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Title: Palos of the Dog Star Pack
Author: J U Giesy

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Language: English
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Title: Palos of the Dog Star Pack
Author: J U Giesy



Chapter I


It was a miserable night which brought me first in touch with Jason
Croft. There was rain and enough wind to send it in gusty dashes against
the windows. When I heard the doorbell ring, I was tempted to ignore it.
But as it rang again, and was followed by a rapid tattoo of rapping, I
rose, laid aside my book, and stepped into the hall.

First switching on a porch light, I opened the outer door, to reveal the
figure of an old woman.

"Doctor," she began in a tone of almost frantic excitement. "Dr.
Murray--come quick!"

I am Dr. George Murray, in charge of the Mental Hospital in a Western
state. The institution was not then very large, and since taking my
position at the head of its staff I had found myself with considerable
time for study, seeking to learn what I might concerning both the normal
and the abnormal manifestations of mental force.

But I was not thinking of anything like that as I looked at the
shawl-wrapped face of the little bent woman. I said to her, "But, my dear
woman, there are other doctors for you to call. I am really not in
general practice. I am connected with the asylum--"

"And I always said I would come for you if anything happened to Mr.
Jason," she cut in.

"Whom?"

"Mr. Jason Croft, sir," she returned. "He's dead maybe--I dunno. But he's
been that way for a week."

"Dead?"

"Dead, or asleep. I don't know which."

Clearly there was something here I wasn't getting into fully, and my
interest aroused. "Come in," I said. "What is your name?"

"Goss," said she. "I'm housekeeper for Mr. Jason, but I'll not be comin'
in unless you say you'll go."

"Then come in without any more delay," I replied. I knew Croft--by sight
at least. He was a big fellow with light hair and a splendid physique. He
had the eyes of a mystic--of a student of those very things I myself had
studied more or less. I decided I would go with her to Croft's house
which was not very far down the street. I gave her a seat, said I would
get on my shoes and coat.

We set out at once, my long raincoat flapping about my legs, and the
little old woman tottering along at my side, as we hastened down the
storm-swept street.

Then we turned in at a gate and went up toward the large house I knew to
be Croft's, and the little old woman unlocked a heavy front door and led
me into a hall. It was a most unusual hall, too, its walls draped with
rare tapestries and rugs, its floor covered with other rugs such as I had
never seen outside private collections.

Across the hall she scuttered, and flung open a door to permit me to
enter a room which was plainly a study. It was lined with cases of books,
furnished richly yet plainly with chairs, a heavy desk, and a broad
couch, on which I saw in one swift glance the stretched-out body of Croft
himself.

He lay wholly relaxed, like one sunk in heavy sleep, but with no visible
sign of respiration animating his deep full chest.

I touched his face and found it cold. My fingers sought his pulse and
failed to find it at all. But his body was limp as I lifted an arm and
dropped it. There was no rigor, yet there was no evidence of decay, such
as must follow once rigor has passed away. I had brought instruments with
me; I took them from my pocket and listened for some sound from the
heart. I thought I found the barest flutter, but I wasn't sure. I tested
the tension of the eyeball under the closed lids and found it firm. I
straightened and turned to face the old woman.

"Dead, sir?"

I shook my head. "He doesn't appear to be dead," I replied. "See here,
Mrs. Goss, what did you mean by saying he ought to have been back three
days ago? What do you mean by back?"

She fingered at her lips with one bony hand. "Why--awake, sir."

"Then why didn't you say so?" I snapped. "Why use the word back?"

"Because, sir," she faltered, "that's what he says when he wakes up.
'Well, Mary, I'm back.'"

"He's been like this before, then?"

"Yes, sir. But never more than four days without telling me he would. Th'
first time was months ago--but it's been gettin' oftener and oftener,
till now all his sleeps are like this. He told me not to be scared--an'
to--to never bother about him--to--to just let him alone; but--I guess I
was scared tonight, when it begun to storm an' him layin' there like
that."

I myself had seen people in a cataleptic condition, had even induced the
state in subjects myself, and it appeared to me that Jason Croft was in a
similar state, no matter how induced.

"What does your employer do?"

"He studies, sir--just studies things like that." Mrs. Goss gestured at
the cases of books. "He don't have to work, you know. His uncle left him
rich."

I followed her arm as she swept it about the glass-fronted cases. I
brought my glances back to the desk in the center of the room. Upon it I
spied another volume lying open. It was yellowed with age; in fact it was
not a book at all, but a series of parchment pages tied together with
bits of silken cord.

I took the thing up and found the open pages covered with marginal notes
in English, although the original was plainly in Sanskrit. The notations,
however, threw some light into my mind, and as I read them I forgot
everything save what I read and the bearing it held on the man behind me
on the couch. I felt sure they had been written by his own hand, and they
bore on the subject of astral projection, out-of-the-body phenomena.

I finished the open pages and turned to others. The notations were still
present wherever I looked. At last I turned to the very front and found
that the manuscript was by Ahmid, an occult adept of Hindustan, who lived
somewhere in the second or third century of the Christian era.

With a strange sensation I laid down the silk-bound pages.

"You can do nothing for him?" the woman broke my introspection.

"I'm not so sure of that," I said. "But--Mr. Croft's condition is
rather--peculiar. Whatever I do will require quiet. I think if I can be
left here with him for possibly an hour, I can bring him back."

She nodded. "You'll bring him back," she said. "Mind you, doctor, th'
trouble is with Mr. Jason's head, I've been thinking. 'Twas for that I've
been telling myself I would come for you, if he forgot to come back some
time."

"You did quite right," I agreed. "But--the trouble is not with Mr.
Croft's mind. In fact, Mrs. Goss, I believe he is a very learned man. How
long have you known him, may I ask?"

"Ever since he was a boy, except when he was travelin'," she returned.

"He has traveled?" I took her up.

"Yes, sir, a lot. Me an' my husband kept up th' place while he was gone."

"I see," I said. "And now if you will let me try what I can do."

"Yes, sir. I'll set out in the hall."

Left alone, I took a chair, dragged it to the couch, and studied my man.

So far as I could judge, he was at least six feet tall, and
correspondingly built. His hair was heavy, almost tawny, and, as I knew,
his eyes were gray. The whole contour of his head and features showed
what appeared to me remarkable intelligence and strength, the nose finely
chiseled, the mouth well formed and firm, the chin unmistakably strong.

My own years of study had taught me no little of hypnosis, suggestion,
and the various phases of the subconscious mind. I had developed no
little power with various patients, who from time to time had submitted
themselves to my control. It behooved me to get to work.

I began. I concentrated my mind to the exclusion of all else upon my
task, sending a mental call to the ego of Jason Croft, wherever it might
be, commanding it to return to the body it had temporarily quitted of its
own volition, and once more animate it to a conscious life. It was a
nerve-racking task. In the end it came to seem that I sat there and
struggled against some intangible, invisible force which resisted all my
efforts.

The hour ran away, and another, and still the body over which I worked
lay as it had lain at first, nor gave any sign of any effect of my
concentrated will. It was three in the morning when I gained my first
reward.

And when it came, it was so sudden that I started back in my chair and
sat clutching its carved arms, staring in something almost like horror at
the body which had lifted itself to a sitting posture on the couch.

And I know that when the man said, "So you are the one who called me
back?" I gasped before I answered, "Yes."

Croft fastened his eyes upon me. "You are Dr. Murray, from the Mental
Hospital, are you not?"

"Ye-s," I stammered again.

He nodded, with the barest smile on his lips. "Only one acquainted with
the nature of my condition could have roused me. However, you were
engaged in a dangerous undertaking, friend."

"Dangerous for you, you mean," I rejoined. "Do you know you have lain
cataleptic for something like a week?"

"Yes." He nodded again. "But I was occupied on a most important mission."

"Occupied!" I exclaimed. "You mean you were engaged in some undertaking
while you lay there?"

"Yes." Once more he smiled.

Well, my very knowledge gained by years of study told me he was sane. I
continued with a question. "Where?"

"On the planet Palos, one of the Dog Star pack--a star in the system of
the sun Sirius," he replied.

"And you mean you have just returned from--there?" I faltered over the
last word. The thing made my senses reel.

"Do not think me in any way similar to those unfortunates under your
charge. You must know the truth of that, just as you knew that my
trancelike sleep was wholly self-induced."

"I gathered that from the volume on your desk," I explained.

He glanced toward Ahmid's work. "You read the Sanskrit?"

"No, I read the marginal notes."

"I see. Who called you here?"

I explained.

Croft frowned. "I cannot blame her. She is a faithful soul," he remarked.
"However, now that you can reassure her, I must ask you to excuse me,
Doctor, for a while. Come to me in about twelve hours and I will be here
to meet you and explain in part at least." He stretched himself out once
more on the couch.

"Wait! What are you going to do?"

"I am going back to Palos."

"But--will your body stand the strain?"

He met my objection with another smile. "I studied that well before I
began these little excursions of mine. Meet me at, say, four o'clock this
afternoon." He appeared to relax, sighed softly, and sank again into his
trance.

I sprang up and stood looking down upon him. I began pacing the floor.
Finally I gave my attention to the books in the cases which lined the
room. They comprised the most wonderful collection of works on the occult
ever gathered within four walls. I decided to take Jason Croft at his
word and keep the engagement for the coming afternoon.

I went to the study door and set it open. The little old woman sat
huddled on a chair.

"He came back--I--I heard him speaking," she began in a husky whisper.
"He--is he all right?"

"All right," I replied. "But he is asleep again now and has promised to
see me this afternoon at four. In the meantime do not attempt to disturb
him in any way, Mrs. Goss."

She nodded. "I won't, sir. I was worrit--worrit--that was all."

"You need not worry any more," I assured her. "I fancy Mr. Croft is able
to take care of himself."



And yet when I woke in the morning and went about my duties at the
asylum, I confess the events of the night before seemed rather unreal.
Hence it was with a resolve not to be swept off my feet that I approached
his house at about three o'clock and turned in from the street to his
porch.

He sat there, in a wicker chair, smoking an excellent cigar. He rose as I
mounted the steps and put out a hand. "Ah, Dr. Murray, I have been
waiting your coming. Let me offer you a chair and a smoke while we talk."

We shook hands, and then I sat down and lighted the mate of the cigar
Croft held between his strong, even teeth. "I really told you the truth,
Murray, you know," he said.

"About--Palos?" I smiled.

He nodded. "Yes, I was really there, and--I went back after we had our
talk."

"Rather quick work," I remarked. "Have you figured out how long it takes
even light to reach Earth from that distant star, Mr. Croft?"

"Light?" He half-knit his brows, then suddenly laughed without sound.
"Oh, I see--you refer to the equation of time?"

"Well, yes. The distance is considerable, as you must admit."

He shook his head. "How long does it take you to think of Palos--of
Sirius?"

"Not long," I replied.

He leaned back in his seat. "Murray, time is but the measure of
consciousness. Outside the atmospheric envelopes of the planets--outside
the limit of, well--say--human thought--time ceases to exist. And--if
between the planets there is no time beyond the depths of their
surrounding atmosphere--how long will it take to go from here to there?"

I stared. "You mean time is mental conception?" I managed at last.

"Time is a mental measure of a span of eternity," he said slowly. "Past
planetary atmospheres, eternity alone exists. In eternity there is no
time. Hence, I cannot use what _is not_, either in going to or returning
from that planet I have named. You admit you can think instantly of
Palos. I allege that I can _think_ myself, carry my astral consciousness
instantly to Palos. Do you see?"

I saw what he meant, of course, and I indicated as much by a nod. "But,"
I objected, "you told me you had to return to Palos. Now you tell me you
had projected your astral body to that star. What could you do there in
the astral state?"

He smiled. "Very little. I know. I have passed through that stage. As a
matter of fact, I have a body there now."

"You have what--"

"A body--a living, breathing body," he repeated his declaration. "Oh,
man, I know it overthrows all human conceptions of life, but--last night
you asked me a question concerning _this_ body of mine--and I told you I
knew what I was doing. And I know you must have studied the esoteric
philosophies. And therefore you must have read of the ability of a spirit
to dispossess a body of its original spiritual tenant and occupy its
place--"

"Obsession," I interrupted. "You are practicing that--up there?"

"No. I've gone further than that. I took this body when its original
occupant was done with it," he said. "Murray--I'm a physician like
yourself."

"You?" I exclaimed, none too politely.

"Yes. That's why I was able to assure you I knew how long the body I
occupy now could endure a cataleptic condition last night. I am a
graduate of Rush, and I fancy, fully qualified to speak concerning the
body's needs. And--" He paused a moment.

"Frankly, Murray, I find myself confronted by what I think I may call the
strangest position a man was ever called upon to face. Last night I
recognized in you one who had probably far from a minor understanding of
mental and spiritual forces. Your ability to force my return at a time
when I was otherwise engaged showed me your understanding. For that very
reason I asked you to return to me here today. I would like to talk to
you--a brother physician, to tell you a story--my story, provided you
would care to hear it."

"I'm not going to deny a natural curiosity, Dr. Croft."

"Then," he said in an almost eager fashion, "I shall tell you--the whole
thing, I think.... But first--in order that you may understand, and
believe if you can, I shall tell you something of myself."

That telling took the rest of the afternoon, and most of the following
night.



Jason Croft was born in New Jersey, but brought west at an early age by
his parents, who had become converts to a certain faith. In this church,
which has grown strong in the Western states, I think there is a closer
approach to the Eastern theory of soul and spiritual life.

Be that as it may, Croft grew to manhood in the town where I was now
employed. He elected medicine as a career. He went to Chicago and put in
his first three years. The second year his mother died, and a year later
his father. In his fourth year he met a man named Gatua Kahaun.

Gatua Kahaun was a Hindu, a member of an Eastern brotherhood, come to the
United States to study the religions of the West. The two became friends.
When Croft came west after his graduation, Gatua Kahaun was his companion
and stopped at his home, which had been kept up by Mrs. Goss and her
husband, then still alive. The two lived there together for some weeks,
and the Hindu taught Croft the rudiments at least of the occult
philosophy of life.

Then, with little warning, Croft was assigned on a mission to Australia.
The church of which he was a member has a custom of sending their members
about the world as missionaries of their faith.

For over two years he did not see the Hindu, though he kept up his
studies of the occult. Then, just as he was nearly finished with his
"mission," what should happen but that, walking the streets of Melbourne,
he bumped into Gatua Kahaun.

The two men renewed their acquaintance at once. Gatua Kahaun taught Croft
Hindustani and the mysteries of the Sanskrit tongue. When Croft's mission
was finished he prevailed upon him to visit India before returning home.

Croft went. Through Gatua's influence he was admitted to the man's own
brotherhood. He forgot his former objects and aims in life in the new
world of thought which opened up before his mental eyes. He learned the
secrets of the magnetic or enveloping body of the soul, and after a time
he became convinced that by constant application to the major purpose the
spirit could break the bonds of the material body without going through
the change which men call death.

At times he lay staring at the starry vault of the heavens with a vague
longing within him to put the thing to the test. And always there was one
star which seemed to call him. That was the Dog Star, Sirius.

Meantime, his studies went on. He learned that matter is the reflex of
spirit; that no blade of grass, no chemical atom exists save as the
envelope of an essence which cannot and does not die. He came to see that
nature is no more than a realm of force, comprising light, heat,
magnetism, chemical affinity, aura, essence, and all the imponderables
which go to produce the various forms of motion as expressions of the
ocean of force, so that motion comes to be no more than force refracted
through the various forms of existence, from the lowest to the highest,
as a ray of light is split into the seven primary colors by a prism, each
being different in itself, yet each but an integral part of the original
ray.

He came to comprehend that all stages of existence are but stages and
nothing more, and that mind, spirit, is the highest form of life
force--the true essence--manifesting through material means, yet
independent of them in itself.

Then once more he was called home. His father's brother, a bachelor, had
died, leaving Croft sufficient wealth to provide for his every need.
Croft decided to pursue his studies at home; he had gained all that India
could give him, even startling Gatua Kahaun by some theories he had
deduced.

He stocked the library where I had found him the night before, and the
more he studied, the more he became convinced that ordinary astral
projection was but a first step.

He began to experiment, sending his consciousness here and there, roaming
the globe at will. One night on his porch, when Mrs. Goss, now a widow,
had gone to bed, he watched the moon rising above the mountains, and
decided to try a greater project than before. He fixed his whole mind
upon his purpose and sank into a cataleptic sleep.

There was a sensation of airy lightness. His body sat beneath him in the
chair; he could see it. He could see the city and the lake and the
mountains and the yellow disk of the moon. He knew he was rising toward
the latter swiftly. Then--space was annihilated in an instant, and he
seemed to be standing on the topmost edge of a mighty crater in the full,
unobstructed glare of a blinding light.

He sensed that as the sun, which hung like a ball of fire halfway up from
the horizon, flung its rays in dazzling brilliance against the
satellite's surface.

To one side was the vast ring of the crater itself, a well of darkness.
To the other was the downward sweep of the crater's flank, dun-colored,
dead, wrinkled, seamed and seared. And beyond the foot of the crater was
a vast, irregular plain, lower in the center as though eons past it might
have been the bed of some vanished sea. About the plain were the crests
of barren mountains, crags, pinnacles, misshapen and weird.

Yes, the moon is dead--now. Croft willed himself down from the lip of the
crater to the plain. Indeed it had been a sea. There in the airless
blaze, still etched in the lifeless formations, he found an ancient
water-line. And skirting the outline of that long-lost sea, he came to
the ruin of a city, a thing of paved streets, and dead walls, safe in
that moistureless world from decay.

Through the hours of the lunar day he explored. Not, in fact, until the
sun was dropping swiftly below the rim of the mountains beyond the old
sea bed, did he desist. Then lifting he eyes he beheld a luminous
crescent, many times larger than the moon appears to us, emitting a soft,
green light. He stood and gazed upon it for some moments before he
realized fully that he looked upon a sunrise on Earth.

Then as realization came upon him he remembered his body--left on the
porch of his home in the chair. Suddenly he felt a longing to return.
Fastening his full power upon the endeavor, he willed himself back, and--

He opened his eyes--his physical eyes--and gazed into the early sun of a
new day rising over the mountains.

The sound of a caught-in breath fell on his ears. He turned his glance.
Mrs. Goss stood beside him.

"Laws, sir, but you was sound asleep!" she exclaimed. "I come to call you
to breakfast an' you wasn't in your room, an' when I found you, you was
sleepin' like th' dead. You must have got up awful early, Mr. Jason."

"I was here before you were moving," Croft said as he rose. He smiled as
he spoke. Indeed, he wanted to laugh, to shout. He had done what no
mortal had ever accomplished before. The wonders of the universe were his
to explore at will.



Chapter II


And now the Dog Star called. No longer was it an occasional prompting.
Rather it was a never-ceasing urge which nagged him night and day.

He yielded at last. But remembering his return from his first experiment,
he arranged for the next with due care. In order that Mrs. Goss might not
become alarmed by seeing his body entranced, he arranged for her to take
a holiday with a married daughter in another part of the state, telling
her simply that he himself expected to be absent from his home for an
indefinite time and would summon her upon his return.

He knew the woman well enough to be sure she would spread the word of his
coming absence, and so felt assured that his body would remain
undisturbed.

Having seen the old woman depart, he entered the library, drew down all
the blinds, and stretched himself on the couch. Fixing his mind of Sirius
to the exclusion of everything else, he threw off the bonds of the flesh.

Here Croft made a well-nigh fatal mistake; Sirius is a sun. As a result,
he was floating in the actual nebula surrounding the flaming orb itself.

Directly beneath him, as it appeared, the Dog Star rolled, a mass of
electric fire. Not for a moment was there any rest upon that surface
toward which he was sinking with incredible speed. Every atom of the
monster sun was in motion, ever shifting, ever changing, yet always the
same. It quivered and billowed and shook. Flames of every conceivable
color radiated from it in waves of awful heat. Vast explosions recurred
again and again on the ever-heaving surface.

In this maelstrom of titanic forces Croft found himself caught, buffeted,
swirled about and swayed by the irresistible forces which warred around
him in a never-ceasing tumult. The force which held him was one beyond
his experience or knowledge.

His will power faltered, staggered. For the time being, he lost his
ability to choose his course. He had willed himself here, and here he
was, but he found himself unable to will himself back, or anywhere else,
in fact.

Through eons of time, as it seemed to him, he hung above that blazing
orb, surrounded by seething gases which dimmed but did not wholly obscure
his vision. Then a change began taking place. A great spot of darkness
appeared on the pulsing body of the sun. It widened swiftly. About it the
fiery elements of molten mass seemed to center their main endeavor. Vast
streamers of flaming gas leaped and darted about its spreading center. It
stretched and spread.

To Croft's fascinated vision it showed a mighty, funnel-like chasm,
reaching down for thousands of miles into the very heart of their solar
mass. And suddenly he was sinking, was being drawn down, between walls of
living fire which swirled about him with an inconceivable velocity of
revolution. The vapors which closed about him seemed to stifle even his
spirit senses. He had lost all control, all conscious power to judge of
time or distance. Yet he was able still to see. And so at last he sensed
that the fiery walls were coming swiftly together.

For a wild instant he conceived himself engulfed. Then he knew that he
was being thrown out and upward again with terrific force, literally
crowded forth with the outrushing gases between the collapsing walls, and
hurled again into space.

Darkness came down, a darkness so deep it seemed a thousand suns might
not pierce it through with their rays. Sirius, the great sun, seemed
blotted out. He was seized by a sense of falling through that Stygian
shroud. In which direction he knew not, or why or how. He knew only that
his ego over which he had lost control was swirling in vast spirals down
and down through an endless void to an endless fate.

By degrees, however, he fought back to some measure of control. And by
degrees there came to him a sense of not being any longer alone. In the
almost palpable darkness it seemed that other shapes and forms, whose
warp and woof was darkness also, floated and writhed about him as he
fell.

They thrust against him; they gibbered soundlessly at him. They taunted
him as he passed. And yet their very presence helped him in the end. He
recognized these shapes of terror as those elementals of which occult
teaching spoke, things which roamed in the darkness, which had as yet
never been able to reach out and gain a soul for themselves.

With understanding came again the power of independent action. Unknowing
whither, Croft willed himself to the nearest bit of matter afloat in the
universal void. Abruptly he became aware of the near presence of some
solid substance, the sense of falling ended, and he knew that his will had
found expression in fact.

Yet wherever it was he had landed, the region was dead. Like Earth's
moon, it was wholly devoid of moisture or atmosphere. The presence of
solid matter, however, gave him back a still further sense of control.
Exerting his will, he passed over the darkened face and emerged on the
other side in the midst of a ghostly light. At once he became conscious
of his surroundings, of a valley and encircling lofty mountains. From the
sides of the latter came the peculiar light. Examination showed Croft
that it was given off by some substance which glowed with a
phosphorescence sufficient to cast faint shadows of the rocks which
strewed the dead and silent waste.

Not knowing where he was, Croft waited until at length the top of a
mountain lighted as if from a rising sun. Inside a few moments the valley
was bathed in light; he saw the great sun Sirius wheel up the morning
sky.

Peace came into his soul. Close to the line of the horizon, and shining
with what was plainly reflected light, he saw the vast outlines of
another planet he had failed to note until now.

He understood. This was the major planet, surely one of the Dog Star's
pack, and he had alighted on one of its moons. Summoning his will, he
made the final step of his journey, and found himself standing on a world
not so vastly different from his own.

He stood on the side of a mountain in the midst of an almost tropic
vegetation. Giant trees were about him, giant ferns sprouted from the
soil. But here, as on Earth, the color of the leaves was green. Through a
break in the forest he gazed across a vast, wide-flung plain through
which a mighty river made its way. Its waters glinted in the rays of the
rising sun. Its banks were lined with patches of what he knew from their
appearance were cultivated fields. Beyond them was a dun track, reminding
him of the arid stretches of a desert.

He turned his eyes and followed the course of the river. By stages of
swift interest he traced it to a point where it disappeared beneath what
seemed the dull red walls of a mighty city. They flung across the course
of the river, which ran on through the city itself, passed beyond a
farther wall, and--beyond that again--there was the glint of silver and
blue.

The call of a bird brought his attention back. Gay-plumaged creatures,
not unlike parrots, were fluttering from tree to tree. The sound of a
grunting came toward him. A creature such as he had never seen was coming
out of a quivering mass of sturdy fern. It had small, beady eyes and a
snout like a pig. Two tusks sprouted from its jaws like the tusks of a
boar. But the rest of the body was covered with a long wool-like hair,
fine and seemingly almost silken soft. Later, he learned they were called
taburs.

Once more he turned to the plain and stood lost in something new. Across
the dun reaches of the desert, beyond the green region of the river, was
moving a long dark string of figures, headed toward the city he had seen.
Swiftly he willed himself toward them and moved along by their side. They
were huge beasts, twice the size of an earthly elephant. They moved in a
majestic fashion, yet with a surprising speed. Their bodies were covered
with a hairless skin, reddish pink in color, wrinkled and warted and
plainly extremely thick. It slipped and slid over the muscles beneath it
as they swung forward on the four massive legs, each one of which ended
in a five-toed foot armed with heavy claws.

But it was the head and neck and tail of the things which gave Croft
pause. The head was more that of a sea serpent or a monster lizard than
anything else. The neck was long and flexible and curved like that of a
camel. The tail was heavy where it joined the main spine, but thinned
rapidly to a point. And the crest of head and neck, the back of each
creature, so far as he could see, was covered with a sort of heavy scale.
Yet he could not see very well, since each Sarpelca, as he was to learn
their Palosian name, was loaded heavily with bundles and bales of what
might be valuable merchandise.

And on each sat a man. They had heads and arms and legs and a body, and
their faces were white. Their features departed in no particular, so far
as he could see, from the faces of Earth, save that all were smooth, with
no evidence of hair on upper lip or cheek or chin.

They were clad in loose cloak-like garments and a hooded cap or cowl.
They sat the Sarpelcas just back of the juncture of the body and neck,
and guided the strange-appearing monsters by means of slender reins
affixed to two of the fleshy tentacles which sprouted about the beasts'
almost snakelike mouths.

That this strange cortege was a caravan Croft was now assured. He kept on
beside it down the valley, along what he now saw was a well-defined and
carefully constructed road. It was like the roads of Ancient Rome, Croft
thought with quickened interest. It was in a perfect state of
preservation and showed signs of recent mending here and there. While he
was feeling a quickened interest in this, the caravan entered the
cultivated region along the river, and Croft gave his attention to the
fields.

The first thing he noted here was the fact that all growth was due to
irrigation, carried out by means of ditches and laterals. Here and there
as the caravan passed down the splendid road he found a farmer's hut set
in a bower of trees. For the most part they were built of a tan-colored
brick, and roofed with a thatching of rushes from the river's bank. He
saw the natives working in the fields, strong-bodied men, clad in what
seemed a single short-skirted tunic reaching to the knees, with the arms
and lower limbs bare.

Croft noticed that their faces were intelligent, well featured, and their
hair for the most part a sort of rich, almost chestnut brown, worn rather
long and wholly uncovered, or else caught about the brows by a cincture
which held a bit of woven fabric draped over the head and down the neck.

Travel began to thicken along the road. The natives seemed heading to the
city, to sell the produce of their fields. Croft found himself drawing
aside in the press as the caravan overtook the others and crowded past.

They had just passed a heavy cart drawn by two odd creatures, resembling
a deer save that they were larger and possessed of hoofs like those of
horses, and instead of antlers sported two little horns not over six
inches long. They were in color almost a creamy white. On the cart itself
were high-piled crates of some bird, with the head of a goose, the
plumage of a pheasant, and bluish, webbed feet. Past the cart they came
upon a band of native women carrying baskets and other burdens, strapped
to their shoulders.

The Palosian females were strong limbed and deep breasted. Like the men,
they wore but a singly garment, falling just over the bend of the knees
and caught together over one shoulder with an embossed metal button, so
far as he could tell. The other arm and shoulder were left wholly bare,
as were their feet and legs, save that they wore coarse sandals of wood,
strapped by leather thongs about ankle and calf. Their baskets were piled
with vegetables and fruit, and they chattered and laughed among
themselves.

