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Title:      The Port of Peril
Author:     Otis Adelbert Kline
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Title:      The Port of Peril
Author:     Otis Adelbert Kline



PERHAPS THE furniture and decorations of the personal apartment of
Robert Grandon would have appeared bizarre to earthly eyes. Its paneled
walls were hung with strange weapons and still stranger trophies of the
battlefield and chase--prized treasures of a soldier and a hunter. Skins
of marmelots, fiercest cats of the Zorovian fern forests, and tremendous
bear-like monsters known as ramphs, magnificent specimens all, were
flung on the floor. Cloud-filtered sunlight entered through two immense
windows that reached from floor to ceiling, opening on a private balcony
which overlooked the palace gardens.

A marmelot, carved from red wood and supporting a round top of polished
crystal formed a table in the center of the room. Around it, in chairs
carved in the representation of kneeling giants holding scarlet cushions
which formed both seats and backs, were four men.

"The power of the Huitsen must be broken, and broken forever," cried
Aardven, brawny, bull-necked ruler of Adonijar. And he banged his huge
fist on the table for emphasis, causing the kova cups to dance and

Robert Grandon, former Chicago clubman who had fought his way to the
throne of Reabon, mightiest empire of Venus, grimly nodded his assent,
as did his two other guests, Ad, ruler of Tyrhana, and Zinlo, ruler of
Olba. For the sake of privacy and comfort, he had dispensed with the
rigid formality of the throne room, and received them in his own drawing

Ad of Tyrhana stroked his square-cut, jet black beard meditatively. Then
he turned to Grandon. I fear we have disturbed you at a most inopportune
time. A man about to start on a honeymoon should not be annoyed with
affairs of state. It was only after we learned of the latest outrage
perpetrated by the yellow pirates, that Aardvan and I, who were awaiting
Zinlo's return to Olba, decided to hurry here in one of his swift

"When he heard that one of my ships of war, crippled by a storm and half
sinking, was set upon by these yellow fiends, part of its crew massacred
and the rest carried off prisoners, and my daughter Narine taken to I
know not what fate, we felt that something must be done, and done

"And I heartily agree with you," said Grandon. "The imperial navy of
Reabon is at your disposal. Do you have any plan of action to suggest?"

"I felt sure you would come in with us," said Ad, "especially after my
talk with Zinlo this morning. As I have intimated previously, we must
make our plans in secret, and carry them out as unobtrusively as
possible. The Huitsenni have spies everywhere. They have the treasure to
hire the vile traitors among our people who will sell their honor for
personal gains, but because of their peculiar physical characteristics
they can do no eavesdropping among us themselves."

"We should have two main objectives: to sink or capture every pirate
ship that sails the seas of Zorovia, and to find and take the secret
port of Huitsen. It is a port of missing ships and treasure, of slaves
who were once citizens of our own and other lands, a port of peril to
every man, woman, and child on this planet."

"Have you any idea where to look for this hidden port?" asked Grandon.

"We have no definite knowledge of its location, but the belief that it
lies to the south has arisen from the fact that pirate fleets, leaving a
scene of pillage, have almost invariably been observed to sail

"I believe my flyers can locate it," said Zinlo, toying with his kova

"It's a big world," boomed the gruff Aardvan, "and it will take a deal
of flying, sailing, and marching to explore it all."

"Perhaps Mernerum will help us," suggested Ad.

"I take it," replied Grandon, "that you are unaware of the strained, or
rather severed relations between Mernerum and Reabon. This morning I
ordered diplomatic relations severed with Zanaloth of Mernerum, because
of his affront to my wife when she passed through his dominions some
time ago."

"We can do well enough without that dissolute old rake," said Zinlo.
"But we're keeping you from that honeymoon trip, Grandon. I understand
that your expedition was ready to march when Ad and Aardvan arrived."

"We'll give it up," Grandon assured them. "I'm sure Vernia won't mind
for such, a worthy cause."

"See here," Ad protested. “We don't want any such sacrifice. Allow us to
take a few of your ships for the present, and perhaps some warriors and
munitions in case a landing party is required. Go on your honeymoon.
Later, when we've discovered the port of peril, we'll notify you, and
let you in at the kill."

"But your daughter has been stolen. Every man on this planet, worthy of
the name, should be willing to assist in the search."

Ad sighed deeply, musingly. "Alas," he replied, "I fear all search for
her will be vain. She has been gone for so long now that I can only hope
to avenge her. But, of course, I, her father, shall continue to search."
He arose, and continued: "My friends and allies, we have imposed long
enough on this patient young bridegroom. I'm sure you will all agree
with me when I say that we don't want his help until after the
honeymoon. Let him lend us a few ships and men now, and we'll call on
him later."

"Those are precisely my sentiments," roared the deep-voiced Aardvan,
also rising.

"And mine," echoed Zinlo. "And so, Grandon, we'll go down and join the
group outside that's waiting to see you off. By the way, where are you

"It was a toss-up whether to go to the wild mountain fastness of Uxpo,
or enjoy the bathing, fishing, and boating of the Azpok coast. But the
seashore won, and we chose a camping-place on a wild and unfrequented
part of the coast."

"Splendid! We'll see you outside."

A half-hour later, speeded by an immense multitude that had lined the
streets of Reabon to see them off, Grandon and his young bride, Vernia,
Princess of Reabon, stepped into the waiting, one-wheeled motor vehicle,
and with their guard of Fighting Traveks, left for the coast.

In the imperial tent of scarlet silk, decked with cloth-of-gold insignia
and edged with golden fringe, Grandon opened his eyes as the first faint
dawnlight appeared, for he had planned an early morning fishing-trip. He
arose and dressed silently, so as not to disturb the slumber of his
bride, but she heard the slight clank of his sword as he was about to
step through the doorway, and wakened.


He turned as she softly pronounced the name by which he had been known
to his friends on Earth, the name he had taught her to call him and
which he loved to hear her say with her quaint, Reabonian accent.

With three steps he was at her bedside. She smiled up at him the pink
and white oval of her face framed in the wealth of golden ringlets that
all but concealed her silken pillow. Then she held up both arms.

"Would you leave without kissing me good-bye?" she asked reproachfully.

Contritely, he knelt beside the bed and took her in his arms.

"I did not wish to disturb your morning sleep, my dear," he said, and
added: "I was only going out for a little while to have a try at a
killer-norgal. I'm told they bite best at daybreak."

She took his face between her palms, drew it down to hers, and their
lips met.

"Never leave me," she said, "without first kissing me good-bye. Who
knows how long any separation may be? Even though we may expect to be
parted for but a few moments, the hand of Providence may intervene and
separate us for a long time--perhaps for eternity."

He buried his face in the soft curve of her neck as she ran her fingers
through his black curls. Nor did he dream, as he held her thus for a few
moments, how soon the dire prophecy in her words was to be fulfilled.

"I’ll be back in a jiffy," he said, as he stood erect a few moments

She watched him, love and pride in her eyes, as he strode through the
door. Handsome, strong, and gentle, he was an emperor--every inch of him.

Throwing a shimmering wrap of scarlet material around her, she went to
the door of her tent to watch him depart. Two guards saluted stiffly as
she appeared. They were members of a company of Grandon's crack troops,
the Fighting Traveks from Uxpo. Each was armed with a tork, a rapid fire
weapon that shot needle-like glass projectiles, a scarbo a cutting and
thrusting weapon with a basket hilt and a blade curved like that of a
scimitar, and a long-bladed spear.

Vernia watched him for a few moments as he stood beside his small
fishing boat in earnest conversation with Huba, mojak or captain of the
company of Traveks who were guarding the camp. Six men stood on each
side of the little craft, holding its nose into the breakers. In the
prow of the boat was Kantar the Gunner, carefully shielding his
mattork--a weapon resembling a tork, but of considerably heavier caliber
and longer range, and mounted on a tripod--from the spray that was
breaking over the bow, by holding a waterproof silk cover over it.

The rest of the crew consisted of six oarsmen, a man who had charge of
the sail, and another who held the tiller.

Having finished his conversation with Huba, Grandon leaped into the
craft and the twelve men who were standing in the water launched her.
When they reached water up to their necks, they let go, and the rowers
plied their oars vigorously. Presently the sail went up, and the little
boat tacked into the breeze which was just lively enough to stir the fog
that hung low over the surface of the Azpok.

The Princess watched the boat until the mists had swallowed it up, then
turned and re-entered her tent. But scarcely, it seemed, had she crept
once more beneath her warm covers, and closed her eyes in sleep, before
there sounded outside the crack of a mattork, the shouts of men, and the
clank of weapons, followed by a fusillade of shots that told her the
camp was being attacked by a considerable body of armed men.

Jumping out of bed, Vernia called to the guard outside.

"What is it?" she asked. "What has happened?"

"Pirates, Your Majesty!" replied the guard excitedly. "We are attacked
by the raiders of the coast."

She dressed as swiftly as possible, buckling the jeweled belt which held
her small tork and scarbo around her slender waist. Meanwhile, the
sounds of fighting drew closer and closer to the scarlet tent.

As soon as she was dressed, Vernia drew her scarbo and stepped
fearlessly from the tent. Descended from a thousand fighting Torrogos,
or Emperors, of Reabon, she was fully as brave as her mighty husband,
even though she lacked his strength and skill in swordsmanship. With
flashing eyes she surveyed the scene before her. Tugging at their
anchors, less than a quarter of a mile from land, were a score of
vessels which she instantly recognized from pictures she had seen as the
ships of the dreaded yellow pirates, the scourge of the Azpok Ocean.
Their peculiar sails branching out on either side of the mast like the
wings of bats instantly identified them. And coming rapidly shoreward
were no less than fifty boats loaded with armed men, each mounting a
mattork in the bow. But this was not all, for converging on the camp
from both sides and the rear was an immense horde of yelling, shooting
pirates. Already, more than a third of the Fighting Traveks had fallen,
and the tork and mattork fire from all directions was rapidly decimating
the ranks of those who remained.

A dozen of the boats were sent down by Huba's mattork gunners before the
landing party reached the shore. As their prows grounded, the remaining
pirates leaped out and charged the camp, and it was the signal for a
general advance from all directions.

The camp had been guarded by two hundred men, but by the time of the
charge, a scant forty remained. They formed a hollow square around the
Princess, and met the shock of the attack with a resistance worthy of
the traditions of the Fighting Traveks, though it was obvious from the
beginning that there could be but one outcome.

In the hand-to-hand fighting that followed there was no report of tork
or mattork--only the clash of blades, the war-cries of the fighters, the
groans of the wounded, and the shrieks of the dying. Vernia and Huba
fought bravely with the others, time and again leaping into the gaps
left by fallen men until the line could be closed. But they were waging
a hopeless fight, and presently only the Princess and the mojak were
left, fighting back to back. The latter, battling three adversaries at
once, was suddenly cut down by a blow from one of the pirates, and
Vernia was left alone. When a man leaped in from behind, pinioning her
arms, her weapons were quickly taken from her.

The looting of the camp was already in progress as she was dragged
kicking and struggling, into one of the pirate boats. Everything in the
camp was seized in the way of booty except the bodies of the fallen
Traveks, and even these were stripped of their clothing, weapons, and
accouterments. The pirates also took with them all of their own dead and

Rowed to the largest of the looters' vessels, Vernia was carried aboard
and taken before an officer whose insignia proclaimed him romojak, or
commander, of the fleet. Like most of the members of his race, he was
short, scarcely taller than the Princess herself, but with an
exceptionally long body and arms. His round, yellow face was seamed and
wrinkled, and his equally round eyes, wide open and staring, were
without irises. The pupils were perpendicular slits that opened and
closed like those of felines. His short nose resembled the tip of a
pig's snout, and there were no teeth in the chinless mouth beneath it,
from the corners of which drooled saliva reddened by the juice of the
kerra, the spores of a narcotic, fungoid growth chewed almost
incessantly by the yellow pirates. Nor was there a sign of beard,
eyebrows, or hair on the face or head, the skin of his body being
covered with a greasy exudation, evidently nature's protection for these
totally hairless people. Judged by the standards of his hairless,
toothless race, he was probably not unhandsome. But to Vernia, facing
him as his prisoner, he was a monstrosity.

"I presume you are the Torroga of Reabon," he said in patoa, with the
peculiar pronunciation that a lack of teeth induces.

"You have already presumed too much," replied Vernia, spiritedly. "For
this day's work, I can promise you the annihilation of the Yellow

The gums of the romojak showed in a toothless grin. He expectorated a
red stream of kerra juice, then turned to a short, bow-legged,
pot-bellied mojak who stood beside him.

"Do you hear that, San Thoy?" he mouthed sneeringly. "I, Thid Yet,
Romojak of the navies of Huitsen, have presumed too much!"

The mojak duplicated his kerra-stained grin.

"The Huitsenni never presume too much," he replied.

"Well said, San Thoy," approved the romojak. Then he addressed Vernia
once more. "Your Majesty, the Huitsenni presume often, but never too
much. Have they ever been beaten in battle? Has one of them ever been
led to your court, a prisoner? Have their cities ever been found by
pursuing battle fleets? Your Majesty is aware that history can answer
but one word to these questions, and that word is: `No.’”

"There is only one reason why it must be so answered," replied Vernia.
"Cowardice. You never attack unless your overwhelming numbers assure you
of victory. For this reason you never lose battles or prisoners. Your
cities have not been found because you are adepts at flight from an
enemy. In this there is nothing of which to be proud."

"Your Majesty calls it `cowardice,’” said Thid Yet, "but we of the
Huitsenni have a better word. We call it `cleverness.' However, I am not
here to bandy words with you, nor dispute terms. You are my prisoner,
captured not for myself, but for another. If you are reasonably docile
and do not attempt to escape, you will be treated with gentleness and
courtesy. If not, whatever misfortune befalls will be upon your own
head." He turned to the greasy, pot-bellied mojak beside him. "Take her
to her cabin, San Thoy."



FAR OUT into the morning mists that shrouded the surface of the
blue-gray Azpok, Grandon sailed in search of the largest and most
ferocious of all Zorovian game fish--the killer-norgal. Fishing for the
norgal was royal sport indeed, and fraught with great danger to the
fisherman. Hunting a full-grown man-eating tiger with a lariat could be
no more dangerous, and as often as not, the man who lacked skill fell a
prey to the fish.

Grandon had never seen a killer-norgal, and so when he felt a sharp tug
at his trolling-line, and a magnificent specimen broke water, leaping
high in the air and shaking its head to dislodge the hook, he had one of
the greatest thrills that had ever come to him, intrepid adventurer
though he was. Its body, covered with glistening blue scales and
bristling with sharp spines, was about twenty-five feet in length. Its
enormous jaws, when distended, revealed row upon row of sharp,
back-curved teeth in a maw large enough to take in a dozen men at a
single snap.

Kantar the Gunner jerked the oily cover from his mattork, but before be
could bring it to bear on the huge fish, it dived out of sight.

Grandon kept a taut line on his quarry while the crew skillfully
maneuvered the little craft to follow its eccentric and exceedingly
swift motions as it dragged the boat farther and farther out to sea.
After more than an hour of this, the struggles of the monster became
slower, indicating that it was beginning to tire. During this time, it
did not once expose itself to the deadly aim of the watchful Kantar.

Suddenly, without warning, the line slackened, and although Grandon
reeled in with all his might, he was unable to pull it taut. He thought
at first that the fish had become unhooked, but the flash of a dorsal
fin, for a moment visible above the waves and coming swiftly toward the
boat, showed him the true situation. Kantar's mattork spoke, and the fin
disappeared, but it was not evident whether he had registered a hit.

One of the older sailors, an experienced norgal fisherman, said:

"Beware, Majesty. The killer is about to strike."

Dropping his tackle, Grandon seized an eighteen-foot lance which lay
along the gunwale beside him, and poised it expectantly. He had not long
to wait, for the enormous jaws suddenly emerged from the water not ten
feet from him. He plunged the keen point down the cavernous maw, and
Kantar's mattork spoke again and again, while the mighty jaws ground the
thick shaft of tough serali wood into splinters. Hurling the useless
butt from him, Grandon whipped out his sword, but he sheathed it again
as the great spiny body turned over and floated belly up after a few
convulsive flops. The blood which poured out through one of the gills
showed that the lance point had found the heart, and several round holes
through the head attested the marksmanship of Kantar.

The sailors were making the prize fast, chattering and laughing all the
while, when the keen-eared Kantar suddenly cried: "Listen, I hear

Every voice was instantly hushed, and there came, distinctly now, the
sounds of a terrific bombardment from the north.

"The camp is attacked," cried an old sailor.

"To the oars," ordered Grandon, "and crowd all the sail on at once. Cut
that fish loose. We must get there as soon as possible."

The huge, spiny carcass was cast adrift, and sails and oars were
speedily put into use. Yet, it seemed to Grandon that the swift little
boat, which fairly leaped over the waves under this double propulsion
moved with snail-like slowness.

Before they had gotten half-way back to camp, the sounds of firing
ceased, and Grandon, goaded by horrible fears for Vernia's safety, fumed
and fretted at the inability to make better speed or see through the
mists that made about two hundred yards the limit of visibility.

But when the prow of the little boat grounded on the beach, and leaping
out, Grandon discovered the bloody shambles that had been his camp,
strewn with the naked bodies of his Traveks his grief and anger knew no

"All dead," he said to Kantar, who stood respectfully beside him. "My
noble Traveks slaughtered, and Vernia stolen. Who can have done this
horrid deed? And what motive? Reabon is at peace with all nations. The
camp was not rich in loot."

"There is Zanaloth of Mernerum," replied Kantar. "You have severed
diplomatic relations with him. Perhaps this is his answer."

"If Zanaloth has done this," said Grandon, "he shall have war, and that
speedily--such a war as this planet has never seen. I will wipe Mernerum
off the face of the globe, nor will Zanaloth live long to gloat over his
evil deeds. But it cannot be Zanaloth. The fact that he once affronted
the Princess of Reabon when she passed through his country made it
imperative that I sever diplomatic relations until full apology had been
made. I might have declared war, but did not. Zanaloth should be
thankful for this, as the armies of Reabon could crush a dozen

Walking among his dead Traveks and sorrowfully murmuring the names of
those he recognized, Grandon presently found his mojak.

"My faithful friend," he said, sadly. "Huba, comrade of many a battle
and bivouac." He knelt and laid his hand on the blood-smeared brow of
the young officer. "Why, his head is warm!" he exclaimed. "Perhaps a
spark of life remains! Fetch water and a flask of kova, quickly,

The gunner sped away to the boat from which he brought back a flask of
the aromatic and stimulating kova from the provision basket and a
bailing-scoop of sea-water.

There was a huge gash in the fallen mojak's scalp, and the entire upper
part of his face was covered with blood. With hands as gentle as those
of a woman, Grandon bathed away the blood. Then, as the eyelids of his
friend flickered, he raised the head and held the flask of kova to the
mouth, forcing a small quantity of the liquid between the clenched

Huba swallowed convulsively, opened his eyes, and looked at Grandon with
dull wonder in his gaze.

"You, Majesty!" he said weakly. "I thought I had been taken to the bosom
of Thorth."

"You came near it," replied Grandon, "but the scarbo cut was a glancing
one. Where is my wife?"

"The cursed Huitsenni attacked the camp," answered Huba. "My valiant
Traveks fought well, but were cut down to the last man. Her Majesty
fought with us. When all had been killed around us, she and I fought the
greasy yellow horde, back to back. Then I was cut down, and knew no
more. What a brave little thing she is!" He sank back, exhausted.

"Then those yellow fiends have her," said Grandon. "Their spies have
worked swiftly it seems, and they were swift at reprisal. Where have
they taken her? How can I follow?"

"I do not know," replied Huba, "nor do I believe anyone does, other than
the pirates themselves. They raid the coasts or attack merchant or
fishing ships, then disappear. As they always attack with immensely
superior forces, they are never defeated. They always carry away their
own dead and wounded, and take care that none of their victims are left
alive to tell of their dastardly work. But a few times, men who have
been left for dead have revived, even as I was revived, and thus some
description of them and their deeds has, from time to time, reached
civilization. Fleets of the great nations have scoured the seas, looking
for their ships and their strongholds, but have found neither. Like the
winds of heaven, no one knows whence they come or where they go."

"I'll find Vernia if I have to search every inch of this planet," said

"One thing only I recall, which may be of assistance, Majesty," said
Huba. "Unfortunately I was unable to see the pirates leave, but every
intended victim who has ever escaped them has reported that they sail

Grandon turned to the mojo of the boat crew.

"Remove all but two pairs of oars," he said, "and prepare to push off. I
will sail southward. One man, only, will I take with me. Who would be
the man?"

From the wounded Huba to the last of the seamen, all volunteered. After
some deliberation, Grandon selected Kantar the Gunner as his companion.

"You will be needed in Reabon," he told Huba. "Go at once to the
capital. Tell Vordeen to mobilize the army and double the coast guard
and the guard on the Mernerum border. Tell him, also, to divide our war
fleet into such sized squadrons as he deems advisable and assign patrol
zones to each squadron so that no part of the Azpok Ocean nor any of its
shore line will be left unsearched. Have these patrol fleets search
every ship encountered, except those of Tyrhana, Adonijar and Olba.

The seamen echoed Huba's cry of: "Farewell, Majesty," as Grandon leaped
into the boat and seized the tiller. Kantar, already at the oars, struck
out savagely as soon as the men who shoved them off had got beyond their
depth, and a little later, the two raised the sail and tacked into the
breeze, which had grown considerably stronger. The fog, too, was rising
so that visibility became almost normal.

For most of the morning they zig-zagged southward; but presently the
wind veered around, eliminating the necessity for tacking, and greatly
accelerating their progress.

At noon each took a turn at the tiller, while the other ate his frugal
lunch of dried mushrooms and smoked frella meat washed down with drafts
of kova.

Kantar had just finished his lunch, and was closing the watertight
container when with an exclamation of surprise, he suddenly leaned over
the gunwale and scooped something from the surface of the water with his
hand. It was an empty half of a spore pod, red inside and black outside.

"What have you there?" asked Grandon.

"A kerra pod," replied the gunner.

"And what, pray, is that?"

"The kerra, Majesty," replied the gunner, "is chewed almost universally
by the toothless yellow pirates. Where there are kerra spore pods, one
may be sure the Huitsenni have been. It is said that they are never
willingly without a supply of this habit-forming narcotic, which they
constantly mumble except when eating or sleeping. I think from the
finding of this kerra pod, that we are on the right trail--that the
Huitsenni have passed this way not so long ago."

"And do you think there is a possibility of our overtaking them today?"

"I believe, Sire, that there is. This little boat is one of the fleetest
on the Azpok--and much swifter than the large ships of war used by the
pirates in their raids. They had not long been away from camp when we
arrived, so I look for their appearance on the horizon some time this
afternoon if they consistently follow their southward course."

That afternoon, Grandon constantly strained his eyes toward the south,
but saw only such marine monsters of the Azpok as rose to the top from
time to time, or flew above the surface. There was a great variety of
web-winged reptiles of diverse shapes and colors, some as small as
sea-gulls, and other kinds and species up to the enormous ormf, whose
wingspread was fully fifty feet from tip to tip, and whose great,
saw-toothed beak with a pelican-like pouch beneath it was large enough
to take in a full-grown man at a single snap. There was also a great
profusion of large, white birds with hooked bills and red-tipped wings
which, like the flying reptiles, dipped to the surface of the water from
time to time for their prey, or dived beneath it, emerging therefrom
with squirming, wriggling fish or other marine inhabitants in their

One huge ormf circled above the little craft for several hours, and
Kantar prepared to use his mattork in case of attack. But the monster
evidently decided that the creatures in the boat were too dangerous for
it to assail, and soared lazily away.

Although they did not sight the ships of the pirates that afternoon,
Grandon was encouraged by seeing, from time to time, empty kerra pods on
the water, which indicated that they were on the right trail.

"The ships of the accursed Huitsenni," said Kantar as darkness fell,
"must be swifter than I thought, or we should have sighted them before

Scarcely had he spoken when a sparkle of dancing lights appeared just
above the southern horizon.

"I see lights to the south," said Grandon. "What are they?"

"The ships of Huitsen," replied Kantar, excitedly. "Those are their mast
lights. We will overtake them shortly, now."

"And can you tell which is the flagship?" asked Grandon. "It will
probably be on the ship of the leader that Her Majesty is confined."

"I will be able to tell which is the flagship when we get closer,"
replied Kantar, "by her lights."

"Good. As soon as you can do so, steer for the flagship. Make no noise,
and perhaps we can get aboard without being seen. If we can do that--"

His speech was suddenly interrupted by a terrific shock, as the little
boat, traveling through the inky darkness in which naught was visible
except the dancing mast lights of the pirates, suddenly rammed a huge,
solid object, throwing both men into the bottom of the boat.

The impact was followed by a terrific roar, and the front end of the
fishing boat was lifted out of the water as easily as if it had been a
floating chip, while Grandon and Kantar unable to see what they had
struck, clung to such solid objects as they could grasp and breathlessly
awaited the next move of the unseen monster.



As San Thoy led Vernia to the cabin which had been assigned to her, his
great round eyes, with their cat-like pupils, appraised her in a manner
which made her fearful.

"Beauteous white Princess," he said, when they were out of earshot of
Thid Yet and the group of pirates surrounding him, "you are surrounded
by enemies, yet San Thoy would be your friend."

Weighing his look and words for a moment, Vernia asked:

"Just what do you mean?"

The slit pupils of his eyes narrowed, and this did not escape the
observation of the Princess as he replied:

"I mean what I say, Majesty, in all sincerity. For the great respect and
admiration I bear His Majesty, your husband, I would befriend you."

"You know my husband?"

"Only through the echoes of his mighty exploits, which have penetrated
even to Huitsen," he replied. "But one brave man admires another, and
feels a certain kinship with him. For his sake as well as for your own,
I would be of assistance to you."

"In what way?"

"If you will give me your full trust and co-operation, I can help you to
escape. If not, you will shortly be sold into slavery to a human monster
whose mistreatment of the women who fall into his lascivious clutches
has made him notorious throughout the length and breadth of Zorovia."


"I am under orders not to divulge his name, but we of the Huitsenni were
offered an enormous sum in treasure and slaves for your safe delivery to
him. It was for this reason and no other that our Rogo decided to brave
the anger of that mighty fighter, your husband, and send a fleet to
capture you at the wild and lonely spot where the spies of this
licentious potentate had ascertained that you were but indifferently

"It seems strange that this dissolute monarch, whose name I believe I
can guess, did not send his own ruffians instead of employing the
Huitsenni," said Vernia.

"He feared the power of Reabon," replied San Thoy. "Any evidence which
his own men might have left as to their presence on Reabonian soil would
have led to war and the inevitable dissolution of his empire. For who
can stand against the mighty hosts of Reabon? But who could criticize
his perfectly legal action were he to buy a beautiful white slave girl
from the Huitsenni? And even though she should maintain that she were
the Torroga of Reabon, what weight has the word of a slave? A thousand
beautiful slave girls might make the same assertion for their own
advantage and advancement, and he would be legally privileged to
disbelieve them. The man who ordered your capture, Majesty, is as clever
as he is lecherous."

Vernia, who was familiar with the international laws of Venus, knew full
well that no man could be held responsible under those laws for
purchasing a slave. She knew, also, that it would be difficult to
establish the fact in an international court that he was cognizant of
the identity of that slave, whose word would have no legal weight, and
could be doubted by him with impunity.

"Just what," she asked, "is your price?"

"My price is but a trifle," he responded. "In fact, it is scarcely worth

"Name it."

"I should prefer to rescue you first."

They were standing before the door to the cabin to which he had led her,
and which he had not yet unlocked. Suddenly both saw Thid Yet, Romojak
of the fleet rounding a curve in the deck and coming toward them.

Quickly unlocking the door, San Thoy said:

"The Romojak comes. Go into your cabin, and I will call later."

Vernia stepped into a tiny cabin which contained a sleeping shelf that
projected from the wall like the nest of a cave swallow, a small table,
and a stool, both fastened to the floor. A ewer and a small bowl for
washing were set in a niche in the wall.

As the door closed and the lock clicked behind her, she heard the
approaching Thid Yet say:

"By what devious route did you take the prisoner to her cabin, San Thoy,
that she but entered it?"

"I stood and talked to her for a moment, to cheer her," replied San Thoy

"To cheer her? Ha! So this little beauty has aroused your libidinous
fancy! But it was to be expected. Understand me, once and for all, San
Thoy. This is no common slave girl. Her ransom is the price of a mighty
empire, and she must be delivered unharmed. Let me but suspect you, and
you shall die--very slowly and very painfully--mojak though you be."

"You misapprehend, Excellency," protested San Thoy. "Because I have spent
my hard-earned treasure for a few slaves in the past, I pray you
misjudge not my intentions toward this one. I was moved to pity for her,
that was all."

"You pity? Pah! Into your cabin with you, and lay our course that we may
reach Huitsen as soon as possible. And do not forget my warning."

A moment later, Vernia heard the door of the cabin which was next to
hers, slam with unnecessary violence, and after laving her face and
hands with scented water from the ewer, she lay down on her
sleeping shelf to rest, and to overcome the giddiness which the rocking
of the ship was beginning to induce. But bad as were the qualms of
seasickness, they were as nothing as compared to her mental anguish, for
she felt that only a miracle could save her. Although she had never been
deceived by San Thoy's protestations of friendship, she had been half
ready to believe that an offer of treasure might win his help. But the
words of the Romojak had thoroughly dissipated even that slim hope.

Late that afternoon, San Thoy himself brought her food and a bowl of
kova. Because of her sea-sickness she could not eat the food, but she
drank the hot, steaming kova. Shortly thereafter, she began to feel
unaccountably drowsy, and soon fell into a deep sleep.

When she awakened, Vernia felt the craft beneath her lurching and
pitching violently. She put out a hand for the light switch, but there
was none. Instead, her hand encountered the wet gunwale of a small boat,
in the bottom of which she was lying. She sat up, and the salt spray
sprinkled her face. Far away, she saw a number of mast lights twinkling
in the darkness. A short bulky figure loomed up before her.

"Who are you?" she asked in terror. "Where are you taking me?"

"Have no fear, Majesty" mouthed the figure. "It is San Thoy that has
rescued you."

"You drugged me."

"For your own sake, Majesty. You might otherwise have made an outcry
when I came to carry you off, thus arousing the ship and defeating your

"And you will take me back to Reabon at once?"

"In the morning. Tonight we must seek shelter. The surface of the Azpok
swarms with fierce and mighty monsters, which by day seek their dark
lairs in the ocean's depths. Night travel in a small boat is extremely
dangerous. Hark! I hear the breakers now. The island is not far off."

Steering entirely by the sounds that came to him--for nothing was visible
in the pitchy blackness--San Thoy brought the little sailboat through
booming breakers which evidently covered a bar or sunken reef, and into
comparatively calm water. It was not long after that the keel rasped on
a gravelly shore.

Leaping into the shallow water, the pirate dragged the boat high up on
the beach. Then he furled the sail, and taking Vernia by the hand said:

"Come. I will take you to a place where you may spend the night safely.
In the morning, I will call for you and take you to Reabon."

"You will be well rewarded," replied Vernia. "I will double the ransom
which was offered for me and add to it a thousand kantols of land, and
purple of a nobleman for life."

"Your Majesty is generous," said San Thoy, "but then I have cut myself
off from my own people, property, and position, in order to effect your

He led her up a narrow winding path, where leaves, dripping with the
night dew, brushed her face and body. Presently they came to a small

San Thoy fumbled with a latch for a moment, and then opened a door. He
released Vernia's hand, and struck a light with the small flame maker
which he carried. When he had lighted a torch that hung from a bracket
on the wall, Vernia saw that they were in a tiny cabin which contained a
sleeping shelf, a crude table, three chairs, some utensils, and a place
for cooking beside which fuel was piled.

"I will light the fire for you, that you may dry your clothing," said
San Thoy. "Then I will brew kova."

Vernia seated herself on one of the chairs, and watched the broad,
greasy back of the pirate as he squatted before the fire. When he had it
blazing brightly, he took a kettle and went outside for water.
Returning, he dropped in some kova roots which he found on a shelf
beside the fireplace, and soon had it boiling. As Vernia watched, she
wondered if his intentions were as magnanimous as he pretended, or if he
were as perfidious as the words of his commander implied. So far, his
impassive features had betrayed nothing. Only time would tell.

Presently, he placed a chair before the fire for her, that she might dry
her clothes, and poured her a bowl of steaming kova. While she slowly
sipped the hot, stimulating beverage, he tossed off bowl after bowl
until the pot was empty and another had been set to brewing. She noticed
that with each bowl, the slits in his round eyes became more bestial.
San Thoy was drunk.

When the second pot of kova was ready, the pirate offered to refill
Vernia's bowl, but she declined. He leered a little as he refilled his
own, and it was not long before the second had gone the way of the
first. Then San Thoy extracted a kerra pod from his belt pouch, and,
breaking it open, emptied the red contents into his toothless mouth.

For a while he mumbled the drug, expectorating thin streams of scarlet
juice into the fire from time to time, and muttering drunkenly to
himself as they hissed among the hot embers.

Presently he arose, and unclasping a belt which held his tork, scarbo,
and knife, hung it on a peg on the wall. Then he stretched his arms and
yawned hideously, the red juice trickling from the corners of his flabby
mouth, and staining his greasy chin.

"My dear," he said thickly, "it is time to retire. May your humble
servant assist you to disrobe?"

With this he lurched unsteadily toward her.

Panic stricken, Vernia jumped up and placed the chair between herself
and the advancing pirate.

"Back!" she said. "Go back! Don't you dare touch me!"

"There, there," he said, still advancing. "Do not be frightened. I will
not hurt you."

Only the chair and two feet of space separated them now. Suddenly
seizing the chair, he hurled it to one side and flung out both arms to
grasp her. She leaped back, and his arms embraced empty air. But now she
was cornered. She looked longingly at the weapons hanging on the peg,
but between her and them was San Thoy.

Half crouching, arms spread, he advanced toward her. Suddenly he sprang
like a beast of prey. Then like crushing bands of steel his greasy arms
encircled her. His grinning, lecherous features were close to hers,
leering down at her.

"Little she-marmelot!" he said. "Think you that you can resist San Thoy,
who has subdued a thousand slave girls?"

She struggled desperately, striking and clawing at the bestial face,
squirming and kicking with all her strength, but to no avail.

With a laugh of exultation, he picked her up, and carrying her to the
sleeping shelf, flung her down upon it.



THE MONSTER with which Grandon's fishing boat had collided in the
darkness was evidently not of the belligerent type, for it submerged,
nearly swamping them, before they attained an even keel.

But they were not yet out of danger. Kantar the Gunner suddenly called
to Grandon that the boat had sprung a leak as a result of the collision,
and was filling rapidly.

"Then steer for the ship in the center of the squadron, and let us hope
that it's the flagship," said Grandon. "I'll row and bail. It's our only

With the strong strokes of Grandon assisting the sail of the swift
little vessel, they were able to gain rapidly on the ship which was at
the apex of the wedge-shaped squadron. As they drew near it, Kantar

"It is the flagship, Majesty."

"Good. Preserve absolute silence from now on," replied Grandon. "If
possible, we must get aboard her without being detected."

Presently they came close enough to hear the sounds of conversation and
people moving about. Yet, their boat went unnoticed because the mast
lights of the flagship cast little illumination in their direction. The
powerful searchlight beams of the ship were directed ahead, as were
those of the ships which flanked it on either side.

And they came up under the stern of the pirate vessel without attracting
attention. By this time their boat was half-filled with water, and
despite Grandon's bailing was likely to sink at any moment.

Hanging from two pulleys high above them were the two chains with which
the rudder was turned from the steersman's cabin in the front of the

"You climb one chain," directed Grandon, "while I go up the other. We
are of nearly the same weight, so if we climb at the same time each will
counter-balance the other, and the steersman may not notice anything

Leaping out onto the rudder, Grandon seized the chain on the side
opposite them. At the same moment, Kantar grasped the chain next to the
boat, and the two went up, hand over hand. Just as Kantar left the
little boat, the gunwales went under, and before they had gotten
half-way up the chains her masthead disappeared from view. They had
reached the flagship just in time.

Together the two men went over the railing, each drawing his scarbo as
he did so. A single watchman stood between them, but before he had time
even to touch a weapon, a thrust from one side and a cut from the other,
laid him low.

The two heaved the body overboard.

"Now," said Grandon grimly, "we'll search the ship."

But scarcely had the words left his mouth when there was a cry from the

"Enemies on board! Two tall strangers on the after deck. They have slain
the guard."

