Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership

Title: Jason, Son of Jason
Author: J U Giesy
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0801061.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: September 2008
Date most recently updated: October 2009 2008

This eBook was produced by: Douglas Ethington

Project Gutenberg Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg Australia License which may be viewed online at

To contact Project Gutenberg Australia go to


Title: Jason, Son of Jason
Author: J U Giesy

Chapter I

It was midnight when the night superintendent called and told me No. 27
had died. I rose. The thing was no surprise. I had known it was going to
happen. No. 27 had told me so himself. Nonetheless, I went to his room.
Routine in the mental hospital had nothing to do with that strange secret
held in common between myself and the man--that strange state of affairs
which had enabled him to predict his own death so accurately.

And yet as I mounted the stairs to the room where his body now lay as a
worn-out husk I had none of the feeling which so customarily assails the
average mortal in such an hour. To me it was not as though he had died.
The body was a husk indeed--an emaciated, worn-out thing which, because
of our mutual secret, I knew had been kept alive by the sheer force of
the spiritual tenant, now removed.

I stood looking down upon it, with very much the same sensations one
might have in viewing the tool once plied by the hand of a friend. It was
nothing more than that really. Jason Croft had used it while he had need
of its manipulation, and when his need was accomplished he had simply
laid it down.

Croft was a physician, even as am I. He was a scientific man. In addition
he was a student of the occult--the science of the mind, the spirit, and
its control of the physical forces of life.

He was an Earth-born man. The home in which I first met him contained the
greatest private collection of works on the subject I have ever seen. In
dying he left them to me--I have them all about me.

Many men have mastered the astral control on the Earthly plane. Croft had
carried it to an ultimate degree. He shook off the envelope of the Earth
atmosphere, led thereto, as he frankly confessed in our conversations, by
the attraction of a feminine spirit, though he did not know it at the
time, and recognized it only when he first viewed Naia--Princess of
Tamarizia--on Palos, planet of a distant star.

I had dabbled in the occult to some extent myself. Hence when he spoke of
the doctrine of twin souls he had no further need to explain. He alleged
that since a child the Dog Star had called him subtly through the years
in a way he could not explain. Once having come into her presence,
however, he knew that Naia had called across the void to him.

To an accomplishment of his marrying her, Croft declared that he had done
a weirdly wonderful thing. Discovering a Palosian dying of a mental
rather than a physical ailment, he had waited until death occurred, then
appropriated the still physically viable body to himself.

Over that body he obtained absolute control, exactly as he had gained the
same ability with his own. For a time thereafter he led a sort of dual
existence, sometimes on Palos, sometimes on Earth, until he had fully
shaped his plans. Then, and then only, did he voluntarily forsake the
mundane life to enter that other and fuller existence he felt that Naia
of Aphur could make complete.

I questioned him closely. I took up first the question of time required
in passing from Earth to Palos. He smiled and replied that outside the
mental atmosphere a man time ceased to exist; that it was man's measure
of a portion of eternity, and nothing more, and that he could not use
what was non-existent, hence reached Palos as quickly in the astral
condition as I could span the gulf between that member of the Dog Star's
Pack and Earth in thought. All other points I raised he met. Even so it
was a good deal of a shock to find my new patient speaking to me with
Croft's evident understanding, looking at me out of what seemed oddly
like Croft's eyes.

This night, earlier in the evening, he had bidden me goodbye--told me he
was going back to Naia, the woman he had dared so much to win, his mate
who ere long was to bear him, Jason Croft of Earth, a child. And
now--well, now as before, it would seem he had kept his word. Jason Croft
was dead _again_.

I gave what directions were needed for the disposal of No. 27's body,
returned to my bed, and stretched myself out.

Both the narratives to which I had listened--first from the man I knew to
be Jason Croft really, secondly from the pitiable wreck he had employed
on his return, that worn-out husk which had just died--had produced on me
a somewhat odd effect. So clearly had he portrayed the events and
emotions which had swayed him in his almost undreamed courtship of the
Aphurian princess that I had come to accept the characters he mentioned
as actually existent persons, acquaintances almost, just as, in spite of
all established precedent, I still regarded Croft himself as alive.

Naia of Aphur--when he told me she was about to become a mother, I had
cried out, on impulse, that I wished as a medical man I might attend
her--would be glad to see the light in her eyes when they first beheld
his, Jason's, child.

And Croft had replied, "Man, I could love you for that," and he flashed
me an understanding smile.

So now that he was gone back to her--I lay on my bed unsleeping, and let
all he had told me unroll in a sort of mental panorama, dealing wholly
with the Palosian world.

Tamarizia! It was into this empire Croft blundered blindly when he went
to Palos first--a series of principalities surrounding the shore of a
vast inland sea, with the exception of a central state--the seat of the
imperial capital, embracing the island of Hiranur located in the sea
itself, and Nodhur to the west and south. From the Central Sea a narrow
strait led into an outer ocean to the west.

This was known as the gateway. To the north was Cathur, a rugged,
mountainous state, the seat of national learning, in its university at
the capital city of Scira, and east of Cathur was Mazhur, known as the
lost state at the time of Croft's first arrival, because it had been
wrested from the empire some fifty years before, in a war with Zollaria,
a hostile nation to the north.

Croft, after gaining physical life on Palos, succeeded in winning it
back, and in gaining thereby the consent of Naia's father, Prince
Lakkon, and her uncle, Jadgor, King of Aphur, to their marriage. It was
at this point his narrative had ended first.

East of Mazhur, still hugging the sea and extending into the hinterland
of the continent was Bithur, and Milidhur joined Bithur to the south.
West of Milidhur, completing the circle, was Aphur--the name meaning
literally "the land to the west" or "toward the sun." Aphur was the
southern pillar of the gateway, ending at the western strait. Nodhur
lay south of Aphur, gaining access to the sea by the navigable river Na,
on whose yellow flood moved a steady stream of commerce driven by sail
and oar until Croft revolutionized transportation by producing
alcohol-driven motors. And--if I were to believe his second
account--since then he had actually electrified the nation, harnessing
mountain streams to generate the force.

Except for the waterways, traffic prior to Croft's innovations was by
conveyances drawn by the gnuppa--a creature half deer, half horse, in
appearance--or by means of caravans of the enormous beast called
sarapelca, resembling some huge Silurian lizard, twice the size of an
elephant, with a pointed tail, scale armored back, camel-like neck, and
the head of a marine serpent tentacle-fringed about the mouth.

They were driven by reins affixed to these fleshy appendages, and
streamlined across the Palosian deserts, bearing huge merchandise cargos
upon their massive backs.

Indeed, it was a wonderful world into which Croft had projected himself,
Babylonian in seeming, as he had described it to me at first.

North of Tamarizia was Zollaria, inhabited by a far more warlike race.
Its despotic government had long cast a covetous eye of the Central Sea,
through which, and the rivers emptying into its expanse, most of the
profitable trade lanes were reached. Tamarizia, controlling the western
gateway, had remained master even after the fall of Mazhur, collecting
toll from the Zollarian craft on her river despite the foothold gained on
her northern coast.

East of Tamarizia, beyond Bithur and Milidhur, lay Mazzeria, peopled by a
race little over the aborigine in their social life. Tatar-like, the
Mazzerians shaved their heads of all save a single tuft of hair, with a
most remarkable effect, since the race was blue of complexion and the
prevailing color of their hair was red.

Mazzeria, at the time of Croft's incursion into the planet's affairs, was
the acknowledged ally of Zollaria, although at peace with Tamarizia. In
earlier times, however, numbers of them had been taken captive in border
wars and brought to both nations as slaves. These, in so far as Tamarizia
was concerned, had later been freed and given citizenship of a degree
constituting in their ranks the lowest or serving caste.

Each state was governed by a king, by hereditary succession, in
conjunction with a national assembly consisting of a delegate elected by
each ten thousand or deckerton of civil population. The occupant of the
imperial throne was elected for a period of ten years by vote of the
several states.

One Croft's advent, Scythys--a dotard--had been king of Cathur, with his
son Kyphallos, the crown prince, a profligate of the worst type, sunk
under the charms of Kalamita, a Zollarian adventuress of great beauty,
with whom he had plotted the surrender of Cathur to her nation in return
for the Tamarizian throne with Kalamita by his side.

Jadgor of Aphur, scenting the danger, had sought to bind the northern
prince to Tamarizian fealty through a marriage with Naia, his sister's
child. To win Naia and overthrow Zollaria's scheme had been Jason's task.
The introduction of both the motor and firearms enabled him to overthrow
the flower of Zollaria's hosts on a couple of bloody fields. Victory
gained and Zollaria forced to cede Mazhur after fifty years of
occupation, Croft prevailed upon the nation to accept a democratic form
of government, it being at the end of Emperor Tamhys's term. This was
accomplished without too much difficulty.

As to the Tamarizians themselves, they were a white and well-formed race.
Their women held equal place with men. They believed in the spirit and a
future life. They had made no small progress in the sciences and arts.
They worked metal, gold being as common as iron on Palos.

They tempered copper also and used it in innumerable ways. They wove
fabrics of great beauty, one being a blend of vegetable fiber and spun
gold. They cut and polished jewels. They had a system of judiciaries and
courts and a medical and surgical knowledge of sorts.

They were a fairly moral and naturally modest people. Their clothing was
worn for protection and ornamentation, rather than for any other purpose.
It was donned and doffed as the occasion required, without comment being
aroused. In women it consisted, rich and poor, of a single garment
falling to the knee or just below it, cinctured about the body and caught
over one shoulder by a jeweled or metal boss, leaving the other shoulder,
arm, and upper chest exposed. To this was added sandals of leather,
metal, or wood, held to the foot by a toe-and-instep band and lacings
running well up the calves.

Men of wealth, and soldiers generally, wore metal casings, jointed to the
sandal to permit of motion and extending upward to the knees. Men of
caste wore also a soft shirt or chemise beneath a metal cuirass or
embroidered tunic. Save on formal occasions the serving classes wore a
narrow cincture about the loins.

Agriculture was highly developed, and they had advanced far in
architecture, painting and sculpture. They lavished much time and expense
in beautifying their homes. They had well-constructed caravan roads. As
Croft had pointed out, he found them an intelligent race waiting, ready
to be trained to a wider craft.

And among them, in Naia of Aphur, he believed he had found his twin soul.
He had won her according to his belief and returned to Earth, for the
last time, ere he should return and make her his bride. He had told me
about it, and he had cast off his Earthly body, severing the last tie
that held him from his life in Palos. He had died.

He had gone back and found his plans disarranged through the actions of
Zud, the High Priest of Zitra, the capital of Hiranur, where he had left
Naia waiting his return in the Temple of Ga, the Eternal Mother--the
Eternal Woman, in the Zitran pyramid. Zud, moved by Croft's works and by
a story told him by Abbu, a priest who knew Jason's story, had proclaimed
him Mouthpiece of Zitu, thereby raising an insurmountable barrier, as it
seemed, between him and Naia, since celibacy was one of the tenets of the
Tamarizian priests. And yet Croft had won to her, overcoming all
obstacles, even winning a second war, with all Mazzeria egged on, her
armies officered by Zollarians in disguise this time, ere he gained the
goal of his desire.

These things had been told me inside the last few weeks by No. 27--the
man who had been committed to the institution for a dissociation of
personality, at which he quietly laughed after he had obtained my ear;
because he wished to gain contact with me, who knew his former story, and
win my aid toward the fulfillment of his mission.

Only he wasn't dead, and I knew it as I lay there with the names of men
and women of the Palosian world buzzing in my head. He had gone back to
them, now that his work was ended--to Naia, his golden-haired,
purple-eyed mate--to Lakkon, her father; to Jadgor, her uncle, and Robur
his son, governor now of Aphur in the palace where his father, president
of the Tamarizian republic, had been king; to Robur, who, like a second
Jonathan, had ever been Croft's loyal assistant and friend, and Gaya his
sweet and matronly wife; to Magur, High Priest of Himyra, the ruling red
city of Aphur, by whom Croft and Naia were betrothed to Zud himself, to
whom he had taught the truth of astral control. And I found myself
portraying them as Croft had described them, predicating their thoughts
and feelings, as I might have done those of any man or woman I knew on

Actually I was projecting my intellect, if not my consciousness, to
Palos. The thought came to me. In spirit, if not in perception, I was
there for the moment with my friend. Croft, if I was any judge, had gone
back to Naia--and there was I lying, picturing the scene, where she
waited for his coming in their home high in the western mountains of
Aphur, given to them by Lakkon, a wedding gift, after the war with
Mazzeria was won.

His body would be lying there, covered with soft fabrics, waiting for its
tenant on a couch of wine-red wood such as the Tamarizians used--or
perhaps of molded copper. And Naia--the woman who had given him her life,
would be watching, watching for the first stir of his returning.

Only--I smiled--Croft had told me he could gain Palos as quickly in the
consciousness as I could project myself there in my mind--so, by now,
that stirring of her strong man's limbs, beneath the eyes of the fair
watcher, had occurred, and once more those two were together.

I smiled again.

I slept after a time, as one will, drifting from continued thought upon
one subject into slumber. And I woke with the thought of Croft's weird
homecoming still in mind. It stayed with me more or less, too, in the
succeeding days.

Naia of Aphur! I knew her home. I could imagine her moving about it,
young, vibrant, happy, alone or with Croft by her side. I could fancy her
bathing in the sun-warmed waters of the private bath in the garden--the
gleam of her form against the clear yellow stone of which it was
constructed--until she seemed the little silver fish Croft had called
her, disporting in a bowl of gold, behind the white, screening, vine-clad
walls. Or I could dream of her walking about the grounds, with the giant
Canor--the huge, doglike creature who was at once her pet, her companion,
and guard. Then, one night something over a month after No. 27 had died
and been laid away, I dreamed. I went to bed that night and fell asleep.
How long I slept I do not know. But a voice disturbed by slumbers after a

"Murray--Murray." I heard it, dimly at first, but insistent. It kept
repeating itself over and over. "Murray--in the name of Zitu--and Azil--"

I stiffened my attention. Zitu was God in the Tamarizian language, as I
knew, and Azil was the Angel of Life--as Ga was the Virgin Mother. Ga and
Azil--the mother and the life-bringer--they were the ones to whom the
Tamarizian women most frequently prayed.

"Murray--I need your advice--your counsel. Naia needs you. It's life and
death, Murray. You told me you would gladly render her assistance as a
physician. Murray--will you come?"

My spirit staggered. It was most amazing, for now I knew that the speaker
was Jason Croft.


I think the lips of my sleeping material being must have moved at last.
Be that as it may, I know I answered, "Yes."

"Then--fix your mind on our home in the western mountains, visualize it,
Murray, as I have described it to you. Will your conscious presence
within it. I shall be waiting for you. Call up the scene and demand that
our will be granted. Think of nothing else."

Save for the directions for reaching to him, the thing was as real as a
telephone message, and the assurance that the husband of your patient
would be waiting your arrival at his house. Consciously, then, I sought
to follow Croft's directions.

I fastened my thought on his Aphurian home. I strove to exclude
everything else from my mind. I brought up the picture of it as a thing
at the end of a distant vista, down which I must pass to attain it,
and--all at once that picture moved!

I say it moved, because that is how it at first appeared. For an instant
my comprehension faltered, and then I knew. I knew I had gained my
purpose--that I was astrally out of my body, even though I had not known
the instant when I had left it; that I was speeding with incredible
rapidity toward the scene into which I had wished to be projected; that
darkness was all about me, like an impenetrable wall; that I was like one
in an infinite, an interminable tunnel, with the lighted picture I had
conjured up at the end.

Then that too faded, dissolved, lost its comprehensive quality, and gave
place to more finite detail, and--I was in a room. But it was not
strange. I knew it--recognized it instantly, thanks to Croft's previous

Its walls were hung with purple hangings shot through with threads of
gold. There was a shallow pool of water in its center edged round with
white and golden tiles. Beside it on a pedestal of wine-red wood there
stood a figure--the form of a man straining upward as if for flight, with
outstretched arms and uplifted wings, translucent--formed of a substance
not unlike alabaster--the shape of Azil.

That too I recognized in a flash, and I seemed to catch my breath. At
last I was on Palos! This was Azil, the Angel of Life, before me--poised
by the mirror pool in the chamber of Naia of Aphur--ablaze now with the
light of many incandescent bulbs in copper sconces against the walls. All
this I saw, and became conscious that, as well as light, the chamber was
now full of life.

Naia of Aphur! She lay before me on a copper-moulded couch--and I turned
my eyes upon her, her body beneath coverings of silklike fabric.

A woman, of whom two were in attendance, wearing the blue garment
embroidered with a scarlet heart above the left breast--the badge of the
nursing craft, as Jason had told me--spoke to Naia in soothing accents
the words of which I could not understand.


Whirling, I beheld Jason Croft. Rather, I seemed to see two Jason Crofts,
instead of one. One sat in a chair of the same wine-red wood of which the
pedestal supporting Azil was formed, in the posture of a man in more than
mortal slumber. One floated toward me, ghostlike--a shimmering,
shifting, vaporlike semblance of the other as to physical shape.

And it was this second Croft that seemed to speak. It came over me
instantly that Jason had purposely assumed the astral condition to
welcome me on my arrival here.

I had been too much occupied with my surroundings until then to give
thought to my own possible appearance. But as I put out a hand in answer
to his single word of greeting, I found it no more than a thin,
diaphanous cloud. I was even as he was--a nebulous something. The
features of his astral presence were actually haggard, marked by a
suffering plainly mental, yet akin in its way to the lines that contorted
Naia of Aphur's face in her present mortal woe.

"Croft, in God's name what is the trouble?" I asked as once more a low
sound of smothered anguish came from the couch behind me. He gave me at
once an exact and scientific understanding of her condition. "Can she see
me? Does she know I am here? Can I speak with her?" I asked.

"She will sense your presence at least," Croft said. "I will revivify my
body and draw the chair in which it is sitting close beside the couch.
You will sit there, Murray, and I shall tell her you are present,
watching, nerving me to my task, before I set to work. She knows I called
you, Murray, and now you must help us both. Your brain must use my hands
to save her. Come--what do you advise me to do, Murray?"

I told him as soon as he had brought his almost panting response to an
end. His exposition of the problem we faced had made it dreadfully plain.

He heard me out and then nodded with set lips. The form beside me
vanished. The body in the chair flung up its head and rose. It pushed the
chair it had occupied quite to the side of the copper couch, and bent to
speak to the woman who lay upon it.

I followed. I sank into the seat provided. Croft straightened. Naia
turned her head directly toward me. I looked for the first time into her
violet-purple eyes.

Her lips moved. Distinctly I heard her speak. "Dr. Murray--good friend of
my beloved, who tells me of your presence in response to his appeal for
you assistance to us--I bid you welcome to our home. Thrice welcome are
you, upon whose coming depends, as he tells me also, our future happiness
together, as well as the life of our child."

She addressed me most surprisingly in English, until I bethought me that
Croft had doubtless taught her the tongue, exactly as he had taught her
so much else; to fly the first airplane in Palos, the control of the
astral body itself.

"I am more than happy to be here, Princess Naia, and to bid you be of
good cheer, remembering that even now Azil stands close by the gateway of
life, in charge of a newborn soul."

"Azil," she whispered. "But--that new soul is so long in passing, my

I turned to Croft.

"Come," I hurled my thought force toward him. "Let us spare her more
bodily anguish than must be endured. Let us make an end."

Of what followed I shall say no word. Suffice it to state that Jason
Croft labored, grim of lips and pallid of feature. And then suddenly the
man turned to me a face transfigured past anything I had ever pictured.

"Murray--we win--win, man--thanks to you and--God!"

I turned back. Croft spoke to one of the attendants. She crossed to a
curtained doorway and lifted the purple drapings. There stole into the
room a girl of Mazzeria--a graceful creature, for all the odd blue color
of her skin. Twin braids of ruddy hair fell from her head to her waist.
Her figure held all the untrammeled litheness of a panther as she
advanced. Across her outstretched arms she bore a pure white cloth.

Upon it, the child of Jason Croft and Naia of Aphur was placed.

She wrapped the fabric about it, cradling it against her breast. She
turned to Naia, smiling, sinking down beside her on her supple rounded

Croft addressed me.

"Maia," he said softly. "I've described her to you before if you
remember, Murray. She asked that you might be permitted to attend
the--the little one."

His voice broke. His face was weary, overstrained, worn. I understood.
The graceful girl was Naia's personal attendant--the Mazzerian woman, who
had aided her mistress in saving Croft's life at a time when he was taken
captive during the Mazzerian war. I nodded my comprehension. He bent
again as though by irresistible attraction above the couch where the blue
girl still was kneeling, and Naia seemed waiting his undivided attention.

Through the half-drawn curtains of a window, light stole into the room.
It shamed the incandescents in the sconces. A finger of golden glory
touched the tips of the upflung wings of Azil. With a start, I realized
that the night of anguish was ended--that new life had come into the
house of Jason with--the dawn.

Chapter II

I went toward the curtains and stood looking out between them, removing
so far as I could even my invisible presence from the tableau behind me.

The attendants were moving about. I head the soft pad of their
gnuppa-hide sandaled feet, the softened tones of their voices.

"Murray." Jason was speaking to me. I sensed his touch on my arm. Again
he was in astral form. "Come, while the women perform their task."

My glance shot beyond him to where his physical body was seemingly lost
in a lethargy of exhaustion, once more in the red-wood chair. I turned
from it and followed Croft through the curtained doorway of the chamber,
onto the balcony, along which one approached the room.

He had described it minutely to me, but even so I marveled at it as we
stood together, sensing its proportions, its brilliant yet not offensive
blendings of yellow and white and red. And then I think I must have
started very much as Croft himself had done the first time he beheld such
a sight, as I became conscious of a man, blue as the blue girl of
Mazzeria in the room behind me, wearing upon his shaven poll a single
flaming tuft of red. He was a stalwart man, and he bore a skin equipped
with a sprinkling-nozzle upon his back while he sprayed the beds of
growing vegetation--accompanied in his occupation by a slow-stalking
beast remarkably like a hound.

Croft noted the direction of my glance and manner. "Mitlos--our
majordomo, and Hupor," he said and smiled. "Zitu man, when I told you
about them, the last thing I dreamed was that some day you should see

"And now?"

"And now"--he laughed in a tone of exultation--"you see not only them,
but me, husband of Tamarizia's most beautiful woman, and thanks to
you--the father of her child."

"Nonsense. I did nothing--what can a ghost accomplish?"

He turned fully toward me. "I came here even as you are, Murray, and"--he
waved a hand in a comprehensive gesture--"I have accomplished this, and
other things beside--yet not so much that this morning--the most
wonderful of all my span of existence, I have neither words nor deeds in
which the assistance your presence within the last few hours gave me, may
be repaid."

"Let us not speak of payment," I said. "As it happens, Croft, my presence
here was no more than the granting of an expressed wish. I've got to be
getting back, Croft, or someone's likely to think that Dr. Murray is

"I know you know how I feel, old fellow. Now fix your mind on your
body--and try to open its eyes."

I was ready. I put out a hand and laid it on his shoulder. He did the
same. We looked into one another's faces.

"Some time--you'll come again," Croft told me. "And--now that we've
established the astral power, I'll come to you, Murray--and when I speak
you will answer. Can you see where the thing may lead to?"

"Yes," I said. "It's big, Croft--big. But if I don't get out of here now
it may lead a very important part of me to the grave. Make my adieus to
Naia. Now--do what you can to help me, for I'm going to try a pretty
broad jump, as such things are considered."

I closed my eyes.

A sound like splintering wood assailed my ears. A blended sound of voices
beat upon them. "Murray--Murray--doctor!"

There was no doubt about it. A very human voice was calling to me--a hand
laid hold upon my shoulder--only it wasn't the hand Jason Croft had laid
upon it in farewell. The thing bit into the flesh. It seemed trying to
shake me.

With an effort I lifted my lids and stared up into the face of a hospital
orderly, strained and anxious. I was back on Earth. There wasn't any
doubt about it. I was on Earth, in my room in the mental hospital and in

"Yes," I said; "yes."

The man's breath actually hissed as he let it out. He stammered. "You'll
excuse us, doctor, but you didn't show up and you didn't answer when we
rapped--and--well--we broke in the door at last. It seemed best."

His use of the pronoun arrested my attention. I made another effort and
sat up. The orderly had fallen back from my bedside as he spoke, and
beyond him I saw a nurse--a woman--not blue-robed like those I had seen
in Naia or Aphur's apartments, but crisply gowned in white--and back of
her the door of my own chamber, sagging open with a broken lock.

"It's all right, Hansen," I made answer. "I must have been pretty sound
asleep. What time is it?"

"Ten-thirty," said the nurse, consulting a watch on her wrist. "You're
sure you feel all right, doctor?"

"Perfectly," I nodded. "If you'll withdraw, I'll get up."

She left the room and Hansen followed. I rose and began to dress. Outside
a brilliant sunlight was visible through my windows. It showed me
familiar objects. The Palosian landscape had faded. It had been after ten
when Jason had come to me, to, as it were, speed a parting guest, and now
it was half after ten, and I was back on Earth. Well, he had told me the
gulf could be bridged by the spirit in a flash.

A month passed and a little more, approximately such a span of time as
they called a Zitran on Palos, where the year was a trifle longer than
ours, though divided in similar fashion into twelve periods. I had about
settled back into acceptance of a completely corporeal routine, and

"Murray--Murray," a voice whispered to me in my slumber.

It roused me. I sat up.

"Murray--get out of that cloud, and let's talk."

Suddenly I was intensely awake, and I saw--the nebulous from of Jason,
seated against the metal rail at the foot of my bed.

"That's better. How would you like to take another trip to Palos?"

He smiled as he said it, and I answered in similar fashion. "If I can
make the round trip a little quicker I wouldn't mind it. What's wrong up
there now?"

"Nothing's wrong up there. Everything's all right."

His expression quickened. "But what happened?"

I told him, and he nodded. "Well, this will be different as you'll get
back before morning. Murray, both Naia and I want very much that you
should be present in so far as you can, two nights from now, at the
christening of our son.

"Of course," he said, "you'll see without being seen, but--after it's
over--Naia wants to meet you astrally at least. Will you come?"