And now as the Sarpelcas shuffled past, the highway grew actually packed.
The caravan thrust its way through a drove of wooly hogs such as Croft
had seen on the side of the mountain. The hogsherds stalked beside their
charges and exchanged heavy banter with the riders of the Sarpelcas.

From behind a sound of shouting reached Croft's ears. He glanced around.
Down the highway, splitting the throng of early market people came some
sort of conveyance, drawn by four of the deerlike creatures, harnessed
abreast. They had nodding plumes fixed to the head bands of their bridles
in front of their horns. These plumes were all of a purple color, and
from the way the crowds gave way before the advance of the equipage,
Croft deemed that it bore someone of note. Even the captain of the
Sarpelca train drew his huge beasts to the side of the road and stood up
in his seatlike saddle to face inward as it passed.

The vehicle came on. So nearly as he could tell, it was a four-wheeled
conveyance something like an old-time chariot in front, where stood the
driver of the cream-white steeds, and behind that protected from the sun
by an arched cover draped on each side with a substance not unlike
heavy silk. These draperies, too, were purple in shade, and the body and
wheels of the carriage seemed fashioned from something like burnished
copper.

Then it was upon them, and Croft could look squarely into the shaded
depths beneath the cover he now saw to be supported by upright metal
rods, save at the back where the body continued straight up in a curve to
form the top.

The curtains were drawn back and Jason gained a view of those who rode.
He gave them one glance and mentally caught his breath. There were two
passengers in the coach--a woman and a man. The latter was plainly past
middle age, well built, with a set face and hair somewhat sprinkled with
gray. He was clad in a tunic the like of which Croft had never seen,
since it seemed woven of gold, etched and embroidered in what appeared
stones or jewels of purple, red, and green. This covered his entire body
and ended in half sleeves below which his forearms were bare.

He wore a jeweled cap supporting a single spray of purple feathers. From
an inch below his knees his legs were incased in what seemed an
open-meshed casing of metal, in color not unlike his tunic, jointed at
the ankles to allow of motion when he walked. There were no seats proper
in the carriage, but rather a broad padded couch upon which both
passengers lay.

So much Croft saw, and then, forsaking the caravan, let himself drift
along beside the strange conveyance to inspect the girl. She was younger
than the man. Her face was a perfect oval, framed in a wealth of golden
hair, which, save for a jeweled cincture, fell unrestrained about her
shoulders in a silken flood. Her eyes were blue--the purple blue of the
pansy--her skin, seen on face and throat and bared left shoulder and arm,
a soft, firm white. For she was dressed like the peasant women, save in a
richer fashion. It was broidered with a simple jeweled margin at throat
and hem and over the breasts with stones of blue and green.

Her girdle was of gold in color, catching her just above the hips with
long ends and fringe which fell down the left side of the knee-length
skirt. Sandals of the finest imaginable skin were on the soles of her
slender pink-nailed feet, bare save for a jewel-studded toe and instep
band, and the lacing cords which were twined about each limb as high as
the top of the calf. On her left arm she wore a bracelet, just above the
wrist, as a single ornament.

Croft gave her one glance which took in every detail of her presence and
attire. He quivered as with a chill. It was as though suddenly he had
found something he had lost--as though he had met one known and forgotten
and now once more recognized. Without giving the act the slightest
thought of consideration, he willed himself into the coach between the
fluttering curtains of purple silk, and crouched down on the padded
platform at her feet.

Croft, in his Earth life, had never looked upon a woman with the longing
such as is apt to possess the average healthy male at times. But in his
studies of the occult he had more than once come in contact with the
doctrine of twin souls--that theory that in the beginning the spirit is
dual, and that projecting into material existence the dual entity
separates into two halves, a male and a female, and so exists forever
until the two halves meet once more and unite.

He knew now why the Dog Star had always drawn him during his student
days. This beautiful girl was his twin. He knew her. He had found her,
yes; but to what avail? Croft knew himself but a sublimated shape, and
nothing more, and it was then he went down into the deepest depths of a
mental hell of despair. He could see her, yet he could not reveal his
presence or make known his response to her.

The stopping of the gnuppas, as he was to learn the half horse, half
deerlike steers were called, brought him back from his introspection
after a time. He could hear the driver shouting, and now, quite oddly, he
found he could understand the intent, even though the words were strange.

"Way! Way for Prince Lakkon, Counselor to the King of Aphur!"

On the words the girl opened her lips. "There is a wonderful press of
travelers this morning, my father."

Croft gloried in the soft, full tones of her voice, even before Prince
Lakkon made answer. "Aye, the highway is like to a swarm of insects,
Naia, my child."

Naia! The sound was music in Croft's ears. The word beat upon his senses
through the shuffle of passing feet.

"I shall tell Chythron to drive directly to our home," Prince Lakkon
said.

"You will go on to confer with Uncle Jadgor from there?"

"Aye. You will have most of the day to set the servants about the
preparations for the coming of Prince Kyphallos. Spare no expense, Naia,
in those preparations. Report hath it he is a hard young man to please."

"What has come to my ears would prove him no better than a beast, far too
easy to please, indeed."

Prince Lakkon shook his head. "Child! You must not speak such words of a
Prince of Tamarizia, Naia."

"I speak not of him as a Prince of Tamarizia, but as a man and his
attitude toward women. What brings him to Himyra?"

"He comes on matters of state." Prince Lakkon lifted himself to a
cross-legged seat. "Ah, here we are at the gate."

They had come to a place outside the walls--those monster walls Croft had
seen hours ago. Now close by, they towered above him in their mighty
mass--still red--a deep, ruddy red with an odd effect of a glaze on the
surface of what he could now perceive was some sort of artificial
building block laid in cement. So far as he could judge, the wall rose a
good hundred feet above the road and stretched away on either side,
strengthened every so far by a jutting tower as far as his eye could
reach.

Where they now stood the road came down to the bank of the river on a
wide-built approach made of stone masonry laid in cement, protected on
the shoreline by a wall or rail, fully six feet wide across its top,
which was provided every so far with huge stone urns, blackened about
their upper edges as though from fire. Croft recognized their purpose as
that of beacons to light the wide stone esplanade before the gate at
night.

Beyond the wall was the river--a vast yellow flood, moving slowly along.
It was at least a half-mile wide where it met the wall. And the wall
crossed it on a series of arches, leaving free way for the boats Croft
now saw upon the yellow water, equipped with sails and masts, making slow
advance against the current, or driven perhaps by their crews at long
sweeplike oars. He noted that each arch was guarded by what seemed gates
of metal lattice, and that drawn up above each was a huge metal door
which could be let down in case of need.

The gnuppas drew the carriage swiftly toward the gates. Croft caught
sight of two men dressed something like ancient Roman soldiers, huge,
powerful fellows, with metal cuirass, spear and shield, barelegged half
up their thighs where a short skirt extended, their shins covered by
metal greaves, their heads inside metal casques from the top of which
sprouted a tuft of wine-red plumes.

They stood beside the leaves of two huge doors, fashioned from copper,
carved, graved, and embossed in an intricate design. These doors were
open and the carriage darted through, entering a shadowy tunnel in the
wall itself.

It was high, wide, and deep, the latter dimension giving the actual width
of the wall itself. Croft judged it to be nearly as wide as tall. Then it
was passed, and he found himself gazing upon such a scene as had never
met mortal eyes perhaps since the days of Babylon.

The great river flowed straight before him for a distance so great that
the farther wall was lost in a shimmering haze of heat. It flowed between
sold walls of stone, cut and fitted to perfect jointure. From the lowest
quay the banks sloped back in gentle terraces, green with grass and
studded with trees and blooming masses of flowers and shrubs.

Huge stairways and gradually sloping roadways ran from terrace to
terrace, down the river's course. And back of the terraced banks there
stretched off and away the splendid piles of house after house, huge,
massive, each a palace in itself, until beyond them, seemingly halfway
down the wonderful river gardens, there loomed a structure greater,
vaster, more wide flung than any of the rest. In the light of the risen
sun it shone an almost blinding white. To Croft at that distance it
appeared built of an absolutely spotless stone.

As for the other houses, they were constructed mainly of red sandstone,
red granites and marbles, although here and there was one which glowed
white through the surrounding trees, or perhaps a combination of red and
white both. Yet, aside from the monster structure in the distance, the
majority were red.

Across from the vast white building, on the other side of the river, he
beheld a pyramid. It, too, was huge, vast--a monster red pile, rising
high above all other buildings in the city, until near the top was a
final terrace story of blinding white, capped with a finishing band of
red; the whole thing supporting a pure white structure, pillared and
porticoed like a temple on its truncated top. Far, far ahead he caught
the dim outline of the farther city wall.

And now between the great white palace and the pyramid a bridge grew into
being before his eyes. While he watched, span after span swung into place
to form the whole. Already he had noted a series of masonry pillars in
the stream. Closer examination was to teach him that each supported a
metal span, mounted on rollers and worked by the tug of the current
itself through a series of bucketlike bits of apparatus, which dragged
the sections open or drew them shut.

The things like the terraces and the roads showed a good knowledge of
engineering as a characteristic of the Palosian peoples. But from the
fact that the terraces and the river embankment were studded at intervals
with more of the stone fire urns, Croft decided that they were
unacquainted with the use of electricity. Nor did they seem to be
possessed of a practical knowledge of the various applications of steam.
In fact, the more Croft saw of the city of Himyra, the more did he become
convinced that civilization on Palos had risen little above the stage
which had marked the Assyrian and Babylonian states of Earth in their
day.

Prince Lakkon spoke now to Chythron a word of direction and turned to his
daughter again. "I shall be with Jadgor the greater part of the day. You,
Naia, as head of my household, must see to these preparations, since as
counselor to the king I must show a noble from Cathur what courtesy I
may, in an official capacity at least. Aphur and Cathur guard the highway
to all outer nations. Those who would carry goods must pass through the
gate and so up the Na even to the region of Mazzer. Cathur is a mighty
state."

"As is Aphur, which holds the mouth of the Na," the girl returned.

"Aye. Together with Nodhur, whose interests are Aphur's interests, the
three could place your Uncle Jadgor on the imperial throne when the term
of the Emperor Tamhys shall expire."

Croft picked up his ears, even as he saw a quickened interest wake in
Naia's face. "Only Bithur would be against him," she said.

"Hardly all of Bithur. It lies too close to the lost state of Mazhur for
that," Lakkon replied. "There were seven states in the Tamarizian Empire,
as you know, before the war with the Zollarians took one and gave
Zollaria their first seaport of the central ocean, through our loss." His
face darkened as he spoke. "Small good it did them, however, since there
is still the Na, and our other rivers to which they pay toll, if they
wish to sail to Mazzer or the other barbarian tribes. And as long as
Cathur and Aphur guard the gate small good will it do them. Zitemku take
them and all their spawn!"

"As long as Cathur holds!" Naia exclaimed.

Lakkon nodded. "Aye. Cathur stands cut off from the rest of Tamarizia, as
you know, by Mazhur's fall. Jadgor would see to it that Cathur still
stands despite that fact or Zollaria's plans, if she has them, as some of
us fear. Tamhys is a man of peace. So am I if I may be and Zitu sends it.
Yet will I fight for my own."

"And Kyphallos comes in regard to this--this--alliance?"

Prince Lakkon nodded. "Aye. List you, Naia. Order Bazka to send runners
to the hills to bring back snows on the eighth day from this. Kyphallos
likes his wines cooled, and will drink no other. In our own place I have
given orders for all fruits and fish and fowls to be made ready at the
appointed time. See to it that the house is decked for his coming--that
all things are made clean and fit for inspection. As for yourself, you
must have a new robe. Spare no expense, my child, spare no expense."

Naia's eyes lighted as he paused. "I should desire it of gold broidered
in purple," she flashed back, smiling, "with purple sandals wrought with
gold."

And suddenly as the carriage turned into a broad approach leading from
the main street to a huge red palace, Lakon laughingly remarked, "Have
what you will, so long as it becomes thy beauty. Well are you called
Naia--maid of gold."

The carriage paused before the double leaves of a molded copper door.
Chythron reached out and, seizing a cord which hung down from an arm at
one side, tugged sharply upon it to sound a deep-toned gong, which boomed
faintly within.

Hardly had the sound died than the two leaves rolled back, sinking into
sockets in the walls of the building itself, to reveal a vast interior to
the eye, and in the immediate foreground the figure of a man who gave
Croft a start of surprise.

He was nude as Adam, save for a narrow cord about the loins, supporting a
broad phallary of purple leather. And he was blue! At first Jason thought
him painted, until a closer glance had proved his mistake. He was indeed
not unlike an American Indian, Croft thought, or perhaps a Tartar. He
remembered now that in times long past the Tartars had worn scalp locks,
too.

The blue man bowed from the hips, straightened, and stood waiting.

Lakkon sprang from the coach and assisted Naia to alight. "Bazka," he
spoke in command, "your mistress returns. Give ear to her words and do
those things she says until I come back again."

He sprang back into the coach, and Chythron swung the equipage about. He
cried aloud to the gnuppas, and they dashed away, back toward the road
along the Na. Croft found himself standing before the open door of Prince
Lakkon's city palace with Naia and the strange blue man.

"Call thy fellow servants," the Palosian princess directed as she passed
inside and Bazka closed the doors by means of a golden lever affixed to
the inner wall. "I shall see them here and issue my commands."

She walked with the grace of limbs unrestrained toward the center of the
wonderful hall.

For wonderful it was. At first Croft had thought it paved, in part at
least, with glass of a faultless grade. But as he passed by Naia's side
toward the center of the half room, half court in which flowers and
shrubs and even small trees grew in beds between the pavement, he saw it
was in reality some sort of transparent, colorless crystal, cut and set
into an intricate design.

Yet that the Palosians made glass he soon found proof. Casting his eyes
aloft, he saw the metal framework of an enclosing roof arching the court
above his head. Plainly it was thrown across the width of the court to
support shutters made of glass of several colors, some of them in place,
others removed or laid back to leave the court open to the air.

The court itself was two stories high, and from either end rose a
staircase of some substance like a lemon-yellow onyx, save that it seemed
devoid of any mottling of veins. These stairs mounted to the upper
gallery, supported above the central grand apartment on a series of pure
white pillars, between which gleamed the exquisite forms of sculptured
figures and groups.

There was also a group done in some stone of a translucent white, at the
foot of each great stair. One, Croft noted, depicted a man and woman
locked in each other's arms. The other showed a winged figure, binding up
the broken pinion of a bird. "Love" and "Mercy" he thought. If this were
a sample of the ideal of this people, they must be a nation worth while.

So much he saw, and then Naia seated herself on a chair of a wine-red
wood, set beside a hedge of some unknown vegetation which enclosed a
splendid central space of the crystal floor.

Bazka had disappeared, but now came the sound of voices, and the servants
appeared, emerging from a passage beneath one of the stairs. There were
several members of both sexes in the group, and, like Bazka himself, one
and all wore no more than a purple apron about the thighs.

As the men and women of the blue tribe advanced to greet their mistress
in her chair, and listen to those directions she gave, he found himself
wondering if they were slaves. Indeed he so regarded them until he knew
more of the planet to which he had come.

In the end, Naia turned to one of the women and ordered her to go to a
cloth merchant and bid him attend to her at once, with fabrics from which
to choose her gown. That done, she dismissed each to his or her task,
rose, and moved down the court. Croft followed as she went, mounted one
of the yellow stairs, and came out on the upper balcony, down which she
passed over an inlaid floor, the side walls frescoed with what he took to
be scenes of Palosian history and social life.

She paused at a door fashioned from the wine-red wood, set it open, and
entered an apartment plainly her own. Its walls were faced with the same
yellow stone used in the stairs. Purple draperies broke the color here
and there. Purple curtains hung beside two windows which she set open,
turning the casings on hinges, to let in the air. In the center of the
floor, which was covered with woven rugs and the skins of various beasts,
was a circular metal basin holding water in a shallow pool. On one side
was a pedestal of gold supporting a pure white miniature of a winged male
figure, poised on toes as if about to take flight.

Beside the pool Naia paused as she turned from opening the window. Her
figure was reflected from the motionless surface. Croft recognized it was
a mirror in purpose, similar in all respects to those the ancient
Phoenicians used. For a time she stood gazing at the image of her figure,
then turned away to a chest, made of the wine-red wood, heavily bound
with burnished copper bands.

Besides the chest, the room held several chairs and stools, and a molded
copper couch covered with rich draperies.

Naia rummaged in the chest while Croft watched. She rose and turned with
a garment in her hands.

Gossamer it was, fine, soft, sheer, a cobweb of texture as she shook it
out. It shimmered with an indefinable play of colors, transparent as
gauze. She lifted a hand and unfastened the gown she wore from the heavy
shoulder boss that held it in place.



Chapter III


Taken wholly by surprise, Croft caught one glimpse of a glowing, pliant
figure, cinctured just above the hips by a golden girdle. The, realizing
that the maiden believed herself utterly alone, he turned to the open
window and incontinently fled.

Light as a thistle-down in his sublimated self he emerged into the full
Palosian day. Yet he quivered in his soul as with a chill. Naia of Aphur,
Princess of the Tamarizian nation, was a woman to stir the soul of any
man. And she was his--his!

The thought was madness. Croft put it away--or tried. To distract himself
he wandered over the city of Himyra stretched red in the Sirian ray. He
visited each part, finding it poorer and poorer as he wandered from the
river to the walls until inside them, he found the poorest classes of the
people dwelling in huts of yellow-red brick.

Croft visited the quays along the Na, farthest from the gate, where he
had entered with Prince Lakkon. They swarmed with life, were lined with
boats, built principally of wood, though some were mere skin-covered
coracles, more than anything else. They lay by the stone loading
platforms, taking on or discharging the commerce of the Palosian world.
Men, white and blue, swarmed about them, straining at their tasks,
speaking a variety of tongues.

From the loading platforms on the lower levels tunnels ran up beneath the
terraces on the surface to reach the warehouses above where the goods
were stored. Within them, moving in metal grooves braced to an equal
width by cross-bars fixed to the floors, small flat-topped cars were
drawn by whipcord-muscled creatures like giant dogs.

Croft followed one such team to a warehouse and watched the storing of
the load by a series of blue-skinned porters, under the captaincy of a
white Aphurian who marked each package and bale with a symbol before it
was carried away. This captain wore a tunic, metal-work cases on his
calves and sandals and a belt, from which depended a short, broad-bladed
sword.

From the warehouse he went toward an adjacent section, evidently the
retail mart of the town. Here were shops of every conceivable nature open
in front like those of some Oriental bazaar. At this hour of the day
business was brisk. More than one Palosian lady had come in a
gnuppa-drawn conveyance to see and choose her purchases for herself. A
steady current of life, motion and speech, ran through the section.

Suddenly the sound of a vast, mellow gong, a series of gongs, like an
old-time carillon rang out. The bustle of the market stopped. As by one
accord the people turned toward the vast pyramid beyond the river and
stood standing, gazing toward it.

Driven by his will he reached the great structure where the topmost
temple shone, dazzling in the noontime light. He found himself on the
vast level top of the pyramid itself. Before him was the temple supported
on a base, its doors reached by a flight of stairs. It was pillared with
monster monoliths, crowned by huge capitals which supported the porticoed
roof.

A sound as of chanting came from within. Croft mounted the stairs and
passed the doors and paused before the beauty of what he saw.

The temple was roofed with massive slabs of stone save in the exact
center, where an opening was left. Through that aperture the light of the
midday sun was falling to bathe a wonderful figure in its rays.

The face of the statue was divine--the face of a man, superbly strong,
broad-browed, and with purity and strength writ in its every line. The
head and face were wrought in purest white as were the bared left
shoulder and arm. Below that the figure was portrayed as clad in gold,
which was also the material used in modeling the staff crowned by a loop
and cross-bar, grasped by the hand of the extended left arm. The man was
portrayed as seated on a massive throne. Now as the sun's rays struck
full upon it, it seemed that the strong face glowed with an inward fire.

On either side of the statue stood a living man, shaven of head, wearing
long white robes which extended to their feet. Each held in his hand a
miniature replica of the stave held by the statue--a staff crowned by a
golden cross-bar and loop.

Croft started. This was the _crux ansata_ of the ancient Egyptians in all
outward form--the symbol of life everlasting, of man's immortality.

The chant he had heard was growing louder. At the rear of the temple a
curtain swept aside seemingly of its own volition and a procession
appeared. It was formed of young girls--their hair garlanded with
flowers, each carrying a flaming blossom in her hand. They advanced,
singing as they came, to form a kneeling circle in front of the monster
statue on its throne.

They were clad in purest white, unadorned from their rosy shoulders to
their dimpled knees save for a cincture of golden tissue which ran about
the neck, down between the breasts, back about the body, and around to
fasten in front like a sash with pendent ends, which hung in a golden
fringe to the edge of the knee-length skirt.

And as they advanced and knelt and rose and cast their offering of
flowers before the glowing statue, they continued to chant the harmony
which had first reached Croft's ear.

  "Zitu, hail Zitu!
  Father of all life!
  Who through thy angels
  Give life and withdraw it,
  Into our bodies--out of our bodies;
  God--the one god--
  Accept our praise."

The chant died and the singers turned back behind the curtain, which
swung shut as they passed. Croft left the temple and stood on the top of
its broad approach, gazing across the river at the vast white structure
which he had first seen at a distance that morning, and which now
stretched directly before his eyes. It came to him that this was the
capital of Aphur--the palace of Jadgor. He willed himself toward the
far-flung white pile.

It was built of a stone he did not know, as he found when he came down to
the broad, paved esplanade before it. But the substance seemed to be
between a marble and an onyx, so nearly as he could judge. It stretched
for the best part of a mile. Now he gave attention to his immediate
surroundings--the vast towers on either side of the monstrous entrance,
heavy and imposing and each flanked by guardian figures of what seemed
winged dogs, whose front legs supported webbed membranes from body to
paw.

Croft passed between them through the entrance where flowed counter
streams of Palosians, on foot or dashing past in gnuppa-drawn chariots,
trundling on two wheels, and driven by men clad in cuirasses and belts
with short swords.

He entered a vast court, surrounded by colonnades, reached by sloping
inclines and stairs and paved with a dull red stone. Here stood more of the
chariots before the doors of this or that office of state. Blue porters
moved about it, sprinkling the pavement with cooling streams of water
from metal tanks strapped to their shoulders and fitted with a curved
nozzle and spraying device. This was the heart of Aphur's life, Croft
thought, gave it a glance, and set off in quest of Aphur's king.

He passed through vast chambers of audience, of council, or banqueting
and reception, as he judged from the furnishing of each place. He passed
other courts, marveling always at the blending of grace with strength in
the construction of the whole. Finally he paused. He was getting nowhere.
He _willed_ himself into the presence of Jadgor without further search.

Thereafter he was in a room, where, beside a huge wine-red table, two men
sat. The one was Prince Lakkon, whom he knew. The other was even a larger
man--heavy set, dark of complexion, with grizzled hair, and a mouth held
so tightly by habit that it gave the impression of lips consciously
compressed. His eyes were dark as those of a bird, his nose high and
somewhat bent at the middle of the bridge. The whole face was that of a
man of driving purpose.

Aside from that, however, there was little of the king about him since he
was clad simply in a loose, white tunic, out of which his neck rose
massive, below which he sat with clenched fist. "Cathur must still guard
the gateway with Aphur, Prince Lakkon! Let Zollaria plan. Cathur's
mountains make her impregnable now as fifty years before. Had Mazhur been
other than a low-lying country she had never fallen victim to Zollaria's
greed. But Cathur must be assured in her loyalty to the state."

"Her loyalty?"

Jadgor set his lips quite firmly. "Scythys is king--a dotard! Kyphallos
is what--a fop--a voluptuary, as you know--as all Tamarizia knows. When
he mounts the throne--as he doubtless will since there seems none to
oppose him--what will Zollaria do? Cathur, since Mazhur was taken, stands
alone--secure in her mountains, it is true, but alone, none the less.

"Fifty years ago Zollaria meant to take Cathur as well, and she failed.
The capture of Mazhur, save the territorial addition to her borders, gave
her nothing at which she aimed. True, she has now a seaport at Niera, yet
to what end? We hold the gate and the mouths to all rivers opening into
the sea. Yet has Zollaria ceased to prate of a freedom of the seas? You
know she has not. With Kyphallos on Cathur's throne, will she seek to
gain by craft what was denied to her arms?"

"But Kyphallos himself?"

"Kyphallos!" The heavy shoulders of Aphur's monarch shrugged. "List yet,
Lakkon! Zollaria is strong. Cathur stands alone. Cathur guards the gate.
Aphur could not hold it alone. Think you our foemen to the north have
ceased of their ambition or to plan or prepare, while Tamarizia wounded
by Mazhur's loss, has licked her wounds for fifty years--and what now?
Tamhys is one who believes in peace. So, too, do I, if peace can be
enjoyed without the sacrifice of the innate right of man to regulate his
own ways of life. Yet were I on the throne at Zitra, do you think I would
ignore the possible peril to the north? No! I would prepare to meet move
by move should the occasion arise."

"And your first step?" Lakkon asked.

"To make sure of Cathur," Jadgor said.

"How?"

Jadgor leaned toward his companion before he replied. "I would take a
lesson from Zollaria herself. Lakkon, Tamarizia is a loosely held
collection of states, each ruled by a nominal king and a state assembly.
And those assemblies in turn elect the central ruler--the emperor of the
nation--to serve for ten Palosian cycles.

"Zollaria is a nation ruled by one man and a cycle of advisors, whose
word is ultimate law. How was that brought about? By intermarriage--by
making the governing house of Zollaria one, bound wholly together by a
common interest without regard to anything else save that. Hence, let us
make the interests of Aphur and Cathur one, and let us not delay."

"By intermarriage?"

"Aye. With the right princess on Cathur's throne Kyphallos might be
swayed, and certainly nothing would transpire without our gaining word."

"You have such an one in mind?"

"Aye. I plan not so vaguely, Lakkon. I would give him the fairest maid of
Aphur to wife. Your daughter Naia."

"Naia! Your sister's own child!" Prince Lakkon half rose from his chair.

Jadgor waved him back. "Stop, Lakkon! She is beautiful as Ga, the mother
of Azil. It is because of her Kyphallos comes to Himyra now. I, Jadgor of
Aphur, sent him the invitation with this in mind for Tamarizia's good.
The betrothal must be agreed upon before he returns, Lakkon. I speak as
your king."

Prince Lakkon's face seemed to Croft to age, to grow drawn and somewhat
pale as he bowed to his king's command. He looked to Croft, indeed, as
Jason knew he himself felt. Naia--the woman he himself loved--was planned
a sacrifice to policy of state.

Lakkon rose slowly. "King of Aphur, I shall inform the maid that she is
chosen a sacrifice," he said. "I know her mind. She loathes this Prince
of Cathur in her heart."

"Yet other women have sacrificed themselves to their nation in
Tamarizia's history," Jadgor replied.

"I shall place the matter before her in that light," Lakkon informed him,
and turned to leave the room.

Croft left, too, flitting out of the palace and once more taking up his
own purposeless wandering about the town. Here and there he made his way
among the life of Himyra, torn by an agony of thought. Yet not for one
instant did the tumult in his senses cease as he passed from scene to
scene. And so in the end thoughts of Naia seemed to draw him back in a
circuit to Lakkon's palace where was the girl herself.

He reached it and paused outside its doors. They were open. The
copper-hued chariot drawn by the four plumed gnuppas stood before them,
with Chythron back of the reins.

Bazka, too, stood between the open leaves of the portal, and across the
crystal pavement, leading to them, Lakkon was leading Naia toward the
coach.

While Jason watched, Aphur's prince and his daughter entered the
conveyance and the great doors closed. Chythron spoke to the gnuppas and
they sprang into their stride. Quite as he had done that morning Croft
entered the carriage and crouched on the padded cushion where Naia
already reclined.

For a time as they turned toward the city gate, which they had entered
that morning, silence held between Prince Lakkon and his child.

