The tarag that had been stalking him came and stood under the tree and looked up and growled. “Go away,” said Gamba, and picked a fruit that grew upon the tree and threw it at the tarag. The great beast snarled and then lay down under the tree.
As soon as Dian had entered the jungle she accelerated her pace; and the two great beasts which accompanied her strode upon either side, for here the trail was wide. Dian was glad of their presence, for they suggested protection, even though she did not know whether or not they would protect her in an emergency.
Presently she came to a natural clearing in the jungle; and when she was half-way across it she heard her name called. Surprised, she turn about to see Bovar.
“Where are you going?” he demanded.
“To the village,” she said.
“You are going in the wrong direction, then. The village is back this way.”
“These trails are confusing,” said Dian. “I thought I was going in the right direction.” She realized now that there was nothing to do but go back to the village and wait for another opportunity to escape. She was terribly disappointed, but not wholly disheartened; because, if it had been so easy to go into the jungle this time without arousing suspicion, there would be other times when it would be just as easy.
As Bovar came toward her she saw a tarag slink into the clearing behind him; and she recognized it immediately as the third member of the terrible trinity the affections of which she had won.
“You won’t have to go back to the village now,” said Bovar. “You can keep on going in the direction that you were.”
“What do you mean?” demanded Dian.
“I mean that I think you were trying to escape, and I am going to help you. I know a cave deep in the jungle where no one will ever find us and where, when I am not with you, you will be safe from man and beast.”
“I shall go back to the village,” said Dian; “and if you will promise not to annoy me, I will not tell Hamlar nor Manai what you would have done.”
“You shall not go back to the village,” said Bovar. “You are going with me. If you do not go willingly, I will drag you through the jungle by the hair.”
Dian drew her bronze knife. “Come and try it,” she said.
“Don’t be a fool,” said Bovar. “In the village you are a slave. You have to clean three caves and prepare the food for four people and wash loincloths and fetch carry all day. In the jungle you would have but one cave to clean and but two people to cook for; and if you behaved yourself I would never beat you.”
“You will never beat me whether I behave myself or not,” replied Dian.
“Throw down that knife,” added Bovar. Dian laughed at him and that made Bovar furious. “Drop it and come with me, or I will kill you,” he said. “You shall never go back to the village now to spread stories about me. Take your choice, slave. Come with me or die.”
Two of the tarags stood close beside Dian, imparting to her a sense of security—whether false or not she did not know, but at least their presence encouraged her to hope. The third tarag lay on its belly a few yards behind Bovar, the tip of its tail constantly moving. Dian knew what that sign often portended, and she wondered.
Bovar did not know that the tarag had followed him, nor that it lay there behind him, watching his every move. What was in the great beast’s mind, no one may know. Since cubhood it had been taught to fear these men-things and their long, sharp spears.
Bovar took a few steps toward Dian, his spear poised to thrust. Dian had not thought that he would carry out his threat; but now, looking into his eyes, she saw determination there. She saw the tarag behind Bovar rise with barred fangs and then she had an inspiration. This cave girl knew what an unfailing invitation to any dangerous animal to attack is flight; and so she turned suddenly and ran across the clearing, banking her safety on the affections of these savage beasts.
Bovar sprang after her, his spear poised for the cast; and then the great beast behind him charged and sprang, and the two which had stood beside Dian leaped upon him with thunderous roars.
Dian heard one piercing scream and turned to see Bovar go down with all those terrible fangs buried in his body. That one piercing scream marked the end of Bovar, son of Hamlar the chief; and Dian watched while the great beasts tore the chiefs son to pieces and devoured him. Inured to savagery in a savage world, the scene that she witnessed did not horrify her. Her principle reactions to the event were induced by the knowledge that she had been relieved from an annoying enemy, that she now would not have to return to the village, and that she had acquired a long, heavy spear.
Dian went and sat down in the shade of a tree and waited for the three beasts to finish their grisly meal. She was glad to wait for them, for she wanted their company and protection as far as the entrance to the shaft which led down to the beach where her canoe lay; and while she was waiting she fell asleep.
