Kirby did not know what
mountains they were. He did
know that the Mannlicher
bullets of eleven bad Mexicans
over his head
past the hoofs of
stolen horse. The
shots were mingled with yelps which
pretty well curdled his spine. In the
circumstances, the unknown range of
snow mountains towering blue and
white beyond the arid, windy plateau,
offering he could not tell what dangers,
at them, Kirby
A beautiful face in the depths of a
geyser—and Kirby plunges into a desperate
mid-Earth conflict with the dreadful
As he dug the
heels of his aviator’s boots into the
stallion’s flanks, the animal galloped
even faster than before, and Kirby
took hope. Then more bullets and
more yelps made him think that his
advantage might prove only temporary.
Nevertheless, he laughed again, and as
he became accustomed to the feel of a
stallion under him, he even essayed a
few pistol shots back at the pack of
frantic, swarthy devils he had fooled.
His head wavered back and forth and his hiss filled the night.
Three hours ago he had been eating
a peaceful breakfast with his friend
and commandant, Colonel Miguel de
Castanar, in the sunlit patio of the
commandant’s hacienda. Castanar,
chief of the air patrol for the district,
had waxed enthusiastic over the suppression
of last spring’s revolutionists
and the cowed state of up-country bandits.
Captain Freddie Kirby, American
instructor of flying to Mexican
pilots in the making, had agreed with
him and asked for one of the Wasps
and three days’ leave with which to
go visiting in Laredo. The simple matter
of a broken fuel line, a forced landing
two hundred kilometres from nowhere,
and the unlucky proximity of
the not-so-cowed horsemen, were the
things which had changed the day
from what it had been to what it was.
The one piece of good fortune which
had befallen him since the bandits had
surrounded the wrecked Wasp, looted
it, and taken its lone pilot prisoner,
was the break he was getting now.
During the squadron’s first halt to feed,
he had knocked down his guards and
made a bolt for the grazing stallion.
So far, the attempt was proving worth
On and on the stallion lunged toward
the white mountains. Kirby’s
eyes became red rimmed now from
fatigue and the glare of the sun and
the dust of the pitilessly bare plateau.
A negligible scalp wound under his
mop of straw-colored hair, slight as it
was, did not add to his comfort. But
still he would not give up, for the
horse, as if it sensed what its rider
needed most, was making directly for
a narrow ravine which debouched on
the plateau from the nearest mountain
It was the promise of cover afforded
by the jagged rocks and jungle growth
of that ravine which kept hope alive
in Kirby’s throbbing brain.
The stallion was blown and staggering.
Foam from the heavily bitted
mouth flashed back in great yellow
flakes against Kirby’s dust-caked aviator’s
tunic. But just the same, the five
mile gallop had carried both horse and
rider beyond range of any but the most
expert rifle shot. And Kirby knew
that if his own splendid mount was almost
ready to crash, the horses of his
pursuers must be in worse shape still.
So for the third time since the fight
had begun, he laughed. This time there
was no harshness, but only relief, in
the sound which came from his dry
Ten minutes later, he flung himself
out of his saddle. Like the caress of
a vast, soothing hand, the shadowed
coolness of the ravine lay upon him.
As his feet struck ground, they
splashed in the water overflowing from
a spring at the base of an immense
rock. At once Kirby dropped the reins
on the stallion’s neck, giving him his
freedom, and as the horse lowered his
head to drink, Kirby stooped also.
There was cover everywhere. Kirby’s
first move after pulling both himself
and the horse away from the spring,
was to glance up the long, deeply
shaded canyon which he had entered—a
gash hacked into the breast of the
steep mountain as by a titanic ax.
Then, reassured as to the possibilities
for a defensive retreat, he glanced back
toward the dazzling, bare plateau.
It was what he saw taking place
amongst the sombreroed bandits
out there which made the grin of satisfaction
fade from his broad mouth.
His last glance backward, before bolting
into the canyon mouth, had showed
him a ragged squadron of men left far
behind, yet galloping after him still.
Presently a puzzled frown made
wrinkles in Freddie Kirby’s wide sunburned
forehead. He relaxed his grip
upon the heavy Luger, which, in his
big hands, looked like a cap pistol, and
rubbed his eyes.
But he was not mistaken. The horsemen
had halted! Out there on the glaring,
alkali-arid plateau, they were
standing as still as so many statues.
Looking toward the canyon mouth
which had swallowed their quarry,
they certainly were, but they were
halted as completely as men struck
“Huh,” Kirby grunted, and scratched
behind his ear.
The next second he swung around
to look at his horse, uncertain what he
was going to do next, but aware of the
fact that right now, with a lot of unknown
country between himself and
Castanar’s sunlit patio, the stallion was
going to be a friend in need.
As he turned, however, prepared to
take up the loose reins, something else
happened. The stallion let out a neigh
as shrill as a trumpet blast. As Kirby
jumped, grabbed for the bridle, his fingers
found empty air. Like a crazy
animal the stallion leaped past him,
barely missing him. Out toward the
plain the horse jumped, out and away
from the shaded canyon mouth, out
toward the spot where other horses
waited. And despite the animal’s blown
condition, the speed he put into his
retreat left Kirby dazed.
After a helpless, profanity-filled
second, Kirby scratched behind
his ear again. As certain as the fact
that almost his sole hope of getting
back to civilization depended upon the
stallion, was the fact that the brute
did not intend to stop running until
“Now what in the hell ever got into
his crazy head?” Kirby muttered
Then he turned around to glance up
the shadow-filled slash of a canyon,
Faintly in the air had risen an odor
the like of which he had never encountered
in his life. A combination, it
was, of the unforgetable stench which
hangs over a battlefield when the dead
are long unburied, and of a fragrance
more rare, more heady, more poignantly
sweet than any essence ever concocted
by Parisian perfumer.
With the drifting scent came a
sound. Faint, carrying from a distance,
the rumble which Kirby heard
was almost certainly that of a geyser.
There was no telling what had
brought the troop of horsemen to a
halt, but after a time Kirby knew that
the cause of his horse’s sudden departure
must have been a whiff of the
For a long time he stood still,
watching the crazy stallion dwindle
in size, watching the line of unexpectedly
timid bandits. Then, when it
became apparent that the horsemen
were going to stay put either until he
came out, or showed that he never was
coming out, he shrugged, and swung
on his heel so that he faced up the
The odor was dying away now, and
the geyser rumble was gone. In Kirby’s
heart came a mingled feeling of
tense uneasiness and fascinated curiosity.
Momentarily he was almost glad
that his horse had bolted, and that his
pursuers were blocking any lane of retreat
except that offered by the canyon.
If things had been different, the queer
behavior of the Mexicans, the unaccountable
actions of his horse and the
equally strange growth of his own uneasiness
might have made him uncertain
whether he would go up the canyon
or not. Now it was the only thing
to do, and Kirby was glad because, fear
or no fear, he wanted to go on.
“I wonder,” he said out loud as he
started, “just what the denizens of
First Street in Kansas would say to a
layout like this!”
At the end of an hour he was still
At midday the canyon was chill and
dank, lit only by a half light which at
times dwindled to a deep dusk as the
rock walls beetled together hundreds
of feet above his head. Always when
he stumbled through one of the darkest
passages, he heard and half saw
immense gray bats flapping above him.
In the half-lit reaches, he hardly took
a step without seeing great rats with
gray coats, yellow teeth, and evil pink
eyes. But rats and bats combined were
not as bad as the snakes. They were
almost white, and nowhere had he seen
rattlers of such size. If his caution
relaxed for a second, they struck at
him with fangs as long and sharp as
The tortured, twisted cedars, the
paloverdi, occatilla, cholla, opunti,
through which he edged his laborious
way, all offered an almost animate,
Altogether this journey was the least
sweet he had taken anywhere. Yet he
Why had eleven Mexican bandits refused
to advance even to within decent
rifle range of the canyon’s mouth?
What was there about the putrid yet
gorgeous perfume that had made the
stallion go off his nut, so to speak?
After a time, Kirby veered away
from a fourteen-foot rattler which
flashed in a loathsome coil on his left
hand. Hungry, weakened by all he had
been through since breakfast time, he
plodded doggedly on.
But a moment later he stumbled past
a twisted cedar, and then stopped, forgetting
even the snakes.
At his feet lay the bleached skeleton
of a man.
Beside the right hand, in a position
which indicated that only
the final relaxation of death had loosened
his grip upon a precious object,
lay a cylinder, carefully carved, of rich,
Of the science of anthropology
Kirby knew enough to make him sure
that the dolicocephalic skull and characteristically
shaped pelvic and thigh
bones of the skeleton had belonged to
a white man.
As for the cylinder—But he was
not so sure what that was.
Regardless of the dry swish of a rattler’s
body on the rocks behind him,
he lifted the object from the spot in
which it had lain for no man knew
how long. Of much the size and shape
of an old-time cylindrical wax phonograph
record, the softly gleaming
thing weighed, he judged, almost two
Two pounds of soft, virgin gold of
a quality as fine as any he had seen
amongst all the treasures brought out
of Mexico, Yucatan, and Peru combined!
But the gold was not the only thing.
If Kirby was human enough to think
in terms of treasure, he was also
enough of an amateur anthropologist
to hold his breath over the carvings on
the yellow surface.
First he recognized the ancient symbols
of Sun and Moon. And then a
representation, semi-realistic, semi-conventionalized,
of Quetzalcoatl, the
Feathered Serpent, known in all the
annals of primitive Mexican religions.
But the mere symbols by no means
told the whole story of the cylinder.
The workmanship was archaic, older
than any Aztec art Kirby knew, older
than Toltec, older far, he ventured to
guess, than even earliest archaic Mayan
God, what a find!
For a moment it seemed almost
impossible that he, Freddie Kirby,
native of Kansas, unromantic aviator,
should have been the one to discover
this relic of an unknown, lost race.
Yet the cylinder of gold was there, in
After a long minute Kirby looked
around him, then listened.
From up the canyon came the provocative
rumble of the geyser. It was
closer now, and Kirby, glancing at his
watch which had been spared to him
in the Wasp’s crash, noted that just
forty-four minutes had passed since
the last eruption. There was nothing
to be done about the bleached skeleton.
So, tucking the precious cylinder into
his tunic, Kirby headed on up the gash
of a canyon.
Far away indeed seemed the neat,
maple-shaded asphalt street, the rows
of parked cars and farm wagons, the
telephone office and drug store and
bank, of the Kansas town where he had
Time passed until again he heard the
geyser, and again was dizzied by the
perfume. As the fragrance—close and
powerful now—died away, he flailed
with one arm at a two-foot bat which
flapped close to his head.
And then he trudged his dogged way
around a deeply shadowed bend, and
found the chasm not only almost
wholly dark, but narrower than it had
been at any previous point.
“Holy mackerel,” Kirby groaned.
“Phew! If this keeps up, I—”
He stopped. His jaw dropped.
The beetling walls narrowed in until
the gash was scarcely fifteen feet
wide. Further progress was barred by
a smooth wall which rose sheer in
front of him.
Kirby did not know how many
seconds passed before he made
out through the gloom that the wall was
man-made and carved with the same
symbols of Sun, Moon, and Feathered
Serpent, which ornamented the cylinder
of gold. But when he did realize
at last, the shout with which he expressed
his feeling was anything but
It simply meant that the skeleton
which once had been a man, had almost
surely found the golden cylinder beyond
the wall and not in the canyon.
And if the dead man had passed that
smooth, carved barrier, another man
could do it!
Kirby jumped forward, began to
search in the darkness for some hidden
Minute after minute passed. He
gave another cry. He saw a long, upright
crack in the stone surface, and
a quick push of his hands made the
stones in front of him give almost an
All at once his shoulder was planted,
and behind that square shoulder
was straining all the muscle of his
two hundred pound body. The result
was all that he desired. When he
ceased pushing, a slab of rock gaped
wide before him, giving entrance to a
pitch dark tunnel.
For a moment he held the portal
back, then, releasing his pressure, he
stepped into the dark passage. By the
time a ponderous grating of rocks assured
him that the door had swung
shut of its own weight, he had produced
matches and struck a light.
The puny flame showed him a
curving passage hewn smoothly
through the heart of bedrock. Before
the flare died he walked twenty feet,
and as another match burned to his fingers,
he found the right hand curve
of the passage giving way to a left
hand twist. After that he dared use
no more of his precious matches. But
just when the darkness was beginning
to wear badly on his nerves, he uttered
a low cry.
As he increased his rapid walk to a
run, the faint light he had suddenly
seen ahead of him grew until it became
a circular flare of daylight which
marked the tunnel’s end.
Out of the passage Kirby strode with
shoulders square and head up, his cool,
level, practical blue eyes wide with
wonder. Out of the tunnel he strode
into the valley of the perfumed geyser.