Naia wanted to meet me. After the thing was over and the others were
gone, we three would meet as Croft and I were meeting now and establish a
personal relation.

"Will I?" I exclaimed. "Well, rather."

I locked myself in my room and stretched myself out on my bed the second

I lay there and fixed my mind on the home of Lakkon in Himyra--the great
red city of Aphur, where Croft had said the ceremony would occur. I
pictured it even as I had pictured Jason's home in the mountains, its
splendid court paved with the purest of rock-crystal--and--I was there.

Light, color. They were all around me. The flawless crystal of the floor
caught the radiance from the lights above them in a million facets, broke
it into a myriad flashing pinpoints of refraction until the whole, vast
court seemed paved with a shimmering iridescent carpet. White was the
balcony about it, and the pillars on which it was supported, and the
gleaming bits of sculpture between. And the shrubs, the banks and hedges
of vegetation, in the unpaved beds of the court were green, save that
they were blooming, loaded down with colorful flowers everywhere.

Tables a-glitter with gold and glass stretched down the central portion
of the sparkling pavement in the form of three sides of a rectangle, with
a purple-draped dais at the closed end. Guests thronged the vast
apartment, seated on chairs of wine-red wood or reclining on couches
interspersed among the beds of flowering vegetation. Nodding plumes of
every hue and shade graced the heads of the women. Of every grade of
richness were their jewel-embroidered robes.

Men and women, they were like birds of brilliant plumage, and as the
lights struck down upon them, save for the gleam of the bared arms and
shoulders of the women, the glint of their fair limbs through the
intricate slashings of their leg casings and sandals of softest leathers,
the rose tint of their knees, they blazed. A babble of voices--the rhythm
of music from concealed harps, was in the room. I indulged in a single
comprehensive glance and looked about for my hosts.

But I did not find them anywhere among their guests. A trumpet blared
with a softened tongue. I became aware of a page in purple garments,
standing with the instrument at his lips, on the topmost tread of one of
the flight of yellow stairs.

The thrum of the hidden harps quickened. The assembled company rose. They
stood and faced the stairway where, now, something in the nature of a
ceremonial procession showed.

Naia and Croft came first, Naia in white from the tips of her slender
sandals to the feathers that nodded from a fillet of shimmering
diamondlike jewels in the masses of her golden hair. Croft led her
downward. He was in all his formal harness, golden cuirass, on the breast
of which glowed the cross ansata and the wings of Azil in azure
stones--golden greaves and sandals gem-incrusted, golden helmet
supporting azure plumes.

And after them came Maia, the blue girl of Mazzeria, bearing on a purple
cushion, the child.

Lakkon followed, walking side by side with a man, stalwart, grizzled,
strong-faced, clad in a cuirass of silver, rarest of all Tamarizian
metals, wearing the circle and cross of Zitra, the capital city of the
nation, done in more of the diamondlike stones upon his armor.

Jadgor, I thought.

Behind them, azure-clad--the cross ansata on his breast, a flame of vivid
scarlet gems--stalked a man, white-haired and most benign of appearance
in company with a second, more stalwart, also in azure robes. They
carried staves tipped with the looped cross and were followed by a boy
supporting a tray of silver, on which were two silver flasks and a tiny,
blazing lamp.

A man with a cuirass, on which showed a rayed sun, and wearing plumes of
scarlet, and a woman, scarlet-robed, with the same ruddy feathers above
her soft brown hair brought up the rear.

Zud and Magur, and a temple boy, Robur and Gaya, his wife--high priest of
Zitra and his deputy of Himyra, governor of Aphur and his consort, I
named them to myself.

While the company kept silent and the harps filled all the air with a
sort of triumphant paean, the little procession advanced. It reached the
foot of the stairs and crossed to the dais, mounted its steps. It formed
itself in a shimmering semicircle, Croft and Naia--and Maia kneeling
before them in the center--the others on either side, and before them the
boy of the temple and the two priests.

Him I named Zud, because of his bearing and his mane of snowy hair,
raised his stave. The music died. Silence came down for a moment, and
then the voice of Magur rose:

"Hail Zitu, giver of life, and Ga, through whom life is given, and Azil,
bringer of life, we are met together that a name may be given unto this
new soul, thou hast seen fit to assign to the flesh.

"Greetings to you, Naia, daughter of Ga, and to you, Jason, Hupor, named
Mouthpiece of Zitu among men through whose union Zitu and Ga have
expressed their will that life shall remain eternal, renewing its fire
from generation unto generation, in the name of love. Is it your will
that a name be given this, thy child?"

"Aye, priest of Zitu." Naia and Jason inclined their heads.

"And how call you it between yourselves?"

"Jason, Son of Jason," came Croft's voice.

"Then present him unto Zud, high priest of Zitu, that he may receive
Zitu's blessing at his hands," Magur said.

The girl of Mazzeria raised the cushion on her arms with the child upon
it. The temple boy advanced his silver tray, and knelt. Zud uncorked the
silver flasks.

"Jason, Son of Jason, in the name of Zitu, the father, and Ga, the
mother, and Azil, the son, I baptize thee with wine and with water and
light," he began. Moistening his fingers from one of the two flasks, he
went on, "With wine I baptize thee, which like the blood, invigorates the
body, and strengthens the heart and makes quick the brain." Bending, he
touched the child on the forehead, poured water from the other flask into
his palm and continued, "I baptize you with water which nourisheth all
life, purifies all with which it comes in contact, makes all things

He paused and sprinkled the glowing little body before him, took up the
light and a tiny bit of silver I had not noted before and threw into the
little face a golden reflected beam. "With light I baptize thee Jason,
Son of Jason, since by the will of Zitu it is the light of the spirit
which fills the chambers of the brain. May that light be with thee ever
and forever, nor be absent from thee again."

Of course I didn't understand it. It was only afterward when Croft had
translated it to me that its inward meaning was plain. And then he took
the cushion from the kneeling girl of Mazzeria, lifted it, turning to
face the brilliant assemblage.

"Jason, Son of Jason," he cried, holding the infant toward them.

"Hail, Jason, Son of Jason," the guests responded like a well-drilled
chorus, and the thing was done.

Followed a feast, similar I fancied in every detail to those Croft had
told me he had witnessed at first and been privileged to attend.

The guests departed, last of them, according to Tamarizian custom,
Jadgor, president of the Republic, the guest of honor, and with him Gaya
and her husband Robur, governor of Aphur and Jadgor's son. Naia took the
child into her arms from the hands of its Mazzerian attendant. She and
Jason moved toward the stairs. I knew that the hour I had waited for had

I followed up the stairway and along the balcony and to a room--hung here
in golden tissues, furnished with wine-red woods and twin couches of
molded copper--with the mirror pool in its center and once more the
figure of Azil close beside it as in Jason's home.

Naia placed the child on a tiny couch and covered its sleeping form with
a bit of silken fabric. She turned to Jason, her blue eyes shining. He
drew her into his arms and held her, smiling.

"There is yet one guest, beloved," he said in English.

"Aye," she responded softly; "but--one who understands the heart both of
the wife, and the mother of Jason's son."

"And awaits a welcome from her," said Jason. "Come, beloved." He led her
to one of the copper couches and sat down with an arm about her
white-sheathed form.

From it there crept a lovely thing--an exact replica of it. And that
shape stretched out its slender hands. It swayed toward me, with Croft's
astral presence close behind it.

"At last," said Naia of Aphur, "I may welcome you, Dr. Murray, as mine
and Jason's friend."

"At last, I may converse with Naia of Aphur, and thrill with the glory of
her--a thing I have long desired," I replied, and took her shadowy hand
and raised it to my none less shadowy lips.

She smiled, and glanced at Jason. "Beloved, are all the men of Earth so
courtly? It was even so if you remember that you met me first in the

Croft chuckled. "Life is much the same on Earth or Palos," he made
answer. "Well, Murray, what do you think of Palosian life?"

"Babylonian," I said. "You were right in the simile beyond question. I
was thinking tonight when I watched it that it was almost a pity in one
way you should be changing it all with your innovations."

"In a way I've thought as much myself. I get your meaning. But I'm going
to try and preserve it at least in part."

"Babylonian?" Naia asked.

Jason and I explained.

"Oh, but--things must change, must they not, Dr. Murray?--and the common
people will be so much happier for the knowledge Jason brings to Palos.
And even I--think where I and my child would be now save for the
knowledge possessed by a man of Earth. It is to you and Jason that we owe
our lives. Think you not that I carry your name to Ga and Azil in my
prayers--that I have wished to meet you in order to express my thanks

Her words gave me a feeling of something like exaltation, even while in a
way they embarrassed. "I too," I faltered, "am very glad of the meeting,
to be able to assure you that it was my happiness to serve you, and to
wish you and Jason the happiness of each other, and your son a long and
useful life."

She glanced toward the tiny couch and back again, smiling. "Life," she
said softly. "It is so wonderful to hold him--to realize that his life is
but the blending of Jason's and mine. Sometimes I even think that I
understand in a measure what Ga must feel as she guards the eternal

Conversation became general for something like an hour, and then Jason
prompted. "Beloved, shall we accompany Murray somewhat--show him Himyra
in passing when he returns?"

"Aye, as you like," she assented. "And he must come to us again."

Croft nodded. "Yes, Murray is going to have his hand in Tamarizian
affairs from now on, and the boy there will know more than any man ever
born on Palos in the end. Well, Murray, want to see Himyra?"

"I've always wanted to see it since you told me about it first."

"Then come along." He led the way with Naia through one of the open
windows of the chamber.

The city lay beneath us. I saw the double row of lights that fringed the
flood of the Na, the mighty pyramid of Zitu, upreared against the
skyline, black now instead of red, save where the lights threw ruddy
splashes upon it, banded with white at the apex with the pure white
Temple of Zitu upon its truncated top--the long line of the houses of the
nobles of the old regime, fronting a wide street at the top of the river
embankment in an amazing vista, set down each in its private grounds
among night-darkened shrubs and trees, the wide-flung palace of the
governor of Aphur, once the palace of Jadgor, Aphur's king. The thing
swam a shimmering vision before me under the light of the Palosian moons.
I strained my eyes and saw the mighty sweep of Himyra's shadowy walls.

It moved me oddly. Already I knew so much of the city's history as
involved in Croft's romance. I turned my eyes.

"Himyra," I said. "I shall not forget it--nor Naia of Aphur, nor Jason,
Mouthpiece of Zitu, nor Jason, Jason's son. Zitu guard you, my friends. I
must be going."

"Zitu guard thee," Naia answered.

And suddenly I was back in my own room, remembering her parting smile.

These things have I narrated in order to show how there was built up
between Croft and Naia of Aphur, his mate, and myself, a subtly intimate
relation that must, as I hope, make what followed plain.

Life went on pretty much with me after that for some further eight
months, however, before the events I intend to relate occurred. Now and
then during the interval Jason Croft came to me in the astral presence,
and on several occasions I succeeded by my own endeavors in visiting him
and Naia in their home.

Between them they taught me somewhat of the Tamarizian tongue, Croft
explaining that as all life was the same in reality, and the thought back
of the word similar in intent even though the word itself might vary in
sound, all languages were really one in thought and purpose. With that as
a key, I soon discovered that the spoken words of those about me were not
difficult for one in the astral condition to understand--that the
vibrations of their thought affected the astral shell in a manner that
made their meaning plain.

So at least in those months I acquired a fair understanding of their
speech, and I came more and more to regard their home in the western
mountains of Aphur, across the desert from Himyra, on Palos, with the
same intimacy of feeling I might have experienced for the home of two
friends on Earth. My conversations with Jason came more and more to
resemble consultations on modern affairs. He asked me constantly
concerning this and that fresh progress in mundane matters. He discussed
with me his plans for improving material and social conditions on Palos.

And then--one night he called me to him as he had called me the night of
Jason's birth--and I found him in the selfsame chamber, with the purple
draperies half torn down and trampled--the fair form of Azil drowned in
the mirror pool, beside which the dead body of Mitlos the Mazzerian
majordomo lay sprawled.

Chapter III

Violence, conflict. The marks of the thing were on every side. I gazed
into Jason's face, even in its astral semblance haggard. "Croft, what in
Zitu's name has happened?"

He jerked out an arm in an all-embracing gesture. "Gone, Murray," he told
me with a vibration of agony in his answer; "both of them--both Naia and

"Gone? Gone--where?"

"Into the western mountains, toward the outer ocean. She came to me
tonight in the Zitran pyramid--astrally, of course. You know I told you I
was going to Zitra to see Jadgor in a matter concerning the government
railroad control..."

I nodded.

"She found me there tonight. She had been afraid to leave the body
before, lest something happen to little Jason. It was last night this
thing occurred--and my body's still in Zitra." I sensed the tenseness of
his emotion. "I'm so utterly impotent to help her, and wrest her from

"From whom?"

He appeared to grip himself as he answered. "Forgive me, Murray. The
Zollarians, of course. It was an armed band of those Sons of Zitemku that
attacked here in my absence."

"Zollarians?" I said. "She told you?"

"Yes." He nodded. "They--they must have been planning it, Murray--they
must have been using spies."

"Unless," I rejoined, "it was merely a wandering band of marauders."

"Wandering band? Murray, talk sense. They knew enough to seize Naia of
Aphur--the fairest woman of her nation, of its best blood--the wife of
the Mouthpiece of Zitu, who has twice defeated their schemes and their
armies--and her child."

I nodded. "Then what do you intend?"

"I intend to follow her--learn what is behind this damnable action


"Of course. It's the only way I can follow with the cursed hulk of me in
Zud's pile of rock in Zitra. And I want you to go with me tonight. Before
Naia left me she said they stopped for an hour's rest, but that before
daylight faded they had seen the outer ocean from a hill, and a ship. I
think that ship is waiting for her, Murray."

"Then let's get on it," I suggested.

In a flash we were outside. And as on that night after the christening of
Jason, Son of Jason, when Croft and Naia showed me Himyra, we floated
upward. Only now there were no lights to fasten the attention, no mighty
piles of architecture, no wide embracing walls. There were just the
tumbled masses of the mountains, their sides cut and gashed by
night-filled ravines and tortuous canyons, and the silvery radiance of
the Palosian moons, and the stars.

"Look, Murray--they've reached the shore-line, and--they're building a

I turned my gaze into the west, where low down on what might or might not
be the horizon, but was certainly not the heavens, there winked a point
of light, too ruddy, too unsteady, to be a star.

We swept toward it. For the first time I saw the Zollarian manhood in the
light of the leaping fire they had built upon a beach. Tawny-haired they
were, for the most part, stalwart, with muscular arms and heavy limbs, as
they stood straining their vision across the water toward the moonlighted
shape of a galley.

So much I saw--then Croft led me to where Naia and the blue girl of
Mazzeria were seated, a little way apart.

Maia was speaking softly as we reached them. "My mistress, you are quite
assured then that the Hupor Jason understands?"

"Aye." Naia bent her cheek to rest it against the head of the infant. "Be
of good courage, Maia, and fear not."

"I fear not for myself, but for you and that one against your breast,"
the blue girl answered. "Had it been my part to do so, I had done as
Mitlos and died in your defense."

"I know." Naia stretched out a hand and touched the girl upon the

"I came gladly," the blue girl said quickly, "yet do I not understand
these sleeps in which you lie as dead, and I remember once when Mitlos
and I worked above you thinking Zilla had taken your spirit, before you
were the Hupor Jason's bride--and it was even so with the Hupor himself
in the camp of the Mazzerian army, when we went to save him..."

"Peace, girl," Naia interrupted, and paused and caught her breath
sharply, as Jason bent the force of his presence on her.

She smiled, handed the child to Maia, and reclined her body on the warm
sand of the beach. Then she let the fair astral tenant of her body steal

"Beloved," said Jason Croft, and drew her close. "Beloved, we have heard
your words, I and our friend of Earth."

Naia turned her head toward me from the shelter of his arms. "Once more,
you come to our aid, good friend. Did Jason, my lord, call you to him?"

"Aye, Princess of Aphur."

She spoke again to Jason. "You have followed me, beloved; what else lies
in your mind?"

"Naught for the present," Croft told her. "It is plain that they intend
taking you upon yonder ship, and we shall follow you aboard it."

"I shall not fear," said Naia of Aphur. "Have I not given myself wholly
into your keeping?"

"By Bel--they are awake out there at last." The sound of a rough voice
drifted to my ears.

Croft turned his head at the same instant, toward the group of Zollarian
raiders and the ship beyond them, between which and the beach a boat now

"Aye," growled another speaker. "And time enough. Look to the women and
the slave."

"The time is at hand, beloved." I heard Jason speaking. "Return, soul of
my soul, to your beautiful mansion--and think not I shall not be near."

For a moment he clasped her closer and sank his lips to hers uplifted,
and then--she was gone and her body stirred, sat up as two of the
Zollarians approached and ordered her to rise.

"What did he mean by 'the slave'?" I questioned Jason.

"Wait," he said as another group of Naia's captors led a blue man into
the light of the fire. "Bathos--one of my house servants," he went on.
"Now, for what purpose in Zitu's name have they brought him along?"

I could offer no suggestion, and I didn't try. The boat had reached the
beach by the time the women and the blue man had been brought to the edge
of the water, and now they were thrust in. Part of the Zollarians crowded
aboard, and the boat shoved off, leaving the rest of the band to await
its return.

Croft and I followed, as propelled by the straining muscles of well-nigh
naked rowers, it moved across the waves. With a sense of the bizarreness,
the weirdness, of it all, I found myself perching upon a gunwale, while
Croft actually took his place at Naia's side.

It was an odd sensation to realize myself a part of that strange archaic
scene, wherein a beautiful woman had been abducted, and her captors,
bronzed men dressed more in fashion of the soldiery of forgotten empires
than anything else, drove their boat across a moonlight-silvered tide. I
found myself wondering how they would have acted could they have seen us
seated there among them. But they did not, and the steady sweep of the
oars brought us presently close the side of the galley, up which the
Zollarians swarmed on down-flung ladders to reach the deck.

Naia and Maia followed, climbing a ladder with surprising ease. Last of
all to leave the boat, before it returned to the beach, came Bathos,
whom, being blue, the Zollarians had termed a slave, as were all of his
race born of captive parents, in the nation to the north.

I glanced about me, recognizing the craft as similar in the main details
at least to those Jason had found in common use on the Tamarizian rivers
and the Central Sea when he had reached Palos first. There was a high
deck forward, a lower deck in the waist, where the oarsmen sat on
benches, close to a series of ports in the skin of the vessel, through
which were thrust the butts of the heavy oars. Aft again was a second
higher deck, covered by an awning beneath which were placed padded divans
and several quaintly shaped and ornamented chairs. Indeed, the vessel was
nothing less than regal, as I perceived. Green was the awning and the
sail on the gilded mast running up between the banks of rowers' benches.

Gilded too were the railings of the twin stairs that led up to the
after-deck on either side, from the lower level of the waist. And the
sheathing of the decks seemed to be made of closely fitted strips of the
wine-red wood, customarily used for the fashioning of couches and divans
and chairs.

Plainly, then, we had come aboard the craft of someone of more than
ordinary station, I thought, and gave my attention to a man standing on
guard beside a door in the facing of the space between the level of the
after-deck and the waist.

Huge he was and florid, muscled like an ox, his mighty thorax banded with
metal, fitting him so closely that the bellies of the shoulder muscles
bulged above their upper edge. Head, shoulders, and arms were naked, as
were his legs save for a short cloth skirt below his armor, falling
halfway down his thighs, and the metal casings on his heavy calves. He
leaned on the haft of a spear and watched, straightening to attention
only when the captain in charge of the raiding party advanced with his
captives toward him. But only for a moment. Then as the captain paused,
without speaking, he shifted his spear, put out a hand, and opened the

It gave into a passage, with curtained doorways on either hand and a
lighted apartment at the farther end, toward which Naia, her maid, and
Bathos, with the Zollarians who led them, passed.

They reached it, and then, in so far as sensation went at least, I
gasped. The room was ablaze with lights that struck back on every hand
from woodwork carved and tooled in most magnificent fashion, hung with
woven fabrics of green shot through with threads of gold. But if the
apartment was amazing in its appearance, its occupant was in no way

Tawny she was as a lioness, of hair and eyes, as she lay there on that
splendid couch, draped with the mottled hide of some tawny beast; lithe
as a tigress she appeared in all her supple, wonderfully rounded length,
save for a jeweled girdle supporting a drapery of almost transparent
tissue. And as she lifted her fine torso, raising herself to a sitting
position before the captain, who sank with uplifted hand to a knee before
her, one sensed there were tiny bells on the jeweled bands about her
tapering ankles that tinkled as she moved.

Suspicion, swift as a lance-thrust, came upon me as I saw her, even
before the captain spoke. "Hail to thee, Kalamita, Priestess of Adita,
goddess of beauty; thy servant returns from that mission on which it was
thy pleasure to send him, bringing with him those thou named."

Kalamita! Kalamita, the Zollarian, magnet of the flesh, by whose
shameless charms and yet more shameless favors Kyphallos, Prince of
Cathur, had been seduced.

Kalamita smiled. "'Tis well, Ptoth. Arise. You have proven faithful, and
you shall have your reward. Found you any obstacle worth naming on your

"Nay, Sister of Bandhor," said Ptoth rising. "None but the house slaves
lay there to oppose us--one we brought with us, since so it was
ordered--the rest were slain."

I glanced at Croft, and he nodded.

"'Tis well," said Kalamita again. "Found you any trace of this Mouthpiece
of Zitu?"

"Nay," the captain answered, smiling, "but we left him ample trace of

Kalamita's whole expression darkened. Her amber eyes flashed. "Aye--and
may Adita forsake my beauty and blast it if I give him not another. Let
this woman wait, and bring me his slave."

Ptoth turned to Bathos, seized him by an arm, and flung him at the feet
of the woman on the couch.

Kalamita put out a pink-nailed foot and touched him. "Come, get up, how
are you called?"

"Bathos," the servant faltered.

"Listen, then, Bathos," Kalamita continued. "Canst find the way over
which my captain led you, and return?"

"Aye, if I be granted the chance."

"It will be granted, provided you will bear a message."

"Aye, I will bear it."

"Then give ear. It is for your lord. Return to his dwelling and from
there to Himyra; seek out one in authority, and bid him send word to the
Hupor Jason that the woman he has taken to wife and her child are in
Kalamita's hands. Say further that they shall be taken to a place I know
of and held until I have received word from him, and that I shall wait
his coming in a hunting house, one of my possessions, in the mountains
north of Cathur's border, half a sun's journey, where, when he comes to
listen to my requirements, he will be led by men who will lie in watch.
Repeat now my own words to me, Tamarizian canor, and make no mistake in
the telling. I desire that this Hupor Jason fails not to understand."

Bathos complied. Kalamita nodded and turned to Ptoth. "He has his lesson.
Take him and see him put ashore. That done, see that we turn north at
once, and say to Gor that I deny my presence to any, as you pass him.
Take also the blue girl with you. I would deal with the other alone. You
may leave her the child."

Ptoth threw up an arm in flat-handed salute and bowed, motioned Bathos to
precede him, and caught Maia by an arm. I glanced at Jason, and found his
expression one of intense attention. He seemed to feel my gaze, however,
and shook his head slightly, as though to say this was no time for
anything more than observation.

I turned back to the two women, now confronting one another. Ptoth and
his charges had vanished. They were alone. For a moment each seemed
appraising the other; then Kalamita rose.

It was like Aphrodite rising, the tissue of the draperies dependent from
the gem-incrusted girdle clasping her rounded body seeming no more than a
white foam, a shimmering streaking of froth, more than half revealing
what it concealed. She went a lithe pace forward and paused.

"So, at last I see Tamarizia's most beautiful woman, and find her rather
pale of feature, rather wide-eyed, possessed of a not unattractive
figure, but scarcely so favored of Adita as I have been led to believe."

"Favored rather by Ga, _the true woman_, Kalamita," Naia returned,
glancing down at the child in her arms. "You do well to call Adita,
goddess of unclean love."

For the moment the Zollarian made no answer. Once more her yellow eyes
flashed. Scarcely, I thought, had she looked for the cold taunt from
Naia's lips, aimed at her own unsavory reputation.

"By Bel, you dare such speech to me! Think you I have it in mind to treat
you as my prisoner or a guest?"

"As prisoner, I pray Zitu. Other treatment from Kalamita were disgrace."

"By Bel!" Kalamita mouthed again, her face distorted with passion, and
flung herself back on her couch. "You have a bold tongue at least. How
think you your Mouthpiece of Zitu will accept your being prisoner to

"Jason, my lord, will answer that question to Zollaria and Kalamita in

"Bel grant it." All at once Kalamita laughed. "If so I shall have
something to say to that self-exalted spirit--that panderer to priests,
who scorned the open offer of my favor for yours."

Once more I glanced at Croft, and found his face contorted at the woman's
reference to the time he was captive during the Mazzerian war. And, too,
I found myself thinking that here was the old situation of a woman

Then Naia of Aphur was speaking. "Jason, my lord, like to the wild gnuppa
of the mountains, prefers that the fountain at which his thirst is slaked
be clean--and like it once it is captured, when led to a foul spring, he

"Thou fool." Kalamita sprang up. "Think you not I shall make you repent
these words--or that, save this Mouthpiece give heed to my demands and
those of my nation, he shall return to your arms, or see your offspring

"Nay," Naia said, as Kalamita came to a panting pause before her, "these
things lie with the gods. Tell me, Zollarian, stand I prisoner to all
your nation, or to Kalamita alone?"

I felt a quiver shake me. Naia of Aphur had herself in hand. She knew
Croft and I were present, that we could see and hear and understand. And
she asked a question, fully aware that our presence was something
Kalamita could not know.

Nor did she. Something like gloating leaped into her tawny eyes as she
turned again to her couch and sat down.

"So," she said, smiling coldly, "we begin to stand on common ground. You
stand prisoner to all Zollaria, wife of Jason, you and Jason, Son of
Jason. There be two forms of warfare, Aphur, that of wits as well as that
of arms. Wherefore, in your capture and that of your child, I serve both
the interests of my country and my own. It was so Bandhor, my brother,
and I planned."

