“You are bleeding,” said O-aa.
“It is nothing but a flesh wound,” said Hodon.
“Let me get some leaves and stop it.”
“Later,” said Hodon. “You are sure you understand?”
“Why did you want to kiss me?” asked O-aa. “Was it just because I am so beautiful?”
“If I tell you, will you answer my question?”
“Yes,” said O-aa.
“I think it was just because you are O-aa,” said Hodon.
O-aa sighed. “I understand all that I am to do,” she said. “Let us commence.”
Together they gathered several large and small pieces of sandstone from a weathered outcropping, and inched them up to the very edge of the cliff. One very large piece was directly over the ladder which led to the next ledge below; others were above the mouth of the prison cave.
When this was accomplished, Hodon went into the forest and cut several long lianas and dragged them close to the cliff; then he fastened an end of each of them to trees which grew a few yards back.
“Now!” he whispered to O-aa.
“Do not think,” she said, “because I have helped you and have not slipped my dagger between your ribs, that I do not hate you. Wait until my brother—”
“Yes,” said Hodon. “After we have finished this you may tell me all about your brother. You will have earned the right. You have been splendid, O-aa. You will make a wonderful mate.”
“I shall make a wonderful mate,” agreed O-aa, “but not for you.”
“Come on,” said Hodon, “and keep your mouth shut—if you can.”
She gave him a venomous look, but she followed him toward the edge of the cliff. Hodon looked over to be sure that everything was as he hoped it would be. He nodded his head at O-aa, and grinned.
He pushed the great stone nearer the edge, and O-aa did the same with some of her smaller ones. She watched Hodon very closely, and when she saw him pushing his over the edge, she stood up and hurled one of hers down.
The big stone struck the two guards squatting at the top of the ladder, carrying them and the ladder crashing down from ledge to ledge, carrying other ladders with them.
Hodon ran to the rocks that O-aa was hurling down, and O-aa ran to the lianas and dropped them over the edge. Hodon was calling David Innes by name. One of the other two guards had been hit and had fallen over the cliff; then David Innes and some of the other prisoners ran from the cave.
Only one guard opposed them. Neither O-aa or Hodon had been able to strike him with a rock. David Innes rushed him, and the guard met him on the narrow ledge with his short spear. As he lunged at Innes, the latter seized the weapon and struggled to wrench it from the Suvian’s grasp. The two men wrestled for the weapon on the brink of eternity. At any moment either of them might be precipitated to the foot of the cliff. The other prisoners seemed too stunned or too anxious to escape to go to Innes’ assistance, but not Hodon. Sensing the danger to his chief, he slid down one of the lianas and ran to Innes’ side. With a single blow he knocked the Suvian over the edge of the cliff; then he pointed to the lianas.
“Hurry!” he said. “They are already starting up the Canyon to climb the cliff and head us off.”
Each on a different liana, the two men clambered to the summit. Already most of the Kalians had disappeared into the forest. Innes had been the only Sarian confined on the upper ledge. Oose had not run away. He and another Kalian were talking with O-aa. Oose’s companion was a squat, bearded fellow with a most unprepossessing countenance. He looked like a throwback to a Neanderthal type. As Hodon and Innes approached the three, they heard O-aa say, “I will not!”
“Yes, you will,” snapped Oose. “I am your father and your king. You will do as I tell you. Blug is a mighty hunter, a mighty fighter. He will make a fine mate. He has a large cave and three other women to lighten your labors.”
O-aa stamped a sandalled foot. “I tell you I will not. I would just as soon mate with a Sagoth.”
Now, the Sagoths are those half human gorilla men who did the strong arm work for the Mahars, the reptiles who dominated Pellucidar before David Innes drove them away—at least away from that portion of the inner world of which he was Emperor. O-aa could scarcely have voiced a more comprehensive insult.
Blug growled angrily. “Enough!” he said. “I take her.” He reached for O-aa, but Hodon stepped between them and struck Blug’s hand away.
“You do not take her,” he said. “O-aa chooses her own mate.”
Blug, being more or less of an inarticulate low-brow, with a short temper, replied to words with action. He swung a terrific blow at Hodon that might well have felled a bos, had there been a bos there and had the blow landed; but there was no bos and the blow did not land. Hodon ducked under it, picked Blug up and hurled him heavily to the ground.
Blug was surprised and so was Oose, for Hodon looked like no match for the massive Blug. Hodon’s muscles rolled smoothly beneath his bronzed skin—deceptively. They had great strength and they possessed agility. Blug had only strength; but he had courage, too—the courage of stupidity. He scrambled to his feet and charged Hodon—charged like a wild bull. And this time Hodon struck him full in the mouth and dropped him in his tracks.
“Enough of this!” snapped David Innes. “If you stand here fighting, we shall all be captured.”
“Enough,” said Oose to Blug.
“I shall kill him later, then,” said Blug.
“What—again?” asked Hodon. He looked about him.
“Where is O-aa?” he asked.
O-aa had fled. While the two men fought, she had run away. Maybe she thought, as Blug and Oose had thought, that Blug would easily kill Hodon.
“I did not see her go,” said Oose. “When I find her, I shall beat her and give her to Blug.”
“Not if I’m around,” said Hodon.
“You should not interfere in the affairs of others, Hodon,” counselled David.
“It is my affair,” said Hodon.
Innes shrugged. “Very well,” he said; “but if it’s your own funeral, too, do not say that I did not warn you. Now we must get away from here.”
“There are some caves farther up the coast,” said Oose, “that we have used at other times that Kali has been invaded. My people have probably gone there. We had better go there also.”
“I shall remain near here,” said Innes. “Many of my warriors are prisoners here. I cannot desert them.”
“I will stay with you,” said Hodon.
Oose and Blug moved away into the forest. “If you are around here when I come back,” said the latter to Hodon, “I will kill you. I will bring my mate back to see me do it. I shall find O-aa at the other caves, and there I shall take her.”
“You have a big mouth,” said Hodon. “It fills so much of your head that there is no room for brains.”
Blug did not retort. He could think of nothing to say, his powers of repartee being limited; so he disappeared into the forest wrapped in the gloomy cloak of anger.
“I hear the Suvians coming,” said Innes.
“Yes,” replied Hodon. “Come with me. I have become a little familiar with parts of this land, and I know where we can find a hiding place.”
“I do not like to hide,” said David Innes.
“Nor I; but two men cannot fight five hundred.”
“You are right,” said Innes. “Lead the way. I will follow you.”
They moved away very quietly, Hodon trying to find rocks to step on wherever he could and Innes stepping always in the exact spots that Hodon stepped. When they came to a little stream, Hodon entered it and walked up its bed. It would take an excellent tracker to follow them at all.