He had discovered ores and smelted them; he had manufactured steel; he had made cement and produced a very good grade of concrete. He had discovered oil in Sari and refined it to produce gasoline; he had manufactured small arms and cannon. He had found and mined gold, silver, platinum, lead, and other metals. He was probably the busiest man in a whole world and the most useful. The great trouble was that the men of the stone age, or at least most of them, were not far enough advanced to appreciate what Perry had done and could do for them.
Often warriors armed with his rifles would throw them away in battle and go after the enemy with stone hatchets, or they would seize them by the muzzles and use them as clubs. He built a pumping plant near the village of Sari and pumped water through concrete pipes right into the villa yet many of the women still insisted upon walking half a mile to the spring and carrying water back in gourds balanced on the tops of their heads. Time meant nothing to them and carrying water on their heads gave them a fine carriage.
But Perry kept on just the same. He was never discouraged. He was almost perpetually good natured; and when he wasn’t praying, he was swearing like a trooper. Dave Innes loved him, and so did Dian the Beautiful One and Ghak the Hairy One, who was King of Sari. In fact everyone who knew Abner Perry loved him. The young Sarians who worked for him looked up to him and worshipped him as though he were a god. And Abner Perry was very happy.
After the aeroplane failed, he started in on another invention that he had had in mind for some time. If he had known what was to come of it, he would probably have thrown away all his plans; but of course he could not know.
Dave Innes took a company of warriors and went on a tour of inspection of some of the other kingdoms of the loose confederation which constitutes the Empire of Pellucidar, of which he had been elected Emperor, following the incident of the aeroplane. He went first to Amoz, which is two hundred miles northeast of Sari on the Lural Az, a great uncharted, unexplored ocean. Six hundred miles northeast of Amoz lies Kali. Kali is the last of the kingdoms in this direction which still gives allegiance to the Empire. Suvi, four hundred miles westerly from Kali, dropped out of the confederation and made war upon Kali. The king of Suvi, whose name is Fash, had once held Dian the Beautiful prisoner; and that act had never been avenged.
Dave Innes had this in mind when he went North. It would be well to teach Fash a lesson and, perhaps, place on the throne of Suvi a man loyal to the Empire.
Sari is not on the sea coast; so the party marched to Greenwich, a hundred and fifty miles, and there took one of the ships of the Navy, which had been built under Perry’s direction. Greenwich was established and named by Dave Innes and Abner Perry. Through it passes the prime meridian of Pellucidar, also an invention of Innes and Perry.
From Greenwich, they sailed to Amoz in the EPS Sari. The EPS is a conceit of Perry’s. It means Empire of Pellucidar ship, like USS California. The Sari, like most of the ships of Pellucidar, was manned by red skinned Mezops from the Island of Anoroc, a seafaring race of fighting men. They had known only canoes until Perry and Innes introduced them to sails, but they soon mastered the new ships and learned what little of navigation Dave Innes could teach them—all dead reckoning, with only crude compasses to aid them.
Beneath a stationary sun, without the aid of stars or moon, there can be few navigational aids. The Mezops knew all there was to know about tides and currents in the coastal waters near their island. Innes and Perry gave them the compass, the log, and a chronometer which was never accurate and which could never be corrected; so it was seldom used. Their navigation was mostly by guess and by God, but they got places. They could always sail the most direct course toward home because of the marvellous homing sense which is common to all Pellucidarians, a Providential compensation for their lack of guiding celestial bodies.
Kander is King of Amoz. The title, like that of Emperor, was Perry’s idea. Kander, like the other kings of the confederation, is chief of a tribe of cave men. He is about as far advanced in the scale of evolution and civilization as the Cro-Magnons of the outer crust were in their time; but like the Cro-Magnons, he is intelligent.
From him Innes learned that Fash was warring with Kali again and had boasted that he would move on down south and conquer Amoz and Sari, making himself Emperor of Pellucidar. Now Innes had brought but fifty warriors with him, but he decided to go on to Kali and learn first hand what was happening there. First he sent a runner back to Sari with a verbal message instructing Ghak to gather the fleet at Amoz and proceed to Kali with as many warriors as the ships would accommodate; then he got a detail of fifty warriors from Kander and sailed north for Kali, the hundred warriors straining the capacity of the EPS Sari.
Six hundred miles by water brought the Sari opposite Kali, which lies some forty miles inland; and from here he dispatched a runner to Oose, King of Kali. The runner was Hodon the Fleet One, a Sarian warrior of proven courage and loyalty; and it requires courage to carry a message across savage Pellucidar. Fierce beasts and fiercer reptiles are a constant menace, and hostile tribes may be in ambush along the way.