Lakkon broke it himself at last. "All is arranged as you thought best, my
Naia?" he inquired.

"Aye, my father." She turned her eyes. "The messengers have departed to
the mountains for the snows. The servants are cleaning. I have ordered
the tables set in the crystal court, inside the hedge, and I have
arranged for a band of dancers and musicians on the appointed day."

"And the robe. You did not forget the new robe?" Lakkon smiled.

Naia shook her head, her eyes dancing. "It will be ready on the seventh
day from this."

"That is well," Prince Lakkon said. But he sighed.

And suddenly Naia's face lost its light and grew sweetly brooding. She
stretched out a rounded arm and touched him on the breast. "You are
tired, my father," she said, edging nearer to him. "The day with Uncle
Jadgor has left you weary."

"Aye, somewhat," Lakkon confessed. With a swift, yet powerful gesture, he
reached out and swept her into his arms. "Naia, my daughter, thou knowest
that I love you well," he said.

Croft quivered in his being. It seemed to him he was looking into
Lakkon's heart and reading there all his lips held back. But Naia seemed
not to sense any deeper reason than the mere love between them expressed.
"Know that you love me?" she repeated. "Think you I could doubt it? Did
you not give me my life? Do we not love what we create--so long as it
comes from ourselves?" she nestled her head in the hollow of his corded
neck.

Above that gold-crowned head the man's face worked. "We were happy the
day of thy birth, thy mother and I."

And now it seemed that at last the woman sensed some trouble unexpressed
in the mind of the man. Very gently she released herself and sat up on
the padded cushion. Her almost purple eyes looked full into those of her
parent. "Concerning what did you speak with Uncle Jadgor today?"

"Concerning thee."

"Concerning me?" To Croft every line of Naia's figure stiffened.

"Aye." Prince Lakkon sat up. He spoke swiftly, briefly, and paused. Yet
ere he paused he had fully outlined all King Jadgor planned.

"No! Father, unsay it! Give me not to that beast!"

"Hush!" Prince Lakkon stayed her. "Chythron will hear your outcry."

"Chythron!" she exclaimed. "Not Chythron but all Aphur--all Tamarizia
shall hear my outcry against what Jadgor intends--every woman in the
nation shall give thanks to Azil and Ga, that she stands not in my
place."

"Think not I wish it," her father said. "Yet can I not deny the truth of
Jadgor's words, or that the union of the houses of the two states would
work for Tamarizia's great good."

Naia was panting. "Tamarizia's?"

"Aye, did you not comprehend what I said concerning the welfare of our
nation?" Lakkon asked.

She shook her head. "I--I think horror must have dulled my
understanding," she said. "Explain to me again."

Prince Lakkon turned and suddenly swept aside the purple curtain which
draped the side of the coach. He flung out an arm and pointed straight to
where the dull red walls of Himyra still shone in the afternoon rays.

"Behold Himyra, jewel on the breast of Aphur," he cried. "There she lies.
Think you I would have given ear to Jadgor's plans save for that? But for
Tamarizia and that glory and honor which are hers and have been for a
thousand cycles of our sun, a true son of the nation must sink all
thoughts of self, must live, if by living he can serve, or should it
serve better, must--die!"

"And I must live for her--with--Kyphallos?" she whispered tensely as
Lakkon once more paused.

"If you can win him--hold him--sway him--with Jadgor on the throne at
Zitra you will have made Tamarizia strong."

"I--will have made--Tamarizia--strong. What am I against Tamarizia?"

"You are my daughter and I love thee," said Lakkon, Aphur's prince.

"I know." Naia crept to him and laid herself in his arms. "I know," she
murmured after a time of silence.

Lakkon's arms tightened about her as the coach swung along. Her arm crept
up and stole about his neck. Crouched invisible, Croft turned his gaze
from the man and woman to stare out between the fluttering curtains.

The road came to an end in a mountain valley, open toward the east and so
unveiled a fresh scene of beauty to Jason's eyes. Here was a country
palace, gleaming white above a series of terraced gardens which rose from
the shores of a tiny mountain lake. Toward it Chythron guided his steeds
along a private drive which branched off from the highway they had
traversed thus far.

As though the turning had been a signal, Naia loosened the embrace which
held her and sat up, still without speaking, before Chythron brought his
team to a stand. Then, as in the morning, Prince Lakkon helped her to
descend and moved beside her up a low, broad flight of steps to reach the
portals of their home.

At their heels Croft followed on. His eyes swept the scope of the valley
so far as he could mark it from the steps. Groups of the wooly,
sheep-like cattle he had seen in Himyra fed in the lush grass of mountain
meadows. Cultivated fields stretched out before his eyes. At the top of
the steps he turned briefly and looked off to the east. There his eyes
caught the glint of distant sun-kissed water--the Central Sea, of which
Prince Lakkon had spoken, he now believed.

Then the portals before which Lakkon and Naia stood swung open, and once
more a blue native appeared. Beside him was a monster beast, similar in
all respects to those Croft had seen harnessed to the tiny trams in the
cargo tunnels. It marked the advent of Lakkon and Naia with a slow
wagging of its tail, and, suddenly rearing, laid down its front paws on
the girl's shoulders.

She spoke to the creature softly, and when it dropped back at her
command, she patted its head. Then she withdrew to her apartments, and
Croft noted that the layout of this country estate was much like the city
palace. He followed Naia, then withdrew when he learned that she was
about to bathe in the walled pool.

Croft waited without the wall, while twilight fell and the sound of soft
splashings came to his ears. But when Naia came forth, freshly attired,
he pursued her every step like a shadow, was by her through the evening
meal, dogging her steps when she once more sought the quiet of her room,
and bade her maid, Maia, leave her for the night.

Now, as the flaring oil lamp, with its guttering wick little better than
a candle, was extinguished, the room lit only by the light of the
Palosian moons, Naia knelt before a winged figure on a wine-red pedestal.

"O, Azil, Giver of Life," she whispered, "must this be forced upon me? O
Ga, Mother of Azil--thou virgin woman, whom Zitu ordained the one to give
an angel life, that he might speak to men of Zitu himself and teach them
how to live, do thou intercede for me! Thou knowest woman guards the
sacred flame, which is life itself, so that it burns clear and never
ceasing. Must that flame in me be quenched? Ga the Mother, Azil the
Son--Azil the Angel--hear ye my prayer!"

She ceased and knelt on, silent, with hands clasped and lovely head bowed
down.

And once more it seemed to Croft that his senses went spinning, eddying,
whirling around. Azil the Giver of Life. Ga the mother of Azil the Son. A
Virgin and a Child. And Zitu the father--God. She prayed to them. Should
that prayer go unheeded or unheard? He tore himself free from the spell
of the kneeling figure, and with no definite purpose in his going save to
remove himself from a privacy he felt he must no longer intrude, went
blindly out of the room.



Chapter IV


Yet once outside the mountain villa, Croft knew where he wanted to go. It
was back to Himyra--back to the palace of Lakkon itself--to be alone with
his thoughts. To that point, therefore, he once more willed himself.
After a time, out of all his agony of spirit, there came to him a
prompting impulse as to his future course. Something seemed to urge him
to go on, to learn all he might of Palos and its people, of Tamarizia and
its history, its manners and customs, its government and laws, and more
particularly the true state of things in Cathur and the truth concerning
Kyphallos, son of Cathur's king.

To Cathur then would he go. Thereafter, followed a week in which Jason
Croft, disembodied spirit, literally went to school, an unknown scholar
who listened to the recitation of classes and the lectures of grave
professorial men clad in long robes of spotless white. Geography held his
interest mainly at first. He learned that Tamarizia lay upon a continent
holding itself completely surrounded save for the narrow strait, a vast
central sea, studded here and there with islands, the major of which,
Hiranur, some fifty miles long by twenty wide, was the seat of the
imperial throne at the city of Zitra. The Tamarizian states bordered this
central ocean--or had done so before the Zollarian war had wrested
Mazhur, on the extreme north shore, from the original group of states.

East of Mazhur lay Bithur. South of that was Milidhur, completing the
eastern side of the Central Sea. Aphur joined Milidhur on the west--its
name literally meaning "the state to the west," and south of Milidhur and
Aphur was Nodhur, gaining outlet for its commerce by means of the river
Na.

Cathur lay west of Mahzhur, north of the strait, to the outer ocean,
completing the circle. Its name might be translated as the battleground,
which, in fact, it was, Zollaria having more than once sought to conquer
it.

From geography he turned to sociology and science. He found out quickly
that the Tamarizians used a metric system, numbering their population by
tens and dividing the national census on the basis of thousands and tens
of thousands, each thousand unit having a captain and each ten thousand a
local governor. Their day was twenty-seven hours long, their year longer
than that of Earth, but divided into twelve periods or months, each in
their belief ruled over by an angel designated by a symbolic sign.

They used a system of social castes, to which the naturalized descendants
of the Mazzerian nations belonged, being purely a caste of the lowest or
serving type. The trades of fathers descended to sons, instruction in
crafts and arts being largely by word of mouth alone. They had a bard or
minstrel caste, a caste of dancers wholly female in its circle.

A Palosian year was called a cycle, a day a sun, a month a Zitran--or
period set by Zitu. There was a priesthood and a vestal order of women.
Also, there was an order of knighthood, to which belonged men of noble
blood or those raised to it by kingly decree for some signal
accomplishment in the arts or sciences or some other service to the
state.

The royal house of each state was hereditary, but governed jointly with a
state assembly elected by the vote of each ten thousand unit of
population, each unit selecting a state delegate to the assembly. The
imperial throne was filled by the choice of the states.

Agriculture was highly held and greatly specialized. Metal working was a
very advanced science, as he had already guessed. Copper was abundant,
and the Tamarizians held the secret of tempering the metal, now unknown
on Earth. Of it they made their weapons and most of their public
structural metal, including their carriages and chariots and all
conveyances of a finer sort. Gold was plentiful, but silver and lead were
rare, and held in high esteem.

They had reached a high plane in art, sculpture, and weaving. Their
golden cloth was gold spun into threads and mixed with a vegetable fiber
to form warp and woof. They had an efficient medical caste, and a nursing
caste, the latter entirely female. Women were coequal to men in
citizenship; they sat in the classrooms of the university, took part in
ceremonials, and competed in games. Despite the royal form of rulership,
Tamarizia was quite a democratic empire, and the emperor of Zitra held
little more power than the president of a republic.

But it was not a military republic. Jadgor was right; the national army
could not exceed fifty thousand men, and none too well armed or trained.

To the north of Tamarizia lay the empire of Zollaria, her western
shoreline that of the great outer ocean. East of Tamarizia and south of
Zollaria, in the hinterland of the continent, dwelt the half-savage tribe
of Mazzer, the blue men. Theirs was a region of semitropic forests and
plains; they lived by hunting and exporting skins, dried meats, and
cheeses. Commerce was by water and Sarpelca caravans across the desert.

His week in school made Croft feel at home in Scira, where he came to
know youths of the various classes, without being seen himself. To one of
these, he gave particular attention--Jasor, a splendidly built young man,
noble of temperament and physique. But at this point, Jasor stopped, and
it seemed a pity that one otherwise so well endowed should be a dullard
mentally. He followed Jasor about, and came to know that Jasor felt his
position acutely, and was brooding over his own mental capacity to an
unwise degree.

Throughout his stay in Cathur, however, Croft did not lose sight of his
main object in coming to the northern state. Kyphallos was not in Scira
when Croft came to the capital of Cathur. Jason managed to see Scythys
the king, a senile husk of a once massive man, with a look of vague
trouble in his half-blinded cataract-filmed eyes. But of Kyphallos the
son there was no sign.

Only by chance remarks was Croft able to learn the whereabouts of the
prince. By such means he finally learned of a second palace maintained on
an island in the Central Sea, off the coast of Cathur, not far from the
border of the former Tamarizian state of Mazhur. The island was known as
Anthra, was a part of the state of Cathur, and a favorite retreat with
the crown prince.

To Anthra on the second night Croft went. And on Anthra he came upon a
saturnalia of pleasure. A feast was in progress in the palace. Here Croft
found the man he sought, reclining on a padded divan, his too full red
lips slightly parted in a bibulous smile, his long hair curled and
anointed and perfumed till he reeked of aromatic scents; his well-formed
hands loaded with rings, his body clad in a crimson garment, embroidered
in gold.

Beside him, lying outstretched like some splendid creature of the jungle,
was a woman; tawny as a lioness in the tint of her hair and in every
sensuous line of her body.

Her sandalless feet were stained on the soles with crimson. Anklets
gripped her lower limbs, and tinkled tiny golden bells as she moved.
Bracelets banded her graceful naked arms. Gem-incrusted cups, fastened by
jeweled bands, covered her breasts. A bit of gold gauze, studded with
bright red stones, accentuated rather than veiled the rest of her perfect
figure. She lay there close to Kyphallos and after a bit she lifted a
golden goblet and pressed it to his lips and laughed.

Beyond her was a man Croft marked at a glance. He was heavy, gross, yet
gave an impression of mighty strength. And he, too, was tawny haired.

And on the other side of Kyphallos was a figure to give Croft pause. A
blue warrior sat there; but surely no member of the serving class, Jason
thought. This man was never made to serve. His were the features of one
who commands.

As the woman laughed Kyphallos spoke. "Your laughter is music better than
any I can offer, my Kalamita. Your graciousness in coming to this
farewell feast, ere I sail for Aphur, burdens me with debt. Yet were I
loath to have sailed without a final sight of you--And I have provided
such entertainment as I might."

"As you do always, Prince of Aphur," she responded. "Is it not true,
Bandhor, my brother, that we are honored to be present when Cathur
desires?"

"Aye. Wine, food, music, and women. What more can a man desire?" the
massive individual at whom she smiled over her rounded shoulder replied.
"When Cathur returns, he must come to our house at Niera as he has done
before. There are others of Zollaria I desire him to meet, as well as
other men of Mazzer, besides the noble Bzad, whom we made bold to bring
with us tonight."

As he finished the blue man smiled, and Kyphallos picking up his own
goblet of wine passed it to the Mazzerian with a languid grace. "Thy
friends are my friends, O Bandhor of Zollaria!" he exclaimed, and bending
close to the face of the girl said, "Shall I come when I return from
Aphur?"

"Aye, my Kyphallos, unless you desire me to suffer, come when you
return."

Kyphallos took back the cup from which Bzad, the Mazzerian, had drunk and
drained it at a gulp. "I shall come," he shouted and clapped his hands.
"Let the entertainment begin!"

After that Croft could only watch and marvel at what he beheld. A sound
of harps burst forth. Golden and scarlet curtains drew apart at one end
of the immense court. He caught a glimpse of moving figures behind them,
and then--fifty dancing girls broke forth.

Swaying, posturing, gesturing they moved down the hall toward the tables.
At first they were clothed. But as they advanced they dropped veil after
veil from their posturing bodies, until they gleamed white and pink
swinging figures, caught in the eddies of the dance. Closer and closer
they came. They reached the tables themselves. They sprang upon them.
They danced among the remnants of the feast. They hands of the
guests--other companions of Cathur's prince, reached toward them--sought
to capture them.

Croft turned away. He had seen enough.

The days that followed were agony, as he wandered about Palos, now seeing
Naia, now Kyphallos' preparations for the trip to Aphur, in all his
decadent magnificence. He studied young Jasor, and noted that the youth,
fully aware of his shortcomings, was sinking rapidly into a state of
melancholy. He saw Kyphallos' arrival in Aphur and the secret interview
with Jadgor, the proposal that the houses of Aphur and Cathor be united
through a marriage to "the fairest flower in Aphur's garden of women," as
Jadgor put it.

But worst of all was the subtle implication that, through this alliance,
Kyphallos could mount the throne of Tamarizia. As sick to the soul as the
thought of Naia sacrificed to this princeling made him, the thought of
Kyphallos as supreme ruler made Croft sicker.

He could not bear to watch the reception at which Naia would be presented
to Kyphallos, yet he knew he must, and he forced his will to carry him to
Lakkon's palace, near the massive doors. There he remained until a
clatter of hoofs marked the first arriving guests.

They came in a stream thereafter, nobles of Aphur and their daughters and
wives; captains of the civic guard, and finally, with a blare of trumpets
from riders mounted on gnuppas, Jadgor himself and Kyphallos in a golden
coach drawn by eight gnuppas harnessed four abreast.

And still Naia had not appeared. But as the King of Aphur and the Prince
of Cathur moved down the crystal pave from the doors toward the tables in
the center of the court, she came slowly down the stairs, a thing of
purple and gold. The gown she had described that first day wrapped her
supple form like a second skin, from right shoulder to hip, and fell from
there to the knees. It was a shimmering thing embroidered in purple
stones.

Halfway down the stairs she stood and inclined her head, while Jadgor and
Kyphallos paused. Then as the men advanced she began again to descend,
until near the head of the tables she sank on her left knee and bowed.

Jadgor's own hand helped her to rise. Jadgor made Kyphallos known. Prince
and princess touched hands. Lakkon led toward the feast.

At the head sat Jadgor and Kyphallos side by side. Lakkon reclined beside
the king. Naia's place was on the Prince of Cathur's left. Blue servants
in Lakkon's livery placed the other guests and began their service at
once.

For an hour the feast went on. Croft noted Kyphallos more closely than
the rest. He had seen the swift lighting of his eyes when Naia appeared
on the stairs. Now, as he lay on the divan, he found him watching her
with what seemed a stead interest, plying her with gallant conversation,
finding excuse to touch her hands, staring into her long-lashed purple
eyes.

Kyphallos drank deep and his eyes began to sparkle as time passed with
new toasts proposed and drunk about the board. It came to Croft that
Cathur's prince was losing his head at a time when he had better have
kept it, as his voice became more and more loud.

The harps struck up a different measure toward the last. Golden curtains
parted under the balcony, near the stairs. A band of dancing girls
trooped in. They were things of beauty, laughing-faced, their soft hair
flowing, clad in what seemed no more than garlands of flowers twined
about their slender bodies and halfway down their limbs. Beginning to
dance, they advanced and as they danced they sang. The scene became one
of rhythmic beauty, delightful to the senses. Each girl bore a
parti-colored veil of gauze and waved it as she moved. Massed inside the
rectangle of the tables on the crystal floor, they seemed to be a very
dancing, nodding bed of flowers.

Then it was done. The dancers were drawing back with graceful
genuflections, as applause broke forth from the guests. Lakkon tossed a
handful of silver pieces among them. Jadgor cast a double handful of
jewels into the scarf of a maid who advanced at his sign.

"Divide them among you," he said.

The girl sank to the floor, and rose.

"Hold!" cried Cathur's prince. He lifted himself and struck the table.
"Up!" he commanded thickly "Up, beauteous maid."

With a glance at Jadgor, who made no sign whatever, the dancing girl
obeyed. She stood on the table before Kyphallos.

"Unveil!" he said.

Again the woman glanced at Aphur's king. But Jadgor did not draw back
from the situation "Unveil!" he added his command.

The girl lifted her hands. Her garlands fell away. She stood a lithely
rounded form, her feet lost in the mass of blossoms she had worn.

Kyphallos laughed. His eyes were blazing. He caught up a goblet of wine
and rose. "Hail Adita, goddess of womanly beauty," he exclaimed. "Arise,
my friends, and drink with me to woman as she is, this new Adita I have
found!"

They rose at Jadgor's sign, though Croft caught more than one glance of
question passing among the guests.

So much he saw and turned back to Naia, who had risen, too, her face a
mask of outraged dignity and scorn.

Kyphallos lifted his goblet and set it to his lips.

Naia lifted hers and cast it from her so that its contents spilled and
flowed across the table at the dancer's feet.

"Thou beast! 'Tis thus I drink your toast!"

Silence came down--a breathless pause about the tables. Kyphallos lowered
his cup and turned toward the Princess of Aphur slowly.

And suddenly the Cathurian smiled. He replaced his goblet on the table
and sank to one knee before the haughty daughter of his host. "By Zitu!"
his voice rang out, "but you are truly royal. You are magnificent,
daughter of Aphur. Did I pick me a lesser toy, 'twas but that I knew you
for what you are--one fit to be a queen. Naia of Aphur, wilt pledge
yourself queen of Aphur's throne?"

The words were out. Croft felt his senses sink. On Jadgor's face was a
satisfaction unvoiced. He rose and lifted his hands. "My lords and
ladies," he announced, "I call you to witness that Cathur asks the hand
of Aphur's princess. Let Naia choose."

Kyphallos drew himself up and folded his arms. To Croft it seemed the man
was sobered by Jadgor's words. Yet as cries of assent and acclamation
rang out though the court, he remained silent before the tense figure of
the girl.

And slowly the golden head beneath the curling plume of purple bowed. One
bared arm rose and extended its fingers toward the northern prince.
"Aphur accepts." Her words came scarcely above a whisper and were drowned
in a greeting roar of voices upraised by the waiting guests.

Cathur caught the extended hand and turned to the forward-straining
faces, the watching eyes.

"A happy consummation to our feast," rang the words of Aphur's king. "Men
and women of Aphur, this shall be arranged. I, Jadgor, myself shall
sponsor the formal betrothal on a day one twelfth of a cycle hence."

The thing was done. A month from tonight would see it ratified. A sick
impotency filled Croft's soul. He left the scented atmosphere of Lakkon's
palace court and rose up toward the heavens, studded with stars.

To Earth! Palos and all it held sank swiftly away beneath him. He opened
the eyes of the form he left on his library couch.



Chapter V


Nothing had been disturbed. Everything was as he had last seen it, save
that a layer of dust had collected, thanks to the absence of Mrs. Goss,
and that due to the difference of the length of the Palosian day. Nine
terrestrial days had passed since Croft had laid his body on the couch.

Rising slowly, he ignited the flame of a small alcohol-lamp and quickly
brewed himself a cup of strong beef-extract, which he drank. Seating
himself in a chair, he gave himself over to a consideration of the
thought he had brought with him from Palos.

Briefly, Croft had conceived of a way to acquire a physical life on
Palos. It was that that had sent him back here to his study and his
books. He rose and drew a volume from a case and brought it back to the
desk. It was a work dealing with obsessions--that theory of the occultist
that a stronger spirit might displace the weaker tenant of an Earthly
shell, and occupy and dominate the body it had possessed.

He read over the written page and his thoughts were of Jasor as he sat
there wrapped in thought. The young Nodhurian was dying, unless Croft's
medical knowledge was all at fault. Yet he was dying not from disease in
the physical sense. His body was organically healthy. It was his soul
which was sick unto death. And--here was the wonderful question: Could
Croft's strong spirit enter Jasor's body as Jasor laid it aside and,
operating on the still inherent and reasonably sound cell-energy still
contained within it, possess it for its own?

He realized fully that he must remain on Earth for a day or two to
provide his present body against another period of trance. Croft sent for
Mrs. Goss, telegraphing her shortly after it was light. He spent the day
waiting her arrival in feeding his body with concentrated foods. He met
her when she came, and for a week life went on in the Croft house as it
had gone on before. Then Croft summoned the little woman and made her
understand dimly he was doing something never attempted before, which, if
it succeeded, would make him very happy. He explained that he was about
to take a long sleep--that it would last for three, and possibly four
days. He forbade her to disturb his body during that time, or to touch it
for a week. Then, if he was not returned and in his sane mind, she might
know that he was dead.

With quivering lips and wide eyes and apron-plucking hands, she promised
to obey. Croft sensed her anxiety for himself, and tried to be very
gentle as he saw her from the room.

But with the door closed behind her, he moved quickly to the couch and
stretched himself out. He smiled and fastened his mind on the object of
this present attempt. And suddenly his eyelids closed and his body
relaxed. Once more time and space suffered annihilation, and he knew
himself in Jasor's room.

It was full. The nurse was there, and the physician. And there was
another--a young man with a strong, composed face, clad in a tunic of
unembroidered brown, whom Croft recognized as a priest. A quiver of
emotion shook Croft's spirit. He had returned to Palos none too soon.

The priest drew back. The doctor approached the bed. He lifted the wrist
of Jasor and set his fingers to the pulse. In a moment he laid it down,
and bowed his head. And as he did so, Jasor sighed once deeply like one
very tired.

"He passes," the physician said.

Priest, nurse, and physician all saw it. But Croft saw more than they. He
saw the astral form, the soul-body of Jasor, rise from the discarded
clay. And swiftly casting aside all other considerations, he willed his
own consciousness into the vacant brain.

Thereafter followed an experience, the most terrible he had ever known.
He was within Jasor's body, yet he was chained. For what seemed hours he
fought to control the physical elements of the fleshy form he had seized.
Croft describes his own sensations as those of one who presses against
and seeks to move an immovable weight.

He suffered--suffered until the very suffering broke down the bonds in a
demand for some outward expression. Then, and only then he knew that the
chest of the body had once more moved, and that he had drawn air into the
lungs. Encouraged, he exerted his staggering will afresh, and--he knew he
was looking into the faces above him--through Jasor's physical eyes!

"He lives!"

With Jasor's ears he heard the physician exclaim, "This passes
understanding, man of Zitu. He was dead, yet now he lives again!"

"The ways of Zitu oft pass the understanding, man of healing," said the
priest, advancing to the bed. "What is man to understand the things that
Zitu plans?"

Croft thrilled. Coordination between his conscious spirit and the body of
the man of Palos was established. The thought brought a sense of absolute
satisfaction; he closed the lids above Jasor's eyes, and slept.

For several hours he lay in restful slumber, then awoke refreshed. His
deductions had been correct. Jasor's body was healthy, aside from the
weakening influences of his spirit. Given a strong spirit to dominate it
now, and it responded in full tide.

He glanced about. It was night. By the dim light of an oil lamp he saw
two persons in the room. One was the nurse. The other was the priest.
They appeared to converse in lowered tones.

"Man of Zitu," Croft spoke for the first time with his new-found tongue.

The priest rose and hurried to him. "My son."

"I am much improved," said Croft. "In the morning I shall be almost
wholly well."

"It is a miracle," the priest declared, holding his forearms horizontally
before him until he made a perfect cross.

A miracle! Swiftly Croft formed a plan. "Father, what is your name?" he
inquired.

"Abbu, my son."

Croft turned his eyes. "Send the nurse away. I would talk with you alone."

The priest spoke to the woman, who withdrew slowly, her face a mingled
mask of emotions, chief among which Croft read a sort of awed wonder.

"Why does she look at me like that?" he asked.

The priest seated himself on a stool beside the couch. "I said your
recovery was a miracle, my son," he replied. "I am minded that I told the
truth. You have changed, even your face has changed while you slept. You
are not the same."

Croft felt his muscles stiffen. He understood. The new spirit was molding
the fleshy elements to itself--uniting itself to them, knitting soul and
body together. The experiment was a success. He smiled. "That is true,
Father Abbu," he replied. "I am not the same as the Jasor who died."

"Died?" The priest drew back.

"Died," repeated Croft. "Listen, Father. These things must be in
confidence."

"Aye," Abbu agreed.

Croft told what had occurred.

Abbu heard him out.

"Listen, Father," Croft said. "I am not Jasor, though I inhabit his form.
Yet I know something of him, and of Tamarizia as well. Jasor had a
father."

"And a mother." The priest inclined his head.

"To them I must appear still as Jasor."

"They are looked for in Scira," Abbu declared. "We hoped for their
coming. Why have you done this thing? Are you good or evil?"

"Good, by the grace of Zitu. I come to help Tamarizia. Think you I could
have come had not Zitu willed?"

Suddenly the face of the young priest flamed. "Nay!" he cried, and rose
to stand by the couch. "Now my eyes are open and I see. This thing is of
Zitu, nor could be save by his will. It is as I said, a miracle indeed."
Again he lifted his arms in the sign of the cross.

"Then help me to do that for which I came--help me to help Tamarizia
should the need arise."

"Aye." To his surprise, Abbu sank before him on bended knees. "How am I
to serve him who comes at the behest of Zitu in so miraculous a way?"

"Call me Jasor as in the past," decided Croft. "Yet think me not Jasor,"
he went on. "Jasor was a dullard, weak in his brain. Soon shall I show
you things such as you have never dreamed. Think you I am Jasor or
another indeed?"