Naia nodded. Her tone became one of musing. "Bandhor and Kalamita, his
sister, on whose beauty he mounted to his position as general of all
Zollaria's armies, rather than by any ability of his own, and the court
of Zollaria at Berla, have planned before."

"Aye," said Kalamita quickly, "we planned, and had won, save for the
undreamed weapons this Mouthpiece of yours brought against us--weapons
against which no army might stand. Yet before he reclaims Naia of Aphur
and her suckling--the secrets of those weapons shall be known. The
Zollarian and the Tamarizian armies shall stand on equal footing again.
Your Mouthpiece and your nation shall go down through Naia of Aphur--and
what then of Jason's son?"

Once more I caught my breath. Once more Naia of Aphur went pale. I saw
the astral form beside me clench its shadowy hands, sensed something of
Jason's emotion, and then Naia of Aphur made answer.

"Yet not so surely on equal terms, Zollaria, since he who made the
weapons of which you desire the secret may have others still in mind.
'Tis a poor plan to purchase or barter with unlaid eggs."

But Kalamita stretched her rosy arms and limbs with a tinkle of little
bells, and remained upon the couch. A glint of something like amusement
waked in her narrow eyes.

"Your position is worth considering, Aphur," she said slowly. "It may
even be put in the agreement that he shall refrain from attempting what
you suggest--or that, should he attempt it, the act be an excuse for

"In which, were the excuse used against her, Zollaria would perchance
again be foiled?"

"And Naia of Aphur, and Jason, Son of Jason, be emptied of the spirit."

"Nay--that is with Zitu," Naia made answer. "Ere this my lord has saved
me from the embrace of Zilla. I trust him wholly." And all at once she

Kalamita frowned. "By Bel, at least you have spirit."

"Which will not break before you, Priestess of Adita." Naia began a slow
rocking of the infant Jason in her arms.

The act seemed to drive Kalamita to fury. Once more she lifted herself to
a half-sitting posture. "Go--hide yourself in one of the rooms
yonder--get out of my sight."

Then, as Naia moved toward the mouth of the passage and the curtained
doors of its rooms, she relaxed. A quiver shook her. "Now, Bel and Adita
befriend me, and give me my will of this woman. Adita, judge between us
and blast her beauty. Her son to thee, Bel, if Tamarizia refuses our
demands as a sacrifice. I swear it."

"Come." I sensed Croft's emotion-clogged direction.

We made our way outside. The ship was in motion, the benches filled with
straining rowers. Kalamita's galley was straining north, bearing Naia of
Aphur and Jason, Son of Jason, helpless captives aboard her.

"Where now?" I asked.

"Zitra." Croft seized my arm in his grasp. Then the creeping galley, the
moonlighted flood of the outer ocean, were behind us, the tumbled region
of Aphur's hills were beneath us. They too fell away and gave place to
the shimmer of the Central Sea. An island appeared in its center--the
walls of a mighty city. White they were as milk in the moonlight--white
as the foam of the sea. And the city was white when we reached it, all
white and purple shadows, with the mighty pyramid of Zitu lifting the
pure white temple on its loft top above the walls.

"Zitra," said Croft again. "I've got to get back in the flesh."

And even as he spoke, I sensed that we were in a room somewhere within
the pyramid itself. Bare was its floor of tessellated paving, bare were
its walls save for here and there a light in a metal sconce. Bare, too,
it seemed of furnishings, save for a chest of metal, a stool and a couch,
on which the body of Jason found a place.

The astral Jason seated himself beside it, and fastened me with his eyes.
"You heard, Murray. You see what they intend." And then his expression
altered. "Saw you ever a more glorious woman than Naia, wife of Jason?
Well, I've got to get to work. I've got to save her."

"Just how?"

"I don't know," he admitted rather slowly. "Beyond the first step, that
is. I'll explain things to Jadgor and Lakkon, of course, and I'll have a
wireless sent to Robur at Himyra. After that--well--you heard the
instructions given Bathos. There's no denying Kalamita has won the first
trick. I think I'll fall in so far with her proposal and meet her face to

"And thereby lose the second trick and the game altogether. Do you really
think if you went up there to meet that tawny she devil, the Mouthpiece
of Zitu--Tamarizia's big man--would be given chance to return?"

For a moment after I finished Croft said nothing, and then, "By
Zitu--Murray, you're right! I must have been blind! I'll--I'll have to
send another than myself. We've got to keep a few cards in our hand.
But--consider my position."

"I do," I said. "I understand it perfectly, old man. I don't expect a man
to keep cool in a game where the stakes are his wife and son."

He shook his head. "It isn't that only, Murray. I dare not sacrifice
Tamarizia, either--and I won't fail Naia. Think, man--think--there must
be a way to serve both ends."

"Perhaps what Naia herself suggested," I made tentative answer.

Pride flashed momentarily in his eyes and died. "The invention of
another--a superior weapon," he said. "Zitu--the thought fired me when
she named it. Hah! She knew we were present--and she led the conversation
to inform us in advance of what was proposed. It was like her, Murray,
but--man, how can I risk it? You heard that fiend of Adita's oath after
Naia left her--to Bel with Jason's son."

"I know," I said slowly.

"But do you know its meaning?"

"No," I admitted.

"Murray, they practise the hellish rites of ancient Phoenicia in the
northern nation. The child would be burned."

Burned--Jason, Son of Jason--a living sacrifice! The rites of the
Phoenicians! The thought staggered me, revolted, as it lifted to mind the
picture of Moloch--the brazen god into whose insensate arms children and
babes and maidens were cast--and I recalled that, as well as Moloch, that
savage divinity had been known as Bel. Bel--Moloch--flame. On impulse I
named the thing to Croft.

"Zitu--God," he said, and then, "Man--it may be the answer, if there is
nothing else. Now, I've got to let Zud and Jadgor and Lakkon know what
has happened. And I've got to get a message off to Robur. He's Naia's
cousin, as I've told you, and I love him like a brother. Will you go with
me on my missions, or will you return to your body, as I must to mine?"

"If you don't mind," I decided, "I'd like to know all that happens, and
I'll linger around until dawn."

He nodded. "I'll be glad to feel you with me, and as soon as I reach
Himyra I'll manage to visit you again. Look into the thing you suggested,
won't you?"

"Go on. Get about your business," I told him. "I'll have the information
for you the next time we meet, if I can find a certain man."

The body beside which he had been sitting raised itself on the couch and
swung its feet around. It rose. "You've got to find him, man," Jason's
physical voice told me without making the least break in the
conversation, as he began to dress. "You know, Murray, I can perceive you
dimly even so, and I can get your thought waves, of course--just as Naia
was able to do the same thing the night of Jason's birth--so if you have
any more suggestions to offer in what occurs inside the next few hours,
make them of course. I'm not exactly myself. My spirit is still hot
within me, where presently I think now it is going to grow deadly cold."

He jerked the fastenings of his leg casings into position and clasped the
belt of a short sword about him. "Now, I'm going before Zud first."

He turned to a door that slid back before his touch into a recess in the
massive wall. I followed him into a corridor, constructed top and floor
and sides of huge blocks and slabs of stone, lighted at intervals by a
lamp whose rays served to no more than partly dispel the night-shrouding
gloom. Age--age--the age of the pyramids of Egypt. And then he paused
before another door, lifted his sword, and rapped with its hilt for

"Who calls on Zud?" a voice came muffled through the door.

"Jason, Mouthpiece of Zitu, man of Zitu."

The door slid back. Zud stood before us, blinking aged eyes. "Mouthpiece
of Zitu, what does this visit betide?"

"Work of Zitemku and his agents," Croft said hoarsely, stepping inside
the high priest's apartments and pausing while Zud closed the door.

"Thou knowest of my sleeps, O man of Zitu--and what occurs at times when
my body lies sleeping, and how my spirit gains knowledge beyond the power
of most men in the gaining--for I have explained to thee, and shown thee
somewhat, O Zud, so that by thyself something of the same power was
attained," he went on, and gave Zud a brief account of what had happened.

"Zitu," stammered the high priest, advancing a step to lay a withered
hand on Jason's shoulder--"may he befriend thee, and guard the woman I
know thou lovest. In what way may I aid thee, Jason?"

"In no way, save that I desired your acquaintance with the knowledge. I
go now to Jadgor, and Lakkon, her father," Croft replied. "Grant us thy
prayers, Zud, and those of the Gayana, since once she lay among them
waiting to be my bride." He turned to the door, crashing it back with a
wholly unneeded force, and strode off, clanking down the passage, leaving
old Zud staring after out of troubled, aged eyes.

Chapter IV

At another door he stopped, wrenching it open and laying hands upon a
cord that hung within it. He jerked upon it, released it, and stood
waiting with hands clenched as though in impatience, until there rose
slowly into sight a platform, upon which he stepped. The platform sank
slowly, carrying him downward inside a rock-faced shaft, which ended in a
dimly lighted chamber, where blue men strained about a capstan and
windlass by means of which the primitive lift was controlled.

"Hai! The Mouthpiece of Zitu requires a motur and one to drive it," Croft
addressed the man in charge.

The fellow saluted and turned away. I saw there were several moturs
parked against one of the chamber walls. And too, I recalled that Croft
had found a similar arrangement in the pyramid of Himyra when first he
called on Magur, save that then the room had been used to house the
carriages and gnuppas of the priests.

Croft strode toward one of the waiting cars, and a man appeared. As Jason
climbed to a seat he took his place at the wheel and the engine roared.
Blue men set open a heavy door and stood aside. Through it the car darted
out of the base of the pyramid to reach the street beyond it.

"To the palace of Jadgor, and hasten!" Jason cried.

And thus it was that I saw Jadgor and Lakkon in the flesh, and found them
as Croft had described them to me. Both were quick to resort to arms,
both reluctant to use trickery; but as Jason spoke, and their indignation
gave way to reason, they agreed that Croft's plan was best for both
Tamarizia and Naia.

Jadgor wrote the order to the captain of a galley, which would place the
craft under Jason's orders. Lakkon apologized for his first angry words
when he accused Jason of weakness in not making war at once; Croft knew
his father-in-law well, and accepted the apology gracefully.

Outside the room he made his way, outside the palace of Jadgor, once more
to sit in the motur, and in it toward the city walls and the foot of a
mounting flight of stairs.

A sentry stood with sword and spear before them. Croft addressed him. He
saluted and permitted him to pass. Jason, Mouthpiece of Zitu, climbed up
in the silvery moonlight, his shadow a purple blot beside him, to reach
the top at last. And there strangely in all that archaic scene he paused
before the door of the hut, above which towered the spidery outline of a
wireless mast. For an instant he turned his eyes outward over the expanse
of the Central Sea, and then he passed inside.

A man seated at a table, with a key of the wireless before him, started
to his feet.

"A message to Robur, Governor of Aphur in Himyra, and quickly," Croft

The operator regained his seat and produced his headdress, clamping it
against his ears. Croft gave the message. There came a hissing crash of
the spark. Strange, I found myself thinking as I watched--an anachronism
surely that this youth of Palos, clad in plain tunic and sandals and leg
casings of leather, above which showed the sinewy flesh of his lower
thighs and knees, should be sitting here on top of the ramparts of a
walled city, hurling forth across the ocean beyond him the potential
Hertzian waves. And yet it was no more strange than that I should know

And then the thing was done. The crashing of the spark was silenced.
Croft tossed a coin on the table and passed outside down the stairs. And
when next the motur paused he gave the driver another coin and dismissed
him. He stood before a galley, moored close to the semicircular quays of
Zitra's inner harbor, stretching like a pool of liquid silver beyond him
to the mighty sea doors that closed the entrance to it in the overarching

But though I thrilled to the massive grandeur of the picture, Croft
heeded it little. To him it was an old scene.

"Hai! Captain of the watch, aboard the galley!" he hailed sharply and
stood waiting until a head appeared above the rail of the waist and a
voice replied:

"Jason, Mouthpiece of Zitu, with the mandate of Jadgor from the palace of
Jadgor. I would come toward you." Croft made answer.

The head disappeared. For possibly two minutes nothing happened, and then
a gangway was shoved out to reach the quay.

Croft strode alone it, presented Jadgor's tablet to a suddenly wide awake
captain, and was led to an apartment under the after-deck, richly
furnished in red woods and hangings of scarlet, the personal color of
Jadgor's house.

Life woke on board the galley. There was a tramping of feet, a sound of
voices bawling orders, suddenly the sibilant hiss of water past the hull.
The galley heeled slightly on the long arc of a circle, straightened back
to an even keel. Through the windows let into the stern I became
conscious of a graying of the eastern heavens, and then a shadow fell
upon us. It came to me that the monster sea doors were opened to permit
our passing.

Croft sank down upon a couch of burnished copper and sighed. He turned
his glance about the apartment. "Are you still here, Murray?" he


"Better be going," he said. "But give me the benefit of your thoughts in
the next few days. If you've waited until now, you've had recent proof of
how hard it is for the father to hold his personal interests of lesser
importance than matters of state."

"Nonsense, man," I returned. "We'll beat them. Once you're in Himyra, you
and Robur will get your heads together, and I'm going to work collecting
all the information I can obtain on the device I suggested earlier

"Do so." He nodded and stretched himself out on the couch. "I'll use it
if we can think of nothing else. You and Rob--Murray, I thank Zitu for
you both. I know I have your sympathy and understanding, and--I'll find
the same things once I am in Himyra. I'll see you inside the next few
days, of course."

Chapter V

From now on this narrative must become, until the end, an account of
Croft's efforts toward the rescue of Naia and Jason, rather than of
things experienced by myself. For now I was become little more than his
lieutenant on Earth--a collector of knowledge to whom, when he came in
the astral presence to gain it, he told how that knowledge was to be

In the body he went to Himyra first. But astrally he willed himself back
that morning after I had left him, aboard Kalamita's gilded craft, where
he told Naia what he had accomplished, mentioning at the end the possible
means of rescue I had suggested.

"Zitu!" Naia faltered. "It were strange indeed, were it not, if the
answer to this riddle be found by our friend of Earth?"

"Aye, strange," said Jason, "yet not more so than that, despite their
knowledge, I stand here now before you."

"Yet he is wise," she replied, clinging closer to him, "in that he saw
quickly the true meaning of the meeting between you and herself this
Zollarian woman saw fit to propose."

Croft smiled in rueful fashion. "Jadgor, too, was against it. It would
seem that all perceived the motive of it, save only Jason alone."

"Ah, but Jason, my beloved, was overwrought."

"Aye," he confessed; "and now it appears to him that it was on that
Kalamita counted to lead him into a trap."

"And will count," said Naia, "not knowing the strange power you have
taught me, by which we meet."

Croft nodded. "And through which their every move may be watched. To my
mind, beloved--this meeting on which she is bent at present must be
brought about."

"But not by Jason!"

"Nay," Croft reassured her, "not by Jason, but another, in a fashion,
once I am in Himyra, Robur and I shall devise."

"Hold, then." Naia paused to consider before she went on quickly.
"Perchance against a woman, a woman's wits may aid you. Told she not
Bathos to say this meeting would be north of Cathur--and sought she not
once ere this, when before you fought to make me thine, beloved, to work
harm to Tamarizia through Cathur's prince, so that the succession was
lost to Koryphu, his brother, and in the elections for governor, even
though he sought to gain the station, he was ignored? Think you not that
in Koryphu, Scythys' younger son, you may find one with hate in his heart
for this woman and an agent to your hand?"

"Aye, by Zitu!"

And so to Scira, capital city of Cathur, he willed himself. Long
familiarity with Scira made it easy for him to reach the residence,
which, after the overthrow of his family, had become the home of Cathur's
lesser prince. And there he found Koryphu, always unlike Kyphallos, his
brother, more or less of a student, already busy with the tablets and
scrolls that as yet in Tamarizia took the place of books. Satisfied that
his man would be easy to located when needed, he returned to the galley
at once.

Thereafter followed a weird four days and nights, during the lighted
portion of which Croft occupied himself as best he might, while the
galley plowed across the Central Sea toward the mouth of the Na, up which
lay Himyra. And when the daylight faded he stretched himself on the couch
in his apartment and joined Naia in the spirit, going with her north to a
Zollarian seaport, and from it in gnuppa-drawn conveyances wherein the
passengers reclined on deeply padded cushions, toward Berla, discovering
thereby that no matter what Kalamita may have said to Bathos regarding
the place of Naia's holding, she was to be taken to the seat of the
Zollarian government first.

Himyra. Croft stepped upon its quays, where lapped the yellow Na, with a
feeling of relief. Himyra--home. It was so he regarded that red city more
than any other place on Palos outside his own house.


He whirled, to behold Robur coming toward him from a motur.

"Rob!" He turned in his direction.

They met, and Robur clasped him to his breast.

"My brother in all but birth," he said with emotion. "Would Zitu he had
not sent this thing upon you. Gaya sends her greeting."

"Like thee, Rob," Croft said, his heart warmed by such a meeting. "In
Himyra, and thy presence, I breathe easier than for days. Bathos, my
servant, has arrived?"

"The sun before this," Robur returned as they got into his waiting motur.
"Himyra, Aphur, and Robur stand ready to aid you in all things toward the
rescue of our cousin. Jason need but say the word."

"Presently," said Croft, "when I sit in the presence of Gaya and Robur,
my true friends."

Robur reached the top of the embankment and increased the motur's speed.
In through the wide doors of the palace, with their doglike guardians of
stone, and their weblike wings, to the red court where blue men sprinkled
water upon the ruddy pavement, he drove. Past sentries armed with spears
and short swords, who sprang to swift attention at sight of Aphur's
governor, and the Mouthpiece of Zitu--the wonder worker of their nation,
descending from one of his own creations--he led Croft into a private
wing of the palace, and through it to the inner court, where Gaya waited
on a couch beneath a striped awning, close to the sun-kissed waters of
the bathing pool.

Croft's heart swelled as he once more entered the well-known lounging
place. For a moment his eyes dimmed as he bent above Gaya's hand, in
silent salutation.

"Jason, my friend," she said softly, "take thought that the ways of Zitu
are past understanding, and that from this further ordeal now laid upon
you may come a double peace."

"Hai!" exclaimed Robur quickly. "Give heed to her, Jason. At times she
seems given prophetic vision. Perchance this double peace is for thee and
Tamarizia also."

"Zitu grant it," said Croft, deeply affected by Gaya's greeting. "It is
of that we must speak after I have made certain things plain."

Robur nodded. Gaya returned to the couch. The two men drew other seats
beside her, and Croft narrated his story. He rapidly outlined a plan for
sending a Tamarizian party into the mountains north of Cathur, and at the
last he mentioned Koryphu's name.

"Hai!" Robur's face lighted. "Now, by Zitu, Jason, you have found the
proper man. True is he in his heart, as I believe, and a sufferer from
his brother's treason. He should welcome this task."

"Naia brought the man to my mind," said Jason.

"Aye"--Gaya smiled--"the step savors of a woman. Kalamita will gain small
satisfaction when she meets him face to face. It is a proper choice."

"He lies at Scira?" Robur questioned.

Croft nodded. "Aye--I have visited him in spirit inside the last five
days--and found him busy with tablets and scrolls, more student than man
of affairs."

"Then," Robur declared with quick decision, "we go to Scira and lay the
matter before him without delay."

"Nay"--Croft shook his head--"first shall I be present in Berla in my own
fashion when Naia arrives. Meanwhile, Robur, you and I arrange other
details for the mission to this meeting, and prepare to reopen the

For a moment Robur regarded him out of narrowed eyes, and then he nodded.
"Has the Mouthpiece of Zitu some new device for the making, he will find
me ready to work with him upon it as in the past."

"Nay, I know not, nor will till after this meeting with the Zollarian
woman. And after that it may be I shall revisit Earth."

"Earth!" Robur exclaimed. "When last you attempted such a matter, the
thing was an affair of Zitrans. Think you..."

"Hold, Rob," Jason interrupted. "Within the last cycle--I have visited
and conversed with a man of Earth in the spirit rather than the flesh."

Gaya caught her breath sharply. "Jason," she faltered, "as man I know
you, yet are there times when to me you seem more like to a spirit in
man's form even as on a time Zud of Zitra said."

Croft turned to her. "Man is a spirit, Gaya, my friend and wife of my all
but brother," he said slowly. "Yet now my spirit is heavy, in that I am a
man bereft. Wherefore, ere this thing be finished, I shall work in body
and spirit to regain what I have lost. Rob, have you stores in plenty of
metals, rubber, and cloth?"

"Aye, in plenty--and if not, since Koryphu's mission will take the best
part of a Zitran to arrange and carry out, it were possible to put double
shifts at the forges and send the weavers to their looms."

"Then do so," Jason accepted, filing his chest with a heavy inhalation,
"for it is in my mind that ere Naia and Jason, Son of Jason, shall see
Aphur again strange things shall be seen in the skies."

Chapter VI

Freedom of action, co-operation, a friendly understanding, marked the
following days for Croft. That night he visited Naia while his body lay
in a room in Robur's part of the palace, covered with a silken tissue,
worked over by Gaya's own maids, whom she sent to rub into its stalwart
muscles, soft, nourishing, perfumed ointments, such as the Tamarizian
nobles used.

Invisible, his presence known only to Naia, he saw the triumphal display
of the captives, the procession through the streets of Berla, at the end
of their voyage. But he also found a little satisfaction at Kalamita's
frustration when she found that the emperor, Helmor, had his own use for
the captives. They would be held as hostages under the emperor's
protection. Croft momentary satisfaction vanished, however, when Helmor
agreed to turn the child over to Kalamita, for sacrifice to Bel, if
Tamarizia either refused to yield to Zollaria's demands or made war upon

Croft writhed in his spirit, at the meaning of Helmor's words--the
picture of Jason, Son of Jason, torn from the breast against which now he
rested all unknowing, and fed into Bel's foul body filled with flame. He
knew in the main what Zollaria would ask--knew in his soul that her
demands must be refused for Tamarizia's good. There remained then naught
for him save to support Naia insofar as he could in the spirit, and
devise some means of freeing her from her present position, other than
any true consideration of what Zollaria might propose.

And now it appeared to him that the best he could do was to bring about
delay in whatever negotiations might grow out of the situation--to see
them dragged out without a definite decision--to gain time, wherein he
might think and scheme. Or if there were no other way, seek to perfect
some such device with which to strike a counterblow against Kalamita's
nation as that I had proposed.

Such thoughts held him, therefore, as he went to a room deep amid the
foundations of the palace into which Naia and her maid and child were

A little of straw was upon the floor. It was dimly lighted by a
single-oil lamp in a sconce against one wall. There was a copper couch
with a none-too-clean sleeping pad upon it, and nothing more. With a
quick rebellion of the spirit, Croft found himself thinking that it was
not so Helmor, when a prisoner of Tamarizia, had been housed.

He waited until Maia had induced her to stretch herself upon the couch,
and taking the child in her arms had crouched beside her on the straw,
rocking it gently and crooning to it a quaint Tamarizian song. And then
as Naia's lips moved and he caught her whisper, "Beloved," he answered:
"I am here."

She sighed, and her body relaxed as its astral tenant stole forth.

"You heard all, beloved?" she questioned as they sat together.

"Aye," Croft told her.

"Now Zitu help us!" Naia of Aphur cried. "For if my spirit be not broken,
yet it is shaken within me, Jason, because of that little life Maia now
holds in her arms."

"Nay--fear not." Jason drew her to him and told her his plan to gain
delay while perfecting his other plans. "Azil gave not the spirit of our
son to us, beloved, to be set free in Bel's unclean arms."

"Zitu grant it." Naia glanced about the barren chamber. "Forgive me my
weakness, Jason. If delay seems best to you, I shall endure it, so you
come to me frequently to tell me of all your progress."

"Aye." Croft's soul rebelled at the thought of her durance in such
quarters, though there seemed nothing else for it. "Here we may meet in
safety since Helmor himself denies all access to you. And I shall visit
Earth, beloved, ere I come to thee again."

These things Croft told me on the night he kept his promise to visit me
again. From Berla he went to Himyra first, speaking with Gaya and Robur,
directing the latter to mobilize the workmen who had labored on the
airplanes before the Mazzerian war. Croft also visited the motur shops and
gave command for the immediate inception of work on engines of a somewhat
more powerful design than any used on Palos heretofore.

Furthermore, Croft requested that he see what airplanes were already
constructed, thoroughly overhauls, as part of the preparation for
Koryphu's mission into the mountains north of Cathur. And that part of
his intentions he explained.

"They follow a course of deception already, Rob, and two may play at the
game. Much must be done ere we attempt a rescue, and toward the doing we
must needs gain time. Wherefore since to the minds of Helmor and Kalamita
it is unknown that I am forewarned and their intent to hold Naia in
Berla, rather than it the place of which by Bathos she sent me word, it
appears best to me that we make it seem we are deceived. These planes
shall mount the air from Cathur, therefore, and fly above the mountains
in advance of Koryphu's party, as though seeking for some place of
concealment, wherein her captives may lie hid. Thus we shall help
Kalamita play her part to her mind at least, and perchance throw at least
some dust in Zollaria's eyes."

Robur nodded. "I sense your plan, Jason," he agreed. "Yet I have taken
thought that a plane may fall, and that it is the secret of the moturs
which Zollaria wishes in part to gain."

Croft smiled rather grimly. "Aye, Rob. The point were well taken, nor has
it escaped my mind. To such an end each flier must be provided with a
device by which his motur may under such conditions be destroyed, and
with orders to burn his machine, escaping thereafter by the aid of the
other planes on duty with him, or in any way he can."

Once more Robur nodded.

"Aye," said he, "you think of all things. And this other device toward
the forming of which you are preparing?"

"Nay," Jason replied. "It depends upon my visit to Earth, after which I
hope to give you plans and figures."

"Zitu grant you be successful," said the Governor of Aphur. "You will
seek this knowledge when?"

"Tonight," Jason told him; "after which Scira must be visited and the
consent of Koryphu to head the party to this meeting with Kalamita
gained. She will lose small time in hastening to it, hoping to add
another prisoner to her number, despite the fact that Helmor has altered
her plans."

"Aye, and were swift moturs or an airplane to descend upon her lodge
after Koryphu has reached it, it might be that Tamarizia would have a
prisoner to exchange with Zollaria without a longer waiting."

