With other slaves, I was still guarding the horrid little creaters in the pool. I day-dreamed of Duare. I lived again the high moments of our lives together. I planned. I schemed fantastic schemes for our escape; but, when all was said, I was still a slave.
The major domo came into the patio with four warriors. They were garbed differently from those I had seen on the grounds of Yron’s palace or elsewhere. Their trappings were more ornate.
Kandar was patrolling at my side. “Members of the jong’s guard,” he said. “I wonder what they are doing here.”
We were soon to learn. Led by the major domo, they approached us. The major domo confronted me. His gills flapped idly; and he blew a little, as befits one who addresses a low slave.
“Slave,” he said, “you will accompany these warriors.”
“Why?” I asked.
Then his gills did flap, and he blew angrily. “Because I say so,” he bellowed.
“That is not enough,” I said. “I don’t like it here, but I don’t intend going some place that may be worse.”
“Enough of this,” snapped one of the jong’s warriors. “Come, slave! and come alive, or we will take you dead.” He came toward me.
I drew my pistol, and the major domo seized the arm of the warrior. “Careful!” he cautioned. “With that thing he can kill you—and he will.”
“He threatens one of the jong’s guard?” demanded the warrior.
“I do,” I said. “I threaten them all and I can kill them all. Ask any of Yron’s people if I speak the truth.”
“Why hasn’t that thing been taken from him?” demanded the warrior.
“Because whoever touches it dies,” said the major domo.
“Tell me where I am going and why,” I insisted, “and then perhaps there will be no reason for killing.”
The major domo and the warriors stepped to one side and whispered together; then the former said to me, “There is no reason why you should not know. The noble Yron, as a mark of his loyalty and high esteem, has presented you to our beloved jong.”
So! The noble Yron was getting rid of a dangerous and undesirable alien by passing him on to his ruler. The loyal Yron! I had to smile. Had the German Kaiser presented Trotsky, armed with a bomb, to the Czar of Russia the acts would have been somewhat analogous.
“Why are you smiling?” demanded the warrior spokesman.
“I am happy, “ I said. “I shall be delighted to go to the palace of Tyros, and I will go willingly on one condition.”
“Slaves do not make conditions,” growled the warrior.
“I am an exception,” I said; “you have never before seen a slave like me.” I twirled my pistol about my finger.
“Well, what do you want now?” demanded the major domo.
“I think that Yron should also present Kandar to his jong. Kandar is a much more valuable slave than I, and if Yron really wishes to demonstrate his loyalty and high esteem he should present a really royal gift to his jong—two princes instead of one; the Crown Prince of Japal and the Crown Prince of Korva.” Of course I didn’t say Crown Prince; I said Tanjong.
I made this condition not only because I had grown very fond of Kandar but because I felt that he could be very helpful to me in effecting the rescue of Duare and the eventual escape of all three of us.
“That,” said the warrior, “is an excellent suggestion.”
“But Yron only mentioned the slave Carson,” objected the major domo.
“Should I return to Tyros with only one slave and have to report that Yron refused to give two, the jong might be very angry with Yron,” suggested the warrior.
The major domo was on a spot. So was Yron. “I shall have to consult my master,” said the former.
“We will wait,” said the warrior, and the major domo disappeared within the palace.
“I hope you don’t mind going with me,” I said to Kandar. “I felt that we might work together, but I had no opportunity to discuss the matter with you.”
“I was delighted when you mentioned it,” he replied. “I only wish that Artol might accompany us.”
“I wish so, too; but perhaps I have gone as far as is safe. Tyros might become suspicious if he learned that he had acquired three slaves who were bound together by ties of friendship and that one of them had proved highly insubordinate. I have a feeling that Yron has pulled a boner.”
The shark-like major domo came weaving back into the patio. His gills were moving gently, and he sucked air in between his teeth as he addressed the warrior. “The noble Yron is delighted by the opportunity to present two slaves to the mighty Tyros. He would be delighted to give three slaves.”
“That is noble of him,” I said, “and if this warrior of the jong’s guard would like to select an unusually fine slave I suggest that he have a look at this one, with whom I have been particularly impressed since I have been in the palace of Yron,” and I indicated Artol.
The major domo glared at me with his fishy eyes, his gills flapped, and he blew noisily. Artol was one of Yron’s best and most valuable slaves. The warrior looked him over, felt his muscles, examined his teeth.
“An excellent specimen,” he said. “I am sure that our jong will be well pleased with this gift.”
Artol was pleased, too, for now he would not have to be separated from his beloved Tanjong. I was pleased; Kandar was pleased; the jong’s warriors were pleased. The major domo was not pleased, but I was sure that Yron was glad to get rid of me at any price. Now he could come out into his patio without fearing for his life. Perhaps I could make Tyros so anxious to be rid of me that he would give us all our freedom.
The leader of the warriors stood looking at me. He seemed to hesitate. I guessed that he was wondering what other demands I might make if he again attempted to take me away, and hesitated to subject his authority to any further embarrassing contretemps.
Kandar, Artol, and I were standing together. The other slaves and warriors and the major domo were watching the ranking warrior. The situation was becoming strained and difficult, and I was on the point of relieving it by suggesting that we leave for the palace of Tyros, when a whir of wings and a shrill whistle attracted our attention upward.
“Guypal!” someone cried; and, sure enough, a huge guypal was diving straight for the pool.
The warriors with their metal tridents and the slaves with theirs of wood rushed about frantically, screaming, and raising such a din as should have frightened away a battalion of guypals; but it never deterred this one. It was diving straight for the center of the pool well out of reach of the tridents. A dozen were cast at it, and all missed.
What has taken so long to tell happened in a few seconds; and in those few seconds I whipped out my pistol; and as the guypal touched the surface of the pool, I sent a stream of r-rays through its body. It cut the water, staining it red with its blood; and then it floated to the surface, dead.
The warriors looked at me in open mouthed astonishment. The major domo nodded his head. “You see,” he said to the warriors, “that what I told you is true. This is a very dangerous man.”
“And so Yron is giving him to Tyros! “ exclaimed the leader of the warriors.
“You do not understand,” hedged the major domo. “This is Yron’s most valuable slave. All alone he can guard the children against guypals. Twice now has he proved this. Yron thought that Tyros would be glad to have such a guard for the royal children.”
The warrior grunted. “Perhaps,” he said.
“And now,” I said to the warrior, “why don’t you take us to Tyros? Why are we hanging around here listening to this little man?”
The major domo was speechless from blowing.
“Very well,” said the warrior. “Come, slaves!” and thus at last we started for the palace of Tyros; Kandar, Artol, and I.