Dian was awakened by something rubbing against her shoulder and opened her eyes to see one of the tarags nuzzling her. The other two had slumped down near her, but when she awoke they stood up; and then the three of them strode off into the jungle and Dian went with them. She knew that they were going for water and when they had drunk they would sleep; nor was she wrong, for when they had had their fill of water they threw themselves down in the shade near the stream; and Dian laid down with them and they all slept.
Gamba, in his tree a quarter of a mile away from the clearing where Bovar had died, had heard a human scream mingling with the horrid roars and snarls of attacking beasts, and he had thought that Dian had been attacked and was dead; and Gamba, who had been king of Lolo-lolo, felt very much alone in the world and extremely sorry for himself.
In Tanga-tanga, Ope the high priest was in a quandary and very unhappy. He and the lesser priests had all been absent from the temple throne room at the time that the followers of Furp had attacked Pu and the Noada; and now he was trying to explain his absence to his god. His quandary was occasioned by the fact that he did not know which side was going to win in the impending battle, of the imminence of which he was fully cognizant.
“It might have seemed a coincidence to some,” David was saying, “that you and all of the lesser priests were absent at the time that Furp’s men attacked us, but Pu knows that it was no coincidence. You absented yourselves when you knew that we were in danger so that the people might have no grounds upon which to reproach you, no matter what the outcome of the attempt might be. You must now determine once and for all whether you will support us or the go-sha.”
The lesser priests were gathered around Ope at the foot of the dais and they looked to him for leadership. He could feel their eyes upon him. He knew the great numerical strength of the go-sha’s retainers, but he did not know that Pu, also, had a great number, nor did he know that they were armed. He thought that warriors would be met, if at all, by an unarmed mob which they could easily mow down with arrow, spear and sword.
“I am waiting for your answer,” said David.
Ope decided to play safe; he could explain his reasons to Furp later. “We shall be loyal to Pu and our Noada in the future as in the past,” he said.
“Very well, then,” said David. “Send the lesser priests out into the city to spread the word among the people that they must arm themselves and be prepared to defend the temple.”
Ope had not expected anything of this sort and he was chagrined, for at the bottom of his heart he hoped that Furp would succeed in destroying these two, that he might again enjoy to the fullest extent the prequisites and graft of his office; but he realized that he must at least appear to comply with Pu’s instructions.
“It shall be done at once,” he said. “I shall take the lesser priests into my private chambers and explain their duties to them.”
“You will do nothing of the sort,” said David. “The lesser priests have heard the instructions that Pu has given. They will go out into the city at once and with each one of them I will send one of these loyal citizens to see that my instructions are carried out honestly.”
“But—” commenced Ope.
“But nothing!” snapped David, and he looked at the lesser priests. “You will leave at once, and you will each be accompanied by one of these men,” and as he detailed those who were to accompany the lesser priests, he told them that they had his permission, the permission of their god, to destroy any priest who failed to exhort the people enthusiastically to defend the temple of Pu.
It was not long thereafter that men commenced to congregate in the plaza before the temple. Through the great temple doorway David could see the house of the go-sha; and soon he saw warriors emerging from it, and others coming into the plaza from other directions. They marched straight toward the temple, before which stood the temple guards and the loyal citizens who had armed themselves to protect Pu and their Noada.
Furp’s men tried to shoulder their way through to the temple, but they were immediately set upon, and the battle began. Soon the plaza was filled with the clash of swords, the shouts and curses of men, and the screams and groans of the wounded and dying.
From every narrow, crooked street loyal citizens swarmed to the defense of the temple; so that not one of Furp’s men ever reached the great doorway.
Who may know how long that battle lasted, for it was noon when it commenced and noon when it ended; but to David and O-aa it seemed like an eternity. When the last of Furp’s retainers who were not dead or wounded were driven from the plaza, the dead lay thick upon every hand; and David Innes was the master of Tanga-tanga.
