sister the sexual characteristics of ordinary human beings.

"Pangar was sent forth today with the object of bringing me two human
beings suitable for marriage with royalty. His journey ended almost as
soon as it began when he found you and the princess. I therefore offer
you the hand of my beloved sister in marriage, and will likewise offer
the half of my throne to the Princess Loralie."

"But if we should decline the honor?"

"It is unthinkable. Even if you were to decline, either of you, I have
means at hand which, I am sure, will cause you to reconsider gladly."

Removing the electrodes from his ears and draining his bowl, he arose and
summoned two pages. To the first, he said, "Instruct the Princess Loralie
to prepare for my coming." As the messenger sped away he said to the
other, "You will conduct His Highness Torrogi Zinlo of Olba to the
apartments of Her Highness Xunia, Torrogina of Doravia."

As the little page conducted me to the apartments of Princess Xunia I
turned over in my mind Tandor's strange story and its revolting sequel. I
was going to the apartments of a girl who had been dead five thousand
years, but whose soul was bound in a machine. Beautifully and cleverly
constructed as it was, it was yet a mere mechanical contrivance--a thing
of wheels and cogs, levers and shafts, a thing that fed on electrical
energy and drank fuming acid.

And I was expected--commanded with a none-too-veiled threat--to make love
to this travesty on life.

But Loralie! Somehow I must contrive to live in order to save her.

The page stopped before an ornate doorway, two guards saluted and opened
massive doors. Then a pair of scarlet curtains were drawn back, revealing
a luxurious boudoir. "His Highness, Zinlo of Olba," announced the page as
I entered the room.

The curtains fell in place behind me. I heard the guards close the heavy

As I looked at the beauteous dead--alive creature that reclined on a
luxuriously cushioned divan in a scarlet and gold decked recess, a
feeling of revulsion swept over me; yet, paradoxically enough, this was
combined with admiration. I was revolted at thought of the nearness of
this living dead thing, but could not but admire the consummate art that
had created so glorious an imitation of the human form.

I realized that if I would live to be of assistance to Loralie I had a
part to play.

Xunia smiled languidly, seductively, as I stood before the raised divan
just outside the niche it occupied. With feline grace she extended a
slender, dimpled hand. Shuddering inwardly, I took it, expecting to feel
the cold clamminess of death. But it was as warm as my own and as
natural--from its white back in which a delicate tracery of blue veins
showed, to the pink-tipped, tapering fingers. I raised it to my lips and
released it, but she clung to my fingers for a moment, pulling me to a
seat on a low ottoman just in front of her.

"Long have I awaited your coming, prince of my heart," she said. "Be not
afraid to come near to me, for it is my desire and my command."

"To be prince of your heart were indeed an honor," I replied, "yet you
name me this, having only seen me today."

"The moment I saw you I knew it was so. Fear not, beloved, that there
have been others before you. I am, and have ever been, virgin in mind as
in body. Once I thought I loved, yes, but it was long ago, and then I was
but a child."

"You make me very jealous, nevertheless," I said, remembering the part I
had to play.

"I did not really love him, I swear it, dearest." She ran her fingers
through my hair in a gentle caress so natural, so womanly, that I found
it well-nigh impossible to believe her other than a real princess of
flesh and blood. Then, before I realized what she was about, she twined
her arms about my neck and kissed me full upon my lips.

The kiss did not taste of acid, as I had imagined it would, but was like
that of a normal, healthy girl, though it aroused in me a feeling of
revulsion which I was at some pains to conceal.

"I go now, beloved, to prepare for your marriage," she said. "Await me

As I stood up, she took my hand and arose gracefully. The time for action
had arrived. Yet, as I looked down at the slender, beautiful figure, the
long-lashed eyes gazing trustfully up into mine, I hesitated to carry out
the plan which I had been contemplating as I sat there on the ottoman
before her--a plan with which I hoped to accomplish a double purpose--to
rid myself of this machine-monster and to get her brother away from
Loralie, for she would probably summon him telepathically, if in no other

I was trying to think of her as a dead thing in a machine, yet it seemed
impossible that she was other than human, so natural was she, and so
beautiful. But the thought of Loralie and the danger she was in steeled
me to the task.

Seizing Xunia by her long black hair, I whipped out my stone knife and
slashed the artificial muscles of the slim white throat. She gave one
startled scream, which ended at the second slash of my knife, and went
limp as I jerked the head backward, cracking the metallic structure which
took the place of cervical vertebrae. Instead of blood, there spurted
from the severed neck a tiny stream of clear fuming liquid, a few drops
of which fell on my hand, burning it like molten metal.

Dropping the sagging body, I turned and was about to part the curtains
which led out into the hall to see if the coast was clear, when I heard a
stealthy sound behind me. Swiftly turning, I saw Xunia, apparently
unharmed. In her right hand was a long, straight-bladed sword drawn back
for a thrust. Behind her lay the body I had just destroyed.

I leaped back just in time to avoid her vicious lunge. Then, jerking my
spiked club from my belt, I dealt her a blow which crushed her skull like
an egg-shell. But scarcely had this body sunk to the floor ere a panel
opened in the wall behind it and a third, armed like the second, stepped
out to attack me.

"Fool," mouthed the advancing figure. "Think you that you can slay one of
the immortals?"

This time she swung the sword with both hands with the evident intention
of decapitating me, but I struck the weapon from her hands. Then I
crushed the skull of this third body.

I leaped through the opened panel, where four more bodies, identical with
the other three, lay on scarlet couches. The one nearest me was just
sitting up, when I smashed the skull with my club. I quickly disposed of
the next two in the same manner before they showed any signs of life, but
the last rolled from the couch and, dodging beneath my arm, rushed out
into the room from which I had just come.

"Brother!" she screamed. "Brother--he would destroy me!"

As I stopped the screeching of this last figure with a blow of my club,
the entire wall toward which I was facing rolled up like a curtain. On
the other side of it was a room like the one in which I stood, and in
that room were Loralie and Tandor.

The long hair of my princess was disheveled and her eyes were flashing
with anger as she tried to pull away from the monarch, who gripped her
slender wrists.

Taking in the situation at a glance, Tandor suddenly released Loralie,
who fell to the floor. Then he whipped out his sword and advanced on me.

Forgetting that I held only a wooden club, I bounded forward to meet him.
A sneer crossed his cold, statuesque features, as with a deft slash he
cut my club in two near the handle.

"Die, upstart," he snarled, raising his weapon for the blow that was to
end my existence.

I barely succeeded in avoiding death by leaping back, then caught up one
of the swords which Xunia had dropped.

But as I attacked he came on guard and countered with a skill which spoke
of expert training and thousands of years of practice.

"In your ignorant folly," he said, cutting, thrusting and parrying with a
deft precision which amazed me, "you believe you have sent my sister into
the unknown, and that with your skill as a swordsman you can do likewise
for me. Know, then, witless one, who would try conclusions with the
immortals, that in one of the great twin towers which flank the falls
under constant guard, my sister has twelve more bodies in reserve.

"Should you succeed in destroying the six bodies I have here in the
palace--which you will not be able to do--I also have twelve more under
guard in the opposite tower."

"I care not if you have a hundred, you monster," I retorted. "Bring them
one by one within reach of my blade and I'll eventually send you down the
unmarked trail you should have taken five thousand years ago."

"You are, I perceive, a braggart as well as a dullard," said Tandor. "You
realize, of course, that I can call the guard and have you slain at any
moment I choose to do so. Yet to make things more interesting I'll make a
wager with you. If you succeed in besting me and destroying the six
bodies I have here in the palace, I'll promise not to alarm the guard
until I return from the tower in one of my reserve bodies. If I force you
to surrender, you are to become my slave for life, body and soul, to do
with as I see fit. Is it agreed?"

"It is a wager," I replied between clenched teeth as I desperately sought
for an opening in this, the most marvelous guard I had ever encountered.

Tandor laughed as I tried, one after another, the many tricks I had
learned in my fencing on three planets.

"You are a good swordsman, youth, better than any mortal I have ever
encountered; yet I, with five thousand years of training, am merely
playing with you. See, I can touch you at will."

And with that, he pinked my left shoulder.

The moment he extended his weapon he left the opening for which I had
been waiting. Not knowing on what part of his anatomy I could use my
point effectively, I dealt him a swift neck cut with its keen edge.

The head flew from his shoulders and bounded to the floor, but the body
did not fall. Instead, it stooped, and catching up the head, tucked it
under its left arm and resumed the contest. Here, indeed, was a
super-mind, which could control, at the same time, severed head and body.

"A pretty counter," mocked the head, while our blades clashed as
vigorously as before, "but perhaps not as effective as you expected. I
will tire you out presently. Then will I slice you down, inch by inch,
until you will be glad to yield."

"Not with this body," I replied as I got inside his guard for a swift
downward cut on his forearm. Cleanly severed, it fell to the floor, the
hand still gripping the sword. An instant later the body dropped the head
and fell. Then a panel slid up behind it, and Tandor, another sword in
hand, emerged, smiling sardonically. "You are more clever than I thought,
princeling, but that trick will not work again."

"It is not the only one I know," I replied and, catching his blade on
mine, disarmed him, much to his consternation. This time I not only split
his head from crown to chin, but slashed off his right arm. Then I rushed
through the panel opening in time to catch a third newly animated body
just arising from its scarlet couch. I served it in like manner, but the
fourth sprang up before I could strike and came on guard with appalling
swiftness. Before Tandor could attack in this body I struck two swift
blows, splitting the heads of the two recumbent forms.

I stepped to one side barely in time to avoid a powerful downward cut
that would have divided my own head had it landed, and before he could
recover I severed the sword arm of my attacker and split his head.

Rushing back into the room where I had left Loralie, I found her plucking
a sword and dagger from one of Tandor's bodies.

"We must get out of here at once," I said. "In a few moments Tandor will
be back here in one of his swift vehicles. Then, the terms of the wager
fulfilled, he can quickly have us captured."

"But where can we go? How can we possibly escape?"

"I do not know, but we most certainly can't get away by remaining here.


CAUTIOUSLY PARTING the scarlet drapes which hid the doorway, I saw that
the heavy doors had been bolted. Tandor had evidently intended that he
should not be disturbed.

I expected that there would be guards in the corridor, and therefore
decided that a bold front would serve our purpose the best. I
appropriated one of Tandor's magnificent belts with ornate sword and
dagger, and outfitted Loralie likewise with one of Xunia's belts which
contained lighter weapons. Then we walked quietly to the doors, which I
unbolted and swung back. The guards saluted stiffly and closed them after
us as we passed out.

"It is the command of his majesty," I said, "that he be not disturbed by
messengers or others."

"To hear is to obey," replied both guards in unison as we strolled away
down the corridor.

I only knew my way to one part of the building--the landing floor. After
threading so many hallways, passageways and ramps that I had begun to
think I had lost my way, we came out on the central landing platform,
from which radiated the cables that carried the swift-moving octagonal
cars to the various power houses of Doravia.

Glancing in the direction of the twin towers, I saw a car swiftly
approaching from each and surmised that Xunia and Tandor were already on
the way to the palace.

"Quick!" I said to Loralie. "We have not a moment to lose!"

Hurrying her to the side of a car which hung on a cable that pointed
toward the south, I helped her aboard--then spoke to the pilot. "It is the
desire of his majesty the Torrogo that we inspect some of the buildings
of Doravia. You will first take us to the power plant at the southernmost
end of the valley."

He saluted respectfully, then moved a control lever. The doors closed and
we glided smoothly away from the platform. In a moment we were speeding
swiftly southward at a dizzy height above the valley.

One by one we sped past the towers which dotted the river bank, so
swiftly that each washed for but an instant in our range of vision. Yet
it seemed to me that our pace was exasperatingly slow, for I knew that
Tandor would surely reach the central tower before we arrived at our
destination; if he made inquiry at the landing platform he would flash a
message to the commander of the southern tower, and we would face arrest
as soon as we arrived.

I accordingly loosened my blade in its scabbard and spoke softly to
Loralie. "We must be ready to make a dash for it as soon as the doors
open. Keep behind me, and I'll try to cut a way through."

As we drew up to the landing platform I saw a score of guards lined up to
meet us. In front of them stood a captain with drawn sword.

The doors opened and we stepped out.

"By order of His Majesty..." began the officer.

I did not wait for him to finish but whipped out my sword and beheaded
him before he could say more. Then I sprang forward and cut my way
through the line of surprised guardsmen with Loralie close behind me. She
drew her own weapon, and used it with more skill than I had believed
possible in a woman.

As we dashed off down a corridor we met two more guards, but they were
crude swordsmen and detained us but for a moment. On coming to a
transverse corridor, we turned, hoping thus to elude our pursuers; but a
moment later they rounded the turn, and at the same time I saw a large
party of men closing in on us from the opposite direction.