"That, too, have I thought of, Aphur, yet though we match craft with
craft and violence with violence, if the need arises, let none say that
Zitu's Mouthpiece counseled the violation of an embassy's seeming or used
it as a mask to another purpose than that to which it sets forth."

"But--if this Zollarian plans to trick you into her hands by such a

"Nay, she will fail," said Jason. "Yet think not, meaning to seize me if
so it falls out according to her wishes, she will come to that place so
poorly guarded that an attempt to make her captive would result in aught
save a clash of arms. Wherefore let her fail of her aim and return to
Berla the next time with empty hands. How stands Zollaria then, save to
deal direct with Zitra, which shall quibble with her--neither accepting
nor refusing, appointing a place perhaps for a more representative
meeting, while you and I, Rob, labor over our designs?"

"I have talked with Zitra by means of the message tower you have placed
in Himyra and upon Zitra's walls," Robur replied. "Jadgor, my father,
stands ready to aid you in whatsoever way he can, and the spirit of
Lakkon writhes with thoughts of his daughter. May I say to them those
things with which you have made me acquainted?"

"Aye," Croft assented. "Say also that Naia sends a greeting to her
father, and that at present she lies safe from harm. Come, let us return
to the palace since things are now arranged."

And that night it was Croft made his promised visit to me. I was ready
for him. I had not delayed in instituting my efforts at gaining the
knowledge the use of which I had suggested, and I had found the man I
wanted--one who had served his country well in the chemical arm of the
service, and was therefore qualified to give me the information of which
I stood in need. My greatest difficulty had been in convincing him that I
desired the knowledge for no improper use, but in the end I surmounted
the task. And that night after Jason had roused me to his presence I
recited the formula to him.

"Zitu! Murray, the thing can be accomplished! Palos holds all that will
be required."

"Good," I said. "Then you can make it?"

His thought waves beat back at me in a very passion of conviction. "Yes,
and we'll carry it to them in something like blimps."

"Blimps--dirigibles, you mean?"

"Yes," he said. "That's what I've been considering making, though I
haven't told Rob about it yet. They'll be far more stable for the purpose
than planes."

"Why, yes," I agreed. "Croft, it's a rather peculiar thing, but before
the armistice was signed in Europe each side was planning to blot out the
major cities of the opposing nations beneath a fiery rain."

For that was the thing I had proposed to Jason, and the secret for the
production of the unquenchable liquid fire which could be stored and
carried, and sprayed in a rain of death upon those against whom it was
used, was the thing I had gained from Captain Gaylor, formerly connected
with the department of gas and flame.

It was as though already the doom of Helmor's plans and Kalamita's
vengeance was sealed. "Croft," I questioned, "you know the general nature
of these blimps?"

"Aye." He nodded. "But if you have any suggestions, Murray..."

"Well," I said, "Captain Gaylor gave me the general plan in describing
how the stuff you're going to demonstrate to Helmor was to be carried--as
well as a description of the fire bombs they meant to carry aboard their
planes. You know just before the armistice, Jason, there was talk of a
new deadlier gas. In reality it wasn't gas at all, but this stuff of
which I've told you. The gas talk was just a mask."

"Go on--tell me, Murray," he prompted tensely. "Give me all you can to
begin with, though if I get stuck I'll be back again, of course."

"Of course," I said, and told him all I knew myself.

"Murray," he exclaimed when I had finished, "Naia of Aphur, and Jason,
Son of Jason, will owe you their salvation."

"The thing seems plausible to me, Croft."

"Plausible," he repeated. "It shall be accomplished. Now, Koryphu may
start upon his mission, while every shop and forget in Himyra roars."

"By the way, how does the populace cotton to this fresh Zollarian move?"

"They don't know it yet, old fellow." He gave me a glance. "You know,
Murray, Tamarizia, even yet, isn't Earth. There's only the wireless
between Himyra and Zitra, and a telegraph across the gateway to Scira in
Cathur--but in view of what's going to happen in Himyra almost at
once--the preparations, I mean--I think I'll tell them, and suggest that
in Zitra the masses be informed by Zud--that Zollaria has struck at the
Mouthpiece of Zitu in order to coerce the nation. It won't do any harm to
have the sympathy of the populace behind us in this."

"Nor in Scira," I said. "Cathur hasn't forgotten how nearly she was
enslaved, I imagine--or that her fate would have been the same as
Mazhur's for fifty years, if it had not been for the Mouthpiece of Zitu's
intervention in hers and Tamarizia's behalf. And see here, Croft--if
you've a telegraph up there, why don't you send Koryphu a message instead
of going after him yourself? You've enough to tend to in the matter of
the blimps without traipsing about."

He smiled for the first time. "It might do here, but not on Palos,
Murray. They're great for delegations, personal representation--the old
ways. You can't change them all at once. But--it won't do any harm to
announce by coming or its reason, or that the Mouthpiece of Zitu comes in
person to the house of Koryphu. That in itself might even serve in
preparing the mind of Cathur's prince for the proposition I shall make
him once I arrive. According to Palosian standards, Murray, even though
it sounds bald for me to say so, such an occasion should be an important
event in Koryphu's life."

Chapter VII

Croft went not to Himyra, however, as I fancied, but to Zitra, after he
left me, and the sleeping apartment of Zud, taking his stand close to
where the high priest lay wrapped in slumber on a copper couch.

"Zud! Zud! Man of Zitu!" he let the call of his spirit steal forth. Once
in a past time he had taught the high priest something of the astral
body, finding it necessary to his purpose then to convince him of the
truth. And he had told him that when he should call him in the future he
would answer.

"My lord," he muttered. "Aye--my lord."

"Spirit of Zud--come forth!"

Zud of Zitra's body relaxed. His spirit obeyed. Mistlike it hovered above
his physical form.

"My lord," it faltered again.

"Peace," said Croft. "Ye have answered me, Zud, in such wise. Give ear
and obey me in the flesh, when dawn comes again to the world. I,
Mouthpiece, say unto thee this:

"Word of the abduction of Naia, wife of Jason, and of Jason, Son of Jason,
shall be noised abroad. Be it said that Zollaria, envious of Tamarizia's
progress, has seized them and borne them into her country, holding them
ransom to her demands against this nation, under penalty of death to
Jason's son.

"Let it be understood. Let Zud himself sponsor the announcement, first
going to Jadgor's palace and saying to Jadgor that Jason, the Mouthpiece
of Zitu, gives the word.

"Say also to Jadgor that Jason requires him to send, from the tower on
Zitra's walls, word to Mutlos, Governor of Cathur, requesting him to see
that word is spread to Scira--also that Jason himself shall come to Scira
to hold speech with Koryphu on the matter--and that he notify Scythys'
younger son. Let this be done by command of Jadgor. The message being
received from him in Himyra will be forwarded to Scira at once."

"Aye, Mouthpiece of Zitu," Zud made answer. "Once ere this have ye
appeared in such guise before me, and I obeyed thee. Even so shall I obey
you now. These things shall be done."

"Yet counsel the people to remain calm in the announcement," Jason said.
"Zitu's Mouthpiece desires no more than their sympathy in this."

"But the woman--my lord has word of her and the infant?" the high priest

"Aye," Croft told him. "As Zud knows, I may meet with her in the spirit
even as with Zud himself."

"Aye"--Zud inclined his astral head--"that Zud no longer doubts, since
within his knowledge it is proved.

"Say also to Jadgor that Jason goes to Himyra to labor in the flesh with
Robur, son of Jadgor," Croft continued. "Now return to thy body and
finish thy slumbers, man of Zitu. Yet, waking, see that in all things my
counsel is obeyed."

"Aye, Zud obeys on waking," the high priest promised.

"In Zitu's name," said Croft, and with that he left.

Dawn was breaking over Berla when he reached it in the astral and told
Naia of the visit with me and his talk with Zud. Throughout the next day,
Jason and Robur passed from one palace to another, calling the captains,
whom Croft himself had trained, explaining, and issuing orders.

Late in the afternoon, bulletins struck off Jason's presses appeared
posted on the corners--flaunting the news of Zollaria's latest move
before the people's eyes. It had one effect that he had not counted on;
time after time, in his progress from one place to another, his motur was
halted by crowds and Croft found he had to make speeches. The delay was
irritating, however gratifying the sympathy and support of his people.

Thus it was not until evening that he reached the hangars, and told his
select corps that both moturs and planes must be destroyed if a forced
landing was made on Zollarian soil. Robur would direct them in the use of
grenades. The pilots were distressed at the thought of destroying their
planes, but firm in their determination that Zollaria should not learn
their secret. Croft's spirits were high as he and Robur entered their
motur to return home.

"Tonight, Rob, I give you many plans and dimensions," he said. "That
done, I board Jadgor's galley for Scira. Till I return, the work lies in
your hands."

Chapter VIII

All Scira was _en fête_, or seemed so, though there was a strange
sullenness about her crowds, despite the flags, the banners that decked
the houses and lined the streets, and flew above her blue walls.

The Mouthpiece of Zitu was coming from Aphur on a mission, and the city
was adorned to greet him by the orders of Mutlos, Governor of Cathur,
himself. The throngs which waited his coming, to welcome him, and escort
him to the house of Koryphu, where the sun-rayed banner of Aphur hung
beside that of Cathur in the almost breathless air, wore their brightest
garments. But his mission forbade holiday spirits in the minds of the

What was the purpose of the man to whom all Tamarizia looked as little
less than a demigod in his knowledge, in visiting Koryphu, who had pored
over tablets and scrolls in a semiseclusion ever since the disgrace
Kyphallos, son of Scythys, now happily dead, had brought upon Cathur's
royal house?

Be that as it may, Mutlos prepared his residence for the occasion and on
the day of the expected arrival of Jason Croft donned his bravest apparel
and waited to welcome his quest.

Yet it was mid-afternoon before Jadgor's galley, bearing the standard of
Zitra--the circle and cross--appeared and bore down on Scira's walls.

The giant sea doors swung open, admitting her to the harbor, and closed
again when she had passed. Breaking forth Cathur's flag, she advanced
across the inner harbor and swung to a mooring. A band of trumpeters
ruffled forth from the quay, where Mutlos waited. The gangway was thrust
forth, and the Mouthpiece of Zitu, walking alone and unattended,

"Hail, Mouthpiece of Zitu!" the assembled populace roared.

Mutlos advanced. The two men struck hands on shoulders, and joined their
palms in a moment's claps. Side by side they entered Mutlos's motur. The
trumpeters fell in before them, breaking a pathway through the crowds.

So came Jason to Scira once more, somber of mien, yet steady-eyed.

"My sympathy as a man I give thee, Advisor of Tamarizia," Mutlos said as
the car began to move. "My assistance and that of Cathur I pledge you an'
it be needed. This thing passes all endurance. Say but the word and
Cathur will gather her swords."

"Nay," Jason replied slowly. "Thy sympathy, Cathur, warms the heart of
the man. But the time of rescue has not arrived. Armed interference at
present were ill-advised, since Zollaria fears it, and should it be
attempted, thinks to offer my son to Bel a sacrifice."

"Zitu!" Mutlos gasped. "What then, O Mouthpiece? Where lies a chance of
rescue? Zollaria makes demands of ransom?"

"Aye--or will. Even now one approached a rendezvous in the mountains
north of Cathur to meet with an agent of ours. It is because of that I am

"To arrange a mission to this meeting?" Mutlos said with ready

"Aye. Zollaria sends Kalamita of ill-fame to Cathur as her agent.
Tamarizia, with the knowledge of Cathur and his own consent if it is
forthcoming, sends Scythys' son."

"Now, by Zitu!" Admiration waked in Mutlos's eyes. "'Tis well thought
of--to face that tawny enchantress, this creature of Adita, by one in
whose heart must burn hot with hate against her. Guardsmen I place at your
disposal and his. My place lies open to you, and you will honor it with
your presence--or plan you to lodge in Koryphu's house?"

"With Koryphu this night at least," said Jason. "Yet with Mutlos things
must be discussed here the mission fares forth. Hence at the palace in
the night succeeding the sun after this. I accept the offer of guardsmen
gladly. A score will be enough."

"They will be forthcoming," Mutlos promised, and spoke to his driver. "To
Koryphu's house."

Up to the door of the lesser palace stalked Jason alone, once he had
descended from the motur.

But Koryphu had marked his coming, and the door slid open before him.

"Hail to this, Tamarizia, in the person of Jason, Mouthpiece of Zitu,"
Koryphu exclaimed and drew back a pace before him, that he might enter
under the eyes of the watching crowd.

"My lord," he said once the portal was closed, shutting them in together
after Mutlos had risen in his motur and bowed and he had returned the

"Greetings to you, Koryphu, son of Scythys," Croft responded. "Behold in
me not so much anything as a man bereft and sorely troubled by his
loss--one who comes to you thus in a time of trouble to ask you to lend
him aid."

Koryphu's eyes widened swiftly. "But, by Zitu--in what can one of fallen
fortunes aid you, Mouthpiece of Zitu?"

"It is of that we must speak together, Prince of Cathur."

"Come then," Koryphu turned and led the way across a court done in blue
and crystal, surrounded by a balcony of blue and white, to the room in
which more than any other Koryphu spent his life.

"Be seated, lord," he invited, indicating a red wood chair and taking his
place in another drawn close to a table of copper, littered with numerous
scrolls. "Loss is not unknown to Scythys's son, nor the feeling of it.
Speak--Koryphu lends his ear to thy voice."

Jason explained--going at some length into past events--proffering
Koryphu the leadership of the first embassy at last.

"I--Koryphu!" The Cathurian noble stammered, his breathing a trifled
quickened. "Zitu's Mouthpiece chooses me for such an errand as this?"

"Aye." Croft inclined his head, watching the man before him. "Koryphu the

"Tamarizian!" Koryphu repeated. "But why Koryphu--why the son of a
discredited house? Why not another, whose loyalty none could question?"

"Because, who heads this mission will meet Kalamita of Zollaria in the

"Kalamita!" Koryphu stiffened. "That--foul sepulchre of dead loves and
unholy emotions--that stench in the nostrils of true men, and blot on the
name of women. Say you she comes herself to this meeting?"

"Aye," said Jason Croft. "Wherefore, there appears no better agent in all
Tamarizia to meet her when she comes to trap me also as she hopes, seeing
she had bidden me to this conference in person, than one who loves her
not nor is apt to fall captive to her shameless graces--than Koryphu
Tamarizian first, and son of Cathur, and loyal in his heart to both, as I

"Thou believest?" Koryphu questioned with an eagerness almost pathetic.

"Aye. Else were I not sitting in his house."

For a moment silence came down, save for Koryphu's audible breathing. For
a moment his eyes flamed with a sudden light, and then he turned them
away since, in the code of Tamarizian manhood, there was little room for
tears. Then he rose.

"Zitu!" he broke forth hoarsely and lifted his arms. "Father of
life--hast then given ear in such fashion to my prayers? Is the time of
penance ended? If so, I thank thee, Zitu."

He sank down again, dropping his head upon his folded arms on the table.

For a time Croft watched him, elation and sympathy blended in his regard.
"Nay, Koryphu," he said presently as the Cathurian kept his face hidden
while his shoulders heaved. "None questioned thy loyalty really. Half thy
worry was of your own conceiving. Few spake illy of thee. Men deemed
rather you had taken for comfort to your tablets and scrolls. By Jadgor
and Robur of Aphur, my choice of thee is approved."

"Hai! Jadgor--Robur! Say you so?" Koryphu lifted his head. "Perchance
thou art right," He went on more calmly. "Perchance I have brooded
overmuch. Yet comes this now as the realization of dreams born in nights
of brooding, hopes formed in sorrow, and well-night dead."

"You accept, then?" Croft questioned.

"Accept. Aye, by Zitu--and I shall serve you loyally. What do I when I
face this beauteous slayer of men's souls--shall I watch for opportunity
and strike her dead? If so the life of Koryphu were a small price..."

_"Hilka!"_ Croft interrupted. "Hold now, Cathur--Koryphu does naught save
listen to her words. Think you the death of their agent would help us--or
render my dear ones more safe--or that the dead body of Koryphu would
bring to Tamarizia more swiftly the demands Zollaria will make through
her toward those negotiations that shall follow? Nay, small danger lies
in this mission so that rather than inflamed with rage when he stands
before her, Koryphu appears but one come to return with her words."

"Aye." Koryphu caught his breath quickly. "Yet owe her I a debt of
overlong standing."

Croft nodded. "I deny it not. Let Koryphu's vengeance begin when she sees
me not of Tamarizia's party--and finds herself outplayed."

"Thinks she the Mouthpiece of Zitu a fool to walk into her trap?"

"She thinks me a husband and father, less well informed of her true
purpose than perchance I am," Croft replied. "It were well she be not
undeceived. Wherefore I send airplanes north before you--to fly above the
mountains as though seeking a place of concealment, that she may not know
I am aware Naia of Aphur lies in Berla."

Koryphu narrowed his eyes in appreciation. "The thought were well
conceived. I do naught then save meet this Zollarian and give ear to her
terms of ransom?"

"Naught else, save say that those terms will be brought to my ears and
the ears of the nation."

"'Tis well," the Cathurian now accepted. "That shall I do, and naught to
endanger to success of the undertaking, because of my personal affairs.
When do I depart upon my mission?"

"Presently," Jason told him. "Mutlos will furnish you a score of
guardsmen. You will go north after the airplanes have arrived."

"Two alighted before Mutlos's palace this morning," Koryphu announced.
"They declared to the crowds they came by your orders, yet said nothing
further. Are there others?"

"Six in all," said Jason, smiling, well pleased that his fliers had lost
no time. "Doubtless the others will arrive."

The next day he spent with Mutlos, arranging for Koryphu's departure and
explaining his purpose in the airplanes, the last of which arrived. The
evening passed in meeting many of the Cathurian officials, bidden by
Mutlos to the occasion and a feast at which Koryphu and Pala were among
the more prominent guests. No secret had been made of his mission. In
fact, word of it had been given out.

For the time being Koryphu found himself again a person of
importance--one in whom Tamarizia herself had given evidence of faith.
Watching him under circumstances more or less trying to a man of inferior
metal, Croft found himself pleased by his demeanor.

Well pleased then, he gave orders that the planes depart in the morning,
and that later Koryphu and his escort should leave for the north. Taking
tables, he wrote rapidly a message to Kalamita, setting forth the face
that the bearer was a representative in person, and gave it to Koryphu
after pressing his signet into the waxen surface with instructions to
place it in her hands.

Stretching himself on the couch in the sumptuous chamber in Mutlos's
palace, to which he had been led, he freed his consciousness from his
body and went in search of the woman herself, to find her in the midst of
a wayside camp of Zollarian soldiery, asleep on the pads of her
gnuppa-drawn conveyance, beside which the giant Gor of the galley mounted

Koryphu went north with the dawn, and Kalamita was hastening to meet him.
Satisfied, he left her in slumbrous ignorance of his presence and visited
Naia, telling her of the progress he was making, and how Robur was
stoking the furnaces of Himyra toward the creation of yet another marvel,
in the eyes of the population, until they flared red above the walls of
the city in the night.

In the morning he sent Robur a message announcing his departure, said
farewell to Mutlos and was driven to the quays and Jadgor's galley. Going
aboard he gave the order for sailing. The sea doors were opened. He
passed through them, and turned the prow of the craft at his disposal
swiftly into the south.

Chapter IX

Koryphu of Cathur, under the banner of Tamarizia--with seven red and
white stripes and a blue field with seven stars--a thing designed by
Croft himself after the republic was established, fared north in a
gnuppa-drawn conveyance with his escort of Cathurian guards.

Kalamita and Zollaria came down from the north in a similar fashion, but
with a vastly heavier escort--strong enough as Croft had suggested to
Robur to avoid any chance of surprise. Croft sailed south, but watched
their progress each night, when he let his consciousness steal forth. The
airplanes sailed north and found themselves a landing place as best they
might, to which, after each day spent above the mountains north of
Cathur's border, they returned.

Three days brought Jason to Himyra. Jadgor's galley was swift, indeed.
Each day he spent in the shops, sometimes with Robur, sometimes without
him; a part of each night he spent in the laboratory he had fitted up in
Robur's own part of the palace, experimenting in the blending of
reagents, the making of the liquid fire. And his labors ended, each night
Croft stretched himself out on his couch, closed his physical eyes and
maintained observation of events taking place in the north.

Three days after his return to Himyra, Kalamita arrived at her hunting
lodge. Rather the thing was a small palace, built of native stone from
the mountains and massive beams of wood--its central court fur-lined, its
walls and floors covered with trophies of the chase--skins of the woolly
tabur, which ran wild as well as in domesticated herds.

Swiftly then Jason willed himself into the hunting lodge where sat
Kalamita, dressed or undressed as one might prefer to express it, for the
occasion, in a huge chair draped with the black and tan hide of some
savage creature, Gor, her giant attendant, by her side.

"Thou understandest, Gor, that when this one comes before me, I shall
demand that we speak together alone. And I have given word to the
guardsmen that his men shall be surrounded and at a word from me, after
my purpose is accomplished, all save one be put to the sword. After a
time as we speak together I shall simulate anger at some word of his, to
the speaking of which I shall lead him by taunting speech, and then fling
myself upon him and bind him. This is clear?"

"Aye, mistress, when has Gor failed thee--or to do thy bidding?"

"None fail me save once," said Kalamita. "Enough."

Outside, a trumpet blew a ruffling blast. There followed a pause, and
then Cathur, tricked out in his bravest armor, with the twin mountain
peaks of Cathur on it done in blue stones, appeared in the doorway of the
lodge between two Zollarian captains, and paused.

"Cathur for Tamarizia seeks audience with Kalamita," the senior captain

For a moment the face of the woman twitched; then she replied, gripping
the arm of her chair till her knuckles whitened, "Let Cathur approach."

The captains fell back and disappeared. Koryphu advanced. A single pace
before her he halted.

"These tablets bring I from Jason, Mouthpiece of Zitu to Tamarizia, to
Kalamita," he said, and placed Croft's message in her hand.

She held them for a single instant, ere she hurled them to the floor. Her
lips twitched, hardened, her tawny eyes glared.

But outwardly she strove for calm. "How are you called, man of Cathur,
who come to listen to my demands and carry them to this strong man, who
exerts not himself to come before me?"

"Koryphu, brother of Kyphallos, woman of Zollaria," Koryphu replied.

Kalamita recoiled. Her body shrank back as from a blow, and then she

"Koryphu! Now, in Bel's name, what trickery is this that sends before me
the weakling student brother, at whom Kyphallos laughed?"

"No trickery, Zollaria, lies in it, but rather purpose," Koryphu
returned, "in that Jason chose for his messenger one who had sufficient
knowledge of thee to assure his remaining unmoved by your charms, no
matter how shamelessly employed--one who would hearken to your demands as
regarding Naia of Aphur and Jason, Son of Jason, yet give no ear to other

Mentally Croft applauded even while physically Kalamita, the magnet,

"The Mouthpiece of Zitu were a shrewd man," she said after a moment, "yet
might he have felt doubly assured in thy choice, had he considered thy
presence. Kalamita wastes not her wiles on aught less than a man. Did he
send also to guard thee, the things that fly over the mountains the past
two days?"

"Nay," said Koryphu as one who considered his answer. "They but seek a
place of hiding, since Kalamita said her whose terms of ransom I come to
bear to him, would lie hidden in the mountains until such terms were

Kalamita smiled. "As he wills," she said more lightly. "I might forbid
it, but it disturbs me not. He will not find the place, and endangers the
terms himself, since a part of my demands were gained already if one of
his devices falls. Even now my guardsmen lie in wait for such a happening
in the hills."

Koryphu appeared unmoved by the information. "Let your guards beware,
since if one of them falls it will be destroyed. Does Kalamita desire the
secret of them for Zollaria or herself?"

And again Croft applauded his choice of the man who was unveiling the
true state of affairs behind the present meeting, and yet leaving
Zollaria's agent at least in part deceived.

"Where it not the same, Kalamita being Zollarian, man of Cathur?"

"Aye, perhaps," Koryphu assented. "If perchance the interests be the
same. It would seem then that as well as Kalamita's price to Jason, I
return to Tamarizia with Zollaria's demands."

"And thy shoulders can support so vast a burden, Cathur--these terms I
warn you are not light."

"I await them," Koryphu replied.

"Then hear Kalamita's price for the pale-face one and her suckling.
Mazhur must be returned--the gateway must be opened without let or
hindrance. There must be no tax exacted over Zollarian traffic on the
Central Sea. There must be surrendered with men to explain them the
secrets of your moturs and your air machines, and of all other devices
born of the Mouthpiece of Zitu's brain--the fire weapons, the balls that
burst when thrown amidst an enemy's forces. Name these things as the
price of ransom to your Mouthpiece when you return."

"These seem heavy terms, indeed." Koryphu threw out his hands in a
helpless gesture. "Were it not wiser for Zollaria to ask less with a
chance of obtaining somewhat than to overshoot the mark by asking

"Nay." Kalamita leaned back well pleased as it seemed by the man's quite
natural confusion on being given a message that spelled little less than
his country's ruin.

"Nay, by Bel, Cathur--one there was a time when thy brother's plans and
mine went down in confusion when Tamarizia demanded and Zollaria yielded.
Now Zollaria speaks, and should Tamarizia not accept, or make any move to
resist her demands by force of arms, Naia of Aphur goes to the mines with
the blue men who labor in them and her puny offspring into Bel's mighty
arms a paltry sacrifice. So much herself the woman understands--wherefore
she sends this ring to Jason to plead as her own voice that he hearken to
Kalamita's words."

Stripping a signet from her finger, she extended it upon her palm.

Koryphu's features were strained as he took the ring. "These things I
shall carry to Jason's ears. Does Kalamita await his answer?"

"Nay--let Jason arrange the next meeting," said Kalamita. "I go to a
place he knows not of, despite his man-made birds and their spying. Yet
will a messenger on the highway north from Mazhur be met, and his message
accepted. So I shall arrange." She broke off sharply as a commotion arose
outside the lodge, then turned to Gor. "Go learn the cause of this

Gor stalked to the door, and paused.

"Mistress, they come," he declared, and drew back as a group of Zollarian
guardsmen in charge of a captain entered, a man in leathern jacket and
helmet held captive in their midst.