The words were vibrant with hoarse
reverence. He saw the sunlight of a
cliff-surrounded diminutive Garden of
Eden. He saw a vale of flowering
grass, of palms and live oaks, saw
patches of lilies so huge as to transcend
belief, and dizzying clumps of
tree cactus almost as tall as the palms
What was more, he saw in the center
of this upland, cliff-guarded valley, a
gaping black orifice which every faculty
of judgment told him was the
mouth of the geyser of perfume. And
beside it, outstretched on a smooth
sheet of rock which glistened as though
coated with a layer of clear, sparkling
glass, he saw—
Kirby blinked his eyes rapidly,
hardly believing what he saw.
On the glistening rock lay the perfectly
preserved figure of a Spanish
Conquistadore in full armor. Morion
and breast-plate were in place, and
glistened as though they had been burnished
this morning. And the Spaniard’s
dark, handsome, bearded face!
Kirby saw instantly that no decay had
touched it, that even the hairs of the
beard were perfect. The whole armor-clad
corpse gleamed softly with a covering
of the same glassy substance
which covered the rock.
Kirby glanced at his watch, saw that
twelve minutes must elapse before the
geyser spouted again. Then his eyes
narrowed. He remained standing where
he was, hard by the mouth of the tunnel,
knowing that a wise man would
conduct cautiously his exploration of
this valley of wonders.
The two words stood out sharply in
his thought. In Africa existed plenty
of springs whose waters contained
enough arsenic to bring death to those
who drank. Might not the Spaniard’s
presence here be explained, then, by
assuming that the geyser water was
charged with a strong arsenic content,
and, in addition, with some sort of silicon
solution which, left to dry in the
air, hardened to glass?
Lord, what a discovery to take back
with him to Kansas! Almost it made
the discovery of the golden cylinder
pale by comparison. Why, the commercial
uses to which this silicon water
might be put were almost without
limit, and the owner of the concession
might confidently expect to make millions!
It was while Kirby stood there,
breathless and jubilant, waiting for
the geyser to spout, that he began to
feel that he was being watched.
Suddenly, with a start, he shot a
sweeping glance over the whole grove.
But that did no good. He saw nothing
save sunlight and waving green leaves.
Eleven days were to pass before he
discovered all that was to be involved
in that sensation of being gazed at by
At the beginning of the eleventh
morning in the valley, Kirby had
again posted himself close to the mouth
of the black tunnel, and again felt that
hidden eyes were observing him.
But this morning differed from the
first morning, because now, for the first
time, he was ready to do something
about the watcher or watchers. Exploration
of the whole valley had not
helped. Therefore, there lay at his feet
a considerable coil of rope, the manufacture
of which from plaited strands
of the tough grass in his Eden had
taken him whole days. With what patience
he could find, he was waiting for
the gigantic spout of milky-colored,
perfumed water which would mean that
the geyser had gone off and would
erupt no more for exactly forty-four
Eleven days in the valley!
While he waited, Kirby considered
them. Who had made the beautiful
footprints beside him, when he had
slept at last after his arrival here?
Why had so many of the queer, fuzzy
topped shrubs with immense yam-shaped
roots, which grew here been
taken away during that first sleep, and
during all his other periods of sleep?
Who had taken them? Early in his
stay, he had learned that the tuberlike
roots were good to eat and would sustain
life, and he supposed that the unseen
people of the valley took them for
food. But who were these people of
Who had laid beside him during his
first sleep the immense lily with perfume
like that which came with the
milky geyser spray—that spray of
death and delight mingled? Why had
someone scratched a line in the earth
from him directly to the distant orifice
of the geyser? Was this, as he
believed, a signal to come not only to
the edge of the orifice, but to lower
himself down into its depths? And if
the line were intended as a signal, did
the persons who came to the valley
while he slept, always eluding him,
wish him well or mean to do him harm?
Last question of all: had the beautiful
girl’s face he believed he had seen
just once, been real or an hallucination?
It had been while he was kneeling
at the very edge of the geyser cone,
staring down its many colored throat,
that the vision had appeared. Misty
white amidst the green gloom, the face
had been turned up to him, smiling, its
lips forming a kiss, and its great eyes
beckoning. Had the face been real
or a dream?
Eleven days in the valley! Now,
with his braided rope ready at last, he
was going to do something which
might help to answer his questions.
Kirby reached out and began to
run his grass rope, yard by yard,
through his hands, searching carefully
for any flaw. A canyon wren made the
air sweet above him, while the morning
sun began to wink and blink
against the shadows which still lay
against the face of the guardian cliffs.
Kirby glanced at his watch and got up.
Crossing beyond the mouth of the
geyser, he grinned good morning at
his friend the Conquistadore, and
marched on into the shade of the live
oak which grew nearest the geyser.
Here he made one end of his rope fast
to the gnarled trunk, inspected his pistol,
patted his tunic to make sure that
the cylinder of gold was safe, then
stood by to await the geyser.
With the passing of three minutes
there came from the still empty orifice
a sonorous rumbling. Kirby grinned.
From deep in the earth issued a
sound of fizzing and bubbling, and
then, to the accompaniment of subterranean
thunder, burst loose the milky,
upward column which had never ceased
to awe the man who watched so eagerly
this morning. As the titanic jet leaped
skyward now, the slanting rays of the
sun caught it, and turned the water,
fanning out, into a fire opal, into a
sheet of living color.
Kirby, hard headed to the last, drew
from the supply in one pocket of his
tunic, a strip of one of the tuberlike
roots, and munched it.
The thunder ceased. The waters receded.
After that Kirby hesitated not a second.
Promptly he moved forward,
flung his coil of line down into the
geyser tunnel, and swung on to the
line. By the time he had swallowed
the last bite of his breakfast, the world
he knew had been left behind, and he
was climbing down to a new.
It became at once apparent that the
gorgeously colored, glassy-smooth
throat glowed with tints which were
unfamiliar to him. He could perceive
these new shades of color, yet had no
name for them.
As he stopped after fifty feet to
breathe, the color phenomenon made
him wonder if the tuber roots he had
been eating had affected his vision;
then decided they had not. In addition
to food value, the roots had some
power to stimulate courage and a slight
mental exhilaration. But the drug had
proved non-habit forming, and Kirby
knew that his powers of perception
were not now, and never had been, affected.
He swung down further.
Just a moment after he begin that
progress was when things began to
happen to him. First he heard what
seemed to be the low titter of a human
voice laughing sweetly. Next
came a far off, unutterably lovely
strumming of music. And then he
realized that, at a depth of about a
hundred feet, he was hanging level
with a hole which marked the mouth
of another tunnel.
This new tunnel sloped down into
the earth on his right hand. The floor
and walls were glassy smooth, and the
angle of descent was steep, but by no
means as steep as the drop of the vertical
geyser shaft in which he now
Laughter, music, the new tunnel suddenly
aroused an excitement which
made him quiver.
“When I saw her,” he gasped, “she
was standing here, in the mouth of this
tunnel, looking up at me!”
Violently, Freddie Kirby forgot the
maple-shaded street of his Kansas
town, forgot everything but desire to
reach the mouth of the new tunnel,
where the girl of the exquisite face
and beckoning lips had stood. Tightening
his grip on the rope, he began to
swing himself back and forth like a
It seemed probable that when the
geyser water shot up past the horizontal
tunnel, its force was so great
that no water at all entered. He redoubled
his efforts to widen his swing.
Then his feet scraped on the floor,
and in a second he had alighted
there. He still hung stoutly to his line,
however, for the tunnel sloped down
sharply enough, and was slippery
enough, to prohibit the maintenance of
The music which issued from the
depths of that stunningly mysterious
passage swelled to a crescendo—and
stopped. Kirby clung there to his
precarious perch, his feet slipping on
the glass under them with every move
he made, and feelings stirred in his
heart which had never been there before.
Then, as silence reigned where the
music had been, something prompted
him to look up. The next instant he
stifled a cry.
With widening eyes he saw the flash
of a white arm and the gleam of a
knife hovering over the spot where his
taut rope passed out of the geyser
opening into the sunshine of the outer
world. Again he stifled a cry. For
crying out would do no good. While
the suppressed sound was still on his
lips, the knife flickered.
Then Kirby was shooting downward,
the severed line whipping out after
him. The first plunge flung him off
his feet. A long swoop which he took
on his back dizzied him. But as the
fall continued, he was able to slow it a
little by bracing arms and legs against
the tunnel walls.
“Holy Jeehosophat!” he gurgled.
But there seemed to be no particular
danger. The slide was as smooth as
most of the chutes he had ever encountered
at summer swimming pools.
If ever the confounded spiral passage
came to an end, he might find that he
was still all right. As seconds passed
and he fell and fell, it seemed that he
was bound for the center of the earth.
It seemed that—
He swished around a multiple bend,
and eyes which had been accustomed
to darkness were blinded by
It was light which radiated in all
colors—blue, yellow, browns, purples,
reds, pinks, and then all the new colors
for which he had no name. Somehow
Kirby knew that he had shot out of
the tunnel, which emerged high up in
the face of a cliff, and that he was dropping
through perfumed, brilliant air
resonant with the sound of birds and
insects and human cries. The funny
thing was that the pull of gravity was
not right, somehow, and he was dropping
fairly slowly. From far below,
a body of what looked like water was
sweeping up to meet him. Kirby
closed his eyes.
When he opened them again, his
whole body was stinging with the slap
of his impact, and he found that it was
water which he had struck. The proof
of it lay in the fact that he was swimming,
and was approaching a shore.
But such water! It was milky white
and perfumed as the geyser flow had
been, and it seemed luminous as with
a radium fire. Had he not realized
presently that the fluid probably contained
enough arsenic to finish a thousand
like him, he would have thought
of himself as bathing in the waters of
But then he began to forget about
the poison which might already be at
work upon him.
Ahead of him, stretched out in the
gorgeous, colored light, ran a beach
which was backed by heavy jungle.
And on the beach stood the lovely
creatures, all clad in shimmering, glistening
garments, whose flutelike cries
had come to him as he fell.
Kirby looked, and became almost
powerless to continue his swim.
The beauty of those frail women was
like the reputed beauty of bright
angels. That paralyzing effect of wonder,
however, did not last long.
The girls moved forward to the water’s
edge, and, laughing amongst
themselves, beckoned to him with
lovely slender hands whose every motion
was a caress.
“Be not afraid,” called one in a curious
patois dialect, about five-sixths of
which seemed made up of Spanish
words, distorted but recognizable.
“The water would kill you,” called
another, “as it killed the Spaniard in
armor. But we are here to save you.
I will give you a draught to drink
which will defeat the poison. Come on
Kirby’s heart was almost literally in
his mouth now, because the girl who
promised him salvation was she whose
lips had formed a kiss at him from the
green-gloomy throat of the geyser.
His feet struck a shale bottom. Panting,
he stood up and was conscious of
the fact that despite his forlornly dripping
and dishevelled condition, he was
tall and straight and big, and that for
some reason all of the girls on the
gleaming sand, and one girl in particular,
were anxious to receive him here.
The one girl had drawn a small,
gleaming flask of gold from the misty
bodice of her gown, and was holding
it out while she laughed with red lips
and great, dazzling dark eyes.
“Pronto!” she called in pure Spanish,
and other girls echoed the word. “Oh,”
went on the bright owner of the flask,
“we thought you would never have
done with your work on the rope. It
took you so long!”
Kirby left the smooth lake behind
him and stood dripping on the
sand. The moment the air touched his
clothes, he felt that they were stiffening
slightly. Yet the sensation brought
no terror. He could not feel terror as
he faced the girls.
“Give him the flask, Naida!” someone
“Ah, but the Gods have been kind to
us!” echoed another.
The girl with the flask made a gesture
“Is it Naida you are called?” Kirby
put in quickly, and as he spoke the
Spanish words, the roll of them on his
tongue did much to make him know
that he was sane and awake, and not
dreaming, that this was still the
Twentieth Century, and that he was
Answering his question, Naida nodded,
and gave him the flask.
“A single draught will act as antidote
to the poison,” she said.
“I drink,” said Kirby as he raised the
flask, “to the many of you who have
been so gracious as to save me!”
A flashing smile, a blush was his answer.
And then he had wetted his lips
with, and was swallowing, a limpid
liquid which tasted of some drug.
“Enough!” Naida ordered in a
As she reached for the flask, her
companions closed in as though a ceremony
of some sort had been completed.
“Is it time to tell him yet, Naida?”
piped one of the girls, younger than
the rest, whom someone had called
“Oh, do begin, Naida,” chorused two
more. “We can’t wait much longer to
find out if he is going to help us!”
Kirby turned to Naida, while a
soothing sensation crept through him
from the draught he had taken.
“Pray tell me what it is that I am to
be permitted to do for you. I can
promise you that the whole of my life
and strength, and such intelligence as
I possess, is yours to command.”
Excited small cries and a clapping
of hands answered him. As
for Naida, her face lighted with glowing
“Oh, one who could say that, must
be the friend and protector of whom
we have stood in such bitter need!”
“What,” asked Kirby, “is this need
which made one of you cut my rope,
so that I should come here?”
A momentary silence was broken
only by the hum of insects in the perfumed
air, and by the golden thrilling
of a bird back in the jungle. Then
Kirby beheld Naida bowing to him.
“So be it,” she said in a voice low
and flutelike. “I will speak now since
you request it. Already you have seen
that you are here in our world because
we conspired amongst ourselves to
bring you here. Our reason—”
She paused, looked deep into his
“Amigo,” she continued slowly, “we
whom you see here are the People of
the Temple. For more centuries than
even our sages can tell, our progenitors
have dwelt here, where you find us,
knowing always of your outer world,
but remaining always unknown by it.
But now the time has come when those
of us who are left amongst our race
need the help of one from the outer
races we have shunned. Dangers of
various orders confront us who have
waited here for your coming. When we
first discovered you in the Valley of
the Geyser, the idea came to me that
we must make you understand our
troubles, and ask of you—”
But then she stopped.
As Kirby stared at her, the gentleness
of her expression was replaced by
a swift strength which made her majestic.
The next moment bedlam reigned
upon the beach.
“They are after us!” gasped one of
the girls in terror. “Quick, Naida!
Whatever it was that threatened,
Naida did not need to be
told that the need for action was
pressing. She shouted at her companions
some order which Kirby did
not understand. From a pouch at her
side, she snatched out a greyish, spherical
vegetable substance which looked
almost like a tennis ball. Then she
braced herself as if to withstand an assault.
“Stand back!” she cried to Kirby.
He had long ago ceased to wonder
at anything that might happen here.
Disappointed that Naida’s story had
been interrupted, wondering what was
wrong, he obeyed Naida’s order to keep
As he fell back and stood motionless,
there came from behind a dense screen
of shrubs which would have resembled
aloe and prickly pear bushes, save that
they were as big as oak trees, a ghastly
howling. The next second, hopped and
hurtled across the beach toward the
girls, a group of hair-covered, shaggy
creatures which were neither apes nor
men. The faces, contorted with lust,
were hideously leathery and brown, the
foreheads small and beetling, and the
mouths enormous, with immense yellow
Helpless, Kirby realized that Naida
and all the others had clapped over
their faces curious masks which seemed
to be made of some crystalline substance,
and that now others had armed
themselves with the tennis balls. And
that was the last observation he made
before the battle opened furiously.
With a cry muffled behind her mask,
Naida leaped out in front of her
squadron and cut loose her queer
vegetable ball with whizzing aim and
Full into the snarling face of one of
the ape-men the thing smashed, filling
the air all about the creature with a
yellow, mistlike powder. Kirby was
half deafened by the yells of rage and
terror which went up from the entire
attacking band. The creature who had
been hit fell to his knees the while he
made agonized tearing movements at
his face and uttered shrill, jabbering
Other balls flashed instantly from
Naida’s ranks, and each brought about
the same ghastly result as the first. But
then Kirby saw that the whole jungle
seethed with the hairy, awful men.
“Keep back!” Naida shrieked at him
through her mask. “We have no mask
for you. If the powder from our fungi
touches you, it will be the end!”
With gaps in the advancing line
filled as soon as each screeching
ape went down, the attackers leaped on
until Kirby knew they would be upon
the girls in a matter of seconds. A
sweat broke out on his neck.
But then an idea gripped him, and
suddenly, without even a last glance at
Naida, he leaped away even as she had
A great boulder lay on the shore fifty
yards away. Toward it Kirby streaked
as though he had become coward. But
he had not turned coward.
By the time he reached the shelter
which would protect him from the
fungus mist, a turning point had come
in the battle. The ape-men had closed
in on the girls, were swarming about
them, and the mist balls had almost
ceased to fly. But the thing which
gave Kirby hope was that the apes
were not attempting to harm the girls.
They seemed victors, but they were not
It was the sharp intuition that something
like this might happen which had
sent Kirby fleeing from the fight. He
believed he might yet prove useful.
The thickest group of attackers were
jostling about Naida. As the screams
and sobs of the girls quivered out,
mingled with the guttural roaring of
the men, Naida was shut off by a solid
wall of aggressors.
Then Kirby saw her again. But now
two of the most powerful of the ape-men
had caught her up and was carrying
her. Her kicking and writhing and
biting accomplished nothing. The apes
were headed directly back to the
Now, however, most of the yellow
mist had disappeared, and that
was all Kirby had been waiting for.
With a growling shout, he tore out
from behind his boulder, his Luger
ready. Naida’s captors were in full retreat,
and other pairs of men were
snatching up other girls and hopping
after them. Toward Naida Kirby ran
madly but not blindly.
“Naida! Naida!” he bellowed.
He got in two strides for every one
the apes made.
“Naida!” he shouted, and at last saw
her look at him.
Her face was pallid with loathing and
terror. As her glimmering dark eyes
met his, they flashed a plea which made
his heart thrash against his lungs.
With a final roar of encouragement
Kirby closed in on the hair-covered
men, and fired instantly a shot which
caught one full in the heart. The
creature wavered on its legs, looked at
the unexpected enemy with dismayed,
swinish little red eyes, and relaxing his
hold upon Naida, dropped without making
But suddenly Kirby found himself
unable to comprehend fully the other
terrific results of his intervention. Before
the echoes of his shot died, there
came to him the rumble of what seemed
to be tons of falling rock. In the bright
air a slight mist was precipitated. To
all of which was added the effect upon
the ape-men of fear of a weapon and a
type of fighter utterly new to them.
Kirby had fired believing that he
would have to fight other ape-men when
the first fell. But not so. Instead of
He blinked rapidly as he took in
Naida had been released. Lying
on the sand beside the dead ape-man,
she was looking up at him in stupefied
wonder. And her other captor, instead
of remaining to fight, had clapped
shaggy hands over his ears, and was
leaping headlong for the protection of
Moreover, the soprano cries of the
girls and the deep howls of the men
were rising everywhere, and everywhere
the ape-men were dropping their
captives and plunging away after their
“Huh,” Kirby muttered aloud, and
wondered what the citizens of Kansas
would have to say about this.
Naida looked at the dead and bleeding
ape-man and shuddered, and then
at the score or so of others brought
down by the puff balls. Then she
looked up at Kirby, raised her arms for
his support, and smiled up into his
Kirby forgot Kansas, lifted her,
warm and alive, radiantly beautiful, in
“Our friends the enemies,” she whispered
as she remained for a second in
his embrace and then drew away, “will
attack no more this day—thanks to
There was no possible need for another
shot, Kirby saw. In terrified
silence, the first of the apes had already
floundered behind the prickly pear and
aloe bushes, and the last stragglers
were using all the power in their legs
to catch up. On the beach, Naida’s
followers were picking themselves up,
and already a few of them had burst
into ringing laughter.
“Come on, all of you,” Naida said to
them, and, including Kirby in her
glance, added, “We may as well go to
the caciques now, and have it over
It was with Naida at his side and
the other girls grouped about them,
that they started their journey to the
“caciques,” whoever they might be, “to
have it over with,” whatever that might
mean. As they strode along in silence,
Kirby did what he could to straighten
out in his mind the many curious things
which had happened since he sat testing
his rope in the upper world this
In final analysis, it seemed to him
that, extraordinary as his experience
had been, there was nothing so much
out of the way about it, after all. The
only unusual thing was the existence
of this inhabited pocket in the earth.
For the rest, the strange colors to
which he could not put a name, were
simply some manifestation of infra-reds
and ultra-violets. And then the
startling effect of his single shot at
the ape-men—that was simply the old
story of savage creatures running from
a new weapon and a new enemy; naturally
the shot had sounded loud in this
enclosed cavern. Lastly, the pull of
gravity down here seemed upset somehow.
But why should it not seem so,
at this distance within the earth? The
American was no scientist; the conclusions
he reached seemed very reasonable
All told, the last thing Kirby found
he needed to do was pinch himself to
see if he was awake.
A place of indefinite extent, the
cavern seemed to be exactly what he
had already judged it—a giant pocket
within the earth. The ceiling, or the
sky, was of some kind of natural glass—no
doubt the same kind which was
crackling on his clothes now—and
from it emanated the brilliant, many
colored glow which lighted the cavern.
Radium? Perhaps it was that. Perhaps
the rays were cast off from some
other element even less understood
than mysterious radium. As for the
plant and animal life with which the
cavern teemed, it was amazing.
But Kirby did not give himself up
to silent observation any longer.
“Will you finish telling me,” he asked
of Naida, “about the task I am to perform
for you here?”
Naida, walking with lithe strides
along a path jungle-hemmed on both
sides, smiled at him.
“You are to be our leader.”
Now both Naida and the other girls
“You will lead us in a revolt.”
“Ah!” Kirby whistled softly.
“In a revolt against the caciques—the
wise men—whose kind have governed
the People of the Temple since
Her statement was received with acclaim
by the whole troop, who crowded
close around, the while they smiled at
“You mean I am to lead a revolt,” he
asked, “against these same caciques
whom we are going now to face?”
Naida nodded emphatically.
“Yes, if revolt proves necessary. And
it probably will.”
“Hum.” Kirby scratched behind his
ear. “You’d better tell me what you
can about it.”
Then, as they hurried on, Naida
The situation before the People of
the Temple was that for a long time
now, the only children to be born had
been girls. Worse still, not even a girl
had been born during a period equal to
sixteen upper-world years. The only
remaining members of a race which had
flourished in this underground land for
countless thousands of years, consisted
of the caciques, a handful of aged people,
and the thirty-four girls, including
Naida, who accompanied Kirby now.
On one hand was promised extinction
through lack of reproduction. On
the other, even swifter and more terrible
extinction at the hands of the
ape-men, whom Naida called the Worshippers
of Xlotli, the Rabbit God, the
God of all bestiality and drunkenness.
It was the menace of the ape-men,
rather than the less appalling one of
lack of reproduction, which was making
the most trouble now. Ages ago,
when the People of the Temple had
flourished as a race, they had been untroubled
by the Worshippers of Xlotli.
But now the ape-men were by far the
stronger; and they desired the girls
who had been born as the last generation
of an ancient race. The battle of
this morning had been only one of
Dissension between the caciques, who
ruled the People of the Temple, and
their girl subjects, had arisen on the
subject of the best way of dealing with
the ape-man menace.
Some time ago, Naida, heading a
council of all the girls, had proposed
to the caciques that support be
sought amongst the people of the upper
world. This would be done judiciously,
by bringing to the lower realm
a few men who were wise and strong,
men who would make good husbands,
and who could fight the ape-men.
This proposal the priests had
promptly quashed. They would never
receive, they said, any members of the
teeming outer races from whom the
People of the Temple had so long been
hidden. Those few who had blundered
into the Valley of the Geyser during
the centuries, and who had never escaped,
were enough. Better, said the
caciques, that a compromise be arranged
with the subjects of the Rabbit
Flatly then, the priests had proposed
that some of the girls, the number to
be specified later, should be given to
the ape-men, and peace won. During
the time of reprieve which would thus
be afforded, prayers and sacrifices
could be offered the Lords of the Sun
and Moon, and to Quetzalcoatl, the
Feathered Serpent. In answer to these
prayers, the Gods would surely send
the aged people who alone were left as
prospective parents, a generation of
Once the priests’ program of giving
up some of the girls to the ape-men had
been made definite, it had not taken
Naida and the others long to decide
that they would never submit. And
then, while matters were at an acute
stage, a tall, blond white man had come
to the Valley of the Geyser—Kirby.
As Naida had finished her story,
Kirby mustered a smile despite
the soberness which had come upon
“So the white man came,” he repeated
after her, “and all of you decided
forthwith to stage your revolt.”
“Why not?” Naida answered. “We
observed you until we were sure you
possessed the qualities of leadership we
wanted. After that, we did what we
could to coax you to come here.”
Kirby grinned at that.
“Now,” Naida ended simply, “we will
go to the caciques. If they accept you,
and grant our requests to them, there
will be peace. If they rage, it will be
Suddenly she drew closer to Kirby as
they swung along, and slipped her hand
into his, looking up at him in silent entreaty.
“How much farther,” he asked in
a voice which became sharp, “until
we reach the headquarters of these
“They live in a castle which our
ancestors built ages ago on a protected
plateau,” Naida answered tensely. “It
is a good distance still, but we will
cover it soon enough.”
They crossed now one edge of a
shadow-filled forest composed principally
of immense, pallid palmlike trees.
Farther on, the path wound through a
belt of swampy land covered by gigantic
reeds which rustled above their
heads with a glassy sound, and by
things which looked like the cat-tails
of the upper world, but were a hundred
times larger. Everywhere hovered
odd little creatures like birds, but with
teeth in their long snouts and small
frondlike growths on each side of their
tails. About some swamp plants with
very large blooms resembling passion
flowers, flitted dragon flies of jeweled
hues and enormous size, and under the
flowers hopped strange toadlike creatures
equipped with two pair of gauzy
Finally, through a tunnel composed
of ferns a hundred feet
high, they emerged to a still densely
overgrown but higher country which
Naida said was a part of the Rorroh
In the forest, Kirby gained a hazy
impression of bronzy, immense cycads
and what appeared to be tree chrysophilums
with gorgeous blossoms.
Then he received a much clearer impression
of other trees with blossoms
of bright orange yellow and very thick
petals, each tipped with a glassy sharp
point. The disconcerting thing about
the tree was that, as they approached,
the scaly limbs began to tremble and
wave, and suddenly lashed out as
though making a human effort to snatch
at the bright travelers.
Naida and all the others hurried
along without offering comment, and
Kirby asked no questions.
Once he thought he saw a group of
gorilla creatures parallelling their
course back amongst the forest growth,
but if Naida observed the animals, she
paid no attention. The one thing which
had any effect upon the company was
the appearance, presently, of two vast,
birdlike creatures. As these things approached,
Naida signaled to all to
crouch beneath the shelter of a tall
rock beside the path.
Enormous, the birds had bat wings,
and carried with them, as they approached,
the stink of putrid flesh. The
long beaks were overfull of sharp teeth.
The heads, set upon bodies of glistening
white-grey, were black. Reddish
grey eyes searched the jungle as the
creatures flapped along. But, the
Pterodactyls—if they were that—passed
above Naida’s band without offering
attack, and presently Naida
gave the command to advance again.
In time, they came to a chasmlike
gorge across which was suspended
a slender long thread of a bridge. Not
far above the bridge, a considerable
river emptied itself into the gorge in
a mirrorlike ribbon. Kirby could not
hear the torrent fall—or rather could
not hear it strike any solid bottom.
But from somewhere in the unlighted,
unfathomed depths of the abyss rose
strange bubbling and whistling sounds.
At the bridge, Naida paused and
pointed to the land across the river.
And as Kirby looked in the direction
indicated, he beheld a rocky eminence
rising for several hundred feet straight
up from the expanse of a level, tree and
grass covered plain. Atop of the
plateau, glimmered the complex towers
and turrets, the crenellated walls of a
castle which, in its grey antiquity,
seemed as old as the race of men.
“It is behind those walls that the
caciques dwell,” Naida said quickly.
“It is behind the castle, in a series of
separate houses, that the older members
of the race dwell. We shall go
and look upon them presently. But
first we will force an interview with
In silence Kirby took her hand, and,
with the others following, they moved
out upon the swaying, perilous causeway
which hung above the chasm.
After that, the trip across the plain to
the foot of the plateau cliffs was
Here, however, Kirby thought they
must face trouble, for he found that the
great walls, of a sparkling, almost
glassy smoothness, shot up to a height
of at least three hundred feet, and that
no path of any sort was visible.
“We’re here,” he said, “but how can
we get up?”
But understanding began to dawn
as Naida laughed, and produced
from the pouch at the side of her gauzy
dress four pliable discs of a substance
which resembled rubber.
“You are very strong, are you not?”
“Then you will have no trouble in
following us up the cliff. Our Serpent
God, Quetzalcoatl, taught us how to
climb long ago.”
With that she handed Kirby the set
of vacuum discs, and producing another
for herself, moistened them in a
pool of water close at hand. Then, as
all of the girls followed her action, she
strapped them to her hands and feet,
and in a moment they had begun the
“Why,” Kirby said presently, “with
these things you could hang by your
feet and walk on a smooth ceiling!”
Naida laughed, and they worked
their way upward.
When the climb was accomplished
and the discs were put away, Kirby
found himself standing on the outer
edge of a mediaeval paradise, of a
magnificent plateau partly fortified by
nature, partly by the hand of man.
“Ah!” he cried in deep admiration,
then followed Naida.
The building—the castle—in the near
distance, resembled a castle of Spain,
save that there was greater beauty and
subtlety of architecture. Turreted on
all four corners, constructed of material
which looked like blocks of
natural glass, the fairylike structure
was crowned by a gigantic tower of
something which resembled obsidian.
Up and up this tower soared until its
gleaming black tip seemed almost to
touch the glassy-radiant sky of the
No people showed themselves, and
Kirby saw that the bronze-studded
portals set in the front of the castle
Admiringly, he glanced at the surrounding
land laid out in checkerboard
patches of gardens and orchards where
grew a bewildering variety of unknown
fruits and blooms. Butterflies drifted
past, and the air was freighted with
the scent of flowers. Inside a walled
enclosure, Kirby saw a good-sized plot
heavily grown with the plant on which
he had been subsisting. As they passed
this ground, each of the girls, Naida
leading, made a strange little bowing,
gliding genuflection, and Kirby wondered.
Now, however, new sights distracted
him as they crossed a
port drawbridge above a deep moat
which was a fairyland of aquatic
plants. Although not a sound had
come from the castle, the great entrance
doors were swinging back.
“Be ready,” Naida whispered, “for
almost anything. The doors are being
opened by some of the palace guard. I
have little doubt that word was long
ago rushed to the caciques that we are
come to them with an upper-world
Kirby answered with a nod. Then
they passed the outer doors, passed inside,
and Kirby blinked at what he
In a long hall decorated bewilderingly
with a carven frieze in which appeared
all of the symbols common to
early Mexican religions, and many new
ones, stood a row of bright suits of
armor of the Sixteenth Century. From
each suit peered the glassy face and
shovel beard of a dead Conquistadore.
So this was what happened to intruders
from the upper world! The
Conquistadore who kept his long watch
beside the geyser was not the only one!
Kirby felt an involuntary chill prickle
up his back. But he was not given long
to think before Naida, ignoring the
gruesome array, clasped his arm.
And Kirby saw that with almost
magical silence the whole wall at the
end of the corridor was sliding back
to reveal an enormous amphitheatre in
the center of which stood a vast circular
table. Ranged in a semicircle about
that table, stood fifteen incredibly
ancient men clad in long, glistening
grey robes. Blanched beards trailed
down the front of the garments until
they all but touched the floor.
Kirby, on the threshold of the amphitheatre,
squared his shoulders and held
his head high. Then with Naida on his
right, his own eyes boring unyieldingly
into the smouldering, narrowed
eyes which stared at him, he advanced.
But in front of him the priests
moved suddenly. From Naida burst a
shriek. In the radiant glare of the
council room flashed the long, thin,
cruel blade of a sacrificial knife.
The cacique who had whipped it
from his robe flew at Kirby with a
condor swoop, talon-hands outstretched,
his wrinkled, bearded face contorted
Before Kirby was more than half
set to fight, the priest was clawing
at his throat, and a gnarled old fist
was poised to drive the knife in a death
Kirby did the only thing he could do
quickly—sprang to one side. The move
saved him. The knife whipped past his
shoulder, and the cacique nearly fell.
But it had been a close enough squeak
for all that.
Nor was it over. After Kirby the
priest sprang with unexpected agility,
and before Kirby could snatch at his
pistol the talon-hands were lunging at
his throat once more.
With the gasps of the girls ringing
in his ears, Kirby bunched himself for
another side leap only to find the
cacique all over him like an octopus.
Momentarily the knife hung above his
chest, and Kirby, dismayed at the
powers of his opponent, almost felt that
the thing must plunge before he could
break the octopus hold.
But he had no intention of being defeated,
and now he was getting used to
the fight. The priest’s left arm swiftly
clenched about his neck and shoulders,
and the right arm, with the knife, attempted
a drive through to the heart.
Suddenly, however, Kirby lurched
sideways and backward, and as the
octopus grip slackened for a flash, he
himself got a wrestler’s grip that left
him ready to do business. As the priest
broke free, he slid around in an attempt
to fasten himself on Kirby’s
back. Quickly, tensely Kirby doubled,
and knew that he had done enough.
The cacique shot over his shoulders,
described a somersault in midair, and
landed with a sharp crack of head and
shoulders against unyielding stone.
From the semicircle of other
priests went up a gasp. From
Naida came a strangled cry of joy.
Kirby made one leap for the knife
which had fallen from the cacique’s
hand as he slumped into unconsciousness,
and then he straightened up
with the weapon safe in his possession.
“There, you old billygoat,” he
croaked in English, “maybe you won’t
try any more fast ones for awhile.”
A second later he stepped over the
sprawled body to stand beside Naida.
Upon the wrinkled countenances of
the remaining caciques was stamped a
look of dismay and hatred which
boded no good. It was plain to Kirby
that in battering up the man detailed
to kill him, he had committed a
desecration of first order.
“Is there anyone else who cares to
fight?” he flung at them in Spanish,
showing a contempt as great as their
The response he got was instant.
From one old gullet, then from others,
came choking, snarling sounds which
presently became words. By those
words Kirby heard himself cursed with
a vituperation which made him, even in
his temporary triumph, feel grave.
But he did not let that soberness
trouble him long. For the main point
now was that no one made a move to
fight further, which was what he had
expected. He had flung them the challenge,
knowing that he was possessed
of their knife, and suspecting that it
was their only weapon. The belief that
no one would care to try a barehanded
conflict, no matter what insult was
waiting to be avenged, seemed justified
as none of the caciques advanced, and
as even the cursing presently ceased.
“No?” Kirby asked. “There is to be
no more fighting?”
One of the caciques now came forward
a few steps.
“No,” he answered with a lameness
which was not to be denied. “But you,
a criminal interloper in our realm, have
been marked as a victim for sacrifice,
and from this there is no power in the
universe which can save you.”
Kirby, after a reassuring glance at
Naida, looked at the floored priest who
was sitting up now, looking stupidly
about, and feeling himself all over, and
Kirby suppressed a grin.
“Ah, I am to be sacrificed, eh? But
what happens until that time comes?
Listen my Wise Ones—”
He stabbed a finger at them, and his
“Listen! What you mean to say is
that I have defeated you, and you must
lay off me until you can launch another
attack. But I have a few things to say
to that. One is that I am not going to
permit myself to be sacrificed. Another
is that I demand, right here and now,
that you begin to discuss with me certain
agreements which are going to
regulate the future conduct of affairs
in this world to which I have come.”
A low exclamation answered that, but
it came from no priest. They remained
sullen and staggered. It was Naida
who murmured, and there was excitement
and pleasure in her voice. Suddenly
she placed her lips against
“You must not treat with them,” she
said. “Tell them you want to see the
Duca, and will destroy them all unless
Understanding burst over Kirby. The
Duca! Then these men were only the
representatives of a High Priest, the
“Yes,” he repeated resolutely to the
assembled greybeards, “a meeting is
going to be held in this chamber of
council at once. But I will not deal
with you! Do you understand me? I
must see the Duca. I leave it to you
to decide whether you will summon
him, or force me to fight my way
through to wherever he is staying.”
The words burst in dismay from
the gimlet-eyed cacique who had
said there would be no more fighting.
He looked at Naida, well aware of the
fact that it was her interference which
had made Kirby extend his demand.
And his look was black.
Kirby slid between Naida and the
“Yes,” he spat out, “the Duca! Will
you summon him, or—”
He did not repeat what he would do
as an alternative. A second passed in
silence. It seemed as if the cacique
who had been speaking was ready to
“Answer me!” Kirby thundered.
And then the priest obeyed.
“Very well,” he growled in a voice
which quaked with rage. “I obey. But
you will wish you had never made the
The next second he swung on his
heel, and leaving his company behind
as a guard, headed toward a stair which
led upward from one side of the amphitheatre,
and which was protected by a
door of heavy, grilled metal work. The
stairway seemed to be spiral, and was
all enclosed. Kirby realized that it
must lead into the tall and beautiful
tower of obsidion which he had seen
“Oh,” Naida whispered as looks and
smiles of approval came from all of
the girls, “you have been magnificent!
Mark now, what we must do. You must
be the one to state our terms, because
you have already won a victory for us.
Tell the Duca that we will not submit
to any compromise with the ape-men,
and least of all will we let any of our
number go to the ape-men.”
A deep flush crept into Kirby’s cheeks
at thought of what he would like to do
to the man who had proposed that sacrifice.
