“Yes,” I replied.
“Well, you’re going to get a lesson in swordsmanship tonight. Of course it won’t do you much good because after it is all over you will be dead.”
“You are very encouraging,” I said, “but if you are fond of Motus, I suggest that you save your encouragement for him. He is going to need it.”
“I am not fond of Motus,” said the warrior; “no one is fond of Motus. He is a calot and I apologize to calots for the comparison. I hope that you kill him but of course you won’t. He always kills his man, but he is tricky. Watch out for that.”
“You mean he doesn’t fight fair?” I asked.
“No one ever taught him the word,” said the warrior.
“Well, thank you for warning me,” I said; “I hope you stay to see the fight, maybe you will be surprised.”
“I shall certainly stay to see it,” he said. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world. But I am not going to be surprised; I know just what will happen. He will play with you for about five minutes and then he’ll run you through; and that won’t please Ptantus for he likes a long drawn out duel.”
“Oh, he does does he?” I said. “Well, he shall have it.” That fitted in perfectly with my plans. I had swallowed one of the invisibility spheres just before the warrior unshackled me, and I knew that it would take about an hour for it to effect perfect invisibility. It might be difficult to drag the duel out for an hour, but I hoped to gain a little time by stalling up to the moment that we crossed swords. And I accomplished it now by walking slowly to kill as much time as possible, and twice I stopped to tighten the fastenings of my sandals.
“What’s the matter?” demanded the warrior. “Why do you walk so slow? Are you afraid?”
“Terrified,” I replied. “Everyone has told me how easily Motus is going to kill me. Do you think that a man wants to run to his death?”
“Well, I don’t blame you much,” said the warrior, “and I won’t hurry you.”
“A lot of you Invaks are pretty good fellows,” I remarked.
“Of course we are,” he said. “What made you think anything different?”
“Pnoxus, Motus, and Ptantus,” I replied.
The warrior grinned. “I guess you are a pretty shrewd fellow,” he said, “to have sized them up this quickly.”
“Everybody seems to hate them,” I said; “why don’t you get rid of them? I’ll start you off by getting rid of Motus tonight.”
“You may be a good swordsman,” said the warrior, “but you are bragging too much; I never knew a braggart yet who could ‘take the princess.’”
“I am not bragging,” I said; “I only state facts.” As a matter of fact, I often realize that in speaking of my swordsmanship, it may sound to others as though I were bragging but really I do not feel that I am bragging. I know that I am the greatest swordsman of two worlds. It would be foolish for me to simper, and suck my finger, and say that I was not. I am, and everyone who has seen me fight knows that I am. Is it braggadocio to state a simple fact? It has saved a number of lives, for it has kept no end of brash young men from challenging me.
Fighting has been, you might say, my life’s work. There is not a lethal weapon in the use of which I do not excel, but the sword is my favorite. I love a good blade and I love a good fight and I hoped that tonight I should have them both.
I hoped that Motus was all that they thought him. The thought might have obtruded on the consciousness of some men that perhaps he was, but no such idea ever entered my head. They say that overconfidence often leads to defeat, but I do not think that I am ever overconfident. I am merely wholly confident, and I maintain that there is all the difference in the world there.
At last we came to the throne room. It was not the same room in which I had first seen Ptantus; it was a much larger room, a more ornate room; and at one side of it was a raised dias on which were two thrones. They were empty now, for the jeddak and the jeddara had not yet appeared. The floor of the room was crowded with nobles and their women. Along three sides of the room were several tiers of benches, temporary affairs, which had evidently been brought in for the occasion. They were covered with gay cloths and cushions; but they were still empty, for, of course, no one could sit until the jeddak came and was seated.
As I was brought into the room, a number of people called attention to me and soon many eyes were upon me.
In my well-worn fighting harness, I looked rather drab in the midst of this brilliant company with their carved leather harness studded with jewels. The Invaks, like most of the red nations of Barsoom, are a handsome people and those in the throne room of this tiny nation, hidden away in the Forest of Lost Men, made a brave appearance beneath the strange and beautiful lights which gave them visibility.
I heard many comments concerning me. One woman said, “He does not look like a Barsoomian at all.”
“He is very handsome,” said a sweet voice, which I immediately recognized; and for the second time I looked Rojas in the face. As our eyes met I could see her tremble. She was a beautiful girl, by far the most beautiful of all the women in the room, I am sure.
“Let’s talk with him,” she said to a woman and two men standing with her.
“That would be interesting,” said the woman, and the four of them walked toward me.
Rojas looked me square in the eye. “What is your name?” she asked, without a flicker of recognition.
“Dotar Sojat,” I replied.
“The Sultan of Swat,” said one of the men, “whatever a sultan is and wherever Swat may be.” I could scarcely repress a smile.
“Where is Swat?” inquired the woman.
“In India,” I replied.
“I think the fellow is trying to make fools of us,” snapped one of the men. “He is just making up those names. There are no such places on Barsoom.”
“I didn’t say they were on Barsoom,” I retorted. “They are forty-three million miles from Barsoom.”
“If they’re not on Barsoom, where are they?” demanded the man.
“On Jasoom,” I replied.
“Come,” said the man, “I have had enough of this slave’s insolence.”
“I find him very interesting,” said the woman.
“So do I,” said Rojas.
“Well, enjoy it while you may,” said the man, “for in a few minutes he will be dead.”
“Have you laid a wager on that?” I asked.
“I couldn’t find anyone to bet against Motus,” he growled. “Kandus was the only fool to do that and the jeddak covered his entire wager.”
“That is too bad,” I said; “someone is losing an opportunity to make some money.”
“Do you think you will win?” asked Rojas, trying to conceal the eagerness in her voice.
“Of course I shall win,” I replied. “I always do. You look like a very intelligent girl,” I said, “if I may speak to you alone I will tell you a little secret.”
She saw that I had something that I wished to say to her in private, but I will admit that I had put her in rather an embarrassing position. However, the other woman helped me out.”
“Go ahead, Rojas,” she urged. “I think it would be fun to hear what he has to say.”
Thus encouraged Rojas took me to one side. “What is it?” she asked.
“Llana of Gathol,” I said. “How are we to get her?”
She caught her breath. “I never thought of that,” she said.
“Could you get one of those invisibility spheres to her right away?” I asked.
“For you, yes,” she said. “For you I would do anything.”
“Good; and tell her to come out into the courtyard by the quarters of the slave women. A little after midnight she will hear me whistle. She will recognize the air. She must answer and then wait for me. Will you do that for me, Rojas?”
“Yes, but what excuse am I to make for leaving my friends?”
“Tell them you are going to get some money to wager on me,” I said.
Rojas smiled. “That is a splendid idea,” she said. And a moment later she had made her explanations to her friends and I saw her leave the throne room.