With a start Croft recognized one of his own fliers. Disaster--already
one of the planes had fallen, he thought, and heard the captain confirm
his fears.

The man saluted with upflung arm. "Behold, Princess, one whom we bring
before you--a Tamarizian dog--who fell with the device he rode like an
arrow-pierced bird from the skies."

Kalamita's smile was coldly gloating as she regarded the captive. "Well,
Tamarizian, found you the hiding place you flew in search of?"

"Nay." The youth stiffened. "'Tis not always easy, Zollarian, to discover
the hiding places of Zitemku's agents. Nor have we searched overlong."

Kalamita's features hardened. She gave her attention to the captain.
"What of the machine?"

"The machine, Princes, was by this one destroyed ere we could prevent it.
It lies burst and ruined by flames."

"So?" Rage lighted the woman's tawny eyes--once more she was baffled in a
purpose. "For that he dies."

Under his grime and sweat, inside the circle of his helmet, the aviator's
face went pale, but he maintained his poise of body even as Koryphu spoke
quickly--"Princess of Zollaria, unsay those words."

"Peace, brother of Kyphallos." Kalamita turned like a tigress on him.
"Who are you to interfere? Stand back and watch how Zollaria deals with
Tamarizian spies. Gor, take thy spear."

Gor's lips curled back as he advanced slightly, lifted his heavy weapon
and poised it.

And suddenly the aviator threw up his hand toward the other man of his
nation. "Hail, Cathur, Aphur salutes thee," his voice came strongly.
"Long life to Tamarizia. Say to Zitu's Mouthpiece that Robur..."

"Slay!" Kalamita screamed.

Gor's spear plunged home.

"Carry off that carrion." The woman's arm rose, pointing at the body.

The captain growled an order. The guardsmen lifted the limp form in its
suit of leather and bore it out on their spears.

Kalamita swung her whole form lithely about to where Koryphu was
standing. "Say to Zitu's Mouthpiece that so we treat his spies."

"Aye," he made answer gruffly. "Small doubt but I shall narrate to Zitu's
Mouthpiece many things."

For a moment the eyes of man and woman met and plunged glances lance-like
one into the other, ere there rose again an outward commotion, a burst of
thunderous sound, which gave way in an instant to groans and cries.

Koryphu stiffened. Kalamita started to her feet, as the outcry continued.
Some of the flush of anger faded from her features, and then Koryphu,
turning, ran across the floor toward the doorway and outside it.

"The standard--the standard of Tamarizia, let it be unfurled," he roared.

Out of the sky came down a drumming from where an airplane sailed. On the
ground lay some half dozen Zollarian guards--the same who had carried out
the aviator's body--some of them without motion, some of them that
groaned and moved. The vengeance of the flier's fellow had been swift and
deadly. But the flag of Tamarizia broke out over Koryphu's party, the
Tamarizian in the plane circling to drop another grenade, altered his
course, zoomed up above the nearest ridge of hills and disappeared.

Croft quivered in spirit as he watched him. He could scarcely censor his
hot-headed action in dropping the bomb on the murderers of his comrades
and yet now--blood had been shed on both sides, and Gor was approaching
Koryphu where he stood.

"Go!" he commanded with a gesture of dismissal. "My mistress grants you
safety since you are of no value save as you carry her message. Take thy
men and get thee on thy mission."

"Aye--be you my messenger to carry her my parting greeting," Koryphu
returned, and stalked to his carriage, about which, under the banner of
Tamarizia, his Cathurians had already formed.

Croft opened the eyes of his physical body in Robur's palace and lay
staring into the night. He lay pondering the matter until dawn, and then
rose. He sought Robur and told him of all he had seen.

"Send a message into Cathur, Rob, recalling the airplanes," he directed.
"Zitu forbid that I waste further the lives of such men. They have served
their purpose in a measure. Bid them return."

"And what of the further course of the matter?" Robur inquired.

"Kalamita returns to Berla, in my estimation," said Croft. "She must make
report. Yet thus far have we dealt with Kalamita only. Thus far the
matter has lain between herself and me alone. It was to me Bathos was
sent with his message. Wherefore, so quickly as Koryphu returns, we shall
ask Zitra to send one through Mazhur, calling upon Zollaria to confirm or
deny Kalamita's acts in a representative parley."

Robur nodded. "By Zitu, I sense your intention. In such a way you
safeguard our cousin and gain time for our own endeavors."

"Aye," said Jason, "time in which our work must be pressed with speed."

Chapter X

By day the forges of Himyra roared, and at night they blazed. Men toiled
and sweated. Croft planned, designed, and urged for haste, instructing,
advising, passing upon each part of the engines of swift deliverance he
had ordered made by day, by night watching in his own peculiar fashion
the progress of Koryphu back to Cathur, and that of Kalamita north.

Two days after the meeting in the mountains he sent Jadgor's galley to
Scira, to await Koryphu's coming and returning to Himyra with the
Cathurian aboard, deeming it best to take the man with him to Zitra to
appear before Jadgor in person, that his own statements might be
confirmed by Koryphu's words. Himself he determined to be present
astrally in Berla, when Kalamita appeared before Helmor to make her

That her return empty handed was a bitter thing in her heart he was well
aware. Watching her, Croft sensed that once more her brain was busy with
its schemes.

Bandhor met her at the palace and escorted her into a small and
sumptuously furnished room. Helmor of Zollaria sat there, his face
contorted into an expression of displeasure. As Bandhor and his sister
entered, he half rose, and Kalamita sank swiftly to her knees.

"Hail, Helmor, emperor and lord," she faltered.

"Rise," said the Zollarian monarch. "Thy coming was expected. Bandhor
informed me as you bade him, yet seemed unminded to further use his
tongue. So, then, you appear before me alone?"

"Aye, Helmor." Kalamita lifted herself on shapely limbs and stood with
downcast eyes. Suddenly she had adopted a meekness wholly out of keeping
with her usual demeanor. "Helmor foresaw the outcome of my effort in his
wisdom. All things fell out as he advised."

"The Mouthpiece came not to the meeting?"

"Nay. Perchance he lacked the courage on which I counted." Kalamita threw
up her head. Her tawny eyes flashed for a single instant.

Helmor resumed his seat. His brows knit in a frown.

"I await thy story, sister of Bandhor," he said after a time.

Kalamita explained. Helmor's frown deepened as she proceeded with her
story. Once and once only his expression denoted satisfaction, and that
when the woman spoke of the airplanes flying above the mountains.

"It would seem then that he knows not the woman lies in Berla," he said,
nodding. "It was so I planned. In so much is he deceived. Go on--finish
the story."

"Nay," Kalamita resumed. "There is no more save that I stated the
requirements of her ransom as it was agreed upon between us, and gave
Koryphu her signet which I had taken from her finger, bidding him say to
the Mouthpiece that she bade him yield, and that one of the flying
devices falling, and the Tamarizian within it, being captured, though not
before he had destroyed it, was slain by my orders before Koryphu's

"Slain?" repeated Helmor sharply. "Now, by Bel, were it wise to slay him,
or didst let thy judgment be consumed by rage?"

"Perchance," Kalamita admitted, still adhering to her role of meekness.
"Yet if so, the act was avenged and quickly, in that one of his fellows
flew above my lodged and dropped a fire-ball, which, bursting, slew two
in the number of my guard--and would have repeated the attack upon us,
save that Koryphu himself bade the flag of Tamarizia be unfurled above
his party, whereat the flier altered his course and disappeared.

"Helmor of Zollaria--blood has been shed by Tamarizia in this matter. Did
not Helmor vow that such an act by the southern nation should give Bel
the child of the Mouthpiece, a living sacrifice?"

"Aye, so Helmor promised," he returned slowly. "Yet meant he not the act
of a man enraged by the death of his fellow--a minor instance--a matter
of no consequence along the border. Sister of Bandhor, you appear over
quick to destroy what were a safeguard as well as a price of advantage in
Helmor's eyes."

Once more Kalamita lowered her face.

"There were no advantage to Helmor or the nation," she said slowly, "save
by favor of the gods. If Kalamita err, be it upon her own head, yet thus
far the matter had not gone overly to our liking--and were Bel's favor

"Enough!" All at once Helmor roared. "Question not Bel's favor. Has he
not placed these two wholly in our power? Is the way not paved for parley
and negotiation? Think you the man who waits on the road out of Mazhur
will fail to receive an answer to our demands?"

"Nay," said Kalamita, "there will be an answer. Yet now is it in my heart
to warn Helmor against permitting that these parleys--these discussions
of our demands--be entered into over long."

"What mean you? Were time not needful when a matter of so great
importance is to be arranged?"

"Aye--none may deny it." Kalamita granted the point without hesitation.
"And I know not wherein lies the peril save that these be a crafty
people, depending more upon their wits than on their strength, and that
this Aphurian woman boasted to men aboard my galley that the one who
devised these things, the secret of which we are demanding, might well
devise a greater. Wherefore let Helmor be warned against protracting his
parley to great length."

"A greater device?" he questioned. "Now, by Bel, what were it? Has he not
brought his fire weapons, his fire chariots across the Earth, his fire
ships to swarm upon the water, his flying devices into the skies? Where
else shall he turn for a new field to conquer? Earth, water, air--their
mastery is his--and will remain his only unless Zollaria wrests it from

"These airplanes, as he calls them, are our greatest menace--and now they
fly above the mountains, seeking her who lies safe inside Berla's walls.
Nay, sister of Bandhor, thy work is finished--leave what remains to be
accomplished in Helmor's hands, nor heed the words of a woman. Perchance
she meant to raise up a fear thought to affright thee."

Kalamita stiffened.

"Kalamita is not easily affrighted," she made answer. "And being woman,
may sense the meaning of a woman's words. Yet has Helmor spoken. May
Kalamita retire now that her mission is ended, less happily than she
wished, yet ended none the less?"

"Aye." Helmor inclined his head. "Ere the sun sinks I shall send to your
palace a chariot filled with silver. Bandhor, remain. I would speak with
you briefly."

"Bel strengthen Helmor's mind." To Croft it seemed almost as though a
hidden meaning lurked in the woman's words as she sank again to her
knees, rose and passed from the room.

He followed. Let Bandhor and Helmor talk, plan, plot, devise. There
lurked not the danger he feared, but rather in the brain of the woman now
making her way toward the carriage across the palace court. Hence it was
with no surprise as she entered her carriage that he heard her direct Gor
to the Temple of Bel, before she reclined upon the cushions and drew a
gasping breath.

And he followed close behind her as she reclined upon the cushions and
drew to the pyramidal temple itself.

It was built of some dark-hued stone, in color nearly black, set down in
the exact center of a mighty open space. Pillared it was on four sides,
about a mighty central court, like a great rectangular funnel, the sides
of which were corrugated with steps, leading down once more to the outer
level of the mighty base. These steps could furnish a multitude with
seats, as he saw at a glance. And in the center of the remaining
level--huge--massive--smoke-and-fire darkened--horrible in its grinning
visage, its pot-bellied furnace back of extended arms, the idol of Bel
found place.

At the head of the inner steps on the side from which she had entered,
Kalamita paused. So vast was the structure that standing so alone in her
supple beauty, her figure became a pigmy thing, was suddenly dwarfed. Her
arms rose above her head. She bent once, twice, thrice from the hips in
salutation to the monstrous thing before her, turned and made her way
among the pillars of the surrounding colonnade toward the end opposite
that the idol faced.

It was built in, unlike the other three sides, and here Jason fancied as
he followed, would be the quarters of the temple attendants and the

Upon a door of silver, set in the ebon surface of the wall, Kalamita
hammered with peremptory fist, and waited, until the portal was swung
ajar by a heavy-muscled individual clad in no more than a leathern apron
tied about his waist.

"Go," she directed, stepping past him. "Say to Ptah that the Princess of
Adita desires speech with him at once."

"Aye, beautiful one."

The man saluted and hastened off along a passage, to return and beckon
her after him mutely until he paused before a second silver door.

He struck upon it. A voice rumbled from beyond it. The man set it open
and Kalamita passed it into the presence of Bel's priest.

Huge he was, powerful, heavy muscled, thick of neck and nose and lip,
with a knotted, shaven poll, gross, in seeming an unwieldy human beast,
as dissimilar to the lithe beauty as day to night. Yet she spread her
rosy, gem-banded arms and sank down with lowered eyes.

"Hail to Ptah, priest of the Mighty One," she spoke in salutation.

"Rise, Princess of Adita," said Ptah, his small eyes nearly lost behind
the heavy lids lighting at sight of her kneeling figure. "What seeks the
Lamp of Pleasure in the house of Ptah?"

"Counsel, O Wise One," Kalamita answered, rising, and went swiftly on to
explain concerning her vow to Bel in regard to Naia of Aphur's child.

"So?" Ptah pursed his heavy lips at the end. "Helmor is headstrong nor
listens as closely as his fathers to the voices of the gods. In this case
hardly could even I defy him, Priestess of Joy."

"Not Bel's priest? Am I in this then to stand forsworn? And think you
what may depend upon it. Does Bel take a promise lightly--and were his
favor purchased..." Once more she paused.

Ptah frowned. Once more he pursed his lips, and then rising, he took up a
metal hammer and struck with it upon a gong which Croft now perceived to
be let into the substance of the door.

Casting the hammer aside he waited until the man with the leathern apron
appeared. "Go," he commanded then; "fetch me a suckling tabur and the
knife of augury from the hall of sacrifice where it is stored."

Returning to his seat he waited, his eyes never shifting from the shape
of the woman before him until the man reappeared bearing the little
creature he had named, and a massive knife of copper with a weighted

Rising, he received both and held them until the attendant had

"Oh, Bel--thou Strong One--show us thy pleasure in the matter before the
nation and in the case of Naia of Aphur's suckling. Speak to us through
the life of this creature I, Ptah, am about to sacrifice to thee," his
heavy voice rumbled.

Seizing the tabur by the hind legs, he poised the copper blade, and with
one muscular sweep of his mighty arm, struck off his head, and laid the
carcass down.

"Let me, O Ptah!" cried Kalamita, seizing the reeking knife from the
hands of the priest and kneeling to slit open the quivering belly of the
tabur, so that the entrails were exposed. Plunging her pink-nailed hands
into the quivering mass, she wrenched them forth and spread them writhing
on the bloodstained floor.

Ptah bent over them, marking the fall of them closely. The woman still
knelt before him, watching his every change of expression out of
questioning eyes, holding forth toward him, palm upward, her
crimson-dripping hands. Ptah said nothing, and after a time he
straightened and lifted his hands toward the ceiling, "Bel, I, Ptah, thy
servant, hear thee," he intoned hoarsely.

"An augury--an augury!" Kalamita panted. "What says the Strong One?"

Ptah lowered his back-tilted head. "Naught but the child may prevail to
save Zollaria in this matter. It lies with Helmor. Him must you persuade
to give ear to Bel's decision."

"Or"--she bent toward him, laying her blood-dabbled hands against his
mighty torso--"were the child brought into the temple--"

"Hah!" Ptah's eyes fired. "Bel himself has spoken to thee also, Priestess
of Adita. Were the child within this temple none, not even Helmor, would
have the power to regain him, and were Helmor to know a third defeat, one
more pious might mount the throne."

For a moment there was silence, and then Kalamita said slowly, "An' he
listens not to Bel's message, perchance the Strong One will show me a way
to gain our ends."

Ptah nodded. "Perchance, Priestess."

A glance of understanding passed between them, and Kalamita moved toward
the door.

Chapter XI

Kalamita and Ptah. Croft knew not wholly what they plotted, what plans
might lie in their brains. Yet whatever they might intend, certain it was
that the death of Jason, Son of Jason, was included in the plan. And that
night as he labored in the laboratory he called Robur and Gaya to him and
explained to their ready ears those things he had heard and seen.

At the end Gaya's soft eyes were wide with sympathetic sorrow, and
Robur's square lower jaw was clamped hard. As Croft paused he broke into

"Now, by Zitu, Ptah was right. Naught but the child of Jason can save his
unclean nation indeed--and should harm come on him Zitemku will have a
foul pit full of Zollarian souls."

"Aye, if he be harmed. But it were an empty revenge after all, my friend,
and one which might not bring him again to my house."

Robur nodded. "What then does Jason propose? Many suns must pass ere we
are ready to attempt the rescue, and meanwhile Kalamita plans."

"To warn Helmor of her planning."

"Warn him? In what fashion may Helmor be warned in time--even were he
minded to give ear to any word out of Tamarizia? Jason, you speak in

Croft nodded. "Nay--Helmor would pay little heed to Tamarizian words,
but were he to dream..."

"Dream..." All at once Gaya caught her breath. Her glance met Croft's in
a subtle understanding. "Jason, thou meanest--thou canst induce a dream
in his brain?"

"Aye." For the second time Croft nodded, well pleased at her intuitive
understanding. "Why not? Gaya knows how in the spirit I called Naia of
Aphur's spirit to me, before our marriage, and that nightly now we speak
so together concerning our love and this present thing; also that I speak
so to Zud of Zitra when the need arises, having taught him to answer the
call of my spirit. Wherefore, may I not visit Helmor in the spiritual
presence and by the same force inspire a vision of his and Zollaria's
danger in his mind?"

"By Zitu!" Robur mumbled again.

But Gaya sat brooding the thought for a moment longer, presently lifting
her head to murmur, "Three times. Let the dream be repeated once and yet
again, Jason, until it takes possession of him wholly, nor is absent from
his thoughts at any time."

Croft started slightly. He had only considered the one inspired dream of
warning, but now, he realized swiftly the value of Gaya's words--the
weight attached to the repetition of a dream. Her suggestion demanded
acceptance. "Aye, Gaya," he assented. "Ga speaks through you to the
benefit of child and mother. The dream shall be repeated three times, on
as many nights--until Helmor is convinced of an agency behind it, even
though the nature of that agency he fails to suspect."

Robur rose. His manner was restless. Suddenly he whirled around.

"You can do this thing?" he questioned. "Is naught forbidden to you, my
friend? You can enter the mind of another and order the shape of the
pictures in his brain?"

Jason eyed him for a moment before he answered. "Naught is forbidden to
the seeker after knowledge, Rob, so he see not from evil purpose or for
merely selfish gain. All life is a rhythm--even as the sound of the harp
given off from a vibrating string. And if I alter the rhythm of Helmor's
mind to the preserving of the life of my child, the honor of his mother,
the estate of himself, and the lives of his people, were the action

"Nay, it were a work of justice and mercy," exclaimed Gaya before Robur
found words in which to respond.

Croft lifted a tiny vial and held it toward both man and woman. "Behold!"
he cried sharply. "Fix your eyes upon it."

Arrested by his sudden words and manner, they complied, and in an instant
for them the room faded, gave place to another scene. A straw-covered
dungeon appeared--a dungeon with every detail of which Croft was familiar
in his spirit--a woman, a blue girl of Mazzer--a child. Briefly Robur of
Aphur and Gaya his wife beheld that picture and knew it for the room
beneath Helmor's palace--and then the whole thing faded and once more
they were gazing at a tiny vial in the Mouthpiece of Zitu's hands.

It was no more than an example of mass hypnotism as practiced for ages by
the Hindu fakirs, a trick learned by Croft while still as a man of Earth
he had lived and studied in India for several years, but to the two
Tamarizians it was altogether strange.

"Zitu! Zitu!" Robur gasped, while his wife sat staring no longer at the
vial but into Jason's eyes.

"Think you that you have been to Berla?" he questioned, smiling slightly.
"Nay, my good friends, the thing was but a changing of the rhythm of your
minds into sympathy with mine; but a picture never absent from my
thought, which I excited in your brains. Think you now that I may make
Helmor behold a vision?"

"Aye." Robur's tone was thick. "Aye, Jason, thou man unlike any other."

"Aye, Helmor shall dream," Gaya echoed his assurance. She smiled, and her
smile was strange.

Yet no more strange than the hour passed by Jason, Mouthpiece of Zitu,
before he stretched his body on its couch of copper in the formulation of
a dream--the careful marshaling of the various thought forms he meant of
deliberate purpose to instill into Helmor's brain.

Only when their sequence was wholly to his satisfaction did he relax his
body, his physical mind, will his astral form swiftly to Helmor's palace
and into Helmor's room.

A vast apartment it was, draped in saffron hangings, lighted by small
lamps to a dusky twilight, in which blue maids, slaves of the palace kept
up a ceaseless waving of noiseless fans above the silver couch on which
the emperor slept.

Unseen, unnoted any more than the trailing smoke of one of the
low-burning lamps, he drifted to Helmor's luxurious bed and began hurling
his thought force upon him, seeking thereby to awaken a sympathetic
vibration inside his heavy head.

Over and over he drew the mental pictures he had formed, concentrating
all his power on them--Helmor defeated in every purpose--Kalamita and
Ptah as co-plotters--Helmor about to be dethroned--the child sacrificed
to Bel--and Tamarizia resorting for vengeance to the sword--the Zollarian
armies once more beaten into a bleeding rabble--fleeing--leaving their
own defenseless monarch to face the future alone--Kalamita haughty and
sneering--her mask of meekness cast aside--showing at last as the one by
whom these things had been brought to pass.

And suddenly the lips of Zollaria's monarch moved. He muttered in his
slumber, "Lost--all is lost--defeat--dishonor." For a moment while the
slave girls eyed one another without stilling the sweep of their fans
there was silence, and then Helmor groaned.

He stirred, he knotted the fingers of a heavy hand. "Thou--thou
treacherous one," he muttered. "Through thee Helmor stands undone."

Croft thrilled. The thing was succeeding. In his mind Kalamita answered.
"Aye, Helmor, through me, these things have transpired to my ends.
Defeat have I brought upon you. Tamarizia would have held back the sword,
had you possessed the child to place safely in her hands."

And then suddenly, as though to point the moral, appeared Naia, clasping
the form of the infant the tawny siren had announced as slain, lifting it
toward Helmor in supplicant fashion, even as in the flesh she held it to
him once. And she spoke sinking upon her knees. "Take him and give him
back to his father, O Helmor, and all will be well with thee again." And
Helmor, seizing the infant, lifted it toward the skies and--Kalamita
screamed, covering her face, and turned to stagger out of his presence,
while a multitude of voices sounded, crying, "Hail to Helmor, saviour of
his nation! Hail to Helmor the Wise!"

Whereat Helmor surged suddenly up in his bed, and sat blinking in the
half dusk of his chamber, from one to another of his attendant slaves.

So for a moment he sat, and then, throwing off his coverings, he rose.

"Go," he directed in a voice that quivered with the emotion of his
vision. "Rouse Gazar and say to him that I have dreamed, and require his

And on the instant one of the slave girls dropped her fans and ran
lithely from the room, leaving Helmor to sink back to a sitting posture
on the couch, his heavy hands clasping his naked knees, his expression a
thing of brooding, introspection, excited by his dream.

So he remained until a man entered the apartment and advanced toward him
shuffling across the rug-littered tiles of the floor.

Old he was, bent, with no more than a fringe of ragged silver about an
otherwise bald poll. Reaching the emperor's couch, he paused and bowed
before him, in little more than an accentuation of his already stooping

"Helmor of Zollaria calls," he quavered, "and Gazar, servant of Helmor,
appears. Speak to me the things thou hast seen in a vision, O Helmor,
that I may make plain their meaning to your ears."

Helmor dismissed the remaining slave girls and complied. Oddly enough
Croft had an opportunity to test the success of his endeavor at first
hand, as Helmor recited each detail of his dream, and Gazar listened,
nodding his head less in silent accentuation of the several points than
because of some form of palsy that continually shook him, watching his
patron with dark and observant eyes.

He spoke only when Helmor had paused. "Thou didst lift the infant in thy
arms, and Kalamita fled from before thee, shrieking?"

"Aye." Helmor inclined his head.

"In which is the meaning plain," said Gazar. "Let Helmor watch closely
this woman, sister to him who captains all Zollaria's army--and let him
guard closely the child of the Tamarizian Mouthpiece lest harm come upon
it through her, who hating the father because of a personal slight put
upon her in the past, thirsts now for an act of revenge."

Helmor nodded. "Gazar's words seem words of wisdom," he rejoined,
narrowing his eyes, and recalling, as Croft fancied, Kalamita's scarcely
veiled displeasure at his placing Naia and Jason under guard in the
palace, her more recent suggestion concerning the sacrifice of the child.
"How says he? Were this dream a vision?"

"Perchance," replied Gazar slowly. "It beareth the seeming of it. Were it
to be repeated, Helmor should deem it such beyond all doubt."

"Aye and I will," said the Zollarian monarch. "If it comes again, I shall
safeguard the child, placing a double watch upon it, and also upon this
woman, whose beauty is too great to fail to sway men's minds."

Gazar appeared to consider.

"'Twere well to do so," he agreed at length. "The past sun it came to my
ears that since her return she has visited the house of Ptah."

"Ptah?" Helmor stiffened. "Now, by Bel himself, he appeared in my
dream--those together."

"Aye," the soothsayer made answer. Gazar did not miss the point. It was
as but the naming of something already known.

As in his sleep Helmor contracted the fingers of a hand. His lips set.
His expression became one of determination.

"Now, by Bel," he declared, "shall I indeed have this insolent beauty
watched. Go. I shall ponder these things deeply. More lies within this
vision than the fancies of a sleep-dulled brain."

Croft quitted the chamber as Gazar turned to leave it. He was determined
that the succeeding night would see the dream repeated, with far less
effort since now the pictures of its sequence were printed on the
surfaces of Helmor's mind, and the man would go to his couch, considering
the likelihood of his dreaming again. A vast elation, a reborn confidence
thrilled Croft as he sought another room in the palace where Naia of Aphur
lay on the soiled padding of a battered couch, cradling Jason, Son of
Jason, in her arms.

He told her of his progress, how he should take Koryphu to Zitra, how
there he should let him tell his story before Jadgor, how a message would
be sent north through Mazhur, bearing Tamarizia's demands for a meeting
between representatives of both nations, whereat Zollaria's demands and
Tamarizia's attitude toward them might be discussed.

And then he left her and fled swiftly back to Himyra and the form on the
copper couch.

Chapter XII

Three days after Helmor of Zollaria dreamed of the loss of a throne, and
his ultimate salvation through the safety of a child, Jadgor's galley
arrived at Himyra with Koryphu of Cathur aboard. During the interval
Helmor dreamed again twice.