“Then tell him,” Naida continued,
“that we want men brought to our
world from the world above. And
finally tell him we will live under his
dictatorship no longer, and hereafter
demand a voice in all councils affecting
“All right,” Kirby spoke grimly.
“I’ll tell him. Naida, is this high priest
we’re waiting for, the one who proposed
sacrifice of some of you to the
Next moment, she, Kirby, and all
the others, including the row of
glowering caciques, became silent. At
sounds from above, all looked toward
the grilled doorway to the tower. Then
Kirby realized that all of the girls, as
well as the caciques, were dropping to
“No!” he commanded quickly. “Get
up! You must not abase—”
He had not finished, and Naida had
scarcely risen, when the heavy door
swung on noiseless hinges.
The light in the amphitheatre seemed
to become more intense. Then, against
the great glow, Kirby beheld majesty,
beheld one who represented the apotheosis
of priestly rank and power.
Clad in robes of filmy material which
glimmered white beside the gray robes
of his underlings, the Duca wore about
his waist the living flame of a girdle
composed of alternate cut diamonds
and blood red rubies each larger than
a golf ball. And Kirby, searching for
comparisons, realized that the Duca’s
face, upheld to others, would be as remarkable
as his jewels must be when
compared to ordinary gems. It was a
chiseled face, seamed by a thousand
wrinkles, which a god might have
carved from ivory before endowing it
with the flush and glow of life. A
mane of snow white hair cascaded back
from a tremendous forehead to fall
about thin but square shoulders and
mingle with the downward sweep of
pure white beard. The eyes, black as
polished jet, flamed now with the glare
of baleful fires.
As Naida, stealing close to Kirby,
trembled, and even the abased caciques
trembled, Kirby himself felt as if icy
water was trickling over him.
He fought the sensation off. For suddenly
he knew that in spite of first impressions
which made the man seem a
living god, the old Duca was human.
And what was more, he was in the
wrong. All of which being true, the
thing to do was keep a level head and
All at once Kirby spoke across the
silence in the great room.
“I have sent for you,” he said, weighing
“And I,”—the Duca’s voice was mellow
and deep—“have come. But I am
not here because you summoned me.”
“Oh!” Kirby let sarcasm edge his
words. “Well, I won’t quibble about
your motives for coming. Did my
messenger tell you why we are here
and demand your presence?”
“Your messenger,” the old man said
calmly, “told me.”
“Very well. Do you consent to listen
to Naida’s and my terms? If you will
“But wait a moment,” the Duca interrupted,
still calmly, but with a look
in his eyes which Kirby did not like.
“Are you asking me, to my face,
whether I will listen to terms which
you offer as self-styled victor of a battle
with my caciques?”
Kirby nodded. His apprehension increased.
“Ah,” said the Duca softly. And
then, amazingly, a smile deepened
every wrinkle of his parchment face.
“But do you not remember that I said
I had not come here because you summoned
“Yes,” Kirby said solidly. “I remember
“The thing which brought me here
was the failure of my followers to accomplish
an assignment which I had
given them—namely, that of ending
“Hum.” Kirby scratched behind his
ear. “You are not interested in arranging
terms of peace, then.”
“I am here,”—suddenly the Duca’s
voice filled the room—“to do that
which my priests were unable to do.
And the moment has come when the
Gods will no longer trifle with you.
You dog! You thieving intruder!
Swiftly the Duca plunged one withered
but still powerful hand into the
folds of his robe above the flaming
girdle. Then his hand flashed out, and
in it he held—
But Kirby did not get to see.
A strangled cry of terror smote
his ears. Naida leaped toward him
from one side, while Elana, the lovely
youngest girl, sprang from another
direction, hurled Naida aside, and
stopped in front of Kirby.
Through the glaring room flickered
a tiny red serpentine creature which
the Duca hurled from a crystalline
tube in his hand. As the minute snake
struck Elana’s breast, she gave a
choked cough, and then, as she half
turned to smile at both Naida and
Kirby over her shoulder, her eyes went
blank, and she collapsed gently to the
polished stones of the floor—dead.
A second later came squirming out
from under her the ghastly, glimmering
little snake which had struck.
Slowly, while every mortal in the
room stood paralyzed, Kirby stepped
forward and set his heel upon the
writhing thing. When he raised his
boot, the snake was only a blotch on
The Duca was standing as still as
girls and caciques. The laughter with
which he had started to greet what he
had thought would be Kirby’s extermination
had faded to a look of wonder—and
fear. He was an easy mark.
Up to him Kirby rolled, and with
all the force of soul and muscular body,
drove his fist into the Duca’s face.
“By God,” he roared, “you want war,
and you shall have it!”
The Duca was simply out—not dead.
Since Kirby did not want him dead,
he did not strike again, but swung back
from the sprawled body, faced Naida,
and pointed to the tower door.
“Up there!” he snapped. “Seize the
tower. I have a reason!”
At the Duca’s crashing downfall,
had come to the caciques a tension
which made Kirby know they would
not be dummy figures much longer.
His eyes never left them.
“Quick, Naida!” he snapped again.
“We must hold the tower!”
Naida, all of the girls, were staring
dazedly at Elana, dead.
“The tower!” she choked. “But we
cannot go there. It is the Duca’s!”
“Because it is the Duca’s,” Kirby
said firmly, “is exactly why we must
hold it. Come, Naida, please—”
And then he saw comprehension
begin to dawn at last.
He also saw two of the caciques
glide from the wooden line, and slink
toward him past the unconscious Duca,
As Naida suddenly cried out to her
companions, pushed at two of them,
and then darted like rainbow nymph
toward the silent and forbidding upward
spiral of steps, Kirby faced the
One he clutched with viselike hands,
and lifted him. As the other shrieked
and sprang, he was mowed down by
the hurtling body of his fellow priest
which Kirby flung forward mightily.
The rest of the caciques were howling.
While Naida waited beside the
tower door, the other girls flashed up
the steps. The Duca still lay where
he had fallen, a thread of blood oozing
from his mouth. Kirby, after his last
look over all, solemnly stooped and
gathered in his arms the limp, radiant
little body of the girl who had given
her life that her friends might be left
with a leader.
A moment later, he was standing on
the steps. Naida, unopposed by the
still stupefied caciques, swung shut the
tower door and shot a double bolt.
“Naida—” Kirby whispered as he
held Elana closer to him, “oh, I am so
sorry that we could have won only at
such a price.”
As Naida stooped to kiss the pale
little forehead with its halo of golden
hair, sobs came. But then she raised
her eyes, and they were, for Kirby,
alight with the message that she could
and would accept Elana’s sacrifice, because
she would gladly have made it
“We will not forget,” she whispered.
“Carry her tenderly, and come.”
For better, for worse, the Duca’s
tower was theirs.
At the end of an hour, Kirby was
taking a turn of guard duty at
the foot of the steps, while the others
remained with Elana in a chamber
above. To Kirby, with things thus far
along, it seemed that the seizure of the
tower had proved a shrewd stroke.
It seemed that the tower was to the
Duca what hair was to Sampson. From
Naida had come the information that
the Duca lived hidden within the great
shaft of obsidion, and appeared but seldom
even before his caciques. Apparently
a large part of his hold upon his
subjects was maintained by the mystery
with which he kept himself surrounded.
And now his retreat was lost
to him! Such had been the moral
effect of the loss upon both Duca and
caciques, that his whole first hour had
gone by without their doing anything.
Kirby, standing just around the first
turn of the winding stairway, presently
cocked his ears to listen to the
conclave being held in the amphitheatre.
“Why not starve them out, O Holy
One?” he heard one of the caciques ask
of the Duca, only to be answered by a
growl of negation.
The Duca, Kirby had gathered before
this, wanted to fight.
“But there is no food in the tower,
is there?” the cacique still pressed on,
and this time he was supported by
“No,” the Duca rumbled back. “But
am I to be deprived of my retreat,
left here like a common dog amongst
other dogs, while these accursed fiends
starve slowly to death? No! I tell
you, you must fight for me!”
But he had told them so several
times before and nothing had
happened. Kirby grinned at the
thought of the caste the Duca was losing
by being driven to this belittling
“Holy One,” exclaimed a new priest
in answer to the urge to fight, “what
can we do against the golden haired
fiend? The stairs are so narrow that
he could defend them alone. And then
there are the gates of bronze. If we
could shatter the first, at the foot of
the steps, we should only encounter
others. The Duca must remember that
his tower was built to withstand
“Even so,” the Duca snapped back,
“it must be attacked! I—”
But then he fell silent, having been
made so by the sounds of dissension
which arose amongst his caciques.
Kirby, laughing to himself, turned
away from his listening post, and tip-toed
up the steps.
After he had closed and bolted behind
him three of the bronze portals
so feared by the caciques, he turned
to the entrance of the chamber in
which he had left Naida and the others.
Here all was silent, and he found his
friends grouped about a couch on
which lay Elana. Feeling the solemnity
of the moment, he would have
taken his place quietly amongst the
Naida, however, came to him at once,
and in a low voice asked for news from
the amphitheatre, and when Kirby answered
that the caciques were unanimously
in favor of leaving them alone
until they starved, she exclaimed:
“Oh, then it is good news!”
After that, however, a shadow of
doubt flickered in her great eyes.
“And yet, is it? It means temporary
immunity, of coarse. But—starvation!”
Kirby assured her with a grin.
“If we had to starve we might worry.
But there is more food here than the
Duca thinks. Look!”
From a bulging pocket of his
tunic he fished a strip of the roots
on which he had subsisted so comfortably.
Naida’s eyes widened, and
several of the girls gave low cries.
“Yes,” Naida exclaimed, “but such
food! Why—why, do you know what
you are offering us? Why, this is the
sacred Peyote! Only the Duca eats it,
and, at rare intervals, his priests.”
Kirby was really startled now.
“But surely you and the others have
taken quantities of the stuff away from
the Valley of the Geyser. Do you
“Because we gathered the Peyote
does not mean that we have ever tasted
it. We gather it for the Duca. To
taste would be complete, utter sacrilege.
Have you been eating it?”
Inwardly Kirby was chuckling at
this added proof of the buncumbe with
which the Duca—and other Ducas—had
“Of course I’ve been eating the
“And—and nothing has happened to
you?” Naida asked.
“Hardly. I certainly haven’t been
blasted by the Lords of the Sun and
Moon, or the Serpent either!”
Naida and all the others were silent.
The conflict between their reverence
for the food and their clear desire to
eat it, now that it was become the food
of their leader, was pathetic.
Kirby put one of the strips in Naida’s
“Why not?” he asked. “We have
bested the Duca in fair fight. We have
seized his tower. Why not eat his
As he had hoped it would, the suggestion
at last settled the matter. A
moment later, as Naida nibbled her
first bite, she smiled.
“Why, it—it’s good!”
With the question of provisions settled
at least for a time, Kirby’s next
thought was of the tower. The present
lull of peace seemed made for exploration.
“Come along,” he said to Naida,
“we’ve plenty to do,” and then, when he
explained, they set out, accompanied
by Nini, a cousin of Naida’s, and Ivana,
a younger sister.
All of the others remained with little
While they climbed spiral
stairs, Naida explained that the
chamber they had just left was used
by the Duca as a place in which he
prayed before and after contacts with
caciques or subjects. A sort of halfway
station between earth and heaven,
as it were, where the Duca might
be purged of any sullying influence
gained from human relationships.
At thought of the rank, egotistical
hypocrisy implied by the story, Kirby
smiled grimly. Then they came to a
new door, heavier than that which barricaded
the prayer chamber. Unlocked,
the thing swung ponderously at Kirby’s
push, and with the three girls pressing
close beside him, he entered—and
“Naida!” he gasped.
“Oh, oh!” she cried, and while Nini
and Ivana gasped, she clapped her
hands in an instinctive, feminine reaction
of joy. “But there are things
here which I believe none but the Ducas
of our race have ever seen! Oh!
Why, the sacred girdle is as nothing
compared to this display!”
By “display” she meant a treasure
which took Kirby’s breath away, which
made his heart act queerly.
The walls of the chamber were fashioned
of polished blocks of obsidion
on which stood out in heavy bas-relief
a maze of decorative figures fashioned
of pure, beaten gold—the same kind of
gold which had gone into the making
of the cylinder of gold. With his first
glance at the gorgeously wrought motifs
of Feathered Serpent and Sun and
Moon symbols, Kirby knew to a certainty
whence the golden cylinder had
But even the gold—literally tons of
it there must have been—was nothing
compared to the gems.
They were spread out in blinding
array upon a great table in the
center of the room. There were pearls
as big as turkey eggs and whiter, softer
than the light of a June morning growing
in the East. There were rubies.