All the forty miles to Kali, Hodon had good fortune with him. Once he met a tarag, the giant sabertooth tiger; and the beast charged him, but an experienced runner knows how best to safeguard himself. He does not run in a straight line across open plains, but from tree to tree, much, after the manner of a merchant ship zigzagging to elude a submarine.
The sabertooth, which is a confirmed man-eater, may be aware of this strategy from hunting of men; but, be that as it may, this particular beast timed its charge to a nicety and launched it at the moment that Hodon was farthest from any tree.
It was a thrilling race—for Hodon a race with Death; for few men have met and killed a tarag singlehanded. An occasional super-warrior may boast that he has done so with the long, stout spear which they usually carry; but Hodon, running light, carried no spear. He had only his speed upon which he might depend for his life, his speed and a stone knife.
The tarag covered the ground in great, bounding leaps which would quickly have overhauled an ordinary man; but Hodon is no ordinary man. He has not won the distinction of having Fleet One added to his name for nothing. And now he really ran.
The great beast was but a few yards behind him when Hodon sprang into the tree that was his goal and scrambled out of harm’s way; then he sat upon a branch and spit down into the face of the tarag and called him all the vile names to which a Pellucidarian can lay his tongue, and they are many.
The tarag wasted no time waiting for Hodon to come down, as experience may have taught him that he would starve to death before any man-thing would come down to be eaten; so he made off in search of other prey.
A little farther on another tree saved Hodon from the talons of a thipdar, a huge pterodactyl such as winged the steaming skies of the Mesozoic. This mighty pteranodon, with a wig spread of twenty feet, hunted high in the air—a preposterous eagle or hawk, ready to swoop down upon any living thing. The only defense against it is the shelter of a tree, and once again Hodon reached this sanctuary just in time.
Hissing with rage, the reptile soared away; and when it was out of sight Hodon continued on to Kali, which he reached without further adventure.
The village of Kali consists mostly of eaves in a lime stone cliff, with a few rude, thatched shelters at its base, which are used for cooking, eating, and communal gatherings.
As Hodon approached the village he was met by a score of warriors, which was what he might have expected on approaching any well guarded village. They demanded his business there; and when he told them that he bore a message from the Emperor of Pellucidar to Oose, the King of Kali, they looked at one another; and some of them grinned behind his back.
“I will take word to the king,” said one. “Wait here.”
Presently the man returned and instructed Hodon to follow him, and all the warriors who had come to meet him accompanied them. It might have been a guard of honor, but Hodon had a feeling that it more nearly resembled the guard of a prisoner.
He was conducted to one of the thatched shelters, where a man sat upon a stool, surrounded by other warriors.
“What message do you bring to Oose, King of Kali, from the Emperor of Pellucidar?” demanded the man.
Now, Hodon had never before been to Kali, nor had he ever seen Oose; but it was evident to him that this man was the king. He thought that he was an ill-favored fellow, and he took an instinctive dislike to him.
“You are the king?” he asked, wishing to make sure before he delivered the message. “You are the king of Kali?”
“Yes,” replied the man. “I am the king of Kali. What message do you bring?”
“The Emperor wishes you to know that his ship is anchored off the coast of Kali with a hundred warriors. He has heard that you are having trouble with Fash, the king of Suvi; and he wishes to talk the matter over with you, that an expedition may be sent against Fash to punish him for his treason to the Empire. I am to take word back to him as to whether you will come to the coast to talk with him, or if you would prefer that he came here; for he knows that it is not always easy for a village to feed a hundred extra men.”
“I will send a runner to the Emperor,” said the king of Kali. “You will remain here and rest.”
“My orders are to bring the message to the Emperor myself,” replied Hodon.
“I give orders here,” said the king; and then he spoke to the leader of the warriors who surrounded Hodon. “Take this man to a high cave and place a guard over him. See that he does not escape.”
“What is the meaning of this?” demanded Hodon. “I am a Sarian and one of the Emperor’s men. What you are doing is treason.”
“Take him away,” said the king.
Up rickety wooden ladders Hodon’s guard forced him to climb to the highest level. Here a narrow ledge ran in front of several cave mouths. A guard of two warriors already squatted on the ledge near the top of the ladder; two others sat before the mouth of one of the eaves. Into this cave Hodon was ordered, and at the same time the king of Kali dispatched a runner to the coast with a message for David Innes.
When Hodon’s eyes became accustomed to the darkness of the interior of the cave, he saw that he was not alone. The cave was a large one, and fully fifty men squatted or lay upon the floor.
“Who are you?” demanded one of these, as Hodon groped his way in search of a place to sit down.
“I seem to be a prisoner.” replied Hodon.
