“Will they receive us there as friends,” asked Stellara, “or will they wish to destroy us as did the men of Lar?”
“I am chief,” said Fedol. “Even if they questioned you, they will do as I command, but there will be no question for the proof is beyond dispute and they will accept you as the daughter of Fedol and Allara, as I have accepted you.”
“And Tanar?” asked Stellara, “will you protect him, too?”
“Your word is sufficient that he is not a Korsar,” replied Fedol. “He may remain with us as long as he wishes.”
“What will Zural think of this?” asked Tanar. “He has condemned us to die. Will he not insist that the sentence be carried out?”
“Seldom do the villagers of Amiocap war one against the other,” replied Fedol; “but if Zural wishes war he shall have it ere ever I shall give up you or my daughter to the burning stake of Lar.”
Great was the rejoicing when the people of Paraht saw their chief, whom they had thought lost to them forever, returning. They clustered about him with glad cries of welcome, which were suddenly stilled by loud shouts of
“The Korsars! The Korsars!” as the eyes of some of the people alighted upon Tanar and Stellara.
“Who cried ‘Korsars’?” demanded Fedol “What know you of these people?”
“I know them,” replied a tall warrior. “I am from Lar. There are six others with me and we have been searching for these Korsars, who escaped just before they were to have been burned at the stake. We will take them back with us and Zural will rejoice that you have captured them.”
“You will take them nowhere,” said Fedol. “They are not Korsars. This one,” and he placed a hand upon Stellara’s shoulder, “is my daughter, and the man is a warrior from distant Sari. He is the son of the king of that country, which lies far away upon a mainland unknown to us.”
“They told that same story to Zural,” said the warrior from Lar; “but we did not believe them. None of us believed them. I was with Vulhan and his party when we took them from the Korsar ship that brought them to Amiocap.”
“At first I did not believe them,” said Fedol, “but Stellara convinced me that she is my daughter, just as I can convince you of the truth of her statement.”
“How?” demanded the warrior.
“By the birthmark on my left shoulder,” replied Fedol. “Look at it, and then compare it with the one upon her left shoulder. No one who knew Allara can doubt that Stellara is her daughter, so closely does the girl resemble her mother, and being Allara’s daughter how could she inherit the birthmark upon her left shoulder from any other sire than me?”
The warriors from Lar scratched their heads. “It would seem the best of proof,” replied the warriors’ spokesman.
“It is the best of proof,” said Fedol. “It is all that I need. It is all the people of Paraht need. Take the word to Zural and the people of Lar and I believe that they will accept my daughter and Tanar as we are accepting them, and I believe that they will be willing to protect them as we intend to protect them from all enemies, whether from Amiocap or elsewhere.”
“I shall take your message to Zural,” replied the warrior, and shortly afterward they departed on the trail toward Lar.
Fedol prepared a room in his house for Stellara and assigned Tanar to a large building that was occupied solely by bachelors.
Plans were made for a great feast to celebrate the coming of Stellara and a hundred men were dispatched to fetch the ivory and the meat of the tandor that Fedol and Tanar had slain.
Fedol decked Stellara with ornaments of bone and ivory and gold. She wore the softest furs and the gorgeous plumage of rare birds. The people of Paraht loved her and Stellara was happy.
Tanar was accepted at first by the men of the tribe with some reservations, not untinged with suspicion. He was their guest by the order of their chief and they treated him as such, but presently, when they came to know him and particularly after he had hunted with them, they liked him for himself and made him one of them.
The Amiocapians were, at first, an enigma to Tanar. Their tribal life and all their customs were based primarily upon love and kindness. Harsh words, bickering and scolding were practically unknown among them. These attributes of the softer side of man appeared at first weak and effeminate to the Sarian, but when he found them combined with great strength and rare courage his admiration for the Amiocapians knew no bounds, and he soon recognized in their attitude toward one another and toward life a philosophy that he hoped he might make clear to his own Sarians.
The Amiocapians considered love the most sacred of the gifts of the gods, and the greatest power for good and they practiced liberty of love without license. So that while they were not held in slavery by senseless man-made laws that denied the laws of God and nature, yet they were pure and virtuous to a degree beyond that which he had known in any other people.