Furp and a couple of hundred of his retainers had fled the city; and it was later discovered that they had gone to Lolo-lolo and enlisted in the service of the new go-sha there, who was glad to acquire so many trained fighting men.
David sent word to the people that as long as he remained he would rule Tanga-tanga; and that when he left he would appoint a new go-sha, one who would not rob them; and then he sent for Ope the high priest.
“Ope,” he said, “in your heart you have always been, disloyal to your Noada and to Pu; therefore, you are dismissed from the priesthood and banished from Tanga-tanga. You may go to Lolo-lolo and join Furp, and you may thank Pu that he has not destroyed you as you deserve.”
Ope was aghast. He was not prepared for this, as he had felt that he had played safe.
“B-but, Pu,” he cried. “The people—the people, what of them? They will not be pleased. They might even turn against you in their wrath. I have been their high priest for many thousand sleeps.”
“If you prefer to leave the issue to the people,” said David “I will summon them and tell them how disloyal you have been, and turn you over to them.”
At that suggestion Ope trembled, for he knew that he was most unpopular among the people. “I shall abide by the will of Pu,” he said, “and leave Tanga-tanga immediately; but it pains me to think that I must abandon my people and leave them without a high priest to whom they may bring their grievances.”
“And their pieces of metal,” said O-aa.
“The people shall not be without a high priest,” said David; “for I now ordain Kanje as the high priest of the temple of Pu.” Kanje was one of the lesser priests whom David knew to be loyal.
Ope was conducted to the gates of the city by members of the temple guard, who had orders to see that he spoke to no one; and so the last of David’s active and powerful enemies was disposed of, and he could devote his time to plans for returning to Sari, after prosecuting a further search for Dian, who, in his heart of hearts, he believed to be lost to him forever.
He sent men out to fell a certain type of tree in a near-by forest, and to bring them into the city; and he sent hunters out to kill several boses, which on the outer crust were the prehistoric progenitors of our modern cattle. These hunters were instructed to bring the meat in and give it to the people; and to bring hides to the women to be cleaned and cured.
When the trees were brought in he had them cut into planks and strips, and in person he supervised the building of a large canoe with mast and sails and water-tight compartments forward and aft.
The people wondered at the purpose for which this strange thing was being built, for they were not a sea-faring people; and in all their lives had seen only one craft that floated on the water—that in which their Noada had come to them.
When the canoe was completed, he summoned the people to the plaza and told them that he and the Noada were going to visit some of their other temples in a far land, and that while they were gone the people must remain loyal to Kanje and the new go-sha whom David appointed; and he warned Kanje and the new go-sha to be kind to the people and not to rob them.
“For, wherever I am, I shall be watching you,” he said.
He had the people carry the canoe down to the nameless strait, and stock it with provisions and with water, and with many weapons—spears, and bows and arrows, and bronze swords; for he knew that the crossing would be perilous.
The entire population of Tanga-tanga, with the exception of the warriors at the gates, had come down to the shore to bid Pu and the Noada farewell; and to see this strange thing set out upon the terrible waters. O-aa had come down with the people, but David had remained at the temple to listen to a report from some of the warriors he had sent out in search of a clue to the whereabouts of Dian. These men reported that they had captured a Lolo-lolo hunter, who claimed to have seen Gamba and Dian as they set forth upon the waters of the nameless strait in their little canoe. So David knew that if Dian were not already dead, she might have returned to Sari.
As he started for the gate of the city he heard sounds of fighting; and when he reached the gate he saw that his people by the shore had been attacked by a horde of warriors from Lolo-lolo and were falling back toward the city.
O-aa had been in the canoe, waiting for David, when the attack came; and in order to escape capture, she had paddled out upon the nameless strait, intending to hold the craft there until the attackers had been dispersed and David could come down to the shore; but the current seized the canoe and carried it out into the strait, and though she paddled valiantly she could do nothing to alter its course.