The lookout leveled his tork at them, and a bullet splintered the deck
between them. He continued to fire, but fortunately the light was not
good. The two men quickly found a temporary refuge by dodging into an
empty rear cabin.

"This is a trap," said Grandon. "We can't remain here."

"And yet it would make a good place to take a stand," replied Kantar.

But the decision was not left to them, for the door suddenly burst open,
and a yellow pirate leaped in, yelling like a demon. In one hand he
grasped a long, heavy knife, and in the other a scarbo, which he sought
to use.

Grandon quickly silenced him with a thrust to the throat, but his place
was immediately taken by two more. Others pressed behind, eager for a
chance at the intruders.

Grandon and Kantar, however, were a pair difficult to best with blades
of any sort, and it was not long before the floor in front of them was
piled high with bodies of their foes. But suddenly a voice called an
order from without, and the men, in the thick of the battle, turned and
withdrew without a sound, leaving the two alone in the room.

As Kantar turned with a questioning look in his eyes, Grandon saw a
small glass globe hurled into the room. Crashing against the wall behind
them, it shattered into a thousand tiny fragments. In a moment, Grandon
was conscious of an intensely acrid odor. The room whirled. Kantar slid
to the floor. The room whirled. Then blackness.

The effects of the gas in the tiny globe were evidently but momentary,
for when Grandon once more recovered his senses he was being lifted from
the cabin floor by two pirates. The dead bodies of their yellow
opponents had been removed, and Kantar was being led out of the room,
without his weapons, and with his hands tied behind his back. Grandon
moved his arms, and found them securely fastened.

An officer in the uniform of a mojak ordered them brought forward and
into a large cabin at the front of the ship. An officer whose uniform
proclaimed him Romojak of the fleet was seated at a table, sipping kova.

"Whom have we here, San Thoy?" asked the Romojak, as the two prisoners
were brought before him. "It appears that we have captured a royal
prisoner, if the taller one rightfully wears the scarlet."

"He does, Excellency," replied San Thoy, "for I recognize him from his
description as Grandon of Terra, Torrogo of Reabon."

"Small wonder, then, that our warriors were mowed down like frella grass
at harvest," said the Romojak. "Few men can face him with a scarbo and
live!" He arose and bowed to Grandon. "I am honored, Your Majesty," he
said, "by your unexpected visit to my humble ship. Now that you are
here, I trust that you and your warrior will remain as our guests."

"Who are you, you yellow knave?" demanded Grandon, "and what have you
done with the Torroga of Reabon?"

The Romojak returned his haughty look.

"I am Thid Yet, Romojak of the Fleets of Huitsen," he answered with
exaggerated deference, "and Your Imperial Majesty, of the Torroga of
Reabon, I know absolutely nothing. If you seek her here, you have been
misinformed as to her whereabouts."

"I see that you are as skilled in the art of lying as in that of
abduction," said Grandon. "But listen to me. You Huitsenni have gone
unpunished for many generations. You shall not escape this time. Whereas
Huitsen is now an unsavory word, when the fleets of Reabon have done, it
will be but a stinking memory--except on one condition."

"Your threats do not impress me but," said Thid Yet, "I will inquire the
condition out of courtesy.

"That you immediately place my wife, my warrior, and myself safely back
on Reabonian soil."

"I can only repeat," said Thid Yet, "that I know nothing whatever of the
whereabouts of your wife. As for placing you and your soldier safely
back upon Reabonian soil, we shall be delighted to do this for you.
This, however, would entail some expense and no slight danger to us, and
as you came aboard our ship unbidden, we feel that it is only fair that
we should be reimbursed to the slight extent of, say, a hundred thousand
white slaves, young and strong, and a million keds of gold."

"What! You asked the price of an empire to set us ashore," exclaimed
Kantar, "and a hundred thousand slaves besides?"

"One does not set a Torrogo of Reabon ashore every day," replied Thid
Yet with a toothless grin.

"Set my wife ashore with us, unharmed, and I will pay you two million
keds of gold," said Grandon. "The second million is in lieu of the
hundred thousand slaves, a commodity in which I do not care to traffic."

Thid Yet grinned again.

"I'm afraid I shall have to ask you to be our guests for an indefinite
period of time. Show them to the guest chambers, San Thoy."

Grandon and Kantar were hustled out of the cabin, and along the deck to
a hatchway leading into the hold. Down this they were lowered like
freight, and each was seized by a grinning yellow buccaneer.

"To the guest chambers," ordered San Thoy, and strolled away.

The two new guards hustled the prisoners along a dimly lighted
passageway, threw them with their hands still bound behind them, into a
small, evil-smelling room, and closed and bolted the door after them.

Flung violently into the room, Grandon's head collided with one of the
stalwart ribs which braced the ship's sides, dazing him momentarily. He
was brought back to full consciousness by Kantar calling to him.

"Are you hurt, Majesty?"

"A bit dazed," replied Grandon, "but I'll be all right in a moment. And

"Only bruised a little."

"Then come over here and let me see if I can loose your bonds. We must
get out some way and search the ship."

Soon the two men were seated on the damp, filthy floor, back to back,
and Grandon was working desperately at the bonds which held Kantar's
wrists. Opening the tight knots which the yellow sailors had tied would
have been no easy task even with his eyes to guide him and his hands
free. But he worked patiently, doggedly, until at length a knot was
opened. Soon a second yielded, and Kantar, with an exclamation of
relief, chafed his numbed wrists for a moment, then swiftly began the
task of releasing Grandon's hands. This took less time, as the gunner
could work with his hands in front of him.

When Grandon had restored the circulation to his wrists, he tried the
door. It was of thick planking, and bolted so tightly that he could not
budge it, but the planks, after having been fastened together, had
evidently shrunk a little, as there were narrow cracks between them and
on each side between door and frame.

Kantar examined the lock, and said:

"If I only had a knife I could lift that bolt and open the door."

"Unfortunately," replied Grandon, "we have no knife, nor have we
anything which will answer for one. It is possible, however, that we can
get the guard to open the door."


"By pretending that one of us is killing the other. Dead prisoners are
of no use to the Huitsenni. Let us first make believe that we are
quarreling. You will lie on the floor with your hands behind you as if
they were still bound. First we will quarrel, then you will thump on the
floor with your hands and shout that you are being kicked to death. Let
us try it."

Kantar accordingly took his place on the floor, while Grandon stood
where he would be behind the door when it was opened, and looked out
into the hallway. As soon as the guard approached, he raised his voice
and began abusing Kantar with choice patoan epithets, accusing him of
having gotten him into the scrape, and threatening to kill him then and

Kantar replied, apparently pleading for clemency, and Grandon saw the
guard pause outside and listen with a broad grin on his face. But when
Kantar began thumping on the floor with the palm of his hand and
shouting that he was being killed, the expression on the guard's face
grew serious, and he quickly opened the door.

Scarcely had he stepped inside when Grandon sprang. Seizing him from
behind with a strangle hold, he jerked the guard backward, shutting off
his wind. At the same time, Kantar stood up and quietly deprived him of
his weapons.

"Close the door, Kantar, until we talk to this fellow," said Grandon.

"Now," said the Earth-man, when the gunner had complied, "we want to
know where Her Majesty of Reabon is imprisoned. If you go with us
quietly and show us the place, you will live. If not, you will die. Nod
your head if you agree."

The guard, whose voice was completely shut off, nodded weakly, and
Grandon loosened the hold on his throat, permitting him to breathe once

"Give me the scarbo, Kantar," said Grandon, "and retain the tork and
knife for yourself. Keep a good hold on the fellow's harness, and do not
hesitate to use your knife if he makes one move to betray us."

"In such an event I will use it with great pleasure, Majesty," said
Kantar grimly.

Carefully opening the door, Grandon peered out. There was no one in the

"Where is the other guard?" he asked their captive.

"He patrols the forward corridor, Majesty," replied the guard
respectfully. "It is connected with this one by two smaller corridors
that branch around the central hatchway. He does not come into this
corridor except at my call."

"Good. Then lead us to the Princess by the safest route. And remember,
if we are discovered through fault of yours, you die."

Thus admonished, the thoroughly cowed guard led them to a ladder which
descended into the corridor from the side, and with Kantar gripping his
harness with one hand and his keen knife with the other, softly
ascended. They came on deck near the stern and quietly made their way
forward, keeping in the shadow of the cabins in order not to be observed
by the lookout at the masthead.

They had covered about half the distance to the forward cabin for which
they were headed, when Grandon suddenly noticed a short, thick-set
individual who had apparently just emerged from one of the cabins,
carrying a bundle in his arms and hurrying toward one of the four small
boats slung on this side of the craft.

After placing the bundle, which was nearly as long as himself, in the
boat, the fellow, whom Grandon now recognized as San Thoy, climbed in
himself and rapidly lowered the little craft to the water by means of
the two ropes which passed through pulleys suspended on davits. He and
his two companions flattened themselves against the cabin wall until the
small boat had disappeared from view over the rail--then went forward
once more.

Presently their conductor stopped before a door and whispered:

"This is her cabin."

While Kantar watched their guide, Grandon tried the cabin door, and
finding it unlocked, stepped inside. By the rays of the tiny overhead
light which illuminated the little room, he could see at a glance that
it was deserted. His brow clouded, and it would have gone ill with the
yellow man who had led him to this cabin had he not noticed something on
the floor which glinted in the light. He picked it up, and recognized it
instantly as one of the jewels from Vernia's coiffure.

Stepping out of the cabin once more, he seized the guard's shoulder in a
grip of iron.

"She is not here," he said, sternly, and raised his scarbo as if he were
about to lay the fellow's head open.

"Spare me, Majesty," implored the yellow man. "This was her cabin. I
swear it."

"Then how do you explain her absence: Speak quickly if you would live?"

"I see it all, Majesty," said the guard suddenly. "We are too late!"

"Too late? What do you mean?"

"Your Majesty saw San Thoy with the bundle--San Thoy the debauched--who
spends all his earnings for beautiful slave girls. He would dare much to
possess the most beautiful woman of Zorovia."

"Then we will follow San Thoy," said Grandon, "and you will go with us.
Perhaps you can give us an idea where he has gone. To the nearest boat,
Kantar, and use your tork if the lookout sees us."

"He will not see us, Majesty," said the guard. "Of that I am sure, as
San Thoy must have seen to it that he is either drugged or dead--probably
the latter."

True to the prediction of the yellow guard, there was no alarm from the
masthead, nor from any other part of the ship as they lowered the boat
to the water and cast off. It was equipped with a small sail, which they
raised as soon as the fleet was far enough away to make it improbable
that it would be observed.

"Now," said Grandon, "which way do you think San Thoy sailed?"

"I can not be sure," replied the guard, "But the nearest land is the
Island of the Valkars. It has a small cove, accessible in a small boat,
where the Huitsenni often stop for fresh water, and where hey have
erected a small but strong shelter into which they may retire if
surprised by a large force of the terrible inhabitants of the place. It
may be that he has gone to this shelter for the night, intending to
embark for some safer place tomorrow."

"Can you guide us to it?"

"I can but try, Majesty. I am no navigator like San Thoy, who can
probably win safely across the shoals into the cove without even the aid
of a light. But the island is a large one, and I know the general
direction. If I steer properly we should reach some part of its rugged
coast in a short time."

"Then," said Kantar, grimly, "see that you steer properly if you would
live to see tomorrow's light."

The mast lights of the fleet were twinkling faintly in the distance as
the yellow man took the tiller, and swinging it around set his course.
After taking the precaution of securing his prisoner's ankles with a
piece of rope, Kantar sat down a short distance ahead of him and managed
the sail, while Grandon kept watch in the front of the craft.

They had not traveled far before the boom of breakers sounded ahead.

"There is the Island of the Valkars," said the prisoner, "but I know not
how to find the cove. If we should try to land anywhere else, we would be
almost certain either to be dashed to pieces on the rugged shore or sunk
by the jagged teeth of one of the many hidden reefs which circle the
island. If we do land in safety, we may be set upon in the darkness by
the Valkars, and carried away to be devoured."

"What are these Valkars?" asked Grandon.

"I, who have sailed every ocean of Zorovia, have never seen creatures
more horrible." said the yellow man. “Endowed with human intelligence,
they manufacture and use weapons and implements of metal, yet they are
not human, nor even mammalian. They are amphibians. Twice we fought them
off when we landed for water. I was a member of the landing party.
Although we outnumbered them each time, we lost several men in each
engagement. Some were torn to pieces and devoured before our eyes.
Others of our slain and wounded were carried away.

"But that was not all. After our ship had left the island following the
first engagement with the Valkars, those of our men who had been
stabbed, cut, bitten, or scratched in the battle, though ever so
slightly, began dying horrible deaths. Our mojak, who was wiser than
most, had one of our Valkar prisoners slain, and according to an ancient
custom, ordered every man who had received so much as a scratch to
either drink a drop of its blood or eat a mouthful of its flesh. The men
who complied with this order in time lived, but we did not know the
reason until later.

"We took two captured Valkars to Huitsen, where they were examined by
our most learned scientists. They found that these creatures secrete a
venom from glands in their mouths, and before going into battle, smear
their weapons and claws with it. In their blood, however, is a
substance, a small quantity of which counteracts the effect of the
venom. Because they were venomous, they apparently thought we were,
also, and it was evidently for that reason that some of our men were
torn to pieces on the battlefield and their fragments distributed among
and devoured by our enemies."

While they were talking, Grandon had been straining his eyes into the
darkness before them. Suddenly he exclaimed:

"I see a light dead ahead!"

"Then I have steered better than I could have hoped," said the yellow
pirate, "for it must be the light from the cabin in the cove. We will be
there shortly if we can pass through the shoals unscathed."

He set his course dead ahead, asking Grandon to watch the light and
direct him, as he was unable to see it from the stern on account of the
sail. This Grandon did, and was greatly mystified as he watched, for
although the light had seemed to be not more than a mile away when he
first saw it, and they continued to sail swiftly toward it, it did not
increase in brightness or apparent nearness. It seemed to have an
unnatural, phosphorescent gleam, also, that would scarcely be expected
to come from a cabin light.

The breakers roared louder and louder as they progressed. Suddenly their
hull glanced from a submerged rock, scraped a second, and smashed, head
on, into a third. There was a rendering crash as the little craft swung
half around, buffeted by the waves for a moment before a huge roller
engulfed her.

Just beyond the treacherous shoal, two men struggled desperately in the
boiling, seething water, in an effort to reach the shore. But the third
had gone down, never to rise again.



PANTING HEAVILY from his exertions, San Thoy leaned gloatingly over
Vernia, lying where he had thrown her on the sleeping shelf. But his
look of exultation suddenly turned to one of amazement. She had drawn
back her feet and planted the heel in his solar plexus with such force
that he staggered back across the little cabin, gasping for breath,
until tripped by a chair and thrown to the floor.

She did not wait to see what he would do, but sprang to her feet and
dashed out of the cabin. But San Thoy was unusually agile for a man of
his rotund build, and she had not taken ten steps beyond the door of the
cabin before he was up and after her.

Bounding off into the darkness with no sense of direction, and no
thought in mind save that of escaping the pursuer from whose clutches
she had just broken, Vernia suddenly became conscious of many pairs of
gleaming eyes. Reflecting the light from the open door, they seemed to
be looking at her from the surrounding darkness.

With a little scream of terror, she halted in her tracks, and San Thoy,
uttering a cry of triumph, leaped forward to recapture her. But a keen
barbed hook on the end of a long pole suddenly shot out from the
darkness at his right, and as it pierced his shoulder, his shout of
triumph became an agonized shriek. It jerked him backward, so that his
feet flew from under him and he sat down with considerable violence.

At the same time, a heavy body came hurtling through the air and landed
on two webbed feet in front of Vernia. It was about the height of a
large man, and stood erect on two bowed legs with its toes turned so far
outward that the two feet, with the heels together, were almost in line.
The body was thick and heavy, and covered with scales in front. On the
back and sides these scales were interspersed with huge bumps, which
were also in evidence on the backs of the upper and lower limbs and on
the head. The mouth was an enormous slit which reached nearly from ear
to ear, armed with saw-like ridges of jaw bone in lieu of teeth. The
eyes were large and set in bony sockets that protruded above the cheek
bones. Like the feet, the hands were webbed and armed with sharp claws.

Thus the creature which stood before Vernia might have been nothing more
than a very large and ferocious looking toad. But the fact that it
carried weapons--a pole with a hook on the end like that which had
impaled San Thoy, and a mace with a curved bill which hung by a thong
from its wrist--and that it wore a belt in which a large knife was
thrust, made it evident that this was no common toad. It was infinitely
more formidable and terrible than a creature with the mind as well as
the body of a toad could have been. Its use of weapons was evidence of
an intelligence which was at least equal to that of the most primitive

The creature uttered a hoarse croaking cry, and threw a cold scaly arm
around Vernia's waist, slinging her over its shoulder with an ease that
bespoke enormous strength. After struggling desperately for a moment,
she realized the futility of attempting to pit her strength against that
of the monster, and lay still.

As if it had been a signal or a call, the sound made by her captor
brought a score of the creatures circling around them, all armed like
the first. The beast that had captured San Thoy unhooked him without any
attention to his cries of anguish, and threw him, writhing and moaning,
over its warty shoulder. Then the entire group, led by Vernia's captor,
marched away.

As it was pitch dark after they left the vicinity of the lighted cabin,
Vernia was unable to see where they were going. She judged, however,
from the movements of her captor, that they were traversing some
exceedingly rugged country. Presently, this gave way to marshy lowlands
through which the toad men leaped and splashed, then to firmer ground
covered with tall, coarse grass that brushed against Vernia as she was
carried through it.

When the coming of the dawn made it possible for her to see, she found
herself in the midst of a city of low, moss-covered mounds. In each of
these mounds, a hole on the ground level, about three feet in diameter,
served as a doorway, and from most of the doorways the huge inquiring
eyes of the inhabitants peeped cautiously out at the prisoners as they
were being brought in.

Many of the other creatures which were moving about the place paused to
stare at Vernia, as if they had never seen any one of her race before.
San Thoy, it appeared, was of a race which they had previously seen. At
least he did not attract nearly so much attention.

A shallow, sluggish stream with muddy bottom meandered through the
center of the village, and seated on its banks or partly submerged in
its leisurely flowing water, a number of the creatures dozed languidly.

The adult creatures on the bank and in the water, Vernia noticed, were
all females--smaller than the males, and if possible more hideous. But
hopping and crawling around them, and swimming in the muddy water, were
hundreds of youngsters, apparently newly hatched, and none over eight
inches tall.

Her captor chancing to walk quite near the bank with her, Vernia saw,
with some surprise, that the placidly dozing females were there for a
purpose that of hatching their young; for she saw one of the large lumps
on the back of the nearest female burst open, and an infant, after
tumbling out into the mud, made straight for the water and dived in. Its
mother paid no attention whatever to the incident, nor did she so much
as turn to look at her offspring. Several other lumps on her back had
already burst open, and she was waiting for the rest to do the same.

Presently her captor left the bank of the stream, and after threading
many pathways between the numerous mounds, stopped before a mound which
was much larger than any of the others and appeared to be in the very
heart of the city. It had a number of entrances but her captor chose the
largest, and stopping, walked through it into a large, dome-like room
which was lighted by a peculiar, phosphorescent radiance that gave
everything a ghastly greenish tint. This peculiar light came from
immense writhing glowworms suspended on chains overhead. The air of the
place was filled with a musty stench, similar to that which Vernia had
noticed outside, but here so strong as to be almost overpowering.

Her captor swung her down from his warty shoulders, and set her on her
feet. Then she was whirled around to face a creature much more repulsive
looking than the one that had captured her. It was squatting on the
slimy cap of a gray toadstool set against the rear wall, staring at her
with its goggling, gold-rimmed eyes. Its scaly hide draped its body in
wrinkled folds, and there was about it a look of dried-up emaciation, as
if it were very old and partly mummified.

One taloned hand held a huge mace with a curved bill. The other toyed
with the hilt of a long, curved knife that hung from a massive chain
girdling the monster's middle.

On either side of the fungoid throne occupied by the hideous creature
was a yellow man of Huitsen, standing with folded arms in the attitude
of a slave. These two pirates, captives of the toad people and evidently
in attendance to the repulsive thing, which seemed to be in authority,
were quite filthy, and clothed in a few tattered rags which had once
been garments. Both leered at the beautiful captive with their cat-like
eyes, and grinned toothlessly.

After staring at her for fully five minutes, the squat monster on the
toadstool rolled its gold-rimmed eyes toward the yellow man who stood at
its right, and emitted a rapid succession of hoarse, booming croaks.

Much to Vernia's surprise the man replied in a human approximation of
the same sounds--evidently the language of the toad people. Then he
addressed Vernia. "His Majesty wishes to know your name, and whence you
came," he said in patoa.

Vernia raised her eyebrows: "His Majesty! Do you refer to that croaking

"I refer to Grunk, Rogo of the Valkars. On this island his wish is law.
It will be wise for you to answer his question."

"Tell him that I am Vernia, Torroga of Reabon," she directed, "and that
he will be richly rewarded if I am returned, unharmed, to my people."

For several minutes the toad ruler and the yellow man carried on a
croaking conversation. Then the latter addressed Vernia once more.

"His Majesty knows nothing of rewards, nor is he concerned with them,"
said he. "It was difficult for me to convey the idea to him in the
Valkar language, and even then it did not impress him. He is interested
in you for one reason, and that is because you are the first human
female his warriors have ever captured. A number of the Huitsenni, who
stop at this island for fresh water, have been captured and enslaved
from time to time by the toad people. As we are more skillful than they
in mining and smelting metals and the manufacture of weapons, tools,
chains, and ornaments, they set us at these tasks. They recognize, also
that some of us have superior cunning, I, Hui Sen, and my brother, Lui
Sen, are retained for that reason as counsellors for the rogo. We try to
do our work well, for as long as we prove useful we will be kept alive.
But if our work displeases Grunk, we will either be killed and eaten by
the Valkars or fed to Sistabez."

"And who is Sistabez?"

"The deity of the toad people. They think him a god, though he is only a
snake--an immense serpent who must be at least a thousand years old, for
he has outlived many generation of Valkars. As far back as Valkar
tradition goes, Sistabez has lived in his cave in the mountainside,
emerging at regular intervals when hungry. At such times living
sacrifices are fed to him in order to keep him from raiding the village,
which he has done several times when sacrifices were not brought

"Sometimes he devours but one victim. At other times he is not satisfied
with less than three or four. When he is seen emerging from his cave,
guards sound the alarm, and a victim is chained to a stake in his path.
A second victim is chained farther down the pathway, and a third still
farther. He may devour only the first, or perhaps the first and second,
but sometimes he comes on and devours the third. If he turns back to his
cave then, all is well. If not, a fourth victim is chained in his
pathway. Never has he been known to devour more than four victims at one
meal, but woe be to the Valkars if he becomes angry, for then he will
wantonly slay hundreds before returning to his lair."

Once more, Hui Sen turned and deferentially addressed Grunk in the
croaking language. For some time the Rogo of the Valkars made no reply,
but continued to stare at Vernia with his round, gold-rimmed eyes. Then,
apparently having come to some decision, he croaked an order to the
yellow slave.

"His Majesty," said Hui Sen, "has decided to retain you alive that you
may serve the purpose for which females were created, and thus multiply
the number of his slaves. Later, he will make some mental tests among
the slaves, to determine who shall be your mate."

Up to this moment, Vernia had desired to live, hoping in the face of
despair that she might some day be restored to Grandon. But as the
significance of Hui Sen's words sank into her brain, her one desire was
for speedy death. The hilt of her captor's knife projected invitingly
before her. Suddenly turning, she whipped it from the sheath and drew it
back to plunge it into her bosom. But Lui Sen, standing beside the
throne, while less talkative than his brother, was more observing, and
the first to perceive her intention. With a cat-like spring he alighted
in front of her, seized her wrist, and wrenched the knife from her
grasp. Then the Rogo croaked an order, and Vernia's captor dragged her
out of the hut.

She was led through the village of moss-covered mounds, toward a large
mound in the midst of an extensive enclosure, surrounded by a paling of
metal bars and guarded by armed Valkars. After exchanging croaks with
her conductor, one of the guards opened a gate and she was pushed into
the enclosure. Here, several hundred Huitsenni slaves were at work,
forging, sharpening, and polishing weapons for their batrachian masters
under the supervision of armed Valkar overseers. The forges were
hollowed stones in which were beds of live coals. The bellows were the
lungs of huge Valkars, who blew through reed tubes which entered holes
in the bottoms of the forges. The anvils were large, rounded stones, at
which the yellow workers squatted as they hammered out hooks, mace
heads, and knife blades.

The place was a bedlam--the clanking of metal, the roar of flames, the
croaks of the overseers, and the chatter of the slaves. The floor of the
enclosure was littered with filth and everywhere spattered with red
kerra juice. The Valkars, though they did not use the narcotic
themselves evidently believed that it made their human slaves more
efficient, and kept them well supplied with the pods containing the red
spores, which they mumbled from morning to night, and spat unbelievable
quantities of reddened saliva all about them.

Other workers were sharpening the knife blades, hook points and barbs,
and mace bills, with rough stones, and still others were polishing them
with sand. The metal parts then went to the assemblers, where the knives
and maces were fitted with wooden handles, and the hooks with long

Sickened by the squalor of the place and overwhelmed with horror at
thought of the fate which Grunk, Rogo of the Valkars, planned for her,
Vernia shrank back against the bars of the enclosure. The yellow
ex-pirates seemed fully aware of Grunk's intentions with regard to her,
and raised lascivious eyes from their work to drink in her beauty, the
while they bandied coarse jests, and speculated as to who would be the
lucky slave to draw this prize of feminine pulchritude for whom mighty
emperors had contended in vain.

Quite near her, a group of Huitsenni was assembling knives, tossing them
into a central pile when finished. With one of these in her possession,
she could swiftly defeat the purpose of Grunk. It was only a few steps
to the pile. Would they divine her purpose?

She decided that a circuitous route would be the least likely to make
them suspicious. So she set off first in the opposite direction, pausing
to watch various groups of workers as if greatly interested in what they
were doing. The coarse jokes of each group subsided as she drew near
each in turn. They were more than a little awed by the imminence of the
Torroga of Reabon. And there were a number of egotistical creatures
among them who strove to impress her with attempts at dignity and gentle

Last of all, she approached the group of workers surrounding the rapidly
mounting pile of knives. Casually, she picked up one of the finished
weapons as if to examine it. With a swift movement, she raised it aloft,
poised above her breast.

A greasy yellow hand reached over her shoulder--seized her wrist and
shook the knife from her grasp. Then a coarse laugh grated in her ear.

She spun around to face the filthy and ragged Hui Sen. Evidently he had
been stealthily following her for some time.

"Come," he grinned toothlessly, retaining a tight grip on her wrist.
"From now on you belong to me, for I am the Rogo's choice."



As GRANDON struggled in the seething water, he strove to look about him
for some sign of Kantar the Gunner. But save for that phosphorescent
luminescence which had lured them onto the rocks, all was blackness.

"Kantar!" he shouted. "Kantar! Where are you?"

A big roller caught him unawares. Part of it he inhaled. Strangling and
choking, he endeavored to rid his tortured lungs of the smarting brine.
All the time he was being carried swiftly toward that deceptive
phosphorescence. The roar of the breakers grew deafening. He realized,
then, that if Kantar had been within fifty feet of him when he shouted,
he probably would not have heard his cry.

Presently his hands struck a sloping ledge of sharp coral. He drew
himself up onto it, and stood erect. But a giant comber knocked him
flat, cutting his hands, face, and body on the jagged coral. After that
he crawled forward painfully. At length the coral was replaced by rugged
bits of stone, and finally by a sharply slanting beach where jointed
sawtoothed reeds grew among outcroppings of volcanic rock. For some time
he rested on a slab of water-worn lava, panting heavily from his
exertions. His cuts and scratches were rendered doubly painful by the
salt water.

Presently he stood up. The phosphorescent light was not more than five
hundred feet away, and it seemed to be slowly moving toward him in a
rather erratic fashion. It lit up the waving reeds and brackish pools
with a pale greenish white luminescence. As he watched, it stopped
behind a clump of tall reeds.

Suddenly, between himself and the light he saw a human form sloshing
through the pools. There was something familiar about the bedraggled
figure, and he recognized the gunner.

"Kantar!" he shouted, running forward.

The figure splashed onward, unable to hear him because of the roar of
the breakers. At a distance of a few feet he again shouted: "Kantar!" at
the top of his voice.

The gunner turned.

"Majesty!" he exclaimed. "I had thought you drowned with that yellow
pirate. Praise Thorth, you are alive!"

"We must find that hut of the Huitsenni, quickly," said Grandon as he
came up. "Have you any idea where to look for it?"

"Our guide said there would be a light," replied Kantar. "I was about to
investigate this one."

"I saw it moving a moment ago," said Grandon. "I doubt that the cabin
would be built in a salt marsh, or that a light in it would move about
as this one has. Perhaps it is a light carried by one of the creatures
the pirates called 'Valkars.' But it will do no harm to investigate."

Cautiously they crept forward through the marsh, bending down below the
level of the waving reeds so that they would not be seen. Presently
Kantar laid a hand on Grandon's, arm, and exclaimed: "I see it, Majesty!
Why, it's an enormous worm!"

Looking through the place where the gunner had parted the reeds, the
Earthman saw a fat, grub-like creature about five feet in length. Its
entire body glowed with a greenish white light. Leisurely it moved among
the reeds, browsing on the water plants that grew in the bottoms of the
brackish pools.

Disturbed at its feeding by the sound, the creature reared its luminous
head and spied them. Arching its neck, it gnashed its mandibles

"I wonder if that thing would shine as brightly dead as alive," said
Grandon. "If so, it would be useful to us."

For answer, Kantar elevated the muzzle of his tork, and pressing the
firing button, deftly sprayed a line of the needlelike projectiles
across the luminous throat.

Cut off as cleanly as if by a sword blade in the hands of an expert, the
head fell from the body, which immediately began writhing and thrashing
about in the rushes and shallow water.

"Neatly done, Gunner," commented Grandon. "Why the thing appears to be
shining more than ever! Now for a couple of torches."

So saying, he whipped out his scarbo, and advancing to where the
headless thing squirmed and floundered in the reeds, cut off two
sections, each about a foot in length. Then, with two sharpened reeds
which he thrust into the sections for handles, he made a pair of
torches, each of which was capable of lighting up the terrain for at
least fifty feet in every direction.

Grandon passed one torch to Kantar, and holding the other above his
head, set off along the shore line in the hope of coming upon the cabin
which their yellow prisoner had described, and where he believed they
would find Vernia in the power of the unscrupulous San Thoy. But though
they traveled as swiftly as the rugged character of the shore line would
permit for the rest of the night, morning dawned without their having
reached their objective.

With his scarbo, Grandon speared a large, spiny fish, left by the ebbing
tide in a small pool. They cooked a portion of it over a fire of dry
reeds ignited by Grandon's flame maker. It was tough, bony, and rather
tasteless, but a welcome meal, nevertheless, to the two hungry men.

As soon as they had breakfast, they set off once more along the shore
line. Shortly thereafter, the character of the terrain underwent a
decided change. The ground sloped upward, and instead of marsh behind
them, there was now a belt of fern forest. And the flat beach gave way
to rugged rock ledges, then towering cliffs, clothed to their very edges
with tree ferns, bush ferns, and many creeping and climbing varieties,
as well as a few species of cycads and other primitive types. Here there
grew in abundance the large Zorovian water ferns, the ribs of which
contain water, clear, cold, and sweet as any that may be found on Venus.
They paused, and broke off enough fronds to assuage their thirst and
fill their canteens. Then they pressed onward.

Soon they came, quite unexpectedly, upon a small natural harbor. The
entrance was a narrow channel which zig-zagged between tall cliffs, and
the little inland bay, protected from wind and waves by this natural
barrier, was as smooth as glass.

"This must be the cove described by our prisoner," said Grandon,
excitedly. "The cabin should not be far off."

"I see it, Majesty," cried sharp-eyed gunner, "over near the center of
the bay. It's partly hidden by the tree ferns."

"Sure enough! Come on."

Grandon led the way at so swift a pace now, that the tired gunner was
sorely put to it to keep up with him. As they neared the cabin, the
sight of the small boat which had been left there by San Thoy caused
Grandon to hurry faster than ever, for he now felt positive that he
should find Vernia and her captor in the cabin. But within less than a
hundred feet of the cabin, he stopped suddenly.

"We must approach with caution, Gunner," he said. "The yellow beast is
probably armed with a tork, and it wouldn't be healthy for us if he saw
or heard us coming. Better go in from two different directions, too, so
if he gets one of us the other will have a chance at him."

They separated accordingly, and circling the cabin, crept cautiously up
to it from opposite directions. The first to reach the front of the
little building, Grandon saw the door standing wide open. With drawn
scarbo, he leaped through, then stopped in amazement, for a single
glance around the room told him that it was deserted.

The gunner was only a few steps behind Grandon.

"Gone?" he asked.

"So it seems. But where?"

Hanging on a peg at one side of the room was a belt containing a scarbo,
tork, and knife. Grandon's shoulder struck the hanging scarbo, and it
clanked against the tork.

"What's this?" he exclaimed, lifting the belt from the peg. "Why, these
are the weapons of San Thoy! His name is engraved on the belt buckle in
patoan characters."

"I judge that he would not willingly have left without them."

"No, not willingly."

"Then who could have carried them off, and what has become of Her
Majesty, your wife?"

"Who but the Valkars, those toad-like monsters that our prisoner
described. We must find the trail. I'll take San Thoy's weapons and give
the other scarbo to you. Then we'll both be fully armed."

Soon Grandon, who had learned his woodcraft from the Fighting Traveks,
his fierce mountaineer subjects of Uxpo, and learned it well, discovered
blood spots about a hundred feet from the door of the hut. And in the
soft leaf mold were the small footprints of a woman, the large prints of
a man, and the still larger tracks of webbed and clawed feet. Kantar who
was born and bred in the mountain fastnesses of Uxpo, read the signs as
quickly as did the Earth-man.

"She ran out here to escape the yellow pirate," he said.

"And both were carried off by the Valkars," finished Grandon. "Blood was
spilled. I trust that it was not hers."

"It starts at the point where San Thoy was lifted off his feet."

"True enough. Let us hope for the best. And now to the trail."

It was not difficult for the two trained woodsmen to follow the
well-marked trail of the toad people. It led them through the belt of
thick fern forest that fringed the shore, and across a range of rugged
and sparsely wooded hills, into a gloomy and treacherous swamp. Here
Grandon, at almost the first step, sank into a quagmire up to his chin.
It would speedily have closed over his head, had not Kantar been there
to extend a helping hand. Even then, it was with the greatest difficulty
that the gunner succeeded in drawing him out of the clinging, sticky

After this misadventure, Grandon took more care where he stepped,
quickly learning that a piece of ground which was safe for a web-footed
Valkar might be extremely perilous for a man. He chafed at the delay
occasioned by the necessity of testing each bit of soil before stepping
on it, but was constrained by the obvious verity that if he did not
travel with caution his travels would soon be terminated.

Nor was the treacherous footing the sole menace the swamp held for the
two. They were constantly compelled to be on the lookout for venomous
snakes which crawled across their pathway, and tremendous whistling
serpents that dangled from tree limbs, waiting for unsuspecting victims
on which to drop, then crush the life out of them with their immense
muscular coils. In addition, they were compelled to avoid the huge
saurians which made the morass their habitation. Some of these were
herbivores, and harmless unless disturbed, but others, the mighty
carnivores which fed on these and any other smaller bits of flesh that
came their way, would make short work of them if they suspected this
pair of tender, two-legged animals was crossing their feeding ground.
Annoying, too, were the constant attacks of biting and stinging insect
pests which buzzed in thick clouds about them.

Both men heaved a sigh of relief when they presently reached higher arid
drier ground, for though the tall grass through which the path wound
might harbor even more dangerous enemies than they had seen in the
swamp, they were at least sure of their footing, and soon left the bulk
of their insect tormentors behind.

They had traveled about a mile into this grassy savanna, when Grandon
suddenly caught his companion by the arm.

"Quiet!" he said. "I hear something coming!"

Unmistakably there came to the ears of both the sound of someone or
something speeding through the tall grass, then a shriek of pain or
terror, and a hoarse booming croak.

"Come on," cried Grandon. "It sounds like a human being attacked by some
fierce beast."