With hunting and dancing and feasting, with tests of skill and strength in which the men of Amiocap contended in friendly rivalry, life for Stellara and Tanar was ideally happy.
Less and less often did the Sarian think of Sari. Sometime he would build a boat and return to his native country, but there was no hurry; he would wait, and gradually even that thought faded almost entirely from his mind. He and Stellara were often together. They found a measure of happiness and contentment in one another’s society that was lacking at other times or with other people. Tanar had never spoken of love. Perhaps he had not thought of love for it seemed that he was always engaged upon some enterprise of the hunt, or contending in some of the sports and games of the men. His body and his mind were occupied—a condition which sometimes excludes thoughts of love, but wherever he went or whatever he did the face and figure of Stellara hovered ever in the background of his thoughts.
Without realizing it, perhaps, his every thought, his every act was influenced by the sweet loveliness of the chief’s daughter. Her friendship he took for granted and it gave him great happiness, but yet he did not speak of love. But Stellara was a woman, and women live on love.
In the village of Paraht she saw the girls openly avowing their love to men, but she was still bound by the customs of Korsar and it would have been impossible for her to bring herself to tell a man that she loved him until he had avowed his love. And so hearing no word of love from Tanar, she was content with his friendship. Perhaps she, too, had given no more thought to the matter of love than he.
But there was another who did harbor thoughts of love. It was Doval, the Adonis of Paraht. In all Amiocap there was no handsomer youth than Doval. Many were the girls who had avowed their love to him, but his heart had been unmoved until he looked upon Stellara.
Doval came often to the house of Fedol the chief. He brought presents of skin and ivory and bone to Stellara and they were much together. Tanar saw and he was troubled, but why he was troubled he did not know.
The people of Paraht had eaten and slept many times since the coming of Tanar and Stellara and as yet no word had come from Zural, or the village of Lat, in answer to the message that Fedol had sent, but now, at last, there entered the village a party of warriors from Lar, and Fedol, sitting upon the chief’s chair, received them in the tiled living room of his home.
“Welcome, men of Lar,” said the chief. “Fedol welcomes you to the village of Paraht and awaits with impatience the message that you bring him from his friend, Zural the chief.”
“We come from Zural and the people of Lar,” said the spokesman, “with a message of friendship for Fedol and Paraht. Zural, our chief, has commanded us to express to you his deep sorrow for the unintentional wrong that he did your daughter and the warrior from Sari. He is convinced that Stellara is your daughter and that the man is no Korsar if you are convinced of these facts, and he has sent presents to them and to you and with these presents an invitation for you to visit the village of Lar and bring Stellara and Tanar with you that Zural and his people may make amends for the wrong that they unwittingly did them.”
Fedol and Tanar and Stellara accepted the proffered friendship of Zural and his people, and a feast was prepared in honor of the visitors.
While these preparations were in progress a girl entered the village from the jungle. She was a dark-haired girl of extraordinary beauty. Her soft skin was scratched and soiled as from a long journey. Her hair was disheveled, but her eyes were bright with happiness and her teeth gleamed from between lips that were parted in a smile of triumph and expectation.
She made her way directly through the village to the house of Fedol and when the warriors of Lar descried her they exclaimed with astonishment.
“Letari!” cried one of them. “Where did you come from? What are you doing in the village of Paraht?”
But Letari did not answer. Instead she walked directly to where Tanar stood and halted before him.
“I have come to you,” she said. “I have died many a death from loneliness and sorrow since you ran away from the village of Lar, and when the warriors returned and said that you were safe in the village of Paraht I determined to come here. And so when Zural sent these warriors to bear his message to Fedol I followed them, The way has been hard and though I kept close behind them there were many times when wild beasts menaced me and I feared that I should never reach you, but at last I am here.”
“But why have you come?” demanded Tanar.
“Because I love you,” replied Letari. “Before the men of Lar and all the people of Paraht I proclaim my love.”
Tanar flushed. In all his life he had never been in so embarrassing a position. All eyes were turned upon him and among them were the eyes of Stellara.
“Well?” demanded Fedol, looking at Tanar.
“The girl is mad,” said the Sarian. “She cannot love me for she scarcely knows me. She never spoke to me but once before and that was when she brought food to Stellara and me when we were prisoners in the village of Lar.”