Koryphu's coming announced in advance from Scira was a somewhat stately
affair, but seemingly failed to give the one-time prince much pleasure.
His mien was solemn and he left the galley and met Robur and Jason on the
quays before an observant crowd assembled for the occasion.

Bowing perforce to the welcoming people of Himyra, he took his seat in
Robur's motur and maintained the poise of a noble until the palace was
reached and he and his two companions were closeted alone. Then he let
his feelings loose in a flood of resentful speech, describing all that
had transpired at his meeting with Kalamita, and at the end of his
narration laying in Jason's palm the purple signet ring.

"Whether this comes from Naia of Aphur of her own choice, or was forcibly
taken from her I know not, O Mouthpiece of Zitu, but since it was given
to me with the command to say she sent it to you with her plea for an
early acceptance of the terms of ransom, I fulfill my mission and place
it in your hands."

Croft turned the trinket gently. It affected him strangely--and he had
little doubt of the thoughts unexpressed in Koryphu's mind.

"Think you, man of Cathur, that Naia, daughter of Jadgor's sister, cousin
to Robur of Aphur, wife of Jason, sent this to him by the hand of
Kalamita, through any choice save force? In Zitu's name, let me have your
answer and promptly--son of Scythys' house."

Koryphu's face grew pale. "Nay, Jason--I meant nought save to make plain
the thought that Kalamita had added this to her efforts to persuade you.
May Zilla strike me if I sought to question her who is Jason's wife."

Croft nodded. "Then let the matter remain between ourselves. Koryphu of
Cathur, so soon as you are refreshed, we go to Zitra, to hold speech with
Jadgor in person concerning these things."

"Let not Koryphu delay you," Koryphu said quickly. "Refreshment were not
needful in a pressing matter or one involving the safety of Jason's wife
and son."

"Accept Jason's gratitude then instead," he made answer. "So quickly as
the galley shall fill her tanks with fuel for the motur, we shall go

Zitra rose white before them the morning of the fourth day, ringed by its
shimmering walls, fairylike as a mirage on first appearance. Tamarizia's
flag was broken out above the galley and it darted into the inner harbor
through the massive silver-faced sea doors.

The quays were banked with life. Jadgor, Lakkon, and members of the
national assembly showed in metal harness of gem-encrusted garments; Zud,
the high priest, stood beside them, backed by a group of harpists, a band
of the Gayana, the vestals of the pyramid, mark of Croft's semireligious
position in the nation.

White-clad they were, their hair loosened save for a binding silver
fillet, their lower limbs cased in white leather nearly to their rosy
knees. And back of them was the crowd, close pressed, necks craning
restrained by members of the Zitran guard, who were patrolling the quays
or massed about the moturs, the carriages of the assemblymen, the
officials of state, in a glittering phalanx at the end of the street of

Croft saw it all with a swelling heart as the galley touched the quay and
a gangplank was run out. The trumpets of the guardsmen blared and the
harpists lifted their instruments into position, their voiced mounted in
a chant of welcome and blended with the clamor of the crowd.

At the foot of the gangplank, Jadgor and Zud and Lakkon waited. Jadgor
and he struck palms.

"Hail, Jason, Mouthpiece of Zitu," said Naia's uncle, and turned to
Croft's companion. "And to Koryphu of Cathur greeting. It has come to my
ear that Scythys' son has served right loyally Zitu's Mouthpiece and in
him all the people of Tamarizia as well. Wherefore is he welcome to Zitra
and Jadgor's palace as an honored guest."

The face of the Cathurian twitched. "Now, by Zitu, O Jadgor," he replied
in a tone of quick emotion, "your words make the heart of Koryphu beat
once more as the heart of a man."

Zud spoke to Jason. "Thou must speak to them, lord." His glance turned to
the close-packed throng of faces. "For many days their thoughts have been
upon you. They await the Mouthpiece of Zitu's words at this time."

"Aye." Croft nodded. "Here?"

"Nay," said Zud, "the matter is arranged."

Again Croft inclined his head and turned to lay his hand on Lakkon's
shoulder. "Father of Naia," he said, "this coming marks a step toward the
goal to which both thee and Jason turn their hearts. Yet this sun shall
make all plain."

Then turning again to Zud, he followed toward the high priest's car, in
which the prelate indicated that he was to ride.

Jadgor and Lakkon entered their motur. The phalanx of guardsmen swung
about. The trumpeters took the van. The harpists fell in before Zud and
Jason. The Gayana--their arms filled with brilliant flowers--ranged
themselves on either side, and lifted their voices in song. The
procession moved off along the level floor of Zitra's pavements, through
the welcoming throng, to pause after a time in the midst of a broad, open

Croft recognized it with leaping pulses as the square in which he had
been proclaimed as Zitu's Mouthpiece--saw that once more it held an
elevated stage.

Upon it he mounted with Zud and Jadgor and Lakkon, the men of the
assembly--the harpists--the Gayana--over a carpet of the flowers they
cast before his feet. His eyes swept over the faces of the concourse. His
heart swelled oddly at the sight. This was Tamarizia--her people. This
was Zitra--her citizens.

He lifted his hand. The throbbing of the harps--the liquid voices of the
Gayana died. Croft spoke. To those lifted faces he told the story of all
that had happened, the reason for his coming again to Zitra. To them he
gave the substance of Zollaria's demands. A sound ran through them--deep,
low-pitched--an unmistakable thing of amazement and resentment. It was as
if the multitude groaned.

He waited until it was past and gave them his word--the word of the
Mouthpiece of Zitu, that Tamarizia would never yield an acceptance. He
bade them to be of good courage, waiting until the steps he was intent on
taking could produce results--and them--should his plans fail--should
harm befall Naia of Aphur or Jason, Son of Jason--he promised them to
call on them to follow him into action--to lead them once more against
Zollaria with the sword.

And now the people cheered. Croft lifted his arms, high-flung before
them. "Zollaria shall receive Tamarizia's answer ere long."

Again the roar of voices beat back like the pulse of a human surf upon
his ears.

He dropped his arms and turned.

"Come," he said to Jadgor. Together they left the platform and entered
the president's car, with Koryphu and Lakkon.

"This night the assembly meets to hear Jason's pleasure," Jadgor said as
he took his place at Croft's side. "Robur bade me smooth the path of your
mission in a message. Wherefore I have summoned their number to a special
session, since he said also that I best could aid you by arranging for
your return to Himyra with speed."

"Aye," Croft replied, his heart warming toward Robur. "Speed in all
things, O Jadgor. So shall we solve this riddle. Speed in our work of
preparation--in the execution of our plans--speed so great that we shall
strike in terror upon the sight of Helmor and all Berla, and ere they
expect our coming, wake to the threat of our presence over Berla's

"Hai!" Jadgor's eyes flashed at the answer. "Robur said naught save that
once more the forges of Himyra roar to the making of yet another marvel."

Croft nodded. "Which presently I shall make plain."

And he kept the promise, once the four men were closeted in a small room
of the palace, its sliding door covered by a scarlet curtain, its windows
partly veiled by crimson tissues, its floors half concealed by gorgeous

First he called on Koryphu for his story of the meeting with Kalamita,
and after the Cathurian had spoken, he explained all he intended doing
and all that thus far he had done.

At the end Koryphu was standing rigid, wide of eye and flared of nostril,
with back-thrown head. Lakkon was watching, leaning against the end of a
table, and Jadgor had thrown a hand across his body and was gripping the
hilt of his heavy-bladed sword.

"Now, by Zitu," he exclaimed, his tone a trifle hoarsened. "Fire? Hah!
Let them call on Bel if they still desire it. Tamarizia shall bring them
fire from the skies themselves--clean fire--unlike that their filthy
priesthood builds in their stinking god."

"Aye," said Croft. "The fire of Zitu's justice, O Jadgor--that shall
destroy the guilty wholly should the innocent come to harm."

Jadgor opened his lips, paused and relaxed the tightened muscles of his
throat by a swallowing movement. "By Zitu--this mission you shall ask
tonight is therefore no more than a means of gaining time?"

"Aye. Zollaria expects it. Let it be sent to occupy her mind."

The lips of the Tamarizian president twitched. "Oh, aye--it departs for
Mazhur beyond any doubting. We shall demand the naming of an embassy to
confer with men of our choosing."

Abruptly Lakkon asked a tense-voiced question--"Thou art assured she lies
even now within Berla's walls?"

"Aye," Croft told him, looking him steadily in the eyes. "And the father
of Naia of Aphur knows well how Jason knows."

Jadgor nodded. "Enough," he said, rising, "we have gained an ample
understanding and Cathur has been overlong aboard the galley. It were
fitting now that he refresh himself."

Summoning an attendant he gave orders that Koryphu be conducted to a

Lakkon rose also, remaining until the Cathurian had quitted the
apartment, then turned to Croft.

"Thou hast seen her, Jason, my son?" he faltered--"thou hast seen her and
the child--hast spoken with her in the spirit?"

Croft smiled as he made answer--"Aye, since last I saw thee, Lakkon, many

"She lies in Berla, indeed?"

"Aye--beneath Helmor's palace."

"How fares she? Sent she no message by thee?"

"Aye, the love and respect of a daughter." Croft explained the situation
from first to last, even describing the manner in which Helmor had been

When next he paused Jadgor's eyes were narrowed to rigid slits, and
Lakkon's features were pale and drawn.

"Zitu," he said in husky fashion, "I doubt not thy power, my son. Think
you the man will give heed to such a warning sufficiently long?"

"Aye--Tamarizia's messenger reaches him with a demand for parley," Croft
declared from the depths of his inmost feeling. "Think you I had taken
time to journey thus to Zitra, save that to my mind the step were one
wholly needful to the full success of my plans?"

Jadgor spoke. "Nay, Jason is right. This step is that of a statesman. Let
Zollaria lie unsuspecting, while his devices are in the making. Tonight
the matter of the messenger and his message will be arranged."

Chapter XIII

Jadgor's faith in the action of the assembly proved justified, in fact.
Croft went before the representatives of the Tamarizian states that very
same night.

With Koryphu to precede him, telling of the meeting in the mountains, he
waited until the Cathurian had lashed the minds of the men who heard him
to a pitch of sullen fury, then rose slowly to his feet.

"These demands bid for no consideration," he began and paused, laying his
hand on the hilt of his sword.

An outburst of swift acclaim greeted the words and was followed by
silence as he explained the object of his presence in Zitra--emphasized
the need of a messenger being sent north, and asked for their sanctioning

Now and then he was interrupted by a question, but for the most part he
spoke without interruption.

"Grant me this, O representatives of Tamarizia--give me time to prepare
Tamarizia's answer to this coward's threat of a treacherous nation,
which, daring not again the shock of arms, seeks yet to win back her lost
prestige behind the tender bodies of a woman and her child. Grant me the
power to meet craft with craft, nor think that the signet given to
Koryphu was stripped from the hand of Naia of Aphur save by force, in the
treacherous hope that it might seem to support a spurious plea from her
that Tamarizia yield."

For a moment no one spoke after he had finished and stood waiting for
their answer, and then the man from Bithur rose.

"Nay," he cried, "not that Naia, daughter of Jadgor's sister, daughter of
Lakkon--not that Naia, who was wed to Zitu's Mouthpiece within Atla of
Bithur when the blue hordes of Mazzer captained by the brother of this
same Kalamita, and other men of his nation, lapped like the waves of an
unclean sea against Atla's walls. Not of such metal is her spirit.
Tamarizians, send this messenger north from Mazhur; let him demand that
Zollaria support or deny her woman agent's words."

"Aye--aye," came other voices.

Jadgor rose, his silver cuirass blazing. "Add to the message answer to
Kalamita's foul threat, that if aught befalls Jason, Son of Jason--aye,
or Naia, mother of Jason--ere parley is held on the matter, Tamarizia
waits but the knowledge to unsheathe the sword."

"Aye--aye," again a storm of voices answered his suggestion.

"A vote--a vote!" someone began shouting.

"Let Tamarizia's message be strong."

In the end, once the turmoil exited by the Bithurian and Jadgor had in a
measure subsided, a formal vote was taken, and Croft himself was
empowered to draft the message entrusting it to one of the regular
government couriers--men so employed for years and of trained endurance.
Well satisfied, he went back to the palace, worked half the night in
formulating it to his liking, interviewed the man who was to bear it and
watched his galley sail out of Zitra and turn north at dawn.

And now Himyra and his work behind its red walls called him. He lost
small time in answering its call. Once more his galley slipped forth from
the massive sea doors. Zitra sank into the Central Sea--or seemed to,
slipping little by little beneath the sparkling waters with its
shimmering milk-white walls.

Speed. He had used the word to Jadgor. And now he called upon the captain
of the galley for it--speed to Himyra. And he promised himself speed on
the task before him once he reached Aphur's ruddy city--such speed as
never before, not even in the heat of his preparation against the
Zollarian war, had he employed.

For three days he chafed against the surge and plunge of the galley, the
slither of each passing wave, until after dawn on the morn of the fourth,
the mouth of the Na was reached. Eight days had been consumed on the
journey--eight days, and how much longer until he finished his work?

He had forbidden word of his coming preceding him to Robur's city. He
wanted no trumpery of public welcomes, no ceremonials, however slight, to
delay his purpose now. Almost before the galley had tied fast to the
quays he left it, and threw himself into his task.

He gave himself wholly to it. He appeared unexpectedly that afternoon in
the shops, the forges, learning that Robur had not been idle, with a
mounting satisfaction, finally meeting Aphur's governor face to face on
one of his stops.

"Zitu!" cried Robur. "I knew not of your returning. Is it your spirit
come to mark my progress, Jason, my friend, or do I behold you in the

"Both," Croft answered. "Spirit and flesh united on the work before us,
Rob, at last."

"All is arranged?" Robur's eyes flashed with anticipation.

"Aye." Jason inclined his head. "There should be naught to distract from
our labors from now until the end."

"The end--_hai_--the end," said Robur. "Together we shall bring it
quickly, my friend."

Little by little each day the work advanced. The liquid fire was an
accomplished fact. Trusted men--the best educated in their line in
Himyra--were engaged now upon its production, its preparation for the
final venture, as they filled it into the containing flasks.

The shapes of six blimps were slowly forming--huge, unwieldy-seeming bags
constructed out of Croft's varnished cloth. Little by little the means of
putting the plan of rescue into execution was taking concrete form at

Miles of rope and cordage were flowing out of the shops--were being woven
into the harness by which the cars should be swung beneath the gigantic
envelopes. Vast quantities of chemicals were being collected toward the
production of unlimited cubic feet of hydrogen gas.

Through all the seeming chaos Jason moved, ordering, directing, with a
fresh certainty of precision now, as something like a definite result to
all the days and nights of labor showed.

With him went Robur, aiding and abetting in all ways toward the
successful issue of the task. Gaya listened each night to a report of the
progress made.

During the war with Mazzer, Croft had perfected a dry-cell battery to
solve the ignition troubles of the armored moturs. Now with the liquid
fire in the process of manufacture, he turned himself to the problem of
constructing an electric flashlight, by which signals between the blimps
could be exchanged.

Days passed. A Zitran had elapsed since his return from Zitra. At its end
word came by wireless that Zollaria's answer had been received--that
Helmor consented to the naming of a Zollarian delegate to discuss the
terms of ransom--that a Tamarizian party would be formed and sent north
to meet them, with instructions to protract the negotiations, turn the
parleys between the Zollarians and themselves into a useless war of

Croft read the message and wirelessed back his ratification of it. He was
very well pleased indeed. Let the matter be delayed yet another Zitran as
it might without exciting undue suspicion, since it would take well-nigh
half that time for the two delegations to be arranged and get together,
and he felt he would be practically prepared.

Even now six monster bags were nearing completion in the huge sheds built
by swarming workmen for their housing. The cars were ready for attaching,
the moturs to be installed. That ceaseless driving of a double shift had
crowded the work of two Zitrans into one so far as results were
concerned. Satisfied with the word from Zitra, Croft flung himself into
the last stages of his task with redoubled vigor. The envelopes were
inflated and floated clear of the ground.

Workmen swarmed about them on spidery trestles and stages, harnessing
each monster inside its network of securely knotted cordage, binding fast
with each intricate twist and turning as it seemed to the man who
ceaselessly watched them, so part of his desperate hope.

Motur-trucks brought from the ships of their fabrication the cages to be
hung beneath each tensely floating shape. Men sweating at their labor,
made them fast. The new moturs Croft had designed at first were
assembled, delivered, and mounted. Propellers were set in place. Day by
day the first dirigibles of Palos grew nearer to completion.

Robur was inseparable during those days from Croft. He viewed the monster
devices with unbounded enthusiasm and amaze, vowing them the marvel of
their age, repeating over and over again his own conception of the
consternation they must cause in Zollarian minds when, without warning,
they appeared and hung above Berla's walls. Gaya drove down at his
solicitation on one occasion and gazed at the hugely bulking shapes out
of widening brown eyes.

Word came again from Zitra that the Tamarizian delegation had gone north.

"Let them go," Croft cried to Robur. "Ere long shall Jason follow."

Came a day when the last rivet was driven home, the last nut screwed into
place, when Croft distributed largess to the workmen and a vast roar of
human voices filled all the places where his latest creation had been
given birth. Croft stood with Robur and viewed them--the mighty engines
for the deliverance of his hostages to fate. His heart leaped.

"With the sun," he said, turning to his companion, "let Himyra see them.
We make a test."

"I and thou," Robur returned, flashing his even teeth.

Croft nodded. His hand crept out and closed on the other man's. "Aye,
Rob, if you wish."

Robur's muscles gripped down upon his fingers. "And not only to the
testing, friend of Aphur, but even to Berla itself."

"Berla." Croft loosened his hand to lay it on Robur's shoulder, looked
into the son of Jadgor's eager face. "It is not in my heart, Rob, to
refuse you anything in this."

Dawn came and Himyra gasped--gasped and stood with heads back-tilted,
staring upward at a might oblong bag that swung in majestic fashion high
above the walls. It hung there like a monstrous bubble, glinting as the
rays of Sirius struck upon it--drifting slowly as it seemed before the
winds of morning. And yet--even as they watched it, turning and moving
against the wind in steady fashion--silently--without seeming reason, too
high above the red, red city of Aphur for the ears of her people to sense
how its moturs roared.

An hour before--under direction of Croft and Robur--it had been dragged
slowly forth from its concealing shed. With filled tanks its engines
waited the awakening touch of the engineers--men selected for this first
attempt at dirigible navigation from the aviation personnel by Croft
himself. A huge flask of the liquid fire, equipped with its spraying
device, was attached to the carrier designed to hold it. When this was
done Croft and Robur stepped aboard.

A hundred workmen--men who had labored to construct it--held the ropes
that still controlled it, ready to release it at a word.

"Let go!" That word came in the Mouthpiece of Zitu's voice.

Two hundred hands relaxed their hold upon the ropes. The blimp soared
toward the skies.

Himyra fell away beneath it, became a red gem on the yellow sand of the
desert, the breast of Aphur, pierced by the thread of the Na like a
sparkling, supporting chain. To the north and east the waters of the
Central Sea showed as bright as burnished silver under the first rays of
the sun.

Robur made no comment, said no word. He stood tight-lipped, gripping the
rail of the platform on which they rode with tensely muscled hands. Croft
ordered the engines started--and even so there was no feeling that the
mighty fabric moved. Rather it seemed stationary, the only solid thing in
all existence, while Palos and all it held dropped away from beneath it,
until Himyra's palaces and shops and houses became things no larger than
the toys of children, her people, pigmies moving antlike on her streets.

Croft pointed beyond the walls.

"The desert," he said and watched while the blimp answered to the
manipulation of her engines--her rudder and vanes. "It is in my mind to
try first the liquid fire upon its scanty vegetation, where it can do
small harm."

And after that he waited until they flew above a comparatively level
tract of country, covered by a low-growing shrub that throve on scanty
moisture, before he stationed himself at the spraying device and opened
the valve of the flask.

Far below, the scrub blossomed suddenly into tiny points of color like
swiftly opening flowers--that grew, expanded, ran together in patches and
lines of quivering light, until the whole mass of vegetation vanished,
blotted out beneath a leaping sea of flame. A moment before it had lain
there unchanged, as it and the desert had lain practically unchanged for
years, and now it was a seething, smoking, blazing thing, sinking down in
a red destruction unloosed upon it from the skies.

Croft closed the tank. "Back to Himyra," he cried and turned a set face
to Robur, to find his features pale and rigid.

"It is finished, Rob," he said, speaking in a voice that quivered
tensely. "As soon as the fliers are trained we go north."

Chapter XIV

That day he entered his motur once the blimp had landed, drove to the
airplane hangars, and called for volunteers to man the other five ships.

Returning with the men selected he personally tested each blimp, rising,
maneuvering and returning before a constantly growing crowd, which in the
end required the use of a detachment of the Himyran guard for its

Himyra was seething with an exciting augmented with the ascent of each
mighty glistening bag. A jostling throng pressed like an impenetrable
wall about the sheds, as each new monster was towed out by its straining
attendants, was manned by its waiting crew, and rose. They watched and
pointed, gesticulated, and cheered.

"Hail to the Mouthpiece of Zitu!" they roared whenever Croft appeared.

That night, eagerness possessed him when he sought his chamber and laid
himself down--an eagerness that had possessed him through the length of
the day--an eagerness to visit Naia and tell her that the thing was done.

He closed his eyes and released the bond of his spirit. North and north
he fled to Berla, and to Helmor's palace and the room beneath it--to
stand gazing with eager eyes on Naia of Aphur's form.

Pale as death she sat there, waiting, waiting, as she had waited so long,
and she was speaking. "Jason--Jason." Over and over she was repeating the
word to his son.

"Ja-son--" the baby lips repeated with a screaming effort. And Naia of
Aphur smiled and gathered him into her arms.

Jason--with a full heart Croft understood that she was teaching the child
the name of his father--that this word was one of the first his tongue
had known.

"Beloved--O my beloved!" he sent their meeting call to her.

She stiffened, threw up her head, and turned to Maia.

"Come, take the child, thou faithful one," she directed--waited until the
blue girl had complied and stretched her form on the couch, ere she
answered his summons, releasing her astral body to steal into Croft's
waiting arms.

For a moment he simply held her, and then he told her. "Beloved--the time
approaches. The thing is done."

"Done?" she faltered.

"Aye, finished wholly," Jason said, and felt her quiver--sensed the fires
of her astral being quicken--found the form he held suddenly glowing.

"Now Zitu be praised." In all her slender length she pressed suddenly
closer to him. "Draws then so near the day?"

"Aye, by Zitu," he declared.

"I know not the meaning of it," Naia said, "but Maia lies daily on the
straw within the door of our chamber--and she had heard mutterings now
and then among the guard. Thy mention of Bandhor recalls it. Kalamita's
brother has come among them within the last few suns, if one may credit
their speech among themselves."

"Bandhor? To what purpose?"

"Nay, I know not. Maia but heard mention of his presence--some word
concerning Helmor's signet."

"His signet? Hai!" Croft found himself suddenly shaken. "Now may Zitemku
seize that woman, and Adita turn her favor from her!"

"Thou meanest--Kalamita?" And now Naia clung against him, not in womanly
yearning, but with the quick fear of a mother. "Jason..."

"Aye," he said tensely, "have you forgotten how she forced thy own ring
from thee--or the foul thing she planned, save Helmor had overruled her?
Now Zitu be thanked you have spoken of this in time since, in my own way,
those things she plans may be learned, and Helmor warned. Farewell, thou
mate of Jason. He goes to learn what they plan."

Once more, then, it behooved him to bring himself into contact with the
woman Kalamita. He willed himself toward her, passed swiftly to Bandhor's
palace and failed to find any sign; paused, baffled for a time before he
recalled the scene he had witnessed between her and Ptah, Bel's priest,
in the latter's quarters in the temple. Then, where better if she were
plotting against Helmor, he asked himself, than in that ebon-walled room.

Swiftly he sought it, and there he found her--and not only her, but
Bandhor, Ptah, and another, a heretofore unknown man.

The four were seated around Ptah's table, where flaring oil lamps partly
dispelled the gloom, pricking out the intent masks of the several faces,
causing iridescent flashes of light from the jeweled bands that circled
Kalamita's arms, and broidered her garment's hem.

"It is to thee, Panthor," she declared, eyeing the third masculine member
of the party. "It is for thee to say whether thy cousin shall hold
Zollaria's throne. Twice have his plans to humble Tamarizia failed, his
efforts proved vain. Think not but the people say Helmor has no more
Bel's favor--wherefore Zollaria is no longer strong. So then--a quick
stroke and the thing is done."

"Aye--a quick stroke." Panthor nodded. He was heavy-set, not unlike
Helmor, his cousin, in a way, with full lips of a sensual turn and
closely cut hair, the stubble of which was blond. "But--regarding this
child. I question not the sincerity of Kalamita, yet were it slain--even
to gain Bel's favor, which none more than I admit is needful, would not
Tamarizia, according to her own words, descend upon us with superior
weapons and bring defeat to our armies again?"

"By Bel, has then Panthor so little faith in his favor?" Ptah exclaimed.

"Peace." Kalamita's red lips curled. "Your question is a man's question,
Panthor, and the question not of a man's heart, but his brain. Think you
Tamarizia means all she says--or speaks to gain her ends? This Mouthpiece
is a man--and Naia of Aphur is a woman--and though a child be slain,
still is she a woman and the mate of Jason, and he has twice defeated
Helmor's plans to gain. Think you the child's death would change the
heart of Tamarizia's strong man, or that he would carry his threat
far--were she kept safe from harm to be surrendered once more to his

"Nay, by Bel!" roared Bandor, striking the table. "My sister has struck
the mark in her words--with Bel's favor purchased--her oath redeemed and
the woman still on our possession, Tamarizia may well balk a resort to
arms. It remains then to get the child in our hands."

"My hands," said Ptah.

Bandhor nodded. "Aye, into thy hands, Priest of the Strong One--and
there is a way in which it may be done. Let Helmor's signet be presented
to the captain of the guard now placed upon him, and our ends are

Kalamita leaned half across the table toward Panthor.

"Thou knowest the device on Helmor's ring?"