"You are not Jasor," said the priest.

"Nay--by Zitu himself, I swear it," said Croft. "Go now and send back the
nurse. Say nothing of what I have told you. Swear silence by Zitu, and
come to me every day."

"I swear," Abbu promised, rising, "and--I shall come, O Spirit sent by
Zitu." He left the room backward and with bowed head.

Croft let every cell of his new body relax and stretched out. He closed
his eyes as he heard the nurse return, and gave himself up to thought.
Now it remained to gain utter control of the body he possessed--to master
it completely, and make it not only responsive to his physical use, but
to so impregnate it with his own essence that he might leave it for short
times at least in order to return to Earth.

And to accomplish that he had just four days. Lying there apparently
asleep, he sought to exercise that control he possessed over the body now
lying on his library couch. And he failed. In the end he decided to take
a longer time in his endeavors, and so at last fell into a genuine sleep.

From that he awakened to the sound of voices, and turned his eyes to
behold a woman past middle age, with graying hair, and a man, strongly
built, with a well-featured face, in the room. This woman, then, must be
the Nodhurian's mother.

He opened his lips and called her by that word.

She ran to him and sank to her knees by the couch. "Jasor, my son!" she
cried in a voice which quavered, and as the man approached more slowly,
turned her face upward to meet his eyes. "He knows me, Sinon--he knows
me," she said.

"Aye, Mellia, praise be to Zitu. Jasor, my son, dost know me also?" the
Nodhurian's father said.

"Aye, sir," said Croft, marking his parents' names. "But--how come you in
Scira?"

"Did we not write that we should arrive and take you with us on our
return?" Sinon asked.

"Aye," he admitted somewhat faintly. "But--I have been ill."

"And are recovered now," he who was to be his father said.

"Aye. Had I my clothing I could rise."

"We shall return then at once," Sinon declared.

But Mellia, the mother, broke into protests, and Croft became much more
cautious, spoke for delay. He did not wish to undertake a trip to Nodhur
before he had returned to Earth. That was necessary if he was to protect
his Earth body from Mrs. Goss at the end of the week, since now he knew
he must have more time. He determined to make another attempt at escape
from his new body, when he would appear merely to be asleep.

And he succeeded late that night, freeing himself and once more rousing
on the library couch. He did several things at once. He examined his own
body and found it sound. He wrote a note telling his housekeeper he had
returned and gone away for at least a month.

Next he crept upstairs to his former bedroom and packed a suitcase,
carrying it to one of the several spare rooms seldom used and always kept
closed. Locking himself into this room, he opened the window slightly to
assure a supply of air. He had told Mrs. Goss to remain at the house or
go to her daughter's as she preferred, until his return. He felt assured
he would be undisturbed. Lying on the bed, he once more satisfied himself
that all was as he wished it, and returned to Jasor's room.

Dawn was breaking on Palos as he opened his eyes. The nurse dozed not far
from his couch. He waked her and demanded his clothing. She brought it in
some doubt and assisted him to put it on. Ten minutes later he sat on the
edge of the couch, a Palosian in all physical seeming. Yet the woman
regarded him still in a more or less uncertain fashion.

Croft smiled. "Thank you for your kindness, my nurse," he said. "I shall
ask my father to remunerate you for it. Now I would eat."

She nodded and hurried from the room, to return with food. Hardly had
Croft disposed of the meal with a zest evoked of his physical needs, than
Sinon of Nodhur appeared.

Croft rose and stood as the man came in. "We return home today, my
father," he declared.

Sinon seemed embarrassed before the words of his son. "Aye, if you wish,"
he made answer after a pause. "Sit you, my son. We must speak together.
Your sickness has wrought changes within you. You are not the Jasor to
whom I wrote it were useless to remain in Scira. The glance of your eye,
the sound of your voice, even the lines of your face, have changed."

Croft smiled. "That is true," he agreed. "Yet even so it is of small
value to remain in Scira, since now I know all and more than the learned
men can teach me, were I to linger among them for many more cycles that I
have."

"Zitu!" Sinon regarded him oddly. "My son, is this change to make you a
braggart instead of a dullard?"

"Not so," Croft returned. "My father, I am as one born anew. Let us begin
the journey this day."

"It shall be as you wish," Sinon said, and left the room.

Later, Abbu came and was admitted. To him Croft explained that he was
going south to Nodhur with his father. He went further and questioned the
priest concerning Sinon himself, learning that he was a wealthy merchant,
residing in Ladhra, capital of the southern state.

The information was a considerable shock to Croft. The merchant caste,
while exercising great influence and weight in Tamarizian affairs, were
not of noble blood. Hence now, at the very beginning he found himself
confronted by a gulf of caste separating him from Naia of Aphur hardly
less completely than before he had made Jasor's body his own.

Abbu rather drew back before the gleam which crept into his eyes. "Jasor,
since I know you by no other name," he cried, "wherein have I given
offense?"

Croft laughed. He rose and flexed his arms and stared into Abbu's face.
"In nothing. I was but thinking," he made answer. "Abbu, give me tablets
to the priesthood at Himyra, stating those things you have seen."

Abbu nodded. "You stop at Himyra?"

"Aye." The first step of winning to the woman of his soul flashed into
Croft's brain, even as his plan for winning a body had flashed there days
before.

That Sinon of Nodhur was wealthy he was assured when he saw the galley in
which the homeward journey was to be made. It was a swift craft, gilded
and ornate as to hull and masts and spars. Ten rowers furnished power on
its two banks of oars, seated on the benches in the waist of the hull.
Behind them were the cabin and a deck under an awning of the silklike
fabric, a brilliant green in hue. Not only did all this show Croft his
supposed father's financial condition, but he learned from Sinon that he
was owner of a fleet of merchant craft which pied up and down the Na, and
across the Central Sea.

All these things Croft considered in the intervals of conversation with
Sinon and Mellia while the galley ran south. In his boyhood Jason had
been possessed of a natural aptitude for mechanics. Learning now of his
father's line of business, it occurred to him to revolutionize
transportation on Palos as a first step toward making his name a word
familiar to every tongue.

To this end he approached Sinon the first evening as he and Mellia
reclined on deck.

"My father," he said, "what if the trip to Ladhra could be shortened by
half?"

"Shortened, in what fashion?"

"By increasing the speed."

Sinon smiled. "The galley is the best product of our builders," he
replied.

"Granted," said Croft. "But were one to place a device upon it, to do the
work of the rowers with ten times their strength?"

"Zitu!" Sinon lifted himself on his couch. "What, Jasor, is this? What
mean you, my son? What is this device?"

"One I have in mind," Croft told him. "Come. You make your money with
ships. Apply some of it to making them more swift of motion. Let me make
this device, and they shall mount the Na more swiftly than now they run
with the current and the wind."

Sinon turned his eyes to the woman at his side. "And this is our son, who
was a dullard!"

"In whom I always have had faith," Mellia replied with a smile.

"You have faith in this thing he proposes?" Sinon went on.

"Aye. I think Zitu himself spoke to him in his deathlike sleep."

"Then, by Zitu--he shall make the attempt!" Sinon roared. "Should he
succeed, the king himself would make him a knight for his service to the
state."

Croft's heart leaped and ran racing for a minute at the words.
Knighthood! That was the answer to the question in his brain--the bridge
which should cross the gulf between Naia of Aphur and himself. "Then I
may carry out my plan?"

"Aye--to the half of my wealth," Sinon declared. "Jasor, I do not
understand the change which has come upon you. But this thing you may do
if you can."

"Then we stop at Himyra," Croft announced.

"At Himyra!" Sinon stared.

"Aye. I would see Jadgor of Aphur so quickly as I may."

"See Jadgor? You?" Sinon protested. "Think you Jadgor receives men of our
caste without good cause?"

"He will see Jasor of Nodhur," Croft told him with a smile. "Wait, my
father, and you shall witness that, and more."

The next day he questioned Sinon concerning the nature of the oil used in
the lamps, and found it a vegetable product, as he had feared. But--he
had been given evidence that the wine supply of the country held no small
alcohol content, which could be recovered in pure form with comparative
ease. And--he knew enough of motors to know that slight changes would
enable them to burn alcohol in lieu of petroleum-gas. Straightway he
asked for something on which to draft his plans.

Sinon, eager now in the development of his son's remarkable plan,
furnished parchment and brushes with a square of color, something like
India ink, and Croft set to work during the remainder of the trip. He had
assembled more than one monitor in his day, and after deciding upon his
type of construction he immediately went to work. At the end of four
days, while the galley was mounting the Na toward the gates of Himyra, he
finished the first drafting of parts, and was ready for Jadgor the king.
Yet he did not go to Jadgor first, when once he had stepped ashore.

"Wait here," he requested Sinon. "After a time I shall return."

"Hold, my son," Sinon objected at once. "What have you in mind?"

"To see the priest of Zitu without delay," Croft replied without evasion.
"Shall Jadgor not give ear, if the priest of Zitu asks?"

"And the priest?" Sinon asked.

"I carry a message to him from Abbu of Scira." Croft held up the tablets
that Abbu had inscribed.

"My son!" Sinon gave him a glance of admiration. "Go, and Zitu go with
you. We shall wait for you here."

Croft nodded and left. He had purposely had the galley moored as near the
palace as he might. Now he rapidly made his way to the bridge across the
Na, and along it to the middle span. And there he paused and gazed about
him, at the palace, the pyramid, the vista of the terraced stream. This
was Himyra--this was the home of Naia.

He went on across the bridge and approached the pyramid. After a
considerable time he reached the top and entered the temple itself. The
huge statue of Zitu sat there as he had seen it in his former state. Now
almost without volition he bent his knees before it. After all, it stood
for the One Eternal Source. He gave it reverence as such.

A voice spoke to him as he knelt. He rose and confronted a priest.

"Who art thou?" the latter asked, advancing toward him. "How come you
here at no hour appointed for prayer?"

Croft smiled and held forth the tablets he had brought.

The priest took them, unbound them, and looked at the salutation. "Come,"
he said again at last, and led the way back of the statue to the head of
a descending stair.

Together they went down, along the worn tread of stone steps, turning
here and there, until at length they came into a lofty apartment where
sat a man in robes of an azure blue.

Before him Croft's guide bowed. "Thy pardon, Magur, Priest of Zitu," he
spoke, still in his stilted formal way. "But one comes carrying tablets
inscribed with thy name. Even now he knelt in the Holy Place, so that I
questioned--asking what he sought."

Magur took the tablets and scanned each leaf. In the end he waved the lay
brother from the room and faced Croft alone. "Thou art called how?" he
began.

"Jasor of Nodhur--son of Sinon and Mellia of Nodhur," Croft replied.

"Whom, Abbu writes, Zitu hath changed?"

"Aye."

"Thou comest to Himyra, why?"

"To assist the State--to safeguard Tamarizia from the designs of Zollaria
perhaps."

"Hold!" Magu cried, "What know ye of Zollaria's plans?"

"Zollaria desires Cathur and plots the downfall of Tamarizia, Priest of
Zitu. Think that I bring no knowledge to my task?"

"Yet, were you Jasor indeed, thou mightest know somewhat of Zollaria's
plans to some extent," said the priest.

"And Jasor was a dullard, as the schools of Scira will declare," Croft
flashed back. "Let my works show whether I stand a fool or not."

"Thy works?" Magur inquired.

"Aye--those I shall do in Tamarizia's name. The first shall be one which
shall span the desert twenty times as quickly as the Sarpelca caravan--or
drive a boat without sails or oars, or propel a carriage without any
gnuppa, and so haul ten times the load."

"Thou canst do this?"

"Aye."

"And what do you desire of me?"

"An audience with Jadgor, since Aphur's king suspects the things Zollaria
plans."

Magur frowned. For moments he sat without motion or sound. But after a
time he raised his head. "To me Abbu seemeth right in this," he said. "In
this Zitu's hand is. This thing shall be arranged."

He clapped his hands. A brown-robed priest appeared. "Prepare my chariot
for use."

The other bowed and withdrew.

Magur rose and, signing to Croft, led him through a passage to a small
metal platform which, when Magur pulled on a slender cord, began to
descend.

Croft smiled. It was a primitive sort of elevator as he saw while they
sank down a narrow shaft. He fancied it not unlike the ancient lifts
employed in Nero's palace in Rome. But he made no comment as they reached
the bottom of the shaft and emerged past double lines of bowing priests
to the waiting chariot.

Magur mounted and took the reins. Croft stepped into a place at his side.
The gnuppas leaped forward at a word. They rumbled down the street and
out upon the bridge. Croft had crossed it alone and on foot an hour
before. Now he rode back in the car of Zitu's priest.



Chapter VI


Thus for the third time Croft came upon Jadgor of Aphur. And now, as on
the first occasion, he found him in the room where he had conversed with
Lakkon concerning a way to counter Zollaria's plans.

Magur approached the seat where Jadgor waited his coming. "King of
Aphur," he said. "I bring with me Jasor of Nodhur, in whom Zitu himself
has worked a miracle, as it seems, so that he who was known a dull wit
for cycles at Scira's school, having fallen ill unto death, returns to
life with a changed mind, and comes bringing tablets to me from a brother
in Scira to the end that I gain audience with thee."

"With me," Jadgor said, bending a glance at Croft.

"Aye."

Jadgor continued to study Croft. "To what end?"

"To the end that Himyra and all Aphur may grow strong beyond any
Tamarizian dream, and Cathur never mount the throne at Zitra," Croft
replied.

Jadgor started. He narrowed his eyes. "What talk is this?"

"Jadgor the king knows best in his heart," said Croft, and waited. "I ask
but his aid to bring this thing to pass."

"These things have been spoken to Magur?" Jadgor turned his eyes to the
face of the priest.

"Aye," Croft said quickly.

"Then speak of them to me."

An hour passed while Croft explained and the two Tamarizians listened or
bent above the drawings he unrolled. "And this--how do you name it--"
Jadgor began at last.

"Motur." Croft threw the word into the native speech.

"This motur will do these things?" Jadgor asked in a tone of amaze.

"All I have promised, and more."

"And what is required to bring this to pass?"

"Workers in metals--a supply of wine to be used as I shall direct--and a
closed mouth that Cathur shall not be told, nor permitted to view the
work until done."

"Those things are granted. I shall see it arranged." Jadgor turned his
eyes again in Magur's direction. "Priest of Zitu--Zitu's own hand appears
in the plans of Jasor's mind. The designs of Zitu himself have surely
entered his soul. I, Jadgor, shall sponsor the carrying out." And once
more he addressed Croft. "When shall this work begin?"

"So soon as Aphur wills."

"Good." Jadgor clapped his hands. He was a man of action as Croft knew.
Now as a guardsman answered the summons, he spoke quickly in direction.
"Make search for my son, Prince Robur, and say I desire him here."

The soldier withdrew, and Jadgor plunged into further questions
concerning Croft's plans. Croft on his part answered him fully, promising
other wonders than the motor in good time.

And now there entered the room a youth to whom Croft's heart went out.
Clean-limbed, strong-featured, with a well-shaped jaw, and a mouth not
lacking in humor, he advanced with a springing stride and stood before
the king.

"Robur, my son," Jadgor began. "Jasor of Nodhur is our guest. In all
things shall you aid him, speaking in all such matters as the mouthpiece
of the king. See to it that he has metal-workers under his command to do
his bidding, also that wine is given into his hands for such use as he
sees fit."

Robur put forth a hand, which Croft took in his own. The Prince of Aphur
smiled. "My father's word is the law in Aphur," he said. "Welcome,
Nodhur. Ask and I obey."

"First, then," said Croft, "I would visit my father's galley at the quays
and acquaint them with what has occurred before they continue up the Na."

"Come, then," Robur responded to the natural request.

And thus he began the work on Palos which was to hold him for many
months. He presented Sinon and Mellia to Robur, and after an hour spent
in explanations, and ending with a promise to visit Ladhra after he had
his work in Himyra started, he left them divided between amazement and
pride in their son.

"Once what I intend is completed, we will mount these splendid roads
without gnuppas, and at many times their speed," he said as Robur and he
re-entered the prince's car.

Robur opened his eyes. "Say you so? Is it for that I am to aid you as my
father said?"

"Aye."

"Then let us begin at once. I would like to see the thing accomplished."

Croft nodded and briefly described what was required.

"There is a place where the doors of metal and the bodies of the chariots
and carriage are molded," Robur said. "Metal is melted and worked into
shape, according to designs."

"Take me there, O Robur of Aphur."

Robur laughed. "Call me not by so lengthy a title," he exclaimed. "I am
drawn to you, Jasor. Let us forget questions of caste or rank between
ourselves. Speak to me as Rob."

"Gladly will I call you so," said Croft. "And let us pledge ourselves now
to work for the welfare of our nation until it is assured."

Robur's eyes lighted. "This is a day of wonder for all Tamarizia," he
said, and turned the gnuppas southward along the river road.

In the end he brought them to a stand before an enormous building,
wherein Croft found the flares of fires, and men, well-nigh naked, at
work in their glare. Robur led him to the captain in charge of the place,
and made him acquainted with Croft's needs. Inside an hour Croft was
superintending the makings of certain wooden patterns, to be molded, and
cast in tempered copper, while Robur looked on, all eyes.

And his eyes were glinting as they left the Palosian foundry and drove
toward the royal depots of wines, after Croft had given certain of the
metal-workers the designs for a huge copper retort to be made at once.

At the depots, where Croft found unlimited supplies of wine, stored in
skin bottles of tabur hide, Jason ordered the building of a brick furnace
for the retort when it was done, giving the dimensions and plans of
construction to masons hurriedly called. That task arranged for, Robur
drove him back to the palace, and led him straight to his own private
suite.

A woman rose as they entered. She was sweet-faced, with brown eyes and
hair. Robur presented Croft to her as his wife, a princess of Milidhur,
and proudly displayed two children, a boy and a girl. Croft found his
reception gracious in the extreme, and learned he was to be the guest of
Robur and Gaya while engaged in his work. She listened to Robur's and
Croft's description of their plans, and cried out with delight at what
they proposed.

Thereafter the days passed quickly, and part after part of the new engine
which was to revolutionize transportation on Palos was drafted, molded,
and made. Croft selected each man who showed any particular aptitude and
delegated him to that individual task.

The huge retort was set up and was producing pure alcoholic spirit every
day. Inside ten days Croft himself began the assembling of the already
finished parts. At his own request, Robur was permitted to assist. More
than once Croft smiled to himself as he beheld the crown prince of Aphur
soiled, grimy, smudged, and enjoying himself immensely.

To gain speed, Croft had introduced the unheard-of nightshift in Himyra.
Day and night now the work went on, and his first creation advanced
apace. Only on the winding of the magneto did he maintain great secrecy.
Over that he and Robur worked alone. It was the main, essential part, he
explained to the prince. Without it, the whole thing would be useless and
dead. He tried to make Robur understand the electric nature of the device
and, failing, told him it was the same as the lightning in the clouds.

"Zitu!" cried Robur. "Jasor, would you harness Zitu's fire?"

"By Zitu's permission," Croft said.

Aphur's prince studied that. "Aye," he said at length. "My friend, you
are a strange and wonderful man. Jadgor believes that Zitu himself had
endowed your mind, and Magur says as much in your favor, also."

"Magur speaks the truth," Croft declared. "Listen, Rob. Strange things
occurred in this body of mine in Scira. At times--when the need
occurs--it shall fall sleep. From each sleep shall it return with new
knowledge for the good of Tamarizia's race, and the confounding of
Zollaria's plans."

"Zollaria! Hai!" Robur exclaimed.

"To oppose which Jadgor designs to betroth your cousin to Kyphallos of
Cathur. Rob," Croft went on, "I would ask a favor if it may be granted."

"Speak," Robur said.

"I would be present at the betrothal feast inside the next few days."

"By Zitu, and you shall," Robur declared.

"My caste--" Croft began.

Robure laughed and tapped him on the breast with a wrench. "Rise,
_Hupor!_ If this work succeeds, that will be arranged."

Croft felt his pulses quicken. "You mean--"

Robur nodded. "That Jadgor, my father, will raise you to the first rank
beneath the throne."



On the day before the betrothal feast Croft finished his magneto, tested
it out before Robur's eyes, and obtained a good, fat spark. Hastily
connecting it with the assembled motor, for which workmen were building a
chassis such as Palos had never seen, he filled a testing tank with
spirit, primed the carburetor, that he had somewhat changed for the use
of the different fuel, and then laid hold of the crank.

It was a tense moment as he spoke to Robur. "Watch now, Rob--watch!"

He spun the crank around. For the first time on Palos there came a
motor's cough. Again Croft whirred the crank, spinning it to generate the
life-giving spark. He was answered by a hearty hum. The motor quivered
and shook. A staccato sound of steady explosions filled the room in which
it stood. Life gunfire its exhaust broke forth. The heavy balance wheel
Croft had arranged for the trial to load it to safety spun swiftly round
and round.

A commotion rose in the shop. Captains and subcaptains ran from their
work to view the success of that for which they had worked. They stood
staring at the throbbing, quivering engine. Croft straightened and stood,
pale of face but with glazing eyes, before them.

And suddenly the crown prince spoke. "Back--back to your work. Work as ye
have never worked before. Complete the frame for this to ride upon, the
wheels. Make all ready, men of Aphur, and spare no effort to the aim. A
new day has dawned in Aphur--in Tamarizia. Inside the hour there shall be
a new prince. Salute him, _Hupor Jasor_, who thus has served the state."

They lifted their hands in salute, those captains, and turned away. Croft
looked into Robur's eyes. "Rob," he stammered.

"Aye, such is the order of Aphur's king did the test we were to make
today succeed. He will himself confirm it tomorrow night. In the meantime
I am told to bid Jasor to the betrothal feast of Naia of Aphur to
Cathur's prince. What now of caste, my friend?"

Croft quivered. He opened his lips yet found himself overwhelmed with
emotion, unable to speak.

Robur cast an arm about his shoulders as the two men stood. "Jasor, my
friend, what things have you in mind I know not of? Speak. Know you not,
Jasor, that I love you?"

"Aye," said Croft. "Yet Rob, I may not speak of those things as yet.
Later you shall know all," he declared. "As for the rest--you are my
dearest friend."

"Speak when you will," Robur replied. "Tomorrow at the house of Prince
Lakkon, Jadgor shall name you Hupor before the nobles of Aphur. And when
this motur of ours is completed, you shall drive it to Ladhra and take
with you the noble rank for Sinon, since he has served his state in
bringing about your birth."

Tomorrow night at the house of Prince Lakkon! Suddenly Croft felt his
face flush and his eyes took on a flashing light. "Rob," he cried. "This
is only the beginning. What we shall do for Tamarizia Zitu only knows."

"Would Zitu had sent you before this then," Robur growled. "I question
not the wisdom of Jadgor, my father," he went on quickly. "Yet like I not
this sacrifice of a virgin made to the lecherous son of Cathur's king."

"Rob!" Croft cried. "Zitu himself must frown upon such a thing. Rob--how
long between the night of betrothal and the marriage itself?"

"Hai!" Robur narrowed his eyes. "A cycle, my friend. By royal custom
these things are never matters of haste."

"A cycle!" Croft threw up his head and laughed. "Rob, could we made
Tamarizia strong beyond any dream of her wisest men inside that cycle,
what then?"

"A promise is a promise, my friend."

"But," said Croft, "much may happen in a cycle--and Zollaria plans."

"What mean you? Jasor--you are a strange man. Twice now have you spoken
of Zollaria's plans. What do you have in mind?"

"To watch Cathur's prince," said Croft. "Hold, Rob--the priest, Abbu, is
my friend. He will help us in this. Magur, too, must give us aid. Let us
watch--and work."

Work--yes, work. Croft threw up his face and met Robur's questioning
gaze. "Aphur shall show the way to the nation," he cried. "Zollaria's
plans shall come to naught, my friend."

"Zitu!" Robur gasped. "After tomorrow night we must speak of these things
to Aphur's king. Jasor, I am minded that Magur is right. Zitu works
through you to his ends."

The motor coughed and died, having used up its fuel. Croft smiled, and
called Robur back to work. Through the day they toiled, and by night the
engine was bolted to the chassis, wheeled into the assembling room by the
workmen that afternoon. There remained now no more than the assembling of
the clutch and the transmission before the body should be affixed to
complete the car. And the body was ready and waiting.

Croft worked throughout the night. Robur offered to assist, but he
refused. He wanted to be alone--to think.

The answer was plain. Aphur must arm--and Nodhur--and Milidhur from
whence came the gentle, sweetly sympathetic Gaya, Robur's wife. And of
arms he knew little, but--he could learn. Only, he had to return to
Earth. There, not many miles from his own town, was the home of a man who
before now had won fame as a maker of arms.

Croft chuckled to himself as he worked, and the captain assisting him in
Robur's place thought him pleased with their progress and smiled.

"This motur of thine will surely draw the car in lieu of gnuppas, my
lord?"

"Aye," said Croft with a nod.

"By Zitu! Never was anything like it dreamed of in Tamarizia before thy
coming."

Croft nodded again. "Tomorrow I shall bring you orders to start all men
working on those parts they have made for this, in untold numbers," he
returned. "And hark you, captain. Each man shall make but the one
part--which he makes the best. So shall we make many and build them
together at once and produce a vast number of cars, and other moturs to
drive boats on the Na."

"By Zitu! Then shall Aphur rule the seas indeed."

"Tamarizia shall rule," said Croft with an assurance not to be denied.

And as the first rays of Sirius began to gild the red walls of Himyra, he
finished filling the fuel tank with spirits, told the captain to open
wide the doors of the building wherein they had toiled through the night,
and seized hold upon the crank of the engine he had built.

The motor roared out. Croft sprang to the driver's seat. He let in his
clutch. And slowly--very slowly the car moved toward the open doors.

One glimpse Jason had of the captain's face--a thing wide-eyed, agape
with amazed belief, and then he was outside the massive walls of that
foundry womb in which the car had been formed. He was out in the streets
of Himyra, riding the thing he had made.

He gained the river road and opened the throttle notch by notch. Swiftly
and more swiftly the new car moved. He reached the palace entrance and
turned in. Straight to the steps of the king's wing he drove and brought
the car to a stand.

Like their fellow of the street, the guards shrank back in amazement from
this strangest of chariots they had ever seen, until Croft, rising in his
seat, ordered them to send word to Robur and Jadgor himself, that he
waited their inspection of the car. He throttled down and sat waiting
while a guardsman hurried away.

Then into the midst of his elation broke the voice of Aphur's prince.
"Hai, Jasor, my lord, this is a surprise. Now I see that which last night
you planned."

Robur had hurried forth with Gaya by his side, and behind him now came
Jadgor, between a double row of guards. While Croft rose and gave a hand
to Robur and Gaya in turn, and bowed before the king, the latter advanced
to the side of the new machine.

"You came here in the motur itself?" Robur asked.

"Yes," Croft replied. "And well nigh frightened a night guard out of his
wits when he saw me bearing down on him, as well as carrying
consternation into the minds of even soldiers here."

Robur laughed. "I can well believe that," he agreed. "Had I known not of
it I fear I should have been sadly disturbed myself."

Jadgor smiled. "If it carried fear into the hearts of Aphur's guards,
might it not do likewise to an enemy's men as well?"

"O king, it is in my mind that it would do even that," Croft returned.
"My I show you the motur in action, O King of Aphur?"

"Yes."

"Wait!" Robur cried as Croft resumed his seat. "Wait, Jasor, I shall go
with you. Gaya will be the first woman of Aphur to ride in such a
chariot."

Gaya smiled, Like most of the Tamarizian women, Croft had seen she seemed
devoid of any particular fear. She took Robur's hand and stepped into the
car; Robur followed.

Then Croft engaged his clutch and the car moved off, rolling without
apparent means of propulsion in circles about the great red court while
the guards and Jadgor watched. For some five minutes Croft kept up the
circling before he brought the machine to a stand before the king, and
once more rising, bowed.