"We're trapped," I said, "and this is a poor place to make a stand. We'll
turn in at the next doorway we come to."

There were doors on both sides of the corridor at intervals of about
fifty feet, and I accordingly stopped at the next and wrenched it open.
Without looking to see what was within, I pushed my companion into the
opening. Hearing a scream and a thud, I leaped in after her, but scarcely
had I slammed the door ere my feet slipped from under me, and, half
lying, half sitting, I found myself sliding down a steep spiral incline
in total darkness at a terrific rate of speed.

For several minutes I continued my downward course uninterrupted. Then
the incline grew less steep and I glided over a series of humps which
retarded my progress. A moment later I shot out into the air and
daylight, my feet struck a cushioned wall, and I fell on a thickly padded

Springing to my feet, I saw Loralie standing with drawn sword, facing a
huge guard. A short distance behind him wavelets from the river lapped
the edge of the floor on which a half-dozen narrow, pointed boats made
from the transparent metal were moored.

As I dashed forward, the guard struck her sword from her hand and
attempted to seize the princess, but ere he could do so I sprang between
them and our blades met. Aside from Tandor himself, he was the cleverest
swordsman I had encountered in Doravia.

Back and forth we fought on that moist, slippery floor, until I succeeded
in forcing him to the water's edge. Binding his blade with my own, I
pushed it upward, and leaping in close, struck him in the breast with my
left fist. He toppled for a moment on the brink--then fell into the river
behind and sank out of sight.

At this instant I heard the clank of arms in the chute behind us,
followed by the thud of a body against the padded walls, then another and

Quickly flinging Loralie into one of the boats, I slid it to the water's
edge, leaped in and shoved off. Four spadelike paddles lay in the bottom,
and seizing one of these I managed to get several boat lengths from the
shore before our pursuers reached the water's edge.

The first boatload was not long in putting off after us, and with four
paddles working it gained on us rapidly. Behind it, another and another
left the shore until five in all pursued us.

Seeing that it would be only a few moments before we were overhauled, I
strung my bow and shot an arrow at the foremost paddler. Although it
pierced his breast it did not seem to discommode him in any way. He
paddled forward as briskly as ever, pausing only to snap off the shaft
and fling it into the water. I tried a second shot, this time aiming for
his head, but the arrow glanced harmlessly off his glittering,
transparent helmet.

Loralie, following my example, also strung her bow and tried a shot at
the second paddler. It struck him in the arm, but he broke off the shaft
and continued his paddling as if nothing had struck him.

"Save your arrows," I said as a plan suddenly occurred to me. Quickly
unwinding a length of the cord I still had with me, I looped part of it
and cut it in short pieces. Then I took from the ammunition belt of
Talibot a clip marked "Tork Projectiles--Explosive." Extracting one, I
bound it to the head of an arrow and discharged it at the first paddler.
He grinned derisively as he saw me raise my bow, but his grin
disappeared, together with most of the upper part of his mechanical
anatomy when the missile exploded.

Passing several projectiles and bits of string to Loralie, I quickly
prepared another arrow and blew a second pursuer out of existence. By
this time the first boat was less than thirty feet from us, and I knew I
would not have time to prepare a third arrow, so I drew my sword and made
ready for the attack of the two guardsmen who remained in this boat. But
before they came alongside there was only one, as Loralie, having
prepared one arrow, proceeded to blow the other to bits.

The last remaining guardsman leaped to his feet as the slender prow of
his boat struck the rear of ours. Dropping my sword in the bottom of our
boat, I quickly tipped his boat to one side. The fellow tried to maintain
his balance by throwing his weight in the opposite direction but I had
anticipated this, and as he did so I reversed the tilt of his boat,
precipitating him into the water where he sank out of sight.

So occupied had I been with our pursuers that I had not noticed whither
the swift current was carrying us. My first intimation of danger from
this source was a bump and a grinding noise as our keel struck and then
slid over a submerged rock, nearly capsizing us. I seized a paddle and
swung our craft parallel with the current just as we were precipitated
into a seething, whirling rapids, from the foaming surface of which
projected numerous jagged rocks.

I bent all my efforts to the task of avoiding the dangerous rocks which
loomed ahead as we shot forward with alarming speed, now on the crest of
a huge wave, now in a hollow so deep we could not see out of it. As we
advanced the river became narrower, the rapids steeper, and the rocks
more menacing. It appeared that the River of Life--for such Pangar had
named it to me--might become, for us, the River of Death.

Try as I would, I could not keep our craft from repeatedly colliding with
the rough boulders that now beset our path. The strength of its
transparent metal sides astonished me.

We were nearly through the rapids, and I was just breathing a sigh of
relief, when the unexpected happened. Our prow struck a hidden point of
rock, the boat swung broadside, and we turned over.

I heard a scream from Loralie as I plunged into the water, head first.
The metal paddle to which I had unconsciously clung as I fell quickly
carried me to the jagged bottom. I let go and swam as rapidly as I could
to the surface. Shaking the water from my eyes I looked around. The swift
current had already taken me beyond the foot of the rapids into deeper
water. I could see no sign of the princess, though I craned my neck in
every direction.

Our overturned boat had drifted past me, and three more boats were
swiftly descending the rapids, bottom up, but behind them came two more,
in each of which sat four Doravian guardsmen.

Filling my lungs, I dived for the spot where I thought Loralie might be,
and swam under water for some distance.

Upon again coming to the surface, I saw her swimming for the shore about
a hundred feet ahead of me. Our drifting boat had hidden her from my

I saw the first boatload of Doravians pass the bottom of the rapids
unscathed as I struck out after the princess. But as soon as they reached
calmer water they plied their paddles with such dexterity that I knew
they would overtake me long before I could reach the shore.

Although I was greatly hampered by the weight of my weapons, I hesitated
to part with them, since I could not possibly get to land ahead of that
boat, even if I were stripped.

Presently the boat came within fifteen feet of me. The foremost guardsman
laid down his paddle and drew his sword. Raising the weapon above his
head, he leaned out over the bow to dispatch me. At this instant I dived,
and describing a loop under water, came up just under the stern of the
boat. Seizing it in both hands, I capsized the craft, plunging my four
assailants into the water. None of them reappeared. The metal men
apparently could not swim.

By this time the last boat had negotiated the rapids and was paddling
swiftly toward me. Again I struck out for land, this time with some hope
of making it. Loralie, who had just reached the shore, called out to me,
"Hurry. A silticum is coming this way."

I looked back, and my first view of a silticum was none too reassuring.
It was an enormous reptile with a green lizardlike body, serpentine neck,
and a head of immense proportions.

I struck out desperately for the shore, and the paddlers increased their
efforts. The noise they made attracted the attention of the reptile.
Suddenly swerving, it made for the boat.

As I was quite near the shore I lowered a foot, struck bottom, and waded
out just as I stepped on the sloping beach, an exclamation from the
princess made me turn.

With serpentine neck arched and mighty jaws distended, the huge saurian
lunged downward, straight for the center of the boat. One of the
occupants rammed his sword in that cavernous maw, and two others slashed
at the scaly neck, but with no apparent effect on the reptile. It seized
the boat in its immense jaws and lifting it high out of the water, shook
it as a terrier shakes a rat. Hurtling through the air to the right and
left, the bodies of the four Doravians fell into the river and

"Come," said Loralie, tugging at me arm. "That creature is as swift on
land as in the water. Let us get out of its sight before it takes a
notion to follow us."

"With pleasure," I responded, and together we hurried up the bank and
plunged into the fern forest.

For some time we ran forward, side by side, sinking ankle-deep in the
soft moss that carpeted the forest floor.

"I'm thirsty," said Loralie, "and hungry. Aren't you?"

"Ravenous. Nothing will satisfy me but a good big steak. Spore pods are
all right for appetizers, but to satisfy hunger there is nothing like

"I've lost my bow and arrows," she said, ruefully, "along with that clip
of explosive projectiles you gave me. I dropped everything when the boat
tipped over."

"Never mind. I still have my bow, plenty of arrows, and another clip of
explosive projectiles. It's a man's place to bring in the game, anyway,
while the woman looks after the home."

"The home? What do you mean?"

"Why--er--that is, I was just drawing a comparison between ourselves and
primitive people. The man went hunting, you know, while his mate looked
after the cave, or tree, or whatever they lived in."

"His mate? I fail to see the comparison."

"Well, you know we're leading a rather primitive existence just now,

"Prince Zinlo," she said, suddenly stopping and facing me, "will you
cease talking generalities and tell me just what you mean?"

"Yes," I cried vehemently. "I'll tell you what I mean. I hadn't intended
to, but it seems my words betray my thoughts. I love you, Loralie. I want
you for my mate--my princess. But as you so plainly dislike me I shall
probably go on desiring you until the destroyer of all desires puts an
end to my existence."

"I was beginning to wonder," she said softly, "if I would ever get you to
say it."

Before I realized the purport of her words her arms were around my
neck--her warm red lips upturned, inviting. I crushed her to me, and found
her a new Loralie--tender, yielding, passionate.

"I've loved you since the very hour we met," she said, "when you tossed
my presuming cousin into the shrubbery."

Her hand caressed my cheek, roving softly over my rugged face. But as I
bent to claim the sweetness of her lips, I heard a twig crack behind me,
and I whirled about, hand on hilt.

To my amazement I beheld Prince Gadrimel, standing only a short distance
from us. "A thousand pardons for this intrusion," he lisped. "By the
beard of Thorth, I could not find the heart to disturb so pretty a love
scene, were it not that darkness approaches and the camp is a
considerable journey from here."

Too astonished to reply, I could only stare at him as he stood with a
mocking smile on his effeminate features, toying with a jeweled pendant
on his breast and ogling Loralie.

"No doubt you are glad to see me, fair cousin," he continued in his
mincing patoa, grinning at the princess, "so glad that the joy of my
coming overwhelms you--renders you speechless. Come, haven't you at least
a little cousinly kiss for your deliverer who has come so far to rescue
you? You appear to lavish your caresses quite generously outside the

My blood boiled at his studied insolence, his air of proprietorship, yet
I strove to control my feelings as I answered him. "The kisses of the
Princess Loralie are her own to bestow. You will do well to remember
that, Prince Gadrimel."

"And you, Prince Zinlo, will do well to speak only when spoken to."
Gadrimel held out a hand to Loralie. "Come, cousin, let us get to camp
before darkness falls. By tomorrow we will be aboard my flagship and well
on our way to my father's palace."

The princess drew closer to me and looked up into my face as she
answered, "Prince Zinlo is my fiance. I'll go where he goes."

"This nonsense has gone far enough," said Gadrimel, sharply. "Ho,

Scarcely had he uttered his call ere there closed in on us from the
surrounding fern brakes a full hundred armed men of Adonijar.

"Seize and bind this interloper," he commanded, pointing to me.

When this had been done, Gadrimel stationed a stalwart soldier at my
side. "Remain here with the prisoner, until we have passed out of
earshot. Then..." He stepped close to the soldier and whispered something
to him. "For which," he concluded, as he stepped back, "you may have his
weapons, accouterments and anything else of value he may have with him."

Loralie attempted to come to me as I stood there, bound hand and foot,
but two soldiers prevented her.

"What are you going to do to him?" she cried.

"Now, now. Calm yourself, sweet cousin," said Gadrimel. "I am but sending
him on a journey. I must insist that you hurry to camp with me at once,
or darkness will overtake us on the way; the night-roving beasts will not
be pleasant to meet in this forest."

In spite of her struggles he dragged her away. Behind them moved the
entire company of warriors with the single exception of the one who had
been instructed to remain with me. He stood immobile, listening until the
sound of voices and the clank of weapons had died away in the distance.
Then he turned to me.

"I have been commanded to kill you, Highness," he said, simply. "Never
before have I slain a bound and helpless man, but I am a soldier of
Adonijar and may not disobey the command of my prince. However, I was not
instructed as to how I should kill you, and I bear you no malice. By what
weapon do you choose to die?"

"The sword," I replied, "has ever been my favorite weapon. If I must die
now, let it be by the sword."

"The sword?" he asked in puzzlement.

"That long straight-bladed weapon in the sheath at my feet," I answered.
"Plunge it into my heart and get it over quickly."

Slowly he bent over and withdrew the sword from its sheath. He examined
it curiously, testing the sharpness of its point with his palm and the
keenness of its edge with his thumb.

"By the blood of Thorth!" he exclaimed. "This is a beautiful weapon. And
it will be mine as soon as I have slain you. Make ready, now, to die."


As I STOOD there in the fern forest bound hand and foot and helplessly
awaiting the death blow at the hands of Prince Gadrimel's henchman, I was
suddenly knocked flat by the drop of a huge, furry body from the limbs of
the tree above me. Half dazed, I sat up just in time to see a female
cave-ape crush the head of my would-be slayer with her sawedged club.

She turned, and as she did so, I recognized her features.