They had only taken a few steps in the direction of the sounds when
there hove into view, running for his life, a short, bandy-legged yellow
man. Although Grandon and Kantar had never seen a Valkar, both instantly
identified the hideous, warty creature, which followed in swift pursuit,
from the description their former prisoner had given them. It was
rapidly shortening the distance between itself and its shrieking quarry,
and the long pole it carried, tipped with a barbed hook, was extended to
transfix its victim.

Kantar elevated the muzzle of his tork.

"Don't shoot," warned Grandon. "The sound may betray us, and bring a
horde of these creatures. You grab the yellow man, and I'll take the

Whipping out his scarbo, the Earth-man accordingly crouched in the grass
at one side of the path, while Kantar, similarly armed, concealed
himself on the other side.

Just as he came opposite them, the fugitive was caught by the barbed
hook. He uttered an agonized shriek as it pierced his arm. But before
his pursuer could jerk him backward, Kantar's scarbo had cut through the
shaft. And Grandon, blade in hand, had leaped at the Valkar.

Although he was taken by surprise, the toad man was remarkably quick.
Dropping his useless shaft, he snatched his long knife from his belt,
and raised it to parry the cut which Grandon aimed at his head. It
turned the blade of the scarbo so that, in descending it only cut a
small slice from the scaly shoulder. At the same instant, with lightning
quickness, he struck the Earth-man with the mace in his left hand.

The blow took Grandon by surprise, and the hooked bill bit into his
right shoulder, which he had instinctively raised to protect his face,
inflicting a painful wound. With a croak of triumph the monster jerked
the Earth-man toward him, intent on finishing him with the knife. But at
that instant, Grandon drew back his lowered scarbo, then thrust upward
with all his might. The blade, driven with terrific force, entered the
silver-gray throat, and passing upward through the head, came out between
the bulging eyes. With a hoarse death croak, the Valkar sank to the
ground, kicking convulsively.

Kantar came running up, dragging his yellow prisoner, from whose arm he
had extracted the barbed hook.

"Why, you are bleeding, Majesty!" he exclaimed.

"Only a flesh wound," replied Grandon. "I'll be all right." The gunner
twisted the small cup from the top of his kova flask, and held it to the
bleeding throat of the dying Valkar. In an instant it was filled with
blood. He stood up and proffered the cup to Grandon.

"You must drink this quickly, Majesty," he said, "or your wound may
prove fatal."

"What's the matter with you?" demanded the Earth-man. "Have you gone

"Drink quickly, I beg of you. It is the only antidote for the venom with
which these monsters smear their weapons."

"Right. I had forgotten what our prisoner told us." He took the
proffered cup, and with a wry face, drained it. The wounded yellow man
whose wrist Kantar was holding, had meanwhile crouched down, and was
lapping at the bleeding throat of the Valkar.

"Let me bind your wound, Majesty," said the gunner.

"No. It is not large, and will close itself. Meanwhile let us examine
the prisoner." He glared at the diminutive yellow man, who now stood
with bowed head, his wrist still clutched by Kantar. "Are you San Thoy?"
he asked.

"No, Majesty," replied the prisoner, who, noting the scarlet of
Grandon's attire was aware that he stood before royalty. "San Thoy is a
great mojak, while I, as Your Majesty may see by the remains of my
raiment, am only a common sailor."

Your name, sailor."

"So Lan, Majesty, late of the ship, Sagana, of the Imperial Navy of
Huitsen. I was captured by the Valkars three endirs ago with a dozen of
my mates when we were sent ashore for fresh water. Today I escaped from
the prison compound, but this Valkar hunter saw me, and would have slain
me or taken me back a prisoner had not you come up."

"Saw you aught of San Thoy?"

"He, and a beautiful white Princess, who some say was Vernia of Reabon,
were brought in prisoners this morning."

"Where are they now?"

"The white Princess was brought to the slave compound shortly before I
made my escape. It was the attention she attracted, both from the slaves
and the Valkars, which made it possible for me to get away undetected."

"And what do these Valkars intend to do with her? Hold her for ransom?"

No, Majesty. They care nothing for money, or any other things of great
worth. But I heard that Grunk, their Rogo, who has never before captured
a human female, planned to keep her for the purpose of breeding a race
of slaves."

"Enough! Lead us at once to this compound. Perform your task faithfully,
take me to a spot where I can set eyes on my wife, and you will be
permitted to escape again. But remember, one sign of treachery, and you

"Your wife! Then you are the famed Grandon of Terra, the hero from the
planet Mignor, who won the most beautiful woman on Zorovia!" He dropped
to his knees, and with both hands extended, palms downward, pressed his
forehead to the ground. "I do homage to so mighty a swordsman and so
famed a ruler," he muttered.

"Up, and cease this mummery, or by the bones of Thorth, I'll split your
head, and go on without a guide. Vernia of Reabon will take her own life
rather than submit to the dictates of this reptilian Rogo. As it is, we
may be too late."

The pirate scrambled hastily to his feet.

"I'll guide you, Majesty, and quickly," he promised, "but we must circle
the Valkar village to reach the compound. Otherwise we should not be
permitted to go far."

He set off at once through the tall, rustling grass, with Grandon,
scarbo in hand, just behind him, and Kantar bringing up the rear. After
a short walk Grandon heard, only a little way ahead of them, the chatter
of human conversation and the croaking of Valkars, punctuated by the
sharp clanking of metal.

So Lan turned. "The compound is just ahead," he whispered. "Those are
the sounds made by the metal workers and their overseers."

The three crept cautiously forward now. So Lan, parting the grass,
pointed to an enclosure by a paling of metal bars, in the center of
which was a large, moss-covered mound.

Grandon's heart gave a great bound as he saw Vernia standing beside a
pile of knives. Then he cried out in anguish, and would have leaped
forward had not Kantar detained him, as he saw her snatch the knife and
attempt to plunge it into her bosom. But it was instantly shaken from
her grasp by one of the yellow slaves who had grasped her wrist.
Fortunately, Grandon's involuntary cry had not been heard over that
bedlam of sound, and so the three men still crouched there, undetected.

"What are we to do now, Majesty?" asked Kantar.

"I don't know, Gunner. Let me think--let me plan. A sudden rush and a
shower of tork bullets might be best. And yet, it might mean the death
of Vernia. We must try to think of a better scheme."

He turned to the yellow man who still crouched in the grass beside him.
"You may go now, So Lan. You have earned your freedom."

"Your Majesty has saved the life of So Lan," replied the pirate, "and he
is not ungrateful. Permit him to remain near you, that he may be of
assistance in the rescue of her Majesty, your wife."

"How? You are unarmed. But wait. Perhaps we can use you, for you could
pass unnoticed among the slaves where one of us would be instantly

"I but await Your Majesty's commands," replied So Lan, bowing low.



VERNIA STROVE To wrench her arm free, but she was helpless in the grip
of the filthy and ragged Hui Sen. He grinned the hideous, toothless grin
of the Huitsenni, and pushed a fresh quid of kerra spores into his cheek
as he dragged her toward the gate.

"Where are you taking me?" she demanded.

"First to the burrow of His Majesty, Grunk, Rogo of the Valkars, that he
may give you his commands in person. Then, if he does not change his
mind, which he sometimes does, but which I hope will not be the case in
this instance, I will take you to my own burrow."

"Suppose that I should offer you the wealth and position of a
prince-make you rich and powerful beyond your fondest dreams. Would you
help me to escape?"

That would be impossible, Majesty. I am not so strong a swimmer that I
could reach your country from here, and the Valkars would not give us
time to build a boat."

"But there is a small sailboat, provisioned and ready, in the harbor
where your boats stop for fresh water. If we could reach it and get away
by night, surely you are enough of a navigator to sail it to Reabon. And
what I promise, I will perform."

"We will speak of this later, Majesty," replied Hui Sen. "Just now I
must take you before the Rogo." He entered into a short, croaking
conversation with the Valkar guard at the gate, who then swung it open,
permitting them to pass.

As they threaded their way between the moss-covered mounds toward the
burrow of Grunk, Hui Sen looked cautiously about him as if fearful of
being overheard, then said: "I cannot deny, Majesty, that the station
and wealth of a prince would be a great temptation to me, for I have
lived in squalor these many years. And while living thus, my only solace
has been in dreams of splendor and power. But the risk would be
tremendous. To pass the Valkar guards would not be easy. To cross the
swamp without a Valkar guide would be next to impossible. Were it not
for that swamp, my people would long ago have exterminated the Valkars.
There is also the possibility that the boat might not be there, in which
event the Valkars would be sure to find us, and I, at least, would be
horribly punished. Added to these, and by far not the least of the
considerations, would be the fact that I should lose you as my mate."

"On that score, at least, you may set yourself at rest," said Vernia.
"Does the hahoe take the mate of the marmelot, or the awoo the mate of
the ramph? Grandon of Terra is my mate, and sooner or later he will find
this island, wipe the Valkars from the face of the planet, and all with
them who have offered me indignity."

"Grandon of Terra will not find this place," said Hui Sen, confidently.
"You cannot frighten me with his name, mighty as I know it to be."

"You will remember, also," continued Vernia, "that the mate of the
marmelot is not without claws. I promise you that, if you offer me any
indignity, I will slay you at the first opportunity, and myself, also.
Sleeping or waking, your life will never be safe, if you drag me off to
your stinking burrow."

"That I know you would do," replied Hui Sen, seemingly impressed, "for
the women of Reabon were ever jealous of their honor. Night and day, I
would always be on my guard, unless, perchance, you should learn to love

"Love you? Why, you greasy yellow beast! You unspeakable filth! Sooner
would I love a warty Valkar." This was said with flashing eyes, and an
imperious mien that humbled the yellow man.

"I mean no offense, Majesty," he whined. "Even a worm may look at a star
with the hope that, inaccessible as it seems, it shines favorably upon
him. But here we are at the burrow of the Rogo."

They were about to enter when Hui Sen halted and cocked his head to one
side at the sound of a distant ululation, long drawn out, and
exceedingly mournful.

"What was that?" asked Vernia.

"The cry of the guards," replied Hui Sen. "Sistabez, the great serpent,
has come out of his cave."

The howling grew in volume as thousands of Valkar throats all over the
village took it up. At this instant, Grunk, Rogo of the Valkars, emerged
from his burrow, accompanied by Lui Sen and his two immense Valkar
guards, both of which, with their noses elevated and their mouths open
from ear to ear, were howling lustily. The din had now grown so loud
that speech was impossible, but Grunk, after staring fixedly at Vernia
and Hui Sen for a moment with his great, gold-rimmed eyes, made a sign
that they should follow him, and strode off between the moss-covered
mounds toward the place from which the howling had first come. Judging
from the mob of Valkars, male and female, old and young which was
heading in the same direction, it was evident that the entire village
had turned out.

The hurrying, jostling crowd respectfully made way for the Rogo and his
party, and they soon reached the edge of the village. Here a narrow path
led up a rugged hillside, strewn with boulders and sparsely dotted with
low-growing shrubs. At intervals of about a hundred feet along this
path, heavy iron stakes had been driven into the ground.

To the farthest of these stakes, a luckless yellow slave had already
been fastened. Another was being secured to the next stake, and two
guards were marching a third up to the next.

Suddenly every voice was hushed, and Vernia saw an enormous and hideous
head round a curve in the rugged hillside. It was about ten feet in
length, and six in width at its broadest point tapering down to a square
muzzle about two feet across. This massive head was reared on a thick
neck fully four feet in diameter, to a height of about twenty feet above
the ground. Behind it trailed a tremendous length of sinuous body. In
color it was muddy green above, and the under scales were a greenish

Languidly, unhurriedly, the monster glided down the path, surveying the
immense crowd of Valkars and yellow slaves before it with apparent
indifference. Presently, as it came to the first slave that had been
bound in its path, it paused, and leisurely arched its neck. The other
two slaves had, meanwhile, been tethered and left to their fate. All
three unfortunates struggled desperately, and cried out for mercy, but
as the serpent poised over the first wretch, he ceased his struggles and

There was a quick, downward dart of that massive head, so swift that the
eye could scarcely follow, and a single shriek from the victim as the
immense jaws closed upon him, breaking his bonds like cobwebs. Then a
significant lump slid down the serpent's throat to disappear in its
tremendous coils.

Leisurely the snake crawled forward once more, seized and swallowed its
next shrieking victim. It paused for a moment, but as it moved on toward
the third victim, a fourth was quickly chained in its path.

"Sistabez is hungry today," Hui Sen said to Vernia.

The snake swallowed the third victim, and continued on toward the

"He is very hungry," said Hui Sen.

As it moved forward this time, the serpent's red forked tongue darted
from its mouth, appearing and disappearing with the rapidity of

"He grows angry," cried Hui Sen, in alarm.

At this instant, Grunk turned and croaked something to two guards, who
came toward Vernia.

"What did he say?" she asked Hui Sen.

"He said," replied that worthy, "that Sistabez was angry because he had
withheld the fair white prisoner from him. He ordered the guards to tie
you to the fifth stake."

With a sudden wrench, Vernia freed her wrist from the grasp of the
yellow man, then turned to flee. But before she had taken ten steps the
Valkar guards had her. The fourth victim shrieked his last as she was
dragged to the stake and securely bound. The two guards retreated
precipitately as the serpent advanced, this time traveling more swiftly
than before, its tongue flashing like red forked lightning.



CROUCHING IN THE grass near the slave compound with Kantar and So Lan,
Grandon saw the yellow slave who had prevented Vernia from taking her
own life, lead her through the gate.

"Where is he taking her?" he asked So Lan.

"They walk toward the burrow of Grunk," replied So Lan. "I think she
will be taken before the Rogo of the Valkars."

"And then?"

"Grunk will probably decide which of the slaves is to take her to his

"I believe so, Majesty. No alarm has been sounded, so I take it that I
have not yet been missed. The Valkar that was pursuing me was a hunter I
had encountered at some distance from the village."

"Very well. Suppose you--but wait! What is that howling sound?"

"The guards are warning the Valkars that Sistabez, the great serpent,
has awakened, and is emerging from his den. No need to go into the
village now, for everyone will attend the sacrifice."


"A huge snake worshipped by the Valkars as a god. When he comes forth,
they chain slaves in his pathway, in order that he may not raid the
village. Naturally they value their own lives above those of their

"And Vernia is a prisoner! Can you get us quickly to this place of

"We will have to circle the village, Majesty. It will take quite a

“Then hurry."

"This way." So Lan dashed off through the tall grass with Grandon and
Kantar at his heels.

Before they had gone far, it was obvious to Grandon that the Valkars
would reach the place of sacrifice long before they would. Fuming at the
delay, he kept urging the little yellow man to his best paces, but
though he was willing enough, his short legs would not carry him nearly
so fast as the two impatient white men could travel.

The howling from the village was deafening for some time, but to
Grandon's surprise, it suddenly ceased altogether.

"Sistabez has reached the place of sacrifice," panted So Lan. "The
Valkars always quit their howling when he is ready to take his first

Grandon, who could restrain his impatience no longer, now thrust his
puffing and nearly exhausted guide out of the way, and dashed forward at
top speed. He needed no guide a moment later, for the shriek of the
snake's first victim rang in his ears. Closely followed by Kantar, he
bounded straight toward that sound. A short time later he heard, much
closer, the cry of the second victim, then, still closer, the third, and
finally the fourth.

A moment later, he bounded out into the open space at the base of the
hill, in front of which the Valkars had assembled. Vernia had just been
bound to the stake, and the two Valkars who had tied her were fleeing
for their lives as the great serpent advanced toward her.

"Try to keep the crowd back, Gunner," he shouted to Kantar as he whipped
out his scarbo and sprinted for the stake. The two Valkars who had bound
Vernia tried to stop him, but he elevated the muzzle of his tork, and
sprayed them with needle-like bullets. One of them fell, gasping and
kicking his last for Grandon had loaded the weapon with a clip of
projectiles he had found in the belt pouch of San Thoy, which contained
enough poison to kill a dozen men. He dispatched the other toad man with
his scarbo.

A few swift strides carried him to Vernia's side, and two strokes of his
scarbo freed her. She was so overcome by the ordeal through which she
had just passed that she swooned, and would have fallen, had not Grandon
sheathed his scarbo and caught her up in his arms.

All this took place in less than a minute, and during this time the tork
of the gunner had been popping to good purpose as attested by the ring
of fallen Valkars which had been bold enough to rush him. Now, as
Grandon dashed back into the tall grass with Vernia in his arms, Kantar
ran behind him to cover his retreat.

The serpent, meanwhile, had not shown any interest in these proceedings,
but had crawled on past the stake to seize and swallow the two Valkars
that still lay kicking on the ground.

"What kind of bullets are you using?" Grandon asked the gunner, as they
plunged into the grass.

"Deadly," he replied.

"Put in a clip of solid bullets for a moment," directed Grandon, "and
give the big snake a half dozen or so in the neck."

Kantar chuckled as he swiftly carried out the Earthman's instructions.
"A good idea, Majesty," he said. "It will give the ugly toads something
to do besides chasing us."

Kantar was the best marksman in the Reabonian army, either with a tork
or mattork, and it was child's play for him to quickly place the bullets
as he had been directed. The effect on the huge serpent was
instantaneous. With its forked tongue playing so rapidly that the eye
could scarcely follow, and an angry hissing sound that was almost like
the roar of steam escaping from a locomotive, it coiled and struck again
and again into the closely packed crowd of Valkars, a tremendous living
engine of destruction. Before, it had only been satisfying its hunger.
Now it was taking swift and horrible toll of those creatures which it
believed responsible for its hurts.

With his own tork, Grandon, meanwhile, shot down a score of Valkars that
had followed them, giving the gunner time to reload with the deadly
projectiles. As they hurried forward once more, they were joined by So
Lan, who had armed himself with a hook, mace, and knife taken from one
of the fallen Valkars.

"Take care not to scratch yourself or anyone else with those weapons,"
warned Kantar, as they trotted through the grass. "We have no Valkar
blood for an antidote, now.

"I have seen to that," replied So Lan. He raised the flap of his belt
pouch, and disclosed a slice of still quivering flesh. "This will serve
all of us if need arise."

It was evident that the Valkars were well occupied with their own
troubles, as none appeared to molest them for some time. They soon found
the path which led from the village to the swamp, and had followed this
for about a mile, when Vernia, still in her husband's arms, recovered
consciousness, and demanded to be set on her feet.

"I can carry you all the way to the boat, if need be," Grandon

"No, Bob. You must save your strength, for we will have need of it. I
can walk as well as any of you, now. Besides, your hands must be free to
grasp your weapons. The Valkars may catch up with us at any time."

"I rather think they're pretty well occupied with their own troubles,
right now. But try it for a while if you must. I can carry you again if
you tire."

They set off at a fast walk, but had not gone far when Kantar, who was
at the rear, softly called: "Majesty."

Grandon turned. "What is it?"

"Something following us. I see the grass waving."

"We'll make a stand," Grandon decided, "and give them a warm reception
if they're Valkars."

A moment later, a short yellow man appeared in the pathway. He was
followed by five more. Grandon recognized the leader as San Thoy, and
whipping out his scarbo, advanced toward him, ignoring the others.

"So," he thundered, "you are the yellow filth who abducted my wife!"

San Thoy cringed, then dropped to his knees with right hand extended
palm downward, as Grandon towered above him with upraised scarbo.

"No, no, Majesty! Spare me! There is a misunderstanding! I tried to
rescue Her Majesty. We stopped at the cabin to wait for daylight, that I
might take her to the Reabonian coast."

"Ah! Then you did not with your unwelcome advances, drive her forth into
the night to be captured by the Valkars?" turned to Kantar. "Lend this
rakehell of Huitsen your blade, Gunner, that I may settle accounts with

San Thoy quaked with fear.

"But I am no swordsman, Majesty," he whined, "to oppose the mightiest
blade on Zorovia. It would be murder. Besides, as Thorth is my witness,
I do not recall offering any affront to Her Gracious Majesty. My head
became so addled with kova that I did not know I had been wounded and
captured by the Valkars until this morning."

"I perceive," said Grandon, contemptuously, "that you are a liar and a
coward as well as a rogue. What shall I do with the vermin, Gunner?"

"Strike off his head, Sire, and leave his foul remains to the jungle

"Right. It is the least that he deserves."

San Thoy cringed, expecting the death blow as Grandon raised his blade.
But it did not fall, for at this moment Vernia caught his arm.

"Please, Bob, I can't let you do it," she said. "Spare him for my sake."

"It is for your sake that I would put an end to him," replied Grandon.
"To permit him to live after--"

"Please. Remember Tholto, the marshman. You would have slain him for a
similar offense, but spared him because I requested it. And he afterward
saved my honor when I was in the power of Zanaloth of Mernerum. Later,
he saved both our lives."

"True," replied Grandon, "But this vile creature is no more like Tholto
than a Valkar is like me. Yet, because it is your request, I can not do
otherwise than spare him." He spurned the groveling San Thoy with his
foot. "Get up," he commanded, "and remember that you are indebted to the
Torroga of Reabon for your worthless life."

"Then may we accompany Your Majesties through the swamp to the coast?"
asked one of the escaped slaves who had come up with San Thoy. "We could
not find the way, unaided, and we are not armed against the monsters we
should be sure to encounter."

"We are not anxious for such company," replied Grandon, "but you may
follow behind us."

They set off once more, Grandon leading, closely followed by Vernia, So
Lan, and Kantar. At a respectful distance behind tramped San Thoy and
his band.

A short march took them to the treacherous swamp, where Grandon was able
to make much better time than on his previous trip through it, by
backtracking in his own footsteps. But their progress was slow at best,
and it was not long before there came an imploring cry from San Thoy.

"The Valkars are coming! Give us aid! Save us!"

"They don't deserve it," said Grandon, "but after all, they are human
beings, and unarmed and in danger. Bring your comrades forward, San
Thoy," he called, "and you, Gunner, guard the rear. If you can't handle
things, let me know, and I'll come back with you."

Kantar stood aside until San Thoy and his comrades had time to close in
behind So Lan. Then he fell in behind the last man, and as they marched
forward, glanced back from time to time to note the proximity of the
enemy. He soon saw that the Valkars were gaining rapidly on them, and
also that they were not keeping to the trail, but were spreading out in
a crescent shaped line, evidently with the intention of surrounding
them. After communicating this intelligence to Grandon, he began picking
off with his tork such Valkars as came dangerously close.

Presently, when the dull-witted Valkars began to realize that to expose
themselves to the gunner's deadly aim meant sure death, they took
advantage of cover. This slowed them a bit, but still their pace was
swifter than that of Grandon's party, as their webbed feet gave them
considerable advantage in traveling over the swampy ground. Soon the two
horns of their crescent caught up with Grandon, who began using his tork
as frequently as Kantar, though with not quite such deadly precision.
With sword or scarbo he had not met his equal on all Zorovia, but there
was only one Kantar the Gunner, and Grandon, though an excellent shot,
bowed to his uncanny skill with the weapon.

Between the two of them, Grandon and Kantar managed to keep their
enemies at bay until they reached the more solid footing of the sparsely
wooded hills. But in the meantime, the horns of the crescent had closed
in front of them. On the firmer ground, however, their speed exceeded
that of the Valkars, and since they no longer feared those behind them,
but only those in front and at the sides, he changed his formation,
massing the noncombatants in the center, while he and the gunner ranged
on each side.

Only a few of the Valkars had succeeded in getting ahead of them, and
these succumbed to the marksmanship of the two men. Then Grandon ordered
a swift charge across the hill that confronted them, and beyond which
was the thick fern forest that fringed the bay. When he reached the brow
of the hill, he glanced back and saw that several hundred Valkars had
already emerged from the swamp, while at least a thousand swarmed
through the muck and water behind them. But the sight of this vast force
did not dismay him, for he knew that his party could easily outrun them
on the firm ground that lay ahead, and that they would have ample time
to launch the little boat which San Thoy had moored near the cabin.

They dashed down the rugged hillside, and plunged into the fern forest,
just as the front lines of their pursuers swept over the brow of the
hill. But Grandon had scarcely taken fifty steps into the forest
shadows, when a heavy body fell on his back from the branches above,
knocking him to the ground. It was quickly followed by a half dozen
more, and though the Earth-man managed to struggle to his feet, his arms
were pinioned behind him, and his weapons taken away. He had led his
party directly into an ambush of yellow pirates. Kantar, he observed,
had been served in like manner.

Suddenly then, as if by magic, a whole army of Huitsenni appeared,
stepping from behind tree trunks, bushes, and rocks, and dropping from
the dense tangle of branches overhead. The little party was completely
surrounded and hopelessly outnumbered.

Waddling toward them through the ranks of the pirates, who respectfully
made way for him, Grandon now recognized Thid Yet, Romojak of the Navies
of Huitsen.

Thid Yet expectorated a red stream of kerra juice, and grinned
toothlessly, as he bowed before Grandon and Vernia.

"I am gratified that we arrived in time to save Your Majesties from the
Valkars," he said. "Guest chambers have been prepared for you and your
warrior aboard my flagship." His eyes next fell on the cowering San
Thoy. "So, traitor, we meet again. I doubt not that His Majesty of
Huitsen will contrive exquisite tortures for you when he has heard the
story of your perfidy. Seize him, men." His glance next fell on So Lan
and the other unarmed yellow men who formed the balance of the party.
"Who are you?" he asked.

"We are from various crews, Excellency, sent ashore for water, and
captured in engagements with the Valkars, who held us as slaves," replied
So Lan.

"So? Then report to my mojo who will assign you to new berths."

At this moment, one of Thid Yet's aides ran up to announce that the
Valkars were attacking in force.

"Tell the mattork crews to make a stand at the edge of the woods and mow
them down without mercy," commanded Thid Yet. "These warty monsters need
a lesson, and now is the time to read them one they will not soon

As they marched toward the harbor, Grandon heard the rattle of mattork
fire, which continued for several minutes. Then it suddenly stopped, and
he concluded that the Valkars, seeing that they had run into an ambush,
had retreated. This he afterward learned was really the case.

They found the beach lined with the small boats of the Huitsenni, while
the pirate fleet rode at anchor less than a quarter of a mile from the
entrance to the cove. Grandon, Vernia, Kantar, and San Thoy were rowed
to the flagship in the boat of Thid Yet. Back on the deck of the vessel
once more, the Romojak gave swift orders.

"Return Her Majesty of Reabon to her former quarters, and keep her door
constantly guarded," he told his mojo. "His Majesty, here, together with
his warrior and our treacherous mojak, will have to be put in irons, and
confined belowdecks. And keep two armed guards constantly before their
door. They escaped too easily the last time."

Vernia was led away to her cabin, and the three men were fitted with
thick metal collars, to which heavy chains were attached, linking them
together. Then they were lowered down a hatchway, and marched along a
corridor, to be thrust into a small and exceedingly filthy room. The
door of heavy serali planks was barred, and Grandon heard two guards
take their places before it.

Soon the anchors were hoisted and the sails unfurled. With the flagship
in the lead, the fleet once more sailed southward.



THE ROOM in which Grandon, Kantar, and San Thoy had been confined on the
pirate ship was immediately below the deck, hence free from the bilge
water which swished in the hold below, though not far from the offensive
odor which arose from it. Light filtered down to them through the
loosely fitted deck planking, and also shone through several small
holes, each about two inches in diameter, which were bored high up in
the ship's side, evidently to serve as loopholes through which torks
might be fired. But they also acted, to some extent, as ventilators,
making it possible for the prisoners to breathe the fresh sea air by
pressing their noses to them, and admitting enough light to partly
dispel the cheerless gloom of the humid and stuffy interior.

The chains with which the three men were fastened together by their
metal collars, were about five feet in length, the gunner being in the
middle, and Grandon and San Thoy at either end. After they had sniffed
the fresh air for some time, the three sat down, as if by mutual
consent, resting their backs against the rough wall.

"Well, Gunner, it looks as if Thid Yet has us in a tight place this
time," said Grandon.

"We have been in tighter, Majesty," replied Kantar.

"True. But this arrangement presents a rather knotty problem. In the
first place, there are two guards outside the door now instead of one.
In the second place, the wily Romojak has chained us to that carrion,"
indicating San Thoy, "who will surely make an outcry if we attempt an
escape. Of course we can throttle him, or dash his brains out against
the wall, but it would be difficult to slay him so quietly that the
guards outside the door would not hear, and at least suspect something

San Thoy shifted his quid of kerra spores and spat through a crack.

"May I remind Your Majesty," he said, "that I am as anxious to escape
from Thid Yet as you? I am to be slain by slow torture upon my arrival
in Huitsen."

"True," replied Grandon. "Perhaps you will be worthy of our confidence
on that score, if on no other."

At this moment one of the guards opened the door to admit a menial from
the galley. This greasy and profusely perspiring individual carried a
tray on which were three large eating bowls and three smaller drinking
bowls. These he set before the prisoners, and hastily withdrew, as if
fearful that they might attack him.

When the door had closed behind him, San Thoy quickly rolled up his red
quid and stuck it to the back of his left hand. Then with his right he
dipped into his eating bowl, feeding greedily and from time to time
taking copious drafts from his drinking bowl to wash down the food which
he could only mumble.

Grandon examined the mixture in the bowl before him. It smelled savory
enough, and upon tasting it, he found that it was a mixture of flaked
fish and chopped mushrooms, stewed together in a sauce that was highly
spiced and quite peppery. His drinking bowl contained freshly brewed
kova, slightly weak, but palatable.

"Not bad for prison fare," he commented to the gunner, who he noticed
had begun to make good progress with his meal.

"It's the one good thing about these yellow vermin which I am willing to
concede. They can certainly cook," replied Kantar.

"We are fortunate in being imprisoned with royalty," said San Thoy,
smacking his lips. "We should not otherwise be so well fed." His meal
over, he deftly flipped the red quid from the back of his left hand into
his toothless mouth, and resumed his mumbling.

For many days the three men were kept in their stuffy prison. They were
fed three times a day, but otherwise saw nothing of their captors. By
peering through the loopholes they could amuse themselves in the daytime
by watching such birds, fish, and reptiles as came within their line of

During this period, however, they had not been idle in attempting to
find some way of escape. It was the gunner whose ingenuity devised the
means for the first step in this direction. Although he had been
disarmed, he had not been deprived of his small packet of tools,
commonly carried by every man of his profession, which were for the
purpose of taking apart and assembling mattorks that some times jammed
or failed in other ways to work properly and smoothly. These tools, like
those used by terrestrial watchmakers, were small and fine, as the
mechanisms on which they were used were extremely delicate.

He began on the lock which held Grandon's metal collar around his neck.
The task seemed hopeless at first, for the Huitsenni were skilled in the
fabrication of such things as fetters, weapons, and instruments of
torture. But after many days of patient work, he eventually had the
satisfaction of springing the clasp, making it possible for the
Earth-man to remove his collar by simply bending it back on the hinge.
Grandon then worked on the gunner's collar under his direction, and not
being mechanically inclined, took considerable time in achieving the
same favor for his henchman.

This done, Grandon suggested that the gunner open the lock on San Thoy's
collar. The task did not please him, but he was too well trained a
soldier to quarrel with the orders of his sovereign, and so carried out
his distasteful duty without a murmur.

They had got this far with their plans for escape, and were considering
what their next move should be, when Kantar, who had been standing with
his eye to a loophole, suddenly informed the Earth-man that he saw land.

Grandon leaped to a hole beside him, and peered out. He saw that the
ship was entering what appeared to be the narrow channel of a fiord. The
rugged cliffs, sparsely clad in places with stunted conifers, towered to
a tremendous height above the placid water, which calmly reflected their
beetling frowns. Sharp commands and the creaking of pulleys were heard
above them as the sails were lowered. Then oars rattled, and splashed
into the water, thrust through the rowing holes beneath them.

San Thoy had told Grandon and Kantar that Huitsen, the capital city of
the Huitsenni, could be reached from the sea only by way of a hidden
passage through towering cliffs. If he had spoken truth, then this was
the beginning of that passageway, and the time left to them for freeing
themselves and Vernia, and attempting to escape, was short indeed. The
pirate himself confirmed this a moment later, as he too sprang up to
peer through a loophole.

"This is the way to the secret gate," he said. "Watch, and you will see
how it is opened."

Grandon's first thought was that they must immediately attempt escape,
for once in the notorious port of peril, this would undoubtedly prove
impossible. Yet a rash attempt now seemed equally hopeless. He had
counted on darkness as an ally, but it was yet mid-afternoon, and the
probability was that the fleet would dock ere the black, moonless night
of Venus should descend. He had expected to strike that very evening,
when the cook's helper would bring them their repast. Leaving San Thoy
to deal with the helper, he and the gunner had planned to spring upon
the two guards who stood outside the door. Could the deed have been
accomplished without great noise, the rest would not have been
impracticable; for under cover of darkness it would have been possible
to rescue Vernia from her cabin, steal a boat, and be off.

But now, it seemed, they must make new plans.

"How soon will we dock, San Thoy?" he asked.

"In a very short time now, Majesty," was the reply.

"Before dark?"

"Oh, long before."

Grandon pondered for a moment. Then he spoke to Kantar. "We'll have to
think up a new scheme, Gunner. And when the time comes, we'll have to
think fast."

"I will look for a sign from you when the time does come," replied

"And I, also, Majesty," echoed San Thoy. Then he exclaimed: "See! They
are opening the secret entrance!"

The channel had narrowed now, so much that it seemed the ship's oars
would be shattered against the jagged cliffs. And straight ahead was
what appeared to be a solid wall of rock, barring their further
progress. Astounded, Grandon saw that a crooked crack extending medially
from top to bottom was slowly widening as the two halves of the wall
ahead, each of which must have weighed thousands of tons, moved apart
and slid into the cliffs on each side.

The ship nosed through the opening and into a dark cavern. The lights
flashed on, and revealed a stalactite-festooned ceiling overhead, while
the peaks of white stalagmites, projecting above the surface of the
water, made it obvious that the floor of the cave had not always been
flooded. Save for the gong which timed the strokes of the rowers, and
the splashing of the oars, the place was as quiet as a tomb, its placid
waters gleaming mirror-like ahead of the ship, and rippling in the
spreading wake like molten jet shot with silver reflections.

Presently daylight appeared ahead, and the ship's lights were turned
off. A moment later they emerged through a high, arched opening into a
canal. The straight banks were lined with masonry, evidently to prevent
the salt water from seeping through and spoiling the crops of edible
mushrooms, food ferns, and kerra ferns which were cultivated in orderly
fields on either side. Those who worked in these fields, San Thoy said,
were slaves who represented most of the races and nationalities of
Zorovia, some captured in coastal raids, but most taken from ships that
had fallen prey to the yellow pirates.

Swiftly propelled by the lusty strokes of the rowers, and again aided by
the bat-wing sails, which had been unfolded as soon as the cave mouth
was left behind, the ship glided into a circular land-locked harbor,
lined with docks built of serali wood and set on pilings of the same
tough material.

Behind the docks were warehouses of white stone, and beyond these, at
the far side, Grandon could see the conical roofs and upper structures
of what appeared to be a large and populous city, principally composed
of odd, hive-shaped buildings unlike anything he had ever seen or heard
of, either on Earth or Venus.

Thousands of queer, bat-winged craft of the pirates were moored at the
docks, and many more rode at anchor in the harbor. There were also a
large number of merchant and fishing ships captured by the Huitsenni,
and brought in as prizes. Some of these were undergoing alterations
being fitted with the bat-wing sails, and otherwise converted for the
use of the yellow men.

Still peering through his loophole, Grandon saw that the flagship was
nearing the dock. Soon the long oars beneath him were drawn in, and
ropes were cast to waiting Huitsenni, who made them fast.

From almost directly above Grandon's head, a gangplank was lowered
striking the dock with a heavy thud. Down the plank walked Thid Yet,
Romojak of the Navies of Huitsen, escorting Vernia. The Princess looked
deathly pale, but showed no other sign of fear. With her head held
proudly erect, and graceful carriage, she showed only disdain for her
squat, greasy captor, slouching along beside her. Behind them strode a
guard of six pirates, drawn scarbos in their hands.

A great lumbering one-wheeled vehicle, its cab supported on an inner
idling-wheel at its center, rumbled up to the dock. These vehicles were
common everywhere on Zorovia, but the beasts that drew this one were
not. Hitched, one before and one behind the great wheel, they were
larger than Norman horses, covered with long white curly hair of silky
texture, and each armed with three twisted horns, one curving forward
from the tip of the nose, and the other two arching above the eyes.
Their ankles, also were armed with sharp bony spurs, projecting toward
the front on the forelegs, and toward the back on the hind legs. Their
hoofs were split into three sections, each of which was armed with a

Thid Yet assisted Vernia to enter the vehicle, then clambered up after.
The drivers shouted to their beasts, and the huge wheel lumbered away.