"Your words were true, O Jasor," spoke Jagor then. "In this I see great
service to the state. Hail Hupor!" He caught a sword from the nearest
soldier, and advancing, struck Croft lightly upon the breast with the
flat of the blade. "More of this tonight," he said, stepping back. "In
the meantime arrange to build as many of these moturs as you may--also
for those which shall propel the boats."

Turning, he withdrew with his guard, disappearing into the palace. Gaya
smiled at her husband and Croft. "I, too, shall withdraw now," she began.
"I can see you are eager to be alone with this new toy. My thanks, Lord
Jasor, for the ride. All my life long I shall remember myself the first
of Tamarizian women to mount your wonderful car."

Robur helped her to get out, then sprang back to Croft's side. His face
was alight. "Now--go! Let us leave the city along the highway to the
south and test the motur for speed."

Nothing loth, Croft once more advanced gas and spark and let in the
clutch. Outside the palace entrance he turned south along the Na. Robur,
beside him, seemed strangely like a boy. "Approach the gate slowly. Let
me see for myself what effect we have on the guards."

His wish was granted in a surprisingly short time. As they neared the
gate, not yet open to morning traffic, a guardsman appeared. He seemed
practically paralyzed at the sight which met his eyes. In the end,
however, he suddenly lifted his spear as though expecting to meet a
charge with its point.

"Open, fellow!" Robur shouted with a grin.

His voice wrought a change in the man. He caught a deep breath, dropped
his spear and flung himself toward the levers which worked the gate. "My
lord," he said, as Croft drove past where he now stood at attention with
the gate swung wide. "My lord!"

Robur flung him a bit of silver and a laugh. Then they were out of the
tunnel through the wall and rushing up the well-built road. "That fellow
thought us Zutemque himself, to judge by his expression," he chuckled.
"Jasor, my friend--go faster--let--"

"Let her out!"

"Aye," said Robur, staring. "Let--her--out. Where got you that form of
speech, my friend?"

"I--it was used on the moment to express the idea intended," Croft
replied. "It is as though one released the reins and allowed the gnuppas
to run free."

Robur nodded. "Yes, I sense it. Let--her--out."

Croft complied. They sped south. Without a speedometer, Croft could only
estimate their rate of progress, but he judged that the new engine made
thirty miles an hour at least.

Robur was amazed. The speeding car met the first of the early market
throng and cleared the road of everything it met. Men, women, and
livestock bolted as the undreamed engine of locomotion roared past. Their
cries blended into an uproar which tore laughter from Robur's throat.

Swiftly they passed the area of cultivation and entered the desert road
where Croft had seen the Sarpelca caravan on his first Palosian day. On,
on they roared along the level surface between dunes of yellow sand and
across golden arid flats. Head down above his wheel Croft sent the car
ahead, until dashing between two dunes they came to where a second road
joined that on which they ran.

Robur cried out. Croft flung up his head. One swift glimpse he had of a
team of purple-plumed gnuppas reared on their haunches, their forefeet
pawing the air, their nostrils flaring, their eyes maddened with fright,
and of a burnished carriage behind them. Then he was past, throttling the
engine, seeking to bring the car to a stand.



Chapter VII


The car slowed down and stood still, Robur sprang to his feet. Croft
turned to look back. The carriage was off the road and dashing across a
level stretch of sand.

How it came that Prince Lakkon's carriage was here, neither man knew. Yet
both had recognized the purple-plumed gnuppas and the conveyance which
now swayed and rocked behind their fright-maddened flight.

"Lakkon's!" Croft gasped.

"Aye, by Zitu," Robur gave assent. "And should Chythron fail to hold them
soon, death lies in that direction at the bottom of the gorge."

"Sit down. Hold fast!" Even as Robur spoke, Croft sensed his full meaning
and planned. Under his touch the engine roared. He let in his clutch with
a jerk which shot the car into motion with a leap. Leaving the road with
a lurch which nearly unseated Robur and himself, he swung the car about
and increased its speed.

He had told Jadgor he would build an engine to outrun the Tamarizian
gnuppa, and here at once was the test; and he was overtaking them now. He
crossed the second road with a nerve-wracking swing and jolt. Unable to
procure rubber for his wheels he had faced them with heavy leather some
two inches thick, which lacked the resiliency of air. His arms ached from
the wrench with which he crossed the road.

"Faster! Zitu! Faster!" Robur urged at his side. "Faster, Jasor--the
gorge is just ahead!"

Croft made no reply. He was almost abreast of the carriage now. But he
himself had seen the break in the surface of the flat across which he
drove. He set his teeth till the muscles in his strong jaws bunched and
drove toward it at top speed.

And he was past them now! Past them, with the gorge directly ahead. He
began to edge in upon them. He would stop them or turn them at any cost
to himself. And the margin was scant.

"Jump! Save yourself!" His voice rose in a cry of warning to his
companion in the car. The gorge was very close. He turned to parallel its
course and found it angling off at a slant. And the gnuppas were turning,
too--edging away from the thing they feared--edging, edging away. Croft
edged with them, turning them more and more. Chythron was sawing on his
reins. Suddenly the beasts stopped in a series of ragged lunges and stood
quivering and panting. Croft stopped the car.

"By Zitu! Jasor, you are a man!"

The purple curtains of the carriage were swept back and Prince Lakkon
leaped out, gave Robur and him a swift glance, and assisted Naia to
alight.

Robur and he leaped down. They advanced toward Lakkon and his daughter.
"My uncle and my cousin," Robur began, "we crave your pardon for causing
you this inconvenience through no intent of our own. Yet must you give
thanks to our brave Lord Jasor here for undoing our work so quickly and
turning back the gnuppas from their course."

Lakkon bowed. "My Lord Jasor, it appears that I owe you my safety as well
as that of my child. Accept my service at your need. I have heard of you
and yonder wonder-carriage you have wrought. After tonight I go to my
villa in the mountains. You must be our guest for a time. Naia, my child,
extend your thanks to the noble Jasor for your life."

Croft found himself looking into the purple eyes of the woman he loved.
Then, as her red lips parted, he opened his own. "Nay, not your life,
Princess Naia--some bruises had you leaped from the carriage, perhaps."

"My thanks for the service none the less, my lord," she had answered in
the own well-remembered voice. "I like not bruises truly, and at least
you did save me those." She extended a slender hand.

Croft took her fingers in his and found his pulses leaping at the
contact. Prompted by a sudden impulse, he bent and set his lips to finger
he held, straightened and looked deep into the wells of her eyes.

A swift color mounted into the maiden's cheeks at the unwonted form of
homage and the fire in Croft's glance. She dropped her lids and seemed
confused for the first time during the course of the whole affair.

Robur broke into the rather tense pause. "What say you, Lakkon? Your
gnuppas are hardly fit to be trusted more today. Enter this car our Hupor
has built, and be the first Prince of Aphur to enter Himyra thus."

Lakkon smiled. He spoke to Chythron, ordering him to drive the gnuppas to
the city as best he might. Then, with Croft acting as Naia's guide,
turned with Robur toward the car.

Nor was his niggard in his praise as Croft started the engine, and
placing the girl beside him, drove back to the road and along it to the
city gates. He even laughed with enjoyment at the further consternation
their progress caused along the road.

As for Croft, that ride with the girl of his ultimate desire at his side
was a delight such as he had never known as she questioned him concerning
the conveyance he drove. Those questions he answered freely, knowing her
loyal to Tamarizia.

So in the end they passed the city gates and made their way to Lakkon's
house, where Croft turned in toward the massive molded doors.

Naia showed some surprise. "My lord, you know our dwelling, it would
seem."

"I have looked upon it with longing ere this," said Croft.

And Naia gave him a glance and once more veiled her eyes while a tide of
responsive color dyed her face. Plainly she caught the meaning of his
words.

"Your name is among those of our guests for tonight," she said. "Your
welcome will be doubly great after today, and--you will accept our
invitation to the mountains?"

"If you add your invitation to your father's, so soon as I may arrange
the work on other moturs," Croft agreed.

"Then you will come," she told him softly without lifting her eyes.

And that night all Himyra was _en fête_. Under the light of fire urns,
oil lamps, and flaring torches, whose glare lit up the sky above the
walls, the Red City of Aphur made holiday. Crowds swarmed the public
squares and clustered about the free entertainments, the free refreshment
booths erected by order of Jadgor to celebrate the coming alliance
between Cathur and the state.

Croft, returning to his quarters in the palace from a day spent in
starting intensive work on a hundred engines and a marine adoption of the
same, met a surprise. Upon his copper couch was a noble dress consisting
of a golden cuirass embossed in silver, a kilted skirt, gold and silver
leg casings, and sandals, a leathern belt, and a tempered copper sword.
As he came in, a Mazzerian servant rose and bade him to one of the palace
baths. Returning from that, Croft donned a sleeveless shirt of silklike
tissue and the cuirass over that. Kneeling, the servant adjusted the
sandals and rose to buckle on the sword. These things he mentioned were a
gift from Jadgor himself, a mark of Croft's service to the state.

Robur came into the room. Gaya had gone to Lakkon's earlier in the day to
act as Naia's lady in the ceremonial preparations. He suggested that
Croft and he be off. Aphurian etiquette decreed that the principal guest
be the last to arrive, in order that the assembled company might do him
honor when he came. Jadgor and Kyphallos would follow, said the prince.

Croft assented at once. Lifting a circlet supporting a tuft of orange
feathers, he set it upon his head, and Robur and he set out, in the
prince's own car, drawn by four beautiful gnuppas, their bridles trimmed
with nodding scarlet plumes.

Before Lakkon's house they found themselves in a press of other carriages
and chariots from which were descending the highest ranking nobles of
Aphur.

The huge doors of the court stood open, and the court itself blazed with
light. A double line of guards stood within the portals as the guests
streamed in, and a herald in gold and purple cried the name of each new
arrival aloud through a wide-mouthed trumpet held before his lips.

Inside, the tables were spread much as on the former occasion Croft had
witnessed, save that now a dais had been constructed at one end. Lakkon
stood at the end of the double row of guards and welcomed his guests. He
gave Croft his hand with a smile which lighted his eyes. "Welcome, Lord
Jasor--to mine house--to Himyra's happiness, to the honor of Aphur," he
said, and bent his knee to Robur as the two men passed.

It was then Robur led Croft to the dais and mounted the steps as one who
knew beforehand his place assigned. Croft hung back, and his companion
laughed. "Up," he cried. "Tonight you are honored of Aphur above most
men."

Tingling at the knowledge, Croft mounted and seated himself at a wave
from Robur's hand. The prince gazed on the brilliant scene with a smile
of something like pride. "A goodly company," he said.

Croft, too, gazed around before he replied. He cast his eyes about the
myriad of flaming lamps and suddenly he smiled. "Yet would it be even
more brilliant were the oil lamps removed and in their place we were to
put small globes of glass which would emit a radiance not due to oil, but
to a glowing filament shut within them, so that they would need no
filling, but would burn when a small knob were turned."

"Zitu!" Robur gave him a glance. "Are you at it again--with your
wonderful dreams?"

"Yes. Dreams they may be--yet shall you see them come true. And--listen,
my loyal friend. It may be that before long I shall dream again as I
dreamed before--that my body shall lie as Jasor's body lay in
Scira--shall seem to die."

"What mean you?" Robur cried. "This you have said before."

"I may not tell you more. Yet I would exact your promise that when the
time comes, as I know it will, you shall set a guard about my body and
forbid that it be disturbed until I shall again awake with a full
knowledge of what more shall be done for Aphur's good."

"You mean this--you do not jest?"

"Yes. Will you promise, Rob?"

"I will promise, and what I promise I fulfill," said Robur. "Yet--one
would think Zitu himself spoke to you in that sleep."

"No--yet what I do, I do by his grace," Croft replied. "And from each
sleep I am assured shall come good to the Tamarizian race." And suddenly
as trumpets announced the arrival of Kyphallos and the king, he felt
light, relieved, free.

He watched while Kyphallos came in with Jadgor now and approached the
dais. Then, attracted by other trumpets, he turned toward the stair. As
before, Naia stood there with Gaya by her side. Yet now she was not the
same. Then she had been radiant in gold and purple. Now she stood simply
clad in white. White was her robe, edged in silver; white were her
sandals and white the plumes which rose above her hair.

Kyphallos and Jadgor waited while the guests took their seats. Lakkon
advanced to meet the two women on the stairs, gave his hand to his
daughter and turned to descend.

Another figure appeared. It was Magur, the priest, robed in blue,
accompanied by two young boys, each bearing a silver goblet on a tray of
the same metal. He advanced and met Naia and Lakkon as they reached the
foot of the stairs.

"Who comes?" his voice rang out.

"A maid who would pledge herself and her life to a youth, O Prince of
Zitu," Lakkon replied.

"The youth is present?" Magur went on with the ritual.

"Aye. He stands yonder with Aphur's king," Lakkon declared.

"Who sponsors this woman at this time?" Magur spoke again.

"I--King of Aphur--brother of her who gave her life," Jadgor's voice
boomed forth.

"Come then," Magur said.

The party advanced again across the crystal floor. They joined Kyphallos
and the king. They ascended the dais and stood before the assembled
guests, who rose.

Magur spoke anew. "Naia of Aphur--thou woman--being woman sister of Ga,
and hence a priestess of that shrine of life which is eternal, and
guardian of the fire of life which is eternal, is it your intent to
pledge thyself to this man of Cathur who stands now at thy side?"

While Croft watched, Naia's lips moved. "Aye," came her response, "myself
I pledge to him."

"And thou, Kyphallos of Cathur, do you accept this pledge and with it the
woman herself, to make her in the fulness of time thy bride to cherish
her and cause her to live as a glory to the name of woman to whom all men
may justly give respect?"

"Aye. So I pledge, by Zitu, and Azil, Giver of Life," said Cathur's
prince.

"Then take ye this, maid of Aphur." Magur drew from his rope a looped
silver cross and pressed it into her hands. "Hold it and guard it. Look
upon it as the symbol of that life eternal which through you shall be
kept eternal, and which taken from the hands of Azil the Angel shall be
transmuted within thee into the life of me."

Turning, he took two goblets and poured wine from one to the other and
back. One he extended to Naia and one to Cathur's prince. "Drink," he
said. "Let these symbolize thy two bodies, the life of which shall be
united from this time on in purpose. Drink, and may Zitu bless ye in that
union which comes by his intent."

Cathur raised his goblet. "I drink of thee deeply," he spoke, addressing
Naia.

"And of thee I drink," she made answer, and set the wine to her lips.

As she did so, her eyes leaped over the silver rim and met the eyes of
Croft. For a single instant his glance burned into hers, and she
faltered, her hand lowered the goblet quickly and she swayed. Yet even
so, she caught herself on the instant as a storm of applause broke from
the guests and sank to the divan, supported by Kyphallos's hand.

As for Croft, for him the light of the oil lamps flickered and paled.

Thereafter came the feast, the music, the dancers, a troupe of singers
and another of acrobats--the usual gamut of a Tamarizian state
entertainment, dragging out its length, before Jadgor rose at last in his
place and a hush fell over the court.

Croft, who throughout it all had been strangely silent, roused to the
pressure of Robur's hand, and as the prince prompted, he rose.

Thereafter he left his place and knelt before Jadgor while the king drew
his sword and struck him upon the breast and dubbed him so a Prince of
Aphur, and rising, bowed to the king, and to the guests who rose to
salute him in his newfound rank.

But of them all to Croft it seemed that he saw only the fair young girl
beside the Cathurian prince. And now, as before, his eyes leaped swiftly
to her face. Only now, instead of an expression of something like
startled knowledge, there leaped toward him a purple light of pleasure,
of approval, of congratulation, and she smiled, as one may smile in
recognition of an old and well-known friend.

Then he found himself clasping hands with Robur, with Lakkon, with
Kyphallos, since the thing could not be avoided. Gaya, too, gave him her
hand and a word of congratulation, and--Naia was holding forth her
rounded, bare arm and the slender fingers which that morning he had
kissed.

He took them now and held them in his own. He trembled, and knew it, and
even so dared again to meet her eyes.

Once more, he found them startled, puzzled, almost confused. A faint
color crept into her cheeks. "My lord," she said, "Aphur has given her
highest appreciation of your worth. That should mean much to you."

"Aye," Croft found his tongue. "Since it accords me the privilege of a
further word with you."

She drew her hand away. "Is a word with me of so great a value?"

"To speak to Naia of Aphur I would dare death itself."

"You are a bold man," she said, as he paused, and went on quickly, "Yet,
since you value it so highly, forget not our invitation of this morning
or that house in the mountains which is ours."

"I shall not forget, Princess Naia," Croft replied. His brain was in a
whirl. Had she sensed the truth as he had sensed it the first time he had
seen her? Did she feel it? Did she know? Had the call of his spirit
reached the spirit which was hers?



Chapter VIII


Toward that end and what it should finally bring about, Croft now made
his plans. Kyphallos he learned would leave on the morrow for Scira, and
as he knew would very shortly thereafter make that promised journey to
Niera, where he would once more come under the attraction of Kalamita.

On the following day therefore, he asked audience of Jadgor, took Robur
with him when he appeared before the king and suggested the use of a spy
on Cathur's heir, telling so much as he felt he dared, to support his
plea.

At first Jadgor was amazed. "How know you these things, Lord Jasor!"

"I have heard things in the north."

Croft suggested a consultation with Magur--and the sending of word to
Abbu in the name of both Jasor and the Chief Priest of Himyra to see what
Kyphallos did. That there was reason for his suggestion the very next day
brought proof. A sailor from a Cathurian galley was found concealed in
the shop where the new engines were being made.

He smiled in rather a grim way when Robur told him of the occurrence,
rushing into the room where he sat engaged in the drawing of some further
plans. But he took no steps save to have the sailor taken back to his
ship and his captain cautioned to keep him out of harm's way, and to
recommend that Robur place a guard about the ship. Indeed he was not
greatly worried as he knew of one way in which he could watch Kyphallos
and learn what he planned.

On the sixth day, having seen the work on the engines well under way, he
took the car, filled its tanks with spirits and drove out the north road
toward that white palace in the mountains where he had been bidden as a
guest.

He had sent no word of his coming, yet he felt assured that a welcome
would be his. So at last he stopped before the steps leading up to the
doors of the white Aphurian mansion, and sprang down. He mounted the
steps and found once more the blue servant he had seen on another
occasion, watching in awed expectancy just inside. To him he gave his
title and asked for Naia herself.

The blue man bowed. "She lies yonder, Lord. I shall lead you to her."

Following the servant, Croft came about a cluster of flowering bushes to
find the hostess he sought. She lay upon a wine-red wood divan, while
beside her sat the blue girl Maia, her supple body swinging in easy
rhythm as she waved a fan for the comfort of the woman she served.

By now, Croft was fully accustomed to the disregard of clothing displayed
by the Tamarizian servants and even the nobles themselves in their more
private life. Hence he was not disturbed by the fact that since she knew
not of his coming, no more than a tissue so sheer that the flesh beneath
it lent it color, draped Naia's perfect form as she rose, to stand before
him and stretch forth her hands.

"My Lord, Jasor," she exclaimed. "Your coming is as unexpected as
welcome. Would you feel flattered were I to confess that I was thinking
of you before you appeared?"

"Nay, not flattered, but filled with a delight beyond words and a fear
lest I deserve less than that!" Croft smiled, as he took her warm flesh
in his hands.

Hupor, the great houndlike beast who had been lying beside the two women,
rose, and lifting himself upon his massive haunches laid his forepaws on
Croft's shoulders and stared into his face.

"Ah, Hupor gives you his favor, granted a few. Remove your cuirass and
rest," Naia said resuming her seat and signing the Mazzerian to assist
her guest. Then as he slipped out of the metal harness and stood in the
soft shirt beneath it, she invited him to a place at her side and
directed both servants to withdraw.

"You are come for the promised visit?" she began when they sat alone.

"If the time fits in with your convenience," Croft replied.

Naia looked down at her sandalless feet, high arched and pink of nail. "I
will be frank," she went on. "I have been piqued because you delayed your
coming." She glanced up with a little laugh. "You came in your car?"

"Yes."

"Tell me," she said, and laid a hand on his arm. "My father declares that
Jadgor thinks you inspired of Zitu to make Tamarizia great. Tell me,
about these moturs and your work."

Next to his love, these things were first in Croft's mind. For an hour he
talked to the girl at his side. He painted for her a picture of Aphurian
transportation transformed, of motors filling the highways, of
motor-driven ships on river and sea, and swept on by his own conceptions
spoke of motors as possible things of the air.

"Zitu!" she cried. "My lord would dare what none save the birds dare
now?"

"Even so," said Croft. "So shall Aphur become strong enough to guard the
western gate without another's aid."

He had made the remark of deliberate purpose, and now he heard the girl
beside him catch her breath, and glancing toward her, found her eyes wide
and very, very dark, with a strange light in their depths. "You--my Lord
Jasor, you can do this thing?"

"And will," he declared.

"One who did that might ask what he would, and receive it of the State,"
she said slowly, and then once more her fingers touched his arm and he
found them icy cold. "My lord, does Zitu answer prayers?"

Croft's mind leaped swiftly from her words to a night when he had heard
her plea, lifted out of an anguished spirit--to the One Eternal Source.
"What mean you?" he asked.

"If one--in sore trouble--one with a spirit which rebelled at a task to
which it was set should cry for aid, would Zitu give heed?"

"Yes, Naia of Aphur, I think that indeed Zitu hears a troubled spirit's
prayer. As for the form his answer may take--what man knows?"

Her lips parted. "Aye, who knows," she repeated. "How long a time shall
it require to bring these things to pass?"

"They shall be Aphur's before a cycle has run out," said Croft.

"Zitu! Then--then Aphur shall be strong beyond Jadgor's dreams ere--ere
so short a time is gone!"

Again Croft's heart pounded in his breast. Almost she had said ere--she
was forced into hated wedlock with Kyphallos, he thought. He inclined his
head.

"But why," Naia went on more calmly, "being of Nodhur, did you come with
these plans to Aphur, my lord?"

"You have said it." Croft turned to face her fully.

"I?" She drew herself a trifle back as if in surprise.

"Yes. Because I am _your_ lord." Croft did not hesitate now.

And suddenly he saw once more that strange, startled look of half
recognition. "_My_ lord?" Naia began and faltered and came to a pause.

"Aye--yours." Croft bent toward her. "Because I love you, Naia, Princess
of Aphur. Because you are mine, and I yours, and have been since Zitu
himself sent our two souls to dwell in the flesh. Therefore forgetting
caste and all else, came I to Aphur and to you. Caste I have overridden
and risen above. Think you I shall let Cathur stand between us?"

For one wild instant while he spoke he thought her about to answer word
for word. For she smiled. Then, she sprang swiftly to her feet and faced
him tensely erect. "Stop! Jasor of Nodhur, you forget yourself. Think you
so lightly of my plighted word, that you dare to address me thus. To
Cathur I am pledged. To a maid of Tamarizia that promise is sacred, not
to be broken or put aside, save by an act of Zitu himself--save it be
broken by death."

Croft had risen, too. "An act of Zitu," he said as she paused. "And may
not my coming to Aphur in itself be an answer to your prayer for
deliverance from the embraces of Cathur's unworthy heir?"

"My prayer? What know you--"

"I know much," Croft cut her short. "Am I dull of comprehension not to
sense the name of her who prayed to Zitu in her travail? And what should
wring such prayers from you save that defilement it is planned to bring
about, to add to Aphur's strength?"

"Were I to speak your words to Lakkon or to Jadgor, it would mean your
death."

"Then speak them--if you wish, beloved." Croft smiled.

As quickly as she had threatened, she drooped now at his words. "Who are
you--"

"One who loves you," said Croft. "Who has loved you always--who always
will. One whom you love--"

"Hold!" Once more she checked him.

But he shook his head. "What need of the sacrifice--when I shall give
Aphur and all Tamarizia that strength they would purchase now with you?"

"Yet for that strength your price would be the same."

"Nay--" Croft denied, "unless it were paid gladly."

"And if it were not?"

"Still would I give Tamarizia strength."

Suddenly Naia of Aphur smiled. To Croft it seemed that she was well
pleased with his answer. But barely had her lips parted as though for
some further reply, than the Mazzerian passed toward the outer doors of
the court.

The princess's whole expression altered. "My father comes. I cannot speak
further concerning this matter now. Did he dream of our discussion, there
would be no bounds to his wrath. Did he know that I could consider such
things, Zitu himself might not quench his rage."

"Yet will you consider them, my Naia. You will give me an answer."

"Later," she told him quickly. "I--we may not discuss it further now--my
lord."

Hours later Croft looked from the windows of his room. The evening had
been spent in a far more formal fashion than the late afternoon. Lakkon
had come in. He had welcomed his guest. Over the meal Croft had described
again his plans, to the flattering attention of his host. Naia had
lingered with them for a time, before she had gone to her room.

Now as he leaned from his window he found all the garden beneath him, the
mountain valley, the lake flooded in the light of the Palosian moons.
Drawing back he left his apartment, passed down the balcony corridor to
the small door giving onto the garden stair and ran quickly down.

The breath of flowering shrubs was about him. Choosing a path which ran
off before him he strolled along. So by degrees he approached the white
walls of the garden bath, doubly white now in the night. And having
approached them he paused. The sound of a gentle splashing came from
within.

Croft smiled. "Princess," he called softly, from beside the entrance
screen.

"Aye. Wait, Jasor of Nodhur." There came a louder sound of movement,
followed by a silence, and then: "And now my lord you may come."

Croft passed the screen. The maiden stood before him. Her hair was coiled
about her head. Her shoulders and arms showed glistening in the moonlight
from the moisture of her skin.

"Naia," said the man.

"My lord." She smiled.

"Nay--call me Jasor at least," he returned.

"Jasor," said she.

And suddenly, Croft reached out toward her and swept her into his arms.
"Mine!" he cried. "Mine! Woman whom Zitu himself has made for me."

"Hush." Her hand fell over his lips, and he felt her tremble. "Jasor, how
knew you I was here?"

"I knew not until the night called me into the garden and I heard the
sound of the water," he replied. "Then your presence told me of itself
and I spoke your name."

There was a stone seat at one end of the pool. She led him there and
seated herself at his side. "You are bold," she said, speaking quickly.
"Jasor, I came here to think. Can you truly do those things you spoke
of?"

"Do you doubt it?"

"Nay, I think not. You would do all you say--for me?"

"All and more, for you, or to save you a sorrow," Croft said.

"Think you," said she, "that Kyphallos of Aphur is aught to me?"

"No. I know you hate him, Princess--name him the beast he is."

"You know much. Yet things there may be you know not of. Listen, my lord.
My lips touched not the wine in the silver goblet the night of the
betrothal feast."

"Naia!" Croft came to his feet.

Naia of Aphur rose also. "My eyes looked into yours above the goblet,"
she said softly. "They forbade my lips to drink. Hence Jasor, this is my
answer--I am yours can you win me in time."

And now she came into his arms of her own volition. Croft found her upon
his breast, clinging to him with her slender hands, looking up into his
face. Some way his face sank to meet hers. Some way his mouth found her
lips.

Then she had torn her mouth away. "Zitu, what have I done?" she cried.
"No maid of Aphur may touch the lips of a man not of her blood, unless
she is his bride. Jasor of Nodhur, you _must_ save me--win me--now."

"Aye, I shall win you." Once more Croft claimed her lips and she did not
resist.

"Swear it," she panted when once more her lips were free. "O Zitu, swear
I shall be wholly yours. Think you I could yield to Kyphallos now? Nay--I
had rather die."

"I swear," said Croft. "And tomorrow I shall return to Himyra and my
work."

"Tomorrow." Disappointment rang in her tones. "When I have counted each
day until you should come."

"Himyra is not far in the car already made," Croft said, ignoring her
ingenuous confession. "I shall come to you again--aye, again and again."

"Yet we must be discreet," Naia exclaimed. "You must come--I _must_ see
you--but we must keep this secret in our hearts. Did Lakkon dream that
Naia had dared to break her spoken pledge--" She paused. A tremor shook
her as she leaned against him with his arm about her waist.