"Chixa!" I exclaimed.

"Long have the cave-apes sought their Rogo," she said, "and great will be
their rejoicing when he returns."

With her flint knife she quickly cut my bonds, and I stood erect once
more, stamping my feet and chafing my wrists to restore circulation,
scarcely able, as yet, to understand that I was really alive.

"Do you cave-apes still consider me their king?"

"According to the custom you would lose your kingdom if you remained away
for more than one endir. But you have been gone only a few days. As there
is much judging to be done, we have been searching for you."

"Where are the other searchers?" I asked.

"Many of them are within call."

"Then call them, and let them call as many others as they can."

With marvelous agility for a creature of such great size, she scampered
up to the leaf crown of a tall tree-fern. Then, cupping her paws, she
gave utterance to a queer, trilling cry. It was answered, not once, but
many times, from various points far and near.

Then she descended the tree and dropped into the glade beside me.

Presently there came swinging through the branches a great, yellow-tusked
male who, as soon as he saw me, roared, "Hail, Zinlo!" and dropped to the
ground near me. Another emerged from the fern brakes, repeating the
salute of the first, and it was not long before I was surrounded by more
than two score males and about half as many females.

As these shaggy man-beasts sat grouped around me, respectfully waiting
for me to speak, their demeanor showed that they recognized me as their
king without question.

"My subjects," I said, "I have work for you in which there is much danger
and much fighting."

"Will there be food-men?"

"There will be many food-men."

"Good!" This answer was unanimous.

"We will start as soon as I have issued full instructions."

But the great, yellow-tusked male who had first responded to the summons
of Chixa protested, "There is judging to be done. Will you not first do
the judging, so we may go into the fight with our differences settled?"

"Who are you," I asked, "to question the edicts of your Rogo?"

"I am Griff, mighty warrior, mighty hunter," he replied, puffing out his
broad, hairy chest. "But I do not question your edicts. I only ask that
you hold the judging now."

Before I could answer him there came a sharp cry from a female who had
perched herself in the branches above our heads in order that she might
better observe everything that went on.

"Danger! Danger!" she shrieked. "A silticum!"

Every cave-ape instantly took to the trees, and I heard the crashing of a
huge creature in the underbrush as it swiftly made its way through the
forest. Evidently the silticum which had attacked the Doravian guards had
seen us, even as Loralie had feared, and was now on our trail.

Quickly taking the last clip of explosive projectiles from my belt, I
removed two of the needle-like missiles and bound each to the head of an
arrow. Then I strung my bow and awaited the coming of the monster.

Chixa called to me from the leaf crown of a tall tree-fern. "Come up into
the trees, Rogo. You cannot fight a silticum."

"Yes, climb before it is too late," called Griff. "No one has ever slain
a silticum."

Although I knew nothing of the ways of this saurian, I had seen its great
size and knew that if it had intelligence enough to do so it could pull
down any tree within my range of vision. In view of this fact, and also
because I could not get about as swiftly as the cave-apes in the trees, I
felt safer on the ground.

"Stay up in the trees if you like," I answered them. "I will show you how
your king slays a silticum."

In a few moments I saw the huge green head swaying on the snaky neck at a
height of about twenty feet above the ground. It was looking this way and
that, apparently searching for me. As it drew closer I saw that it was
indeed the same monster that had attacked the machine men in the boat,
for projecting through its lower jaw was the transparent sword blade
where the Doravian guardsman had thrust it, and which the creature had
been unable to dislodge.

I fitted an explosive arrow to my bowstring, and at this moment the
monster spied me. With a hiss like steam escaping from a locomotive, it
distended its enormous jaws and charged straight for me. Taking careful
aim at the cavernous maw, I drew the arrow back to the head and let fly.

The reptile turned slightly so my shaft did not strike the target
squarely, but considering the terrific force of the tork projectile this
did not greatly matter. For although the missile struck the monster in
the corner of the mouth, the explosion tore off the whole side of its

I instantly fitted my second arrow to the bowstring, but instead of
advancing the great saurian swerved to one side and began threshing about
in a circle, striking this way and that with its huge, scaly tail which
swept the fern trunks before it, knocking them over as if they had been
mere reeds. As the tail now appeared to be the most formidable weapon of
the beast, I aimed my second shaft with a view to crippling this
appendage, and let fly.

It struck the monster just above one of its thick hind legs, blasting a
great hole in the flank and not only crippling the tail but both hind
legs as well.

Upon seeing this, the cave-apes instantly descended on the stricken
reptile with yells of triumph, and were soon hacking at its heaving sides
with their saw-edged clubs and prying up huge scales with their flint
knives in order to get at the quivering flesh underneath.

"Hail, Zinlo!" the shouted. "Mighty warrior, mighty hunter, mighty
sorcerer! With his magic he slays even the silticum, the terror of stream
and forest!"

As I watched the cave-apes at their bloody feast, I recalled that I, too,
was hungry. Elbowing my way through the growling, snarling, milling mob,
I carved a steak from the shoulder with my keen Doravian dagger. Then I
made a small cooking fire and grilled my slab of meat. It proved tasty
enough, although rather tougher than a gourmet would have relished. But
with good teeth and an excellent appetite this bothered me not at all.

By the time I had finished, and swallowed a draught from a water fern, my
hairy retainers had all gorged themselves.

I arose and called them together. They squatted expectantly around me in
a semicircle. "You, Griff," I said. "Bring me that shiny club which
sticks in the jaw of the silticum."

After he had brought me the sword of the Doravian boatman, I continued,
"You have asked that judging be done before we fight. I have no time for
judging now, so I am going to let you do it. This shiny club will be your
token of authority, by which you will do judging in my name. Go now,
taking the shes with you, back to the caves. And beware that your
decisions are just ones, for I will hear of it, and will come and slay
you with my magic if they are not."

"But Rogo," he protested, "I would like to go and fight the food-men with
your others."

"You will do as you are bidden without further question. Throw away your
old club and take this shiny one which slays with its point as well as
its edges."

Silently, and rather sullenly, he removed his club from his belt string
and tossed it away. Then he took the sword and lumbered away through the
forest, followed by the females.

As soon as they had departed I called the others together and started off
on the trail of Prince Gadrimel. But darkness overtook us before we had
gone more than five miles, and we were forced to take to the trees to
avoid the depredations of the night-roving carnivora.

Propped in a high leaf crown that swayed with each passing breeze I
didn't get much sleep during that noisy night, oppressed by my constant
fear for Loralie in the clutches of her unscrupulous cousin.

It was with a sigh of relief that I greeted the dawn and made my way to
the ground. Impatient to be off, I stopped only for a drink of water,
then started down the well-marked trail with my small but formidable
company. The spoor of Loralie's abductors continued to follow the winding
course of the River of Life for about six miles to the remains of a large
camp which had been completely surrounded by watch fires. Most of these
were still smoldering as we came up.

Of the people of Prince Gadrimel we saw no sign, save tracks leading to
the river where there were indentations made by the prows of small craft.

I led my ape-men at a trot along the flat, sandy beach for miles. The
river bank gradually grew more rugged, and at last we climbed to a rocky
eminence commanding a view of both sea and river.

Anchored not more than an eighth of a mile off this point, and rocking in
the gently rolling swell, I saw the five ships of Prince Gadrimel.
Paddling swiftly toward them from the river mouth were a score of small
boats, in the foremost of which were two scarlet-clad figures which I
knew must be Gadrimel and Loralie.

Helplessly I watched while his henchmen bundled the princess aboard the
flagship, boats were drawn up to their places on the decks, sails were
hoisted, and anchors weighed.

So, with straining eyes, a great lump in my throat and a weight in my
heart, I saw Gadrimel triumphantly sail away over the bounding, blue-gray
Ropok with the only woman I have ever loved.

As I stood there, absent-mindedly watching my subjects scurry through the
forest in search of game, I pondered my predicament. The only thing left
for me to do, I reasoned, was to follow the coast northward as Loralie
and I had planned to do. In order to reach Olba I would pass through
Adonijar, but single-handed I could do nothing against an entire nation.

Once in Olba I felt that I could persuade the Torrogo to let his supposed
son have an air fleet for the purpose of avenging the attempted murder of
the Crown Prince, and with this I could quickly persuade the ruler of
Adonijar to give up the princess.

I dreamed thus futilely until a great splash of rain struck me in the
face, followed by the patter of many more on the leaves around me.
Brought to a sudden realization of my surroundings, I noticed that the
gentle wash of the waves against the shore had changed to the booming
roar of huge breakers, that the trees were bending before a considerable
breeze, and that despite the fact that the day was not yet spent it was
growing steadily darker.

A terrific peal of thunder, followed by a vivid flash of lightning, made
every cave-ape drop the bone he was gnawing and look toward me as if for
protection or guidance.

"Zog makes magic in the heavens, Rogo," said Rorg, quaking with fear.
"Zog is angry. Let us hide until he goes away. I noticed a great cave
beneath the next cliff when I was hunting."

Glancing around at the other beast-men, I saw that Rorg was not the only
one who had been frightened by the peal of thunder. Every cave-ape was
shivering in abject terror.

"Lead the way to the cave, Rorg," I said. "I do not fear Zog, but there
is much rain and much wind coming from across the big water, and a cave
will be more comfortable."

The frightened cave-ape needed no urging, but hurried off at once, the
others after him, while I brought up the rear at a more leisurely pace.
Peal after peal of thunder sounded, the lightning flashed almost
incessantly, and rain came down in torrents before I reached the cave

Entering, I beheld my erstwhile fearless fighters huddled together like
frightened frellas and shivering as if with the ague.

"Every one fears Zog," explained a young ape.

"Your Rogo does not fear him," I said, "and you should not. Come and help
me pile stones in the doorway lest a silticum or some other monster get
in tonight."

"We are afraid to go to the doorway," quavered Rorg. 'Zog will slay us
with his magic fire."

"Enough of this. Come over here and help me, every one of you, or I will
slay you all with my magic."

The tragic fear which was in their eyes was pitiful to behold, but they
were not long in choosing between what they believed would be sure death
from my magic and possible death from the bolts of the deity they called
"Zog." The doorway was soon so completely blocked that no night-roaming
beast could enter.

Night having come on by this time, the only light in the cave was from
the frequent flashes of lightning.

For a long time I stood at the entrance. Each lightning flash showed
branches flying through the air, fern-trees blown over, and wild things,
large and small, scurrying for shelter.

I was awakened in the morning by a loud clatter and the sound of gruff
voices. Sitting up with a yawn, I stretched my cramped limbs as I watched
Rorg and several other cave-apes dragging the barricade away from the
cave entrance. Gone was the unreasoning fear that had gripped them the
night before.

I rose and followed them outside. The storm had vanished, and other than
the upper cloud envelope which is ever present in the Zarovian sky, the
heavens were clear. But the still-dripping fern forest plainly showed the
ravages of the tempest. The ground was littered with leaves and branches;
trees were bent over, snapped off and uprooted, and many streams of muddy
water trickled riverward.

Crossing the gulch which separated our cave from the highest eminence, I
climbed to the point where I had been standing the night before when the
storm struck, to find some spore pods. As I gazed out over the Ropok, now
rolling as gently as it had before the storm, my munching terminated in a
sudden exclamation of surprise.

Lying on their sides far out in the surf with the waves rolling over
them, and apparently deserted, I saw the battered hulls of two of Prince
Gadrimel's ships. And anchored on the lee side of the promontory on which
I stood, were the other three ships, their spars and rigging in most
sorry case. The flagship, I observed, was the one anchored nearest the
point of the headland, indicating that Loralie had escaped death, for
which I was deeply thankful. From where I stood I could see the crews of
the three ships busy repairing the damages which the storm had wrought.

Crouching in order that I might not be observed, I made my way back into
the gulch, where most of my fierce retainers were finishing their morning

"The food-men have returned," I said. "Keep out of sight so they will not
know that we are here. And do not go far away, as I will probably need
you to fight very soon."

"We will remain nearby, Rogo," said Rorg. "We are all very hungry for the
flesh of food-men."

I returned to my lookout on the rock and tried to formulate some plan of
attack. Presently I saw two scarlet-clad figures appear on the deck of
the flagship. The smaller of the two was constantly attended by two armed
warriors. Gadrimel had evidently found it expedient to keep the princess
under constant surveillance.

But a plan did not suggest itself to me until I saw several boats lowered
and a party of officers, headed by Gadrimel, put off for shore. Dashing
back to the gulch where my cave-apes were grouped, I said, "Some of the
food-men are coming ashore. We will divide into two parties of equal
size, one of which will be under the leadership of Rorg. The other I will

"Bores party will go down near the shore at the spot toward which they
are coming. With his warriors he will climb into the trees, taking care
lest the food-men see any of them, for they carry magical clubs which can
kill at a great distance. As soon as the food-men enter the forest, Rorg
and his warriors will drop down on them from the trees and surprise them.
They can thus be slain before they have a chance to use their magic
clubs. Do you understand, Rorg?"