"Where are they taking her?" Grandon asked San Thoy.

"To the palace, no doubt," the yellow man replied, "where we, too, will
be taken shortly."

"If my plan works I'll go to the palace, but not as a prisoner," Grandon
told his two companions. "We will attain at least temporary liberty if
you throw off your collars when I raise my right hand, then follow me."

Grandon saw the loot from his camp, and the weapons and accouterments of
his Fighting Traveks, carried ashore. Then the door of their prison was
flung open, and a self-important mojo, accompanied by four guards, all
carrying their scarbos in their hands, ordered them out.

They were ushered up a companionway, and on reaching the deck, were
forced into a line of yellow men who, laden with their loot, were
hurrying ashore.

They had reached the center of the swaying gangplank when Grandon
suddenly raised his right hand. Simultaneously, the three prisoners
threw off the collars which their captors had, up until then, believed
to be locked. Before they could act, the Earth-man had turned and dived
into the water beneath, swiftly followed by his two companions.



CONFINED IN THE identical cabin from which she had shortly before been
stolen by San Thoy, Vernia hoped against hope that Grandon would find
some way to rescue her. But as the pirates sailed southward, day after
day, and no word of any kind came from him hope began to fade.

Day and night, two armed guards were kept constantly before her door,
the only exit from her cabin. At first she attempted to question them,
but they would not answer. Then she tried quizzing the slave who brought
her meals. He was ready enough to converse about her desires in the way
of food, but when she tried interrogating him about Grandon or about
their destination, he always professed ignorance.

Thus was her mind burdened with double anxiety-for fear that Grandon
might be tortured or slain, and the certainly that each day was
bringing her nearer to the lascivious monster who had bribed the
Huitsenni to capture her. Although no mention of his name had passed the
lips of any of the pirates in her presence she was positive that the
instigator of the plot was none other than the pleasure-bloated tyrant,
Zanaloth, Torrogo of Mernerum-Zanaloth, at the mere mention of whose
name comely maidens would shudder, whose scarlet suite was notorious
throughout all Zorovia, and whose subjects with sweethearts, sisters,
daughters, or wives of more than ordinary beauty lived in constant dread
that their loved ones might be summoned to the seraglio of the tyrant.

Her days she spent in gazing out through the small window of her cabin,
her nights in restless turning and tossing upon her sleeping shelf. But
a day came when the shutter of her window was closed so that she could
not see out. Her cabin door, also, was locked. Evidently, she thought,
something was about to take place on or near the ship which the
Huitsenni did not wish her to see. A short time later she heard the
noises of the bat-wing sails being lowered and the oars shipped.

For some time she heard only the sound of commands and the splashing of
oars. Presently the oars were unshipped, and there was the grating shock
of the vessel grinding its side against some solid object. Then came the
tramp of many feet on the deck.

Shortly thereafter, her door was unlocked and flung open. Thid Yet stood
before her. "Come," he said. "We have arrived in Huitsen."

In Huitsen! Then the reason for the closed shutter and locked door was
apparent. They had not let her see the concealed entrance to this hidden
lair of the yellow pirates because she would not be expected to remain
here permanently-because she was to be sold into slavery outside the
domains of the Huitsenni.

She stepped out of the cabin. There was nothing else for her to do. Thid
Yet led her toward the gangplank, and a guard of six pirates fell in
behind them. She glanced around, hoping to catch sight of Grandon or
Kantar. Concealing, as best she could, her disappointment at not seeing
them, she walked across the plank with her captor.

The one-wheeled cart was no novelty to Vernia. She had seen many like it
in her own country. But the fearsome, three-horned white beasts that
were hitched to it were creatures she had never seen or heard of before.

"Zandars," said Thid Yet, noting her look of surprise. "They make strong
beasts of burden and admirable chargers for our warriors to ride. We get
them from the White Ibbits who inhabit the Mountains of Eternal Snow,
far to the south. Let me help you."

The Romojak climbed in with her, and the heavy vehicle trundled away.
The six guards trotted beside it, three on a side.

Traversing a narrow passageway between two stone warehouses, they
emerged on a broad thoroughfare of heavy serali planking like that of
which the dock was constructed. The hoofs of the zandars echoed hollowly
as from a bridge, and the large single wheel of the cart made a sound
much like the continuous rolling of thunder. This thoroughfare, like
those which crossed it at various intervals, was lined with tall,
hive-shaped buildings with oval windows and doorways. Like the
warehouses, these buildings were of stone.

Yellow children, all of them naked and bald-headed scampered from in
front of the vehicle and then paused to stare at them with their queer,
cat-like eyes. Bald housewives, unclad save for short leathern aprons
which depended from their ample waists, paused in their work to gaze at
them through oval windows or from the doorsteps of their conical houses.
Beside each doorstep, Vernia noticed that a hole had been cut in the
planking, and many of the women held lines which hung down into these
holes. She could not imagine what they were doing until one female
suddenly jerked up a flopping, silvery scaled fish. She judged from this
and the hollow sound of the planking that this section of the city was
built over the inland sea.

There were few men about at this time of day, but those lolled against
the houses or squatted on the doorsteps, squinting apathetically up at
the passing vehicle. The entire hairless, toothless population, male and
female from the tiniest child playing naked in the street to the oldest
crone fishing beside her doorstep, mumbled kerra spores and expectorated
enormous quantities of the red juice.

The vehicle rapidly drew near to a towering structure which would have
made a hundred of any of the lesser buildings around it. Like them,
however, it was hive-shaped, and built of stone.

They rumbled through an immense oval doorway and halted. Thid Yet
clambered down, and assisted Vernia to alight. They were in an enclosed
court onto which several oval doors opened. Each doorway was guarded by
two soldiers.

"This is the palace of Yin Yin, Rogo of Huitsen," said Thid

Yet. "He has commanded that you be brought into his presence before we
take you to our rendezvous with Zan-" He checked himself abruptly, and a
look of vexation crossed his greasy features, as if he had unthinkingly
mentioned some forbidden thing.

"Whether you finish the name or leave it unspoken does not matter," said
Vernia. "I have known all along that the man who offered your Rogo such
a fabulous sum for me that he dared the wrath of the mighty fighter who
is my husband, and the power of unbeaten Reabon, to abduct me, could be
none other than Zanaloth of Mernerum."

"After all, what does it matter, Zanaloth or another? You will know soon
enough in any event. But come. His Majesty is expecting you, and may
grow impatient."

Thid Yet conducted her through the nearest doorway, the six pirates
falling in behind them, and the two guards saluting the Romojak as they
entered. It led onto a gently sloping ramp which spiraled upward. The
ramp was paved with black stone dotted with golden studs, which
prevented the sandals of climbers from slipping as they ascended. At
intervals of about fifty feet on either side were set ornate golden
vessels, half filled with sand. Even had Thid Yet not utilized these
freely on their way up, Vernia would have recognized their purpose by
the fact that the sand was stained with spots of kerra juice.

After a considerable climb they came to a level passageway which led
them to a large oval doorway hung with scarlet curtains and guarded by
two yellow warriors. The guards saluted smartly at sight of the Romojak
with his prisoner, and drew back the scarlet hangings.

Vernia was ushered into a circular room about two hundred feet in
diameter, and so tremendously high that it had the appearance of a
shaft, rather than a room. Its walls were of iridescent crystal blocks
which reflected in many lovely hues the light that entered through four
immense oval windows set in the top of the conical dome. At intervals of
about fifteen feet it was circled by narrow balconies, the grille work
of which was plated with gold and powdered with sparkling jewels. Behind
the balconies many oval doorways led to apartments on the various
levels. On these balconies were seated several hundred women and
children, evidently members of the royal household. The floor was a
single immense mirror which reflected every detail so clearly and
faithfully that when Vernia looked down, it seemed that she was standing
over a shaft of a depth equal to the height of the one which towered
above her.

Vernia was led to the center of this magnificent hall where a circular
divan, cut from a single block of clear crystal, supported a scarlet
cushion at a height of about four feet above the floor. Squatting,
crossed-legged, in the middle of this cushion was an extremely corpulent
yellow man, who, except for the scarlet cincture about his loins, was
clad entirely in jewelry jewels blazed from the rings which all but
concealed his pudgy fingers and toes, and flashed from his golden
anklets, bracelets, armlets, and necklaces. Two immense diamonds
stretched the lobes of his ears almost to his shoulders, and a large
ruby sparkled on each of his broad nostrils. His bald head was the only
unadorned part of his anatomy, but shone as brightly as if it, too, had
been burnished by the royal lapidary.

Behind the throne stood two muscular guards, each leaning on a huge, two
handed scarbo that reached from the floor to his chin. And back of these
in a semi-circle were ranged purple-clad nobles and courtiers, beside
each of which stood a jar of sand. At each side of the throne stood six
slave girls. Two held golden, jewel-encrusted cuspidors which the one at
the right or the left extended, depending on which way the monarch
turned his head when he wished to expectorate. Other girls bore the
trays of newly opened kerra pods, ready for chewing, and still others,
jeweled cups and pots of kova which were kept hot by small aromatic
oil-burning lamps burning beneath them. And a young girl, scarcely more
than half-grown, held a bundle of scarlet napkins, with one of which she
wiped the royal chins from time to time-there were four of them-then
passed the soiled cloths to an attendant.

As Thid Yet came before the throne with his beautiful prisoner, he bowed
low with right hand extended palm downward, the universal Zorovian
salute to royalty. Then he humbly waited for the ruler to speak.

Vernia however, remained proudly erect, returning the appraising look of
the creature on the throne with one of withering disdain.

Yin Yin Rogo of Huitsen, spat into the jeweled cuspidor tendered by the
girl at his right, submitted to having his multiple chins wiped, and
then turned his cat-like eyes on his Romojak.

"Are you positive that this slender beauty, just budded into womanhood,
is the Torroga of Reabon?" he asked.

"I am positive, Majesty," the Romojak replied. "She answers every
description, and wears the scarlet and insignia of her imperial house."

Yin Yin turned to a purple-clad noble who stood near at hand.

"Fetch the painting," he commanded.

The man sped away, and vanished through one of the numerous doorways to
return a moment later followed by two slaves who bore a life size
portrait of Vernia. She instantly recognized it as having been taken
from one of her war vessels, all of which carried such paintings before
which every sailor and officers bowed each morning in token of his
loyalty and submission to his imperial ruler.

Yin Yin ordered the painting set up a little to one side then gazed
alternately at the portrait and the living original who stood before
him, for some time.

Presently he said: "It is indeed Vernia of Reabon, for she is, if
anything, more beautiful than her picture. You have done well, Thid Yet.
For this we reward you with a thousand kantols of land and a thousand
keds of gold. We are just."

"Yin Yin, Rogo of Huitsen, is the fountainhead of justice," intoned the

"May it please Your Majesty, I also captured her husband, the mighty
fighter known as 'Grandon of Terra'," said Thid Yet proudly.

"So I have heard," replied the monarch. "For this deed we reward you
with a hundred strong slaves to work your land. We are just."

"Yin Yin, Rogo of Huitsen, is the living source of justice," chorused
the courtiers.

"I have heard, also," continued Yin Yin, "that Grandon of Terra has

Thid Yet looked dumfounded, but at this news Vernia's heart gave a great
leap of joy.

"He escaped," the Rogo went on, "before he reached the dock. Hence you,
and you alone, are responsible. For this carelessness we commend you to
the expert offices of our headsman." One of the guards behind the throne
here shouldered his great, two handed scarbo, and stepped forward, but
the Rogo held up his hand. "Wait, Ez Bin," he commanded. "Be not so
impetuous." He turned again to Thid Yet. "If you bring me not Grandon of
Terra before ten days have passed, then submit your neck to Ez Bin. We
are just but we are merciful."

"Both just and merciful is Yin Yin, Rogo of Huitsen," cried the

The monarch moved a finger. Ez Bin returned to his post. He moved
another finger. Two of the six guards who had followed Thid Yet and
Vernia stepped up beside the Romojak. Then the three bowed low before
the throne with right hands extended palms downward, and wheeling, left
the room.

Yin Yin, meanwhile, refreshed himself with a cup of steaming kova, and
stuffed his mouth with fresh kerra spores. He mumbled them for some time
in silence, ogling Vernia the while, then spat, and said: "We do not
wonder that a certain Torrogo, who shall be nameless, offered us the
price of an empire for you. You are more than worth it."

"I care not for your compliments, you yellow filth," retorted Vernia

"Nor we for your insults, my little beauty," replied Yin

Yin. "You are now but a chattel, a rather spirited chattel to be sure, a
regular she-marmelot of a chattel, but we like you that way. We have
subdued many such."

"To your everlasting dishonor, and their endless shame."

Yin Yin grinned. "That is a point on which you will find many who will
disagree with you. We will not argue it. We never argue, for argument
with us is always futile. It would be unfair for us to argue." He turned
to the noble who had brought him the picture. "Let me see our contract
with-with this nameless Torrogo," he commanded.

"Name Zanaloth of Mernerum, or keep him nameless. It is all one to me,"
said Vernia.

"Who told you that?" he asked, sharply.

"You could never guess, and I shall never tell you," replied Vernia,

"Ali well. It doesn't matter. You will know soon enough." He took a
scroll which the noble extended to him, and perused it for some time.
"Hum. It is as I thought. This contract says we shall meet him before
the harbor of the Island of the Valkars, one ship of his and one of
ours, on the morning of the fourteenth day of the ninth endir in the
four thousand and tenth year of Thorth. He will have, on the day
previous, landed the slaves and treasure on the island, where the fear
of the Valkars will prevent the former attempting to escape beyond the
lines of the few guards who will be left to defend them.

"When our commander has satisfied himself that the slaves and treasure
agreed upon have been left on the island, he will deliver to the Torrogo
of Mernerum, or his agent, the person of Her Imperial Majesty, Vernia of

"It does not say `unharmed', nor is there anything in this contract to
prevent our taking this Vernia of Reabon to be our handmaiden until such
time as it may be necessary for her to sail for the rendezvous with

He moved a finger, and two of the four guards who stood behind Vernia
stepped up beside her.

"Take her to the seraglio," he commanded, "and tell Ufa to prepare her
this night for the royal visit; for it may be that we will honor her
with the light of our presence. We are generous."

"His Majesty, Yin Yin, Rogo of Huitsen, is most generous," chorused the
courtiers, as Vernia her heart sinking within her, was led away.



As SOON As Grandon's hands struck water, after he had dived from the
gangplank, he turned them so that his momentum carried him underneath
the dock. A moment later, his head bobbed to the surface, and he had the
satisfaction of seeing that Kantar and San Thoy had followed his
example, as both came up quite near him. From above came the rattle of
tork fire, the bullets cutting into the water where the three fugitives
had disappeared.

"You know this place," Grandon said to the yellow man. "Where can we

"First we must get behind the warehouse," replied San Thoy. "Follow me."

He struck out, and despite his portliness, proved to be an excellent
swimmer. Grandon later learned that this was a racial and not an
individual characteristic, as all Huitsenni, being reared on the water,
swam fully as well as they walked, if not a shade better. Just now,
however, he was sorely put to it to keep pace with the rotund pirate,
while Kantar, the slowest of the three, trailed behind them.

San Thoy swiftly led them through a dark and narrow passage between two
stone walls-the foundations of two warehouses. Above him, Grandon could
hear shouts, curses, commands, and men running on the planking.

Once through the passage, the pirate waited for the others to come up
with him. Here it was so murky that Grandon could barely see the faces
of his companions.

"They will send boats and fast swimmers," whispered San Thoy, "but if we
are quiet, it may be that we can elude them. It will soon be dark, and
the darkness will be our ally. Follow closely behind me, and do not
splash or talk."

Once more they set off, with the pirate in the lead. They were in a
wilderness of posts, the piling that supported the planking of the
street level, which was about fifteen feet above their heads. The rows
of piles were broken at intervals of about fifty feet by the circular
foundations of houses. Many of the fishing holes in front of these
dwellings were open, admitting considerable daylight. And Grandon
noticed that boats were moored in front of all of them, while deeply
notched poles projecting down through the holes formed ladders by which
they could be reached from above.

San Thoy, however, avoided the fronts of the houses with their fishing
holes, and followed the lanes at the backs of the buildings, where it
was so dark that objects were visible for only a few feet in any

They had not gone far when it became obvious that a concerted pursuit
had begun. Armed Huitsenni everywhere were swarming down the notched
poles into the boats. Soon they were rowing about in all directions,
flashing their lights, poking their oars into dark corners, and sending
swimmers with knives gripped in their toothless gums, to explore the
narrow places where the boats could not enter.

At first, it was not so difficult for San Thoy to avoid the searchers,
but as they became more numerous his cunning was put more and more to
the test. Time and again the three fugitives were compelled to hide
behind pilings while boatloads of searchers passed within a few feet of
them. Although he had no opportunity to question him, Grandon judged
that he was making for some definite hiding place, because, despite the
many twists and turns to which he was forced by their pursuers, he
continued to lead his companions always in the same general direction.

Presently, however, the three came to a place where it seemed that they
would be able to advance no farther. Completely surrounded by the man
hunters, and likely to be spied at any moment, they took refuge in the
dark shadows of a cluster of piling. Lights flashed all about them, and
when the beams came uncomfortably close, they submerged until they had

One by one, however, the boats gradually drew off, until but one
remained. It contained two pirates, naked save for leather breech
clouts. One of them, having flashed his light among the piles, nudged
his companion and said something that Grandon and the two with him were
unable to hear. But his actions were eloquent of his meaning, for the
next moment he and his fellow, with long knives gripped in their mouths,
slid into the water, and silently swam toward the place of refuge
occupied by the fugitives.

So quietly had the pirates entered the water, and so noiselessly were
they approaching the clump of piling, that had it not been for their
light, which shown from the prow of the boat, the fugitives would not
have been aware of their coming. As it was, they were warned, but it
seemed that there was little they could do, as not one of them was
armed. To stand and fight seemed foolhardy, and to attempt to escape,
worse than useless, for by shouting, the two man-hunters could quickly
draw hundreds of their companions to cut off their escape.

In this dilemma, Grandon, as was his wont, thought swiftly and acted
with celerity. As he saw it, there was but one way out, and if that
failed they were doomed. Accordingly, he whispered rapid instructions to
his two companions and they took their places.

As the two pirates stealthily approached the clump of piles, they
suddenly saw, directly in the path of the light from their boat, the
face of San Thoy. He gave one frightened look at them, and turned,
swimming rapidly in the opposite direction. With grunts of satisfaction,
the two swimmers struck out after him, naturally taking the shortest and
most direct route, which lay between two large posts about five feet
apart. Their cat-like eyes gleamed with excitement of the chase. But
just as they reached the space between the two large posts, two white
arms shot out from behind them, and jerked the long knives from their
mouths. Two keen blades flashed aloft, and swiftly descended. Two greasy
corpses slipped from sight into the black depths.

Grandon and Kantar, treading water, thrust the blades into their belts
as San Thoy returned, grinning broadly.

"Now," he said, "we can travel by boat."

The three fugitives quickly clambered aboard. The two six-pronged
fishing spears lay along the gunwale, and in back of the boat was a
pile of nets.

Beneath these, Grandon and Kantar crept. San Thoy removed his insignia
which proclaimed him a mojak of the Royal Navy, stripping himself down
to his breech-clout. Then, looking much like one of the fishermen of
Huitsen, he rowed away.

Grandon lay in the bottom of the boat beside Kantar, covered by nets
which were eloquently redolent of recent contact with defunct fish, for
what he judged to be about half an hour. Then San Thoy stopped, secured
the boat to a pile, and lifting the nets, said: "Come. Follow me, and
make no noise."

He let himself quietly into the water, and the two followed him. Grandon
saw that they were not far from the rear of one of the conical houses,
and that several other boats were moored nearby.

San Thoy led them to a point directly behind the house, and only a few
feet from its circular stone walls. Then he said: "Grasp my belt,
breathe deeply, and prepare to submerge."

With Grandon on one side and Kantar on the other, he then dived. Opening
his eyes under water, 'Grandon saw a light glimmering some distance
below them. They swam straight toward it. Soon they were in front of an
oval door of thick glass framed with metal, and looking into a small
chamber, beyond which was another similar door through which the light
streamed. San Thoy seized a knocker which hung behind the door, and
struck it three times. A face appeared, framed in the oval door
beyond-the face of a yellow man. San Thoy signaled to him with one hand,
whereupon he pulled a lever, and the door before them opened. Swiftly
they were carried in by a sudden rush of water, and the door closed
behind them. Now they were in a narrow chamber, completely filled with
water. Grandon was growing air-hungry, desperately so, and he saw from
Kanar's expression that he was in like case. But San Thoy did not appear
in the least discommoded by holding his breath for so long.

The man behind the second door scrutinized the three for a moment, then
exchanged several more signs with San Thoy, and pulled a second lever.
At this, panels in the walls on both sides of them slid back, revealing
a large screened opening, and the water receded so swiftly that both
Grandon and Kantar, taken unawares, sprawled on the floor. They sprang
to their feet, thankfully inhaling great lungfuls of the moist air. Then
the inner door opened, and the man who stood beside it bade them enter.

They stepped inside, and as the guard closed the door after them, San
Thoy addressed him.

"Greetings, warder and brother Chispok. Are the brothers in secret

"They are in secret session, O mojak of the brotherhood," replied the
yellow man.

Grandon was astounded to hear these two Huitsenni addressing each other
as brother Chispoks; for he knew that a chispok was a large, scaly
rodent inhabiting the sea shore or salt marshes, and spending a
considerable share of its time in the water, literally a rat of the sea.
It was a hideous creature, closely resembling its land cousin, the
chipsa, and its name was formed from the two words, "chipsa" and "pok,"
the latter word meaning "the sea". Thus were formed the names "Azpok,"
or "Sea of Az," and "Ropok," or "Sea of Ro." To be called a chispa or a
chispok in Reabon, or almost any other civilized country of Zorovia, was
a deadly insult. But here were two men saluting each other as brother
Chispoks, without offense.

San Thoy continued his conversation with the guard.

"I have brought two recruits for our just and sacred cause, who came
from the far land of Reabon," said San Thoy. "Your name, brother

"Fo San, brother mojak."

"And I am San Thoy. These are Grandon of Terra, Rogo of Uxpo and Torrogo
of Reabon; and Kantar the Gunner, a citizen of Uxpo."

Fo San, apparently noting Grandon's sodden and bedraggled scarlet
cincture for the first time, bowed low with right hand extended palm

"The humble warder of the Chispoks salutes Your Majesty, the glory of
whose deeds of valor has penetrated even to this remote corner of the
world," he said.

Grandon returned the salute, and he and the gunner were invited to seat

"According to the rules of the order, you must await me here," said San
Thoy. "I will go and speak to the romojak of the order. I am mojak of a
lodge at the other end of the city. In the meantime, refreshments will
be brought to you."

He walked to an oval metal door at the other end of the chamber, and
gave three sharp raps. It swung open, Viand before it closed behind him,
Grandon heard him exchange greetings with a yellow man on the other

A few minutes later, a boy came in, carrying a tray on which were bowls
of steaming kova, grilled fish, and stewed mushrooms. Grandon and Kantar
did full justice to the refreshments. While they sat there, eating and
drinking, two members of the order were admitted to the chamber, and
passed through into the room beyond.

Shortly after they had eaten and drunk their fill, San Thoy returned.

"I have spoken to Han Lay, Romojak of the order," he said, "and he and
the brethren of this lodge have consented to admit you to our order, or,
if you are unwilling to become members of the Chispoks, to permit you to
depart in peace as you came."

"What are the requirements?" asked Grandon.

"You are to do all in your power to assist in the overthrow of the
present regime in Huitsen," said San Thoy. "You are further to make
solemn oath that you will render assistance to any brother Chispok in
danger, even as you would have him render assistance unto you."

"I can see no objections to these requirements," replied Grandon. "In
fact, I rather like the idea of assisting to overthrow the present
regime, which certainly has not conducted itself in a friendly manner
toward me. What say you, Gunner?"

"I would gladly become a Chispok, or even a sneaking hahoe, did Your
Majesty recommend it," replied Kantar.

"Then lead on," Grandon told San Thoy. "The sooner we can become
Chispoks, and get down to the real business at hand, the better."

Once more San Thoy gave three sharp raps at the door. It was flung open
by a bowing yellow man, and they found themselves in a short, narrow
hallway. At the other end of this, a second door opened at the same
signal, and they entered a circular room about twenty-five feet in
diameter. Squatting on low stone benches around the wall were about
sixty Huitsenni. A man, older and more corpulent than the others, sat
cross-legged on a dais in the center of the room. San Thoy conducted his
two companions before this individual, introducing Grandon and Kantar as
he had in the antechamber, to Han Lay, remojak of the lodge.

Han Lay rose, and bowed low, before Grandon with right hand extended
palm downward.

"The order of Chispoks is supremely honored," he said, "in that Your
Imperial and Illustrious Majesty has consented to become one of us. We
labor in a cause just now, which we have reason to believe is your own,
and feel that with so mighty a fighter and so sagacious a general on our
side, our cause is all but won."

"May I inquire to what cause you refer," asked Grandon, "and why you
consider your cause my own?"

"We Chispoks have spies everywhere," replied Han Lay. "We are at
present, endeavoring to overthrow Yin Yin, Rogo of Huitsen. Our spies
inform us that he has not only kidnapped Her Majesty, your wife, for the
purpose of selling her into slavery, but that, during the time she is to
be kept in this city, he intends forcing her into his own seraglio."

"What!" Grandon's face went deathly pale, and upon his features there
came a look which made even the brave Kantar feel anxious. Only twice
before had he seen that look on the face of the Earth-man, and each time
enemies had fallen before his flashing blade like frella grass at

"If you will but take me within sight of this filthy beast you call Yin
Yin," said Grandon, "I will pierce his putrid heart, even though a
thousand guardsmen surround him."

Han Lay grinned.

"That, Your Majesty, is precisely what we intend that you shall do," he
said. "The Rogo of Huitsen is so strongly guarded that none of our
assassins has been able to reach him, but we have every faith in your
ability. When you have sworn the oaths of our order, the brothers will
conduct you to the palace. Others will smuggle you into a chamber where,
sooner or later, you will meet Yin Yin, face to face.

"Administer the oath quickly, then," replied Grandon, "that I may be on
my way."

Kneeling, and with their right hands extended, palms downward, toward a
small image of Thorth, which Han Lay held up before them, Grandon and
Kantar swore the secret and terrible oath of the Chispoks.

The oath concluded, they arose, and the brethren crowded around them to
extend fraternal greetings. But at this moment there came a sudden and
unexpected interruption. One of the metal doors was thrown violently
open, and a mojak with scarbo in hand and tork elevated to cover the
group, burst into the room, followed by a horde of armed warriors.

The Chispoks were unarmed, save for their knives, hence at the mercy of
the fully armed invaders, all of whom had torks and scarbos.

"You are all under arrest for treason against His Majesty, Yin Yin of
Huitsen," proclaimed the mojak. "Throw down your knives and advance, one
at a time, to have your wrists bound. Resist, and you are dead men."

Grandon noticed that Han Lay was edging toward a metal rod which
projected through the floor of the dais. A moment later he stepped on
it. There followed a sudden roar of rushing waters, which, in a brief
instant engulfed both the Chispoks and the Rogo's men, and filled the
room to the ceiling. Choking and strangling, Grandon was swept off his
feet. Then his head collided with something hard and metallic, and he
lost consciousness.



AFTER THE Two guards led Vernia from the presence of Yin Yin, they
conducted her through a series of hallways to a spiral ramp, which they
forced her to climb to a height of what she judged to be about six
stories above the floor level of the throne room. Here, after threading
several more hallways, they came to a metal door, on either side of
which stood a tall, thin yellow man leaning on an immense scarbo. These
were the first thin Huitsenni she had ever seen, and the sight astounded
her, for she had believed that all of them, both men and women, were
short and corpulent.

As Vernia and her two guards came to a stop before the door, one of
those who stood beside it tapped on its metal surface with the hilt of
his huge scarbo. It was instantly flung open, and a yellow man, taller
than those who stood beside the door, and so aged that his face was a
network of wrinkles, stood before them. He wore the purple cincture,
showing that he was of the nobility, and his accouterments blazed with
jewels. Seeing that Vernia wore the scarlet of royalty, he bowed low
with right hand extended palm downward. Then he addressed the guard on
her left.

"Whom have we here, and what are the commands?"

"O, Ho Sen, Lord of the Seraglio, this is Vernia, Torroga of Reabon. It
is the command of His Majesty that Ufa be instructed to prepare her this
night for the royal visit, for it may be that our gracious sovereign
will honor her with the light of his presence."

"His Majesty is merciful, just and generous, and we delight to do his
bidding," responded Ho Sen. Then he clapped his hands, and two more
tall, slender Huitsenni came forward. They took the place of the two
warriors who stood beside her, and the latter turned and marched off
down the hall.

"Enter, Your Majesty," Ho Sen invited with a ceremonious bow. The
strangely angular creatures at Vernia's sides seized her arms to drag
her forward. But she shook them off and entered, herself. There was
nothing else to do. Then the metal door clanged shut behind her.

Ho Sen led the way across this room through another oval entrance, and
down a hallway into an immense chamber two stories in height, and shaped
like a crescent the far end of which was visible from where they stood.
On the inner side of the crescent, numerous doors led out to little
balconies which evidently overlooked the throne room, for Vernia could
see the iridescent crystal walls of the immense shaft beyond. On the
outer side of the crescent other doors led to sleeping apartments.

In the immense room were gathered no less than a thousand girls and
young women. Among them were represented all the races of Zorovia with
which Vernia was familiar, and several of which she had never heard. It
was notable, too, that every girl, judged by the standards of her race,
was beautiful.

Save for the tall, lean guards who stood at the doorways, and at regular
intervals around the walls, there were no men present, and Vernia was
beginning to suspect that even these were not men. Young slave girls
padded softly about on the thick rugs, carrying trays of sweetmeats,
pots and tiny bowls of kova, jars and bottles of cosmetics, combs,
brushes, bangles, and such other feminine odds and ends as the pampered
inmates of the seraglio required. Birds sang in gold and crystal cages
that swung from the ceiling, and fountains splashed musically into
limpid pools in which swam curious, brilliantly colored fish of many
shapes and hues. In lieu of flowers, for such things are unknown on
Zorovia, there were potted fungi of ornate shapes and rich shades, which
filled the air with sweet, heavy perfume. These fungi, Vernia afterward
learned, had been brought to their present state of perfection through
careful selective breeding and crossing by hundreds of generations of
skilled botanists. There were also many rare and beautiful varieties of
ferns, cycads, and jointed grasses.

Many of the inmates lolled about on low divans, chatting, sipping kova,
and nibbling at sweetmeats. Others were having their hair combed, their
nails polished, or cosmetics applied by slave girls. A few were
stringing beads or doing embroidery work, and the remainder strolled
about the place or gathered in little groups, laughing and talking.

With a pompous dignity which showed that he took considerable pride in
the grave responsibility reposed in him by the Rogo, Ho Sen picked his
way among the divans ottomans, fountains, potted plants, and concubines,
while Vernia, following with her two guards, felt as if on parade. It
was plain to her that she was immediately the center toward which all
eyes gravitated, as well as the subject of many remarks and discussions.
The various members of this assorted aggregation of feminine pulchritude
showed different reactions as Vernia, who was far more beautiful than
any of them, passed. Some gazed in open admiration, some cast lowering
glances that plainly denoted jealousy, others appeared coldly
indifferent, and a small remainder, evidently mindful of the fate
intended for her, looked sympathetic. Accustomed to being stared at, she
passed among them with easy grace and quiet dignity, ignoring them as
completely as if they had been so many articles of furniture. But she
could not help overhearing what some of them said. Many exclaimed at her
beauty. Others, the jealous ones, made spiteful remarks. And she heard
one girl say: "Another Princess, and as great a beauty as the first It
seems that the Rogo has lately spread his nets for naught but royalty."

Having passed about half-way around the crescent, Ho Sen led Vernia into
a private suite, where a young girl sat having her hair done by an old
and extremely ugly yellow woman. The girl, she noticed, wore the scarlet
of royalty. She was small, shapely, black-haired and brown-eyed.

Ho Sen addressed the old woman.

"I bring another great lady for your ministrations, Ufa. She is Vernia,
Torroga of Reabon. It is the will of His Majesty that she be prepared
for the royal visit this night."

The old trout grinned. "We all love and obey our generous and gracious
sovereign," she replied, "and Ufa will exert herself to the utmost that
this damsel may be pleasing to His Majesty's eyes; though, in truth, her
natural beauty makes the task an easy one."

Ho Sen went out, closing the door after him.

The old hag grinned hideously at Vernia.

"Be seated, my pretty one," she said, "until I have finished with my
little white bird."

Vernia seated herself on a nearby divan, and a young slave girl brought
her a steaming pot of kova and a tiny golden drinking bowl, which she
placed near her on a small taboret. The girl who was having her hair
done smiled and spoke to her.

"I am Narine of Tyrhana, Your Majesty," she said, "and, like you, a
prisoner here. Shall we be friends? I've heard so much about your
remarkable adventures, and your gallant husband, Grandon of Terra, that
I feel as if I almost know you."

Vernia returned her friendly smile. "I who am friendless in this place,"
she replied, "would welcome the chance to acquire almost any friend, but
in any case, I should be, glad for the friendship of the daughter of Ad
of Tyrhana, comrade of my father on many of his adventurous hunting
excursions, his staunch ally when seven great nations combined and
sought to break the naval power of Reabon, and now the ally of my
husband. You are the Torrogina?"

"No, I am but the Torrogini. My elder sister, Loralie, is the Crown
Princess. Perhaps you have heard of her engagement to Zinlo, Torrogo of

"I have. He visited Grandon of Terra a short time ago, and told us about
their romance, but he did not mention that she was the Torrogina. You
know they both traveled to this planet from Mignor at the same time,
Grandon alighting in Uxpo, and Zinlo, who on Mignor was known as Harry
Thorne, in Olba. But tell me, how do you happen to be here?
Can it be that some lascivious Torrogo has offered the price of an
empire for your abduction?"

"I think not, as I expect to be sold into slavery today to the Rogo of
the White Ibbits a race of hairy barbarians who inhabit the Mountains of
Eternal Snow near the south pole. It seems that Yin Yin buys large
quantities of zandars from this savage chieftain, and that the latter
has a weakness for comely virgins. Yin Yin has kept me here, unharmed,
for the past ten days, for the sole reason that he believes I will bring
him a tremendous price in zandars from this antarctic ruler.

"But you asked how I happened to be here. About an endir ago I left
Tyrhana in one of my father's battleships to visit my cousin, Tinia,
daughter of Aardvan of Adonijar. Three days out, a tremendous storm came
up, carrying our masts and sails and more than half the crew overboard,
destroying the steering apparatus and nearly filling the hold with
water. In this helpless condition we drifted for many days. Then we
sighted a fleet of pirate vessels. After a brief skirmish with the few
warriors who were left behind on our ship, they boarded us and took all
who remained alive prisoners. I was brought here, either to be sold or
impressed into the seraglio of Yin Yin. He has seen fit to offer me to
the barbarian for a fabulous number of zandars. I have sought to bribe
Yin Yin to return me to my father, but he would not. Perhaps I can bribe
the hairy chieftain. If not, why then I will die by my own hand, for the
women of Tyrhana have ever preferred death to dishonor."

Vernia, in her turn, related what had befallen her since her capture by
the Huitsenni.

In the meantime, Ufa finished with Narine's coiffure. Then she conducted
Vernia into a magnificent bath of black and yellow marble where she
bathed in scented water, and was massaged with aromatic oils by two
slave girls under the supervision of the efficient Ufa. After this,
another slave girl brought splendid garments suited to her rank, and
helped her to dress.

Back in the boudoir, Vernia had her hair done by Ufa.

Presently Narine came in, and slave girls brought their evening meal.
The repast was a sumptuous one, consisting of nearly a hundred tastily
prepared dishes, from which they chose what they wanted. The napery was
of scarlet silk, each piece embroidered with the coat of arms of the
Rogo of Huitsen, and the service was of gold, similarly decked.

After they had dined, Ufa led them to another, larger room, the
reception room of the suite, where a slave girl served them with kova.
Then she departed, leaving them to their own devices.

With Ufa and the other slaves about, Vernia had kept the thought which
was uppermost in her mind, escape, entirely out of the conversation. But
now that she and Princess Narine were alone, she hoped that the
Tyrhanian Princess, having been in Huitsen for some time, might have
acquired some knowledge which they could turn to their purpose.

"Don't you think," she said, as Narine filled her jeweled cup with
steaming kova, "that you, with the wealth of Tyrhana behind you, could
find someone in this palace, who, for a promise of vast riches, would
smuggle us away in a small boat? Once at sea, we should be almost
certain to encounter one of the many ships that must, by now, be
searching for both of us."

Narine sipped her kova thoughtfully. "I have tried that," she replied,
"and everywhere met with rebuffs. Every person I have tried to bribe has
informed against me, and Yin Yin lost no time in letting me know that I
was only wasting my breath."

"Can it be," asked Vernia, "that these people so love their tyrannous
Rogo that not one of them would betray him for the wealth of an empire?"

"On the contrary," Narine replied. "I believe that every subject, from
the most exalted noble to the lowest slave, fears and hates him. Yet no
man dares speak his mind, for fear his fellow is a spy, or will turn
informer to further his own ends."

"What of the man who has charge of the seraglio? Ho Sen, I believed they
called him."

"The man, did you say?" Narine smiled. "Ho Sen is no man, but like these
other angular creatures who stand about leaning on huge scarbos, is but
a eunuch."

"A eunuch wearing the purple? That is strange. And I noticed that none
of them were short and fat like the Huitsenni, although otherwise
resembling them."

"They are all sons of slave women, mostly of the white races, so Ufa
told me," Narine replied. "Some of them, I understand, are Yin Yin's
own sons. Ho Sen is Yin Yin's uncle, though the Rogo does not
acknowledge the relationship, and was granted the purple by Yin Yin's
grandfather. He has been Lord of the Seraglio for three generations of

"Indeed! And does he love these yellow rulers who are the cause of his
affliction and that of his fellows, so well that he could not be bribed
to serve us?"

"I doubt that he loves his master any more than the others, yet I could
not bribe him. I tried the first day I was brought here."

"Then there is no way we can help ourselves?"

"There is but one," replied Narine. "It is a desperate way, to be put
into practice only as a last resort. But it is efficient. Look."

She twisted a blood-red jewel from a ring on her finger, and Vernia saw
a few white crystals reposing in a tiny hollow beneath it.

"One of these crystals dissolved on the tongue brings death, sudden,
sure, and painless," Narine told her. Then as she returned the jewel to
its place, she said: "Yin Yin is careful to keep all weapons out of the
seraglio with the exception of huge scarbos carried by the eunuchs. If
he but knew the secret of this ring, then would my last hope indeed be

"I, too, have managed to preserve the means to a quick way out, if worse
comes to worst." Vernia drew a small, keen knife from beneath her
garments and held it up. "This is from the belt of one of the guards who
brought me to the seraglio. I managed to transfer it to these clothes
after my bath, but it was difficult with the old hag and the slave girls

Scarcely had she spoken, when there was a slight rustle of the hangings
behind her. Then a fat, heavily jeweled hand reached over her shoulder
and snatched the knife from her, and Yin Yin himself with a wheezy
chuckle, waddled into the room. Still chuckling, and before she could
prevent him, he seized Narine's slender wrist, and twisted the ring with
the blood-red jewel from her finger. Then he dropped both articles into
his belt pouch, poured himself a cup of kova, and sat down heavily.

"My, me!" he whispered, grinning toothlessly. "What desperate characters
we have been entertaining unawares! Poison! Weapons! Bribery! I'm
surprised. I'm astounded. I'm shocked."

He tossed off his kova and refilled the jeweled cup.

Narine said nothing, but there was a look of horror in her brown eyes.

Vernia, calm mistress of emotions, regarded him with regal hauteur. "I
perceive," she said, addressing Narine, "that the Rogo of Huitsen has a
multitude of low occupations. Not content with being a mere thief,
robber, and defiler of womanhood, he is also that most contemptible of
creatures, a spy."

Yin Yin set down his cup with a grunt of surprise, and his cat-like eyes
narrowed. "Have a care, slave, how you speak of your master," he
snarled, "or he may decide to have you whipped."

Still looking at Narine, Vernia replied. "Observe, Your Highness, how
manly and chivalrous is the Rogo of Huitsen. Ah, what a different song
he will sing when Grandon of Terra has him by the throat! He has a
throat, I am sure, though it is concealed beneath his multiplicity of

"It may be, Your Majesty," replied Narine, taking the cue, "that he has
a throat but is ashamed of it."

"Or what is more likely, Your Highness," Vernia responded, "he is afraid
some honest man will slit it."

Yin Yin, arrayed in all his finery, had come to play the lover. But the
most ardent wooer can seldom withstand ridicule, and if he be
short-tempered and accustomed to having his every wish regarded as law,
it is more likely that anger will quickly crowd the gentler passions
from his bosom. Knowing this, Vernia had deliberately set out to bait
him. It was evident, at first, that she had succeeded even beyond her
expectations, for the bloated face of the monarch grew livid. A greenish
glitter came to his cat-like eyes, and he muttered horrible threats. But
Yin Yin, although gross and sensual, was a master of intrigue and an
adept in cunning. And not many moments elapsed before he saw through the
ruse. Suddenly he ceased his muttering and began laughing
uproariously--laughing until the tears coursed down his puffy cheeks.
After all, was he not complete master of the situation? And mere words,
no matter what their burden, could not injure him.

With a pudgy finger he wiped the tears from his cheeks. Then he gulped
down his kova replaced the cup on the taboret, and shook that same fat
finger at Vernia.

"Bones of Thorth, but you will be the death of me yet with your subtle
humor," he wheezed. "A wittier pair of young ladies I have not seen in
many a year--I who see thousands yearly, who come and go with the

From that moment on, he retained his good humor, nor could they with
their keenest sallies or deepest insults penetrate the armor of jollity
which he had assumed. A greasy, pleasure-bloated, jewel-bedizened
monstrosity, he sat there, chuckling, boasting, and drinking cup after
cup of steaming kova until the pot was empty and a slave girl was
summoned with more.

The girl had just departed when there was the thunder of many hoofs on
the planking of the street below. Yin Yin, with a maudlin smirk,
addressed Narine. "If the Torrogini of Tyrhana will look over the
balcony," he said, "it is possible that she will catch a glimpse of her
future master. My ears tell me that Heg, Rogo of the Ibbits, has arrived
with his savage riders, and ten thousand zandars for which I have
offered to forego the pleasure of taming that little she-marmelot, the
daughter of Ad of Tyrhana."

Both girls rushed to the nearest window, and stepping out on the balcony
peered over. In the courtyard below them was an immense concourse of
riders, mounted on zandars, wearing cloaks and hoods of zandar skins,
and carrying long lances in their hands. But such lances! Each had about
fifteen feet of stout wooden shaft, and a spiral head about two feet in
length, connected to a globular metal knob. Vernia, herself a leader of
warriors, was puzzled as to how these strange lances could be used, as
it appeared that the spiral heads, instead of penetrating deeply when
thrust at an enemy, would only spring back at the arm that drove them.
The riders also carried scarbos and knives, but she saw no torks or
evidence of firearms of any kind.

The faces and bodies of the riders were so muffled in their hoods and
cloaks as to be invisible from above. The majority kept to their
saddles, but about twenty of them dismounted and entered the palace. And
looking out beyond the courtyard, Vernia saw by the light of the street
lamps that an entire street, reaching from the palace to one of the city
gates, was filled by an immense herd of milling, bellowing zandars, kept
in formation by mounted Ibbits who prodded the recalcitrant beasts with
the butts of their queer, spiral-pointed lances.

Turning away from the balcony, the two girls re-entered the room. Yin
Yin, now evidently well under the influence of the kova he had consumed,
was mumbling kerra spores and expectorating the red juice into one of
the sand jars. His multiple chins stood much in need of the attentions
of the royal chin-wiper, but he seemed too far gone in drink to notice
this detail. He looked up suddenly as three sharp raps sounded at a side

"Come," he said, thickly.

Ho Sen, Lord of the Seraglio, entered, and bowed low with right hand
extended palm downward.

"Your Majesty," he said, "Heg, Rogo of the Ibbits, has arrived, and
awaits your pleasure at the outer door of the seraglio."

"Send him here by way of the single corridor, and see that two eunuchs
attend him to this door," Yin Yin commanded. "There let him wait within
call. It may be that this barbarian, when confronted with so much beauty
at one time, will become difficult to manage."

"I hasten to obey," replied Ho Sen, with another bow and departed.

A few moments later the same door opened, and there entered a being who
elicited from Vernia an involuntary gasp of amazement. With his hood of
zandar thrown back and his great cloak of the same material caught at
his shoulders, Heg, Rogo of the Ibbits, was a most remarkable sight. He
was tall, towering head and shoulders above Yin Yin, and symmetrically
built so far as human standards go, with the exception of his arms,
which were not only tremendously muscled, but as long as those of an
ape. His features, too, were regular, and his teeth even and white. Save
for his scarlet cincture, and the gold- and jewel-studded straps which
supported his knife and scarbo, he wore no clothing beneath his cloak,
nor did he appear to need any. For his entire body, from head to foot,
not excepting his whole face, was covered with short, white fur.

Yin Yin rose, as is the universal custom in Zorovia when royalty
receives royalty, and the two exchanged salutations with right hands
extended palms downward. Then he ceremoniously presented the savage
chieftain to "Her Imperial Majesty, Vernia, Torroga of Reabon," and "Her
Imperial Highness, Narine, Torrogini of Tyrhana," Neither Vernia nor
Narine acknowledged the introduction, but this seemed to make no
difference to the two rulers, who promptly seated themselves beside the

Yin Yin poured kova for himself and his guest, and they drank. Then he
said: "Well, Heg, have you brought the zandars?"

"Aye, Yin Yin," was the reply. "Ten thousand of the most powerful and
spirited beasts in my rogat are even now pawing the planks of your city
in charge of my best herdsmen."

"You are satisfied with the bargain?"

Heg looked at Narine appraisingly. She shuddered under his gaze, but
this did not seem to impress him. He had evidently seen many other
maidens similarly frightened.

"I am quite satisfied, Yin Yin," he answered. "Come, look at the
splendid zandars I have brought you, and see if you can find it in your
heart to tell me that you are not pleased."

He rose, and led the way to the balcony, Yin Yin waddling after him.

"What think you of those beasts?" he asked. "And all for one little
slave girl."

Yin Yin rubbed his pudgy hands together as the two turned away from the
balcony and stepped back into the room. "They are indeed fine animals,"
he admitted, "and I declare myself satisfied, but speak not
disparagingly of the little slave girl. Remember, she is the daughter of
a mighty Torrogo, and it cost me many men and much treasure to bring her
here. Moreover, she has beauty far above the average."

"What of this other?" asked Heg, as they sat down once more beside the
kova. "She also has great beauty, and I would buy her from you. In fact,
each of these reaches the pinnacle of beauty for her type, the one
brunette and the other blonde."

"Your  taste in feminine charms is admirable," said Yin Yin, "as well
it may be, seeing the number of famous beauties you have had from me.
But you have always stipulated maids, and she of the golden curls is the
bride of a Torrogo, as you may have surmised from her title."

"Maid or matron, I care not. For beauty such as hers, I will break my
rule. Ten thousand zandars more will be yours magnificent as those I
have brought you, in exchange for the golden-haired one."

"Nay, Heg. She is not for sale. All the zandars in your rogat, or all
the countless millions that roam the antarctic wastes could not buy her,
for she has already been sold for the value of a dozen kingdoms. It but
remains for me to deliver her and collect my price."

But Heg was not easily turned from his purpose. Having seen Vernia, he
meant to have her, arguing, threatening, pleading, and gradually
increasing his offers, while the two drank cup after cup and pot after
pot of kova. He at length avowed his willingness to fill all the streets
of Huitsen, packed solidly to the doorways, with zandars, if Yin Yin
would only sell him this delectable bit of femininity that, as he
expressed it, he might turn at will from the dark beauty of the one to
the blonde glory of the other.

Meanwhile the two girls, who had retired to a corner of the room,
whispered together.

"Never in my wildest fancies," said Vernia "did I ever dream that I
should become the subject of such haggling as this--to be sold, offered
for sale, or bid for, like a beast of burden."

"It all seems like a wild nightmare too horrible to be real," replied
Narine. "Think of it! I have been sold by a greasy rodent to a
fur-covered savage--I the daughter of Ad of Tyrhana! Oh that I had kept
the secret of the ring intact! Now I fear that death will come too late
to save my honor."

"My deepest regret is that I, too, betrayed my secret by displaying my
knife. I could at least have had the pleasure of sheathing it in the
foul heart of Yin Yin before employing it to still for ever the beating
of my own. I have but one hope on which to lean and that is a slender
one. Grandon of Terra is free somewhere in this city, or was when I last
heard of him. Though he and Kantar the Gunner, his friend and warrior,
were unarmed, they may have found a way to obtain weapons. If so, it
will take more guards than Yin Yin possesses to keep them from the
palace, for they must know that I have been brought here."

"It is indeed a slender hope," sighed Narine; "for even though your
gallant husband could win his way to this place, there would be no way
out. It would be but a death trap for all of us."

"In that case," Vernia replied, "I should die contented, for there would
be hordes of enemies to accompany us into the great beyond and stand
before the judgment throne of Thorth."

As the two Rogos reached an advanced state of inebriation, their
haggling became louder and louder, until it appeared that a quarrel was
imminent. Suddenly, the hand of the savage chieftain flew to the hilt of
his scarbo, and he sprang to his feet, overturning a taboret. "Sell me
this fair-haired beauty, and name your own price," he shouted, "but sell
her to me you shall or by the blood of Thorth I'll slay you and take her
for nothing."

Yin Yin looked at him in drunken wonderment for a moment, as if he could
not believe his own eyes. Then he clapped his hands. Instantly the door
through which the hairy one had come, flew open, and two eunuchs ran
into the room, bared blades in their hands.

At this, Heg's bravado instantly subsided. Letting his furry hand drop
from his hilt, he said: "What's this? You call the guard? I did but
jest, my friend." 

"Your jest as you call it, has gone far enough,"
wheezed Yin Yin. "We will, however, let it pass as such, and so end the
conference. Take your slave girl and be gone, for the Torroga of Reabon
and I would be alone." He turned his cat-like eyes on Vernia, and leered
drunkenly. "Wouldn't we, my pretty?"

"It grows late, and I must indeed be going," replied Heg. Striding
across the room, he suddenly seized Narine's wrist and jerked her to her
feet. She screamed, and attempted to free her arm from his brutal grasp,
but he only laughed at her struggles. "Come, my little beauty," he said,
dragging her across the room. "We have outworn our welcome."

One of the eunuchs held the door open, and the other stood aside from
them to pass out. Yin Yin, a kerra-stained grin on his porcine features,
rose ponderously, and waddled unsteadily toward Vernia, drunkenly
oblivious to her expression of fear and loathing.



AFTER GRANDON struck his head and lost consciousness in the water-filled
lodge room of the Chispoks, his senses returned slowly. At first it
seemed that he was in a vast hall--that a gigantic figure was bending
over him, shouting something which he could hear only as a faint sound
in the distance, and that other immense figures were moving about the

But gradually, as he became more rational, the room and everything in it
assumed their proper proportions. He saw that he was lying on a sleeping
shelf in a room much smaller than that in which he had lost
consciousness, and that the supposed giant was Kantar the Gunner,
leaning over him. The other occupants of the room were Han Lay, San
Thoy, and a half dozen Chispoks.

"Speak to me, Majesty," Kantar was saying. "Only let me know that you-"

"I'm all right, Gunner. Let me up." With the astounded and delighted
Kantar's arm beneath his shoulders, he sat up. His head swam dizzily,
but gradually it cleared. "Where are we?" he asked.

Han Lay, who had hurried to his bedside as soon as he saw him sit up,
bowed and said: "Perhaps I can explain better than the warrior, Your
Majesty. You recall that we were attacked by the Rogo's soldiers in the
lodge room?"

"I remember that, and the flood afterward. Then I must have struck my
head for all went black."

"I tried to help you," continued Han Lay, "but as you were not expecting
the sudden rush of waters you were swept off your feet and carried away
before I could reach you. Your head collided with the end of a doorway.
All the Chispoks, of course, knew how to get out, for we had rehearsed
it many times. San Thoy helped your warrior to escape through the secret
door, and I dragged you out the same way. The last man out closed it."

"Then the Rogo's warriors did not escape?"

"Not one man. But of course it was necessary for us to destroy the
building, for there will be an investigation, and we have other
buildings similarly equipped. All this was prepared for in advance. The
pulling of a lever in this house set off a tremendous charge of
explosive which blew the place to atoms. We brought you here to my home,
in my boat."

Grandon stood up to test the strength of his legs. Although the
dizziness assailed him for a second time, he was able to stay on his

"Permit me to thank you for saving my life," he said. "It may be that
some day I shall find a way to repay you."

"You can best repay me by carrying out the plans we outlined before you
took the oath of our fraternity."

"I'll gladly do that, and more," replied Grandon. "Give me my
instructions, and let me start."

"You will have little to do until the brothers who will smuggle you into
the palace bring you face to face with Yin Yin. If you succeed in
slaying him and rescuing Her Majesty, your wife, the Chispoks will not
only guarantee to help you escape from the palace by the way you
entered, but will further promise to conduct you out of Huitsen and
place you aboard a seaworthy craft on the Azpok, with provisions and
water sufficient to last you until you reach the shores of your own
land. Is this agreeable?"

"Perfectly," Grandon replied. "But I would be fair with you as you have
been with us. What of the secret way into Huitsen which I and my warrior
now know? Would you expect us to keep this secret from the rest of
Zorovia, in spite of the relentless raids and acts of outlawry which
will no doubt continue to be perpetrated by your people?"

"We have provided against that, also," replied Han Lay, "for we are
aware that any one of the twelve great nations of Zorovia, knowing where
we are, could easily wipe out Huitsen. However, permit me to point out
that, even though you saw the secret passageway and how it was operated,
you were not navigating the ship; hence you have no idea just where it
is. You saw that the entrance was through a fiord, but there are
countless thousands of fiords on this coast, many of which look like
this one. All we will need to do will be to blindfold you and those who
are to go with you until you are at sea and out of sight of land. The
brothers will then direct you how to sail to reach your own country, but
you will not be able to find our particular fiord again in many years of
careful searching, unless it be by accident or unusual good luck.

"I might say, further, that in the event of the Chispoks succeeding to
the point of taking over the government, piracy will be stopped, peace
treaties will be signed with all the great nations of Zorovia, and
Huitsen will be thrown open to the ships of the world. It was for this
principle that the Chispoks were organized. The Huitsenni have been
pirates for countless generations. Once our nation was as great and
powerful as any on Zorovia, but now we are among the least of powers.
Why? The Chispoks hold that commerce has made other nations greater than
our own. By the very nature of our livelihood we are debarred from
peaceful trading, or commerce of any kind with the exception of an
occasional kidnapping for some lascivious ruler, infrequent ransom money
for wealthy or influential people captured on the high seas and the
little we can get for our plunder in trade and goods from these shady
and grasping merchants who run the double risk of dealing with us--first
because they fear we may betray them, and second because they may be
apprehended and punished by their own people. Naturally they exact
exorbitant profits, and our ill-gotten plunder never brings us a tenth of
its real worth in exchange.

"The Chispoks are sick of piracy, of this secret slinking from the sight
of other nations as the hahoe slinks from the path of the mighty
marmelot. We are weary of the constant bloodshed which is a part of our
trade. And it is our ambition to place Huitsen on a peaceful footing
with all Zorovia, to turn our pirate vessels into merchantmen, to have
our people received with friendship and good will whenever they set foot
on a foreign shore."

"A worthy ambition, and I'll do all I can to further it," said Grandon.

"Good. And now do you feel strong enough to leave for the palace?"


Han Lay led Grandon and Kantar to his private arsenal, from which each
selected a scarbo, knife tork and ammunition. When both were armed he
walked with them to the door, and said: "The six brothers here will take
you to the palace. They have instructions, and you may trust them

Looking out, Grandon saw that the six Chispoks, attired as fishermen,
were standing in a semicircle, which screened the door and the fishing
hole beside it, from view.

"Crouch behind the men and descend the ladder," Han Lay said. "There are
two boats moored. Each of you is to get into one and wrap himself in a
fishing net. Farewell, and may Thorth guide and keep you."

Grandon did as directed, and Kantar followed close behind him. Scarcely
had they established themselves in the boats, when three
pseudo-fishermen descended into each, and rowed away.

Lying in the bottom of the boat, looking up through the meshes of the
net, Grandon could see but little. The light from the street lamps shone
faintly through the interstices in the planking above his head, and by
means of it he could barely make out the outlines of piling and the
foundations of the buildings they passed. At times the rowers saluted,
and were saluted by the crews of other small fishing boats, but
otherwise they maintained unbroken silence.

Presently Grandon saw an immense stone foundation looming ahead of them
and stretching to the right and left farther than he could see, in so
wide an arc that he knew it must be the base of some tremendous
building. Then the prow of the boat in which he rode slid up on a low
dock. A moment later he heard another prow grind up beside it. Then one
of the pseudo-fishermen spoke.

"Greetings, thalput of the royal kitchens."

"Greetings, fishermen," was the reply. “Have you brought the fish, as

"The fish are here in the nets."

"Then bring them and follow me."

Still wrapped in the net, Grandon was swung up to the shoulders of the
three men, who walked across a low dock and entered a large oval door.
After following a dimly lighted passageway for some distance, they
suddenly turned aside into a narrow doorway. A moment later, the other
three strode in after them, and the door was softly closed. Grandon was
set on his feet, and the folds of the net were unwound from his body. As
soon as Kantar was similarly freed, the six fishermen took their nets
and departed, closing the door after them.

They were in a tiny room, faintly lighted by a single dim bulb that
shone from the center of the ceiling. The place had metal walls and was
bare of furniture. No outlet was visible save the door through which
they had come. But he who had been addressed as the kitchen thalput,
pressed one of a row of studs, whereupon a panel slid back, revealing
the bottom of a narrow spiral stairway, as dimly lighted as the room in
which they stood.

"Follow me," he whispered, "and make no sound. Take care that your
weapons do not clink against the walls."

As soon as Grandon and Kantar had stepped inside, the thalput pressed a
stud, and the panel closed behind them. Then he led the way up the
spiral stairway. At intervals of about fifteen feet thereafter, they
passed sliding panels, above each of which was fastened a dim bulb. When
they had reached the ninth panel, the thalput stopped before it. He
pressed a stud, and the panel slid back, revealing a dark opening behind
scarlet hangings. From behind these came the sound of spirited haggling.
The thalput pressed a lower stud, and the panel slid back once more
without a sound, shutting off the noise of voices beyond. Then he
addressed Grandon:

"In yonder room," he said, "you will find Her Majesty, your wife, the
Rogo of Huitsen, and the Rogo of the Ibbits. I gather from the
conversation that the savage chieftain is trying to persuade Yin Yin to
sell your wife to him. I leave you here to lay your plans as may seem
best to you. If you succeed, you will find me at the foot of the steps,
and the boats and fishermen will be ready to convey you hence: Farewell,
brother Chispoks, and may Thorth guide your scarbos! Death to the

As the thalput began his descent of the stair, Grandon said: "My plans
are made, Gunner, and I want you to carry out your part as ordered,
without giving heed to what may follow. I will go in and engage those
two drunken rogos in combat. It will be your part to rescue my wife
while I am so doing. My positive instructions to you are that, no matter
what odds I may have to fight, no matter if you see me fall and at the
mercy of my enemies, you must not join in the fight. Instead bend every
effort toward rescuing Her Majesty. Convey her down the stairway as soon
as possible, and do not wait for me. Take one of the boats, and be off
immediately, to the place of refuge which the Chispoks have prepared for
us. If I live I will follow. If not, our chief object will have been
accomplished--the rescue of my wife; and you will do your best to get her
safely back to Reabon. Do you understand?"

"Perfectly. But to see Your Majesty go down and not--"

"What! I was under the impression that a soldier was with me."

"But, Majesty--”

"A soldier obeys orders implicitly."

"Yes, Majesty."

"You will so obey."

"I will so obey, Majesty."

"Good. Wait here until you hear the clash of blades. Then enter, and
carry out your instructions to the letter."

"To the letter, Majesty."

Grandon pressed the upper stud and the panel slid open. A woman's scream
and a man's voice saying: "Come, my little beauty, we have outworn our
welcome," spurred him to instant action. Leaping through the panel, he
flung the scarlet hangings wide, and stepped into the room, bared blade
in hand.

At a glance, he saw that he would have four swordsmen to contend with
instead of two. One eunuch held a door open while another stood opposite
him. A tall hairy fellow with a white fur cloak was dragging a pretty,
brown-eyed girl toward the door. And the fat, greasy Rogo of Huitsen was
waddling toward Vernia, grinning drunkenly.

At the sight of Grandon, Vernia cried: "Bob! My dearest I knew you would

Yin Yin turned and whipped out his scarbo. Heg, Rogo of the Ibbits,
dropped the arm of the brown-eyed girl, and also drew his blade, leaping
toward Grandon. The two eunuchs caught up their heavy weapons and
followed. There was a clash of steel on steel. Yin Yin parried once and
struck once. Then his head flew from his shoulders, thudded to the
floor, and rolled beneath the divan. For an instant the headless body
stood there, blood spouting from the neck as from a fountain. Then it
collapsed, a quivering mound of flabby flesh.

Grandon turned to face three blades. The brown-eyed Princess, meanwhile,
had run across the room to stand beside Vernia. Instead of waiting on
guard, the Earth-man attacked with a brilliant display of that
swordsmanship which had made him famous throughout all Zorovia. Before
his fierce onslaught, the three gave way. His blade seemed to be
everywhere at once, flashing with the speed of lightning.

Heg was disarmed, almost with the second slash he made at Grandon, his
weapon flying behind a divan. But he leaped nimbly back, then drawing
his knife, strove to encircle the Earth-man, evidently for the purpose
of knifing him in the back. Grandon guessed his intention, but was now
so beset by the two eunuchs with their long, two-handed scarbos, that he
could give the hairy chieftain but scant attention. Once when he thought
the savage Rogo was just behind him, he slashed back for an instant with
his scarbo, but the blade encountered only empty air, and he came near
having his head split open by the nearest eunuch. He stepped aside just
in time, and as the heavy blade crashed to the floor, its wielder
received a thrust in the throat and followed his master into the great
beyond. With this fellow out of the way, Grandon quickly disposed of the
other with a leg cut followed by a swift neck blow that sent the head of
the slave to keep company with that of the master.

Whirling to face his furry enemy, Grandon was astounded to see that save
for himself and three corpses, the room was deserted. He instantly came
to the conclusion that Kantar had rescued both Vernia and the strange,
black-haired Princess. But what he wondered had become of this furry
fellow from the antarctic? Puzzled, he was about to return to the panel
opening when he heard a cry--the voice of Vernia.

"Bob! The window! Quickly!"

He leaped through the window, and peered over the balcony railing. Below
him he saw the hairy chieftain dropping with ape-like agility from
balcony to balcony, using one arm to swing himself down and holding
Vernia with the other. The courtyard below was packed with furry
warriors mounted on zandars. One saddled beast was being led to a point
just under the lowest balcony.

Sheathing his bloody scarbo, and unmindful of the dizzy height, Grandon
swung himself over the railing, and began dropping from balcony to
balcony. But before he was half-way down, the furry rogo was in the
saddle, with Vernia, wrapped in a zandar cloak and swung across the bow.
He gave a few swift orders, then galloped off. With the exception of one
man, the entire cavalcade followed him. That man sat his mount beneath
the lowest balcony, evidently left there to slay Grandon, for his long
lance with its queer, corkscrew head was slightly pointed at the spot
where the Earth-man would shortly alight.



ALTHOUGH KANTAR, as soon as he followed Grandon through the panel
opening, saw that his sovereign was beset by overwhelming odds, and
would have liked nothing better than to join in the swordplay, he was
constrained by the strict orders which the Earth-man had given him. His
part was to get Vernia out of the palace as quickly as possible.

Peering through the narrow slit between two hangings, he saw the
headless yellow body with a scarlet cincture, which identified it as
that of Yin Yin. Only a few inches in front of him he noticed a jeweled
hand and a slim, white arm. It did not occur to him that there could be
any woman other than Vernia in the room. But the thought did come to him
that she would surely refuse to leave Grandon--that if he should urge her
to go she would undoubtedly countermand the positive instructions which
had been given to him. He decided to carry her off, and explain

He thought he could tell precisely where she stood by the position of
her hand and arm, and acted accordingly. Suddenly jerking the silken
hanging from the bar on which it was draped, he wrapped it around the
slender figure, and turning, plunged through the panel opening. Then,
carrying his precious burden in his arms, he dashed down the winding
stairway. Muffled sounds of terror came from the bundle but he spoke
reassuringly: "Be not afraid, Majesty. It is I, Kantar the Gunner. His
Majesty ordered me to carry you hence quickly. Friends are waiting to
help us out of the city."

The cries and struggles subsided and Kantar quickly reached the bottom
of the stairway. Here he found the thalput waiting as he had promised.

"Is Yin Yin dead?" he asked.

"His head and body just parted company," replied Kantar. "Thorth be
praised! The tyrant is no more! And His Majesty of Reabon?"

"Still fighting when I left. He ordered me to proceed without him, and
said that on no account should I wait for him, but should take Her
Majesty away from here at once."

"That scarcely comports with our plans, but he has earned the right to
be obeyed by all Chispoks. And I'll be on the lookout to help him if he
comes later. Follow me."

He opened the panel which led into the small metal-walled room, and
there stood the six pseudo-fishermen with their nets. Swiftly they
wrapped a net around Kantar's bundle, and another around the gunner.
Then shouldering their burdens as before, they filed out into the
passageway, the thalput at their heels.

Kantar heard someone coming, and wondered how the two full nets passing
out of the palace would be explained. But the thalput was equal to the

"Take your stale fish and feed them to the ormfs," he cried in a loud
voice, "and the next time you try to force such trash on the thalput of
the royal kitchen, I'll see that His Majesty learns of it."

A moment later the two bundles were lowered into the boats, the rowers
took their places, and the thalput pushed them off. For some time Kantar
lay there looking up at the monotonous scenery of planking, piling, and
stone foundations. They traversed a narrow passage between two stone
walls, and shortly thereafter shot out under the sky. The gunner
recognized the harbor of Huitsen.

A few strokes of the oars took them alongside an anchored boat about
twenty-five feet long. It had a small, low cabin, and was fitted with
two bat-wing sails. The two bundles were passed up to a stocky yellow
man, who carried them, one at a time, into the cabin.

A dim light illuminated the little room, and as Kantar looked up at the
man who deposited him there, he recognized San Thoy.

"Both of you must stay wrapped like this for some time," said the former
mojak. "Where is Grandon of Terra?"

"Dead or alive, I know not," replied Kantar. "But he slew Yin Yin, and
by his command I left him there, still fighting, to bring Her Majesty

"The fact that he slew Yin Yin places me doubly in his debt," said San
Thoy. "We will wait here for him a while, but we must start in time to
get out under cover of darkness, or I fear we shall not get on without

"I trust that you and Her Majesty will make yourselves as comfortable as
possible while I go to keep watch on the deck. Under no circumstances
must you make a noise or uncover yourselves. Yin Yin's warriors may
board us at any time, and were they to discover our secret we should all

He went outside, and remained for some time in low conversation with the
six men. Presently Kantar heard another boat come alongside, and
scarcely dared to breath for fear it contained warriors.

There was the sound of some one coming up over the side, and whispering.
Then San Thoy came into the cabin.

"It is useless to wait longer," he said. "A brother just came to inform
us that Grandon of Terra is believed to have been carried off by the
Ibbits; whether dead or alive, they know not. We will start."

"I'm sure that we will be carrying out his wishes by doing so," replied

San Thoy went out on deck, and issued a few commands. The bat-wing sails
were unfurled and the anchor hoisted. To accelerate their progress, for
the wind was not strong here in the harbor, the men used oars, while San
Thoy went forward to operate the steering device, which was shaped like
an eight-pointed star with a knob on each point and suspended
horizontally above the compass. The two rowboats in which the men had
come were towed behind.

Presently Kantar knew by the disappearance of the breeze and the faint
echoes which followed every sound, that they had entered the
subterranean lake. A little later he heard a voice which seemed to come
from above him.

"Ho, there. Who goes?"

"Gar Zin, the fisherman," replied San Thoy, "to catch a killer-norgal
for the royal table."

"A moment, Gar Zin. It seems your voice has altered considerably. I'll
just descend and have a closer look at you."

"As you please, Excellency," San Thoy replied with studied carelessness.
"We'll have a bowl of kova in my cabin." He clapped his hands. "Ho, Lin
Fan. Prepare kova in the cabin at once for His Excellency, Yin Fu,
Guardian of the Gate."

One of the men hurried into the cabin. Peering through the meshes of his
net, Kantar saw the man enter. But he did not approach the small
fish-oil stove that was fastened to one wall. Instead, he crouched
beside the door, a knife gleaming in his hand.

From outside came the squeak of pulleys and the thud of feet on the
deck. Evidently some one had been lowered to the boat from a station
high above it.

"Welcome to my humble ship, Excellency," said San Thoy.

"Umph. It is as I thought. You are not Gar Zin, my old friend. Who are
you, and what are you up to?"

San Thoy assumed a confidential tone. "Shh! Not so loud, Excellency.
Private business for His Majesty. Come into the cabin and we'll discuss
it over a bowl of kova."

"I'll come into the cabin, right enough, but I want none of your kova.
Lead on."

After you, Excellency."

"I said, lead on!" There was the sound of a scarbo being whipped from
its sheath. "I'll keep this point at your back, and at the first sign of
treachery, you die."

"As you wish, Excellency." San Thoy's tone was exceedingly humble.

Peering through the meshes, Kantar saw San Thoy enter the cabin,
followed by a large yellow man who wore the purple cloak and shining
helmet of conical shape. In his hand he carried a scarbo, the point of
which was directed at San Thoy's back.

Just as Yin Fu stepped through the door, San Thoy threw himself face
downward on the floor. At the same moment, a knife flashed from beside
the door, and the Guardian of the Gate collapsed with a grunt of

San Thoy leaped to his feet. For a moment he bent and held his hand over
the heart of the fallen noble. Then he removed the purple cloak and
helmet, and donned them. Going out on deck, he shouted in excellent
imitation Yin Fu's voice: "It's all right, warriors. Open the gate. I'm
going out with my old friend, Gar Zin, to drink a bowl or two with him,
and have a try at norgal. Look well to your tasks until I return."

There followed a whirring of hidden machinery, and a sliding sound as of
stone over metal. Then the rowers bent to their oars. San Thoy,
meanwhile, discarded the helmet and cloak in the cabin, and hurried out
to take his place on the steermen's seat. Soon the boat began rocking
with considerable violence. Shortly thereafter the rowers ceased their
efforts, and Kantar knew that they were now afloat on the open Azpok,
and plunging forward under the impetus of a stiff breeze.

Presently San Thoy gave the steersman's seat to another, and entered the
cabin. "We'll have to put out the light for awhile," he said. "They will
use a glass on us from the shore, and we don't want them to know in
which direction we are going. At least you will not have to stay trussed
up in these nets any longer, and I can dispose of that," pointing to the
corpse of Yin Fu. He looked around the cabin for a moment as if to fix
the location of everything in his mind. Then he put out the light, and
the gunner heard him dragging his grisly burden out of the cabin, heard
a splash, and knew that the remains of Yin Fu had gone to feed the
denizens of the Azpok.

Kantar quickly rolled out of his net, and went over to where his
precious bundle lay. "If you don't mind, I'll help you out of this, Your
Majesty," he said. "I'm sure you will be more comfortable."

"I'm sure I shall," was the reply. "You have been very kind."

The gunner was startled at the sound of the voice. It did not sound like
that of Vernia. But he thought she might have taken cold from this
unwonted exposure. Then, too, her voice would sound differently, muffled
in the hanging.

"You have been very brave, Majesty," he replied, as he unwound the net.
"Perhaps this silk around you will add to your comfort. The breeze is

He adjusted the silken drape around the shapely shoulders. A soft hand
touched his and thrilled him unaccountably. It gave him rather a guilty
feeling, that thrill, but he could no more help it than he could help

"Ho, Gunner. Can you help me with the boat? The crew is leaving."

"Coming, San Thoy," was the reply. He felt his way to the door in the
pitch blackness, then stepped out on deck. Outside it was fully as dark
as in the cabin. Nothing whatever was visible except the occasional
glint of a star through a rent in the ever-present cloud envelope.

A hand was laid on his arm. "Let me guide you," said San Thoy, whose
cat-like pupils enabled him to see by the faint flashes of starlight.
"Sit here, so, and take these ropes in your hands. Now pull the right or
left rope, or both, as I may direct. I will steer.

"Where are the brothers?" asked Kantar.

"They were leaving when I called you. They will reach the two boats, and
return to Huitsen by a roundabout way known only to the Chispoks."

"I trust that they will not lose their lives for this night's work."

"There is little danger. Their part in the affair is not known. Also it
is possible that the Chispoks may be in power when they return."

"But what of you?"

"I will accompany you back to Reabon. In Huitsen I am a fugitive, but in
your country I feel that I shall be welcome after this night's work.
Later, if and when the Chispoks assume control of Huitsen, I shall

"No one will be more welcome," replied the gunner, "unless it be Grandon
of Terra himself."

They sailed on and on into the moonless Zorovian night, and Kantar, who
was aware of the almost uncanny skill with which the Huitsenni navigated
their boats, did not doubt that they were heading in the right

Presently San Thoy said: "We could have a light now, as we are out of
sight from shore, But it is scarcely worth while, as morning will soon

A few moments later a faint blood-orange tint marked the outlines of the
eastern horizon, swiftly followed by the full blaze of cloud-filtered
morning light.

"There are provisions and kova in the cabin," said San Thoy. "Perhaps
you will prepare breakfast for Her Majesty. It is best that I continue
to steer for yet a while. The breeze is quite steady now, so you may
lash the ropes."

"If my nose doesn't deceive me," replied the gunner, who was closer to
the cabin than San Thoy, "breakfast is already being prepared. However,
I'll go and assist."

Making the two ropes fast, he got up and went to the cabin. Pausing to
make obeisance to his Torroga, he gasped in sudden astonishment at sight
of a slender, dark-haired girl bending over the fish-oil burner, from
the top of which came the fragrant aroma of brewing kova and the savory
odor of a well-seasoned meat and mushroom stew. As the morning was
chill, the girl still wore the silken curtain draped around her,
concealing her garments but not the graceful lines of her slim body.

"Bones of Thorth!" he exclaimed. "Who are you?"

She looked up, her face slightly flushed by the heat from the stove, and
Kantar gasped again; for never, he thought, had he seen a face so
beautiful. At first her eyes flashed imperiously, almost angrily, at the
abruptness and bluntness of his question. But suddenly the icy look
melted, was replaced by a winning smile.

"My name is Narine," she replied. "And you, I believe, are Kantar the

Kantar's wonder deepened. For a moment he was wholly under the spell of
those big brown eyes. Then he remembered his duty--the trust with which
his sovereign had charged him.

"Where is Her Majesty of Reabon?" he asked. "And how did you get on this

"Her Majesty," replied Narine, "was watching the brilliant swordplay of
her valiant husband when I last saw her. As for your other question, who
should know more about how I got here than you, who brought me?"

"I brought you!" His heart sank. "Then I have failed in my trust."

Instantly she saw the look of dejection on his face, and answered with
one of sympathy.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I see now that there has been a dreadful
mistake. Would that I had known this when you seized me there in the
seraglio! Her Majesty had mentioned your name to me. We had planned to
escape together. But naturally I did not know His Majesty's plans--or
yours. When you told me your name and asked me to be quiet I believed
that it was your intention to rescue me--that Grandon of Terra would look
out for his own."

"So he would, ordinarily;" replied Kantar. "But he was sorely beset. My
orders were to bring away his wife; to stay out of the fight for that
sole purpose, no matter how the odds went against him. And I brought

"I'm terribly sorry--" she began.

"Sorry! You should have known. Didn't I address you as `Your Majesty'?
Did not that tell you whom I believed I was carrying?"

"Truly it did not. I thought you had taken me for a Torroga instead
of--that is--"

"I take you for a Torroga?" He laughed mirthlessly. "You, a mere slip of
a girl?"

"I'm eighteen," she retorted.

"So? And what of it? I would never take you for a Torroga."

For a moment the shadow of a smile hovered on her features. But it only
angered him the more. He had made a mistake, a most horrible mistake
which he felt that Grandon, if still alive, could never pardon--a
mistake, moreover, for which he felt positive he could never forgive
himself. A thousand fears assailed him. Torturing pictures flashed
through his mind. Grandon dead, his head adorned a pike before the Ibbit
palace, or if alive, a slave of the savage chieftain from the Mountains
of Eternal Snow. Vernia the plaything of this barbarous Rogo, or, if she
had been left in the seraglio, of Yin Yin's successor! For a moment he
struggled to master his unreasoning anger against this girl who had been
the unwitting cause of his failure to keep trust. Then he said: "From
what country do you hail?"

"From Tyrhana," she replied. "Won't you sit down at the table and let me
serve you?"

"Why, yes," he answered. "I'll admit that I'm hungry, thirsty, and

She set food and drink before him. He sipped his kova. "You brew an
excellent bowl," he told her, and tasting his stew: "This food is not
half bad."

She smiled. "The Tyrhanians are a maritime people," she replied, "and
should know how to prepare seamen's rations.

"I forgot," he said. "San Thoy must be hungry. Ill take food and drink
to him before I begin."

"No, let me. I've been resting all night, and I'll confess that I tasted
the stew and the kova." She set the things on a tray and went out, while
the gunner addressed himself to his provender. Presently she returned,
poured herself a bowl of kova, and took a helping of stew. Then she sat
down opposite him.

"A lovely morning," she remarked.

"Is it?" he replied, absently. "I've been thinking about you, wondering
what I'm going to do with you."


"Yes. You see I haven't time to take you all the way to Tyrhana. I must
go back to Huitsen, to do what I can to help Their Majesties of Reabon,
if indeed they are not beyond all human help."

"Perhaps I could get you some assistance from Tyrhana. You see," she
suggested, "my father-that is--

"No use," he replied. "Tyrhana is on the opposite side of the world. By
the time we went there and returned--"

“But Tyrhana has great fleets, even now, scouring every sea on the globe
in search of-a lost Princess."

"A lost Princess!"

"Yes. Some time ago the Torrogini set sail in one of her father's
battleships. She has not been heard from since. Naturally, the Torrogo,
who loves his daughters beyond all else is bending every effort to find

"Naturally," replied Kantar. "But the chances are much against our
meeting any of his ships on the broad Azpok."

"You forget," reminded Narine, "that Tyrhana has the mightiest navy on
all Zorovia."

"Reabon has a navy second only to that of Tyrhana," replied Kantar, "and
her ships are now scouring the Azpok; Yet I do not place much reliance
on the chance of meeting any of them. Besides--"

He was interrupted by a shout from San Thoy. "Gunner. Bring the glass. I
believe we are pursued."

Kantar snatched the spy-glass from the rack behind him, and hurried out
on deck. He saw a ship coming from the southwest, and a sail looming
above the southeast horizon. Quickly focusing the glass on the sail, he
saw a lookout at the masthead, his glass trained directly on them. A
glimpse at the other ship was sufficient to show him that they were
being chased from this quarter. Even as he looked, two mattork crews
were going into action on the forward deck. A moment later, a shell
screamed overhead, and another exploded in the water about two hundred
feet behind them.

"Poor marksmanship," he commented coolly. "But I suppose they'll get the
range presently. Would that I had a mattork with which to reply!"

"We have two," said San Thoy, "one fore and one aft. Pull up the ring in
the after deck."

Kantar hurried back and did as requested. The square of the deck to
which the ring was attached came up and tilted forward. It was plated
beneath with metal, forming a bulletproof shield. And behind this
shield there appeared a shiny new mattork mounted on its tripod, with
cases for the projectile clips and gas clips.

Quickly the gunner opened the breech, inserting a gas clip and a shell
clip marked "explosive." There were other shell clips marked "solid,"
but for the present, he ignored these. Closing the breech, he knelt, and
taking careful aim, pressed the firing button. One of the mattork crews
on the approaching ship disappeared a moment later, as if by magic.

The shells from the other mattork, as well as from the heavier turret
mattorks of the pursuing craft, were screaming around them in vast
numbers, and kicking up tremendous geysers in the sea on all sides. He
heard a voice at his side: "May I help you?" Turning, he looked in the
wistful brown eyes of Narine. She did not appear to realize their
danger, for there was no trace of fear in her expression. "I can hand
you the clips."

"Get back into the cabin, you little fool!" he told her. Not waiting to
see if she would obey, he once more turned his attention to the enemy. A
second well-placed shot wiped out the other mattork crew, and he noted
with grim satisfaction that no more came out on the deck. Perhaps the
pirates realized now with whom they had to deal. The heavier turret
mattorks, though their projectiles could do incalculably greater damage,
could not be aimed nearly so accurately as the lighter deck weapons such
as he used.

By this time the other pirate ship was in full view. Evidently its
commander had seen what happened on the other vessel, for he ordered out
only one deck mattork crew. The gunner quickly obliterated it, and had
the satisfaction of seeing that this commander, also, was wise enough to
use only his turret mattorks thereafter.

"Splendid shooting." Again he heard that voice behind him.

He turned savagely. "I thought I told you--"

"Very well. I'll go. You needn't glare at me so. Besides, if one of
those big shells should strike us, the cabin would be no safer than the
deck. I'll go forward and talk to San Thoy, who can't be more

Kantar removed the clip of explosive shells and inserted one of solid
shot. He would try to let some water into the ships. That would slow
them up. He took aim, and held his finger on the firing button. The
weapon poured forth a steady stream of projectiles. When the clip was
empty, he inserted another, and riddled the other ship below the water
line. The enemy shells were screaming closer, and in larger numbers.
Only one shell, he knew, properly placed, would completely destroy their
little craft.

Suddenly he heard their own forward mattork go into action. Looking back
over the low roof of the cabin, he saw that San Thoy was still steering.
Then he knew that Narine was operating that mattork. Moreover, she was
using explosive shells, and had scored several hits.

Having punctured both ships below their water lines, Kantar decided to
try to cripple their masts. Accordingly he reloaded, this time with
explosive shells. As he bent to his task, his hands worked almost
mechanically. He was thinking, not of their danger, not even of Grandon
and Vernia. Strange to say, the thought that dominated his mind at the
moment was, that Narine was very beautiful.

He was suddenly recalled to stark reality as a solid projectile struck
their own mast, carrying it overboard, and leaving them at the mercy of
their pursuers.



ALTHOUGH HE plainly saw the Ibbit warrior left to slay him by the savage
chieftain who had abducted Vernia, Grandon continued to drop swiftly
from balcony to balcony as if contemptuous of his furry enemy. As his
feet struck the lowest balcony, the long lance with its corkscrew head
was thrust at him, and he now saw its purpose and how deadly it could
be, for the warrior pulled a small lever like a trigger, as he thrust,
and the head whirled so rapidly that its outlines blurred.

He leaped lightly aside just in time to avoid that whirling deadly
point. Then before the Ibbit could draw it back for a second thrust, he
whipped out his scarbo, and extending the point, dived straight over the
railing at his enemy.

Taken completely by surprize at this daring and desperate move of the
Earth-man, the furry fighter tried to dodge the swiftly descending
point. But he moved too late. With the full weight of Grandon behind it,
the blade of the scarbo was driven through his body up to the hilt, and
he lunged out of the saddle.

Grandon and the corpse of his would-be slayer struck the ground
together. Withdrawing his scarbo, the Earth-man sprang to his feet. To
his consternation, he saw that the blade had been snapped off about ten
inches from the hilt. Then he noticed that his fallen foe wore a
scarbo, and quickly appropriated it. He also took his huge cloak and
hood of zandar fur, his long fur boots and gauntlets, and his lance.

By this time Heg, Rogo of the Ibbits and his warriors, were half-way to
the city gate. Grandon knew that the only possible way to catch them
would be for him to mount and ride the strange and formidable looking
beast whose rider he had just slain. The creature was evidently well
trained; for despite the fight which had brought it a change of masters,
it kept its place beneath the balcony, complacently chewing its cud.

On Earth Grandon had been accounted a good rider, but here were beast
and equipment both of which were new to him. The savage-looking mount
was saddled, but wore neither bridle nor halter. He had no idea how it
could be guided, started, or stopped, but there was nothing for him
except to climb into the saddle and investigate: This he did.

"Go ahead," he said, in patoa. Without moving, the beast continued its
contented cud-chewing. Instinctively, he dug his heels into its sides as
if he had worn spurs. So suddenly that he was almost unseated, the
zandar sprang forward. But it was going in the wrong direction. How to
turn it was the next problem. He tried slapping its neck, first on one
side, then on the other, without effect. Then he tried pressing
alternately with the right and left knees with no result. Baffled, he
grasped the creature's mane, determined to spring from the saddle and
follow the Ibbits on foot. Instantly the beast slowed down and stopped.

If he could only find out how to turn the creature! Once more he dug his
heels into its sides and the animal sprang forward. He heard someone
shout, and turned to see who it was. A group of Huitsenni had discovered
the dead Ibbit beneath the balcony. But when he turned, he advanced his
right foot and drew back his left. Instantly the zandar whirled to the
left. Quickly he returned his feet to the normal position, whereupon the
beast settled down to a straight course. He advanced his left foot and
drew back his right, and the zandar turned to the right. Now able to
guide his strange mount, he set off in swift pursuit of the Ibbits.

The hoofs of his speeding zandar beat a rumbling tattoo on the planking
of the broad street, and he dug his heels into its sides to urge it to
greater efforts. The Ibbits, he observed, had been stopped at the city
gate. The mojak of the guard was evidently suspicious because of their
abrupt departure.

Grandon wondered if the body of Yin Yin had been discovered. Probably
not, he thought, as the room in which he had been slain was segregated
from the others; and of those who had witnessed his death, there had
been none left alive to carry the news. It would be discovered
eventually, of course. But in the meantime, the Ibbits might be well
away from the city.

He was about a quarter of a mile from the party of Ibbits he was
striving to catch when he saw the gates thrown open. A moment later, the
boom of a mattork sounded from the direction of the palace, and a shell
screamed over his head. Then he knew that the body of Yin Yin had been
discovered. The firing of the mattork was evidently a signal to the
mojak of the guard, who threw a party of his warriors in front of the
Ibbits and tried to close the gates.

Instantly, the Ibbits couched their long lances, and charged. There was
a popping of tork fire from the thin line of guards, but they were swept
away like straw before a gale. Some were trampled underfoot, some were
gored by the horns of the charging beasts, and the rest impaled and
swung off their feet on the long lances, to be thrown over the head of
the first-line riders and trampled beneath the hoofs of the cavalcade
that followed.

In his anxiety to catch that charging column, Grandon dug his heels into
the ribs of his mount with all his might. But the beast, evidently
traveling at its utmost speed already, did not respond in any way except
to grunt angrily.

He arrived at the gate about a hundred yards behind the last Ibbit in
the column, in a hail of mattork shells from the palace. A single man
barred his way--the mojak. Evidently all the others had been slain.

Elevating the muzzle of his tork, the officer sent a bullet
uncomfortably close to Grandon's ear. Couching his lance, he pulled back
the lever, and the corkscrew head began revolving with terrific speed.
It struck the mojak in the middle, and instantly drilled through him, up
to the knob. Not knowing how to release his weapon from the body,
Grandon dropped it, and stooping from the saddle, caught up another
which was lying beside a dead Ibbit. With this he experimented as he
hurried forward to join the furry savages. He found that when the lever
was pulled back, the head revolved clockwise, literally screwing itself
into its victim. When the lever was perpendicular to the shaft, it
stopped, but when it was pushed forward, the head immediately revolved
in a counter-clockwise direction, thus swiftly unscrewing itself from
anything in which it might be imbedded. This explained how the Ibbits
were able to impale their victims and then hurl them over their heads
without losing their lances.

The last faint glow from the city lights was disappearing as Grandon
caught up with the rear guard of the Ibbits. Now, at intervals of about
fifty feet in the column, riders lighted torches. Muffled up as he was,
however, with the hood throwing his features into shadow, Grandon did
not fear recognition unless the sound of his voice or his accent should
make someone suspicious. Suddenly a rider beside him turned and put him
to the test: "Did you slay the strange warrior?" he asked.

Grandon pretended to be seized with a fit of coughing. Then, in the
rasping tones of a man whose vocal cords have not yet recovered from
such an attack, he replied: "I ran him through the heart. He will
trouble us no more."

"Good!" exclaimed the rider, evidently unsuspicious. "His Majesty was
worried about that fellow. He feared that he would find a way to follow,
and come upon him by stealth. You will be well rewarded."

Grandon smiled to himself, and made no further comment. Far up hear the
front of the column he saw a rider carrying a fur-covered bundle which
he believed to be Vernia. But he did not deem it advisable to ride too
near the Rogo just yet. There might be questions to answer, and he felt
sure that, sooner or later, his voice would betray him unless he could
manage to keep from speaking.

Presently they entered a belt of tall trees, primitive conifers, where
the trail began to slant sharply upward. Here the beasts slowed down to
a walk, though they did not seem greatly inconvenienced by the steepness
of the ascent.

As they climbed higher and higher, the air kept growing colder, until
Grandon, who had been uncomfortably warm in his furs when on the low
ground, was now thankful for them. Soon he noticed that the ground was
powdered with a white substance. It was snow, the first he had seen on
Venus. Also, he began to be aware of furtive, slinking forms flitting
among the tree trunks, trotting beside the cavalcade. Their eyes glowed
weirdly green in the torchlight, but it was some time before he could
make out what they were. Then one, bolder than the rest, approached to
within fifty feet of the riders, and he got a good look at it. It was a
white awoo. Some time later he caught sight of a white marmelot, tearing
at the carcass of some beast it had slain. And he began to wonder if all
creatures, here in the Zorovian antarctic, were white.

The snow grew deeper as they advanced, and the trees more stunted.
Presently they crossed a narrow ridge and filed out onto level ground-a
snow-covered plateau, its bleak surface swept by a bitterly cold wind
laden with powdered ice particles that pricked the skin like needles.
Here, despite the deep snow, the zandars made good progress. This was
their natural habitat, and they were equipped for it. Their broad,
three-toed feet kept them from sinking deeply, and with their thick,
silky coats, Grandon judged that they were more comfortable than in the
lower, warmer country.

All through the night, the shaggy beasts kept up their tireless pace.
But when morning dawned, the cavalcade halted in a little clump of
stunted trees that afforded some protection from the wind, for rest and

The zandars, with their saddles still on them, were turned loose to
shift for themselves. Grandon saw them eagerly devouring a species of
purple moss that grew on top of the snow and sent long, thread-like
roots to the soil, far below. They also browsed on such aromatic shoots
as they were able to reach on the lower branches of the trees.

Soon the Ibbits had a fire crackling. Then two huge pots were set upon
it and snow was shoveled into them to melt. As soon as sufficient water
was thus obtained, strips of frozen meat were dropped into the larger of
the two pots, and chopped kova roots into the smaller. Vernia was placed
near the fire. The Rogo sat near her, endeavoring to engage her in
conversation, but without success. On the other side of the fire the
warriors sprawled in a semicircle, chatting, laughing, and eagerly
watching the operations of two of their number who were acting as cooks.

With the coming of the dawn, Grandon had been especially careful to keep
his hood pulled forward, so that his features would not be noticed. Now,
as he sat among the warriors, he kept his head bowed as an additional

Presently the two cooks went among the men, serving the stewed meat and
steaming bowls of kova. Grandon found the meat tough and rather
tasteless, but welcome, nevertheless, after his long ride. The kova was
well brewed, and refreshing.

After they had eaten and drunk, the warriors stretched out in the snow
to sleep. Grandon, perforce, followed their example for fear of becoming
conspicuous, but managed to turn his head so that he could watch Vernia
and the Rogo. The chieftain, after unsuccessfully urging his fair
prisoner to get some rest, lay down himself. As soon as it appeared that
he was asleep, Grandon drew back his hood, then raised one arm to
attract the attention of Vernia, who sat staring moodily into the fire.
Her eyes attracted by the motion of the arm, she glanced toward him,
then smothered an exclamation of surprise and pleasure. Instantly he
whipped the hood back over his face and lowered his arm.

Now, seeing that she was covertly watching him, he began slowly rolling
away from the others, and motioned to her to edge away from beside the
fire at the same time. He hoped that if they could get away from the
sleepers with sufficient stealth they could catch two of the grazing
zandars, and put a considerable distance between themselves and the
Ibbits before the ruse would be discovered.

But his plans were suddenly upset by an agonized bellowing from one of
the zandars, followed by a tremendous hissing sound which brought every
warrior to his feet. Grandon sprang erect with the others, and saw a
monster with a gigantic, lizard-like body to which was attached a scaly
serpentine neck and head, biting immense mouthfuls of flesh from the
zandar it had just struck down, and which it was holding beneath one
huge front claw. Save for its color--for its body was completely covered
by gleaming white scales--it might have been a silticum one of those
dangerous lizards he had first encountered in the fern forests of

"A posilticum! A posilticum!" shouted the warriors. Catching up their
spiral-pointed spears, they charged the monster.

Like the others, Grandon caught up his lance, and was about to join them
in their attack on the monster, when another idea suddenly came to him.
He noticed that the Rogo of the Ibbits, although he had sprung to his
feet, had not moved from his place beside Vernia. The chieftain noticed
his hesitation at the same time, and cried: "What! Does a warrior of
mine fear a posilticum? Go at once with the others, or stay to receive
your Rogo's blade."

Nothing could have suited Grandon better. Flinging down his lance, he
whipped out his scarbo and leaped across the dying embers of the fire.
The chieftain was evidently a good scarboman as Ibbits go, for it
appeared that he thought to make short work of Grandon as he struck out
with his own blade. It was a cut for the head, which the Earth-man
parried. Countering with the same stroke, he found the blade of the Rogo
there to meet his. Leaping back to avoid a horizontal blow at the neck,
he suddenly changed from the well-established Zorovian practice of using
the scarbo as a cutting weapon, and presented his point, lunging for the
breast of the barbarian.

Heg was not prepared for this innovation. Nor had he time to come on
guard after the terrific slash he had directed at Grandon's neck. The
Earth-man's blade tore through his heart, and he toppled backward, dead.

A quick glance around showed Grandon that his duel with the furry Rogo
had not been observed by the others, all of whom were skipping about the
posilticum, lunging at it with their spiral lances, and leaping back to
avoid the darting of its huge and terrible head. The noise they made the
hissing of the posilticum, the bellowing of frightened zandars, and the
shouts of the Ibbits, had drowned all sound of the clashing scarbos.

"Come," said Grandon, cleaning and sheathing his blade and catching up
his lance. "Now is our chance."

Hand in hand, he and Vernia ran to where a group of frightened zandars
cowered together as if for mutual protection. He helped her to mount one
of the shaggy beasts, and gave her swift instructions for riding it.
Then he leaped to the back of another, and they were off.

As soon as they left the shelter of the trees, the cold wind and
stinging snow particles buffeted them unmercifully. They had not been
gone more than a few minutes when a terrific blizzard swept down on
them. Grandon laid their course in the direction he judged to be
northwest, intending to circle Huitsen and make for the shore of the
Azpok. He believed that a half-day's ride would take them to the edge of
the plateau, and that by descending for a few miles they could find
relief from the cold and snow.

But they rode more than a half day without seeing any sign of the slope
for which they were searching. Then a steep cliff, the summit of which
was invisible in the whirling cloud of snowflakes, suddenly loomed
ahead. They rode up to its base, and, skirting it for some distance,
came at length to a dark opening in the rock, half closed by a snowdrift. By this time, the zandars, which had traveled nearly all night
and half the day with only an hour's rest, began to balk, and Grandon
judged that it was best to permit them to rest, and at the same time
take advantage of this natural shelter.

He accordingly dismounted, and leaving Vernia to watch the two beasts,
cut a path through the snow into the cave with the aid of the whirling
spiral point of his lance. Then, lighting his small flame maker, and
keeping the lance in readiness for an attack by a possible unseen enemy,
he explored the place. He found himself in a room about twenty feet wide
and fifty feet long, evidently chiseled from the rock by some
prehistoric race, as it had the appearance of having been untenanted for
ages. Mixed with the dust and litter of the ages, which strewed the
floor, were a few partly calcined bones and some fragments of pottery,
which showed that the primitives who had once lived here were acquainted
with the use of fire.

Having satisfied himself that the place was untenanted, Grandon went
back for Vernia and the two beasts. The zandars seemed glad for this
shelter from the storm, and lay down immediately, to rest and chew their

Gathering some bits of dried wood from the debris on the floor, Grandon
made a small cooking fire near the entrance. As he had no large pots, he
grilled some of the frozen meat from the saddlebags over the coals, and
they made kova in the two copper drinking bowls which were part of the
equipment in the saddlebags of the Ibbits.

Having eaten and drunk, they snuggled themselves in their furs, and it
was not long before both, weary with the long ordeal through which they
had passed, were asleep.

Vernia was the first to waken. She made two discoveries in rapid
succession--first that a new day had dawned, and second that their mounts
were not in the cave.

"Bob!" she cried. "The zandars are gone!"

He sat up and yawned. "Yes, dear, Oh, the zandars. They've probably gone
out to get their breakfast. I'll go and round them up."

"I'll help you."

"No, you'd better stay here where it's safe and warm."

"But I'll be all right, Bob. I have my furs."

Together they went outside, after Grandon did a little preliminary
shoveling with his lance. The storm had passed, succeeded by a calm,
bitter cold that was even more penetrating than the wind of the day

"No tracks," said Grandon. "They must have left before the blizzard was
over. Looks as if we're in for it."

"Oh, Bob, what will we do?"

"Nothing to do but strike out on foot, if we can't find them. But we may
as well have a look around first. You wait here, and I'll follow the
cliff toward the south for a little way. I noticed quite a bit of purple
moss growing there yesterday, and those beasts may have remembered, and
gone back for it."

"Just in case they went the other way, I'll take a look in that
direction," said Vernia.

"Better wait here. It will be safer."

"I don't see why. I won't go far, and I feel the need of a tramp before
breakfast. Besides, the beasts may have gone toward the north, in which
case we will save time by searching in both directions at once. Go
ahead, and don't worry about me."

"Well, if you must. But don't go far, and don't be long."

She watched him for a moment as he strode off along the cliff, then
turned and started in the opposite direction. She had gone only a short
distance when her attention was attracted by what looked like the
prickly segment of a species of Zorovian cactus projecting from behind a
bend in the wall.

Puzzled, she walked forward to investigate, but scarcely had she rounded
the bend, ere an immense white monster with eight bristly white legs
ending in green claws, and a long, jointed tail, darted out and seized
her with a pair of huge green chelae, much like the pincers of a
lobster. It was one of these that she had mistaken for a segment of
cactus. Running swiftly backward, it carried her into a large cave.

Through the center of the cave, from side to side, was stretched an
immense web of rope-thick strands, coated with a gleaming,
sticky-looking substance. And suspended in one corner of this hung one
of the zandars. Beside the helpless beast was a ball about ten feet in
diameter, woven of the same gleaming strands. The other zandar hung in a
similar meshwork, near the center of the web.

So suddenly had it happened that Vernia had time to utter but one
smothered scream of terror as she was dragged into the cave. Nor could
she make any move to defend herself. The huge chelae held her like the
jaws of a vise, their coarse, spiny hairs piercing her flesh through the
heavy cloak she wore.

Holding her thus, the monster stopped, and standing on four legs, used
the other four to draw a sticky white cord from beneath its abdomen and
swiftly weave it around her, until she was scarcely able to move a
finger. Then it ran up the web to the corner where the zandar hung
beside the white ball and fastened her next to the helpless beast.

Having shaken the web several times to make sure that she was fastened
securely, the gigantic strid, or spinner-scorpion, for such she
recognized it to be, returned to the zandar near the center, and settled
down over it to feed. As the wretched beast made no outcry, it was
evident that it had either been paralyzed by the terrible telson, the
poisonous sting at the end of the jointed tail, or slain by the immense

For some time, Vernia watched the monster at its bloody feast. Then her
attention was attracted by a rustling sound quite near her. She turned,
and saw that it came from the white ball beside which she was suspended.

Presently there was a sound as of tearing fabric. A hole appeared in the
ball, and out of it came a pair of wiggling, hairy chelae, small
replicas of those of the mother scorpion. They were followed by an
armored head in which were set three pairs of glowing eyes, blinking
dully out at the world for the first time. It was then that Vernia
realized what was in store for her. The monster had suspended both her
and the zandar beside its cocoon as food for her young when they should
break through the shell.

Even as this horrible realization came to her, the first young strid
forced its way through the opening, and came ambling across the web
toward her on its eight hairy legs.



WITH ITS MAST shot away, the little sailboat in which rode Kantar the
Gunner, Narine of Tyrhana, and San Thoy of Huitsen, would not respond to
the rudder, but came about and drifted broadside to the waves, rocking
precariously while mattork shells exploded all around it. The two
pursuing pirate ships now bore down on the helpless boat.

Despite the increased difficulty of aiming his weapon, occasioned by the
erratic plunging of the little craft, the skillful gunner succeeded in
shattering a few spars and damaging the rigging of one of their pursuers
with his explosive bullets. But as the two ships drew closer, he ceased
firing, knowing that in surrender now lay their only hope of life.
Abandoning his weapon, he hurried forward, where he found Narine still
endeavoring to manage the other mattork.

"Stop shooting," he said, "or the pirates will blow us to pieces. They
are bound to hit us when they get a little closer."

"I hope they do," she replied as she fired another shot, which, on
account of the rocking of the boat, went wide of the mark. "To me death
is preferable to falling again into their hands."

As if in answer to her wish, a shell struck them aft, the next moment,
completely demolishing the stern. Kantar and Narine were both hurled
against the cabin by the force of the concussion, and San Thoy shot from
his steersman's seat to a point on the deck quite near them. The hold
filled almost instantly, and the boat plunged beneath the waves.

As they went down, Kantar seized Narine's wrist. A moment later they
came up, struggling and sputtering in the water.

"Let me go," she demanded, as soon as she could get her breath. "I can
take care of myself."

The gunner relinquished her wrist, and grinning maliciously, said:
"Well, you had your wish. I hope you are enjoying the consequences."

Without replying, she turned and swam for a bit of wreckage larger than
the others that bobbed around them. It had once been part of the after
deck. Kantar looked around for San Thoy, and seeing him clinging to a
heavy beam which could easily support him in the water, he leisurely
followed Narine. The pirate ship ceased firing, and one of them was now
only three hundred yards distant.

Swimming up beside the girl's bit of wreckage, Kantar rested an arm upon

"May I share this luxurious float with you?" he asked, smiling.

"If you will try to be agreeable," she answered. "But one more word of
sarcasm, and I'll--"

"You'll what?"

"Duck you."

"Try it."

She did, forcing his head, unresisting, under water. She held it there
until she considered that his punishment had been sufficient, then
removed her hand. But he didn't come up. Instead, his face remained
under water, and he floated limply there beside the wreckage. She pulled
his hair, but got no response. Alarmed, she moved closer, and lifted
his head from the water.

The gunner, who had been shamming, peered at her beneath lowered
lids--saw the consternation in her pretty face--saw her red lips so close
to his. A maddening desire for them overcome him.

"Kantar!" she cried. "Oh, what have I done?"

Suddenly, he swept her to him, crushed her lips to his.

She trembled there in his embrace for a moment, then broke from him, her
face scarlet.

"You would dare!" she exclaimed. "Oh, you beast! You are worse than the
Huitsenni, none of whom has ventured to so affront me."

"Narine," he pleaded, "I love you. I must tell you this before I go to
my death at the hands of those yellow pirates, for they will surely slay
me after what I have done. Your lips drew me--twin lodestones I could not
resist. If you cannot return my love, can you at least forgive me?"

Her look softened. "The pirates have lowered a boat," she said, "so I
must put maidenly modesty aside and answer you briefly and truthfully. I
do love you, my brave gunner. I have loved you from the moment I first
saw you, there in the cabin of the little fishing boat. But even had I
hope of life and freedom, I could never marry you."

"There is another man?"

"Yes. My father. He would never consent."

"Perhaps he could be brought to reason."

"Impossible. You see my older sister disappointed him in his plans for a
matrimonial alliance, and fell in love, but he will not be turned again
from his purpose. Her disappointed lover has agreed to solace himself
with me. My father will not give in so easily a second time.

"But all this talk is futile. We are once more in the power of the
Huitsenni, and only they may decide our fate. Here is the boat.
Farewell, my gunner, and may Thorth guide and keep you."

"I’ll never give you up," he cried.

Yellow hands seized them, dragged them into the boat. Then Kantar
suddenly saw what he had no opportunity to see before. When the boat had
gone down, Narine's improvised cloak had floated from her. Later, all
but her head, arms, and shoulders had been under water. But now he
observed that she wore scarlet of royalty, and on the golden breast
shields he saw the insignia of an imperial Princess of Tyrhana. All the
hopes which her words had aroused died in his heart. For Kantar was but
a common soldier. His father had been an officer in the Uxponian army,
but without even the purple of nobility.

Narine saw the despair in his eyes, and guessed his thoughts. She smiled
a little wistful smile.

"I understand now," said the gunner. Then he resolutely turned his head
away, and meekly permitted his captors to bind his wrists. A moment
later, San Thoy also was dragged out of the water.

Swiftly the rowers propelled the boat back to the ship. The prisoners
were hoisted aboard. Narine was hurried away by the mojak of the vessel.
And with kicks and cuffs, Kantar and San Thoy, bound hand and foot, were
thrown into an evil-smelling room in the hold, quite similar to the one
in which they had been confined with Grandon when first taken to
Huitsen. Immediately Kantar set about trying to loose the bonds of his

But his tedious labors were suddenly interrupted by an explosion which
tore a hole in the planking above their heads. There followed the rapid
booming of mattorks, the screaming of projectiles, and the almost
continuous bursting of shells.

"Our captors must have found new victims," said Kantar, springing to his

"Judging by the number of shells which are striking this ship, I would
say that they are more likely to become the victims," replied San Thoy,
also getting to his feet.

Both men hopped to the side of the boat--they could not walk because of
their bound feet--and peered through the loopholes.

"Bones of Thorth!" exclaimed San Thoy. "There are ships floating in the

Looking out, Kantar saw a fleet of aerial battleships. They were shaped
like duck-boats, surmounted by heavy transparent turrets mounting heavy
mattorks, and flew without wings, rudders or propellers.

"They are Olban airships," he said. "I once saw a fleet of them in

"Never before have I seen or heard of such marvellous craft above the
Azpok," said San Thoy.

"It's strange that they should be here. I wonder--ah! I have it. Zinlo,
Torrogo of Olba, is fiancé of Loralie, the Torrogina of Tyrhana.
Naturally he would, on being advised of the disappearance of her younger
sister, assist in the search for her. And just as naturally, he would
attack the ships of the Huitsenni, who are enemies to all Zorovia,
wherever he should find them."

For several minutes the bombardment became more intense, and Kantar was
much concerned for Narine's safety. Then a huge shadow darkened the
waters before them, the bombardment ceased, and there was the noise of
grappling hooks scraping across the splintered decks. These sounds were
succeeded by the tramping of many feet above them, the clashing of arms
intermingled with the spitting of tork fire, and a medley of shouts,
groans, and shrieks.

"The Olbans have boarded us," said Kantar. "I trust they arrive in time
to save Narine."

The fighting was soon over. And presently the gunner heard the tramp of
warriors, evidently searching the ship, passing their door. "Ho,
Olbans," he called, "open the door."

"Who is it?" a voice asked, cautiously.

"A warrior of Reabon and a fellow prisoner," he replied.

The door was unbolted and flung open. Three Olban warriors, with the
muzzles of their torks elevated, peered in, while a fourth flashed a
light about the room. Seeing the two bound men, they entered and quickly
released them.

"Have they found the Princess?" Kantar inquired, rubbing his numbed
wrists. "Is she safe?"

"What Princess?" asked the soldier who had removed his bonds. "We know
naught of a Princess."

"Why, Narine, Torrogini of Tyrhana," replied the gunner. "She was
captured and brought aboard with us."

"Ha! It is as His Majesty suspected," cried another soldier. "From a
distance we saw them sink a small boat, and later lower a boat to bring
away three people from the wreckage. Yet their mojak has stoutly denied
that he had prisoners aboard. Come. The Torrogo must hear of this at

With the four Olbans, they hurried to the deck. A group of Huitsenni
prisoners huddled, weaponless, in the stern, under the watchful eyes of
several guards. Warriors were heaving the bodies of the slain overboard
and Olban surgeons were tending the wounded, both friend and foe.
Attached to the side of the vessel by hooks and chains was an immense
aerial battleship with twelve gun turrets. A set of collapsible aluminum
stairs led from an open door in one of these turrets to the deck of the
ship. On the opposite side, another aerial battleship was similarly
fastened. A fleet of a dozen more airships floated overhead, and Kantar
saw that the other pirate ship had also been boarded by the crews of two
aerial battleships, and its men subdued.

They hurried forward. On the foredeck stood a handsome young man of
about the gunner's own age, whom Kantar instantly recognized as Zinlo,
Torrogo of Olba. He was clad in scarlet apparel, gold-trimmed and
glittering with precious stones. On his feet were sandals of soft frella
hide, and his scarlet, turban-shaped headpiece was decked with gold
fringe and set with a huge ruby that blazed above the center of his
forehead. Beside him stood an equally youthful soldier, whose insignia
proclaimed him Romojak of the Aerial Navies of Olba.

On his knees before the young Torrogo was the mojak of the vessel. As
Kantar came up with the others he was saying: "I swear to you, Majesty,
by the beard and body of Thorth, by all I hold sacred, that I have no
prisoners, white or yellow, on board."

"So. You persist in your falsehood." Zinlo frowned at the yellow man who
groveled before him. Then his eyes fell on Kantar and San Thoy.

"Whom have we here?" he asked one of the warriors who had released them.

The mojak looked around, and seeing who stood behind him, turned a pale,
sickly yellow.

"They are two prisoners we found in a room below the deck, Your
Majesty," replied the warrior.

Kantar made obeisance, with right hand extended palm downward.

"I am Kantar the Gunner, of Reabon, Your Majesty," he said, "and my
companion is San Thoy, a former mojak in the navy of Huitsen. If you
don't mind, I would prefer to tell you our story after Her Imperial
Highness has been found."

"Her Imperial Highness?"

"I refer Your Majesty, to Narine, Torrogini of Tyrhana."

"Ha!" Zinlo suddenly whipped out his scarbo and presented its point to
the breast of the frightened mojak. "Now, you yellow hahoe, we have
caught you lying. Either you will tell us, this instant, where the
Princess is concealed, or I will slay you, and if need be, tear this
ship apart to find her."

"Mercy, Majesty! Have mercy!" quavered the mojak. "I will show you."

Rising, and backing away from the royal presence, he stooped and seized
a ring in the deck. Pulling this, he lifted a trap door from which a
short ladder led down into a small cabin. Lying on the sleeping shelf of
the cabin was Narine, gagged, and bound hand and foot.

Disdaining the ladder, Kantar dropped into the cabin, closely followed
by the young Torrogo. Together they quickly unbound the Princess and
removed her gag. She was limp, and apparently lifeless.

"Narine! Narine!" For the moment Kantar, who knelt beside the sleeping
shelf, forgot the presence of Zinlo of Olba--forgot that the girl before
him was an imperial Princess.

Narine opened her eyes and saw Kantar bending over her. But Zinlo she
did not see. Her right arm went around the gunner's neck--her hand
caressed his sandy hair. "I'm just a little faint, my gunner. That gag
made breathing difficult. I could not have lasted much longer."

He caught up her left hand, lying limply beside her, and covered it with
kisses. "I'm glad, so glad, we came in time."

"My lips, Gunner. Have they lost their allure so quickly?" She drew his
face down to hers.

Zinlo raised a quizzical eyebrow. Then, with a fierce gesture, he waved
off the gaping warriors who were peering down at them.

"I heard explosions--men fighting on the decks. Tell me what happened,"
said Narine, a moment later.

"His Imperial Majesty, Zinlo of Olba, rescued us," replied Kantar,
suddenly remembering the presence of the Torrogo, and blushing furiously
in consequence.

"What!" Narine sat up quickly, then seeing Zinlo, turned to face him,
her shapely legs dangling from the sleeping shelf.

"Your Majesty!" she cried in consternation. "I did not know you were

She rose and made the customary obeisance.

"I surmised as much, Your Highness," smiled Zinlo. Then he took her
extended hand, and kneeling, raised it to his lips. "Shall we adjourn to
more comfortable quarters?"

"Let's. I've always wanted to ride in one of your Olban airships. What
of my father and sister?"

"Both well, but almost frantic with worry on account of you."

When they reached the deck, the young romojak, who had been standing
beside Zinlo when Kantar first saw him, came up and saluted.

"What is it, Lotar?" asked Zinlo.

"We have disposed of all prisoners in accordance with Your Majesty's
commands," replied the romojak. "There remains, however, the yellow man
we found imprisoned with this warrior of Reabon."

"Take him aboard the flagship," said Zinlo, "and see that he has every

Lotar saluted and withdrew. Then the three climbed the aluminum stairs,
and after passing through a narrow hallway, entered the luxurious saloon
of Zinlo's flagship. The young Torrogo placed cushioned chairs for both
of them, and summoned a slave. "Bring us kova," he commanded.

He drew up a chair and sat down. Then he noticed that Kantar, conforming
to the usages of the court, had not seated himself because he was in the
presence of royalty. "Sit, Gunner," he said. "We will have no formality

This was a command, and Kantar, whose feeling of embarrassment had only
slightly lessened since the incident in the cabin, took the chair which
had been placed for him.

The slave bustled in with kova, and Zinlo himself served his guests in
tiny bowls of gold lined with mother of pearl.

"Now," he said, "as soon as my Romojak comes aboard, we'll fly to the
flagship of Ad of Tyrhana. But in the meantime, Your Highness, suppose
you tell me what you have been doing these many days."

"My father's flagship!" exclaimed Narine. "Where is he?"

"Only a little way from here," replied Zinlo, "and Loralie is with him.
But let's hear that story."

Swiftly, Narine sketched for him the story of her adventures--the storm,
her capture by the Huitsenni, her sale to Heg and rescue by Kantar, and
their escape with the aid of San Thoy.

Zinlo frowned. "These yellow pirates must be wiped out," he said "and
there is no better time than now to do it. But what of my friend Grandon
and his beautiful bride?" he asked Kantar. "Do you think they were both
carried off by the white-furred barbarians?"

"I think it probable," replied Kantar, "that Her Majesty was carried off
by Heg. It is possible that the Ibbits also took Grandon prisoner, but I
think it more probable that he found some way to follow the savages, in
an effort to rescue his bride."

"I'll send a squadron after them," said Zinlo. "As I judge from what Her
Highness just told me that the capital of the furry Rogo is five days’
journey from Huitsen, my swift airships can easily overtake them before
they reach their destination."

At this moment, Lotar came in and saluted.

"To the flagship of Ad of Tyrhana," commanded Zinlo. "Signal the fleet
to attend us. You have placed the prize crews aboard the two pirate

"Yes, Majesty." He saluted and withdrew.

A moment later the ship rose smoothly and swiftly to a height of about
two thousand feet, then shot away toward the west at a tremendous speed.
Kantar, who had never ridden in one of these craft before, but had heard
that the swiftest ones were capable of traveling at the speed with which
the planet revolved on its axis at the equator--approximately a thousand
miles an hour--nevertheless marveled at the speed with which the ocean
appeared to move beneath them as he watched through one of the side
windows. Sailing on the waves of the Azpok, he now saw six large battle
fleets, all within a few miles of the spot where their little craft had
been sunk by the Huitsenni.

The airship reached a point over the flagship of one of these fleets and
swiftly descended.

Narine placed a hand on Zinlo's arm. "You won't tell my father?" she

"About what?" Zinlo appeared puzzled.

She looked tenderly at Kantar. "About us. We know it is hopeless, our
love, and have agreed to-to--"

"Try to forget," suggested Zinlo.

"You're so helpful, my brother to be. But there in the cabin, for the
moment, love mastered us."

"I understand, perfectly," said the young Torrogo.

"Of course. You and Loralie--"


"But my father will not be moved from his purpose again. I know him well
enough for that."

"Oh, I don't know. What has been done before can be done again. Perhaps
I can do something."

"You are so kind. Now I know why Loralie just can't help loving you. But
for the present at least, you will say nothing?"

"In that cabin, I was deaf, dumb, and blind, as were my warriors who
happened to be peering down at us. But here we are at the flagship."

Kantar heard the clank of chains and the thud of grappling irons. Then
Zinlo rose, and they followed him down the ladder to the deck of an
immense battleship which flew the flag of Ad, Torrogo of Tyrhana.

Just as they reached the deck, the gunner saw two people emerge from one
of the cabins--a tall, straight, athletic-appearing man about forty years
of age, with a square-cut, jet-black beard, and a girl who closely
resembled Narine, though she appeared a trifle more mature. Both wore
the scarlet of royalty, and Kantar knew that they must be Ad of Tyrhana
and his daughter, Loralie.

Narine ran into the open arms of her father, then embraced her sister.
All three shed tears of joy, and Kantar, whose own eyes were
overflowing, saw that Zinlo was in like case.

The gunner was presented, and all were ushered into Ad's sumptuous cabin
where the customary kova was served.

After Narine had related the story of her adventures, Kantar was pressed
to tell his, and those of Grandon and Vernia with which he was

When the gunner had finished, Ad echoed the previously expressed
sentiment of Zinlo. "We must wipe out the Huitsenni," he declared. "But
first we must try to rescue Their Majesties of Reabon."

"I'm going to send a squadron after the Ibbits," said Zinlo.

"But suppose Grandon and his bride are still in Huitsen."

"I believe we can ascertain whether or not they are there," said Kantar.

"How?" asked Ad.

"The Chispoks. There must be some members among the pirates you have
captured. Land some of them near the city under cover of darkness. Let
them investigate, and report back to you."

"A splendid idea," said Zinlo. "And I would suggest a further plan.
Suppose we form an alliance with the Chispoks, overthrow the present
regime, if indeed they have not done so already, and put them in power.
That would be better than indiscriminately wiping out the entire yellow
race, all of whom are certainly not responsible for the piratical
outrages of Yin Yin's men. The port of Huitsen could then be opened for
peaceful trade with all Zorovia, and if the Huitsenni should ever again
develop piratical leanings, we would know how to stop them."

"I'm sure the alliance can be arranged, Your Majesty," said Kantar.
"Suppose we send for San Thoy."

Zinlo called a servant. "Tell my romojak to bring San Thoy, the yellow
man, here," he directed.

In a few moments Lotar came in, accompanied by San Thoy. Kantar
presented the former mojak of the navy of Huitsen to the assemblage.
Then Zinlo addressed Lotar. Briefly he told him why they suspected that
Grandon and Vernia might be traveling southward with a party of Ibbits,
and gave him his instructions: "Dispatch six ships," he commanded, "with
orders to fly high above Huitsen, deep enough in the first cloud stratum
so they will not be seen from the city. Then; when they have their
bearings, let them spread out, and fly southward until they come to a
column of furry white savages riding on three-horned beasts. If Grandon
of Terra and his bride are with this party, they must rescue them as
best they can, and bring them here at once."

Lotar saluted. "I hasten to carry out Your Majesty's commands," he
replied, and hurried out.

As soon as Lotar had gone, San Thoy was quizzed about a possible
alliance with the Chispoks. He not only felt positive that he could
arrange this, but stated that he had received secret signs from several
of the yellow sailors on board the vessel which he had been rescued,
which proved to him that they were members of the brotherhood. After a
short conference, he was dispatched in one of Zinlo's airships to visit
both captured pirate vessels, and cull the Chispoks from among the

"What of our allies?" Zinlo asked Ad, after San Thoy had departed.
"Shall we let them help in the assault on Huitsen?"

Ad stroked his black beard thoughtfully. "Hum. Let's see. We have two
squadrons here, of our own. Lying near by are two from Adonijar, and a
little farther away, two from Reabon."

"In addition to their battleships, the Reabonians have two score
transports, and as many munition ships, with a large army and munitions
and equipment for a land offensive," said Zinlo.

"I was thinking of that," said Ad. "How or where could they land their

"The Chispoks know a secret way," said Kantar. "San Thoy or one of his
fellows could guide them."

"Splendid. We can now plan a united offensive. The Reabonians will
disembark at night, and guided by the Chispoks, will march on Huitsen,
prepared for an offensive tomorrow at an hour we shall set. You, Zinlo
will mass your aerial battleships above the city to join in the attack
at the same time, and to convey signals from one force to another.
Meanwhile, the battleships of Tyrhana, Adonijar, and Reabon must find
some way to get through the secret entrance."

"I've thought of a plan for that, also, Your Majesty," said Kantar.

"Good. Let me hear it, my boy."

And so Kantar related to them a plan he had conceived on the spur of the
moment, whereby he believed they could not only get the gates opened for
them, but keep them open for the entrance of the battle fleets of the
three great nations.



SOME TIME AFTER Grandon and Vernia separated at the mouth of the cave to
look for their riding-beasts which had disappeared, and which they
believed had strayed in search of food, there came faintly to the ears
of the Earth-man a sound that caused him to stop, whirl around, and
listen intently. So slight was the sound that he could not quite make it
out, yet it had a quality which made him suspicious that Vernia had
called him. Though he strained his ears to catch a possible repetition,
none was audible.

Alarmed, he retraced his steps as swiftly as possible, but the soft,
newly fallen snow retarded his progress considerably. Fuming impatiently
at the delay, he floundered past the mouth of the cave in which they had
passed the night, and anxiously took up Vernia's trail, shouting her
name as he went. But there was no reply.

The tracks led him close to the irregular base of the cliff, and as
Grandon stumbled around a bend, he saw the same sight which Vernia had
beheld only a short time before, and which had led to her entrapment--a
bristly white and green object curving outward from behind a projection,
which looked like a segment of Zorovian cactus. Like her, he thought it
part of some antarctic plant, and proceeded incautiously toward it. He
came to a sudden pause, however, and presented the spiral point of his
lance, as the apparent segment resolved itself into one of the chelae of
an immense white scorpion, which shot out from behind the projection,
and charged swiftly toward him.

Pointing his lance, Grandon pulled back the lever which set the spiral
head to whirling. Fearlessly, and without swerving or endeavoring to
evade the weapon, the monster sprang at the Earth-man with its immense
pincers extended to seize him. Right in the thorax the lance point
struck, and bored in up to the knob. Grandon was thrown backward by the
impact of that charge, but by diverting the butt of his lance downward
and plunging it through the snow until it struck frozen ground beneath,
was able to hold the scorpion away from him.

Then still clinging to the shaft with his left hand, he drew his scarbo
with his right, and struck at the nearest chela. It was quite tough and
horny, and the blade did not bite more than half-way through it.
Clenching his teeth, he struck again with all his strength, and this
time succeeded in severing it near the middle. Having mastered the art
of it, he was able to cut off the other claw at the first joint with two
sharp blows.

But no sooner had these menaces been removed than he was threatened with
another, even more dangerous. With lightning swiftness, the monster
suddenly elevated its long, jointed tail, and stabbed at him with the
terrible telson with which the tip was armed.

Avoiding the deadly thrust of the poison sting by leaning sideways,
Grandon hacked at the thing with his scarbo. To his surprise, it was
quite brittle, and broke off with the first blow.

Although the monster was now unable to injure him except at very close
quarters, it was not without resource. It suddenly reached beneath its
abdomen with its foremost pair of hairy legs, and drawing therefrom a
section of gleaming, sticky web as thick as a rope, it cast the loop
about him and dragged him forward. He clung to the lance shaft with all
his might, and succeeded in severing the sticky loop with a stroke of
his scarbo. Not so a second loop, however, which it unexpectedly flung
around him, breaking his hold on the shaft, as it jerked him toward its
ugly gaping mandibles with his right arm bound to his side.

He had previously refrained from using his tork for fear the sound would
bring enemies but in this extremity he elevated the muzzle, depressed
the firing-button, and sent a stream of bullets straight into the gaping
jaws. With muffled detonations the projectiles exploded in the huge,
armored body. A half dozen of them sufficed to blow the hardshelled
cephalothorax to bits, and reduced the segmented abdomen to a shapeless
quivering mass.

Quickly shifting his scarbo to his left hand, Grandon cut himself free
of the sticky loop that encumbered him. Then, perceiving the yawning
cave mouth, and suspecting that it was here that Vernia had been taken,
he rushed inside. Despite their wrappings, he was able to identify the
two zandars, one hanging in the center of the huge web, the other at the
edge beside a large spherical cocoon. But what was the smaller object
beside the cocoon? His heart stood still as he recognized the slender
form of Vernia, and saw that a young scorpion, which had evidently just
emerged from the cocoon, was crawling toward her.

Although the newly hatched monster was not more than six feet from
Vernia, and he could not shoot without endangering her, he knew that
there was nothing else to do. Accordingly, he brought his tork to bear
on the hairy youngster, and fired. There was a muffled explosion, and
the menace was removed. But now he saw another pair of chelae emerging
from the cocoon. Again he fired, and the second young scorpion was blown
to bits. He watched for a moment, but as no more appeared, decided that
the other eggs had not yet hatched, and set about trying to find a way
to climb to where Vernia was suspended.

The stickiness of the web made this almost impossible, until he thought
to utilize the dust and debris which littered the door. Catching this up
in double handfuls, he flung it against the section of the web which he
wished to climb, and found, as he hoped, that it prevented the adhesive
surface of the strands from clinging to his hands and feet.

Swiftly he climbed up to Vernia, cut the surrounding strands, and as
swiftly descended to the floor with his burden. With his knife he
quickly slit open the wrappings and found his wife, limp, and apparently
lifeless. He opened her great fur cloak, and the sight of several
scratches on her white skin engendered the fear that she had been
poisoned by the venom of the monster. But when he held his ear to her
breast, he was relieved to hear her heart beating.

With a handful of snow taken from the cave mouth, be touched her
temples. The cold shock revived her. She looked about wildly for a
moment; then, recognizing Grandon, she relaxed contentedly in his arms.

"Are you hurt, dear?" he asked.

"Only a few scratches, Bob," she replied. "It was the fright that made
me swoon. When I saw that young strid coming toward me, as I hung there
helpless, and realized that its purpose was to devour me, I fainted. Let
me rest for a little while, and I'll be ready to walk."

"Perhaps you won't need to walk," said Grandon. "One zandar appears to
be alive. I'll see if I can cut it down."

Utilizing the dust as he had done before, Grandon succeeded in making a
path up the web for himself to where the zandar hung beside the immense
cocoon. With his scarbo, he first cut the heavy, rope-like strands above
it. Then, as the great bulk of the beast swung downward, he cut the
cross strands in succession, and with each cut, the zandar descended a
little farther. When at last the beast was on the floor, it was still
helpless because of the thorough manner in which it had been trussed:
But its heaving flanks showed that it was still very much alive, and not
a little frightened by the experience it had just gone through.
Employing his knife, Grandon quickly cut the strands which held it, and
it struggled to its feet, trembling and panting heavily.

"It seems unhurt," said Vernia, who had recovered from her faintness and
come over to watch the proceedings.

"Its legs are sound, at any rate," replied Grandon.

The beast followed them docilely enough through the mouth of the cave.
Then, after helping Vernia into the saddle Grandon returned for a
moment, to apply his flame maker to the bottom of the web. It caught
fire with a roar, and he plunged out of the cave followed by a billowing
cloud of black, oily smoke.

"That will do for the rest of the ugly brood," he said as he came up
beside Vernia.

He was about to mount behind her, when he suddenly saw, riding swiftly
toward them, a large band of warriors mounted on zandars. They were not
Ibbits, as he could see at a glance, but Huitsenni, and had evidently
heard his tork fire and come to investigate. Instantly the riders
deployed in a wide semicircle, cutting off all possibility of escape
across the snow. As they could not climb the sheer face of the cliff
behind them, nor retire into the cave, which was now belching great
clouds of acrid smoke, they remained where they were, Vernia still in
the saddle, and Grandon beside her.

Had he been alone, Grandon would have resisted desperately, but he knew
that if he should use his tork the enemy would retaliate in kind, and
Vernia might be injured or slain. A moment more, and he was looking into
the mouths of fully a hundred torks leveled at him by a closely packed
semicircle of riders. Then the mojak in command ordered a halt, and
called out to Grandon: "Surrender, in the name of the Rogo of Huitsen,
or we fire."

Seeing that resistance was useless, Grandon unbuckled the belt which
contained his weapons, and flung it on the snow in front of him. Then he
clasped his hands behind his head in token of surrender.

At the order of the mojak, two men descended and swiftly bound him, hand
and foot. Then he was slung across the saddle-bow of one of the riders
as if he had been a sack of grain, and the cavalcade rode away. Vernia
was not bound, but was permitted to retain her place in the saddle with
a guard on each side of her.

Several hours later, it seemed to Grandon that all of Huitsen had turned
out to stare at the two prisoners that their riders were bringing in, so
dense were the crowds along the streets. Their captors took them
straight to the palace, where they were deprived of their Ibbit furs,
which were not needed here in the warm lowlands. Then the mojak, quite
obviously proud of his success, led them to the throne room, each
guarded by two of his warriors.

Up to the time they were ushered into that vast room, Grandon had
entertained the hope that one of the Chispoks had succeeded Yin Yin, but
his hopes were dashed as he recognized the individual who squatted in
the center of the crystal throne. It was the bestial Thid Yet, former
Romojak of the Navies of Huitsen. Like his predecessor, he was
surrounded by numerous attendants and nobles, and his gross body was
loaded with flashing jewels. The porcine monarch grinned toothlessly as
they were brought before him.

"It is apparent that our men have persuaded Your Majesties to avail
yourselves once more of our cordial if humble hospitality," he said. "We
are honored."

"Your Majesty's warriors have persuasive ways," replied Grandon.
"Perhaps, now that you are Rogo, we can persuade you to permit us to
depart to our own torrogat, where duty calls us."

"Perhaps," replied Thid Yet, dipping his thumb into a spore pod which
one of the former slave girls of Yin Yin presented and thrusting the red
spores into his fat cheek. "Just what is your proposition?"

"Say, a million keds of gold."

"Humph! We are offered more for Her Majesty alone."

"Two million."

"Not enough."


"Wait," interrupted Thid Yet. "You but waste your breath. Her Majesty
will remain here as was previously arranged, until it is time to take
her to the rendezvous. Though she has been deprived of the pleasure of
Yin Yin's company, we trust that we will make a satisfactory

"Why you--!" Grandon would have sprung at the throat of the man on the
throne had he not been seized by the guards.

"One moment, Majesty. Permit me to finish. We are grieved that we can
not entirely comply with your request, yet we will in part fulfill it."

"In part?"

"Yes. We will permit you to leave, but not for your own country.
Although you left no witnesses we have considerable evidence that it was
you who beheaded our just and generous predecessor. We also remember
that it was due to you that we nearly lost our own head. So we will
allow you to leave--will, in fact, speed you on your way, for it would be
dangerous to have you near us. But instead of sending you to your own
torrogat, we will dispatch you to the Kingdom of Thorth."

Thorth being the Kingdom of Heaven, he beckoned to one of the two brawny
guards who stood behind the throne--their immense two-handed scarbos much
in evidence. "Come, Ez Bin. Clip me the head from this fine fellow, and
see that you cut it cleanly, as I would retain it for a souvenir."

Swinging the heavy scarbo to his shoulder, the headsman marched forward.
Grandon was quickly forced to his knees by his two guards. Ez Bin took a
position beside him, tested the keenness of his blade with his thumb,
and carefully measured the distance and position of Grandon's neck,
closing one eye and squinting the other. Then, with the swift assurance
of an expert, he raised his blade.

Vernia, who had been watching the scene, too horrified even to utter a
sound, covered her eyes with her hands. Then she suddenly went limp in
the hands of her two guards.



IN THE FLAGSHIP of Zinlo of Olba rode Kantar the Gunner and Narine,
looking down at the city of Huitsen through several feet of the lowest
cloud stratum. The ship was flying in this stratum that it might remain
invisible to the Huitsenni in the streets below, yet be able to keep
watch. The offensive which the allies had planned the day before was now
scheduled to take place.

Ten thousand of Reabon's brave warriors, guided by the Chispoks that San
Thoy had selected, were converging on the city in an immense semicircle,
and five thousand more, a contingent of Reabonian artillery, had their
mattorks ready to make breaches in the walls and lay a barrage in front
of the infantry as soon as the charge should commence or the enemy
discover their presence.

Zinlo, who had been looking over the scene with his glass, said: "I
wonder what has become of San Thoy and the two pirate vessels he was so
positive he could bring through the gate. I see no sign of them in the
canal. And our fleets still ride at anchor outside, waiting for our

"Perhaps we should fly down and investigate," suggested Narine.

"Hardly," replied Kantar. "They would be sure to see us and precipitate
a battle before we are ready."

"There's nothing to do but wait," said Zinlo, impatiently.

Meanwhile, San Thoy, standing in the commander's cabin of the foremost
of the two ships which had been converted to the purpose of the allies,
its crew augmented by a band of Reabonian warriors who kept out of sight
below decks, and which was just then entering the fiord which led to
Huitsen, was issuing swift orders to the mojak of the vessel. "Put three
men on each oar," he commanded. "The steel bar which we are to drop
between the stone gates to prevent their closing after us, is dragging
on the bottom."

"Can we not raise it a trifle?" asked the mojak.

"No, idiot. The guardians are already watching us. To touch those chains
now would make them suspicious. Do as I say, and quickly, for the time
for the offensive is almost at hand."

Under the added propulsion of the extra rowers, the boat moved slowly
forward, dragging the heavy steel bar which the smiths of the fleet of
Reabon had forged especially for this occasion by working all the
previous night. Behind it came the second pirate ship, manned like the
first by Chispoks culled from the two crews and a concealed contingent
of Reabonian warriors. Its mojak, puzzled by the slow progress of the
ship ahead, ordered his rowers to back water and wait until a suitable
distance should be established between the two ships.

As San Thoy's vessel approached the massive stone gates, they did not
open. Instead, there came a hail from one of the guardians.

"What ails you? Why do you move so slowly?

"We were crippled in a battle with the Reabonian fleet," replied San
Thoy. "Our hold is filling with water. Let us through quickly or we will
sink and block the channel."

There was some delay. Evidently the guardians were not entirely
satisfied with San Thoy's explanation. The mojak knew that they were
being subjected to minute scrutiny from above.

"Fools!" he cried, at length. "Open the gate or the channel will be
closed to all our ships. We are sinking rapidly. Besides, the enemy
follows closely. Would you have them find us here?"

Evidently his words, or the fact that their rigging and upper works were
damaged by shell-fire, decided the guardian's, for the gates slowly slid

San Thoy snapped an order to the rowers. "Pull, men, with all your

The channel was quite shallow here, and the bar dragged heavily, but the
men worked with a will. Soon the boat was half through the gateway.
"Now," commanded San Thoy, "let go the bar."

The chains were released, and struck the water with a loud splash.

"Ho, sailors. What was that you dropped?" one of the guards shouted from

Freed from the heavy drag of the bar, the ship shot forward under the
exertion of the rowers. At the same time, its mattorks were trained on
the grotto above, where the guards manipulated the machinery that worked
the gates and kept watch for ships. Without replying to the question of
the guard, the Chispoks opened fire.

The guards were sheltered behind a wall of stone, and in addition, were
armed with mattorks. These instantly went into action, replying to the
guns of San Thoy's ship and riddling her upper works with shells.

The second ship had, meanwhile, come up more slowly. Warriors clung to
her masts and rigging. As she came half way through the gate, she dropped
anchor. The men in the rigging flung grappling hooks up over the walls,
and swarmed up the ropes. Many were hurled back, but enough succeeded in
getting over to quickly conquer the guards. Then a mojo with twenty men
took charge of the gate, and the two ships passed on through the immense
black cavern.

Swiftly San Thoy ran to the foredeck of his craft. With an immense brush
and a can of red pigment, he painted the word "open" in patoa, so it
could be seen from the air. A moment later his craft nosed out into the
canal. He dropped anchor about five hundred feet from the mouth of the
cave and waited. Presently the other ship came up and anchored beside

A mojak with a company of warriors, whose duty it was to patrol the
canal bank, came hurrying up and hailed him. "What was that firing?" he

"We were pursued by the Reabonians," San Thoy replied. "They nearly had
us. We just got through the gates in time."

"But did they not see the gates? Perhaps the secret way is not known to

“Perhaps,” agreed San Thoy.

"You have lied to me," accused the mojak. "That firing was inside the

"Go and see for yourself," suggested San Thoy.

"I will. Let me take a boat."

"Not you. You are too uncivil."

"Then I'll take one by force."

"Try it." San Thoy waved his hand, and fully two score mattorks were
trained on the mojak and his warriors. At this, the officer turned and
whispered to a fat mojo who stood beside him. The fellow evidently
counseled retreat, for they turned and marched away, leaving only a
dozen men to watch the ships.

"They go to warn the city," said San Thoy's mojo.

"What odds?" replied San Thoy. "The mojak will order an investigation. A
body of troops will be mobilized and marched back here. By that time our
allies will have arrived, and the Reabonian army will be storming the
city. Zinlo must have seen our signal, long since, and notified the
fleets of Reabon, Tyrhana, and Adonijar."

Zinlo, in his aerial battleship, had ordered his commander to soar to
the southeast of the city of Huitsen. They were hovering just above the
ship canal. Kantar and Narine were watching the landscape below through
one of the keel windows.

"Look!" cried Narine. "A ship is coming out of the cave."

Zinlo, who had been consulting with Lotar, seized his glasses and
leveled them on the ship.

"It's San Thoy," he announced, "and the way is open. To the flagship of
Ad, Lotar."

The ship shot forward with a tremendous burst of speed. In less than a
minute it was far out over the Azpok, where the ships of the allies
waited. The foremost of these was the flagship of Ad of Tyrhana.

With a swiftness that made Kantar's ears ring, the airship dropped. It
came to a stop beside Ad's flagship as lightly as if it had fallen into
a bed of thistledown.

Zinlo opened a side door. Not twenty feet from him, Ad stood on the
foredeck of his fighting-craft.

"The way is open," announced the Prince of Olba.

"Good! I'll see you in the palace of Huitsen," replied Ad. Then he waved
his hand to a sailor, who instantly ran a pennant to the masthead.
Almost immediately, similar flags were hoisted by the other ships,
showing that they had caught the signal. Then the sails were unfurled,
and with the assistance of a swift landward breeze, the allied flotillas
rapidly made their way toward the secret entrance to Huitsen.

Once more the flagship of Zinlo darted back above the city, this time
just over the lowest cloud stratum. Here the air fleet of Olba hovered,
waiting orders. The Torrogo's signal man stood forth on the deck just in
front of the forward turret. In his right hand he held an immense red
disk, and in his left, a yellow. He began making motions with one, then
the other, then both, repeating them in numerous combinations which were
evidently understood by the mojaks of the other battleships, as they
immediately moved from their places and formed an immense circle which
corresponded to the circumference of the city beneath. There they
hovered, awaiting further orders.

Zinlo's own ship dropped once more into the lowest cloud stratum, high
enough to be out of sight, but low enough so that he could watch
developments. Presently another ship dropped down beside him. He opened
a side door, and the commander of the ship did likewise.

"What news?" asked Zinlo.

"We caught up with the column of Ibbits, Your Majesty," replied the
mojak. "Their Majesties of Reabon were not with them. The officer in
command swore that Grandon of Terra had slain their Rogo and ridden away
with his wife. He said they would have followed, but a blizzard
obliterated the trail, so they decided to continue southward, bearing
the body of their Rogo."

"Then what did you do?"

"We circled the snowy plain in all directions, and presently found a
trail. From the tracks and kerra juice which spattered the snow, we knew
it was the trail of a party of Huitsenni, mounted on zandars. It led us
to the mouth of a cave, before which an enormous white strid lay dead.
Inside the cave we found the smoldering remains of a web, the charred
carcasses of three young strids, and a number of charred eggs.

"On coming out, however, we noticed and followed another trail, which
led from a near-by cave. It was the trail of a man and woman. They had
not returned to the cave from which they had come, neither were their
remains in the cave of the strid; so we judged they had been captured by
the party of mounted Huitsenni. The fact that the return trail of the
yellow men led straight back to the city confirmed our belief."

"You have done well," said Zinlo. "Now take your squadron and get into
the formation above. I'll signal you when to descend." He closed the

Kantar, who had been listening to the conversation, said: "Your Majesty,
I have a favor to ask."

"Name it," replied Zinlo. "You will deserve any favor within my power to

"I would be set on one of the balconies of the palace of Huitsen, with
two men to assist me."

"Impossible," replied Zinlo. "Our plans would be betrayed, and we would
lose every advantage which a surprise attack would bring us."

"I am convinced, Majesty," said Kantar, "that Their Majesties of Reabon
are prisoners in the palace. Grandon of Terra slew Yin Yin, Rogo of
Huitsen. Under the circumstances, Yin Yin's successor can do no less
than order his execution. Perhaps he has already done so, in which event
I shall be too late. But I would be there to prevent it, if I can."

"What could three men do?"

"If I could reach one of the inner balconies that overlook the throne
room with a man or two to guard my back and a tork in my hands, I could
do much."

"You are right, Gunner. A tork in your hands is worth a hundred in the
hands of ordinary men. And, after all, we're more anxious to save
Grandon and Vernia than to take the city." He called to Lotar. "Send me
two warriors. Then you will drop suddenly beside one of the outer
balconies of the palace. As soon as the warriors have disembarked, you
will swiftly return to this position."

"I hear and obey," replied Lotar.

Zinlo's orders were swiftly carried out.

Kantar bent over Narine's hand, but she snatched it free, and threw her
arms around his neck.

"It may be that you go to your death, my brave gunner," she cried. "Hold
me tight. Tell me again that you love me."

Zinlo halted the two warriors in the doorway. Then he coughed

"We have arrived at the palace, Gunner. Come quickly, or we shall be
shot down."

A side door was flung open. Her eyes sparkling with love and pride,
Narine watched Kantar and the two warriors leap to the balcony. Then the
door was closed, and before a single enemy mattork could be trained on
it, the ship shot aloft and disappeared into the clouds.

Hovering there in the lower cloud stratum, Zinlo kept his glasses
focused on the canal. Presently he cried: "There is Ad’s flagship.
Another follows, and another. It is time for the offensive."

He turned and gave swift orders to Lotar. The flagship rose above the
first cloud stratum where the fleet waited, still in circular formation.
The signal man flashed his red and yellow disks. Then Zinlo's ship took
a place in the circle and began spiraling downward. Behind it followed
the entire air fleet.

As soon as the flagship was through the lower cloud stratum, its keel
mattorks went into action. The mattorks of the fleet instantly followed
suit. There was a burst of flame from the ground beneath them as the
Reabonian artillery opened fire, and great breaches began appearing in
the city walls.

Then a long shout went up, and the long line of Reabonian infantry,
which had been waiting in hiding, sprang forward, the light glinting
from the barrels of its torks, and from its scarbos and long-bladed

The ship canal was now filled with enemy vessels, following one another
in close formation. Entering the landlocked harbor were the two captured
pirate vessels--the first commanded by San Thoy.

The vessels which were anchored in the harbor immediately opened fire,
concentrating on these two ships. San Thoy's vessel was riddled by
shell-fire, and began to sink rapidly. He instantly ran it up beside an
anchored vessel, and leading his mixed crew of white and yellow
warriors, boarded the new craft. Only a few sailors were aboard, and
these were quickly cut down.

In the meantime, the mighty flagship of Ad of Tyrhana had nosed into the
harbor. The withering blasts from its heavy mattorks literally blew some
of the smaller pirate craft out of the water, and wrought havoc with the
larger vessels.

It was closely followed by the huge flagships of Reabon and Adonijar,
whose powerful mattorks were equally efficient. And close on the heels
of these, crowded the battleships of the allied fleet.

One by one, every pirate vessel that offered resistance was sunk or
captured. Soon the allies were in complete command of the harbor. This
accomplished, they landed warriors under cover of a heavy barrage, took
the docks and warehouses with virtually no resistance, and marched into
the city.

In the meantime, the Reabonian infantry was meeting with desperate
resistance around the city walls. Time and again, Grandon's brave
warriors charged into the breaches made by their artillery, only to be
hurled back by the desperate defenders.

Presently, however, a contingent of fighting Traveks, Grandon's fierce
warriors from the mountain fastnesses of Uxpo, broke through and charged
straight for the palace.

The commander of the Huitsenni had anticipated just such an emergency,
and was prepared to meet it. Mounted on zandars, firing their torks and
brandishing their heavy scarbos, a yelling horde of reserves thundered
straight at the charging Traveks.