“I am not mad,” said Letari. “I love you.”
“Will you have her?” asked Fedol.
“I do not love her,” said Tanar.
“We will take her back to the village of Lar with us when we go,” said one of the warriors.
“I shall not go,” cried Letari. “I love him and I shall stay here forever.”
The girl’s declaration of love for Tanar seemed not to surprise anyone but the Sarian. It aroused little comment and no ridicule. The Amiocapians, with the possible exception of Stellara, took it as a matter of course. It was the most natural thing in the world for the people of this island of love to declare themselves publicly in matters pertaining to their hearts or to their passions,
That the general effect of such a policy was not nor never had been detrimental to the people as a race was evident by their high intelligence, the perfection of their physique, their great beauty and their unquestioned courage. Perhaps the opposite custom, which has prevailed among most of the people of the outer crust for so many ages, is responsible for the unnumbered millions of unhappy human beings who are warped or twisted mentally, morally or physically.
But with such matters the mind of Letari was not concerned. It was not troubled by any consideration of posterity. All she thought of was that she loved the handsome stranger from Sari and that she wanted to be near him. She came close to him and looked up into his face.
“Why do you not love me?” she asked. “Am I not beautiful?”
“Yes, you are very beautiful,” he said; “but no one can explain love, least of all I. Perhaps there are qualities of mind and character—things that we can neither see nor feel nor hear—that draw one heart forever to another.”
“But I am drawn to you,” said the girl. “Why are not you attracted to me?”
Tanar shook his head for he did not know. He wished that the girl would go away and leave him alone for she made him feel uneasy and restless and entirely uncomfortable, but Letari had no idea of leaving him alone. She was near him and there she intended to stay until they dragged her away and took her back to Lar, if they were successful in so doing, but she had determined in her little head that she should run away from them at the first opportunity and hide in the jungle until she could return to Paraht and Tanar.
“Will you talk to me?” she asked. “Perhaps if you talk to me you will love me.”
“I will talk to you,” said Tanar, “but I shall not love you.”
“Let us walk a little way from these people where we may talk,” she said.
“Very well,” said Tanar. He was only too anxious himself to get away where he might hide his embarrassment.
Letari led the way down the village street, her soft arm brushing his. “I should be a good mate,” she said, “for I should love only you, and if, after a while, you did not like me you could send me away for that is one of the customs of Amiocap—that when one of two people ceases to love they shall no longer be mates.”
“But they do not become mates unless they both love,” insisted Tanar.
“That is true,” admitted Letari, “but presently you shall love me. I know that, for all men love me. I could have for my mate any man in Lar that I choose.”
“You do not feel unkindly towards yourself,” said Tanar, with a grin.
“Why should I?” asked Letari. “Am I not beautiful and young?”
Stellara watched Tanar and Letari walking down the village street. She saw how close together they walked and it seemed that Tanar was very much interested in what Letari had to say to him. Doval was standing at her side. She turned to him.
“It is noisy here,” she said. “There are too many people. Walk with me to the end of the village.”
It was the first time that Stellara had ever indicated a desire to be alone with him and Doval felt a strange thrill of elation. “I will walk with you to the end of the village, Stellara, or to the end of Pellucidar, forever, because I love you,” he said.
The girl sighed and shook her head. “Do not talk about love,” she begged. “I merely wish to walk and there is no one else here to walk with me.”
“Why will you not love me?” asked Doval, as they left the house of the chief and entered the main street of the village. “Is it because you love another?”
“No!” cried Stellara, vehemently. “I love no one. I hate all men.”
Doval shook his head in perplexity. “I cannot understand you,” he said. “Many girls have told me that they loved me. I think that I could have almost any girl in Amiocap as my mate if I asked her; but you, the only one that I love, will not have me.”
For a few moments Stellara was silent in thought. Then she turned to the handsome youth at her side. “You are very sure of yourself, Doval,” she said, “but I do not believe that you are right. I would be willing to bet that I could name a girl who would not have you; who, no matter how hard you tried to make her, would not love you.”
“If you mean yourself, then there is one,” he said, “but there is no other.”
“Oh, yes, there is,” insisted Stellara.