"I understand, Rogo," replied the old cave-ape. "The food-men will not
see us until we fall upon and slay them."

Calling the other cave-apes to follow me, I hurried to the other side of
the promontory and descended its steep seaward side where we were hidden
from view of the ships. Then, cutting the string I had with me into
appropriate lengths, I tore a number of fronds from a wide-leafed variety
of bush-fern, and proceeded to bind these to the heads of my subjects,
spreading them in such a manner that at a distance they would effectually
conceal the heads and shoulders of the great brutes. Disguising myself in
the same manner, I led my savage followers to the very point of the
promontory and into the water.

"You will all keep close together in the water," I said, "and follow me
without noise. There are many trees and branches floating down the river
this morning, and if we swim carefully and silently we will not be

Peering around the point, I saw that Gadrimel and his hunters had landed
and were starting into the forest. Then there came to me faintly the
yells of startled men and the roars of fighting cave-apes, interspersed
with the popping of torks and clash of weapons, and I knew that all eyes
on board the ship would be directed toward the scene of battle.

"Now," I said, and plunging into the water, swam around the point and
straight for the flagship. Just behind me, in such close formation that
we must have appeared like a single, tangled mass of floating branches,
came my camouflaged apes.

The flagship was not more than a thousand feet from the point, but before
we could reach it I saw more boats put off from all the ships and make
swiftly for the scene of combat on shore.

We came up under the prow of the ship just as the sounds of conflict
announced the arrival of the small boats at the beach where the battle
was taking place.

Silently I seized the taut anchor chain and went up, hand over hand. Just
as silently, my ape warriors followed. On reaching the top, I peered
cautiously through the railing. Loralie and her two guards were standing
on the starboard side watching the battle on shore. There were three men
aloft, apparently there to repair the rigging, but they, too, had their
eyes trained shoreward.

Without a sound, I climbed over the railing, and with sword in one hand
and dagger in the other, advanced toward the two men. Simultaneously, I
jabbed the point of my dagger in the back of one, and the point of my
sword in the other.

"One false move," I said, "and you die. Raise your hands above your heads
and keep your faces shoreward."

They complied with alacrity. With a little scream of fear, Loralie turned
to see what had happened.

"Zinlo!" she exclaimed. "I knew you would come!"

"Take their weapons, my princess."

She quickly removed their belts from which depended their torks and

Three of the apes had meanwhile scrambled aloft after the men in the
rigging, and the others were searching the ship.

"Bring to me alive those who do not resist," I shouted. "You may slay the

My words had the desired effect on Gadrimel's men, for although those in
the rigging all carried short scarbos, none offered to fight. Other than
these three and the two I had disarmed, the apes found only the cook and
his helper.

When the prisoners had all been rounded up, I addressed them.

"All of you who are willing to take orders from me will give the royal
salute. The others will be quickly deposed of, as my apes are hungry."

To a man, they saluted.

"You three," I said, addressing the men who had been aloft, "hoist the
sails. And you," pointing to the two guards, "heave the anchor."

I sent the cook and his helper back to their pots and pans under guard of
two apes. Then I took the helm with Loralie at my side and as the sails
filled, steered for the open sea.

We had nearly passed the point of the promontory when the boom of a
mattork and the sing of its shell through our rigging announced that we
had been discovered.

"Can you steer?" I asked Loralie.

"Better than you, landsman," she answered laughingly. "Give me the helm."

Her father ruled the greatest maritime nation on Zarovia.

"Make for the open sea," I said, "and I'll see if my marksmanship is
better than my steering." The mattork, which was nothing but an oversized
tork mounted on a tripod, stood nearby swathed in its water-proof
covering. Beside it was the case which contained the clips of projectiles
with their various designations printed in patoa: Solid, Paralyzing,
Deadly, Explosive.

Stripping the cover from the weapon, I chose a clip of explosive
projectiles and inserted it in the breech. By this time two mattorks on
each of the anchored ships had opened fire, and shells were screaming
around us. One snapped a shroud, and I ordered a sailor up to replace it.
Another burst against our hull. And still others, ricocheting from the
surface of the water, whined plaintively as they sped on their way.

I took careful aim at the rear mattork on the nearest ship and pressed
the button. But the weapon was strange to me, and equally strange was the
experience of firing a projectile from a ship. I saw my shell strike the
water far behind the mark.

Again I took aim, this time allowing for the rocking of the ship. To my
surprise, my shell burst just beneath my target, tearing the gunner to
shreds and knocking the weapon from its tripod.

I tried another shot at the forward mattork, but it went wild. Then both
boats slipped from our view as we rounded the promontory.

"My marksmanship is as wretched as my handling of a boat," I said. "But
they cannot harry us for a time, at least. Where to now, my princess?"

With one hand she reached for my own, drew my arm around her slender
waist. The other still skillfully managed the helm.

"Whither you will, beloved," she replied. "Shall it be Olba or
Tyrhana--north or south?"

"Which is nearer?"

"They are about equally distant from here."

"Then let us try for Olba, for there I am sure Gadrimel dare not follow

Gently she brought the boat about until its prow pointed directly north.
"It will not be long before Gadrimel sets out after us."

"He may have been slain by Rorg and his apes."

"Not he," replied Loralie. "I was watching from the ship, and saw that he
was the first to run for the beach when they were attacked. Standing
beside a boat and ready to put off at a sign of a turn in the tide of
battle, he used his tork, but did not get into the thick of the fight. A
cautious youth, my cousin."

It was not long before her prediction was fulfilled. One of the ships
nosed around the promontory and came after us with all sails up.

I sprang to the mattork and fired. It was a bad miss. Again I fired. This
time my projectile struck the water close to the target. I was getting
the range. But when I would have fired a third time there was an
explosion in the breech. The projectile had jammed and the safety plug
had blown out.

Frantically I worked with the recalcitrant weapon, momentarily expecting
a volley from our pursuers. But none came. Evidently the prince had
forbidden the use of mattorks because of the presence of Loralie on our

Suddenly a terrific explosion from the front of our vessel knocked me
flat. Half dazed, I gripped a leg of the tripod for support just as the
deck gave a violent lurch forward.

My prostrate body swung halfway over, and I saw with horror that the
front end of the ship had been completely blown away and she was plunging
into the waves, nose down. I have never learned the cause of that
explosion, but believe that the cook or his helper found a way to outwit
their ape guards and destroy the vessel.

My gaze flashed to the wheel, but the princess was nowhere in sight, then
I heard a shout from the water behind me. Loralie was swimming in the
wake of the swiftly sinking vessel. "Jump!" she cried. "Jump quickly, or
you will be dragged down with the ship!"

I sprang to the rail and leaped over. A moment later I was swimming
beside her as we both strained every muscle in our endeavor to put as
much distance as possible between ourselves and the stricken vessel
before she went down.

But try as we would, we could not escape the mighty suction of the boat
as it plunged beneath the waves. Like tossing corks we were dragged back
in spite of our utmost efforts. But by the time we reached the center of
the whirlpool it had so far subsided that the water was comparatively
calm and we were not drawn under.

Presently bits of wreckage began to come up around us. A huge timber
suddenly popped to the surface. We swam to it and found it amply buoyant
to sustain our combined weight in the water.

As we topped the crest of a wave I glanced back. The first ship was
within a quarter of a mile of us, and I caught a glimpse of a
scarlet-clad figure in the bow, eagerly scanning the water with a glass.

I was still looking back when a cry from Loralie attracted my attention
in another direction. "A killer norgal! The scourge of the Ropok has seen
us! We are doomed!"

Bearing down on us at terrific speed, I saw an enormous fish. Its body,
fully thirty feet in length, was blue in color, and bristled with sharp
spines of a deep crimson shade. Its huge jaws, large enough to have
swallowed ten men at a gulp, were open, revealing row on row of sharp,
back-curved teeth.

"Better that than Gadrimel," said Loralie with a shudder, "for we can die
together. One last kiss, beloved, for it is the end."

Our lips met and clung, across the timber. Then I drew my sword, puny
weapon indeed with which to meet such an enemy.


As WE CLUNG to the timber there in the tossing waves, Loralie and I, the
killer norgal swiftly surged closer and closer. There was no mistaking
its purpose. It had seen us and singled us out for its prey.

Suddenly a dark shadow fell on us from above. A shot rang out, followed
by a muffled explosion. Where the gaping mouth of the fish had been was
only a bloody mass of flesh and bone. The mighty carcass lurched, flopped
about for a moment, and then turned belly upward.

Above us loomed the great bulk of an aerial battleship, swiftly
descending. It hovered only a short distance above our heads. A door
opened in the side and a flexible metal ladder was lowered to us. I
helped Loralie to mount, then went up after, hand over hand.

An officer in the uniform of Olba helped me into the ship. He was the
mojak, or captain of the vessel.

Then he bowed low with right hand extended palm downward, as did every
other man in sight. "Your name, officer," I said.

"Lotar," he answered, "at your highness's service."

"Lotar, you will find quarters for Her Highness Loralie of Tyrhana, then
start immediately for the Imperial Palace at Olba."

"I hear and obey," he replied, and dashed off to give the necessary

We mounted to the rear turret, the princess and I, and watched the two
ships of Gadrimel fast disappearing from view. Why he did not fire at us
I have never learned. Possibly because the princess was on board, but
more probably because he feared the powerful mattorks of the mighty Olban

The princess presently retired to her quarters to rest, and I went
forward with Lotar, who was directing the pilot in the first turret. "How
long should it take us to get to Olba?" I asked.

The young mojak consulted his charts and instruments for a moment.

"We should be able to make the palace by nightfall, Highness," he said.
"This ship is rated at a rotation."

A rotation, I recalled, meant the speed at which Venus turns on her axis,
approximately a thousand miles an hour.

"Who sent you after us?"

"Your Highness's father has had the entire air fleet of Olba scouring the
planet for you since your disappearance from the Black Tower. His Majesty
assigned a patrol zone to each ship. I have been flying above this zone
for many days. Attracted by the explosion which destroyed your ship, I
flew over to investigate. With the aid of my glass I saw you and Her
Highness in the water, and the norgal swimming toward you. As a marksman
I have won many prizes in tournaments with the mattork. It was a simple
matter for me to kill the norgal with an explosive projectile."

"It was excellent shooting," I said, "and it not only saved my life, but
a life that is infinitely dearer to me. You will not find me ungrateful."

"My greatest reward lies in the knowledge that I have saved your highness
for Olba. There will be great rejoicing throughout the length and breadth
of the empire when the people learn that you are alive. And greatest of
all will be the joy of His Imperial Majesty, Torrogo Hadjez."

For some time I strolled about the ship, examining her armament and
admiring the luxury of her appointments. Presently, Loralie came out of
her stateroom. We went to the salon, where hot kova was served to us in
jewel-encrusted golden cups.

Night fell just as we flew above the great crescent-shaped harbor of
Tureno, and its myriad lights flashed on as did those of Olba. I caught a
fleeting glimpse of the lighted windows of the Black Tower as we hurtled
past it. Then the pilot gently slowed the ship until we were directly
above the Imperial Palace.

As we dropped toward the flat roof a number of guards came running toward
us. Two of them seized the ladder which we dropped and held it while the
princess descended. Then I followed.

A mojak in the uniform of the palace guard stepped up and tendered the
royal salute. "His majesty will be overjoyed, highness. It was his
command that I bring you before him as soon as you arrive."

There was something strangely familiar about the features of this
officer. I tried to place him as he conducted Loralie and me down the
telekinetic elevator.

When it stopped he bowed us into a spacious hall which led to a great,
arched doorway hung with curtains of scarlet and gold, at each side of
which stood two guards armed with torks, scarbos and long-bladed spears.

The four guards bowed obsequiously as we came up. Then two of them parted
the curtains and there stood before us another individual whose face
seemed strangely familiar to me. Yet he wore the pompous uniform of a
torrango, or prime minister, which I recognized from my studies, and I
knew I had never met the prime minister of Olba.

As soon as he saw me, he bowed low with right hand extended palm
downward. "His Majesty the Torrogo bids you welcome. Whom may I announce
as accompanying you?"

"Her Highness, Loralie. Torrogina of Tyrhana," I replied.

He bowed once more and departed. A moment later I heard him announcing
our names and titles. Then a voice, which also seemed familiar to me,
said, "You will conduct them before the throne."

As we followed the prime minister into the large and magnificent throne
room of Olba, more guards saluted and fell in behind us. A guard of
honor, I thought.

I had never seen Torrogo Hadjez, and was curious for a look at his face,
but restrained my impatience until Loralie plucked at my arm.

"Look!" she whispered. "Look who sits upon the throne!"

I raised my eyes, and the features of my arch-enemy, Taliboz, leered down
at me. For a moment I was stunned as I saw him sitting there, arrayed in
the royal scarlet and wearing the insignia of the Torrogo of Olba. Then
my hand flew to my sword hilt and I sprang forward. But before I could
take a second step strong arms pinioned my own from behind and my weapons
were wrested from me.

"I trust," Taliboz said, bowing to Loralie, "that you will excuse this
poor reception, but as your coming was unexpected we were totally
unprepared to greet you with the pomp and circumstance due visiting
royalty." He turned to his minister. "See that suitable apartments are
prepared for Her Highness of Tyrhana at once and conduct her there,
Maribo. And Vinzeth," he said, addressing the mojak who had conducted us
to the throne room, "you will also conduct Torrogi Zinlo to the suite
that awaits his coming."

"You fiend!" said Loralie, facing him with flashing eyes. "What are you
going to do with the prince!"

"Have no fear, Your Highness," responded Taliboz. "No harm shall come to
him. Not now, anyway. Later, his fate shall rest in your fair hands."

I was dragged out a side door by two guards.

They took me down a small elevator which, it seemed to me, traveled into
the very bowels of the planet before it stopped. Then I was jerked out of
the car and pulled along a narrow, dimly lighted passageway that seemed
to have been hewn from solid rock, until we came before a door of massive
metal bars.

One of the guards produced a key with which he unlocked this door, and I
was flung inside with such force that I fell sprawling on a cold stone
floor and the door clanged shut behind me.

Scarcely had I fallen to the stone floor of the dungeon cell into which I
had been hurled, when a shadowy form darted from its dim interior and was
helping me to my feet.

"Are you hurt, Highness?" the man asked solicitously. I recognized the
voice instantly, though the features were still indistinguishable to me,
my eyes not having become accustomed to the semidarkness.

"Lotar!" I exclaimed. "What are you doing here?"

"I was placed under arrest with all my officers and crew immediately
after you left with the villainous Vinzeth. So far as I know, my men are
confined in the cells around us."

"But what is the meaning of it all? Where is the Torrogo Hadjez, and how
did Taliboz attain the scarlet and the imperial throne?"

"At the time of Your Highness's disappearance from the Black Tower,
Taliboz and a number of his henchmen disappeared also," said Lotar. "A
short time ago he returned alone, disguised as a merchant of Adonijar and
driving one of the swift mechanical vehicles which are manufactured in
that country. His disguise was penetrated by a soldier of the imperial
guard, who placed him under arrest and took him before Torrogo Hadjez.

"His Majesty questioned Taliboz about your disappearance, and he told a
story which was believed by some and discredited by others--namely, that
there was a plot on foot among the guards of the Black Tower to
assassinate you as you slept. He said that he, with Vinzeth and Maribo
and his men, had fought, protecting you from death, until they were
driven back, and you were dragged to the tower top and spirited away by
the plotters in one of the tower airships.

"As quickly as he could, so his story went, he returned to his fighting
craft and set out in pursuit of your abductors. They finally crashed, he
said, in the wild country of the cave-apes beyond Adonijar, where you and
your abductors were killed in the crash. All of his men were killed and
eaten by cave-apes, and he barely escaped with his life to Adonijar,
where he had purchased a merchant's outfit and vehicle with which to
traverse the high road to Olba."

"I have met liars," I said, "on three planets, but Taliboz seems to be
prince of them all. This, however, does not explain how the traitor
attained the throne. I left him, paralyzed by a tork projectile, in a
forest near the mountains of the cave-apes. That he escaped the perils of
the jungle is little short of miraculous."

"No one could disprove the story told by Taliboz," Lotar pointed out, "as
everyone in the Black Tower had been slain. Torrogo Hadjez could do
nothing but thank him for attempting to save your life, reward him with
costly presents, and restore to him all the honor and authority which had
been his before his departure. That the Torrogo did not believe his
story, however, was evidenced by the fact that his air navy continued to
patrol the globe in search of Your Highness."

Someone rapped sharply on one of the massive bars of the cell door with
the hilt of a weapon. It was one of the guards assigned to patrol the

"Less noise in there, prisoners," he growled, then passed on.

"I learned more while we were being held in one of the upper rooms after
our arrest on the palace roof," continued Lotar softly. "As you are
probably aware, every man who awaited us on the roof was a henchman of
Taliboz. Your Imperial father, Highness, died at the hands of an assassin
several days ago. The dagger found driven in his back was proved to be
that of Arnifek, his prime minister. With Torrogo Hadjez dead and your
highness presumably so, there was no successor to the throne and it was
necessary for a new Torrogo to be elected by acclamation. Taliboz was
thus elected. He immediately had Arnifek, the supposed assassin,
executed, made Maribo his prime minister, and Vinzeth captain of the
palace guards."

"Do you think Arnifek was guilty of the murder?"

"Of course not. Taliboz--or one of his tools--did it with Arnifek's dagger.
It was part of his plan to get control of the Olban government. Why he
has let you live even this long is a mystery to me."

"It is no mystery to me," I answered. "He dropped some hint of his
purpose before he sent me from the throne room, for I heard him tell
Princess Loralie that my fate should rest in her hands. He will attempt
to force Loralie into marriage with him by threatening my life--and have
me slain once the marriage is consummated."

"You are right, Highness," said Lotar. "Taliboz plays for even greater
stakes--to unite the only air power and the mightiest maritime nation of
Zarovia, Olba and Tyrhana, by marriage. Adonijar would probably form an
alliance with him because her ruler is married to the princess's aunt. He
would be the wealthiest and most influential monarch on the globe. Nor is
there a single nation powerful enough to oppose such a strong
alliance--not even Reabon, with her mighty army. Reabon is far across the
ocean, and besides, her great warlike Torrogo died recently, leaving his
daughter, Vernia, to rule in his stead."

"Reabon," I mused. "The name sounds familiar. Ah, I remember. That is
the country to which Grandon went."

"Grandon?" he exclaimed, puzzled. "The name has a foreign sound."

"An old friend of mine. You would not know him. He is, as you say, a
foreigner...Is this Taliboz so popular that the people would gladly make
him Torrogo by acclamation?"

"Far from it, Highness," replied Lotar, "though he probably persuaded
some of them to espouse his cause by convincing them that he had risked
his life in an attempt to save yours."

"It looks," I said, "as if it were impossible to escape from here."

"I am familiar with these dungeons, Highness, as I served in the palace
guard for two years. There is a way to escape--a secret way which I doubt
very much whether Taliboz himself knows. But we must first get past
yonder barred door and the armed guard in the corridor."

"If that is all," I replied, "I see freedom in the offing. Follow my
instructions implicitly, and we'll soon be out of this."

"You have but to command, Highness."

"Very well. When next the guard approaches on his rounds, talk very
loudly. No doubt he will stop and order you to be silent. When he does
this, insult him."

"But he will only come in and beat me with the flat of his scarbo,

"Do as I say, Lotar. I will attend to the rest."

It was not long before we heard the heavy footfalls of the guard in the
corridor. I immediately started a conversation with my companion in a
loud voice.

"Silence!" roared the guard. "The other prisoners want to sleep."

"Be on your way, you clumsy lout," replied Lotar, "and do not in the
future forget how to address your superiors."

"My superiors! Ho, ho!" jeered the guard. "Very soon will I show you who
is superior, a prisoner or his jailer."

He took a bunch of keys from his belt pouch and fumbled among them until
he found the one that fitted our door.

"Now see what you have done, Lotar," I exclaimed, simulating great fear.
"You have got us a beating with that noisy tongue of yours."

The guard flung open the door, a grin of delight on his features. Such a
man would not only welcome any opportunity to torture a fellow creature,
but would seek such an opportunity.

"So, O cub of a dead marmelot, you fear a beating," snarled the guard.
"It is well that a weakling such as you can never mount the throne."

"Were he on the throne," Lotar snapped, "hahoes like you would be working
in the quarries where they belong!"

The guard raised his scarbo for a heavy blow at the defenseless Lotar.
This gave me the opening for which I had been waiting. With a single
bound I was in front of him. Before he could recover from his surprise I
planted a crashing right hook on the point of his jaw. He went down like
a felled ninepin, nor was a second blow necessary.

I gave his tork and dagger to Lotar, but retained the scarbo myself. It
took us but a few moments to bind and gag the prostrate guard with the
straps of his own accouterments. We dragged him back into a corner,
closed and locked the cell door, and tiptoed stealthily down the
corridor, the young captain in the lead.

"Let us release your men," I said.

"Your Highness's life is too precious to risk for them. Still, if it is
your Highness's command...

"It is."

Pausing before the first cell door, Lotar peered within.

"Here are six of them," he whispered, testing his keys in the lock.

Looking over his shoulder, I saw six shadowy forms on the floor, and
could hear their breathing as they slept.

When he had found the right key, Lotar opened the door quietly and
stepped within. One by one he awakened the sleeping men, cautioning

We went from cell to cell until we had released forty-five men--all but
five of the crew of Lotar's aerial battleship. He was opening their cell
door when we heard the clatter of footsteps, the clank of weapons and the
sound of talking. Armed men were approaching by way of a transverse

"Quick, into this cell, every man of you," I ordered.

Silently our forty-five filed into the cell with the remaining five. When
all were inside there was standing room only.

"Now, Lotar," I whispered, "let us go to greet our callers."

He whipped out his dagger and followed me to the intersection of the two
corridors, where we crouched, breathlessly awaiting the approach of the


As LOTAR and I crouched against the corridor wall in the dungeon beneath
the Imperial Palace of Olba we could hear our unseen enemies drawing
nearer and nearer in the transverse passage way. How many there were, or
how well they were armed, we had no means of knowing. But we were
desperate, and had there been an entire company of them we could have
done nothing but fight like cornered rats.

Two guards, fully armed, suddenly rounded the turn facing us. Out came
the scarbo of the one nearest me, but before he could use it my point had
found his throat. He went down with a queer gurgling sound. Lotar had,
meanwhile, sprung on the other guard like an enraged marmelot, burying
his dagger in his breast. Simultaneously, we withdrew our dripping
weapons, thinking this was all, when suddenly a third guard rounded the

This time we had no element of surprise in our favor, for he had seen us
as quickly as we had him.

He quickly clapped his hand to his tork, at the same time raising his
voice to alarm the guards. "Help! Two pris--"

He said no more, nor had he even an opportunity to press the tork button,
for with lightning quickness that the eye could scarce follow, Lotar had
hurled his bloody dagger straight at the enemy's face. It entered his
opened mouth with such force that the point protruded from the back of
his neck and the hilt clicked against his teeth. With a look of amazement
and horror on his twisted features, he slumped to the floor.

"Get their weapons, Lotar," I ordered, and hurried to summon our men.
With the weapons of the three guards we partly armed six of them, and
once more hurried away under the guidance of Lotar.

But we had not gone far when there was a great clamor and much shouting
behind us, and we knew our escape had been detected. We bounded forward
now, without any attempt at silence. A moment later Lotar called a halt
before a huge, cylindrical pillar about three feet in diameter, which to
all outward appearances was exactly like the many other pillars which
supported the stone roof of the corridor.

Whipping out his dagger, he pressed the point into a tiny crack in the
floor in front of it, whereupon, much to my amazement, I saw that the
pillar was turning quite rapidly, and as it turned, moved up into the
rock above it like a gigantic screw. In a few seconds its base was above
the floor, and beneath it there yawned a black well.

"Into it, every man of you, quickly," ordered Lotar.

The man nearest the wall paused gingerly on the edge.

"Leap," ordered the captain. "It is not far."

In he went, and we could see that the spot where he had landed was
scarcely seven feet below the floor level. After him, as fast as they
could find room, crowded the other men. But meanwhile, the sounds from
behind us told us that our pursuers were dangerously near.

It seemed an age before the last man leaped into the hole, followed
quickly by Lotar and me.

Stooping down, the young mojak pressed a lever in the floor. The pillar
started downward, the direction of its turning reversed, and soon we
stood in total darkness. Judging from the sounds above, the thing had
been accomplished just in time. The large party of guards above clattered
on past without even stopping to investigate.

"They do not suspect," said Lotar, "which is well. It may be that we
shall want to pass this way again. Come, I will lead the way."

As none of us had the means to make a light, we moved forward like blind
men, following the voice of Lotar, who seemed to know the way by heart.
"A steep slope ahead," he would sing out, or, "A sharp turn here. Look
out for it." We followed him in the inky blackness.

The tunnel had apparently been hewn through the rock stratum that
underlay this part of Olba. How it was ventilated I had no means of
knowing, but though the air was cool and moist it seemed quite fresh.

When we had traveled for more than an hour in this fashion, I asked Lotar
how much farther we had to go.

"We are but a third of the way, Highness," he responded. "This tunnel
leads to the Black Tower."

"And whom do you expect to find in the Black Tower?"