"Aye," said Panthor slowly.

"And thou knowest some worker of stones?"

"Aye, Priestess of Adita."

"Then let Panthor see Helmor's sign cut on a stone," Kalamita rose. "And
let him place it in Bandhor's hand when it is done. Ptah, build you the
fires--let them be ready for the torch at the appointed time. Kalamita's
oath to the Strong One shall be redeemed. How long, Panthor, before thy
part shall be done?"

"Ten suns, perchance twelve," said Panthor, he and Bandhor also rising.

"See to it." Kalamita turned to leave the room. Ptah moved his heavy body
to set the door open before her, and Bandhor joined her. They passed out
and were gone.

Ptah turned back. "Hail emperor, favorite of Bel," he said, bending his
heavy neck to incline his head to Panthor.

Panthor's expression changed. He drew himself up to his fullest height.
Already he seemed to sense the weight of authority upon him as he
answered. "By Bel--O Ptah--thou and I together once Helmor sits no more
upon the throne."

Chapter XV

Ten days, at most twelve, before Helmor's spurious sign should be cut on
a lying stone. And then one would bear it down to that dungeon where Naia
waited a promised rescue, and with it as authority, demand the child. And
after that. Croft sickened as he left Ptah's chamber--sickened and the
thought of what might have happened save for Maia's listening ear as she
lay on the straw inside the door of the dungeon--Naia's mention of the
words the blue girl had overheard to him.

But--suddenly he stiffened. In ten days a great deal might be done.
Helmor might be warned as he had said to Naia--or--the rescue might
actually be performed.

In the end he made his way back to the palace and into Helmor's chamber.
The man would be asleep, he fancied, but once he had gained his
apartments he met with a surprise. Far from sleep, Zollaria's emperor sat
in consultation with Gazar, the soothsayer he had summoned to him the
night of his first dream of danger, and a man Croft had once defeated on
a bloody field, and learned later to know by sight at the end of the
first Zollarian war as Helmon, Helmor's son.

Helmor's face was dark with ill-suppressed rage.

"Thou sayest that Panthor, my cousin, entered the house of Bel, upon
their heels. What makest thou of it, Gazar? Speak thou who for years have
been to me eyes and ears."

So that was it. Soothsayer Gazar might be, but he evidently combined the
work of espionage with his other vocation, as it now appeared.

Croft gave him full attention as he began speaking slowly.

"Helmor knows the claim his cousin makes for his house in Zollarian
affairs. Were Bandhor to support him it were ill indeed. And Bandhor is
the brother of Kalamita--whose power would appear to have made drunk her
spirit as her beauty had made drunk the hearts of men. Also there is the
matter of the Tamarizian's child."

"Bandor, Kalamita, Panthor--'tis a pretty trio, my father," Helmor said.
"The woman grants her favor lightly where her interest is involved--and
Panthor is a man and ambitious--even as Ptah is a man, though a priest.
Also has she a debt of hate to be repaid against this Mouthpiece of
Zitu--whom I love not myself. Lies anything definite against them, O

"Nay"--the old man shook his head--"naught as yet save what one may

"Then"--Helmor leaned toward him to speak in lowered tones--"what would
Gazar advise?"

"Look to the woman and the child. To me it is known that Bandhor has been
among his guard. Let it be changed from sun to sun, O Helmor, neither
captained by or including the same men twice. So it appears to me he
shall be safe for the present, unless some unforeseen happening
transpire. Let Panthor be watched closely by trusted men--watch for a
meeting between any two or all of the four we have mentioned, tonight,

"It is well." Helmor leaned back in his seat. "See to it, Helmon, that
the guard be changed. Distribute also a largess to the palace
guard--announce additional pay to the soldiery in Berla of twenty mina,
for the Zitran, and afterward as much. Gazar--have me these others
watched. By Bel, our cousin may find it requires more to cast Helmor from
his throne than the schemes of a woman and a priest."

"Zitu." Croft breathed the word in his spirit. Helmor of Zollaria was far
from asleep, indeed. More than that, now that he was awake he was well
served. Panthor would seek an engraver of stones inside the next day or
two, at latest, and Panthor would be watched. Helmor had more than one
pair of eyes.

Croft's confidence returned. After all, Kalamita and Ptah were not the
only ones in Berla who played the game of statecraft, it would seem; he
returned again to Naia, and told her what had occurred--watched her
astral fires pale and quicken, as side by side they bent over the child.

"By Ga and Azil," he swore, "we shall not lose him. I go now to return in
the flesh to Berla, by Zitu's aid inside Panthor's limit of days."

"Zitu go with you and return again with you, Beloved."

Back, back to Himyra, sped the spirit of Jason Croft. It crept in the
form on the couch of molded copper and opened its eyes. It urged it up
atingle with the knowledge it brought and all it involved. It sent it
seeking an attendant to bid the guardsman find the apartment of Robur and
rouse him from his slumbers and summon him to the Mouthpiece of Zitu's
chamber at once.

And when Aphur's governor appeared with sleep driven swiftly from him,
Croft told him all he had seen and heard.

"Wherefore," he made an ending, "we go north from Himyra in three suns."

"Three?" Robur stared. "But, by Zitu, Jason, think you their crews may
learn so quickly to control them?"

Croft nodded. "They are eager. In the morn I explain to them that there
comes a need of haste. On the fourth day we go north with such as are
able to follow. The rest may remain. Also, we take six of the airplanes
with us."

"Aye," Robur said--"yet can they fly not to such a distance. Short of
Berla must they descend for fuel."

"At Scira, at Niera," Croft told him, giving the routing of the planes as
well as an answer. "Send in my name a message to Scira--that with morn a
swift galley depart for Niera, bidding Mazhur send a quantity of the fuel
north along the highway to within a day's march of the northern border of
the state. In these things, Rob, lies my reason for calling you to me.
Much must be arranged ere we start."

"Aye." A look of steely purpose crept into Robur's eyes. "As ever, Jason,
my friend, you are ready. The message shall be sent without delay." He

"We will take with us the man who sends it, also," said Croft. "Let it be
understood. Once we are over Berla it will be needful that there be one
who shall understand the signals of the flashlights I have made, since
according to my plans I shall land a plane in the square before Helmor's

Robur's eyes widened suddenly. "_Thou_ wilt land a plane before his

"Aye," Croft answered, smiling slightly. "Who else? Think you I shall
trust the final mission to another? Wherefore I shall require a man on
one of the blimps to read any such message as I may give."

The glances of the two men continued to hold for a breathless moment, and
then Robur said with feeling, "By Zitu--thou art a brave man, Jason, yet
I sense not your plan in this. They will but fall upon thee..."

"Nay." Croft shook his head. "Nay, Rob--and you think so, you sense not
my plan indeed. Ere I make a landing before the palace of Helmor, a
part--a small part of Berla--but one adjoining the space about the
palace, shall be ablaze. In the light of that conflagration shall Jason
of Tamarizia descend--and call upon Helmor for the surrender of the ones
he holds to ransom, under penalty of seeing the remainder of Berla
destroyed. Think you he will long falter, or seek to injure my person?
Nay, he will make the better choice."

"Aye," Robur said a trifle gruffly because of his blended emotions, "now
I understand thee, Jason. But it would take Zitu's Mouthpiece to
undertake it in such fashion. And what does Robur of Aphur to aid the
success of the venture?"

Once more Croft smiled. He laid a hand on his companion's shoulder. "He
watches from the sky for any message I shall flash with the signal-lamp I
shall carry--which, being interpreted to him by the man of the message
tower, he shall see translated instantly into deeds. So shall he
safeguard Jason's life--perhaps."

"Perhaps, aye," said Robur. "So be it. I shall send the message as Zitu's
Mouthpiece directs. As for the rest, I like it not."

Turning, he stalked from the room with a gloomy face.

To himself, Croft admitted perforce that his plan was in the nature of a
somewhat desperate chance. Yet he believed that he had read the Zollarian
spirit aright--felt assured that he was predicating Helmor's actions

Returning with the assurance that he had despatched a messenger with his
orders, Robur found him no whit less firm in his resolution, and they
discussed all details attendant on the departure of the blimps through
the further course of the night.

Morning ushered in three days of well-nigh ceaseless toil, of practice
with the giant aircraft by day--of an overhauling of them, a correcting
of minor faults by night, of consultations with the fliers in which every
step of the expedition was explained to them by Croft--of a grooming and
testing of the six planes that were to accompany the monster dirigibles

Mutlos of Cathur sent back word the first day that the galley for Niera
had put forth. That same night Croft and Robur visited the wireless
tower, and Croft demonstrated his signaling flash.

The man, trained to receiving and sending, read the code with little
trouble, transcribing more than one message correctly and then flashing
them back to Croft. Then seating himself again at his key, he sent word
to Zitra that the expedition was about to set forth.

There followed two more straining days wherein Croft gave it out that
only four blimps would be taken, and those manned by the crews that
showed the greatest aptitude in their work. Four, he had decided, would
be enough for the venture, and at dawn on the morning of the fourth day
they rose like monstrous glistening bubbles above Himyra's walls, and
pointed their blunt noses north.

Three days to Niera, to reach which the swiftest galley took five. So he
had planned it. And at Niera he would descend. Long before he had taken
the necessary steps for that--sending what apparatus he would require to
the capital of Mazhur--that it might be ready for any need.

The night before had seen the airplanes depart for Scira on the first leg
of their flight. From there they would go to Niera, and there the entire
expedition would once more meet.

Three days, he thought, as he watched Himyra drop away beneath him with
the gaping, cheering crowds that had gathered to see the blimps depart.
Three days and four were seven. A day at Niera, to overhaul any weakness
that might have developed in the flight across the Central Sea, a half
day to the northern borders of Mazhur, the last jump, before the final
hop off for the planes. And from there to Berla--four hundred miles or a
trifle over. He allowed eight hours for that.

Higher and higher soared the blimps. A strong wind raged about them,
bucking the roaring kick of the propellers. Higher yet, he gave command.
Higher and still higher, seeking a favorable current, higher and higher,
until it was found--then north--north--where once more as always the
lodestone of Naia of Aphur's being drew him--north and north. He was
going north at last!

The thought fired him. There was no sense of motion. Even as in the
astral body, it was as though he himself stood silent and all beneath him
moved. Overhead the monster gas-bag glinted like a thing of silver under
the Sirian ray. Below him lay the no longer yellow ribbon of the Na,
framed in the green band of the irrigated lands.

To the north the Central Sea showed sparkling in the morning sunshine.
And beyond the Central Sea was Mazhur--and beyond Mazhur--Naia. Naia and
Jason, Son of Jason--captive in a hostile land. A wonderful, a mighty, a
vast exaltation of the spirit seized him. He was going to her, borne
swiftly out across the Central Sea on a favoring wind, as though Zitu
himself had filled the lungs of his Omnipotent purpose, and were wafting
him on his mission of salvation with a strong, beneficent blast.

Purposely he had placed the wireless operator aboard the blimp under
command of Rob. That night they exchanged signals--flashing message and
answer between them, as the tireless engines roared. The moons of Palos
rose and turned the Central Sea to indigo and silver--glinted on the
monster racing-bags. Far down, their shadows raced across the tossing
waves beneath them, like the shadows of weird clouds.

Far off--a blot on the glinting waters--a galley showed. Croft found
himself wondering just what emotions the sight of the four huge aircraft
might cause aboard. At least he was sure the moons of Palos--those moons
by whose light he had first held Naia of Aphur in his arms and kissed
her--had never before beheld a similar sight. For a long time after he
had ceased signaling to Robur's blimp he sat brooding, staring off across
the moon-burnished surface of the waters which showed on every side.

And then, wrapping himself in a robe, since the night was chill at that
elevation, he laid himself down and after a time, to all appearances, he

In reality, he came to Earth as he had come the night on which he had
decided on the step upon which he had now set forth. He came and roused
me and told me all that had occurred on Palos during the intervening
months since we had spoken together last.

And the thing fired me, woke in me an intense desire, so that as he
paused I cried, "Croft, let me be present--let me see the end of the
thing, at least."

He smiled. "Man," he said, "I knew you'd say that, and the thing will be
at night, three, four, five--six nights after this. Listen for my call
then, Murray, and after that--you'll have to shift for yourself."

I nodded. "Just the same, I'll stick pretty close to you," I declared.

"You can do it in the shape you'll be in," he retorted, smiling. "On the
last hop off from just south of Helmor's country, I'll be aboard a plane.
Rob knows his work, and he'll captain the blimps. They'll slip over Berla
after dark and light up the buildings fronting the palace square. There
is a bit of country outside the city that I'll make just about dusk, and
land. From there when I see the light of the fire, I'll simply zoom up
over the walls and alight in front of Helmor's doors--or that's the way
I've got it planned. So you see it's lucky you're going to be capable of
speedy motion, Murray, if you expect to go along."

"But see here," I objected, "won't it be pretty risky coming down outside
the city, like that?"

He shook his head. "You haven't quite learned Palos yet, Murray. I'll hit
a tract of uninhabited country, of course. If I were a Zollarian, I could
pull the same stunt in the desert outside Himyra's walls. Now, do you

I said I did, and he left me. And that is the way in which I came to
witness the ending of the duel between Zollaria and Tamarizia, but more
particularly between Kalamita and Jason, the Mouthpiece of Zitu, I shall
endeavor to describe.

Of what intervened during the next five days I know of course only by
hearsay. Briefly, Croft made Niera on time, and came down. The
airplanes--five of them, that is--arrived. The other had come to grief
and been compelled to remain behind. He did not wait for it, but pressed
on. The final stopping-place was reached.

Croft, to Robur's horror, made use of a parachute with which he had
equipped each ship, and dropped safely to the ground. Robur sailed into
the north, and Croft, waiting until the planes had filled their
fuel tanks for the final stage of the journey, rose to follow just after
the noontide hour of prayer.

The hour of prayer. Eight hours he had allowed himself to cover the last
four hundred miles. If nothing went wrong he could come in sight of Berla
about dusk--and he would keep the blimps in sight, of course. One hour,
two, three passed with the steady drone of the motur in his ears--four,
five, six. Another, and the blimps paused and began a majestic circling.

Berla was in sight from their greater elevation, and twilight was
falling. Across it he winked his signal--and was answered by a responsive
flash. The plane fled on, swerving to one side to find the spot where it
should lie waiting. Like a great bat swooping, it sank and went skimming
across the darkening landscape, seeking a place to alight. In the end it
grounded far out beyond the now shadowy outlines of Berla's walls.

Croft leaned back in his seat. Briefly he spoke to his pilot and seemed
to rest, sagging inside his supporting straps. But, as aboard the blimp
that first night, his spirit sought the chamber beneath Helmor's
palace--found Naia and Jason on the couch together watching the blue girl
of Mazzeria, who was busy weaving patterns out of straws. Naia of
Aphur--and Jason, Son of Jason--on this night of all nights--safe!

Croft opened his eyes and lifted his body more stiffly in its seat.
"Zitu--I thank thee," he whispered, raising his face to the now
night-darkened heavens, and then--he sent the call for which I was
listening on Earth.

Chapter XVI

Berla of Zollaria. It lay there, huge, dark, slumbrous, safe; secure as
the night pall wrapped it in all, seeming, undisturbed by any alarm of
danger--unapproached by any force of foes. For what could harm Helmor's
city, behind its darkly outlined walls? Four hundred miles of mountain,
plain, and desert lay between it and the Tamarizian border--and as yet,
save for the sending of a delegation to parley, Tamarizia had not moved.
Dark, silent, it lay, save for where on either side of one of its many
gates, the fire urns flared.

And yet on the darkened terrain beyond them crouched the squat,
wide-winged shape of the Tamarizian plane, with its two men, watching,
watching. And somewhere--high above it rode the blimps, of which there
was no sign.

Then suddenly--without sound, so high they rode--from out of the
blue-black void of the heavens--there showed a winking light. Ruddy it
was as a falling star--as it glowed briefly and vanished like a fading
spark. And yet, seeing it, one knew that under cover of the darkness,
before the moons of Palos wheeling up like racers of the night revealed
them, the blimps were stealing in.

Once more the ruddy pin-point winked, twice, thrice, and vanished, and as
it faded for the last time it was answered by Croft himself from the
plane. Briefly his torched glowed and was extinguished and the spot in
the heavens did not appear again. Only Jason spoke to the flier. "Be
ready, Avron."

And the man replied, "Aye, lord," climbed into the pit of the fuselage,
and began strapping himself in place.

Croft followed suit. The two men sat staring out toward the walls of
Berla, where the fire urns still made flickering flares against the

And that was all. Save for their breathing, the whisper of the night wind
round them, there was no sound. Silent as death itself was the blimps'
approach, and as unsuspected, until presently an arc of silver appeared
above the eastern horizon, and up shot the first of the twin Palosian

Its upflung rays fell on a wondrous sight. They struck against the giant
dirigibles, turning them into slowly drifting things of silver--huge,
unbelievable, weird as the moonlight struck upon them, like monstrous
dream shapes--unthinkable bubbles wafted forward on some unsensed breeze.
So they must have burst upon the startled sight of Berla's people, first,
soaring high above the city, circling as though in search of some
definite spot, before they paused, appeared to hover for an instant, and
began settling down.

"Zitu!" Avron whispered tensely under his breath.

"Aye," said Zitu's Mouthpiece as though in answer. "Watch ye now,

Down, down sank those mighty glistening shapes from the Palosian
skies--down, down until at length without seeming cause they checked
their descent, and hung gently swaying, until a strange red brilliance
leaped up high over Berla's walls.

"Go now--in Zitu's name," Croft spoke to his pilot.

The motur roared--the huge plane quivered, seemed to shake off the
lethargy of its waiting, trundled forward, gained headway, tilted, and

Up, up in a reaching slant, Avron drove it toward the growing radiance
before it. And then, like a kite striking home upon its prey, it swept
above Berla's ramparts and plunged down beneath the moon and
flame-illumined gas-bags, toward the leaping fires.

They leaped, they blazed, those fires spreading in a ruddy band of
destruction before Helmor's palace. They smoked. The wind of night caught
that smoke and swept it off across the city in twisting, writhing
streamers and billows, like the tatters of a trailing shroud. For an
instant it half veiled the racing plane, and Avron coughed. Then the
machine burst through it and swam above the square already beginning to
fill with a running, shouting, wildly gesticulating mob, beyond which on
the steps of the palace itself showed a body of the palace guard.

The fire struck off ruddy flashes from their massed cuirasses and
helmets, pricked out the livid color of their saffron plumes. A captain
lifted a sword and pointed toward the hovering gas-bags with a glinting
blade. The roof of a house crashed down roaring in a fiery dissolution,
casting up a myriad of sparks against the smoke pall of the major
conflagration, from which a sickly, unsteady light was filling all the
square, casting flickering shadows over the jostling mass of the
panic-stricken crowd.

Above that scene the airplane swam with a chattering motur. The milling
masses heard it and lifted their faces toward it in a fresh alarm. It
turned. It circled back.

"Down," Croft spoke to Avron. "Land me before the guard."

Avron nodded, worked with his controls briefly. The plane tilted, circled
again at a lower level--and suddenly with deadened engine volplaned with
the steady-winged swoop of a hawk toward the wide expanse of pavement, to
trundle forward and pause.

Before it the guard shifted uneasily, watched its slowing advance with
widened eyes and paling faces, a slight backward movement of their ranks.

Not so the captain, however.

"By Bel--he has given one of them into our hands and least. Upon them!"
he roared, and drew his sword to lead them in an overpowering charge.

"Hold!" Croft rose in his place and faced the quick, forward surge of the
guardsmen. "Naught has Bel given thee, captain. Wherefore spare thy
praises. By design are we come among thee--for speech with Helmor. Put up
thy sword."

The firelight glinted on him as he left the plane and sprang lightly to
the ground. It shone on his burnished harness, it struck upon his azure
plumes. It pricked out the design of the cross ansata and the widespread
wings of Azil on his cuirass. And suddenly the captain lowered the point
of his weapon in a startled recognition.

"Thou?" he stammered.

"Aye," said Jason gruffly. "I, Jason, Mouthpiece of Zitu--to hold speech
with Helmor, as thou hast already heard. I, Jason of Tamarizia--the one
man who may save Berla from destruction--by whose order what remains once
that fire has burned itself to embers--may be spared. Go say as much to
Helmor, and say also that I wait a meeting with him--here."

Followed a tense moment, in which quite plainly the Zollarian debated his
course, turning his glance from Croft to the slowly swinging menace of
the moonlighted blimps above him--those glinting shapes so remote, so
detached in their cold, almost frost-rimmed seeming--and yet as the man
before him said the cause of the ravening flames in whose light that man

And as though sensing his thought, Tamarizia's Mouthpiece spoke again:

"Think not that save by my order any part of Berla will be
spared--neither thou, nor Helmor, nor any of her people. That ye behold
done here may be done elsewhere, Zollarian captain."

"By Bel..." The captain sheathed his sword. Seemingly the situation was
too much for him to handle unaided. "Restrain the people," he directed a
lieutenant. "Hold him securely and in safety until I have seen this
carried to Helmor's ears."

The lieutenant saluted. Turning, the captain ran flashing up the stairs.
His subordinates growled a command. The guardsmen advanced, split, moved
off right and left, formed a cordon about the plane and Jason, facing
outward toward the crowds in the square with leveled spears.

Time passed. Jason of Tamarizia stood motionless with folded arms. The
people of Berla pressed up to the very spear points, shrieking and
mouthing. The conflagration roared.

And then the palace doors opened. Helmor and Helmon appeared. Slowly and
without any sign of undue haste they descended the steps until nearly at
the foot they paused.

The Zollarian monarch and Tamarizia's strong man stared into one
another's eyes, and Helmor caught a body-filling breath.

"So," he said, "it _is_ thou. Word I had of thy presence, yet hardly it
seemed thou hadst dared."

Not a line of Jason's set expression altered as he replied, "Wherein
Helmor had right. Naught have I dared indeed. If Helmor doubts it, let
him use his eyes. Let him gaze on yonder fire, and lift his vision to the
skies. There may he behold the cause in those engines with which I have
come upon him, by which Berla shall ere morning lie in ashes, save I and
I only give the word that it be spared. Wherefore I dare naught in
standing thus before him to offer him the safety of himself and people.
What would it profit Helmor to bid his guardsmen seize me, and thereby
lose his one remaining chance of safety? Has he any means with which he
may combat them--any cover beneath which he shall lie safe from a rain of
unquenchable fire?"

Helmor hesitated in his answer--hesitated even as those who know that
they are lost. And indeed he must have known it in that instant as he
lifted his eyes to the heavens and beheld there the unbelievable
creations brought against him too remote for any resistance within his
power to reach them, yet near enough to bring swift death upon himself
and his people, as witnessed by the blazing wall of the city, at the foot
of the palace square. And in that bitter moment of realization Helmor of
Zollaria's spirit must have writhed.

Now was humiliation come upon him--upon him who had sought to bring it
upon others in his time. Staggered by the appalling swiftness of it, he
found no words with which to meet the situation. And as he lowered his
glance and forced it back to that of the man before him, Croft spoke

"Nor Berla alone, O Helmor. These things be not of my seeking, nor of
Tamarizia's design. Yet if I return not scatheless from this meeting, not
only Berla but all Zollaria as well shall burn. If I return not safely
that begun this night shall certainly continue, and Tamarizia shall hurl
her total strength against a treacherous nation which seeks by unlawful
methods to further her ends. And in that day Zollaria as a nation shall
go down in a red ruin, from which she shall not rise.

"We sought not war, O Helmor, nor aught save only peace. Twice have you
loosed your strength against us--and twice has it proved vain. Yet again
you planned our undoing--and this third time you struck not as a man
against men, but against the innocent, the weak and helpless--seeking
through them to win what had been failed of through force of arms. Helmor
of Zollaria struck not at the heart of a man as he hoped to Zollaria's
and his own profit. But now must he face strength again.

"Yet even so we come not in war against thee or thy nation, save in so
far as it be needful to prove resistance vain. War we make not against
the defenseless, the weak, nor wish to--and we hold it a thing for
sorrow, were the helpless, the innocent, to perish for Helmor's or
another's sin. Wherefore we come before thee and offer thee peace, O
Helmor--a peace which Helmor needs but say the word to win."

"Thy price? Name the ransom of Berla, Mouthpiece of Zitu." Suddenly
Helmor appeared to find his tongue. His voice rose hoarsely. "By Bel, I
would not see my people burn."

"Helmor knowest," Croft said slowly, "I but require of thee my own. Let
Naia of Aphur and the blue girl, her attendant, and Jason, Son of Jason,
be brought forth and placed unharmed aboard the machine Helmor sees
before him."

"And afterward?" Croft's utterly controlled demeanor, the mildness of his
demands, seemed in a way to disturb Zollaria's monarch, appeared to
excite the suspicion of some hidden trap in his mind.

"Nay, nothing," the Mouthpiece of Zitu returned. "Have I not said that I
come not in vengeance upon thee? Hark ye, Helmor, I am not driven by any
such intent as that of the woman who having led thee into this position
now plans to cast thee from a throne. Yet, if ye yield not, by Zitu,
whose Mouthpiece men name me--thy throne itself and all it stands for
shall be destroyed."

Helmor started, Croft's intimate knowledge of a plot against the tenure
of his power seemed to shake him well nigh as deeply as all else. He
stood silent, once more lost to all seeming in a gloomy consideration,
into which broke the rising voices of the crowd. For they too had heard
from their places outside the ring of threatening spears in the hands of
the guardsmen, and now they cried to him, "O Helmor--yield to him--grant
him his demands nor seek to resist him, O Helmor. Let not Berla be

Those cries beat into his ears a very surge of plaint and entreaty. And
hearing it Helmor threw up his head and turned to Croft.

"This is the sum of your requirement, Mouthpiece of Zitu, which being
granted, shall lead to nothing else?"

"Aye, by Zitu, on the word of Jason," Croft assented quickly, making the
words both agreement to Helmor's query and an oath.

"O Helmor..." Once more the plea of a panic-stricken people.

For a moment Zollaria's ruler gazed out across their terror-whitened
faces. And then he yielded, lifting a hand and upflung arm to calm them.
"Peace. Helmor bows to thy wishes in this matter. Go, Helmon, son of
Helmor, thyself bring forth the women and the child."