One amongst the many was the size of
a baseball and glowed like the heart
of a red star. The least of the two or
three hundred gems would have outclassed
the greatest treasures of the
Crown jewels of England and Russia
Most overwhelming of all, however,
was the jewel which rested against a
square of black cloth all its own in the
center of the table. While his heart
still acted queerly, while Naida, Nini,
and Ivana hung back, delighted, but
still too bewildered to move, Kirby
advanced and took gingerly in his
hands a single white diamond about
eighteen inches long, and almost as
wide and deep as it was long.
The thing was carved with exquisite
cunning to a likeness of the living
head of Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered
Kirby dared not guess how many
pounds the carven hunk of flashing,
blue-white carbon weighed. He knew
only that like it there was no other
diamond in the world, and that the
thing was real. Naida and the two
girls were silent now, and suddenly
Kirby realized that to their awe of the
gem was added awe of deepest religious
nature. Slowly he put the diamond
head of the Serpent back upon
its square of cloth.
“We—we had heard that this thing
existed,” Naida said presently, voice
hushed, “but no one except the holy
men of our race has ever beheld it.”
“But, what is it?” Kirby asked.
“Whence came it?”
However, when Naida would have
answered, he interrupted.
“But wait! Tell me as we go. We
could stay here for the rest of our
lives without much trouble, but we’ve
got to cover the rest of the tower and
get back to the others.”
It was after they had closed the
door to the treasure room that
Naida told him the story.
“There is not so much to tell,” she
began. “The diamond itself is so gorgeous
that it is hard to talk about.
But here is the story. A great many
ages ago one of the Ducas of our race
found the diamond, decided to carve
it into a perfect likeness of the head
of the Serpent God. All of the craftsmen
of the race helped him and when
they were done, they took their image
to Quetzalcoatl himself, and showed
him what they had done.
“Quetzalcoatl was pleased. So
pleased, that he promised all of the
wise men that he would cease to prey
upon them as he had in the past, and
henceforward would take his toll of
sacrifice from the ape-men alone. Them
he hated and would continue to hate
because they worshipped not him but
“And so it came about,” Naida went
on slowly, looking up at Kirby as they
still mounted wide steps to the upper
reaches of the tower, “that our people
gained immunity from a God which
had always before harmed and destroyed
them. Our race presently began
to build this castle here on the
high plateau, and Quetzalcoatl kept his
compact with them. He still comes out
of his chasm at intervals and preys
upon the ape-men, but no one of our
race has seen him for thousands of
years, and he has always let us alone.
And there is the whole myth and explanation
of why the great diamond is
revered among us as a holy of holies.”
They had mounted to a new door
which Kirby guessed might give
entrance to the Duca’s living quarters.
But he was in no mood to open it at
“Wait a minute,” he said as they all
paused. “You say that, although none
of your race has seen Quetzalcoatl
since the diamond head was carved, he
still comes out of his chasm and makes
trouble for the ape-men. Just what
does that mean?”
“Why—” Naida looked at him wonderingly.
“I mean what I have said.
The Serpent comes out of his chasm
“What chasm?” Kirby asked sharply.
“Why, the one we crossed this morning.
It extends to the far reaches of
our country, beyond the Rorroh forest,
where the ape-men dwell but which
our people never visit. It is in that distant
part of the chasm that the Serpent
“But—but—Oh, good Lord!” Kirby
whistled softly. “Naida, do you mean
to tell me that Quetzalcoatl was not
simply a mythical monster, but an
actual, living serpent which is alive
Naida and the others shrugged.
“Why not?” she answered. “Sometimes
we have captured a few ape-men,
and they tell us stories of how Quetzalcoatl
kills them. They say he is very
“But,” Kirby mumbled in increasing
wonder, “is this living creature the
same which your ancestors worshipped
first as long ago, perhaps, as a million
“That,” Naida answered unhesitatingly,
“I’m not sure of. Our caciques
believe that the Serpent, although it
lives longer than any other sentient
thing, finally dies and is succeeded by
a new Serpent which is reproduced by
itself, within its own body.”
So overwhelming did Kirby find this
unexpected sequel to their discovery
of the great diamond head, so staggered
was he by the fact that Quetzalcoatl,
of Aztecan myth, might exist as
a sentient creature here in this cavern
world, that he had little heart left for
exploring other wonders.
Nevertheless, he presently
pushed open the new door before
which they had paused, and behind
it found, as he had expected, the
Duca’s living quarters.
These were as severe as the jewel
chamber had been gorgeous. A thin
pallet spread upon a frame of wood
formed the bed, and beside it stood a
single stiff chair. That was all. The
walls of glistening obsidion were bare.
There was, however, a door in one
circular wall, and as Kirby flung this
open, his previous disappointment
changed to delight. For shelves along
the walls of the small chamber held
roll after roll of parchment covered
with script. And in one corner lay six
undamaged, almost new Mannlichers
and several hundred rounds of ammunition!
“Naida,” he exclaimed, “do you know
what those are?”
“I suppose that they are weapons of
the sort you used against the ape-men
“They are the same kind I used, and
then some. With these weapons we
can do what we never could with the
smaller one. How did they get here?”
“They came when I was much
younger,” Naida answered with a shade
of sadness in her voice. “The men who
had them penetrated the Valley of the
Geyser, coming by a different route
from the one you followed. When
the Duca learned they were there, he
sent such men of the race as were still
able to fight to kill them. That order
of the Duca’s was one of the first
things to turn me against him. The
men were not harming us, and they
should have been permitted to go away.
But the Duca insisted that they be
killed, and in the fight were lost eight
of our youngest and strongest men.”
Kirby stooped to inspect the
“Has no one learned to use these
“No,” Naida answered. “The Duca
kept them for himself.”
“We think,” put in Ivana, “that he
hoped to learn to use them, and was
afraid for us to have the knowledge.”
Kirby filled one of the magazines,
and felt the heft of the gun with pleasure.
“Very well,” he said. “It looks to
me as though your time to learn the
art of shooting has come at last. Come,
I think we had better be getting back
Kirby took three guns himself, and
with the others lugging the rest, they
started back. The parchment rolls, he
decided, must be left for examination
They were all elated when they rejoined
the girls in the prayer chamber,
and high spirits were still further increased
by the report, promptly given,
that all had remained quiet in the
amphitheatre. Save only for the presence
of Elana, radiant and calm in
death, the give and take of questions
would have been accompanied by actual
But the time of peace did not last
much longer. While Naida was in the
midst of answering incessant questions
about the wonders of the jewel chamber,
Kirby heard a sound from below,
and suddenly went over to the downward-winding
“Listen,” he called sharply back to
He had not been mistaken. Many
footsteps echoed from the amphitheatre,
and he made out that the
caciques were coming toward the bolted
gate at the foot of the steps. While he
listened, and Naida came eagerly to
his side, silence fell.
But then clear words came up to
“Let the upper-world man come to
the foot of the steps,” called the Duca.
“I have an offer to make him!”
To himself Kirby chuckled. Such
real entreaty filled the Duca’s
voice that there seemed no danger of
further treachery from him at the moment.
With a grin, Kirby took Naida’s
hand and led her down the steps, unbolting
each bronze gate but the last.
“What do you want?” he asked in a
cool voice a moment later, when he
stopped on the final step and faced the
Duca from behind the protection of the
Clearly the parley was going to be
a blunt one.
“I want you to leave our world,” the
Duca rumbled promptly.
He was drawn up in a posture intended
to display dignity. But his left
cheek, where Kirby had hammered
him, was pulpy and discolored, and
somehow he seemed to Kirby more
than ever merely human.
“Under what conditions am I to
“If you will vacate my tower at
once,” the Duca said with a flush of
eagerness which he could not conceal,
“I will permit Naida and one of my
caciques to escort you back to the Valley
of the Geyser. I will also give you
directions by which you may travel in
safety from there to the outer world.”
Kirby, wanting more details, made
himself seem thoughtful.
“And what will happen to me, and
to the girls, if I decline?”
Encouraged, the Duca made an impressive
“You will be left in the tower to die
of starvation. Mine is not a complicated
offer. It should require no complicated
decision. What is your answer?”
Kirby dropped his carefully assumed
mask of thought.
“My answer is this,” he lashed out.
“I will not leave! The tower is ours,
and we will hold it until you have accepted
Naida’s peace terms on your
“But if you stay in the tower you will
starve!” thundered the Duca.
“No, we won’t starve! We won’t
starve because we eat the food of Ducas!”
In silence, Kirby took from his
pocket a strip of the sacred Peyote
and bit off one end of it. Suddenly
the hush in the amphitheatre became
complete. As he watched Kirby chewing,
the Duca gasped and choked.
“Moreover,” Kirby announced with
slow emphasis, “I have taken possession
of the weapons which you took from
men of the upper world, and which
have already sent men of your race to
their death. I have no wish to kill
either you or your caciques, but if you
do not presently discuss peace with me,
you will certainly find yourself embroiled
in a struggle more bitter than
the mild one of this morning.”
With that said, he swung on his
heel, and taking Naida’s hand again,
started with her up the steps.
“I have nothing more to say,” he
called over his shoulder to a Duca
whose white haired majesty had been
stripped from him.
“We’re getting on,” he whispered to
Naida a moment later. “The best thing
for us is just to sit still now, and wait.”
With the questions he wanted to ask
Naida about her world becoming insistent,
he found himself, as a matter
of fact, glad for the prospect of further
respite. As both of them rejoined
the girls in the Duca’s prayer chamber,
the first thing he did was to take from
his tunic the cylinder of gold which
he had found in the canyon.
“What is this, Naida?” he asked,
hoping to start talk that would make
all of them forget the Duca and politics,
and at the same time help him to
learn much that he wished to know.
But a queer thing happened. Naida’s
reaction to the carven gold was as unexpected
as it was marked.
“Oh!” she cried in a voice which
suddenly trembled with surprise, with
blank dismay. Somehow, the cylinder
of gold brought to her face things
which not even the Serpent’s head of
the diamond had evoked.
The prospect of a long session of
talk began to fade out in Kirby’s
“But Naida, whatever is there about
this fragment of gold to startle you as
By this time all of the thirty-odd
other girls had come flocking about
them, and all were staring at the cylinder
as fascinatedly as Naida.
“Do you see what he has there?”
Naida finally asked, ignoring Kirby in
her continued excitement.
“Do we see?” answered the girl she
had addressed. “Naida, surely it is the
carving which was lost!”
Naida was quivering with feeling
“Do you realize what it means to our
cause that it should have been returned
to us in this way?”
The girl to whom she had spoken,
and the others, simply looked at her,
but in one face after another presently
dawned awe and joy.
Kirby stood still, puzzled and interested,
until at last Naida was recovered
enough to speak to him.
“Where did you get this thing which
you call ‘a fragment of gold’?” she
asked in a hushed voice.
“I found it,” Kirby answered, “lying
beside the skeleton of an upper-world
man, while I was ascending the
canyon which brought me to the Valley
of the Geyser.”
“And you do not know what the cylinder
is? But no, of course you could
“What is it, Naida?”
Naida glanced at her friends,
then laid her hand on Kirby’s.
“Next to the great diamond, it is the
most cherished possession of our race.
In some respects it is even more holy
than the Serpent’s head. The cylinder
happens to be the first work in gold
which was ever produced by our people.
It was made when the race was
new. It was because our first wise men
had found they could create things of
beauty like this cylinder, that they decided
to attempt the creation of the
Serpent’s head, which is supposed to
have brought all of our blessings upon
Kirby thought he was beginning to
understand the excitement which his
introduction of the cylinder had created.
He also thought he could see
what Naida had meant by implying
that the cylinder could be made to aid
“Tell me,” he asked in a mood approaching
reverence, “how the cylinder
came to be lying beside a dead
“It was stolen,” Naida answered in
the breathless silence which the others
were keeping. “When I was very
young, an upper-world man found his
way here, and the Duca captured and
meant to sacrifice him. But while they
were leading him to the temple where
such special ceremonies are held—the
building stands on another plateau, beyond
this—the man broke away. Some
of the priests in the procession were
carrying the cylinder, for it was an
occasion of great importance. The
prisoner knocked them down, got the
cylinder away from them, and finally
escaped by the same route over which
“And he escaped,” said Kirby wonderingly,
“only to be killed by a rattlesnake
before he ever reached the civilized
world. But do you mean that you
never knew your sacred cylinder was
so close to you all these years?”
Naida shook her head.
“We never got to the canyon of
which you speak, for a special reason
which I shall explain some day. And
besides that, I think the Duca was
afraid of this man who fought so
bravely. So he counted the cylinder
as lost. And that is one of the reasons
why he killed the men with the rifles,
who appeared in the Valley a few years
Kirby looked at her thoughtfully.