"Friends. It is hardly likely that Taliboz has manned it with his
henchmen so soon, but even if he has, some of us are armed and we have
the advantage of surprise on our side."

"Unless," I observed, "he discovers that we have come this way and sets a
trap for us."

"It is not likely. The guards in the dungeon were completely baffled. By
now I doubt not that the traitorous Taliboz is exceedingly mystified and
furiously angry."

It was nearly ten Earth miles from the Imperial Palace to the Black
Tower, so that, traveling blindly as we were, it took us more than three
and a half hours to make the trip.

When we reached our destination, Lotar cautioned silence and groped about
in the darkness for some time. Then I heard the click of a lever and the
turning of a cylinder, and presently a circle of light appeared above our
heads--most welcome after three and a half hours of intense darkness.

Gripping the edge of the floor, Lotar drew himself up and peered
cautiously about. Evidently satisfied that he was unobserved, he
clambered on out of the hole, beckoning to us to follow. It was not long
before we had our entire company lined up in a large room, the ceiling of
which was supported by pillars similar to the one which had been raised
to let us in. Lotar then pressed the hidden button that started the
pillar rotating in the opposite direction, and watched it turn back into
place, leaving no sign of the way by which we had come.

There were three windows in the room through which the first faint
streaks of dawn were visible. There were also three doors. Lotar slowly
and carefully opened one of these. But scarcely had he looked out ere a
sharp challenge was hurled at him from the corridor.

"Move and you die! Who are you?"

"Lotar, Mojak in the Imperial Air Navy," replied the young officer.

"What do you here?"

"That," replied Lotar, "I will tell your mojak if you will fetch him. Who
is in command here?"

"Pasuki commands," replied the guard.

"A good and loyal soldier. Take me before him."

He motioned with his hand for us to remain in the room. Then he stepped
out, closing the door after him. Evidently the guard had not the
slightest suspicion of our presence.

Not more than ten minutes elapsed ere the door opened once more and Lotar
entered, followed by a tall, straight, white-bearded man who wore the
uniform of Mojak of the Black Tower Guards, easily distinguished by the
small replica of the tower worn on the helmet and the same device in
relief on the breastplate.

The old soldier bowed low with right hand extended palm downward.

"Pasuki is yours to command as of old, Highness," he said, "and overjoyed
that the report of Your Highness's death was false."

I did not, of course, remember Pasuki, but it was quite evident that he
remembered the former Zinlo. "You were ever a true and loyal soldier,
Pasuki," I replied. "See that these men I have brought with me are fed,
housed and armed."

After a brief order for the disposal of Lotar's men to a mojo who waited
outside, Pasuki conducted us to the telekinetic elevator and by it to my

"I'll send for you men soon," I told them. "Meanwhile we must try to
devise some plan of attack on this wily Taliboz, and find a way to rescue
Her Highness of Tyrhana."

Pasuki and Lotar bowed low and withdrew.

After a bath and a change of clothing, I was served with the usual huge
and variegated breakfast with which Zarovian royalty tempts its appetite,
to the accompaniment of gold service and scarlet napery.

But ere I had completed this meal, a page came to announce that a man who
had just been admitted to the tower, craved immediate audience with me.
"Who is he?" I asked.

"He gave the name of Vorvan to Pasuki, who questioned him and seemed
satisfied of his loyalty," replied the page.

"Then show him in," I answered. The name Vorvan had a familiar ring, and
I was trying to remember where I had heard it before when a man clad in
the conventional blue garb of a tradesman entered.

He appeared about fifty years of age, and his square-cut beard had an
unnatural reddish tinge, as if it had been dyed. His eyebrows were
similarly treated, and a bandage was drawn across one cheek and the
bridge of the nose, as if he had been recently wounded. I could not
remember ever having seen the man before, yet there was something about
him that was strangely familiar.

He bowed low, right hand extended palm downward.

"I have a message for Your Highness's ears alone," he said, with a
significant look at the three men who were serving my breakfast.

"Won't you have some breakfast?" I asked.

"With Your Highness's leave I will decline, as I have already
breakfasted. There is much to be done, and time presses." Again he
glanced impatiently at the servants.

With a wave of my hand, I dismissed them.

"The page told me you gave the name of Vorvan," I said when they were
gone. "Both the name and yourself seem somehow vaguely familiar, yet I
cannot remember having heard it, nor having seen you before."

"Then my disguise must be effective, Highness," he answered, with a smile
which was also familiar. "I am Vorn Vangal."

The smile and the name instantly brought a flood of recollections. This
was indeed Vorn Vangal, the man who had arranged with Dr. Morgan to bring
me to Venus-Vorn Vangal, the great nobleman, scientist and psychologist
of Olba--the man who had welcomed me to Venus with the identical smile he
was now wearing.

But at that time he had been attired in the purple and the glittering
bejeweled panoply of a great noble, and his beard and hair had been iron
gray. A bit of dye, a bandage, and the clothing of a tradesman had
wrought vast change in his appearance.

"I'll try to answer Your Highness's questions in due order," Vorn Vangal
said. "I returned from Reabon one week after I left you in the Black
Tower, expecting to find you here, safe and sound. You may imagine my
astonishment when I learned that you and Taliboz had disappeared, that
your guards had been slain, and that a number of dead henchmen of Taliboz
had been found here.

"I immediately established telepathic communication with Dr. Morgan who
was to keep in constant rapport with you, and from him I learned what had
happened to you. Then I went to Torrogo Hadjez and persuaded him to
patrol the area where it might be expected that you would be found. You
were moving about so much that it was impossible for the airships to find
you in any specific location I might name. Part of the time you didn't
know where you were, hence your subjective mind could not inform Dr.
Morgan, and through him, me.

"Of course I knew the report of Taliboz was a lie when he said you had
been killed, but I did not dare to so inform Torrogo Hadjez. He would
have demanded to know the source of my knowledge, which would have forced
me to disclose the fact that his son was on your world and you were
taking his place here.

"I decided to personally conduct a search for you in an aerial
battleship, and Torrogo Hadjez provided me with one for the purpose, but
we encountered a terrific storm before we had gone far, and the ship was
forced to land, hopelessly crippled, near the Olba-Adonijar border. I
immediately took a motor vehicle back to Olba, but was placed under
arrest as soon as I entered the city gates, for Torrogo Hadjez had been
assassinated and Taliboz was on the throne.

"He condemned me to die as a traitor, and confiscated my city palace as
well as my lands, estates and treasure. With the aid of a few faithful
friends, I managed to escape before his sentence could be carried out,
disguised myself as a tradesman, and came here, having learned through
Dr. Morgan that this was where you were to be found."

"And now," I asked, "have you any plans for rescuing the Princess Loralie
and disposing of Taliboz?"

"The only method I can think of will be a bloody revolution. Most of the
men who garrison the palace and the city are men of the usurper. The men
who previously filled these ranks have been sent to work on and guard the
private estates of Taliboz, far to the north of Olba. If we were to
proclaim your return, Taliboz would immediately denounce you as an
impostor, a price would be placed on your head, and you would be hunted
by every military man under his command.

"The best way, I believe, will be for you to remain here until I can
arouse the patriotic citizens of Olba, secretly telling them of your
presence here. You can then come to Olba in disguise, and we can make a
concerted effort to capture the palace and do away with the traitor who
sits on the throne."

"But that will take considerable time," I said, "and in the meantime,
what of Loralie?"

This question went unanswered, for at this moment one of my guards
entered with the statement that Pasuki and Lotar craved immediate
audience as they had a communication of the utmost importance.

"Admit them," I said.

Both saluted hurriedly as they came in, and seemed greatly agitated.
"Your Highness's presence here has been discovered," said Lotar. "We must
get you away at once."

"I am sorry to inform you that there must have been a traitor among my
men," said Pasuki, "planted there, no doubt, by Taliboz to spy on my
doings. One of my faithful servants, however, was watching Taliboz, and
has dispatched a messenger to me with the information that the usurper
has mobilized an army of five thousand men who are already marching on
the Black Tower."


As I SAT facing the three men, Pasuki, Lotar, and Vorn Vangal, all
faithful to me, but with no plans for meeting the emergency created by
the advance of the army which was ten times the strength of the garrison
of the Black Tower, an idea came to me.

"Will Taliboz accompany the army, Pasuki?" I asked.

"It is probable, Highness, but I cannot be certain."

"How many men in your garrison?"

"Four hundred and fifty, not counting Lotar's fifty. We could not hold
the tower long against the attack of five thousand. It is best that we
disband the garrison and make our escape in the flyers on the roof of the
tower. There are two there, each of which will carry two men."

"But what of the princess? If you men and your followers are willing to
fight both for her and for me, I have a plan--a precarious one, but
possible of execution--for saving her and dethroning Taliboz."

They pledged their loyalty.

"Very well," I said. "Prepare, then, all of you, to obey my orders
without question. They may seem strange to you, but if they do, remember
that they are designed to outwit Taliboz. You, Pasuki, will prepare for
the defense of the Black Tower at once with all your mattorks and men.
You, Lotar, will keep your men armed and ready for my call, but out of
sight. See that every one of them is provided with a portable light, and
that there are several extra lights. Vorn Vangal will remain at my side
for the present."

The two men hurried away to carry out my commands, and I leisurely
finished my breakfast, while Vorn Vangal kept anxious watch out the

"They draw near, Highness," he said excitedly, "and Taliboz is with them,
for I see the personal standard of the Torrogo in their midst."

"Good." I went to the window. Taliboz was bringing up a mighty host
indeed, compared to our small garrison. When they were within a thousand
yards of the walls that surrounded the tower, they deployed to the right
and left. A man bearing a banner on which was written in large letters
the Zarovian word "dua"--which, under the circumstances meant, "a
truce"--left the ranks and marched toward the main gate of the tower wall.

"A herald," said Vorn Vangal. "Taliboz would treat with us."

"Let us go to the top of the tower."

We quickly took a telekinetic elevator.

"We are completely surrounded now," said Vorn Vangal. "There will be no
escape. Even if we were to try to get away in the airships we should
immediately be shot down by their mattork crews."

"We are not yet ready to attempt an escape."

The herald stopped near the gates and shouted a command to Pasuki to
deliver to His Imperial Majesty, Taliboz of Olba, "the usurper who calls
himself Zinlo of Olba." He offered a free pardon to Pasuki and his men.

"You will return to His Majesty," replied Pasuki, "our regrets that we
are unable to comply with his order, as we have no usurper in the Black

"Who is that man in scarlet I see standing on the roof of the topmost
segment?" demanded the herald. "If that be not Zinlo of Olba..." He
checked himself, then continued, "If that be not the usurper who calls
himself Zinlo of Olba, who is he?"

"He is Zinlo of Olba. Tell that to your traitorous master, and bid him
come and bend the knee to the man whose throne he has stolen." Turning
contemptuously, Pasuki walked away from the parapet.

"Pasuki has played his part well," I informed Vorn Vangal. "Now, remove
your disguise; if possible get rid of that villainous-looking hair dye;
array your self in the purple that suits your true station, and then
report to me in my apartments."

"I will carry out Your Highness's commands at once," replied Vorn Vangal,
and hurried to the elevator.

I watched the herald as he picked his way through the encircling army to
a point some distance behind it where a man stood, garbed in the royal
scarlet, surrounded by officers and courtiers. I knew that he must be

Scarcely had the herald bowed before him ere he sent a number of officers
scurrying toward the front lines. A mattork spoke. The shell went
screaming past the tower only a few feet from my head. A second shell
exploded near me, tearing away part of the battlement.

As our mattorks replied, a general bombardment started, and the soldiers
of the encircling army took advantage of natural cover when it was to be
had, or threw themselves flat and dug in. I judged that they planned to
bombard the tower before attempting to storm it.

Shells were rattling like hail against the upper battlements when I took
the elevator and descended to my apartments. Here I found Vorn Vangal,
once more the great Olban noble I had first seen.

Together we entered the elevator once more and descended to the fifth
underground level, where Lotar's men were mobilized. The young mojak
saluted and then stood awaiting my orders. Even at this depth the
thunderous sounds of the battle came faintly from above, and I could see
that both men and commander longed, even as did I, to be in the thick of
it. But I had other work for all, which might prove as exciting and far
more dangerous.

"Have you the lights, Lotar?" I asked.

"Every man has been provided with a light, and there are several to
spare, Highness."

"Then give one each to Vorn Vangal and me, and we will start for the
palace at once, the way we came. Hurry!"

Lotar quickly handed us a light each, and then led us to the pillar from
beneath which we had entered the Black Tower. I led the way into the pit
beneath it as soon as it was raised, closely followed by Vorn Vangal, and
leaving Lotar to close the entrance and bring up the rear.

Traveling with lights, it was easy to maintain a pace much faster than
our previous one when we had walked in total darkness.

"How many guards do you think there will be in the palace?" I asked Vorn
Vangal as he jogged along beside me.