"O Helmor. Hail Helmor! All praise to Helmor by whom we are preserved!"
In swift transition from plaint to plaudits once more came the voice of
the crowd. "Helmor the Wise One--the guardian of his people! O Helmor!
Aye, aye, Helmor--given them to him!"

They surged forward, lifting their hands in acclaiming gestures as Helmor
turned and began to mount the steps.

He had won, won! For an instant as the Zollarian prince climbed upward,
Croft found himself unnerved. He had won the desperate venture.

And then he stiffened. Helmor emerged from the palace, and with him, Naia
of Aphur, and Maia walking beside her, and about them some half dozen
members of the guard.

And now no longer was Croft the Mouthpiece of Zitu, but as he watched the
approaching party begin the descent of the stairs, noting the slender
lines of Naia's figure, the deathlike pallor of her, straining his eyes
for a first glimpse of the child. A moment--a single moment his leaping
heart told him, and they would be reunited--one moment only remained of
the dreary waiting. Naia of Aphur was coming toward him--nay, flying
toward him.

For, suddenly, without any warning, she was free of Maia's supporting
figure, clear of the guardsmen, past Helmor and speeding swiftly in the
firelight down the steps.

Croft opened wide his arms.

And then she was against him, lifting to his bended face eyes so filled
with maddening horror that they struck fresh terror to his spirit,
beating upon the cross the wings of Azil of his cuirass with
tight-clenched, desperate hands, panting rather than speaking, into his
startled ears the cry of a mother's frenzy.

"Gone, Jason--gone. They have taken him from me. In the name of Zitu,
hasten to Bel's temple and save him. They have gone to sacrifice our

"God!" he cried, not knowing in the shock of the moment that he spoke in
English, and releasing the grip of his arms about her body, he seized her
by the arms. His fingers bit into the white, white flesh upon them.
"But--he was safe with thee when darkness fell, beloved."

"Aye, aye!" she nodded in desperate affirmation. "Scarce had Gor gone
when Helmon came to release us..."

"Gor!" Croft bent straining eyes upon her.

"Aye--Gor--creature of Kalamita. He it was who tore him from me, after he
had slain the captain of the guard--saying it was done by Helmor's order.
O Ga and Azil, canst not understand? To the Temple of Bel and save him or
else let Berla be destroyed."

"Aye, if he dies, by Zitu." Croft swept her close pressed against his
side, and turned to Helmor.

"Thou hearest, Zollaria. What answer have ye to words of Gor?"

And in that moment, Helmor more than any time in Croft's knowledge of him
proved his right to reign. One quick pace he came toward the Mouthpiece
of Zitu, and the half fainting woman he supported, and paused with hand
on sword and flashing eyes.

"Nay, by Bel," he answered strongly. "Not by word of Helmor was this
thing come to pass, but by the trickery of another, because of a plot
against me, of which it would seem from his own words, Jason knows.
Helmon, my son"--he turned briefly to the crown prince standing pallid
and shaken before this fresh turn of events--"what know you of this foul

And Helmon answered quickly, "Naia of Aphur speaks truth. Gor slew the
captain who denied him entrance to the chamber, and cowed the guardsmen
with his mighty strength--saying he took the child by thy orders, O my
father; wherein as thou knoweth he lied."

"Aye." Helmor's features darkened. "Yet sought to take advantage of the
present instance to accomplish the interests of his sweetheart. By Bel, I
swear it. Let Tamarizia say if he believes."

Deep in his troubled soul Croft knew that he did. The thing was well in
keeping with the methods Kalamita would almost certainly have employed.
She might well have sent Gor on his mission, trusting to the excitement
to gain him access to the palace, to Helmor's former words to overcome
any refusal of his demands on the part of the guard. Such things passed
swiftly through his brain as the crowd again took up its clamor--"To the
temple, O Helmor--to the temple. Death to Gor who has undone us! Seek and
slay him!"

Jason Croft inclined his azure-crested helm. "Aye, Helmor," he accepted.
"Jason believes. This were the work of Kalamita, not another.

"To the temple!" Naia of Aphur screamed. "In Zitu's name, waste no more
words about it!"

"To the temple--to the temple!" The words became a beating surf of sound
on the lips of the people. "To the temple quickly, O Helmor!"

Helmor acted. "Ho, guardsmen, attend me! To the Temple of Bel!" he

Chapter XVII

To the Temple of Bel! To that ebon-dark structure, where in its mighty
enclosure crouched the figure of the unclean god.

"To Avron--up and remain with him," he cried to Naia.

"Nay, Jason--nay, my beloved," she denied him, gasping. "With thee. Keep
me in this at thy side."

"Come, then." He tightened the arm about her yielding waist and crushed
her to him. There was scanty time to argue. Already the guard were
forming--massing a wall of their bodies about them. And there was a thing
that demanded his attention. Swiftly he drew his signal lamp and pointed
it to the skies.

"To the Temple of Bel! Descend above it!" He sent a message with a hand
that, despite his stern control, was not wholly steady. "To the Temple of
Bel," he repeated, and lowered his eyes to find Helmor's eyes upon him.

"I signed the airships to follow us to the temple," he voiced in
explanation, lest the man misunderstand him. Helmor seemed to understand,
though he made no answer, speaking instead to Helmon. "Remain and guard
the machine. Let no one approach it."

"To the temple!" Once more the voice of the crowed--a seething mass now
of jostling, pressing bodies--of white faces and lifted arms in the
flickering light of the firelight.

Helmor answered the rising ululation. "Aye, to the temple. Forward,

Croft lifted Naia of Aphur, holding her terror-shaken figure before him,
cradling it in his arms against his metaled breast. Side by side he went
forward with Helmor as the guard advanced across the square, breaking a
pathway through the mass of the people with their spears. Slowly at
first, and then with a quickened rhythm beat their feet. Their moving
mass gathered momentum as their captain lifted his voice and called a
rising cadence. The light of the blazing buildings shone sharply upon the
spearheads--shimmered and flashed on their glinting harness as they
charged toward the shadowy mouth of a street.

To the temple--the temple! The thud and clank of their feet, striking in
a measured rhythm, seemed to beat the words into Jason's ears. To the
temple--the temple! Naia of Aphur was praying. As he raced inside the
cordon of other racing bodies, Croft caught the whisper of her pale lips
beneath his own set, straining face.

"Ga--Azil--Ga, eternal mother--Azil--angel of life--have mercy--spread
thy wings in shelter above him..."

They reached the street and plunged among its shadows, pounding with a
dull reverberation of many feet along it. To the temple--the temple. The
walls of its banking structures gave back the echo of that ceaseless
rhythm. He glanced at Helmor. Set of lip and narrow-eyed, his features
distorted by the rage that burned within him, the realization of this
latest menace come upon him, the haste that had made him cast aside all
dignity of station, and sent him thus on foot in a last endeavor to
offset it, the Zollarian ran with a steady, unfaltering stride.

"Zitu--father of all life..."

Croft tensed his muscles, pressing the yielding form of Naia closer to
his pounding heart. Save for her whispers, the clank and thud of the
charging body of men, their heavy breathing, there was no sound in all the
night. Behind them Berla was burning, with a lessening glare. Here only
the moonlight cut in silver bands and purple shadows as they raced. He
glanced up toward the azure heavens. His sweat-misted eyes beheld a
drifting shape--huge, too regular of outline for a cloud--the glistening,
glinting envelope of a blimp.

"They follow us, beloved--Robur follows." He spoke in muffled tones to
Naia--and found her purple eyes lifted darkly to his face.

Out of one street and into another raced the straining Zollarian guard,
and along it, and into another, and through that into a second monstrous

The Temple of Bel! Croft knew it--recognized it, felt his spirit once
more falter as he sensed its dark mass lightened by some interior
radiance that shone redly between the mighty pillars, picking out each
massive column in an inky blackness--the light of Bel's lighted fire!

Croft sensed its meaning--that Ptah had done his part and ignited the
sacrificial flame in the body of the monstrous god--lifted his eyes from
the fire-whirling streamers above the temple façade, lifted his soul in a
prayer that Robur would also see it, mark it a beacon to guide his
searching, and ran on toward the serried flight of steps before him,
reached them and began to climb.

Up, up, he made his way with Helmor and the now panting guard. Up,
up--the last step at last. And there, among the pillars supporting the
mighty colonnade, Helmor's party paused. Before and below them, the vast
pit with its rows of surrounding steps, whereon a multitude might find
seats--the idol in its center showed. Men--such as Croft had seen on the
occasion of Kalamita's visit to the Priest of Bel, were working about the
god. Smoke and flame curled from its flaring nostrils as they fed its
inward fires--and its hands, extended flatly, palm up, before its ugly
belly shone redly--they glowed. Heated to a dull incandescent, they
waited the sacrifice.

So much Croft saw in a single glance, and found his spirit lighten, even
as Naia struggled to her feet and gazed upon the scene before her--cried
out and covered her eyes.

"Forward." He spoke to Helmor. "Bid the guard surround the idol--seize
the men who attend it and hold them, while we make search for the child."

For there was time--time yet to accomplish all his purpose. Bel's glowing
hands were waiting, but not yet had the sacrifice been placed within

And Helmor seemed to comprehend both his intent and the situation fully.
He addressed the captain of the sweating guardsmen. "Take a portion of
your men--surround the image. Let none approach it." Then as the officer,
saluting, turned to fulfill his orders, he drew back, with face gone
livid, and faltered. "Stay! Nay, now, by Bel I dare not. The sacrifice
approaches. Behold!"

Lifting a shaking arm, he pointed. Croft followed the direction of his
hand and starting eyes. He turned his baffled glance to the other end of
the mighty enclosure, where at the head of the farther tier of steps a
processional appeared.

Ptah! He saw him, naked in all his wonderful animal strength save for a
scarlet leathern apron about his bulging loins and a headdress of ebon
plumes, and the glint of metal sandals and casings of metal on his feet
and monstrous calves. And behind him a body of lesser priests.

So much only he saw at first, and then, as Ptah and his satellites
descended the upper tier of steps, Kalamita, in the veiled beauty of her
physical form, appeared. Kalamita! Woman of flesh and fleshly
beauty--Priestess of Adita. Her perfect body shone in the light of the
sacrificial fires, an iridescent thing of tinted silk and jewels, and
behind her Bandhor and Panthor.

They descended a single step--and behind them came Gor in his banded
cuirass of copper, on which the light struck dully, bearing the

Jason, Son of Jason--he lay upon an ebon-colored cushion.

"Ga--and Azil," cried Naia of Aphur in an anguish of recognition.

Croft whirled on Helmor. "Forward. There remains yet time to save him!"

"Nay, Mouthpiece of Zitu, I dare not." At the end, Helmor balked the
issue. Lifelong superstition proved stronger than all other
considerations. "Helmor nor any man may seek to keep from Bel what is
consecrated to him."

"Ga..." The prayer of a mother to the Mother Eternal.

The thing was a matter of a few moments. Then Croft cast his glance

A monstrous, glistening oblong hung there, slowly turning. He lowered his
gaze and swept it across the floor of the mighty pit, and from that to
Ptah and those behind them. And then his voice lashed back at Zollaria's
monarch. "Does Helmor fear then the fire of Bel--more than Tamarizia's

And Helmor answered. "Helmor, Tamarizian, performs not a sacrilege
against his god. In his hands be it."

"Then let Helmor behold!" Croft took the only chance remaining. Swiftly
he darted down some half dozen tiers of steps and lifted his huge
signaling-torch to the skies. _"Set fire to the pit of the temple."_

Once, twice, he flashed that message, even though after the first swift
sending, the blimp began sinking down. And then as it hovered lower and
lower, bulking ever more hugely, he turned and climbed back with limbs
that shook beneath him, to Naia's side.

For that was the thought born of his desperate need as Helmor weakened in
his purpose--to flood the level space between Ptah and the idol with a
mass of impassable flame--to check him, hold him from the presence of his
god with fire, since he might not do it with men.

Lower and lower sank the airship. Like a mighty cover settling down above
the open enclosure, it seemed. And as Croft slipped an arm about the
swaying form of Naia of Aphur, it paused.

Paused, too, Ptah and his fellow priests. They had caught sight of Croft
on the steps beyond the idol--marked the upflung posture of his arm.
Their eyes had leaped above it and fallen on the glistening shape
descending, as it seemed, upon their heads. Perhaps consternation seized
them--perhaps they waited merely to grasp its presence. But at all events
they paused with lifted faces.

And as they stood--the floor of the pit about the idol, beyond it farther
and farther, burst into widening lines of flame. Swiftly those lines
stretched out, spreading, spreading across the sunken level, as the
monstrous shape above it poured down its fiery rain. In it the image of
Bel glowed yet more hotly, became a thing of a myriad licking, darting,
fiery tongues. The men who had stoked the fires within it vanished,
writhing, caught beyond any hope of rescue in the open.

And whether consternation had first seized the minds of Ptah and his
party, it seized them now. They turned to draw back before the deadly
menace of the sea of fire before them. Too late--its ever widening circle
swung its arc against them. Ptah--Priest of Bel, shrieked once in mortal
anguish, and went down.

On the steps of Bel's Temple--on their way to Bel's idol--he and his
fellows sank in a horrid dissolution, with a grotesquely terrible
twitching of tortured bodies, a tossing of arms and limbs. They fell and,
driven by their own contortions, dropped one by one from step to step
among the lapping flames.

Above them stood Kalamita--Priestess of Adita--stood as one wholly bereft
of motion, until suddenly she shrieked in a voice that rang from end to
end of the temple, turned to flee, and shrieked again, and fell forward,
beating at her body--and Gor, casting aside the child on its ebon
cushion, leaped down and caught her writhing figure in his arms.

"Enough--enough!" Croft flashed the signal upward, and started running
off between the pillars to reach the further tier of steps from whence
still rang the screams of Kalamita. And as he ran he drew his sword, and
went on clutching it in a tightly gripping hand.

"After him! Seize Bandhor, Panthor, and the woman. Hold them! Preserve
the child!" Helmor roused from the fear that had held him impotent in the
presence of Zollaria's now discredited god.

The guard leaped to obey the order. Croft heard the pound of their feet
behind him and ran on.

A hundred feet, two, three. The fires below him having naught to feed
them, were burning themselves out. He reached the tier of steps down
which Ptah and his fellows had gone to their death. Bandhor and Panthor
stood there, and Gor--his mistress's screams now sunk to moanings--her
once lovely body marked by angry scars where the spattering liquid fire
had sprayed from the lower steps and struck her, yet held a white,
jeweled shape against his mighty breast.

Toward them, still with his naked sword in his hand, he made his way.
Behind him came Helmor's guard. And yet--as he advanced, oddly enough
Croft gave little attention to them. His eyes seemed centered beyond all
other purpose, on the shape of the ebon cushion Gor had cast from him ere
he leaped to Kalamita's aid--that cushion beside which, wholly unheeded,
lay the form of Jason, Son of Jason--his child.

Then, as he stooped to raise him in the hands that trembled, the guard
flung themselves on the two men.

"Back," Bandhor suddenly thundered. "Back, men of Zollaria! It is thy
commander speaking."

And Helmor, bursting through the faltering soldiery, answered, "Nay, not
so, Bandhor, thou traitor, any longer--not thou or Panthor, but Helmor
rules still in Berla. Seize him--and lead him to the palace, there to
stand trial with Panthor for his treason."

Again the guard surged forward, closing about Bandhor and Helmor's
cousin, and Croft found a slender form hurled swiftly against him, white
hands clinging to him--the purple eyes of Naia of Aphur, lighted with the
wild, sweet fires of fulfilled yearning, lifted to him across the body of
the child.

His heart too surcharged for words, he smiled upon her and laid Jason,
Son of Jason, in her arms.

With the sound of a caught-in sob, a gesture hungry in its passion, she
gathered him to her, bent her face above him, rocking him gently with a
swaying of her slender figure as one groping baby hand crept up and dug
itself into the soft substance of her gown. Turning with him to the girl
of Mazzeria, whom Croft now sensed for the first time as having followed
from the palace--dogging faithfully her mistress's footsteps to the last.

Ga, the Mother--the Virgin--the Madonna, bending in tender brooding above
the infant--pressing it in loving rapture against the greater bulk of the
form that had given it birth.

From that sight Croft turned away his misted eyes to find those of
Kalamita fixed on him in a stare of well-nigh insane hatred.

She had struggled free from Gor, and, despite the pain of her burns,
which in their blindly, upflung course, had spared not the once beautiful
mask of her face, was standing there before him. And, as their glances
met, her tightly held lips parted.

"Thou--thou," she mouthed; "thou Mouthpiece of Zitu--thou man of ice and
fire--thou wrecker of the plans of Kalamita--thou man like not to any man
before thee--by all the fiends of the foul pit of the underworld I curse
thee--may they torture thy spirit--and that of her whom I have kept for
Zitrans from thee, and bring sickness and loathsome disease on the child.
May its flesh rot and its bones grow hollow like blasted reeds--may Adita
cause thy mate to shrivel quickly--may she cease to please thee, and yet
cling to thee--denying thee the pleasure she herself no longer gives. May
Bel visit his wrath upon thee for the sacrilege thou hast shown him. I,

"Peace." The captain of the guard laid hold upon her. "Thy pleasure with
this woman, O Helmor?"

And Helmor eyeing her, answered, "Nay--nothing. That she who has turned
the minds of men with her beauty should stand thus now before them, were
punishment indeed. Release her--let her go her ways."

"Thy fault--thou Mouthpiece. The curse of Kalamita on thee!" Once more
she wheeled on Jason.

"Nay--curse no more," he told her. "Once thou didst challenge Adita to
blast thy fairness if thou did not accomplish thy ends against me. And
now it is in my mind that fickle goddess has taken thee at thy word."

"Aye, peace!" said Helmor. "Get thee to thy palace, woman."

For a moment Kalamita drew herself up before him, and then, flinging
clenched hands above her tawny head in an impotent gesture, she turned to
Gor standing stolidly waiting, and leaning her weight against him, went
with him into the night.

Chapter XVIII

And that is all, as Croft would say, I suppose--since when he described
Naia's winning to me at the time of the Mazzerian War he brought his
narrative to a close with their marriage, until I demanded that the end
of the war itself be told.

So now one may fancy that to him the real ending of the matter would have
been in that moment when he stood there with Helmor, and Naia, standing
with Jason, Son of Jason, held fast against her breast, and Maia, the
girl of Mazzeria, at her side, and knew that Helmor had no longer any
thought save to see him depart with them in safety, that he and his city
might also know themselves safe.

But to my mind there is more to the story--not so much of an individual
nature, as applying to the future of the Palosian life.

For, to the ears of my spirit, which had witnessed all the crowded
events, came Helmor's voice addressing Jason:

"How now, Mouthpiece of Zitu--what else?"

And Jason answered, "Naught, O Helmor, save that we return to the machine
before the palace, and depart in peace, unless by Helmor's wish."

"What mean you by Helmor's wish?" There was no sign of understanding in
the Zollarian monarch's intonation or the now somber lines of his face,
as the last rays of the fire in the vast pit of Bel's Temple struck upon

Again Croft answered slowly, "Naia of Aphur, wife of Jason, and Jason,
Son of Jason, were seized for a purpose--which Helmor knows--and the end

For a moment he paused and swept an arm about the mighty interior of the
temple--embracing all--the still-smoking figure of the idol--the bodies
of Ptah and his fellow priests, now lying charred and blackened below him
on the serried steps.

And then as Helmor made no response or comment on that scene of sudden
death and desolation, he resumed. "Yet have I said that I came not in
vengeance against thee, nor in war, nor for any reason save only to
regain my own. Wherefore, I say again to Helmor, now, that the purpose he
had in mind may be served equally in a different fashion--and that he say
the word he may gain in peace what he might not obtain by either
treachery or war--and I say to him also that this night's work has
preserved not only Naia of Aphur and Jason, Son of Jason, to me, but to
Helmor also, his throne."

And now Helmor spoke, nodding quickly. "Aye--Helmor does not overlook it.
Speak, Mouthpiece of Zitu--how may these things you hint at be done?"

Having fully caught his attention, Croft went on, "Let Zollaria and
Tamarizia make a pact of peace between them, pledging themselves without
reservation to sheathe the sword from this hour, nor draw it one against
the other again. Let Helmor subscribe to this, and Helmon, Helmor's son.
Let him proclaim the establishment of schools, the education of his
people. Let him seek for his nation strength through the growth of
knowledge, rather than the strength of arms..."

Once more he paused, and again Helmor nodded.

His face lighted swiftly as he caught Croft's meaning. "Aye, by Bel," he
said. "It is thy knowledge, Mouthpiece of Zitu, that has made Tamarizia

"And not Tamarizia only, but Zollaria also," said Jason, "if Helmor sets
his seal to such a bond."

"By Bel," Helmor exclaimed, as all the suggestion embraced burst suddenly
upon him. "Come then to the palace. Let us speak of this more fully.
Delay thy departure as guests of Helmor and his people till morn."

"Aye." Croft assented without hesitation, his stern face strangely
exalted by the thought that out of this night of warring purpose and
emotion, peace between age-old foemen might be born.

Back, then, they made their way through the streets along which they had
rushed so short a time ago in so vastly different a fashion to regain the
square before the palace--where only the light of the fire urns now
served to show Avron, still sitting at his station in the pit of his

And there Croft, lifting his signaling-flash, sent a final message to the
mighty shapes still circling over the city. "Remain until the morning.
Watch for the plane at dawn."

Robur's answering flash winked promptly back at him redly, and bidding
Helmon join them, they entered the palace, through which Jason had
flitted in the astral presence so many times.

Yet different now indeed was the situation, as Helmor summoned
slave girls to attend on Naia, provide for her every comfort. He left her
with Croft for the moment and Croft drew her into his arms.

For a long, long moment he held her, sensing her nearness--her
dearness--the truth that now again, not only in spirit but in body, was
she his own.

"Beloved!" he whispered, and crushed her to him.

"Beloved!" she whispered, and threw back her golden head to lift her
purple eyes to him.

So for a long moment, and then she spoke again. "And thou canst
accomplish thy purpose, beloved--were it not well worth suffering,
indeed? Thinkest thou Helmor is taken with the notion?"

"Aye," said Jason.

"Zitu grant it."

Naia nestled against him. "Go then and arrange it. I shall pray for thy
success upon my knees."

After that, Croft left her, and rejoined Helmor and his son. To that same
apartment in which Jason had inspired his dream of warning against
Kalamita, the Zollarian monarch led them, and there they took up the
matter of a treaty between their nations, at the point where they had
laid it down.

Thereafter, while the hours passed, Helmor's expression altered; his eyes
grew darkly flashing; the deeply graven lines in his somber visage
relaxed as Croft expounded the advantages to be gained in a friendly
intercourse between his own and Helmor's people, suggested with what must
have seemed to the two Zollarians closeted with him, an inspired mental
vision. He proposed the terms of the international coalition--teachers
from Tamarizia to instruct the Zollarian workmen--the establishment of
telegraphic communication--a readjustment of trade relations--the
extension north of Croft's interrupted scheme for a system of
electrically operated railroads--the opening of shops and schools.

Until at last Helmor, rising in no small excitement, sent Helmon to
summon a scribe, and demanded the immediate drawing-up of a provisional
bond, which Jason should take with him in the morning for ratification at
Zitra. He began a restless pacing to and fro as the scribe set to work
upon it, holding his heavy hands clasped together behind his back as he
paced and turned.

It was a strange night for Helmor of Zollaria, as he must have thought,
wherein Jason, Mouthpiece of Zitu--the man who had thrice baffled his
purpose, sat with him in his own apartment, and rather than crushing him
wholly, now, in his final defeat--placed the objects of his seeking in
his hands--a strange night, indeed, whereon he owed not only his own
throne to his singular foeman--but the promise of a greater future than
ever to his nation--greater than he had dreamed in all his scheming.

And then--the scribe had finished his labors. Helmor strode to the table,
removed his signet from his finger and affixed its seal to the agreement.
Through the windows of the apartment a faint gray light was stealing--the
harbinger of dawn.

He replaced his signet, extended his hand to Jason. Across the promise of
a newer dawn for their people Helmor of Zollaria and the Mouthpiece of
Zitu struck palms.

And in the light of that double dawn, the fullness of that double peace,
Jason and Naia of Aphur, Maia, the girl of Mazzeria, and Jason, Son of
Jason, went down to the waiting machine.

Croft helped the women aboard and passed up the child. Cased in his suit
and helmet of leather, Avron took his place in the machine. Then ere he
followed, Jason turned to look into Helmor's face.

"Hail Helmor--and farewell. And thou, Helmon, son of Helmor," he said.

"Hail, Mouthpiece of Zitu--and Naia of Aphur--and farewell," they

Up, up shot the plane, leaving Helmor and Helmon and the soldiery to mark
its swift ascent. Up, up it mounted over Berla, until the sunlight caught
it also, turning its wheeling vanes like the greater shapes above them to
gold. Up, up--the city fell away beneath it as it swung in an ever
widening circle, beneath the mighty ships that all night had waited for
its rising. Naia of Aphur lifted her voice.

Clear, strong, true, and perfect as a golden bell, it mounted in a paean
of thanksgiving.

"Hail, Zitu--father of all life--and thanks from a grateful heart. Hail,
Azil--giver of life--who poured life into the mold of life--from which I
was born. Thanks be to thee for the life that is mine--this life--I hold
from thee--to be mine own. Blessings--my blessings upon thee, Ga--that I
am a woman--my thanks for the tears with which, womanlike, I have washed
your feet--not knowing that so I washed out also sorrow--preparing
thereby my heart as a flask for the mellow wine of life from which now
joy is drunk."

So sang Naia of Aphur, and I recognized the song as one of which Croft
had told me--as one she had sung on another occasion when she bore him
back from the camp of the Mazzerian army under Bandhor--as a chant--a
prayer, used by Tamarizian women for one who had lain at the very door of
death, and returned.

Here, then, I think is the logical end of the story--with the great plane
driven south by Avron, and behind him, Maia, the girl of Mazzeria, and
Jason, Mouthpiece of Zitu, and Naia of Aphur singing--with Jason, Son of
Jason, held safe in her cradling arms.


This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia