Zurk pulled upon the arrow embedded in his shoulder. It had just missed his heart. The rough stone tip tore at the tender wound. Blood ran down the man’s body. His features were contorted with pain. He swore. He was very careful as he withdrew the shaft lest the point should be deflected and touch his heart. The girl and the jalok were out of sight, having passed through bushes into a slight depression.
Rahna had followed his mistress, loping easily along a few yards behind her. Suddenly another jalok flashed past him, straight for the fleeing girl.
Hodon the Fleet One turned his face and his steps northeast toward Kali. Hodon knew nothing about the points of the compass, but his homing instinct told him the direction to Sari; and, knowing where Kali lay in relation, to Sari, his homeland, he knew the direction he must take.
He had been walking for some time, when, emerging from a clump of bushes, he came upon a man sitting with his back against the bole of a tree. Hodon was armed only with a knife, which was not well in a world where the usual greeting between strangers is, “I kill.”
He was very close to the man before he saw him, and in the instant that he saw him, he saw that his body was smeared with blood and a little stream of blood ran down his chest from a wound in his breast close to his left shoulder.
Now the Sarians, because of the influence of David Innes and Abner Perry, are less savage and brutal than the majority of Pellucidarians. Although Perry had taught them how to slaughter their fellow men scientifically with muskets, cannon, and gunpowder, he had also preached to them the doctrine of the brotherhood of man; so that their policy now was based on the admonition of a man they had never heard of who had lived in a world they would never see, to “speak softly and carry a big stick,” for Abner Perry had been a worshipper of Teddy Roosevelt.
The man’s head was bowed, his chin lay upon his breast. He was barely breathing. But when he realized that some one had approached him he looked up and snarled. He expected to be killed, but he could do nothing about it.
Hodon turned back to the bushes through which he had just passed and gathered some leaves. He made a little ball of the most tender of them and came back to the man. He knelt beside him and plugged the hole in his chest with a little ball of leaves, stopping the flow of blood.
There was questioning in Zurk’s dull eyes as he looked into those of the stranger. “Aren’t you going to kill me?” he whispered.
Hodon ignored the question. “Where is your village?” he asked. “Is it far?”
“Not far,” said Zurk.
“I will help you back to it,” said Hodon, “if you promise me that the warriors will not kill me.”
“They will not kill you,” said Zurk. “I am the chief’s son. But why do you do this for a stranger?”
“Because I am a Sarian,” said Hodon proudly.
Hodon helped Zurk to his feet, but the man, could scarcely stand. Hodon realized that he could not walk; so he carried him pickaback, Zurk directing him toward the village.
The wind blew and rain fell, but the storm was abating as Hodon carried the chief’s son into the village. Warriors came from their houses, with ready weapons, for Hodon was a stranger to be killed on sight. Then they saw Zurk, who was unconscious now, and hesitated.
Hodon faced them. “Instead of standing there scowling at me,” he said, “come and take your chief’s son and carry him to his house where the women can care for him.”
When they had lifted Zurk from his back, Hodon saw that the man was unconscious and that he might be killed after all. “Where is the chief?” he asked.
Jalu was coming toward them from his house. “I am the chief,” he said. “You are either a very brave man or a fool to have wounded my son and then brought him to me.”
“I did not wound him,” said Hodon. “I found him wounded and brought him here, else he would have died. He told me that if I did this the warriors would not kill me.”
“If you have spoken the truth the warriors will not kill you,” said Jalu.
“If the man dies before he regains consciousness, how will you know that I have spoken the truth?” asked Hodon.
“We will not know,” said Jalu. He turned to one of his warriors. “Have him treated well, but see that he does not escape.”
“The brotherhood of man is all right,” said Hodon, “if the other fellow knows about it.” They did not know what he was talking about. “I was a fool not to let him die,” he added.
“I think you were,” agreed Jalu.
Hodon was taken to a house and a woman was sent to take him food. Two warriors stood guard at the foot of the ladder. The woman came with food. It was Hala. She looked at the handsome prisoner with questioning eyes. He did not look stupid, but then one could not always tell just by looks.
“Why did you bring Zurk back when you know that you might be killed? What was he to you?” she asked.
“He was a fellow man, and I am a Sarian,” was Hodon’s simple explanation.
“You, a Sarian?” demanded Hala.
“There is a Sarian with us, or there was. She went away, I think to hunt; and she has not returned.”
Hodon paled. “What was her name?” he asked.
“Oh, I was wrong,” said Hala. “She is not a Sarian. It is her mate that is a Sarian. She comes from another country where the men are nine feet tall. She has eleven brothers and her father is a king.”
“And her name is O-aa,” said Hodon.
“How do you know?” demanded Hala.
“There is only one O-aa,” said Hodon, enigmatically. “Which way did she go?”
“Up the valley,” said Hala. “Zurk followed her. Zurk is a bad man. It must have been O-aa who wounded him.”
“And I have saved him!” exclaimed Hodon. “Hereafter I shall leave the brotherhood of man to others.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“It is meaningless,” said Hodon. “I must get out of here and follow her.”
“You cannot get out,” said Hala. Suddenly her eyes went wide in understanding. “You are Hodon the Fleet One,” she said.
“How did you know that?”
“That is the name of O-aa’s mate. She said so, and that he is a Sarian.”
“I must get out,” said Hodon.
“I would help you if I could,” said Hala. “I liked O-aa and I like you, but you will only get out of this village alive if Zurk regains consciousness and says that he promised that you would not be killed.”
“Will you go then and find out if he has regained consciousness?” he asked her.
O-aa heard a savage growl close behind her. She turned to see a strange jalok reared on its hind feet to seize her and drag her down. As she leaped, quick as a chamois, to one side, she saw something else. She saw Rahna spring upon the strange jalok and hurl it to the ground. The fight that ensued was bloody and terrifying. The two savage beasts fought almost in silence. There were only snarls of rage. As they tore at one another, O-aa circled them, spear in hand, seeking an opportunity to impale Rahna’s antagonist. But they moved so quickly that she dared not thrust for fear of wounding Rahna instead of the other.
Rahna needed no help. At last he got the hold for which he had been fighting—a full hold of the other jalok’s throat. The mighty jaws closed, and Rahna shook the other as a terrier shakes a rat. It was soon over. Rahna dropped the carcass and looked up into O-aa’s eyes. He wagged his tail, and O-aa went down on her knees and hugged him, all bloody as he was.
She found the leaves she needed, and a little stream, and there she washed Rahna’s wounds and rubbed the juices of the leaves into them. After that, she flushed a couple of hares and some strange birds that have not been on earth for a million years. She fed Rahna and she ate her own meat raw, for there was nothing dry with which to make fire.
She did not dare go back to the village, both because she feared that she might have killed Zurk and feared that she hadn’t. In one event, Jalu would kill her if her deed were discovered; in the other, Zurk would kill her. She would go on toward Kali, but first she would sleep. Beneath a great tree she lay down, and the fierce hyaenodon lay down beside her.