"Normally there are a thousand constantly on duty in the palace and
grounds. However, it may be that Taliboz has taken some of these with him
in order to fill the ranks of his hastily organized army. If this is the
case, he may have left two or three hundred, perhaps five hundred men."

"Whether there be two hundred or a thousand, we must take the palace," I
said. "In either case we will be tremendously outnumbered, but we have
the advantage of surprise in our favor."

When we reached the palace, I called a halt to give the men a rest, and
passed back word for Lotar to come up.

As soon as he joined us, I told him my plans for taking the palace. Then
I pulled the lever which operated the pillar above us, and we all snapped
off our lights.

When the pillar was high enough I drew myself up and peered over the edge
of the floor through the dim light of the dungeon. Only one guard was in
sight, and he was walking away from me. Silently I threw a knee over the
edge, stood erect, and signed for the others to follow me. When every man
was out, Lotar pressed the hidden button which closed the wall.

At the suggestion of Vorn Vangal, our torks were loaded with the
projectiles which paralyze for several hours but do not kill unless they
happen to strike a vital spot. By using these bullets we could render our
opponents helpless without actually killing them, and would not be
bothered with guarding prisoners.

As Vorn Vangal had surmised, Taliboz had taken a number of the palace
guards with him when he started for the Black Tower. We found only one
man patrolling the corridors of the level we were on, and he was quickly
put out of the way. On the next level we found two guards, and on each of
the three dungeon levels above it, two. Although they were not taken
completely by surprise, having heard our shots, they were easily

On the ground level, Lotar took twenty men and started out in one
direction while his lieutenant took another twenty and went in the
opposite direction. With the ten remaining men, Vorn Vangal and I took an
elevator to the roof.

Here we found only a dozen men on guard, and quickly shot down all but
one, who surrendered in terror, for he did not know that we were not
using the deadly bullets in our torks. There were six aerial battleships
on the roof but crews in none of them. I also noticed several small,
one-man airships. One of these suddenly rose and started for the Black
Tower, but Vorn Vangal leaped to a mattork and shot it down. It crashed
in one of the busiest streets of Olba, drawing a great crowd and halting

Quickly searching the other airships, we found them untenanted.

By questioning the man we had captured, we found that Vinzeth, Mojak
of the Palace Guards, had ordered most of his men to the dungeon, and
had gone there himself to direct the fighting.

"Now, Vorn Vangal," I said when we were in control of the roof, "do you
think that by spreading the knowledge of my return in Olba you can get us
a few more fighting men?"

"I can raise a vast army, and that quickly. They may not all be trained
soldiers, but every male Olban knows how to use a tork and scarbo."

"Then you will remain here in charge of the roof, retaining five men at
all times to defend the stairway. The other five you may use as
messengers to summon your friends. As all these men are from an aerial
battleship, I assume that they know how to handle the small airships."

"They do," replied Vangal.

I then sent for the prisoner. When he was brought before me I asked him
where the Princess of Tyrhana was imprisoned.

"I do not know, Your Highness," he replied.

"Have a care how you lie to me," I warned him.

"I swear it, Highness. I have no idea of her whereabouts."

"Cling to your falsehood, knave! We shall see if it will sustain you in
mid-air. Pitch him over the battlements, men."

The two warriors who had brought him immediately began dragging him
toward the battlements. He struggled unsuccessfully to break away from
them, feet threshing, eyes rolling in terror.

"Wait!" he shrieked. "I know! I will tell!"

"Bring him back," I ordered. "He shall have another chance."

Once more they brought him before me, this time trembling with terror and
thoroughly cowed.

"Speak," I said. "And tell the truth this time."

"Her Highness has apartments on the floor just beneath us," he said
quaveringly. "The last floor at which the elevators stop."

"And how is she guarded?"

"Two men guard her door, and she has two female attendants."

I did not wait to hear more but dashed down the stairway. After
traversing several corridors, I saw two guards standing before a door
draped with scarlet, and knew I had the right place. One of the guards
saw me as soon as I saw him, and our torks spoke in unison. His bullet
struck my sword hilt, but mine stretched him, unconscious, on the floor.
The other guard wheeled just in time to receive my second bullet and
share the fate of his companion.

Rushing up to the doorway, I ripped aside the scarlet drape and tried to
open the door, but it was locked. I quickly searched both fallen guards
but could find no keys in the belt pouches of either.

Arising, I rapped loudly and called the name of Loralie.

A woman's voice answered me from within. It was the voice of my princess.
"Who is there?"

"It is I, Zinlo," I replied. "Open the door, quickly."

"Zinlo, beloved!" she answered. "I had almost lost hope of your coming.
But I cannot open the door. It was locked from the outside, and we have
no keys in here."

"Then I'll break it down," I answered. "Stand away from it."

Backing across the corridor, I ran at the door, hurling my body against
it, but it was sturdily fashioned from thick planks of tough serah wood,
and my sole reward for my onslaught against it was a bruised shoulder.

Again and again I hurled myself against it with the same result.

Then I whipped out my scarbo, resolved to hew my way through it, when I
suddenly heard the sound of men running behind me. Wheeling, I beheld the
brutal, leering features of Vinzeth. Behind him came a dozen palace
guardsmen. I reached for my tork, but before my hand touched it, his
spoke. There was a soaring pain in my already bruised shoulder, a dizzy
nausea swept over me, and all went black before my eyes.

When I regained consciousness after being shot down by Vinzeth, I had a
furious headache, a terrific pain in my shoulder, and a tremendous
thirst. I was lying on a mattress on the roof, with Vorn Vangal bending
over me, holding a phial of some pungent liquid beneath my nostrils.
Lotar was standing near by.

"Where is Loralie?" asked. "Have you rescued her?"

"Here, drink this," said Vorn Vangal, removing the phial from beneath my
nostrils and holding a steaming bowl to my lips. "Then I will tell you."
I recognized the fragrant aromatic smell of kova, and drank deeply. The
hot, stimulating beverage sent the blood coursing warmly through my

When I had drunk, Vorn Vangal said, "Lotar and his men not only conquered
the guards stationed on every floor they came to, but defeated the fifty
guards which Vinzeth took down from the roof to oppose them, driving them
upward from floor to floor until only a dozen remained with their mojak.
Evidently intending to get the princess and escape in one of the
airships, Vinzeth retreated with his twelve men while Lotar was
conquering the guards posted on the floor that is second from the top.
This took only a short time, but when Lotar reached the top floor he saw
Vinzeth standing over you with a scarbo, ready to give you the death

"He instantly opened fire, whereupon Vinzeth transferred his attention
from you to the only avenue of escape left to him--the door to the
apartments of the princess. With a key from his belt pouch he succeeded
in opening it and getting inside with two of his men. The others were
shot down by Lotar and his warriors.

"Finding you were not dead, but only temporarily paralyzed, Lotar had you
brought up to the roof by two of his men, and with the others who were
with him, demanded that Vinzeth surrender and give up the princess. But
Vinzeth refused to surrender, and swore that if the door were broken down
the princess should be instantly slain."

"How long ago was this?"

"It occurred about three hours ago. The effect of the narcotic in the
tork bullets lasts about that long."

"And she is still in there with him?" I asked, sitting up.

"What could we do, Highness? We have surrounded the room, but if we break
in she will undoubtedly be slain. Vinzeth is a desperate character."

"You are right. We must find some way to outwit this Vinzeth."

"We have not been unsuccessful in other ways," said Vorn Vangal. "Already
I have raised a citizen army of twenty thousand men, and more volunteers
pour into our ranks constantly. The city is in the hands of the loyal
commanders I have appointed, and a thousand men who are trustworthy guard
the palace from roof to dungeons."

"What about Pasuki in the Black Tower? I had intended to have you send
him reenforcements by way of the tunnel as soon as you could get them,
but forgot it."

"In this I acted without Your Highness's command, guessing your
intentions," said Vorn Vangal. "Five thousand men have already traveled
to the relief of Pasuki through the tunnel. When all get there, his men
will outnumber those of Taliboz. And they will have a decided advantage
any time he decides to storm the tower. The twenty thousand citizen
troops are mobilized near the south gate, awaiting your orders."

Just as he finished speaking a small, one-man flyer alighted on the roof.
The man who stepped out looked around him for a moment, then espying our
group, ran toward us.

"I have just come from Tureno," he announced. "A mighty battle fleet is
in the harbor--the fleet of Tyrhana. And in the flagship rides Ad, Torrogo
of Tyrhana, who demands that his daughter be delivered to him safe and
sound, or he will immediately reduce Tureno and march on Olba. With him,
also, are two ships, in one of which is Prince Gadrimel of Adonijar. He
threatens an immediate declaration of war by his nation if his cousin,
the Princess of Tyrhana, be not immediately returned unharmed to her
imperial sire."

"Never mind Prince Gadrimel," I told the messenger, "but fly at once to
the flagship of Torrogo Ad. Tell him that his daughter has been kidnapped
by one of the mojaks of Taliboz, and we are trying to rescue her. Tell
him further that if he cares to, he is welcome to land his army in
Tureno, and that such citizens of Tureno as are available and can bear
arms will march with him and assist him if he is bent on attacking the
army of the man who abducted his daughter and usurped the throne of

The messenger made obeisance and departed.

I turned to Vorn Vangal. "Send another messenger at once to the King of
Tureno. Tell him it is my command that he permit the soldiers of Tyrhana
to land, and that he send as many men with them as he can gather to fight
Taliboz. You will then go yourself and take command of the citizen army
that waits at the south gate of the city, starting immediately for the
Black Tower and surrounding the army of Taliboz, if possible."

Vorn Vangal hurried away to carry out my orders, and I swung on Lotar.
"By looking over the battlements, can you point out the windows of the
room in which Her Highness is confined?"

"Yes, Highness."

"First send for a long, strong rope," I commanded. "Then show me the
windows--and be sure you make no mistake."

He sent a man scurrying for a rope and then went to the parapet and
leaned over. I leaned over with him and he pointed downward.

"That window," he said, indicating one almost directly beneath us, "opens
on the reception room of her apartment. The one to the left opens on her
bedroom, the right on her bath."

At the sound of footsteps behind us we turned. Two soldiers bearing a
large coil of stout rope saluted.

"Put down the rope," I ordered. "Now you, Lotar, go down in front of the
door of the princess's apartment. Make a great noise, demand the release
of the prisoner, and engage Vinzeth in an argument if you can. Don't do
anything until you hear a commotion inside, or until I call you. Then
break down the door."

With a quiet smile, which showed his full comprehension of my plan, Lotar
hurried down the stairway.

Making a tight loop in the end of the rope, I brought it over the parapet
at a position directly above the window which opened on Loralie's
bedroom. Then, telling the two soldiers to let me down until I held out
one hand for them to stop, I swung over the battlement, and with one foot
in the loop and both hands gripping the rope, was swiftly and silently
lowered. As soon as I was opposite the window, I signaled the men to
cease lowering me. Because of the projection of the battlements, I hung
about three feet from the window ledge. Below me was a sheer drop of
about a hundred feet to the balcony roof of the next segment.

Gripping the rope with both hands, I worked it as a child works a swing
until it began to move back and forth, first toward, then away from the
window ledge. Nearer and nearer it swung until I was finally able to hook
a foot over the ledge and draw myself inside. Cautiously dropping to the
floor, I found the room deserted and the door closed. From beyond the
door came men's voices raised in altercation.

Scarbo in hand, I tiptoed to the door and gently opened it a little way.
Standing near the large central window, but looking toward the entrance
to the corridor, were Loralie and her two handmaidens. Just in front of
them, and also facing the door, were Vinzeth and his two men.

I had no idea whether the two maids with Loralie were friendly to my
cause or to that of Taliboz, but I took a chance, and, reaching out,
touched the arm of the one nearest me, then held my finger to my lips for
silence. She started and gave a little cry of fear which caused me to
snatch at my tork, but it went unnoticed by the three men because of the
clamor in the corridor.

Motioning the girl into the bedroom, I touched her companion in a like
manner, and also succeeded in getting her out of the way without noise. I
then touched Loralie lightly on the shoulder. She swung on me, a furious
look in her eyes, but it was instantly replaced by one of infinite
tenderness when she recognized me. She went with me quickly enough into
the bedroom, but when I started out again she threw her arms around my
neck to detain me.

"Don't go, please," she whispered. "They will kill you. Close the door
and stay in here."

I smiled, kissed her, and pushed her away.

"Lock the door after me," I said in a whisper. "In case I lose the fight,
Lotar will break in from the corridor before Vinzeth can harm you."

Then I stepped out and softly closed the door after me. At this instant
one of the men, turned, facing me. For a moment he stared incredulously;
then he reached for his tork. But mine was already leveled at him, and I

At the sound of the shot, Vinzeth and the other ruffian swung about. I
shot the latter, but the mojak of Taliboz was too quick for me. Without
pausing to draw a weapon, he sprang in so close that I was unable to use
mine, and we went down in a heap, kicking, clawing, striking and gouging
each other like a pair of wild animals.