"You must return to your room," he urged. "Fear not. Yet when you pray,
ask of Zitu that he give me speed and knowledge in my work. And should
you not see or hear from me for a time, be sure that all I do is for you,
that you are ever in my thoughts."

"As you will be in mine. Yet before I go in now, my lord, give me again
your lips."

"Beloved!" Croft held her a final moment and saw her depart.

Quickly he went back to his own apartment and laid himself on the couch.
Then he put all else out of his mind and fixed its full power on his
task. Swiftly that conscious entity which was the real man flitted across
the Central Sea, and found itself in the palace of Scythys, the Cathurian
king. About it he prowled, invisible and unseen by the nodding palace
guards. And in it he found no sign of Scythys' son.

Once more he flitted free. To Abbu he went and found the monk asleep in a
room of the Scira pyramid. And from there he flashed to Anthra, and found
the gilded galley of the fickle youth tied up in the harbor basin, and
Kyphallos lost in dalliance with a slender and beautiful dancer. He
turned away, yet not before he learned that Kyphallos went to Niera
tomorrow, as he had promised Kalamita.

Back to his chamber and the body of Jasor of Nodhur went Croft. At least
now he was satisfied that he could watch Kyphallos and mark his every
move. And in the morning he entered the motor and ran back to Himyra
before the heat of the day. Work--work. That was to be his motto for the
golden days to come. But first he must again return to Earth.

That day, therefore, he spent in coaching Robur toward keeping the work
moving on the engines. Also he requested that he have a great shop
erected beyond the one they were using to expedite the work, and drew for
him the plans for a sort of dock, wherein motors might be installed in a
number of ships.

"Why give these to me?" Robur asked after Croft had explained.

"Since, that tonight, Rob, I shall fall into the sleep of which I have
told you."

"Zitu! You feel it upon you?"

"Yes."

"And it will last for how long a time?"

"I know not," said Croft. "It shall endure until I am possessed of the
next means for making Aphur strong. Do you remember your promise to guard
my body well?"

"It shall be well guarded."

Yet that night a sudden panic seized upon Croft. What, he asked himself,
if some unknown peril should threaten Naia while he was studying
munition-making on Earth? He sought out Gaya, and finding her alone,
explained to her as he had explained to Robur before the nature of his
coming sleep.

She heard him wide-eyed, and before she could break forth in comment
Croft went on. "But Gaya, wife of my friend, should any peril or danger
threaten Naia, daughter of Lakkon, the cousin of your lord, and I be
still asleep--come quickly to me and bend to whisper, 'Naia needs you'
and I promise I shall awake."

Gaya gave him a wide-eyed, startled glance. "Her name will rouse you from
this sleep of deathlike seeming?"

"Aye," Croft smiled. Gaya's expression had told him in a flash that she
understood. "Wife of my friend, I think her name might wake me from death
itself."

"Jasor!" Gaya cried. "My lord--can this thing be?"

"Aye."

"Yet she is pledged to Cathur." Gaya grew swiftly pale. "Jasor, my good
lord--and you love her, speak not concerning it to any other save myself.
I swear by Zitu to keep your words in my heart. Do you control your
tongue."

Croft smiled into her troubled face again. "My tongue I may control," he
declared. "But my heart can I not curb."

"Robur approves not of it, nor I," Gaya told him softly. "Love brought
Milidhur and Aphur together. But--this--this of--of other design. Jasor,
you are strong--you have thoughts above other men, and something tells me
the maid would lie happy in your arms."

Croft sprang to his feet. "You would approve it, Gaya, my sweet friend?"

"I am a woman. Naia loathes this Cathurian prince."

"And a cycle lies before us, ere he claims her for his own."

"What mean you?" Gaya half rose. Her hand lifted to her breast.

"Nay." Croft shook his head. "I cannot tell you. Yet, as you say, I am
strong, and I shall make Aphur and Tamarizia strong as myself and
stronger a thousand fold. Remember, therefore, the words I have told you
to speak, and say them close in my ear, in case any need should arise."



Chapter IX


Naia! Naia of Aphur would lie happy in his arms. And by Zitu! Some day
she should. Croft laid himself on his couch and fell into that deathlike
sleep of the body, he had learned so well to produce.

But his spirit fled across the Central Sea to Niera, willing itself into
the presence of Cathur's heir wherever he might be. He found him in the
room of a red stone palace overlooking the sea from the terraced side of
the shore on which it stood. He lay on a copper couch, covered with
silken cloth of a clear pure yellow, and he wore an expression of sullen
pique upon his face.

For he was not alone. Nor was this his private apartment as Croft
understood in a glance. It was the suite of Kalamita herself.

"Nay--think you I have no other source of information beyond your own
rosy lips, good Kyphallos, or that I know not men for what they are? This
flower of Aphur is pretty. Bzad, who has disguised himself and journeyed
to Himyra as a common sailor, has seen her. Also it comes to my ears that
you drank too deeply of the Aphurian wine. A drunkard and a pretty
fleshly toy. Zitemque himself never fashioned a stronger design for the
making of trouble and fools. Think you I cannot understand?"

Kyphallos frowned. "One would think you Gayana."

She shrugged. "Nay, I am no priestess of Ga, nor do I ask that you look
no less clay. Yet Kalamita gives not herself to be cast aside for a woman
of Aphur's choosing--or a woman of equal rank."

So that was it, thought Croft. Kyphallos quitted his couch and crossed to
her side. He caught her and raised her in his arms. "You are the fool!
Yet by Zitu, I delight to see you heated, by word of another than
yourself. Listen--and this time believe. I found myself in a trap of
Jadgor's devising. Had I refused this rite of betrothal, how think you he
would have looked upon my act? Could I allay all suspicion of those
things which shall bring you queen to Zitra's throne in better fashion
than to accept?

"Think not all the wisdom of mankind lies wrapped in your beauteous head.
Kyphallos of Cathur, is no more a fool than another. Hence I stand
pledged to Naia, of Aphur. Thus have I gained the time of a cycle for the
further perfecting of my plans."

"This is the truth?"

"Aye--as I tell you. Small need of your spies in Aphur to bring you word.
Myself, I left a spy to find out the secret of this new car which runs
itself. Aye--Cathur, too, knows how to plan."

Croft felt a thrill of humor at the words.

"And how does Cathur plan when the cycle is run out?" she inquired at
length. "What of this pledge with Aphur, then?"

"Zollaria will be ready--then."

"And if not?" she said.

"The pledge can be forsworn--and Aphur can do what she likes."

"Your father?"

"Knows not his own mind from day to day, as you yourself know. Even now
he speaks of giving me the throne."

Kalamita smiled. "Yet Bzad says Naia is very fair." She narrowed her
eyes.

"Bzad speaks truth, yet have I not come straight to you as I said on my
return?"

"Aye. Good then, my lord. Tonight shall you know Zollaria's final plans
which shall bring you to Zitra's throne." She rose and stood before him.
"Do you love me indeed, my lord?"

"Yes, by Zitu!" Kyphallos's voice was thickened. He reached out eager
hands.

"Not Kyphallos alone may pledge himself for reasons of State," she
taunted, drawing back. "I also have given my troth to another since you
left."

"You!" He sprang forward and seized her by her jewel-banded arms, holding
her in a grip she might not resist. "What mean you? Say quickly your
words are a jest, or, by Zitu and Azil, I crush in your unfaithful
breast!"

It came over Croft that the Cathurian loved her--with such love as a man
of his type could give; that this explained all he had so far heard.

But she smiled into the threatening face. "For reasons of State, my
lord."

"What?" Kyphallos caught a breath.

Kalamita loosened his grip on her arms, carried his arms downward beside
her and drew them about her form. "Plans have gone forward since you
departed for the south. When all is ready you shall invite me to
Anthra--and once in your power you shall refuse to permit my return.
Zollaria, and he to whom I am pledged, shall demand it, and still shall
you refuse. Then shall Zollaria wage war on Cathur and Cathur shall
appeal to Tamarizia for aid. And since Cathur guards the gate to the
Central Sea and her loss would spell the downfall of a thousand cycles of
power that aid may not be refused."

Kyphallos spoke. "And Cathur's unprepared army, thanks to Tamhys's
thoughts of peace, and of others before him, shall scarcely stop the
armies Zollaria has trained and armed and taught for fifty years. Then
shall Kyphallos and Kalamita mount the throne of Zitra, and--"

"Naia!" Once more the woman taunted with a smile.

"Bzad can have her, if he takes her," Kyphallos cried.

Bzad--the blue Mazzerian chief! Naia to a savage! Croft's spirit quivered
and shook with a righteous rage.

"Not an impossible fate," he heard Kalamita say, and noted a crafty light
creep into her yellow eyes. "Come, then. Let us descend. Play your part
strongly, my lord, and all, I think, shall be well."

Croft followed them downstairs to the court where a table was spread.
Save Kalamita herself the guests were wholly men. He recognized Bandhor,
her brother, and the Mazzerian Bzad. The others, plainly Zollarians and
men of Mazzer by their appearance and speech, were as yet unknown to him.
Thereafter, as the meal progressed, Croft learned the final details of
the plan.

This was Zollarian statecraft, Croft thought. She sent a royal woman of
easy morals to lure Cathur into a snare. She would make this tawny
enchantress her final excuse for war. To her Kyphallos would sell his
birthright, his state, his nation, and a place upon a secondary throne.

Croft left. He had learned all he had hoped and more. He knew now what
Tamarizia faced--war. And he knew more. He knew that Naia, of Aphur, was
his! He knew that Cathur meant to forswear her--that there would be no
need on his part to win her other than by winning this war. Turning his
mind upon the first step which should lead him to its completion, he
focused his mind upon it with all his power and left Palos for Earth.



Chapter X


Two weeks went by before he once more opened the eyes of Jasor's body and
found himself in a guarded room in the palace of Aphur's king.

He had spent them on Earth in the study of firearms and munitions and the
various devices required for making the same.

He sat up. "List, soldier, I would drink!"

"Aye, my lord." The guard turned to the door and set it open. "Wine!" he
bawled. "The Lord Jasor awakes!"

"My clothes." Croft left his couch.

Ten minutes later a rap fell on the door. Robur appeared. Word of Croft's
waking had spread. The prince himself came with a page bringing wine.
Croft drank. "I would see Jadgor at once."

"He sleeps," Prince Robur began.

"Then wake him. All Tamarizia totters to a fall unless we be ready in
less than a single cycle, Rob."

"Zitu!" Robur stared. "Say you truly. How know you this, Jasor, my
friend?"

Croft turned and pointed toward his couch. "I was told while my body lay
there. You call on Zitu in vain unless you give heed to my words!"

"Nay, not so. Come, I myself shall take you to my father without delay."

That was a strange night in Himyra of Aphur. Jadgor, no king in seeming
now, but a stern-faced man in a simple garment sat upon his couch while
Croft revealed his knowledge of what Zollaria planned.

"By Zitu!" he roared at the end. "Would Cathur dare this thing?"

"Aye--for the woman and Zitra's throne," said Croft.

"To forswear his pledge to Aphur?"

"Aye."

"To surrender his state?"

"Aye--that too, Jadgor the king."

And suddenly Jadgor was king indeed. "Then let Zilla the Destroyer take
me unless we meet them, spear to spear and sword to sword! Jasor of
Nodhur, I understand you not--nor yet how your knowledge is obtained save
Zitu speaks through you as a mouthpiece for his own designs. Wherefore I
shall once more heed your words. This falls on Aphur, Nodhur, Milidhur, I
think, with Tamhys, man of peace on Zitra's throne. Yet shall Aphur,
Nodhur, and Milidhur prepare. Inside a cycle, should we work together, we
shall have a very horde of ready spears and swords."

"Nay, scarcely that," said Croft.

"What else?"

"Stronger weapons than those, for which I bring the plans. If made in
time, a thousand men instructed in their use, can end this war almost
before it starts. Let Aphur, Milidhur, and Nodhur plan together, that
these weapons may be produced some in Himyra and some in Ladhra. The work
is vast. Yet shall the final end be sure if this is done before Zollaria
strikes. Robur and I shall undertake the carrying out of my designs, if
Jadgor gives the word."

"Then Jadgor gives it," said the king. "On Nodhur will I call and
Milidhur. No man may say that Aphur failed to think of Tamarizia's good.
Nodhur, make your weapons for this coming trial of strength, and I shall
give you moneys, metals, men--all things you may require."

Croft's heart swelled in his breast. "Then, Robur and I shall plan that
this work may start at once. Aphur, I crave your pardon for having broken
your sleep."

That was the beginning of Croft's real work. At once he plunged into a
very frenzy of action, almost appalled himself by the amount to be done
inside a year. That first night he spent with Robur drafting to his
attentive ears those things which they must do--the finishing of the
motors--their installation in ships.

"The structure for that end is well-nigh completed," Robur said.

"Good!" Croft cried, and went on swiftly to demand the construction or
appropriation of buildings for the making of arms. As to the nature of
the latter, he held back the details for the time, and spoke of preparing
a fleet of swift motor-driven galleys in which to transport the troops
they would raise across the Central Sea when the need should arise.

Robur's eyes sparkled at that. "We shall come upon them ere they dream we
can arrive. Jasor, my friend, your name shall be greatest among
Tamarizia's men."

"No greater than that of Jadgor," Croft replied. "Rob, your father is a
man above other men. None save a man of noble spirit forgets himself to
assure his nation's good."

In the month that followed Croft began the training of a number of men in
assembling the motors, choosing only such as seemed peculiarly adapted to
the work. He installed a motor in a galley and drove the craft along the
Na at a speed which had never been seen in a ship in Palos before. In
this, with Jadgor himself, and Lakkon, whom he persuaded to bring Naia
along, he journeyed on up the river to make his long-promised visit to
Jasor's parents at Ladhra and enlist Belzor, King of Nodhur, in their
plans.

Sinon and Mellia scarcely knew how to take him they thought their son.

"By Zitu! You have done it!" Sinon cried as he rode the galley across the
Na's yellow flood.

Later, loaded with honors, both by Jadgor and Belzor himself, he grew
abashed. "That my son should raise me to noble station," he faltered to
Mellia at his side. "Strange days are coming to Tamarizia, wife of my
heart, when he who was a dullard sits in the council of the kings."

For Croft had appeared before Belzor inside the first day after Ladhra
was reached. And Belzor, startled by the fact of a galley which ran up
the turgid current of the mighty river without oars or sails, had
listened to him and Jadgor and joined his support to their plans. That
settled, he arranged with Sinon to send several galleys to Himyra to be
equipped with motors, and returning to that city for a few days, dropped
down stream, entered the Central Sea, and sailed to the capital city of
Milidhur.

On this trip Gaya made one of their party, and though Croft perforce
acted as engineer, he managed more than one word with Naia during the
course of the voyage, and once the fleeting bliss of a stolen kiss.

In Milidhur, Gaya's voice helped to turn the tide to Jadgor and Croft. A
princess of state, she brought all her influence to bear. And since
Milidhur was asked only to form a part of the army, to be equipped before
Zollaria struck, the matter was soon arranged.

Day and night the fire of creation flared in Himyra, and so soon as work
was started, and he had shown Robur how to keep busy the many men Jadgor
had furnished for their needs, Croft put some of the new motors into
commission between Himyra and Ladhra and started other work there, in a
mighty building set apart by Belzor for his use. Those necessary bits of
machinery first installed in the Himyra shops he had made, like the motor
parts were now made, in numbers.

Sinon's first galley up the Na carried as its cargo partly assembled
engines of queer design to a Palosian mind, which should when set up in
the shops at Ladhra fulfil their portion of Croft's plan. Thereafter the
fires of the new era flared in Ladhra, too, and Croft spent his time
between the two shops, motoring back and forth mainly at night.

Twenty of the hundred cars which were gradually taking shape he set
apart, however, after they were tested--and these he had equipped with
all-metal wheels carrying crossbars on their tires like short, strong
teeth. He put workmen to the task of making metal walls to bolt upon each
chassis. And these walls were pierced with slots. Thus he arranged for
twenty armored cars and had them set aside. Likewise he speeded the
construction of numbers of flat-bottomed power boats capable of speed,
yet having floor space enough to transport no small number of men.

A month passed, two months, three. Machines were assembled and set
up--motors were harnessed to them to Robur's amazement. Croft found the
Tamarizians apt of comprehension and willing to work. At the end of three
months he found himself the supreme captain of a picked corps. And at the
end of a month he was ready to begin the actual making of arms.

Now and then Croft went back to his Earthly body, not only to renew its
physical life, but to gain help in the work he was carrying on by
learning fresh details on each trip. He gave up any intention of
manufacturing machine guns, as a thing requiring too much time. On an
average, he spent two days of every week on Earth. His sleeps on Palos
had become too frequent to cause any further comment when they occurred.
Thus a fourth month passed.

In it Croft accomplished several things. He did not stop motor production
with the first hundred. He continued their building and began selling the
output of the shops to private owners. The things became a not too
unusual site on the Himyra streets, and the first motor caravan was
organized and crossed the inland desert to Milidhur with success.

One special car Croft had built. On it he lavished all his present
ability of refinement. And when it was done he drove it to Lakkon's
mountain mansion in the twilight of a busy day. It was for Naia, and
himself he gave it to her; and after the evening meal, when the three
moons rose, he placed her in it and taught her how to drive.



Chapter XI


At the end of the fourth month, the first rifle was done. It was an
odd-appearing affair. Tempered copper took the place of steel in barrel
and other metal parts. Copper formed the shell for the ammunition, over
which Croft had experienced more trouble than in anything else. Lead was
very scarce on Palos, but there were vast quantities of gold. That
explained the enormous use made of it in draperies and the common trades
as he had learned.

Yet it was with some compunction due to the opposite conditions on Earth
and their life-long effect on his brain that he finally hit on an alloy
from which the bullets were made. Powder had troubled him, too--though in
the end he managed to make it. And for the fulminating centers of his
cartridge complete, was compelled to spend several days on Earth.

In the end, however, he held the first completed weapon in his hands, and
taking Robur in a car, he drove out along the south road to a place
where he knew vast flocks of water fowl were wont to frequent the Na.

As a boy he had been a good shot, until such time as he waked in his soul
a repugnance for killing the natural creatures the One Great Source had
made, save as necessity arose.

He gestured to the wild fowl floating on the yellow water more than a
bowshot away. "Now watch, Rob," he said, and took the rifle in his hands.

"Had we not better draw a little closer, Jasor, my friend?"

"No." On the word, Croft fired. He chose a bird swimming to one side. And
hard on the sound of his shot that bird jerked in the spasmodic fashion
of a sorely stricken thing, struggled for an instant and floated away,
half sunk in the yellow tide.

The entire flock rose and swarmed across the sky. Pumping up a fresh
cartridge, Croft lifted his rifle swiftly, chanced another hit--and
scored. One of the flying creatures spun dizzily over and over, to fall
not far from where the two men stood in the car.

"Zitu! Zitu!" Robur exclaimed, springing from the machine to retrieve the
fallen bird. Croft watched him run toward it in very unprincelike haste.
Then he was coming back with the dead thing in his hands, staring
wide-eyed at the drops of blood on its feathers, lifting his face with a
strange expression to Croft as he climbed back to his seat.

"Are you convinced, Rob?" Croft laid the rifle aside.

"I am convinced Zitu himself but uses you as his agent. These things
never came from a mortal brain alone."

"Man comes by Zitu's will. Why should not Zitu use man for the things it
pleases him to do?"

"You do not deny it?" Robur spoke in almost startled fashion.

"Nay. Have I not already said that all I did was by Zitu's grace? Think
you not Zollaria will stand in awe of our weapons when they are in the
hands of our men, on foot or mounted in the cars I have armored and
pierced with holes for the barrels of the rifles?"

"Aye, by Zitu!" Robur shouted. "Turn around Jasor--and 'let her out.' We
must return to our work."

But that night Croft drove out to the mountains, taking his rifle along.
Others were being assembled now, and he had seen Jadgor himself and
arranged for the beginning of the army they must raise. The thing would
be started by a public demonstration, at which Croft should show the
power of the new weapon. The men of Aphur, and Nodhur, and Milidhur would
be invited to join. To each who did so a rifle would be given wholly as
his property for all time to come, and a certain wage would be given also
while they were being trained.

Fired by the thought, Croft asked for a copy of the Tamarizian alphabet,
found it not unlike the ancient Maya inscriptions in Central America and
had taken it to the ship and set his pattern makers to forming molds for
the making of type. He intended printing proclamations of the coming call
for volunteers and posting them about the streets.

Thus to his inventions he added the printing press, crude, and for large
work only at first, but printing none the less. Now at the end of the
day, Croft was speeding forth to show the woman he loved the thing which
should win for them their heart's desire, and wreck Zollaria's plans.

Lakkon himself met him as he descended at the door. Despite his resolve,
Croft's visits were growing more and more frequent and Lakkon was not a
fool.

"My lord," he said, giving his hand, "what brings you again thus soon?"

Croft drew himself up. "Success," he returned. "I came but to prove to
you the power of the first of the new weapons we have made. And having
done so, I shall return to Himyra so soon as I may."

"Nay." A troubled expression waked in Lakkon's eyes. "Take not my words
amiss." He seemed suddenly abashed. "The weapon does all you said?"

"Aye. I shall show you and the princess, if I may."

Lakkon's eyes flashed. "What do you require?"

Croft glanced about. Below him near the lake in a mountain meadow were
some of the strange sheep-like cattle, knee deep in grass. He gestured
toward them with his hand. "Permission to slay one of those."

"Granted, so be you can do it," Lakkon smiled. The distance was twice the
range of any bow.

Croft reflected the smile as he made answer. "If the princess may be
summoned." He turned and took the rifle from the car.

Lakkon eyed it with unconcealed interest. He called the Mazzerian from
within the door and directed that Naia be bidden to appear.

While they waited, Croft opened the magazine and extracted a bullet. He
was explaining it to Lakkon when Naia hurried forth. "A powder within the
shell furnishes the power to propel the ball in the end," he finished in
time to greet her. "And now, Prince Lakkon, to take you at your word." He
lifted the shining barrel.

"What would you do?" Naia exclaimed.

"Behold," said Croft, and fired.

Far below in the meadow one of the woolly creatures appeared to stumble,
to stagger a pace or two forward before it sank into the grass.

"Zitu!" came Lakkon's voice.

Croft smiled.

Naia approached. Slowly she put forth a finger and touched the shining
thing in Croft's hands. "This is the new weapon?" she said in a sibilant
whisper, and lifted her face to his.

"Aye. And having shown Lakkon its power, I must return to Himyra."

"Return?" she cried protestingly. "Must you go so soon, my lord?"

"The need presses," Lakkon cut in. "Lord Jasor came but to show us the
last fruits of his wonderful knowledge. I called to you witness the test.
You need not remain.

"You see," he went on as Naia turned with a quivering lip and slowly
mounted the stairs.

"What?" Croft met him eye to eye.

"That my daughter is a woman, Jasor of Nodhur, and that your name is a
word on every tongue in Aphur, and that the princess is pledged to
Cathur."

"Who will forswear his pledge."

"If your words be true."

"You doubt them?"

"Nay--yet Lakkon is a name of honor, and pledge is a pledge until broken
indeed."

"And should it be so broken?"

"Aphur would refuse you nothing."

Croft laughed as he sprang into his seat. "Forget not those words, Prince
Lakkon," he flung back as he started the car.

He drove to the palace, found Gaya, and told her the whole thing from
beginning to end.

"You mean that the maiden loves you?" she cried.

"Aye," Croft said.

"You have told her of your love?"

"Aye." Croft inclined his head.

"You are mad!"

"Nay--I am in love. It comes to the same thing." Croft smiled.

"Ga and Azil help you both," Gaya returned. "I can do nothing. And--you
must not imperil her honor, my lord. But--I shall make it my task to see
her and explain the manner of your return tonight, and," her color
deepened swiftly, "to assure her of your love."

"Thank you, sweet Gaya." He bent and gripped her hand.

For the rest, as the days and weeks dragged away, Croft sought to drown
himself in attention to his work. There were no labor troubles in Aphur.
The State fixed the scale of wages, and those who would not work were
summarily sent to the mines to dig the metals needed by their more
energetic fellow citizens. Thus the fifth month passed.

Rifles were being turned forth in a glittering array at Himyra and Ladhra
and stored with their ammunition for the time of need. Croft finished his
printing press and struck from it the first bulletins which should appeal
to the men of three states to come to their country's need.

The bulletins were posted in Aphur, Nodhur, and Milidhur, and in the
capital of each state a public demonstration of the new army weapon was
held by a picked squad of Jadgor's royal guards whom Croft had taught to
shoot. At each a heard of taburs was slaughtered, singly and in groups.
All southwest Tamarizia gasped. The word flew from mouth to mouth. The
stories fired men's hearts. They flocked to the captains of the city
guards.

Croft began teaching the royal guard and the guard of Himyra, the school
of the company and squad, marksmanship and a simple manual of arms. They
learned quickly and inside a month he sent many of them as special
instructors to all Aphur and the other southern states. Thus far things
had progressed to the end of the ninth month, when the imperial throne at
Zitra interfered. A messenger arrived, commanding Jador and all others
responsible for the warlike activity in Aphur and Nodhur to appear before
Tamhys with the least possible delay.



Chapter XII


The thing was not unexpected to Croft. From the start he had feared
some such event. Hence, without offering explanation to Jadgor, he had
taken steps to convince Magur of Himyra of the deathlike stupor in which
his body lay at such times as he was absent from it.

He had gone on once occasion to the pyramid and deliberately left Jasor's
form sitting in a chair, while he projected himself to Scira and found
out Abbu, now for some months engaged in keeping watch on the moves of
Cathur's prince. Returning to find Magur standing above him in something
like awe, he had told exactly what Abbu was doing at the time, and
requested Magur to verify his words in any fashion he chose.

Now, faced by the imperial interference with all his plans, he called
Magur to his aid. He took him to Zitra, with Jadgor, Lakkon and himself,
making the journey quickly in a motor-driven craft and taking the
messenger along.

Croft marveled at Zitra, despite all he had seen of Tamarizian
architecture before. It rose crystal and silver and white, save that the
temple of Zitu, surmounting a pyramid twice the size of that at Himyra
was of an azure-blue stone--the color of the highest priesthood as he was
to learn. The palace of Tamhys was a marvel to they eye--vaster than
Himyra's mighty structure--built wholly of white and crystal and roofed
with burnished silver, paved with alternate squares of silver, and
crystal, and gold.

The thing was unbelievable, Croft felt. He moved as in a dream. This was
the central city of empire, impregnable to any weapon then known on
Palosian soil.

Magur watched him, well pleased. His pleasure grew as Croft turned and
faced the monstrous pile of the pyramid and the pure blue temple on the
top. They landed, and while the wharfmen were unloading a motor which
Croft had brought as a present for Tamhys, and the messenger hurried to
the palace to announce their arrival, he led Croft to one side.

"I would have you meet Zud, High Priest of all Tamarizia," he said. "We who
keep alive the love of Zitu in the hearts of the nation are not devoid of
all material power, my friend."

Croft inclined his head. "I also serve Zitu in my way," he declared. "I
should be honored to enter the presence of him he has seen fit to exalt
to so high a degree."

An armed guard appeared, escorting a number of gnuppa-drawn chariots. At
the invitation of a noble in glistening cuirass and helmet, the party
from Himyra entered the cars and drove toward the palace through the
streets paved in broad, flat stones. Croft, however, insisted on driving
the motor he had brought, and with him went Magur, the priest.

Tamhys would grant them audience that evening, it appeared.

Magur smiled. He beckoned the noble to his side. "Then will Jasor of
Nodhur, who sits before me, visit first on Zud," he announced. "Say this
to Tamhys, when you reach the palace with Lakkon of Aphur and Jadgor,
Aphur's king."

The man saluted and withdrew without question. Once more, Magur smiled.
Croft started the engine and moved off in the wake of the gnuppas that he
might not frighten them out of their wits. "Turn here," said Magur after
a time. Inside ten minutes they stopped in front of the main approach to
the mighty pyramid.