The Uxponian mountaineers in the first line instantly knelt and
presented their long-bladed spears, while their comrades immediately
behind them fired over their heads at the swiftly approaching enemy. The
two forces met with a terrific shock in which tough spear-shafts were
splintered, scarbos flashed, and torks spat incessantly. In an instant
the first line was a bloody shambles of dead and wounded men and
zandars. At this point, wave after wave met, until the pile of dead,
inextricably mingled with wounded men and maimed and struggling beasts,
was so high that neither side could advance, both using it as a rampart
over which to fire their torks.

The Reabonians, however, fighting shoulder to shoulder with their
Uxponian brothers on either side, had quickly widened the breach made by
the Traveks. Now they too, charged into the city, soon enveloping the
mounted Huitsenni until all chance of retreat for the yellow cavalry was
lost. Seeing that further resistance was hopeless, they threw down their
arms, and clasped their hands behind their heads in token of surrender.

Leaving a few of their comrades to guard the prisoners and aid the
wounded the Traveks again charged forward with the Reabonians, helping
to drive the yellow infantry toward the palace. "For Grandon and
Vernia!" they shouted. "Down with Huitsen!"

From beyond the palace, a tremendous cheer answered them, as the allied
warriors from the battleships drove the Huitsenni back.

While his keel mattorks kept up a continuous bombardment of the yellow
army beneath, Zinlo watched these beginnings of victory with
satisfaction. Then he suddenly saw that for which he had been waiting.
Out from those buildings surrounding and closest to the palace, and from
the fishing holes in the vicinity, there appeared a swarm of Huitsenni,
armed and dressed like the others, with the exception that each man wore
a white scarf knotted around his neck and thrown over his shoulders.

Part of this new force charged straight for the palace, and the
remainder formed a great skirmish line to cut off the approach of the
retreating Huitsenni.

"It's the Chispoks!" cried Zinlo. "To the palace, Lotar."



BACK IN THE throne room of Thid Yet, Rogo of Huitsen, Grandon, who had
been forced to his knees by his two burly guards awaited the stroke of
Ez Bin, the headsman. He saw the huge blade flash upward, and nerved
himself for a mighty effort. As the two-handed scarbo descended, he
flung himself backward carrying both guards with him. The heavy blade
crashed to the polished glass door, and many tiny cracks radiated from
the point where it had struck.

Grandon instantly flung his right arm forward once more. The guard who
clung to it tripped over the blade of Ez Bin, and losing his hold, fell
on his face before the throne. His right arm now free, Grandon snatched
the scarbo which depended from the belt of the other guard, and ran him

At this, one of Vernia's guards sprang forward and struck at Grandon
with his scarbo. The Earth-man side-stepped the blow and countered with
a slash to the head that stretched his opponent on the floor. In the
meantime, Ez Bin had recovered his weapon, and made a terrific swing at
Grandon's neck. Dodging beneath the blade, the Earth-man stabbed upward
and thrust him through the throat. Then, before anyone could stop him,
he sprang straight for the monarch who squatted on the throne.

With screams of terror, the slave girls scattered. But Thid Yet whipped
out his scarbo and leaped to his feet. He had not been Rogo long enough
to become fat and flabby like Yin Yin from easy living, nor was he a
coward, but despite his great girth, a trained fighting man in the peak
of condition, and the veteran of many hand-to-hand encounters which had
made him the most feared duelist in Huitsen.

"Stand back," he shouted to the nobles and soldiers who had begun to
crowd around. "Stand back and watch your Rogo carve the heart from this
white-skinned slave who dares to attack the throne of Huitsen."

To the courtiers of Huitsen their ruler's word was absolutely law; so
they fell back and made room for the two combatants. Nor were any of
them worried as to the outcome. Thid Yet had not time to select any
favorites from among those who stood about his throne, which he had
seized with the assistance of the navy faction, nor had he, as yet,
conferred any honors or, promotions. If he were slain, another would
take his place, probably no better or no worse, and Grandon could easily
be dealt with.

It was evident, as Thid Yet sprang forward to meet the Earth-man, that
despite Grandon's reputation as a swordsman, he was positive he could
easily best him--that it would be an opportunity to add to his laurels
and convince the Huitsenni beyond all doubt that they were ruled by a
brave man.

As their blades clashed, and Grandon felt the strength of his wrist and
met the lightning speed of his attack, he knew he had an opponent worthy
of his steel and that the outcome was indeed doubtful. Blood was drawn
on both sides at the very start. First Thid Yet's point raked Grandon's
cheek cutting a deep gash. Then the Earth-man countered with a swift
head cut. The Rogo parried in time to save his head, but not his ear,
which was shorn off by the blow.

The spectators cried out in delighted amazement at the swift and
brilliant sword-play that followed. Trained from infancy in the use of
the scarbo, these men of Huitsen knew that they were witnessing a duel
the like of which they might never see again were they to live a dozen
lifetimes. One after another, Grandon tried all the tricks he had
learned from his old fencing master, Le Blanc, and from the numerous
scarbo experts he had encountered. But thrust or cut as he would, the
darting blade of Thid Yet was there to meet his, and to counter with a
lightning slash or a swift riposte. Time and again Grandon received
wounds which might have been fatal had he not succeeded in parrying them
or springing back just in time. And for every wound he received, the
yellow Rogo was dealt two, though he was equally successful in avoiding
a fatal injury.

Bathed in blood and perspiration, the two contestants fought back and
forth over an area that had become slippery with their own gore.
Grandon's sword arm began to ache. His head swam dizzily. Loss of blood
was beginning to sap his strength. He wondered how Thid Yet, who
appeared to be losing more blood than he, could stand the terrific
exertion. And wondering, he began to conserve his strength, to fight a
defensive rather than an offensive battle, and to wait.

Presently the Earth-man felt the arm of his adversary begin to weaken.
Still he fought cautiously, reserving his strength for a final
effort-waiting. Suddenly Thid Yet extended his weapon in a vicious but
clumsy thrust at Grandon's left breast. With a quick parry, and a narrow
moulinet ending in a swift, drawing cut, the Earthman brought his keen
blade down on his opponent's extended wrist, shearing through muscle and
bone. The scarbo of the Rogo clattered to the floor, his severed hand
still clinging to the grip.

Thid Yet uttered a grunt of surprise and pain and stared at his spurting
wrist for a moment as if he could not believe what he saw. Then he
clamped the fingers of his left hand just behind the stump to stay the
bleeding, and staggered backward, collapsed against the base of his

In the uproar that followed, Grandon leaped back to where Vernia, who
had recovered consciousness shortly after the duel commenced and watched
it with bated breath, stood in the custody of her remaining guard. The
fellow reached for his scarbo, but not quickly enough. He died with the
blade half out of the scabbard and Grandon's point through his heart.
With his left arm around his wife's slender waist, Grandon waved his
bloody scarbo, menacing the nobles and warriors who were crowding around

One elevated his tork, but before he could use it, there was a report
from an upper balcony, and he pitched forward on his face. A voice rang
out from above them. "Back, all of you, and lay down your arms. The
first to menace Their Majesties dies."

Looking up, Grandon saw Kantar standing on a balcony, his tork muzzle
pointed over the railing. Behind him, two Olban warriors guarded the

A number of the nobles had rushed to Thid Yet's assistance. Two of them
helped him to the throne, while a third tightly bound his wrist with a
strip of silk torn from his own cloak. The cat-like eyes of the Rogo
glittered with hatred.

"Shoot them," he groaned. "Slay them all."

A noble reached for his tork, followed by two more. But as swiftly as
they went for their weapons, the tork of the gunner spoke. One after
another they sank to the floor. The lesson was not lost on the others.
Most of them quickly complied with Kantar's request by opening their
belts and letting their weapons drop to the floor. Then they clasped
their hands behind their heads in token of surrender. A few guards who
had rushed in from the outer corridors to learn the cause of the
disturbance, quickly followed their example.

"What's this?" cried Thid Yet. "Is my entire court to be captured by a
single marksman?" He reached for his own tork. Then a bullet drilled him
neatly between the eyes and he slumped forward, dead.

This settled the matter for those who had hesitated to obey the commands
of the sharp-shooting gunner. They all dropped their weapons and clasped
their hands behind their heads.

Leaving one of his companions to cover the group while the other still
watched the door, Kantar dropped from balcony to balcony until he
reached the floor. Scarcely had his feet touched its mirrored surface
when a terrific bombardment commenced outside. He ran over to where
Grandon and Vernia stood, and made obeisance.

"What's all the shooting about outside?" asked Grandon.

"Your Majesty's warriors are attacking the city," replied Kantar, "under
cover of a barrage from the artillery. The air fleet of Olba is also
bombarding the city, as are the ships of Reabon, Tyrhana, and Adonijar,
which are now fighting their way into the harbor and coming up the

"But you! Where did you come from with these Olban warriors? Did you
drop from the sky?"

"In truth, I did, Majesty. Zinlo of Olba, at my request, dropped me on
one of the outer balconies of the palace with these two warriors. His
airship was not fired upon, as it came and went so suddenly that the
Huitsenni had no time to train their heavy mattorks on it. I hoped to
find you here, as a squadron sent to follow the party of Ibbits with
whom Your Majesties were supposed to be traveling, returned to report
that you were not with them. I feared that your lives would be put in
jeopardy by the attack, and so came before the assault. By arguing with
our scarbos, we convinced several yellow guards who barred our way that
we had important business with the Rogo of Huitsen. Then we came to the
inner balcony."

"You came in the nick of time, Gunner," said Grandon, "and I'm eternally
grateful. Now, let's get out of here."

The gunner signaled to the Olban warrior on the balcony. He called to
his companion, and the two dropped from balcony to balcony under the
protection of the watchful gunner's tork, until they reached the floor.

"What shall we do with these prisoners, Majesty?" asked Kantar,
indicating the group of disarmed nobles, officers, and slaves who still
stood with their hands clasped behind their heads.

Grandon thought for a moment. "We'll take them with us," he decided. "It
is the only way. Let the two Olban warriors bind their hands behind
their backs."

While the members of the group were being bound with strips torn from
their own clothing, Grandon selected a tork and ammunition belt from the
pile of weapons. He also exchanged his nicked and bloody scarbo for a
jewel-hilted weapon which had belonged to one of the nobles. Vernia also
armed herself, and the two assisted Kantar to keep watch on the
balconies and doorways. But it soon appeared that there was no need for
this. Evidently the thunder of the conflict outside had prevented the
palace inmates from taking any interest in what went on in the throne

As soon as the prisoners had been bound, Grandon divided them into two
groups, one to march before them, and one behind. Then, with Grandon and
Kantar covering the group that marched before and the two Olbans walking
backward with their torks trained on those who came behind, they passed
out into the corridor which led to the main gate.

They had scarcely moved twenty feet along this corridor, when a
considerable body of Huitsenni, wearing white scarves around their
necks, poured in from a side corridor. Grandon instantly elevated his
tork, but Kantar, recognizing the white scarves as the symbol previously
agreed upon, stayed his hand.

"Don't shoot, Majesty," he said. "These are friends." He called to the
advancing warriors. "Ho, Chispoks. We are brothers and allies. Relieve
us of these prisoners."

"Gladly, brothers. We were sent by Han Lay to rescue you, and assist in
taking the palace but you have evidently been able to take care of

"Is the palace taken?" Grandon asked the mojak of the band.

The officer bowed low. "No, Majesty. But it soon will be. Already a
thousand of the brotherhood have come in through the boat entrances, and
they are fighting their way to the top. Five thousand more are storming
the gates on the street level, and the rest stand ready to cut off the
retreating army of Thid Yet."

“Then my soldiers have broken through?"

"They have, Majesty, and drive the army of the false Rogo before them
like frightened frellas, while the warriors from the ships close in from
the other side."

"The false Rogo is now a dead Rogo," Grandon told him. "But where is Han

"He was to lead the charge on the palace gate, so it is there he will be
if he has not fallen."

"Then let us charge through from the inside. It will make victory
swifter and easier."

"But most of my men are fighting on the upper floors."

"Never mind. Can you spare twenty?"

"Assuredly. Fifty."

"Splendid! I will lead them." He turned to the two Olbans, who, relieved
of their prisoners, awaited orders. "Guard Her Majesty well," he
commanded. Then to Kantar. "Come, Gunner."

Followed by the fifty men whom the mojak had detailed to accompany them,
Grandon and Kantar led the charge through the entrance, and straight
into the melee where the palace guards strove with the Chispoks at the
gate. For some minutes the guards, beset from both sides, offered
halfhearted resistance. Then one by one they threw down their weapons
and clasped their hands behind their heads. The attacking Chispoks
surged in, with Han Lay at their head.

"I rejoice to find you alive, Majesty," said Han Lay, rendering the
royal salute to Grandon.

"And I, you, Your Majesty soon to be," replied Grandon, returning his

Suddenly a string of aerial battleships dropped down from the sky and
circled the palace. Swiftly their mattorks silenced the weapons of those
who fired at them. Then they sailed up to the balconies at the various
levels, and Olban warriors poured down their aluminum stairways into the
palace. The leading airship settled beside the palace gate. The steps
dropped and down them came Zinlo and Narine.

Grandon and Zinlo saluted each other in the Zorovian fashion, then
puzzled those who stood around them by enthusiastically shaking hands, a
purely earthly demonstration which was unknown on Venus.

"I see that you are in at the kill, in spite of the fact that we
couldn't notify you," said Zinlo.

"Decidedly," replied Grandon. "Where are Ad and Aardvan?"

"Coming. They have just accepted the surrender of the Romojak of
Huitsen, and will be here in a moment."

Grandon presented Han Lay to Zinlo and Narine. Then Vernia came out,
accompanied by her two Olban guards, and to her he was also presented.

A moment later, three men strode up to the palace gate, a half-dozen
warriors making way for them through the vast multitude that had
gathered there. They were Ad of Tyrhana, Aardvan of Adonijar, and San
Thoy. Grandon held a short conference with his allies. Then, accompanied
by Han Lay, he mounted to the top step of the aluminum stairs which led
to Zinlo's flagship. It was a position from which he could command a
view of the entire crowd, and be seen by them.

"People of Huitsen," he shouted. "First of all, I want to tell you, and
I speak on behalf of my allies as well as myself, that we are not here
to exact tributes or reparations, nor to gloat over a prostrate foe. On
the contrary, we wish to establish friendly relations with the people of
Huitsen--relations that will last through the years. The officer and
renowned warrior who stands here beside me is willing to meet the
conditions which will best foster these relations, namely, an abolition
of piracy, the freeing of all slaves who have been acquired by
buccaneering and coastal raids, and the entry of Huitsen into peaceful
commerce with the other nations of this planet.

"Being in full accord with these policies, we will withdraw our warriors
as soon as a treaty is concluded with him, if you will acclaim him your
Rogo. What is your pleasure?"

"Han Lay for Rogo," shouted a warrior, and the shout was taken up by a
thousand throats.

Presently Grandon held up his hand for silence. When the clamor had
ceased, he said: "Have you any other candidates to propose?"

No one spoke. He waited for a moment. "Then acclaim him," he cried.

"Hail Han Lay, Rogo of Huitsen!" roared the crowd, as with one voice.

When the shouting had subsided to a murmur, Grandon turned to Han Lay,
and said: "I have a suggestion, Your Majesty. There is one who, though
he has his little weaknesses, has been largely instrumental in the
consummation of this glorious victory. I refer to San Thoy, and
recommend that he be suitably rewarded."

The new Rogo beckoned to San Thoy, who came and made obeisance before

"Rise, San Thoy, Romojak of the Navies of Huitsen," said Han Lay.

Then he and Grandon descended the ladder, and amid the cheering of the
populace, the royal group, attended by their officers and guards, went
into the palace.

As they entered, Han Lay, who was walking beside Grandon, said: "What of
this lascivious Rogo who was the cause of Her Majesty's abduction? Can
we be of assistance in bringing him to justice?"

"You can, decidedly," replied Grandon. "I had already thought of a plan.
I should like to borrow one of your largest vessels complete with
officers and crew, with San Thoy in command. Also if you can furnish me
with a sculptor who can make a life-like image of one who will pose for
him, say in wax, or some such material, I shall be able to complete my
plans without great difficulty."

"These are but trifles," protested Han Lay. "A ship will be put at your
disposal immediately, and within the hour a dozen such sculptors as you
require will await your pleasure."

"Excellent! As soon as I have had these scratches dressed, I'll explain
my plan to you."



TEN DAYS HAD elapsed since the fall of Huitsen. On the day following
their victory, the ships and warriors of the allies had sailed away.
Only a part of the Olban air fleet remained, while Grandon, Vernia,
Zinlo, Loralie, Kantar, and Narine stayed at the palace as the guests of
the new Rogo. Now Han Lay stood on the palace steps, surrounded by his
nobles and officers, to bid his friends farewell.

Zinlo's flagship had descended to the ground, and two of its aluminum
staircases had been lowered. Up one of these a number of Huitsenni
struggled with two heavy, coffin-like chests, and passed them to the
waiting Olbans.

Farewells were said, and, one by one, Han Lay's guests mounted the other
stairway. The stairs were raised, the doors were closed, and the mighty
airship shot skyward, while the people cheered and the palace mattorks
thundered a farewell salute.

At an elevation of about two thousand feet, the flagship darted seaward,
followed by the fleet, which had been hovering above the palace.

Installed in his luxurious cabin, Zinlo's guests sipped kova and chatted
gayly. Having seen to their comforts, the Torrogo of Olba climbed to the
forward turret to note their progress.

Presently Grandon joined him. "Are you sure we can catch San Thoy before
he reaches the rendezvous," he asked.

"Positive," Zinlo replied. "We have already covered half the distance."

"Marvellous! How fast will these things go, anyway?"

"Earth distance and time, about a thousand miles an hour. In Olba, the
speed is reckoned in rotations of the planet at its equator, or
fractions thereof. Our smallest and slowest ships make at least a
quarter of a rotation. This one can easily do a rotation."

"I thought the shoreline of Huitsen receded pretty fast, but I didn't
know it was quite that speedy. Look! We're passing over a fleet, now."

"That's Ad of Tyrhana, ready to attack Zanaloth from the south. See that
fleet over to the west? That's Aardvan spoiling for a fight. Your own
ships are over at your right, and the fleet that set sail from Reabon
under your orders should be within twenty-five miles of the north coast
of the Island of the Valkars by now."

"Why, there's San Thoy's ship, already."

"Right. We'll ascend and do a little scouting before we drop you off."

He gave several swift orders to his Romojak. Then the entire fleet of
aircraft shot skyward, and entered the lowest cloud stratum.

Looking down through the thin veil of vapor, Grandon presently descried
an island, the Island of the Valkars. Anchored off its tiny harbor was a
single battleship, flying the flag of Mernerum. But behind a jutting
promontory, only a little way off, fully fifty big battleships lurked.

"It's just as you thought," said Zinlo, at sight of the concealed ships.
"Either Zanaloth was afraid of treachery on the part of the Huitsenni,
or he intended treachery toward them. He came prepared for trouble, in
any event."

They cruised toward the north a few minutes longer, and Grandon saw
another fleet, consisting of fully a hundred splendid battleships, the
pride of Reabon's navy, sailing toward the island. Zinlo saw them, too,
and immediately gave orders to turn back.

"All is ready," he said. "Now, if you still insist, I'll put you on San
Thoy's ship, but I can't for the life of me see the sense of it. We've
got them bottled up, anyway, and it won't be much of a job to lick

"I'll tell you why I insist on carrying out my plan," replied Grandon.
"It's the only way I can make sure of meeting my worst enemy face to

"I see. You want the pleasure of killing him, yourself. Well, I don't
blame you."

They paused, at this moment, above the bat-winged vessel which Han Lay
had lent to Grandon, and Zinlo gave orders for them to descend.

Lightly the airship dropped beside the vessel. Grappling irons were
tossed aboard, and the two stairways let down. Grandon bade his friends
good-bye, and took Vernia in his arms. She clung to him at the
door--begged him not to go.

"You are putting your head in the mouth of a marmelot," she said. "Why
not capture him first, then deal with him afterward? I'm afraid for

"And I," replied Grandon, "am afraid he might otherwise escape me. This
way, he will not."

As he descended the ladder, San Thoy stood on the deck to greet him,
mumbling kerra spores and grinning toothlessly. In the meantime, the two
casket-like chests which had been brought in the airship were lowered to
the deck of the vessel. The stairs were drawn up and the grappling irons
cast off.

Grandon waved farewell to his friends, and entered the cabin of the
bowing San Thoy.

Zanaloth, dissolute Torrogo of Mernerum, sat at the gold-topped table in
the luxurious cabin of his flagship, sipping kova. Oglo, Romojak of the
Imperial Navy, stood at attention, awaiting his pleasure.

Presently the dissipated Torrogo turned his bloated countenance toward
his chief naval officer, and said: "The time is nearly at hand, Oglo.
Are you positive that everything is ready?"

"Positive, Your Majesty. A thousand warriors are concealed in the hold,
awaiting instructions. Our fleet lurks in readiness to come to us under
full sail at the boom of the first mattork."

Zanaloth emptied his kova bowl and smacked his thick, sensuous lips.
"Very good. Very good, indeed. If the pirates come in a single ship, as
we agreed, we can capture it. If they mean treachery, and have other
vessels standing by to attack us, they will be easily taken care of by
our battle fleet.

"Now let us review your instructions, so there will be no mistakes. As
soon as the pirates display the royal prisoner, we will request that she
be brought aboard our vessel. They, on their side, will no doubt insist
that the gold be transferred to their ship. We will agree to this, and
begin transferring the gold. But as soon as the Princess of Reabon is
safely inside this cabin, I will enter in and close the door. That will
be your signal to attack. Let the warriors take the place of the
gold-passers and charge into the other ship. See that you have plenty of
grappling irons aboard her, so she cannot slip away from us. And don't
forget to go into action immediately with the mattorks, so the battle
fleet will know they are to start at once."

"To hear Your Majesty is to obey," replied Oglo.

"And remember. Every man aboard the pirate vessel must die. If need be,
we will sink their ship, but first we must try to get back what gold has
been taken aboard her. As for the slaves we are supposed to have put
ashore for them, the pirates will not live to look for them. We will
have both the girl and the gold, and the Rogo of Huitsen will perhaps
guess that he has been beaten at his own game, but he will have no

"I will not forget, Majesty."

"If your head fails you in this, I promise it will no longer remain on
your shoulders to trouble you. Go, now, and watch for that ship."

Oglo made profound obeisance, and withdrew.

Zanaloth fidgeted impatiently. Presently he quaffed another bowl of kova
and getting ponderously to his feet, paced the floor.

Suddenly the door was flung open, and Oglo, bowing on the threshold
announced breathlessly: "A sail, Majesty! A pirate sail!"

Zanaloth grunted. "So! They come to the rendezvous at last."

He squeezed his ample girth through the doorway, and walked forward,
Oglo following at a respectful distance. Then he took the glass which
his Romojak obsequiously proffered, and focused it on the approaching
vessel. Traveling under full sail before a stiff breeze, it was making
considerable speed.

"Bones of Thorth!" he exclaimed. "We must save that splendid ship, if
possible. It flies over the water like an ormf. A few alterations, and
it will never be recognized."

As if its commander had no suspicion of treachery, the pirate ship
sailed swiftly up to them, hove to, and dropped its anchors. An officer
came out of a cabin, wearing the uniform of a romojak, and Zanaloth
hailed him.

"Are you Thid Yet, Romojak of Huitsen," he asked.

"No, I am San Thoy, Romojak of Huitsen," was the reply. "Thid Yet is
dead, and I have come to keep the rendezvous in his place."

"You have brought the royal slave girl?"

"We have, Your Majesty. And what of the gold?"

"We stand ready to deliver it to you. But first let me see the royal

"What of the slaves you were to place on the island for us?"

"They are there, under guard, awaiting your pleasure. But let us see
your prisoner."

"Very well, Majesty."

San Thoy went into a cabin, and remained for several minutes. Then he
came out, alone. "She has fainted, Your Majesty. Will you not come
aboard and see her?"

"Ha! What's this? Perhaps you have not brought her, after all."

"Well then, if you doubt my word, I'll have her carried out, so you may
view her."

He raised his hand, and a mojak entered the cabin. He came out in a
moment, followed by four Huitsenni, who bore a litter on which reposed
the golden-haired, richly clad figure of a young woman.

Zanaloth stared until he was watery-eyed. Then he focused his glass on
the recumbent figure and stared again.

"By the blood and body of Thorth!" he exclaimed to Oglo. "It is she. It
must be. For nowhere on Zorovia is there beauty such as hers." To San
Thoy he called: "I am satisfied. Let us draw the ships together with
grappling irons. My men are ready to unload the gold."

Irons were quickly hurled from ship to ship, and the chains, drawn taut
by hand-turned winches, gradually drew the two vessels together. This
achieved gangplanks were dropped across, fore and aft, and Zanaloth's
men began carrying bars of gold to the pirate ship from the after hold,
to be checked, weighed, and received by members of the yellow crew.

For some time Zanaloth and San Thoy chatted across the rails. Then the
latter said: "Nearly half the gold is unloaded. Shall we convey Her
Majesty to the quarters you have provided for her?"

This was precisely what Zanaloth wanted, but he did not wish to appear
too eager. "At your convenience," he replied. "The cabin behind me has
been prepared for her."

San Thoy signaled to the officer who stood near the recumbent figure.
The officer gave a command, and four Huitsenni took up the litter, while
four more came out from the cabin and fell in behind them with a heavy,
ornate chest about seven feet in length.

"What is in that chest?" asked Zanaloth, suspiciously.

"A few of Her Majesty's belongings," replied San Thoy. "Mostly wearing
apparel and ornaments."

San Thoy himself crossed the gangplank ahead of the others.

"This cabin?" he asked, indicating the door of Zanaloth's cabin.

"That is right. Just leave her in there, and I'll call the ship's doctor
to attend her in a moment."

Zanaloth drank in the beauty of the recumbent girlish form as it was
borne past him. "How still she is!" he thought. "Perhaps she is dead,
and they have tricked me." But a searching look at the red lips and pink
cheeks reassured him. "No corpse could have such bloom of life and
health as this," he reasoned.

Under the supervision of their officer, the eight men placed the litter
and the large chest in the cabin. Then they retired.

"You will excuse me," said Zanaloth, formally, "if I go to examine the
merchandise I have purchased at so high a price."

"Assuredly," replied San Thoy. "I will, in the meantime, take a closer
look at the gold with which it was purchased." He bowed low, with right
hand extended palm downward, and turning, crossed the plank to his own

Zanaloth watched his broad back with a supercilious sneer, until he had
reached his own vessel. Then, with a significant glance at Oglo, he
swung on his heel, and entering his cabin, slammed the door shut behind
him. The boom of a mattork outside, instantly followed his action. It
was succeeded by shouts, commands, shrieks, and groans, mingled with the
popping of torks, the clash of blades, the scurrying feet on deck, and
the rumble of mattorks. He smiled cunningly as he thought of the
splendid prize which his concealed warriors would take so easily, and of
the very slight expense at which he had been to secure the golden-haired
beauty who lay at his mercy on the litter before him.

He crossed the room, and kneeling, touched a rosy cheek. Then he drew
back his hand with a sharp exclamation of surprise. The face was as hard
and cold as if it had been hewn from marble.

A heavy hand fell on his shoulder and closed with a grip that made him
wince. He was jerked to his feet, and spun around to face a tall,
handsome stranger, who wore the scarlet of royalty and the insignia of
the imperial house of Reabon.

"Who-who are you?" he stammered, his trembling voice barely audible
above the din of battle outside.

"I am Grandon of Terra, Torrogo of Reabon, and husband of her whom you
would have wronged--whose graven image you just now profaned by the touch
of your filthy hand."

Behind Grandon, the ornate chest under which the four Huitsenni had
staggered stood with the lid thrown back, empty. Zanaloth's gaze roved
from this to the door, as he realized the manner in which Grandon had
gained access to his cabin. He leaped for the door, but found it locked.
Grandon reached in his belt-pouch and held up the key.

"Wha-what do you want?" asked Zanaloth.

"I have come for your head," replied the Earth-man, whipping out his
scarbo. "On guard, if you have the manhood left to defend it."

With trembling fingers, Zanaloth drew his own scarbo. In his youth he
had been accounted an excellent scarboman. But that day was long past.
Years of dissipation and luxurious living had made him short of breath
and flabby of muscle. And he knew that there were few, if any, of the
most expert duelists on Zorovia who could meet Grandon of Terra, scarbo
in hand, and live to boast of it. Only a trick, a sudden, unexpected
move, might save him. He came on guard, but before the blades had
touched, lowered his point.

"You may choose between--" Grandon began. But just then Zanaloth raised
his weapon and lunged at his opponent's unprotected body. Grandon had no
time to parry this vicious and cowardly thrust. Barely in time to avert
disaster, he hurled himself to one side, so that the point only grazed
him. Zanaloth automatically recovered his stance as Grandon now
attacked. For a moment, it seemed to the Mernerumite that the blade of
his opponent had wrapped itself around his own. Then his weapon was
twisted from his grasp, and flew through the air to alight in a corner of
the cabin. Zanaloth started back, his eyes wide with terror, as the
point of the Earth-man plunged straight for his breast. But Grandon
stopped the thrust, and contented himself with merely touching his

The din of battle had increased outside, but neither man heeded it.

"I suggest that you pick up your scarbo," said Grandon, "and that
hereafter you keep a tighter grip on it."

Furtively watching his generous opponent, Zanaloth slunk to the corner
and recovered his weapon. He knew that he could not hope to win this
fight, that death had him marked for its own. Great beads of sweat
standing out on his forehead betrayed the fear that gripped his craven

At his left side, as at Grandon's, there hung a jeweled, gold-plated
tork. Suddenly he lowered his left hand, gripped the weapon, and was
about to press the firing-button when a projectile struck his wrist,
numbing it, and paralyzing his fingers. With incredible swiftness,
Grandon had again forestalled him.

Seeing that he had rendered the Mernerumite's tork hand useless, Grandon
lowered his own weapon. "Since you can no longer fight with the tork,"
he said, politely, "perhaps we had best resume with the scarbo." He
advanced, and once more their blades met. "I advise you," continued
Grandon, mechanically cutting, thrusting, and parrying, "to guard well
your head, as I have promised it to the Rogo of Huitsen. A little gift
to recompense him for the loss of much gold and many slaves. But then
the head of a Torrogo is a rare and truly royal gift, even if its
intrinsic worth is trifling."

Zanaloth said nothing. He was fighting with all his strength, yet the
Earth-man was only playing with him. Suddenly Grandon's blade flashed in
a swift moulinet, touched the Mernerumite's neck, and was withdrawn,
without so much as drawing blood. But to Grandon's surprise, his
antagonist dropped his weapon and sank to the floor, limp, and
apparently lifeless.

For some time the Earth-man stood there, waiting, suspecting a trick.
But as his opponent continued motionless, he bent and felt a flabby
wrist, then held his hand over the heart. There was no pulse. Zanaloth
of Mernerum was dead, not slain by the scarbo, but by a weapon that is
often more deadly, that always tortures before it kills--fear.

Grandon rose to his feet and sheathed his bloodless blade. Then, taking
the key from his belt-pouch, he opened the cabin door and stepped out on
deck. San Thoy was waiting there to greet him. The fighting had ceased,
and the Huitsenni worked side by side with his own Fighting Traveks who
had been concealed in the hold of their ship. They were tossing the
corpses of the slain Mernerumites overboard, tending the wounded, and
guarding the prisoners.

A large aerial battleship dropped beside them. Grappling irons were cast
aboard, and an aluminum stairway was lowered. Zinlo stood in the

"The battle fleet of Mernerum has surrendered," he said. "Coming

"Immediately," replied Grandon. With one foot on the stairway, he turned
to San Thoy. "Good-bye, my friend," he said. "Come and visit me in
Reabon. Oh, by the way! You will find the gift I promised Han Lay on the
floor of Zanaloth's cabin. Present it to him with my compliments."

San Thoy bowed low, and grinned toothlessly, as Grandon mounted the

The next day, Grandon sat at the crystal-topped table in the
drawing room of his private apartments in the imperial palace of Reabon.

Bonal, his torrango, or prime minister, appeared in the doorway and made
obeisance. "The messenger has arrived from Mernerum, Your Majesty," he

"I'll receive him here," replied Grandon. "And by the way, Bonal, ask
Zinlo of Olba to come in now. I want him to be present at the

A few moments later, Bonal announced: "His Imperial Majesty, Zinlo of
Olba, and Mojak Sed of the staff of Orthad, Supreme Romojak of Reabon."

Zinlo entered, followed by a young Reabonian officer. The Torroga of
Olba took a seat at the table, and the democratic Grandon invited the
young officer also to be seated, knowing it would not offend his equally
democratic guest.

"You bring a message from Orthad?" Grandon asked.

"I do, Majesty. He bids me inform you that we took Mernerum with ease.
The people were sick of the tyrannous Zanaloth, and most of them
actually welcomed us. We were delayed only by the difficulties which
arise in moving so large an army. The fighting was but desultory, and
there were few casualties."

"What was the attitude of the nobles and officials?"

"They begged that Mernerum be annexed to Reabon, or if this should not
comport with Your Majesty's wishes, that you name a competent Torrogo to
rule them. So as soon as Kantar the Gunner arrived in the Olban airship,
His Excellency named him Torrogo, in accordance with Your Majesty's
commands. He was later acclaimed by the nobles, warriors, and people
without a dissenting voice.

"What of the other ceremony?"

"It has been performed, Majesty. And Her Majesty invites all to attend
the feast which will be held this evening."

"Did you bring with you a messenger from the new Torroga?"

"I did, Your Majesty. He awaits your permission to present his missive
to Ad of Tyrhana."

"Good. You may go now. And send this messenger to me."

The mojak arose, and making the customary obeisance, withdrew.

"Thus far," Grandon told Zinlo, "our plot has worked out. It remains to
be seen how Ad of Tyrhana will take the news." He called a guard. "Have
Bonal usher in Their Majesties of Tyrhana and Adonijar," he commanded.

"I can tell you how Ad will take it," said Zinlo. "He'll take it as a
marmelot takes a slap on the nose. But it was the only thing to do."

A moment later, Ad and Aardvan were ushered in by Bonal. A slave brought
kova, and the four Torrogos were chatting merrily over their bowls when
Bonal announced: "A messenger from Her Imperial Majesty for the Torrogo
of Tyrhana."

"What's this?" exclaimed Ad. "I didn't know Zanaloth left a widow. And
why should she send a messenger to me?"

"Perhaps an interview with the messenger will explain," rumbled the deep
voice of Aardvan.

"True. Show him in, Bonal."

The messenger, who wore the uniform of a mojak of the Imperial Guards of
Mernerum, made obeisance to all four of the rulers. His puzzled look
showed that he did not know which one to address.

"I am the Torrogo of Tyrhana," said Ad. "I believe your message is for

"It is, Your Majesty." The mojak took a small scroll from his belt-pouch
and handed it to Ad. "From Her Imperial Majesty, the Torroga of
Mernerum," he said.

Ad broke the seal and unrolled the missive. First he looked puzzled,
then astounded, then fiercely angry. His face purpled and his brow
contracted. "Blood of Thorth!" he exploded. "Narine has eloped with that
young upstart of a gunner, and married him!"

"She could have done worse," soothed Grandon. "The gunner is now Torrogo
of Mernerum."

"The little she-marmelot! The traitor! The ungrateful child! I'll disown
her! I'll-I'll--"

"Tut, tut," said Aardvan. "I think she has made a splendid match."

"But what of Gadrimel? What of our pact that my daughter and your son
should wed?"

"I don't like to mention this," replied Aardvan, "but Gadrimel picked up
a slave girl in Huitsen and brought her here with him. Zena, I believe
he called her, an ex-concubine of Yin Yin's. I told him to get rid of
her, and last night they both disappeared. Later, I learned that they
had gone for a cruise in one of my ships."

"Um," grunted Ad, non-committally.

"So you see," continued Aardvan, "their marriage would have been
impossible, anyway. Besides, we need no marriage to comment the firm
friendship between us. And think, you will now have as an additional
ally the wealthy and powerful Torrogo of Mernerum, your son-in-law."

"That's right, Your Majesty," said Zinlo. "Forgive the child, and let's
pile into one of my ships and attend the wedding feast tonight, all of

"What! You, too? This has all the earmarks of a conspiracy," said Ad.

Grandon filled the kova bowls all around, then took up his own, and
said: "My friends, let us drink to the health and happiness of the
charming young bride and the lucky bridegroom."

Zinlo and Aardvan drained their bowls.

Ad hesitated for a moment, then caught up his own bowl and emptied it
with apparent gusto. "Our work is done," he said. "The power of the
pirates is broken, and the port of peril is no more. Let us on to the
wedding feast."


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