“Who is she?” demanded Doval.
“Letari, the girl from Lar,” said Stellara.
Doval laughed. “She throws her love at the first stranger that comes to Amiocap,” he said. “She would be too easy.”
“I do not intend to try,” said Doval. “I do not love her. I love only you, and if I made her love me of what good would that be toward making you love me? No, I shall spend my time trying to win you.”
“You are afraid,” said Stellara. “You know that you would fail.”
“It would do me no good if I succeeded,” insisted Doval.
“It would make me like you very much better than I do now,” said Stellara.
“You mean that?” asked Doval.
“I most certainly do,” “said Stellara.
“Then I shall make the girl love me,” said Doval. “And if I do you promise to be mine?”
“I said nothing of the kind,” said Stellara. “I only said that I should like you very much better than I do now.”
“Well, that is something,” said Doval. “If you will like me very much better than you do now that is at least a step in the right direction.”
“However, there is no danger of that,” said Stellara, “for you cannot make her love you.”
“Wait, and see,” said Doval.
As Tanar and Letari turned to come back along the village street they passed Doval and Stellara, and Tanar saw that they were walking very close together and whispering. in low tones. The Sarian scowled; and suddenly he discovered that he did not like Doval and he wondered why because always he had thought Doval a very fine fellow. Presently it occurred to him that the reason was that Doval was not good enough for Stellara, but then if Stellara loved him that was all there was to it and with the thought that perhaps Stellara loved him Tanar became angry with Stellara. What could she see in this Doval, he wondered, and what business had Doval to walk alone with her in the village streets? Had not he, Tanar, always had Stellara to himself? Never before had anyone interfered, although all the men liked Stellara. Well, if Stellara liked Doval better than she did him, he would show her that he did not care. He, Tanar the Sarian, son of Ghak, king of Sari, would not let any woman make a fool of him and so he ostentatiously put his arm around the slim shoulders of Letari and walked thus slowly the length of the village street; nor did Stellara fail to see.
At the feast that was given in honor of the messengers sent by Zural, Stellara sat by Doval and Tanar had Letari at his side, and Doval and Letari were happy.
After the feast was over most of the villagers returned to their houses and slept, but Tanar was restless and unhappy and could not sleep so he took his weapons, his heavy spear shod with bone, his bow and his arrows, and his stone knife with the ivory handle, that Fedol the chief had given him, and went alone into the forest to hunt.
If the villagers slept an hour or a day is a matter of no moment, since there was no way of measuring the time. When they awoke—some sooner, some later—they went about the various duties of their life. Letari sought for Tanar, but she could not find him; instead she came upon Doval.
“You are very beautiful,” said the man.
“I know it,” replied Letari.
“You are the most beautiful girl that I have ever seen,” insisted Doval.
Letari looked at him steadily for a few moments. “I never noticed you before,” she said. “You are very handsome. You are quite the handsomest man that I ever saw.”
“That is what every one says,” replied Doval. “Many girls have told me that they loved me, but still I have no mate.”
“A woman wants something beside a handsome face in her mate,” said Letari.
“I am very brave,” said Doval, “and I am a great hunter. I like you. Come, let us walk together,” and Doval put his arm about the girl’s shoulders and together they walked along the village street, while, from the doorway of her sleeping apartment in the home of her father, the chief, Stellara watched, and as she watched, a smile touched her lips.
Over the village of Paraht rested the peace of Amiocap and the calm of eternal noon. The children played at games beneath the shade of the trees that had been left dotting the village here and there when the clearing had been made. The women worked upon skins, strung beads or prepared food. The men looked to their weapons against the next hunt, or lolled idly on furs in their open living rooms—those who were not still sleeping off the effects of the heavy feast. Fedol, the chief, was bidding farewell to Zural’s messengers and entrusting to them a gift for the ruler of Lar, when suddenly the peace and quiet was shattered by hoarse cries and a shattering burst of musketry.
Instantly all was pandemonium. Then women and warriors rushed from their homes; shouts, curses and screams filled the air.
“Korsars! Korsars!” rang through the village, as the bearded ruffians, taking advantage of the surprise and confusion of the villagers, rushed rapidly forward to profit by the advantage they had gained.