Hodon shook his head sadly. “I am afraid it is hopeless, Dian,” he said. Dian the Beautiful nodded in acquiescence.
“My men are becoming restless,” said Raj. “They have been away from home for many, many sleeps. They want to get back to their women.”
“All right,” said Hodon. “Turn back for Sari.”
As the little ship came about, Gamba pointed. “What is that?” he asked.
They all looked. In the haze of the distance there was a white speck on the surface of the sea. “It is a sail,” said Raj.
“O-aa!” exclaimed Hodon.
The wind was blowing directly from the direction in which the sail lay; so the Lo-har had to tack first one way and then another. But it was soon apparent that the strange ship was sailing before the wind directly toward them, and so the distance between was constantly growing shorter.
“That is not the Sari,” said Raj. “That is a big ship with more sail than I have ever seen before.”
“It must be a Korsar,” said Dian. “If it is, we are lost.”
“We have cannon,” said Hodon, “and men to fight them.”
“Turn around,” said Gamba, “and go the other way. Maybe they have not seen us.”
“You always want to run away,” said Dian, contemptuously. “We shall hold our course and fight them.”
“Turn around!” screamed Gamba. “It is a command! I am king!”
“Shut up!” said Raj. “Mezops do not run away.”
“Nor Sarians,” said Dian.
The village of the Zurts, to which Utan led O-aa, lay in a lovely valley through which a little river wandered. It was not a village of caves such as O-aa was accustomed to in Kali. The houses here were of bamboo thatched with grass, and they stood on posts some ten feet above the ground. Crude ladders led up to their doorways.
There were many of these houses; and in the doorways, or on the ground below them, were many warriors and women and children and almost as many jaloks as there were people.
As Utan and O-aa approached, the jaloks of the village froze into immobility, the hair along their backbones erect. Utan shouted, “Padang!” And when they recognized him, some of the warriors shouted, “Padang!” Then the jaloks relaxed and Utan and O-aa entered the village in safety; but there had to be much sniffing and smelling on the part of the jaloks before an entente cordiale was established.
Warriors and women gathered around Utan and O-aa, asking many questions. O-aa was a curiosity here, for she was very blonde, while the Zurts had hair of raven black. They had never seen a blonde before.
Utan told them all that he knew about O-aa, and asked Jalu the chief if she might remain in the village. “She is from a country called Kali which lies the other side of the Terrible Mountains. She is going to try to cross them, and from what I have seen of her she will cross them if any one can.”
“No one can,” said Jalu, “and she may remain for thirty sleeps,” he added. “If one of our warriors has taken her for a mate in the meantime, she may remain always.”
“None of your warriors will take me for a mate,” said O-aa, “and I will leave long before I have slept thirty times.”
“What makes you think none of my warriors will take you for a mate?” demanded Jalu.
“Because I wouldn’t have one of them.”
Jalu laughed. “If a warrior wanted you he would not ask you, He would take you.”
It was O-aa’s turn to laugh. “He would get a knife in his belly,” she said. “I have killed many men. Furthermore, I have a mate. If I am harmed, he would come and my eleven brothers and my father, the king; and they would kill you all. They are very fierce men. They are nine feet tall. My mate is Hodon the Fleet One. He is a Sarian. The Sarians are very fierce people. But if you are kind to me, no harm will befall you. While I am here, Rahna and I will hunt for you. I am a wonderful hunter. I am probably the best hunter in all Pellucidar.”
“I think you are probably the best liar,” said Jalu. “Who is Rahna?”
“My jalok,” said O-aa, laying her hand on the head of the beast standing beside her.
“Women do not hunt, nor do they have jaloks,” said Jalu.
“I do,” said O-aa.
A half smile curved the lip of Jalu. He found himself admiring this yellow haired stranger, girl. She had courage, and that was a quality that Jalu the chief understood and admired. He had never seen so much of it in a woman before.
A warrior stepped forward. “I will take her as my mate,” he said, “and teach her a woman’s place. What she needs is a beating.”
O-aa’s lip curved in scorn. “Try it, bowlegs,” she said.
The warrior flushed, for he was very bowlegged and was sensitive about it. He took another step toward O-aa, threateningly.
“Stop, Zurk!” commanded Jalu. “The girl may remain here for thirty sleeps without mating. If she stays longer, you may take her—if you can. But I think she will kill you.”
Zurk stood glaring at O-aa. “When you are mine,” he snarled, “the first thing I will do is beat you to death.”
Jalu turned to one of the women. “Hala,” he directed, “show this woman a house in which she may sleep.”
“Come,” said Hala to O-aa.
She took her to a house at the far end of the village. “No one lives here now,” she said. “The man and the woman who lived here were killed by a tarag not long ago.”
O-aa looked at the ladder and up at the doorway. “How can my jalok get up there?” she asked.
Hala looked at her in surprise. “Jaloks do not come into the houses,” she explained. “They lie at the foot of the ladders to warn their owners of danger and to protect them. Did you not know this?”
“We do not have tame jaloks in my country,” said O-aa.
“You are lucky that you have one here, now that you have made an enemy of Zurk. He is a bad man; not at all like Jalu, his father.”
So, thought O-aa, I have made an enemy of the chief’s son. She shrugged her square little shoulders.
Ah-gilak had bowled along in a southwesterly direction for some time before a good wind. Then the wind died. Ah-gilak cursed. He cursed many things, but principally he cursed O-aa, who had brought all his misfortunes upon him, according to his superstition.
When the wind sprang up again, it blew in the opposite direction from that in which it had been blowing before the calm. Ah-gilak danced up and down in rage. But he could do nothing about it. He could sail in only one way, and that was with the wind. So he sailed back in a north-easterly direction. He lashed the wheel and went below to eat and sleep.