The mood for discussing all the
wonders of this lower world, which
had made him bring out the cylinder
originally, had quite vanished.
“I suppose,” he said, “that anyone
who was responsible for the return of
the cylinder to its rightful owners,
would be held in some respect?”
Naida nodded vigorously, while little
lightnings of excitement flickered
in her eyes.
“He might be held in more than respect.”
“What, then, do you suggest that we
Again the small lightnings darted,
and Naida reached for the cylinder.
“Do you mind if I take it for a moment?”
“Of course not.”
Promptly then she faced around.
“Wait here, everyone,” she ordered.
And with that she waved the cylinder
in a flashing little arc before their
eyes, and darted to the door.
It was all so unexpected that she
was gone before Kirby could speak.
Slowly, with all of the suddenly gay
company of girls following after him,
he went to the doorway, and stood on
the steps leading to the amphitheatre.
A minute passed. He heard
voices downstairs. He heard Naida’s
voice ringing clearly, though he
could not distinguish her words. He
heard a great cry from a score of male
throats. More minutes passed. Words
that were low and tense poured out in
a rumbling volume. Above the rumble,
Naida’s voice presently sounded
again, clear and sweet, but incisive.
Then, when no more than five or six
minutes had gone, Kirby heard the
clang of the bronze gate at the foot
of the steps, heard light, swift footsteps
“Naida!” he called softly.
She flashed upward toward him
around the last curve in the stairway.
Straight to his outstretched arms she
“It is done! It is done!” she whispered.
“Tell us!” cried first one girl and
Naida drew away from Kirby at last.
“I told the Duca,” she said to all of
them, “that our leader would keep the
cylinder for a period of time equal to
one upper-world year. If the Duca
grants all the terms of peace which
we will ask of him, and if he accepts
the upper-world man as our temporal
ruler, and all goes well for a year, then
we will consider replacing the cylinder
where it belongs.”
“And what,” Kirby asked exultantly,
“does the Duca say?”
Suddenly, without warning, Naida
dropped before him on one knee, and
from that position gazed up at him
“He says he will make you our King,
to govern all temporal affairs within
our realm! He is waiting for you to
come and hold a conclave now.”
Still kneeling half in fun, half in
sincere reverence, Naida held out the
precious, potent cylinder of gold.
“Guard it carefully!” she exclaimed.
“So long as you keep it away from the
Duca, making him hope to win it back,
he will consent to almost anything.
Yes, he is waiting with the caciques
in the amphitheatre now; waiting to
draw up terms of peace.”
To be King amongst these people!
A queer sensation tugged at Kirby’s
heart as he descended the steps
with Naida at his right, and all of her—and
his—dainty and gracious friends
following after. Yet, intense as his
emotion was, never for a second was
he able to doubt the evidence of his
senses which told him that all of this
was real. As they descended the black
steps of the tower, Naida’s sweetness,
her grace, the warm humanity of her,
made him humble with gratitude for
the extraordinary fortune which had
come to him, an unromantic aviator
born in Kansas.
Then they were standing in the brilliant
light of the amphitheatre, and
the Duca, surrounded by his caciques,
was advancing to meet them.
It was not a long conference which
followed. Kirby saw from the start
that the Duca was indeed ready to
come to terms. So treasured an object,
it seemed, was the cylinder of gold,
that the mere fact that Kirby possessed
it made the Duca respect the possessor,
whether he would or no. With this
initial advantage, it did not take long
to make demands and win acceptance.
It was agreed that some systematic
campaign of extermination should be
planned and carried out against the
ape-men. Further, the project for
eventually bringing other upper-world
men to the realm was accepted. Most
notable of all, it was agreed that while
the Duca should retain a voice in the
regulation of temporal affairs, Kirby
should possess an absolute veto over
Naida said there must be some formal
ceremony to celebrate Kirby’s
ascendency to power. To this the Duca
consented, and established the date as
a fortnight hence, and the place as the
temple on the plateau beyond the plateau
of the castle, where the Ducas had
been invested with their robes of state
from time immemorial. At the end, it
was decided that little Elana should
be left in the prayer chamber until a
burial ceremony could be held on the
In less than an hour, Kirby, Naida,
and the others withdrew from the
amphitheatre to return to the regular
dwelling places of the girls. Deep in
his mind, Kirby did not know how sincere
the Duca was, and fear lingered,
somehow, but he put it aside for the
As they came out of the castle, proceeding
in a gay procession across the
drawbridge above the moat of beautiful
aquatic plants, Kirby saw that the
light from the glass sky was fading
to a glow like that of spring twilight
in the upper world. Naida answered
his question about the phenomenon by
saying that day and night in the cavern
corresponded to the same period
above. What quality of the glass sky
gave out light, she did not know, but it
seemed definite that the element was
sensitive to the presence of light in
the upper world, and when the sun
sank there, the glow faded here.
A flower embroidered path led them
around the castle to a group of little
crystalline houses all overgrown with
bougainvillea vines and honeysuckle.
In front of the first, Naida paused, and
while the others went on to the other
houses, she looked at Kirby.
“It is Elana’s dwelling,” she said
simply, “and it will be vacant now.
Elana would want you to take it. Will
The twilight was deepening swiftly.
Kirby nodded reverently, then drew
close to Naida.
He took her hand.
“I can stay here, I can consent to
become, after a fashion, a King, only
if you will reign with me as Queen.
Will you, Naida? Will you love me
as I have learned to love you during
this single day in Paradise?”
She did not answer. But presently
Kirby’s mind went blank for sheer joy.
For then Naida raised her face, and he
kissed her lips.
It made no difference then that, despite
the day’s victory, Kirby could see
trouble ahead, and feared, rather than
rejoiced at, the Duca’s too easy acceptance
of terms. The future could take
care of itself. This moment in the
dusk belonged to him and Naida.
The two weeks which passed for
Kirby after that particular twilight
sped quickly. During the first
morning, all attended the ceremony
which was held for Elana’s burial in
the plot of gardened ground where lay
her ancestors. Ensuing mornings were
devoted to conferences in the amphitheatre
with Duca and caciques.
After the fourth day Kirby, at Naida’s
insistence, moved into splendid
quarters in the castle—a suite of chambers
across the amphitheatre from those
in which the caciques dwelt. In practically
forcing the move on Kirby,
Naida won his consent finally by agreeing
to have their wedding ceremony
performed on the day of his coronation;
then she would come to the castle
The afternoons of that first fortnight
before the wedding and coronation
were spent in hunting and fishing.
Also Kirby and Naida visited often the
aged people of the race, who dwelt in
crystalline, vine covered houses like
those of the girls, but removed from
them. Naida’s relatives were dead, but
she had relatives there, and to all these
aged ones, who sat living in the past,
she did what she could to explain present
developments in the affairs of the
Last but not least, Kirby set aside
certain hours each afternoon which he
devoted to the formation of a rifle
squad amongst the girls. Six rifles he
had, and in turn he trained each of the
girls in their use, having set up a range
at the foot of the plateau cliffs. The
results he gained made him feel that
the day would come soon enough when
he would dare launch an offensive
against the ape-people; and especially
pleasing was the sense of power over
the Duca which he gained. The Duca
showed no sign of treachery. Yet
Kirby did not trust him. Never did he
quite forget the misgivings which had
lingered in his mind after the first conclave.
As for his relationship with Naida,
that grew with every moment
they could steal to spend with each
other. And side by side with their
growing knowledge of each other grew,
for Kirby, an increasing store of
knowledge of the realm.
He learned, amongst other things,
what seemed the origin of the worship
of the Serpent, Quetzalcoatl, amongst
primitive Mexican races. The time had
been when the People of the Temple
had mingled freely with the races
above them; and, that they might have
ready means of egress to the world,
they had built the tunnel through
which Kirby had entered the Valley
of the Geyser. Thus, going and coming
as they did, they had spread their
cult of the worship of Quetzalcoatl;
and when, eventually, strife arose between
the peoples of upper world and
lower, and the People of the Temple
withdrew to their realm, they left behind
them the Serpent myth which was
to live through countless centuries.
The tunnel, Naida said, had been
abandoned when her people left the
upper world once and for all, and its
use for any reason prohibited. This,
Naida gave as the reason why none of
them went near the tunnel now, and
why the cylinder of gold had lain in
the canyon undiscovered. It was the
explanation she had promised on the
day in the tower, when first she saw
So the days passed, until the day set
aside for wedding and coronation
dawned. On that morning, Kirby, having
concluded a long conference with
the Duca, was walking with Naida in
the gardens outside the castle.
“Tell me,” he said to her: “do you
yourself believe that this Serpent has
the powers of a God?”
Naida looked at him quickly, a sudden
fright in her eyes.
“I believe the Serpent exists to-day,
somewhere in the distant reaches of
the chasm, beyond the Rorroh forest.”
“Yes, but do you believe the Serpent
Actually frightened now, she
looked swiftly about. But when
she saw that they were alone, confidence
“No!” she exclaimed. “I do not believe
Quetzalcoatl is a god. I believe
he is the most terrible creature anywhere
in our realm, and that men first
worshipped him through fear. I believe
our race would be better a hundred
times if they had never made him
“Then you do not believe that the
Ducas of past ages talked with him.
You do not believe it was Quetzalcoatl’s
pleasure over the great diamond
which made him cease preying on your
“No! Long habit makes me show
respect for these myths, and adhere to
the customs of our cult, but I do not
believe. I think our race gained immunity
for the Serpent’s ravages, not
through a compact with Quetzalcoatl,
but because our builders were intelligent
enough to erect the castle up here
on the plateau, where Quetzalcoatl
could not reach them. To tell the
truth, I think the whole cult is false
and wrong, and I wish Quetzalcoatl
were dead and gone from the world!”
Kirby smiled. In spite of Naida’s
reverence for certain features of the
cult, he had long suspected that her
true feelings were those she had just
expressed. And he was glad for this
new bond of understanding between
them. He glanced at her with understanding
and perfect trust.
“Naida, since we have talked so
frankly, there is one more thing which
I must bring out.”
She looked up at him.
“What is it?”
She drew closer, her perfumed body
brushing his, her great eyes caressing
“Naida, I am afraid of the man.”
“And so am I!” she confessed suddenly.
“It has all been too easy,” Kirby said
in a slow voice. “There is no doubt
whatever that our possession of the
cylinder of gold has had great influence
on the Duca, and yet—”
He paused, taking her hand.
“And yet,” she went on for him,
“you do not believe he would have conceded
what he has, unless he intends to
Kirby nodded twice, emphatically.
“Well, you have trained all of us to
use the rifles.”
He smiled gravely at her understanding.
“Yes, I have. And your skill, and
that of the others, with the rifles, will
always help us. Yet even so—”
Closer still she drew now, and there
was sadness in her eyes.
“I think I see,” she said in a voice
which choked. “When do you think
he will make a move to start trouble?”
Kirby hesitated, then drew a long
“On—on the day of our union?”
Naida echoed in dismay. “Can you
tell where or how he will strike at us?”
Kirby shook his head.
“There are a hundred things he
could do. Naida, I—I—Well, somehow
I am afraid of the ceremony this
afternoon—the wedding ceremony!”
He felt a little shiver go through
her, and would have taken her
in his arms, save that a gay cry rang
in the garden then.
“Naida, Naida!” It was her cousin,
Nini, a bronze-haired youngster as elfin
and Pucklike as her name. “I thought
we should never find you! Do you
realize this is your wedding day, and
that you’re acting as if there was nothing
to be done?”
Nini darted a mocking glance at
Kirby, who grinned.
“Do come, Naida!” cried another girl.
“Your gown is ready, and we want you
to ourselves for awhile.”
Other girls joined them, some singing
and some carrying an obligato on
the sweet, flutelike instruments which
Kirby had first heard as he hung in
the throat of the geyser. In front of
them all, Kirby laughed and kissed
Naida on the forehead. But as he took
leave of her thus, he whispered:
“We must not let our guard relax
for a second this afternoon. And I
think there is a more definite precaution
which I will take, besides.”
Some hours later, Kirby smiled
with tight-lipped satisfaction at
thought of that precaution which he
had taken. What it was only he, Nini,
Ivana, and three other girls knew,
which secrecy pleased him as much as
the precautionary measure itself.
Seated alone in a dimly-lighted,
thick-walled cell of the ancient temple
in which the dual ceremony of wedding
and coronation would take place,
he was waiting for the moment when
the festivities would begin. Thus far
the Duca had done nothing. Yet Kirby’s
uneasiness would not leave him,
and he continued to be thankful that,
if trouble should start, the Duca might
not find as many trumps in his hand as
A couple of hours after Kirby had
left Naida and the other girls in the
garden, all had begun the two-mile
journey from the castle to the small
plateau on which stood this temple,
where the ceremony would be held.