“We are all prisoners,” said the man. “I did not recognize you as you came in. Are you a Kalian?”
“Are you?” asked Hodon.
“We are all Kalians.”
“Then why are you prisoners in Kali?’ demanded Hodon.
“Because the warriors of Suvi attacked and overcame the village while most of the men were on the hunt and as we returned they fell upon us from ambush, killing many and capturing the rest.”
“Then the man sitting in the shelter at the foot of the cliff is not king of Kali?” asked Hodon.
“He calls himself King of Kali, because he has captured the village,” replied the man; “but I am king of Kali.”
“You are Oose?” demanded Hodon.
“I am Oose, and the man who calls himself King of Kali is Fash, the king of Suvi.”
“Then I have given the Emperor’s message to the Emperor’s enemy,” said Hodon, “but how was I to know.”
“The message was for me?” asked Oose.
“For you,” said Hodon, and then he repeated the message to Oose.
“It is bad,” said Oose, “for now Fash is warned.”
“How many warriors has he?” asked Hodon.
“I can count only to ten times the number of my fingers,” said Oose. “We men of Kali are not wise like the men of Sari who had been taught many things by Innes and Perry, but if I counted all of my fingers ten times; then I should say that Fash has five times that many warriors.”
Hodon shook his head. “I must escape,” he said; “for when I do not return after a couple of sleeps, the Emperor will come after me; and he will be outnumbered five to one.”
“You cannot escape,” said Oose. “Four warriors squat upon the ledge, and many warriors are at the foot of the Cliff.”
“Are we allowed on the ledge?” asked Hodon.
“If you have a good reason you will be allowed to go to the little cave at the far end of the ledge.”
“I have a good reason,” said Hodon, and he went to the mouth of the cave and spoke to one of the warriors on guard there.
The fellow grunted surly permission, and Hodon came out upon the ledge and moved slowly toward the little cave at the far end. He did not look down; but always up, scanning the face of the cliff to its summit, which was only a few feet above his head.
A warrior came to the shore of the Lural Az. He saw a ship anchored in a little cove a short distance off shore, and he shouted until he had attracted attention of those on board. A small boat floated beside the ship, and presently a number of copper colored warriors dove from the deck of the ship and clambered into the small boat, which they paddled toward the shore. When they had come close, they shouted to the warrior and asked him who he was and what he wanted.
“I bring a message from the king of Kali to the Emperor of Pellucidar,” the man replied; then the boat was brought to the shore, and the messenger taken aboard. A few moments later he was hauled to the deck of the Sari and brought before David Innes.
“You bring a message from the king of Kali?” asked Innes. “Why did my own warrior not return with it as I ordered?”
“Hodon was ill; and he was very, very tired,” replied the messenger. “That there might be no delay, the King sent me.”
“What is the message?”
“The King asks that you come to Kali. He cannot leave Kali now because of the danger of attack.”
“I understand,” said Innes. “I shall come at once.”
“I will go ahead and tell the King. He will be very pleased. Will you come alone?”
“I will bring a hundred warriors with me,” replied Innes.
So David Innes started for Kali, and the messenger of Fash went ahead to carry the word to his king.
Hodon walked slowly along the ledge, examining every inch of the cliff face above him until he came to the little cave at the far end. Here the cliff dipped downward, and its summit was scarcely four feet above Hodon’s head. He turned and looked back along the ledge. One of the guards was watching him; so Hodon stooped and entered the little cave. He turned around immediately, waited a moment, and then looked out. The guard was still looking at him. Hodon retreated into the cave, remained there a short time, and then came boldly out. His heart sank—two members of the guard had their eyes on him. He knew that he must have just a moment while no one was looking in order to put his plan into successful operation. Now there was nothing to do but return to the prison cave.
Here he tried to think of some plan that would help him to carry out that which he had in mind, and finally he hit upon one. He moved over beside Oose, and sat down close to him; then he explained his plan in low whispers.
“We will do it,” said Oose; “but do not forget what I told you—you cannot escape.”
“I can try,” said Hodon.
After a while—whether an hour, a day, or a week of outer Earthly time, who may know?—the guard upon the ledge was changed; then Hodon went immediately to the mouth of the cave and asked permission to go to the small cave at the end of the ledge. Again he was granted permission.
He walked along the ledge slowly. This time he looked down. At the bottom of the cliff he saw women and children, but only a few warriors—perhaps just enough to guard the village. Where were the others? Hodon thought that he knew, and he chafed to make good his escape. If he did, would he be in time?
Just as he reached the little cave he heard shouts and yells behind him. They were muffled, as though they came from the interior of a cave. He glanced back, and saw the four guards running toward the prison cave. Hodon smiled.