Magur told of what he had seen and of what he had heard. The high priest
eyed him when he finished. "Magur believes these things?" he inquired.

"Aye, as in Zitu I believe." Magur inclined his head.

"That these things are of Zitu, through Jasor of Nodhur's mind?"

"Aye, Zud, servant of Zitu, so I believe."

Zud turned his eyes from the priest to Croft and back. "First came he to
you, at Himyra, from Abbu the brother at Scira," he recited Magur's
words.

"Aye."

"As a servant of Zitu's undreamed designs to come."

"Zud speaks the words present in my mind."

"Before the audience my request to be present shall reach Tamhys," Zud
decided. "And now, Jasor of Nodhur, how come you by the knowledge of
things undreamed?"

"My body lies as dead. In truth, my spirit leaves it. And, while absent,
acquires the knowledge with which it returns."

"As a voice?" said Zud.

"Nay, as something shown to me, together with the manner in which it may
be made."

Zud rose and lifted his hands. "Who may understand Zitu?" he intoned.
Croft felt he was convinced.

Hence when he stood that night before the white-haired Tamhys, he felt a
quiet assurance born of the belief that Magur and Zud, both present, were
his friends, and they were the friends of his cause.

"Jadgor of Aphur," Tamhys began. "I have now summoned you before me,
since for some time I have had you beneath my eye. You have married your
son to a princess of Milidhur, and within half a cycle you have betrothed
your sister's child to Cathur, and Belzor of Nodhur and yourself are
friends. Thus only Bithur seems not swayed in more or less degree by
those wishes which are yours, and you wax strong in power. Why have you
done these things?"

"Tamhys of Tamarizia," Jadgor replied, "these things I do not deny. Robur
of Aphur wedded the Princess Gaya for love. Nodhur's interests are one
with Aphur, since both possess the Na within their lines. Naia has
plighted her troth to Kyphallos of Aphur at my wish to make strong the
guard of the western gate and assure to Tamarizia those things she
holds."

But Tamhys frowned. "This is not all. It has come to my ear that you have
in Himyra a man--Jasor of Nodhur--who now stands before me--a man who
works new marvels undreamed of before--that some of them are weapons,
designed for the work of war--that Aphur and Nodhur and Milidhur increase
the men in their guards to an unwarranted degree. What say you to this?"

"That you have heard the truth, O Tamhys," Jadgor again replied. "These
things have been made. The guards have been increased. These things also
have I done to make Tamarizia strong."

The lines of Tamhys's countenance contracted further. "You are a man of
power, Jadgor of Aphur," he cried. "Power is beneath your nostrils. Hence
you dream of war. Yet is war not of my creed, nor shall be. For fifty
cycles has Tamarizia known peace--"

"Aye--and fifty cycles past lost she the State of Mazhur, because she
knew not the art of war--as she knows it now," Jadgor flared. "Is she to
lose Cathur now as well?"

Tamhys smiled as one might at a child. "Jadgor of Aphur, the warning I
have received concerning your aims comes to me from the loyal house of
Cathur itself. You think, perhaps, to win Mazhur back."

"And if I should--I should make Tamarizia whole again!"

As for Croft, he felt assured he understood the situation better now.
Cathur of Zollaria's prompting thus sought through the peace-loving
Tamhys to tie the hands of Tamarizia while Zollaria made ready for the
blow she expected to strike ere long. He said as much to Magur, who
repeated it to Zud.

Tamhys smiled again. "Should you attempt it, you would send our sons to
death for a little ground. Let be, Jadgor. Hold we not the western gate
as always? Are the wails of dying men and the sobs of women things grown
sweet to your ears?"

"Nay, but if Cathur falls--if Zollaria makes war and we cannot defend
what yet remains of our ground?"

"Would Zollaria have waited fifty years to make war had she it in mind?"

"Then what does Tamhys wish?" Jadgor inquired, with a sigh.

"That you cease those unwise undertakings--that you send the men from the
shops of their making back to their fathers' trades. That you cease to
dream of war and pursue the ways of peace in which we have prospered in
the past. That you turn Jasor of Nodhur's mind to other things than the
making of the instruments of destruction. I have heard he has builded
chariots which run seemingly of themselves, and galleys which propel
themselves up rivers and across the seas. Those things are well. Jadgor,
I command that you forsake--"

"Hold, Tamhys!" It was Zud, the High Priest, who spoke. "Truth you have
been told, yet not all the truth as it appears. None know the plans of
Zitu save Zitu himself. A priest, I am as yourself, a man of peace. Yet
Zitu himself may send a war at times to, like a sorrow, purge the soul of
the nation and recall it to him, even as a grief may turn the soul of a
man to higher things. Jasor of Nodhur was a dullard till Zitu opened his
mind. He died as his physician declares, yet now he lives again, and
speaks with a mind inspired.

"Himself he says these things are delivered unto him while his body lies
as dead. This I have from Magur of Himyra who has seen him in such a
sleep, and Magur has the account of his changing from Abbu of Scira who
administered to him the last rites of life, ere he seemingly died. Hence
Zitu's hand appears in this to the minds of Magur and myself. Shall
Tamhys seek to interfere when Zitu directs?"

For the first time the emperor wavered in his course. "If he comes as an
agent of Zitu, why came he not first to Zitra?"

Zud smiled. "Zitu acts many times through the means at hand. It were
easier to convince the mind of Jador perhaps than to persuade Tamhys."

The emperor winced, and turned to Jadgor again. "Swear to me by Zitu that
your acts were meant for Tamarizia's welfare and for no advancement of
self through an increase of your power."

Jadgor's color mounted, but he controlled his voice. "I swear it, O
Tamhys."

"These weapons are for Tamarizia's defense alone?"

"As Zitu sees my heart."

Tamhys chose a middle course. "Keep, then, what you have," he decreed.
"Yet fashion not any more. Nor urge your men to look for war, when peace
is in their land. I have heard of strange writings posted on walls,
inviting men to join your guards."

Jadgor's face was dark, but he bowed in submission to the emperor's
command. "What of the men who stand pledged at present?" he asked. "I
have promised them a stated wage for a cycle. It is understood. My word
has passed."

"At the end of the cycle, let them be dismissed," said Tamhys after some
thought.

Again Jadgor bowed.

Yet Croft found himself not unduly cast down, and he thought he caught a
smile in Lakkon's eyes. Suspecting some such event as had just
transpired, he had instructed Robur to speed the assembling of all rifles
both at Himyra and at Landhra, before leaving for Zitra himself.

Tamhys's decision regarding such weapons as already existed he determined
to accept in its broadest sense of application, and as for the dismissal
of the guards now in process of training at the end of a cycle, he knew
full well that they would probably not be needed after that time.

Tamhys was old--wedded to a theory. He carried his desire for peace even
into this conference to which he had called the men before him, and
reached a useless compromise which made small difference to Croft's
plans. When reported to Cathur and by Cathur given to other ears, this
would result in no more than a determination on Zollaria's part to carry
out her intent. This since she would now believe she had tied Jadgor's
hands.

He said as much to Jadgor and Lakkon once they were alone, and for the
first time Jadgor appeared pleased.

"Nor," said Croft, "has Tamhys forbidden the construction of _other_
weapons, my friends."

"Hai!" Jadgor's tight lips relaxed. "By Zitu! So he did not. Jasor--you
have other things in mind."

Croft nodded. With powder and plenty of metal, it would not be impossible
to construct some very effective forms of grenades. He explained, and
Jadgor's eyes flashed fire.



Chapter XIII


The morrow saw them on their return journey to Himyra, with Croft pushing
his engine top speed. He wanted to get back and to work on the grenades
at once. His knowledge gained through his unsensed presence at the
council at Niera months before made him believe that Zollaria would throw
her entire weight on Cathur's northern frontier, while Mazzeria attacked
Bithur and possibly eastern Milidhur.

From a second motor-shop established at Ladhra and equipped with men
trained in the Himyra plant he had already sent a motor-fleet to the
capital of Gaya's home state for the rapid transport of troops to the
frontier in case of need. He had organized a fleet of motor-driven marine
transports to take men from Aphur and Nodhur to Bithur's aid. This
expedition was to be led by Robur in person, and with him Croft had
outlined each step so far as he could. They would proceed up that river
promised Mazzeria for her aid in the war of conquest Zollaria planned,
and debarking near the frontier, carry the war straight to the foe.

As for himself, he planned with Jadgor to cross the Central Sea almost
due north, capture Niera, and penetrate the State of Mazhur, thereby
establishing a dangerous flank movement which, if successful, would
result in withdrawing the Zollarian army operating against Cathur's
frontier. Two of his armored motors would go with the Milidhurian
expedition and two with Robur against the blue men of Mazzer. The other
sixteen would accompany the expedition north. These things he now
explained to Jadgor, Lakkon, and Magur while they rushed back to the
capital of Aphur.

Jadgor smiled and turned to the priest. "It appears Zitu has sent us a
general as well as a genius of design," he exclaimed. "If Zitu inspires
not his mind directly, then he is the most wonderful man Tamarizia has
seen."

"Raised up for Tamarizia's hour of great need, O Jadgor," Magur declared.

Croft plunged into a frenzy of work on his return. He explained it all to
Robur, saw him thoroughly versed in the making of the grenades, leaped
into his car and drove to Ladhra to begin operations there. Two weeks
elapsed while he was getting everything to his satisfaction.

He returned to Himyra late one afternoon, drove to the shops, saw
everything running smoothly, listened to the reports of Robur, and drove
on to the palace to bathe and rest for an hour. Fresh from his bath, he
was suddenly minded to seek Gaya and learn if there were any word from
Naia, such as she frequently sent him by Robur's wife.

He found her awaiting Robur's return, and proffered his request.

That Gaya was glad to see him there could be no doubt. "My lord, your
coming lightens my heart," she declared after Croft had greeted her by
sinking on one knee. "The maid sent you her farewell, and asked that I
say, 'Tell him to forget not his promise.' She did not explain, yet I
have felt you would know the meaning of her words."

"Her farewell? By Zitu, Gaya, my friends, what meant she by that?"

"You know not of her absence from Aphur? You have not heard?"

"I have heard nothing. I cam to you for word."

"Aye. Some days ago an escort came from Cathur, asking that the maid and
Lakkon, her father, visit Scira, in order that Kyphallos might present
his bride-to-be to his people before he ascended the throne."

"Kyphallos on the throne of Cathur!"

"Scythys has died," Gaya said. "Wherefore, despite the fact that the
cycle of betrothal has not run out, Kyphallos craves the privilege of
entertaining Naia and her father, and assuring his people that he has
chosen a worthy queen as his consort on the throne."

"And--and she--and they--have gone?" Croft stammered as he spoke.

"Aye." Gaya looked into his eyes. "Jasor, what does it portend?"

"That I know not, yet shall I ascertain. Gaya, my sweet woman, how long
have they been gone?"

"This is the third day since they departed, my lord."

"They went--how?"

"In the ship which brought the escort--one Kyphallos sent."

"The day after tomorrow they arrive. So then there is time."

"Time? Time for what, Jasor?"

"Tonight I shall sleep," Croft told her frankly. "And while I sleep I
shall learn what is the true intent of this sudden desire on Kyphallos'
part to show Cathur their queen."

Gaya's eyes grew wide. "You shall sleep--as you sleep to learn?"

"Yes." Croft smiled. "And I shall learn, wife of my friend."

But, despite his confident tone, he was more than a little disturbed as
he sought his own rooms that night and stretched himself on his couch.

At first, he went to the cell of Abbu in the Scira pyramid to learn, if
he might, what Abbu was about.

He found him speaking with a brother priest--was half-minded to leave,
yet lingered, held by the first remark of the unknown monk.

"A nice time for Kyphallos to be at Niera, with his promised queen
approaching Scira on the sea."

"He will return in time to greet her," Abbu said.

"Yet I like not his frequent journeyings to Niera, nor his association
with the Zollarian nobles who make it their resort. Nor does Cathur like
it overly well."

Abbu frowned. "Nor does Cathur like the stories which come back from
Anthra concerning the things which occur there in the palace."

Croft left. At least, he thought, Abbu was attending to his duties as
Aphur's spy in so far as he might. And Cathur was muttering against their
soon-to-be king. He smiled and willed himself to Niera, since now it
appeared the Cathurian profligate was once more there. He would be,
almost without doubt, in the presence of Kalamita of the tawny eyes and
hair.

And it was with her and her brother and Bzad, the Mazzerian chief, he
found him, in a room of that palace overlooking the Central Sea. They sat
together in a low-toned conversation.

Kalamita stretched her supple length like a cat about to yawn, and turned
a slow smile on the Cathurian prince.

"So then," she said, "it is all thought out. You men, with your spears
and swords, are far stronger than subtle, my lords. Leave the subtlety to
a woman in your plans."

"I see no chance of failure in this, I confess," Bzad spoke as she
paused.

"Not unless you bungle."

"I?" Bzad growled. "By Adita, goddess of beautiful women, I shall make no
mistake. See, I shall repeat it step by step. On the fourth day after the
princess arrives, Kyphallos of Cathur invites her and her father to visit
Anthra, and they take the ship the next day. Meanwhile I place my galley
under the cover of Anthra and wait. At the same hour they set sail I slip
forth. Midway we meet and I sail close in passing. A collision seeming
imminent, in the confusion a wrong order is given on board Kyphallos'
galley. The prow of my galley strikes his ship as it seeks to cross my
bows through turning in the wrong direction. Kyphallos and the maid are
saved. Lakkon drowns, and any surviving sailors on board the Cathurian
ship are destroyed, so that none shall survive to tell what happened
really.

"I sail to Scira and put Kyphallos ashore. We tell a story of disaster in
which all perished save only him. According to it, this Naia died with
her father. I sail away. She is mine."

"Thereafter," Bandhor spoke for the first time, "our good lord Kyphallos
shall come to Anthra, after a period of mourning, and invite our sister
to visit him for a time. But upon her desiring to leave he shall refuse.
A man of her ship's crew shall escape Anthra in a boat and bring tidings,
whereupon him to whom she is pledged shall lay the affair before the
emperor himself. Our army shall be ready. An expedition shall proceed to
Anthra to rescue Kalamita. In the meantime, Kyphallos shall have taken
her to Cathur, and have concealed her--placing her in the sanctuary of
Ga, where the vestals will have her in charge. Then shall Zollaria
attack, and Mazzer. Tamarizia, finding herself assailed on all sides,
shall break like the crushed-in shell of an egg!" He contracted the
fingers of a mighty hand until they were flexed in his palm. "Thus it
shall be."



Chapter XIV


Once in the flesh again, conscious of all he had seen and heard, Croft
sprang from his couch and dressed. He would go to the capital of Cathur
as quickly as his swiftest motor galley might take him, and get in touch
with Abbu and through him with Naia. The girl should never embark for
Anthra on the Prince of Cathur's craft.

Leaving the palace, he entered his car, kept in the court now always for
any emergency, and drove straight to the dock on the Na, where the fleet
of motor craft were kept busy. Here he selected a galley, one of the
latest models he had prepared, sent runners to rout out the crew and
order them aboard, ready to sail at once.

From the dock he drove to the ships, flaring with light as the night
shift worked, called one of his most expert motor builders to one side,
and directed him to report aboard the galley as quickly as he might. To
him, he gave authority to open a warehouse and provision the boat for a
voyage of some days, and instructions to bring it to the quay below the
palace so soon as ready to sail.

Then he went back to the palace itself, and sent a nodding guard to rouse
Robur and ask him to come to Croft's rooms. He waited there in a vast
impatience until the door opened to admit Aphur's crown prince.

"Rob--I've slept--one of my certain sleeps. Gaya told you, I suppose."

Robur nodded. "Yes. And you have learned, Jasor--what?"

Croft told him, and Robur swore a strong Aphurian oath. "They plan that,
do they? By Zitu, Jasor, I am with you in whatever you mean to do."

Croft shook his head. "Nay, Rob, my friend. Your place is here--to
general the Bithurian expedition when it is time. Mine is the duty to the
maid."

"You love her."

"Aye."

Robur put forth a hand. "Azil be kind to you and her. What have you
planned?"

Croft explained his intent in a very few words. "I await now the lights
of the galley at the quay below," he finished. "I desire to slip forth
unknown to any save the guards. Will you drive me down with what arms I
shall take?"

"Aye," said Aphur's heir. "You can reach Scira how soon?"

"In two days--the day after Naia and Lokkon arrive. Drive now with me to
Magur. He must lend me a priestly robe."

"Come!" Robur's eyes flashed. Once more he smiled. "A priest shall reach
Scira, my friend? He shall go to the pyramid. I understand."

The two men left the palace, entered the car, and crossed the bridge,
swung into position on Robur's order. They stopped before the pyramid and
hammered on the door. A sleepy priest admitted them at last and sent them
up on the primitive lift to Magur's lofty apartments. Magur himself
appeared in the end, blinking sleepily with startled eyes when he faced
Croft and Robur himself.

Croft explained.

Magur gave him a glance little short of admiration. "I am convinced.
Wait, and this matter shall be arranged." He turned away. In five minutes
he was back with a dark-brown robe and hood, not unlike a cowl, also a
pair of leather sandals and a cord with which to belt the robe about the
waist. These he placed in Croft's hands, and raised his own. "Zitu go
with ye, my son," he spoke in a formal blessing. "Should he favor ye on
this mission, what shall ye do with the maid? Her return to Himyra would
cause a clacking of tongues."

"I have thought of that, O Magur," Croft replied. "The maid shall go to
Zitra so quickly as she may. There Zud himself shall see her in sanctuary
in the quarters of the virgins, until this thing has passed, unless you
have better to suggest. Thus it is Zollaria plans to hide Kalamita in
Scira. I am minded to turn their own trick upon themselves."

Magur smiled. "Thy plan is worthy of one of your mind. Go then, and may
Ga, the pure mother, use you to guard the maid."

The galley lights glared red in the night at the quay as Croft and Robur
drove back across the bridge which opened behind them span by span. All
was ready now save the arms and ammunition. Working in haste at the
palace, the prince and Croft collected those and took them down to the
ship.

"You shall win, my friend," said Robur as he clasped hands with Croft.

Croft smiled somewhat grimly. "I shall win, Rob," he returned, "or you
need not look for me back."

Then he was off, dropping down the Na, passing the high-reared barrier of
the walls, and once past those, opening the motor and speeding down the
mighty yellow flood to the sea.

A day passed, two days, and night came down. Far to the front the lights
of Scira lifted above the waters. Croft called his crew and gave them
their instructions in detail. They were to stay by the ship, were to be
ready to start at once. Then, to their amaze, he slipped on the priests
robe over his cuirass and sword, and appeared before them thus as they
approached the harbor gates. The standard of Aphur broke out at the
galley's stern. They passed inside unchallenged and moored at the quay.
To the harbor master--a huge Cathurian captain--Croft said merely that he
was a priest come on a mission from Magur to the pyramid, and stepped
ashore.

And knowing Scira as he did, he arrived in due time and without incident
at the pyramid portals and rapped for admission, asking for Abbu as soon
as he was inside. Then--he was in Abbu's cell, fumbling with his robe and
casting it from him, to stand in gold and silver harness before the
monk's staring eyes.

"My lord--my lord!" faltered the priest.

"Hold." Croft lifted his hand. "Strange things are forward in Scira. What
know you of them, Abbu, who have acted as Aphur's eyes?"

"Yesterday the prince returned from Niera to greet the Aphurian maid he
is to wed," Abbu replied. "It was a holiday occasion. The streets swarmed
with people."

"Think you Kyphallos intends to lead Naia to the throne?" Croft snapped.

"Zitu!" Abbu lifted his hands in the sign of the cross. "Is it not so
pledged, Jasor?"

"Aye--by the lips, yet not by the heart," said Croft. Swiftly he told the
staring monk those things he had learned.

"Zitu would not permit this," Abbu mumbled at the last.

"Nay. Hence am I here. Listen, Abbu the priest. What I do, I do by the
grace of Zitu--and with his consent. You who have sworn to help me in
Zitu's name must gain access to this maid. Say to her what is to be. Say
to her thus when you have told her all else as a sign: 'Jasor has not
forgotten.' Hearing this, she will believe. Say to her then that on the
night after you have spoken to her she shall desire to speak with a
priest from the holy pyramid, to receive a blessing before she is
presented to Cathur's people. She shall prefer her request of Kyphallos
himself, and insist that it be granted.

"She shall specify the priest Abbu, whom she knows. I shall then go to
her in the palace. Instruct her that her father shall be with her when I
arrive. Thereafter shall we contrive a way out of the palace and to the
boat I hold waiting for her escape. Say not to her that I shall come in
your place. That she will learn when I appear. Now give me a place to
sleep, and when you see her state these facts concerning Kyphallos' plan
as things of your own knowledge, confessing to her that you have acted as
Aphur's eyes for well nigh a whole cycle past."

Abbu bowed, "Indeed," he said, "I believe you speak truth, O Jasor, and
with Zitu's help I shall do all you say. Take my pallet for your slumber.
I shall pray through the night for your success to Zitu himself."

Throughout the next day, Croft lay hid. Abbu brought him food in the
morning and disappeared. Only late in the day when the monk returned was
he to learn how he had managed his task.

"My lord, there was a pageant in honor of her, of Aphur and her father,"
he explained. "The civic guard and that of the palace marched before
them, while the people watched, and you know that it is a custom for the
lay brothers of the pyramid to solicit alms. So with my little earthen
jar I passed among the people, and after a time I approached the raised
station where Aphur's princess sat, and lifting my little jar I cried to
her as Cathur's queen-to-be that she give freely to Cathur's temple. A
guard about the noble party angrily bade me be off.

"I lifted my voice in protest, crying again to that beautiful woman for
alms. She heard me, my lord. She has a gentle heart. 'Hold,' said she to
the guard. 'Let the priest approach.' Thus, my lord, I gained her side,
and she gave me pieces of silver enough to fill my jar, compelling all
her party to contribute freely.

"And when that had been done she asked me of our temple, and I told her
concerning it, and called a blessing upon her, and contrived to whisper
that I had an important message, meant for her ears alone.

"The maid, my lord, is quick of comprehension. She turned to the prince
himself. 'This priest finds favor with me,' she said. 'I would speak with
him further. It may be that I shall select him for my own spiritual
instructor once I am Cathur's queen.'

"Kyphallos smiled, my lord. 'As you will, my princess,' he replied, and I
think he suspected nothing.

"Then the maid turned back to me and set a time for me to come to her at
the palace on the morrow in the morning. Is it well, my lord?"

"It is well," said Croft. "Yet there is more for you to do. Provide me a
second robe such as Magur gave me which I wore here, and arrange for a
carriage to be waiting tomorrow night on the street from the palace to
the harbor. Do this in time that I may know the driver's name, when I
shall come upon him, and so calling him identify myself as the man for
whom he is employed. Here--" He drew a pouch and placed silver in Abbu's
hand. "Pay the man well, and tell him to look for as much beyond what you
give him if he serves me without fail. Also provide me a standard of
Cathur's colors, such as are used on ships."

The latter request was due to a sudden thought which had popped into
Croft's mind, and evoked a tight-lipped smile. He had conceived a way to
throw consternation into the camp of his foes.



Chapter XV


And when night came down once more on Scira he was ready. Once he had
ventured forth, gone to the harbor, in seeming a priest, and conferred
with the captain of his ship, telling him to be prepared to sail on the
word that night.

Back in the pyramid he waited Abbu's coming with what patience he could.
The monk came about noon. "All things are ready, my lord, so far as time
permits," he made his report.

"You saw the maid?"

"Aye."

"And what said she?"

"At first, she was amazed, bewildered, I think, as was her father, whom
she summoned after I had told my tale, that I might relate it again to
his ears. That was after I said to her the words you told me to repeat.
Hearing them, she believed and called Prince Lakkon at once. His anger
was great. He was for carrying the thing to Kyphallos himself and
compelling him to admit or deny. But--both the maid and I prevailed upon
him to see that by so doing he would destroy not only himself but her. In
the end, they agreed to summon me to the palace as soon as it fell dark."

"That is well," said Croft. "The rest is prepared."

"The driver and the standard, aye. I shall give you the robe before you
depart."

"You shall live to receive your reward," said Croft. "Now we have naught
to do save wait."

And waiting proved the hardest part as the day dragged past. Yet in the
end Abbu appeared before him and whispered that the time was come--that a
chariot from the palace waited without the pyramid. He carried a tightly
rolled package in his hands and gave it to Croft. "The robe, my lord," he
declared. "Zitu aid you in its use."

"Zitu reward you, as I shall see you rewarded in a time to come," Croft
told him, donning his own robe and thrusting the other beneath it.
"Farewell for the present, Abbu. Your service is done."

Leaving the pyramid, he entered the chariot sent to fetch him and rode
swiftly to the palace. He descended, passed inside the palace, and was
led by a page to the Princess Naia's door.

That door he entered, and for the first time in months found himself in
the presence of the woman he loved.

She rose and stood before him. "I have done as I promised my father. What
more must I do?"

"Aye, what more have you to tell us, Abbu, you could not tell us before?"
asked Lakkon, rising from a couch placed farther back from the door.

Croft threw off his enveloping cowl and robe. He stood before them, his
cuirass with the sun of Aphur shining on its metal breast sending a
sparkle of light through the room. "Not Abbu this time, Prince Lakkon."

"Jasor!" Naia's eyes went wide.

"Jasor of Nodhur, by Zitu!" Lakkon cried. "Come, my lord, what means this
priestly disguise?"

"Life--for yourself--life and honor for your daughter, as I hope, since I
know she would not live without the latter," Croft returned. "Hark you,
Lakkon of Aphur. You are a man with a sword at your belt. Tell me, is
your daughter's serving maid, Maia, of your party here?"

"Aye," Lakkon returned, visibly impressed by Croft's presence and
bearing. "Yet--"

"Enough," Croft cut him short. "Here is an extra robe of a priest. Let
the princess and Maia done them and pass out of the palace doors. You and
I shall walk forth together. To any who seek to stay us, I am your
friend. I wear Aphur's arms. Let them stop two nobles of Aphur at their
peril. Without the palace, the princess and the maid will turn to the
right and walk down the street toward the harbor which is by happy chance
toward the Scira pyramid. We shall overtake them. We shall enter a
carriage and drive to the harbor and leave this nest of treason. Abbu has
told before this what is planned."

"Aye--but--" Lakkon stammered.

"I shall prove his words true," Croft flashed. "Summon Maia quickly, lest
something intervenes."

"Father--do as my lord advises." Naia laid a hand on Lakkon's arm.

"By Zitu--I like it not. Yet if it be for your safety--Were it not--were
it for myself alone--summon your maid."

The thing was so simple, indeed, that it made Croft smile. Inside five
minutes, the two women were prepared. Naia's wealth of hair was lost
beneath the cowl. Croft opened the door and they sallied forth.

"Be of good heart," he whispered into Naia's ear. "You see I did not
forget, O maid of gold."

His reward was a quiet smile and a deep glance out of her eyes. Then she
was gone, a monk seeming, with Maia at her side. Croft felt sure of their
escape. Priests were no unusual sight about the palaces of the Tamarizian
states.

He waited with the frowning Lakkon until some five minutes had passed.
Then, opening the door, he strode forth and turned down toward the palace
doors. Beside him, Lakkon stalked in silence. "Talk to me--seem to
converse for the sake of your daughter at least."

Lakkon complied. In seemingly friendly converse they progressed. They
reached the portals giving on the entrance court and passed the guards
the more easily, perhaps, since none there as yet suspected what
Kyphallos really planned, and so were not on guard against any act of the
father of Cathur's queen-to-be, or some Aphurian friend of his.

They left the court, overtook the women, led them to the carriage and
drove swiftly to Croft's ship. There he paid and dismissed the driver and
took his passengers aboard. Only when his sailors cast off the moorings
did comment arise at his acts. Then a harbor guard appeared and
questioned the proceeding. And by then Croft was once more a priest,
while Maia had resumed her natural part. And the priest explained he must
return to Himyra quickly. The guard saluted and withdrew with the monk's
commendation of his attention to duty. The ship left the quay. It passed
the harbor gates and floated free. Croft heaved a sigh of relief.