The corridor door, meanwhile, was splintering from thunderous blows on
its exterior. Although the thick serali planking was exceedingly tough,
it was evident that it could not much longer withstand the terrific
assault. Lotar had evidently found something that made an efficient
battering ram.

All this came to me subconsciously as I fought, for I was too busy with
my powerful and wily antagonist to think of anything else. Back and forth
we struggled, rolling over and over, crashing against furniture and
pulling down hangings, each man kept so occupied by the other that he was
unable to use a weapon.

Presently I managed to get a short arm jolt to Vinzeth's jaw, which
partly dazed him, and was about to repeat the process when he suddenly
caught me in the solar plexus with his knee. With the wind completely
knocked out of me, I sank, gasping, to the floor.

He uttered a yell of triumph, and whipping out his scarbo, swung it aloft
with the evident intention of splitting my skull.

But ere he could bring it down, there was a final, rending crash from the
corridor doorway, followed by the cracking of a tork. With a look of
horrified unbelief on his features, Vinzeth dropped his scarbo and
pitched forward on his face, his body lying across me.

Lotar quickly dragged him off me, and flung him into the corner as if he
had been a sack of grain. I sat up but was unable to talk.

When I regained my speech I called to Loralie, telling her that it was
now safe to open the door. Recognizing my voice, she came out and knelt
beside me, pulling my head down on her breast and asking me where I was

But I reassured her, and a moment later, having managed to regain my
breath, I stood up. "Man one of the aerial battleships at once, Lotar," I
said. "We're going to pay our respects to Taliboz."

While we waited for Lotar to get the ship ready for flight, Loralie and I
stood on the palace roof, looking toward the Black Tower.

Lotar sent us each a glass, and with the aid of these, we could watch
what was transpiring.

The citizens' army which had started out from Olba was now less than two
miles from the tower and spread out in an immense crescent. Marching from
Tureno, and almost as close to the besieged tower, was an army almost as
large as that of Olba, deployed in the same manner. On account of his low
position and the rolling formation of the ground, Taliboz had not yet
seen his approaching enemies. His men, who had evidently been previously
repulsed, judging from the bodies that lay before the wall, were forming
for a new assault on the Black Tower.

We were watching the horns of the two crescents draw together when Lotar
called to me, "The ship is ready, Highness."


LORALIE AND I boarded the aerial battleship. It was the same one that had
rescued us from the killer norgal and brought us to Olba, manned in part
by the same crew, and commanded by Lotar.

By my command he piloted the ship to a point directly above the Black
Tower, and hovered there. The armies from the north and south had, by
this time, completed their encircling movement and were rapidly closing
in on the unsuspecting army of Taliboz.

Zinlo of Olba, to Taliboz: You are surrounded by an army of forty
thousand warriors. As the Black Tower is garrisoned with five thousand
men, you cannot hope to take it. You have your choice of unconditional
surrender or annihilation. If you surrender, lay down your arms and
raise the "dua" pennon. If not, you alone are responsible for what will


Rolling it up and weighting it with an empty tork clip, I hurled it down
at the spot where the Imperial Standard of Olba fluttered in the wind.

With the aid of my glass I watched its flight downward, and saw it fall
near one of the officers, who carried it to his commander.

Unrolling it, Taliboz read it, then passed it to the man nearest him.
Upon careful scrutiny with the glass, I saw the man was Maribo, his prime
minister. After the latter had read it, the two engaged in a lengthy
argument in which several of the others joined.

I judged from their attitudes that the other officers sided with Maribo,
and that Taliboz stood alone in whatever decision he had made. While the
argument was going on, the first skirmish line of the encircling army
opened fire.

Suddenly wheeling and walking away from Maribo and the others, I saw
Taliboz shout something to a mattork crew and point toward our ship. A
moment later a shell screamed past me. This was his answer.

A gunner in our forward turret promptly replied, wiping out the crew of
the mattork from which the shot had been fired.

But Maribo and the other officers apparently did not approve of the way
Taliboz had replied to our missive. With positive defeat staring them in
the face, they appeared to be united in favor of immediate surrender. At
least they did not interfere with Maribo when he ran up behind Taliboz
just as the traitor was ordering another gun crew to fire on us, and
deliberately stabbed him in the back.

Scarcely had the stricken traitor sunk to the ground ere Maribo gave an
order to the standard bearer. Instantly the banner of Taliboz was lowered
and the pennon of peace raised, while the shout of "dua" went around the
lines. The fighting ceased almost instantly, and with their weapons on
the ground and their hands clasped behind their heads in token of
submission, the warriors who had set out so confidently that morning to
reduce the Black Tower, were taken prisoners.

"Now that they have surrendered," said Loralie anxiously, "can't we go
and see my poor father?"

"We'll get him and take him to the palace at once. I want him to be my
guest as long as he cares to stay."

"And I want you to ask him something just as soon as you get a chance,"
she said with a meaning smile. "Remember Cousin Gadrimel is with him. He
is very fond of my cousin."

We flew southward to where the standards of the Torrogo of Tyrhana, the
Torrogi of Adonijar, and my Rogo of Tureno fluttered in the breeze, then

As Loralie and I got down from the ship, three men came to meet us. All
wore the scarlet of royalty. The foremost I recognized instantly by his
mincing gait as Prince Gadrimel. The other two I did not know except by
their insignia.

Loralie flung herself into the arms of the taller of the two, a straight,
athletic-appearing monarch with snapping brown eyes and a square cut, jet
black beard. I judged him to be about forty years of age.

"Father!" she cried joyously.

He kissed her hungrily, then held her away from him, looking her over
from head to foot. "My little girl. I can scarcely believe it is you,
alive and well. Rather had I lost my empire and my life than that harm
had come to you."

"This is Zinlo of Olba, Father," she said, indicating me. "Prince Zinlo,
my father, Torrogo Ad of Tyrhana."

"You have placed me deeply in your debt by bringing my daughter to me
unharmed," said Ad.

"Had there been a debt, Your Majesty," I replied, "it would have been
canceled long ago by the pleasure of Her Highness's company."

Gadrimel came up and bowed formally, muttering something about being
grateful to me for having rescued his dear cousin and fiancee. The other
in scarlet was the Rogo of Tureno.

I asked that he arrange for the entertainment of all soldiers and sailors
of Adonijar and Tyrhana, in his city, at the expense of the Imperial
Government of Olba.

Ad and Gadrimel then got aboard with us. We flew to the Black Tower,
where we took Pasuki on board, and to the headquarters of the citizens'
army, where we picked up Vorn Vangal. Then we flew to the palace.

When quarters had been assigned to our guests, Vorn Vangal
enthusiastically undertook the task of supervising preparations for a
great feast to be held that evening. I met my guests in the imperial
reception room, where I ordered kova served.

Gadrimel was so attentive to Loralie that I scarcely had an opportunity
to speak to her. So I called her father out on the balcony, told him I
loved Princess Loralie, and asked him for her hand in marriage.

Ad looked astonished. "Beard of my grandfather!" he thundered. "What's
this you say? Her hand in marriage? Is it possible that you are not aware
that she is to marry her cousin Gadrimel?"

"I knew that she was betrothed to Gadrimel against her will," I replied,
"but that does not stop us from loving each other."

"From loving each other! Loralie--come here, child." He added, "Excuse us
a moment, Gadrimel."

Loralie came out through the window, visibly a little frightened at his

"I hope," he said gravely, when she stood before him, "that you will
deny, once and for all, that you love His Highness of Olba. You know my
wishes with regard to Gadrimel!"

For a moment she hung her head, but for a moment only. Then she raised it
proudly, and with tears brimming in her glorious eyes answered, "Father,
I love him, and have told him so."

On the dark brows of Ad a storm of anger was gathering.

"By the blood and bones of Thorth!" he roared. "Do you thus defy me--me,
your father? You ingrate! I swear by my head and beard that I'll wed you
to Gadrimel at once and take you to Adonijar."

"Father, please!" Great tears were streaming down her cheeks now.

"Your Highness," Ad said to me shortly, "you will confer a favor on me by
leaving us."

I bowed and departed, striving to conceal my bitter disappointment as I
entered the room where we had left Gadrimel. The prince had a most
unwonted grin on his effeminate face, and I had no doubt but that he had
been listening a moment before at the window.

He instantly began a lisping chatter about our many adventures together,
and his own heroic exploits after we had parted company in the

At intervals when he stopped talking long enough to sip his kova I could
hear the sobbing of Loralie on the balcony and the rumbling voice of her
father. Suddenly Ad appeared to lose his temper again, for he roared, "He
did, did he? Why, of all the..."

He strode to the window, his face a thundercloud of wrath. Loralie
hurried after him. I leaped to my feet, expecting physical violence.

But he did not even look at me. Instead, he walked to where Gadrimel was
sitting and, seizing him by the scruff of the neck, jerked him erect.

"You insolent cub!" he roared, shaking the prince until his teeth rattled
and his eyes nearly popped from his head. "You mincing, lisping,
addle-headed popinjay! So you would abduct my daughter and force her to
marry you! Lucky it is for you that I am constrained to remember you are
the son of my sister. Were it not for that I should wring your neck and
hurl you from the battlements."

"I--ah, ah, you're choking me," gasped the prince.

"Did you think I was fondling you, you wretch?" thundered the Emperor of
Tyrhana, and shot the princeling through the window by applying his toe
to the youth's center of gravity. Nor did he return, but slunk away
through another room.

A look of serenity gradually settled over Ad's clouded brow. "Your
Highness, like all men, I sometimes change my mind."

"It is a mark of greatness," I replied, bowing.

"Tonight at dinner, my children, I will announce your betrothal."

Before either of us could reply a guard entered and announced that Vorn
Vangal, Pasuki and Lotar craved immediate audience.

"If Your Highness can spare a moment to the people," said Vangal, "please
be so good as to show yourself on the balcony."

"What is up?" I asked.

"A little technicality to be cleared up," he answered. "Taliboz was only
wounded and not killed as we thought. He has escaped. Under the law he is
still Torrogo of Olba because he has been legally so acclaimed, thus
taking precedence over your otherwise perfectly legal succession to the
throne. Knowing all the circumstances the people of Olba now wish to
acclaim you Emperor, so there will be no complications hereafter."

I walked to the balcony. The palace grounds were thronged with a
close-packed, surging populace. The streets were jammed with people, and
every window ledge, balcony, housetop and wall in sight was packed.

As soon as I appeared above the battlements a hundred thousand scarbos
flashed aloft in the hands of the men, and a hundred thousand white
scarves were waved above the mighty sea of humanity by the women and
girls. A great cheer rose, swelling in volume until it seemed that it
must shake the very palace.

"Hail Zinlo, Torrogo of Olba!"

I bowed in acknowledgment of this tremendous ovation, whereupon every
voice was suddenly stilled.

"I thank you, my people," I shouted down to them. "I will ever strive
faithfully to fulfill the trust you have placed in me."

Once more the scarves and scarbos flashed aloft. Once more a thunderous
cheer rolled up. Bowing, I returned to the room and the congratulations
of my friends.

With the deepest satisfaction I appointed Vorn Vangal prime minister, and
gave the command of army and aerial forces to Pasuki and Lotar. My three
loyal friends made obeisance and departed, leaving Loralie, Ad and myself

"Since you have made so free with your favors, Your Majesty," smiled
Loralie, "what have you left for me? Am I not also to be honored?"

"Why, yes," I answered, as, unmindful of her father's presence, her arms
went around my neck. "As soon as you grant me leave, I'll make you
Torroga, Empress of Olba."

"It's the highest honor an empire can bestow," laughed Ad, "for be he in
palace or hovel a man is ever subject to the sweet will of his wife."

"Agreed," I replied. "And now, little wife to be, what is your pleasure?"

"If you were not so busy talking nonsense to Father," she pouted, "you
would see that I have been waiting for you to kiss me."

THUS ENDS the tale of Rorgen Takkor's adventures on Venus, up to the time
that he was securely established as Zinlo, Torrogo of Olba. However, lest
the perceptive reader remind me that this security was precarious at the
very least--since Rorgen Takkor had merely exchanged personalities with
Zinlo of Venus, who was meanwhile on Earth in the body of the man known
as Harry Thorne--let me assure him that I have not forgotten this fact.

Robert Grandon was in exactly the same position, in Reabon, at the close
of his story, which is told in "The Planet of Peril." Those who have read
that story know that the resolution of Grandon's difficulty in this
regard also solved Rorgen Takkor's problem. So I will only mention here
that neither Grandon nor Takkor had to worry about being taken from their
wives and thrones and returned to their Earth bodies; but how this came
about you will have to read the novel mentioned above to discover.

The Author.


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