"On the fifth day you and your daughter would have journeyed to Anthra,"
he turned to Lakkon to say. "Midway you would have been met by Bzad of
Mazzer and your vessel rammed. Death for yourself and dishonor for your
child would have swiftly followed. Lakkon of Aphur, I told you I would
prove my words true, and I will. We shall meet this galley of the
Mazzerian's midway to Anthra on the fifth day."

Lakkon beat the planks of the deck with his foot. "Jasor of Nodhur, you
are a bold man. You seem to have faith in your words. Yet should you fail
to prove them, I think I shall have your head."

"Then take mine with it, Father," Naia who had approached unseen by
either man burst forth. "Once before has Jasor saved our lives. You are
hard to persuade, if you call him not son in the end."

"Ah--fall it so!" Lakkon turned upon her. "To your quarters, girl. Is it
seemly for her who values honor so highly to offer herself to a man?"

"To the one man, yes," she retorted, turning to go below. "Between him
and her is no question of honor, nor of aught save love. To that man she
belongs, nor will yield to any other while Zitu gives her breath."

"Azil, Giver of Life, and Ga, the Virgin!" Lakkon swore.

"Peace!" Croft's hand fell on his arm. "Hold, Lakkon. Let me prove my
words true."

And now Croft carried out the change he had made in his plans. All the
succeeding day he sailed in circles, drawing nearer and nearer to Anthra,
rather than to Zitra. He lay to at night, keeping no more than headway on
the ship.

Just what Kyphallos might think when he found his affianced princess
flown he did not know, but he smiled more than once as he fancied a
pretty to-do in Scira, and a somewhat confused rage in the young
reprobate's mind. His hostage to Bzad was gone. As yet there was no war.
He might hardly send word to Aphur that their princess and Lakkon were
gone he knew not where.

Indeed, as Croft saw it, Kyphallos would put off the explanation so long
as he might, hoping to find some trace of the Aphurians themselves and
thereby obviate any necessity of explaining anything at all. Probably,
though, failing to find his escaped guests the first day, he would go in
person to meet, Bzad. That must be foreseen. Hence it were best for Croft
to be ready with his arms. He got them out and saw them loaded--and since
he had chosen a war galley for his trip north, he had men aboard he had
already trained in their use. He distributed the weapons to a selected
number and was ready for what might occur.

Lakkon saw the rifles in the hands of the men and questioned concerning
it at once. Croft, nothing loath, explained the entire situation as he
viewed it. "You have asked proof, and proof I intend to give you, Prince
Lakkon," he declared.

Lakkon's face grew grave. "Indeed, I think you believe all you say, my
lord," he replied. "What do you intend?"

"To meet Bzad close to Aphur," Croft explained. "To hang forth the
standard of Cathur. To lure him close, and give you proof of what I have
said from the man's own mouth."

For so he had planned and was bent on carrying out. The morning of the
fifth day found him therefore close to Anthra--yet not too close.

Before its shores were more than a faint blur on the horizon, the lookout
reported a galley heading west.

Croft called Lakkon and bade him stand beside him on the deck. He
directed the standard of Cathur hung from the stern and ordered the speed
of the engines increased. The galley surged toward the meeting at top
speed. And the other galley came on.

"She will sail very close," said Croft.

Lakkon frowned.

"At the last I am supposed to give a wrong order," Croft said. "My
helmsman knows his duty. We shall crush her near bank of oars."

The two ships drew nearer still. Croft fancied Bzad would be surprised at
their speed, but--Cathur's standard rippled in the breeze. He would think
everything well.

Closer and closer. Croft raised his hand. Two sailors sprang to the rail
in the waist. They carried grappling hooks attached to ropes. Closer
still--

Croft dropped his hand. The bow of his galley veered.

Crash! The near bank of oars snapped like straws. The vessels ground
together. The men in the waist cast their hooks and lashed all fast.

Bzad appeared on the afterdeck. His face was dark, yet he seemed not yet
to comprehend the full bearing of what had occurred. Lakkon was in sight
of the Cathurian galley, and Lakkon he knew was to be aboard. Kyphallos
was not visible, but another man in armor was by Lakkon's side.

Bzad lifted his voice. "What means this?" he cried.

"There has been a change of plan," Croft returned.

"A change of plan!" the Mazzerian repeated. "Yes, a change of plan indeed,
it would seem, when you crash into my side and destroy my oars, instead
of crossing my bows as 'twas arranged. Still, small matter. I have
others. Where is the maid?"

"Below. Do you wish her still?"

"Do I wish her? Was she not promised me for myself as a part of the
price?"

Again, Croft lifted an arm. Men appeared with rifles in their hands.
"Then if so be you wish her, come and take her from a ship of Aphur,
Bzad."

And now the Mazzerian understood at last. He started back and raised his
voice. "Aboard them--strike, slay! We are betrayed. Let none live save
the maid of yellow hair!"

His men were no cowards. They rallied to his cry. Seizing weapons, they
hurled themselves toward the close-lashed rails.

"Fire," said Croft as an arrow whistled between himself and Lakkon.

His men responded with a will. This was the first trial of the new
weapon in actual war. They fired and loaded and fired again. On board
Bzad's vessel men fell. They slumped to the deck or toppled back from the
rail which they had reached.

Bzad appeared among them. He was beside himself with rage. He sprang on
the rail. A sailor fired point-blank in his face and missed him. He
reached the deck and charged with drawn sword toward Lakkon and Croft.

With a strange tingle running through his entire body, Croft drew his own
sword and set himself before Aphur's prince. And then, before they could
come together, Bzad staggered and fell. The sailor had not missed his
second shot.

Bzad struggled for a moment. He forced himself halfway up and sank back.
His limbs twitched oddly for a moment, and he died.

Beyond him, the deck of his own craft was a shambles. Men lay on Croft's
deck as well, some of them his, more of the Bzad's, of whom no more than
six survived out of a possible score. Of Croft's none had been killed as
the whole affair had taken no more than five minutes from beginning to
end.

Croft's voice boomed forth. "Overboard with the dead. Bind the remaining
men and taken them with us. Board the galley and sink it."

Then as his men sprang laughingly to do his bidding, he turned to where
Lakkon stood by the body of Bzad. "Will you go below and reassure your
daughter, Prince Lakkon?"

"Come--we will go together."

The two men went below. They entered the quarters where Naia sought to
look from a tiny port.

"Come, my child," said Aphur's prince, and, as she advanced slowly toward
himself and Croft, stretched out his hand for hers.

"Behold your lord," he went on and laid her hand in Croft's. "To him
shall you be given by Magur himself, when this thing is ended. In the
meantime, shall you lie with the Virgins at Zitra, even as he has
decreed."

Naia flushed. She lowered her eyes, and suddenly throwing all reticence
aside, she lifted her arms and laid them about Croft's neck and raised
her lips to his.

"Ah!" exclaimed Lakkon. "Naught can keep you from her now with honor,
Jasor of Nodhur--my son."

"Nothing shall keep me from her save death," Croft told him.

And lying against him, Naia turned her head. "My father--you have called
him son," she reminded. "Recall that I said you should."

"I ask no better privilege, my son and daughter," Lakkon yielded with a
smile. "Zitu knows I liked not the other arrangement. He knows this
pleases me well."

The captain tapped on the door. He reported the Mazzerian's galley
sinking, and the decks as cleared.

Two minutes later, Croft's vessel was headed for Zitra south by east.
Behind was an empty sea.



Chapter XVI


War! War between Zollaria and Tamarizia! War planned for fifty years and
now set into motion! It had come as Croft had predicted, as Jadgor of
Aphur had feared. As though determined to be avenged, the bullet-pierced
body of Bzad had washed ashore, and been discovered. No other pretext was
needed by the Empire to the north.

All other plans they threw by the board. Bzad of Mazzer--a guest of their
nation had been slain on the Central Sea. They made demands for redress,
and they asked Cathur as the price of what had just occurred.

Tamhys of Zitra with a pained, almost puzzled expression in his aged
eyes, heard the demands of the envoys and answered them finally not as a
man of peace but as a patriot.

The Na was alive with motor-driven vessels, gathering at Himyra, filling
its yellow flood with a ready fleet. Aboard them marched men or rolled
armored motors. Into them were loaded those things Croft had fashioned
against this time, rifles and ammunition and grenades.

Ladhra and Himyra swarmed with marching men. Milidhur's two armored cars
were rushing overland to join her assembling forces. Robur in his glory
was loading his expedition for the relief of Bithur, where Mazzer was to
strike.

Naia of Aphur was with the Vestals of Zitra, where Croft had left her a
month before. He had taken her to Zud, and explained what he desired. Zud
had listened and given assent. Their parting had been brief since Croft
knew he must hasten back to Himyra and begin the final preparations for
what was soon to come.

He plunged into the task with the full co-operation of Jadgor, Lakkon,
and Robur. A swift boat was sent to Zitra to wait any news at that point.
Word was sent to Milidhur and Ladhra to mobilize their forces and be
ready to move on the word. At Himyra activities of every nature were
pushed.

Of those plans Croft kept track, leaving his body at times in the night
and hovering over Cathur and the northern nation. He knew when the envoys
left for Zitra to demand Cathur, of Tamhys, as the price of peace. He
witnessed the massing of her army along Cathur's north frontier. He saw
Kyphallos at the head of the hastily gathered levies of Cathur, men
untrained, poorly equipped--to be led to the slaughter in a sham of
resistance, before Kyphallos did his part and surrendered to what would
seem overwhelming forces.

Then came the swift boat from Zitra, reporting Tamhys's answer and the
return of the envoys north. Tamhys had refused. Croft laughed into
Jadgor's eyes. Tamhys had asked--_asked_ that Aphur and Nodhur and
Milidhur use their full power and their new weapons to make Tamarizia
strong.

"Think you he would have been so bold had he not known of them?" Jadgor
growled, with a teeth-baring grin. "Nay, by Zitu! 'Twas because he knew
these things were in our hands, and Tamarizia in our hearts he refused.

"Go!" he cried to the messenger who had but returned. "Say to Tamhys that
we stand ready--that we say at once--that ere Zollaria's men shall return
with his word, we shall be nearing the northern coast! How say you,
Jasor, my lord?"

"Even as Jadgor has said, O King."

That night, all Himyra flared with fire. That night the sound of marching
feet, the rumble of motors filled the Red City's streets. The firelight
struck on the motors' metal bodies, glinted on the slanting barrels of
the rifles carried by Aphur's sons. A swift car had flown to Ladhra
carrying the word. In Ladhra, too, the night was filled with embarkation
of the forces which were to join with Aphur in the north.

At break of day, Croft, Jadgor, and Lakkon sailed. That afternoon
Ladhra's first contingent arrived. Then Robur sent part on the heels of
the former fleet, and took part in his own party, to Bithur's aid. Belzor
himself led the section which hurried after Croft. He reported the motor
transports as already whirling the bulk of the troops for Milidhur's aid
toward the east.

In three days Croft made landfall on the coast of Mazhur not far from
Niera and coasted toward the town, after landing a party under Lakkon
some miles above it with instructions to advance down the coast, and
entrench themselves on the landward side of the city, at once. He
appeared before the city with his fleet about midmorning and demanded its
surrender once.

His answer was defiance, of course.

Croft set to work. His own galley ran close in toward the gates of the
harbor. The enemy manned the walls. They began a rain of arrows and
spears and the casting down of fireballs, hoping to set the galley on
fire.

Croft had expected this. He had prepared some metal shields which could
be used to cover the decks against arrows and spears from above. They
were impregnable save for some square-cut holes. Through these he began a
bombardment of the gates themselves with grenades. Heavy as they were,
they had not been built to resist the assault of powder. Inside twenty
minutes, while the air filled with shouts and missiles of the defenders,
one was blown from its hinges and fell with a mighty splash. The other
followed shortly after. Croft's galley sailed in, followed by that of
Jadgor and several others of the fleet.

And now he had the defenders of the walls in the rear. His galley paused.
The others followed suit. Their decks swarmed with men who knelt and
opened fire from the rifles Croft had made. A smell of powder filled the
air. Smoke clouds floated in the air. The shouts of the defenders changed
to cries of alarm as they found themselves stricken by this new and
unknown force. Other galleys forced passage and speeding beyond the
engaged vessels opened a galling fire along the waterfront. Under cover
of this landing, parties were flung ashore. They marched into the town,
engaging the Zollarian guards wherever found, yet always at an advantage
of weapons and range. In an hour it was done.

The Zollarian commander surrendered. Croft shut his men in their barracks
and posted a guard. Bulletins printed in advance, promising freedom from
harm to all noncombatants who kept their houses and caused no trouble,
were affixed at the houses at the corners of the streets. The remainder
of the fleet entered the harbor and debarked their men and the armored
motors. Inside two hours more Croft marched out of the landward gate and
joined Lakkon and his men where they had labored on their trenches. That
night Jadgor's tent stood in the midst of an armed camp on Mazhurian
soil.

The next day the men of Lahra arrived. Croft left them to garrison Niera
until a later body from the interior parts of Aphur should arrive, then
follow on. In fact he left orders that as each new contingent appeared
they should take over Niera, releasing the garrison they found to advance
through the state in support of his main force. Himself he broke camp and
moved inland along the splendid roads which Tamarizia had built
generations unnumbered before, when Mazhur was one of her states.

For Palos, the sight was odd as the well-drilled ranks moved ahead in
steady cadence, with here and there a huge ungainly battle motor rumbling
along, its monster body filled with men. Here and there in some minor
town some slight resistance was met. The motors took care of that.
Rolling irresistibly forward into a slithering flight of arrows and
spears, they spat fire at the defenders until they fell or fled.

On and on crept the column with scarcely a pause save for rest or food.
Luckily there were few streams, for the Zollarians seemed to understand
dimly by what they were attacked. They destroyed what bridges lay in the
line of their retreat. Some of them had to be repaired, thereby losing
time. Thus, as he advanced, Croft found the countryside cleared and
sensed that the retreating forces were trusting to the main body, when
they reached it, to check his victorious course.

He had some swift motors in which he himself and Jadgor and Lakkon rode.
Taking one of these, he sent it far ahead to feel out the road. In it he
placed a picked squad of his very best marksmen and ordered them to
return at all costs should they contact the enemy in force.

But the enemy in force was attacking the frontier of Cathur, as planned.

Thus days passed and the Tamarizian army had actually reached the
northern bounds of Mazhur itself before any news of the main enemy body
was received. Then the scout motor came back and reported heavy forces
hurrying to intercept their present line of march.

Croft ordered a halt and took stock of the situation. Before him was a
defile in the hills, through which ran the road to reach a farther plain.
And that was enough. He ordered an advance. Deploying his army right and
left, he set them to digging trenches along the hillside so as to
enfilade the plain from both sides of the central pass. In these he
posted the riflemen and one of his trained grenade corps every fifty
feet.

Across the road he built a barricade, some way back of the frontline
trench. High on each side of the pass he posted other riflemen behind
shelters of stone in such a position that they could fire into the road
or cast down grenades. In front of the barricade itself he parked his
battle-motors, unseen from the plain, but ready to emerge upon it when
the time should come.

He was hard at it in the midst of these arrangements when a band of
Zollarians mounted on gnuppas appeared above a gentle swell in the road,
perhaps a mile away, sat watching the work along the hillside for some
moments, turned and disappeared in the direction from whence they had
come.



Chapter XVII


"They come, O Jadgor of Ahpur!" Lakkon said.

"Let them," Croft said.

The hosts of Zollaria appeared. From the top of the hill above the road
Croft and the other two watched. Foot and chariots, the men of the
northern nation began to top the rolling hill before them. It was
mid-afternoon. The sunlight sparkled upon spear point and chariot, on
cuirass and plume-tufted helm.

Croft turned to Jadgor and Lakkon. "You command the wings," he said. "I
shall lead the moturs. The next hour shall make us freemen or slaves. Say
as much to your men." He began the descent of the hill, reached the
motors, each with its load of tensely waiting soldiers, and entered his
own--the first and leading car.

He gave the command. The motors roared. A faint cheer broke from the lips
of the men behind the barricade. The armored cars gained speed. They left
the defile of the pass. Suddenly they broke upon the sight of the
Zollarian host.

For a moment it seemed to falter all along the line as the motors left
the road and deployed now in the turn to right and left. Then, with a
shout, a flashing chariot dashed from their ranks and headed with
plunging gnuppas at Croft's own machine. _Crash! Crash!_ Two of the
gnuppas were down. The chariot was overturned in a smother of dust and
flying hoofs as the stricken creatures dragged their teammates with them
in their fall. Croft's motor advanced. The whole line of unwieldy shapes
rolled forward. They began to spit acrid smoke and flame.

_Crash, crash!_ The trenches opened fire, shooting above the moving
motors toward the Zollarians' ranks.

Men went down in a swift dissolution. Someone sounded the charge. They
surged ahead in a roaring human flood. The motors were engulfed, but
still they spat fire. Men gathered about them and sought to overturn
them. They died. The press of the charge passed toward the hill. The
motors lumbered about and fired into the rear of the storming forces.
They squatted on the plain and sent a stream of death into the backs of
their foes.

And in the faces of those foes a stream of death was pouring. Rifles
blazed and grenades began exploding along the sides of the hills. Still
they stormed up. This was Zollaria's day--_the day_--the thing they
dreamed of, planned for, through fifty years.

Only by degrees could the thought of certain success begin to waver in
the minds of the men in that charge. So in the end Zollaria's men began
at first to doubt and then to fear. In front was death, and death was at
their backs. Turn where they would that fiery, unknown, roaring death
spat at them. They wavered. They turned. They fled. Bowmen, spearmen,
chariot, and plume-tossing gnuppa, they streamed down the hillside and
out on the plain. And after them came death--and death met them again
from the metal-covered motors, which fired and fired into their mass as
they retreated in fear.

Croft saw them vanish over the rolling hill which had veiled their recent
advance. He opened the door of his motor and called through a trumpet to
two of the cars by number. They were under command of trusted men. He
ordered them to take each two others and follow the beaten army, giving it
neither respite nor ease while daylight should last. Himself he returned
to the defile. He climbed down and mounted the hill to where Jadgor
stood.

"O King," he said. "To you for Tamarizia, I give back Mazhur, the lost
state. Another meeting such as this and, I think, Zollaria will surely
sue for peace."

Jadgor reached out and embraced him--to Croft's surprise. "Jasor of
Nodhur--man of wonder!" he exclaimed. "Did I ever doubt Zitu had sent you
to Tamarizia's salvation I do not doubt it now."

That night Croft camped where he was. The next day Belzor, with his
Nodhurians, having made a forced march from Niera, came up. Gazing on the
body-strewn hillside and plain he wept with disappointment not to have
been present to witness what took place.

Croft grinned. "Patience. The emperor himself leads the army against
Cathur, some of the captives tell me. Today we advance."

Toward midnight his motors had come back to report the enemy still in
flight and the road a mass of wounded who had fallen from exhaustion on
the way. Croft's heart went out to the poor devils, who were, after all,
but the victims of their ruler's lust for power.

It had been somewhat different in Mazhur, where many of the inhabitants
were Tamarizian still at heart. But here, should he leave men behind to
attend the wounded, he knew, that if discovered, they would perish
without any doubt. Hence beyond collecting them in one place, supplying
them with provisions, and leaving the lesser wounded to wait upon the
others, he could do nothing before he advanced on the main body of the
enemy.

That advance lasted for a week. Twice, during it, Croft left his body,
satisfied himself the state of things was safe, returned to Earth, and
chatted with Mrs. Goss and went back. At the end of the week he found
himself once more facing a foe.

His first victory had produced a wonderful effect. Zollaria, driving
Cathur before her like chaff, under Kyphallos' treacherous leadership,
had made progress when word of Croft's landing and advance from Miera had
caused the Emperor Helmor to detach a portion of his army under his son
to crush the flank attack. Instead, his son's command was crushed and
recoiled in a sorry rout. Helmor faced about. Raging at this check to
his plans, he rushed north and east to finish the Tamarizian army
himself.

And now Croft found the positions reversed. Helmor chose his own ground.
He set himself to withstand the shock of battle along a line of gently
rolling hills, up which his foe must advance to the attack. Thus his
bowmen had a tremendous advantage, according to all his knowledge of war,
and his spearmen, at close quarters, could give a most magnificent
account of themselves, while the chariots, in the rear of the line, could
take care of any small bands of the enemy which might chance to break
through.

In this case Croft put his motors in the front. Deploying his men, he
instructed them to advance by rushes, keeping well in the rear of the
sixteen machines, yet close enough to take advantage of any breaks they
made in Helmor's line.

"This day will be the last," he said to Jadgor as he prepared to lead in
his own machine.

"Zitu grant it, and victory with it!" Jadgor replied. "Should you carry
defeat to Helmor, Tamarizia is yours, to do with as you please."

"There is but one thing in Tamarizia I desire." Croft looked at Lakkon as
he spoke and smiled.

"It is yours, my son," said Aphur's prince, and spoke softly to Jadgor.
"What think you, O king? Our Jasor desires a maid."

"Aye, Lakkon, I am not a fool! You are willing she should go to him?"

"I have pledged her to him," said Lakkon as he bowed his head.

"And I go to win her now," said Croft as he entered his car. He gave the
signal for the advance with a smile on his lips.

Like huge metal turtles the motors began crawling toward the hill where
Helmor waited. Flights of arrows and crossbow bolts rattled on their
sides and fell harmless. They reached the foot of the hill and began to
climb--up and up. They were half lost now in the smoke of their own
fierce discharges and the clouds of flying shafts.

Back of them the infantry advanced as Croft directed, dashing forward a
hundred yards, and dropping down to fire in crashing volleys which
covered their comrades' sprinting rush, rising again and swarming ahead
while the other end of the companies covered them in turn. On the hill
confusion began to develop after a time. Men fell in heaps without a
chance to strike back.

Nearer and nearer, without pause, the odd metal turtles crept up the
hill. Nothing stopped them. On the right flank two reached the Zollarian
line and crashed against it. Men fell and were ground into bloody pulp
beneath metal wheels. The Zollarians tried. They flung themselves in
waves upon the monsters. They sought to climb upon them. They gripped at
the spitting rifle-barrels. But still the motors plowed on. They turned
and began crawling through the sea of men. Flesh and bone could stand no
more. The right flank wavered and fled just before the infantry swarming
up the slope in a final rush drove its own charging home. They fell back
in a disorganized mob, flinging bows and spears from them as they ran.

They left the center unsupported, attacked from both front and side. It
wavered, bent, sought to turn itself to meet the double attack, broke in
the process, and split asunder. Behind it, in his gorgeous chariot,
Helmor raged to no avail. Through the mêlée a monster thing of metal bore
down upon him. From it there came a brazen voice as of one speaking
through a trumpet.

_"Yield, Helmor of Zollaria, and put a stop to slaughter! Yield, Helmor,
or perish with your own men!"_

This was the end. Helmor swept the lost field with his eyes and knew the
truth. He gave the sign of surrender, spoke to his frightened aides, and
sent them galloping on gnuppas right and left to carry the word of
defeat. A standard shot up from the top of Croft's car. The sounds of
battle ceased by degrees and died as car after car raised a similar
signal across the battle-front.

Croft opened the door of his car and stepped down. "You will enter,
Helmor of Zollaria," he said shortly, and gestured to the door.

The Emperor Helmor bowed. He bent his haughty crest and disappeared from
sight. The door closed behind him, shutting him safe beyond all dreams of
conquest for all time to come. The great car turned and lumbered back
down the hill toward the camp where Jadgor of Aphur had waited and
watched. The sun was at its zenith above a field of dead and wounded, but
Helmor's sun of ambition had set.



Chapter XVIII


These are the things Croft told me. It was three o'clock in the morning
when he was done. "That was a month ago, Dr. Murray," he said, and
sighed.

"But what became of Kyphallos?"

Croft smiled. "Kyphallos was placed under arrest and tried with speed,"
he replied. "He was sentenced to exile in Zollaria. He went forth in a
rather boastful fashion and appeared at the capital, Berla, itself. But
neither Helmor nor the tawny Kalamita would have aught to do with him
since he could be of no further use to them. Only then I think did
Kyphallos realize his true position, because then he drew himself up
before Kalamita and asked her, for all time, to say he was nothing to
her.

"She replied with a sneering laugh.

"Kyphallos gave her one look, drew his sword, held it before his breast,
and fell upon it and died."

"And the maid?" I asked. "Pardon me, Croft, but I'm human! And like all
human beings I recognize love as the mainspring of existence."

He laughed. "As it is--love, Murray, is life--the cause of all being. The
maid is mine, or shall be so, soon as I return."

"You're going back?" I said.

He gave me a glance. "Of course. The wedding-day is set. It is to be in
Himyra, with Magur as the priest. Man, can't you understand?"

"What?" I inquired.

His laugh came again. But it was nervous. "You rather force me to blow my
own horn. Murray, I'm Tamarizia today. When we returned to Zitra victors,
and learned that Robur had driven the Mazzerians like chaff before the
wind, and that Milidhur, outside of a skirmish or two, had found nothing
to do, Tamhys gave me new rank. He named be Prince of Zitra, a title
never known in Tamarizia before, but next in importance to the imperial
throne. Man, I could have been emperor had I wished since Tamhys's term
expired one week after we got back."

"Could have been?" I said.

"Yes." He smiled. "But--I didn't take it. Tamarizia is a republic now.
She was ready for it. She had come nearly to it before I arrived. There
was no reason why she should not set up a true democracy. When they
offered me the crown I replied with a request. I called for a council of
the states. I put the thing squarely before them. They hailed the
suggestion with acclaim. My word was law, Murray--law.

"Last night when you called me back and I returned, we were completing
the draft of the republican constitution. Nothing less. When I returned I
found them clustered about me--those nobles of the nation. They thought
me in a faint, all save Jadgor and Lakkon and Robur, of course. I caught
their eyes and knew they understood. But I said nothing, and we finished
the draft last night.

"Now Jasor's body, which I have used, lies in Zud's own room in the Zitra
pyramid. It is guarded by a priest. Above it, between it and the Temple
of Zitu, Murray, between it and God, Naia of Aphur is waiting for my
return, in that room where Ga, the eternal woman, broods above the sacred
fire. Think you I shall not go back?"

"No--I think I would go myself if I could," I replied.

His eyes filled with a far-away look. "Earth is beautiful," he said. "I
love it, its mountains and valleys, its streams and lakes, its fields of
grass and flowers, but, Murray--there is something, someone now in my
life I love beyond anything else.

"I shall go back. I shall make Naia of Aphur my wife. There will be an
election to select a president of the new republic. I have been asked to
put up my name. I think--no, Murray, I am sure, that Naia shall be the
first lady of all Tamarizia at Zitra itself before long."

"And your body here? What will you do? Shall you tell her the truth?"

"Yes, I think so," he declared. "But--what need have I of an Earthly body
any more?

"My life calls me to Palos. Henceforth I am through with Earth. Hence,
Murray, my friend, when I return from this final excursion, I shall snap
the invisible bond between this body and my spirit, which, until now, I
have held intact. I shall remain here a very few days to perform some
necessary tasks. I must provide for Mrs. Goss, and I desire my estate to
be given to some foundation for the welfare of my race. Then--then,
Murray--I shall go to the woman I love--Naia--my God-given mate!"



This is the story he told me that afternoon and night. Was he sane? I
think so. Was the story true? I cannot say. A week from the first time
she called me, Mrs. Goss came to me again. I went with her to the great
couch in Croft's study and--I found him dead! His body lay there
lifeless, rigid and cold beyond any power of mine to help. It came over
me that the man had kept his word and broken the subtle thread between it
and his spirit, just as he had said he would. I straightened and told
Mrs. Goss there was nothing I could do.

She wiped her dark, old yes. "I knowed it," she said. "I knowed it!
Somethin' told me I was goin' to lose him this time! I've knowed him from
a baby, Dr. Murray. He was always a very strange man."



THE END



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