Now, while Kirby waited alone, the
Duca and his caciques had gone to another
wing of the temple. Naida, attended
by her bridesmaids, had been
assigned to a cell of their own, and the
rest of the girls were waiting in the
nave of the temple. Unable to attend
the walk from their plateau to
this, the old people of the race had remained
in their crystal houses.
With ten minutes more to wait,
Kirby rose from a bench on which he
had been seated, and began to pace his
cell. It was this archaic pile of stone,
he finally decided, which was causing
his depression. Unlike the bright and
cheerful castle, this place, older than
any other building in the realm, was
squat, thick-walled, and gloomy. Here,
in the dusky cells which lined labyrinthine
corridors, the early generations
of the race had found protection from
outside dangers. All of which was all
right, Kirby thought, but just the same
he wished he had insisted upon being
wedded in the brilliant and cheerful
But presently he stopped pacing
and faced the door of his cell.
Then he breathed a sigh of relief.
From down the twisting corridors
which wound out to the central nave,
stole the high sweetness of soprano
voices, the whisper of flutes, and the
mellow resonance of little gongs of
jade and gold. It was the signal for
which he had waited.
It had been the Duca’s instructions
that he should come out into the temple
when the music began, and meet
Naida there. Both would advance to
the altar, and when they were in place,
the Duca would come to them. Kirby,
therefore, after a glance at the blue
trousers and tunic of tanager scarlet
which the girls had made for him,
opened the door of his cell, and stepped
In a moment he traversed the windings
of the corridor, and halted under
a flat arch at one side of the temple
As he paused so, to await the appearance
of Naida and her bridesmaids under
a similar arch directly across the
temple, he held his breath. Not even
nymphs could be as graceful as were
the twenty-six girls who were performing
the dance of Life Immortal,
which tradition decreed should be
given before the ceremony by which,
in this realm, two souls were wedded.
The flash of rainbow gowns was like
the swirling of light in a sky at dawning.
The music of voices, flutes, and
the little gongs of jade, would have
stirred the souls of the dead.
If only the confounded sense of approaching
disaster would leave him,
Kirby thought grimly, this would be
a magnificent moment. As it was, he
turned his eyes away from the girls,
and began to examine the temple.
Just as Naida had told him the case
would be, he found both sides of the
nave surrounded by arches similar to
the one under which he was standing.
Everywhere, dim and tortuous corridors
led to cells like the one he had
just left. Then, in one end of the nave,
loomed a closed door from behind
which the Duca and caciques would
appear when the couple to be wedded
were in place, before the altar.
The altar itself, a rectangular mass
of some jadelike stone, stood at a distance
of perhaps twenty paces in front
of the closed door. On top of the
greenish stones, resting on a cushion
of some crimson material, flashed the
crown which would be used at the coronation.
Kirby’s eyes widened as he
beheld a single rose-cut diamond two
inches in diameter, mounted in an exquisitely
simple bandeau of wrought
gold. But, a moment later, even the
crown which would be his—if nothing
happened—seemed only a bauble compared
to the other prize which he had
won in this world beneath the world.
He realized that the dance was
ended, the music stilled, and that
the rainbow garbed girls had formed
a double line in the center of the temple.
Suddenly his heart beat fast, and
for just a moment, as he dared look
full and deeply at Naida, and she
smiled back at him across the distance,
he even forgot to be depressed.
But even as he advanced to meet her,
his uneasiness returned.
Now the girls were singing again,
their voices raised in a triumphant
chorale as beautiful as Naida’s face
with its warm red lips and smiling
eyes, as beautiful as her wedding gown
that might have been woven, in its
filminess, of mist from the sea. The
bridesmaids, silent, their lovely faces
alight, paused. But Naida came on.
From her floated to Kirby a fragrance
more overwhelming than even
the perfume of the geyser. Presently
he felt her hand on his arm, and at last
they stood side by side. Now again,
his premonition of evil left him for a
flash; but again it returned.
“I love you,” he whispered.
“I love you.”
“But I am still afraid.”
Naida’s smile faded.
“And I too. Oh, I’ve been terribly
afraid! We will keep our guard!”
In front of them, on the altar, the
crown diamond winked and shimmered
in a dim light. The swelling
chorus of triumph, in which the bridesmaids
had joined now, made the whole
temple ring. Slowly, while Naida
moved easily beside him, Kirby began
to march to the altar.
Then it was done, and they were
halted. After both of them had given
a lingering glance at the crown whose
diamond shimmered now within their
reach, they raised their eyes to the
closed door behind the altar.
The thing was swinging open. An
inch it moved, two inches.
Kirby waited, never taking his eyes
away from the widening crack. With
a crashing final volume of sound, the
chorus swept magnificently to its climax.
Then the door was flung wide.
Still Kirby stood stiffly before the
altar, with Naida drawn up splendidly
beside him. After two seconds, however,
Duca and caciques were not standing
in the corridor.
In the semi-darkness, the only figures
visible there were squatting, grotesque
things whose bodies were covered
with whitish hair and whose leathery
faces were disfigured by gashes of
mouths filled with enormous teeth.
A feeling of standing face to face
with final disaster, turned Kirby sick.
As he jerked back from the altar,
sweeping a paralyzed Naida with him,
the ape-men let out gibbering howls,
half-human. With gigantic, hopping
strides, the foremost rank of the creatures
swung forward, straight into the
Kirby, already falling back toward
the other girls, caught
Naida up in his arms, and ran.
“Nini!” he bellowed. “Ivana! Get
While the two whom he had ordered
sprang to a corridor, and four others
followed, Kirby fell in with the others
and dropped Naida on her feet. Sick
as he was, there was still a ray of hope,
because the hard-headed precaution he
had taken against treachery this morning
was to have Nini and Ivana bring
the rifles here and hide them.
The first of the ape-men, snarling,
laughing, had hopped beyond the altar,
and the yellow foam of madness was
slavering from his jaws. Over his
shoulder he howled some jargon which
made his hairy legion struggle to catch
up with him.
“Have you got any puff balls?”
Kirby snapped at Naida.
She shook her head numbly, just as
Nini and Ivana swung forward with
“No. But you had sense enough to
bring the rifles! Oh, what does it
“The Duca has sold himself out to
the ape-man! He was helpless against
us, and has brought them to destroy
us for him. Here, Ivana, give me a
rifle! Everyone for herself!”
The next moment he had a Mannlicher
at his shoulder.
As the thing kicked, an ape who
would have reached him in two
more jumps crashed over with his heart
torn out, the temple echoed with sound
which threatened to rip its solid walls
apart, and bright flashes at Kirby’s
right and left told him that other rifles
were getting under way.
He fired again, twice more, slaughtering
an ape with each shot. The five
other rifles were creating havoc.
Blocked by a dozen torn and bleeding
bodies on the floor, the reenforcements
which still poured from the corridor,
began to mill around amongst
themselves, and the forward charge
slowed down. All the panic which had
sent the ape-men scuttling from the
beach at their first experience of gunfire,
seemed ready to break loose again
Kirby felt it was good enough for
the work of a minute.
“Get into line as I showed you how!”
he shouted. “Rifles in the front rank,
the others behind them. We’re all right
now! Keep firing!”
“Keep behind me!” he ordered
Naida, still unarmed.
Then he placed a shell in the chest
of one brute who was broader and
heavier than the others—a leader—and
saw that he had increased the demoralization;
and from the hastily-formed
front rank a volley leaped hot and
Then the rout which had threatened
broke loose. As eight ape-men slumped
into blubbering, bleeding heaps, the
milling remainder of the horde turned,
and in a fighting, scrambling frenzy
attempted to get back to the corridor.
Kirby let his triumph take the form
of thoughts about what he would do
to the Duca when that personage could
be rounded up.
“Follow after them!” he ordered.
“Don’t stop until we have located the
Duca. He is the one we must settle—”
But he never finished.
As he himself, holding fire for
a second, prepared to follow up the retreat,
he found himself confronted by
the utterly unexpected.
A voice unquestionably the Duca’s
began to shout orders at the ape-men
from somewhere down the corridor!
And, riot or no riot, the tones of that
voice seemed to inspire the creatures
with more fear than the rifle fire.
So suddenly the change came, that
by the time Kirby flung his rifle again
to his shoulder, the crazy retreat had
been halted, and as he fired again, the
ape-men swung in their tracks and began
There was no time to guess by what
power the Duca had turned the tables.
There was not even time for orders.
Kirby fired twice, knowing that the
ape-men had been infused with some
spirit which would bring them on in
spite of rifle fire.
Naida, unarmed, cried out behind
him, and he shoved his gun at her.
He had just inserted a new clip. He
handed her others.
“Fire for your lives!” he shouted to
“But you!” Naida gasped. “You are
“I’ll be all right.”
On the floor lay a jagged, hand-chipped
knife of obsidion which had
fallen as some ape died. Kirby
In another second the flood of ape-men
had burst in all its fury over
him. Crashing, thundering shots were
dinning in his ears, animal death
screams and the Valkyrie battle cries
of the girls filled the temple. He could
not tell how many of the apes were
fighting him. As a cave-man’s club
whizzed past his head, he drove his
knife once, and yanked it dripping
from hairy, yielding flesh to plunge it
again. A sudden side-step carried him
away from another assailant. He
dropped the knife to snatch the gigantic
club of one of the creatures he had
Quicker in every movement than the
ape-men, he laid on, right and left,
with such power that blood spurted in
a dozen places, and heads were split
open on every side. And because of
his speed, the frantic, clumsy blows
and knife thrusts which were directed
at him proved harmless.
A terrific drive which smashed a
snarling face into pulp, left Kirby free
for a second, and he emerged from the
first round of battle ready to cut in
and help the girls. But then he saw
that he had gotten separated from the
“Naida!” he called. “Naida!”
A series of shots answered him, and
as several apes fell, a gap was opened
through which he saw her conducting
a well ordered retreat of all the girls
toward the dark corridors surrounding
the temple. Again Kirby fell to with
his club, swinging, hacking, fighting
with his whole strength to catch up.
He made headway, and hope began to
come again. The ape-men would not
kill, or even harm, the girls. What
they wanted was to carry them off. If
he and Naida together could get their
party rounded up in the corridors, the
chances were good.
“Naida!” he shouted again. “Coming!”
Battering down an ape in front of
him, he jumped up on the corpse, and
saw that already the vanguard of girls
had reached the first sheltering corridor.
Naida had been cut off from the
others by eight or ten apes. But even
so her fire made her mistress of the situation,
and she seemed all right.
It was just as Kirby started to jump
down from the corpse that he saw
something which put another complexion
on the matter, and left him
frozen where he was.
Behind Naida, directly in the
path in which her slavering aggressors
were slowly forcing her, a
huge stone slab in the temple floor had
begun to tilt up as if it were a trapdoor
raised by an invisible hand.
Within the yawning opening, Kirby
caught a glimpse of stone steps winding
down into blackness.
In a flash he saw that it was Naida,
and her alone, that the ape-men were
after. The Duca’s determination was
to capture her, and it was the presence
of this trapdoor, making capture possible,
which had brought on the second
charge of the apes.
A scream, high and wild, from Naida
released Kirby from his trance of horror.
He leaped off the corpse, and
smashed a suddenly presented skull
like an egg shell. Momentarily he saw
Naida, too terrified to fire, staring at
the open trapdoor. Kirby felled two
apes and felt their blood on his arms.
“Ivana!” he yelled. “Help Naida,
for God’s sake!”
An answering shout, not from Ivana
alone but from many girls, encouraged
him, and he swung his club with a
speed and force which would let nothing
stand before him. But then another
scream from Naida rang in his
“Naida!” he shouted. “It’s all right!
He knew, though, that it wasn’t all
right. Fighting like a maniac, he
opened another lane down which he
glimpsed her. Fighting still, in a last
terrific effort to force his way down
the lane to her side, he saw the black
opening gape at her feet; and, as Naida
screamed again, a dozen hairy arms
reached it at once, twisted the empty
rifle out of her hands, and lifted her
shining body as if it had been a
Shouts and murderous fire were coming
from the other girls, and Kirby
swung his club as never before. But
even as he fell upon the last two or
three apes which kept him away from
Naida, those who had snatched her,
bolted down the steps.
Kirby was left with the memory of
Naida’s great eyes fixed upon his, fear-filled,
beseeching his protection. In a
second, the ponderous trapdoor crashed
into place, and she was gone.
Dazed and grief-stricken, Kirby
stood in the bloody, corpse-filled
nave of the temple, surrounded by
thirty-two girls whose faces were
blanched and most of whose eyes were
tear-bright. The fight was over, and
they were assembled to decide what
must be done, but for a time no one
Gaining the trapdoor just as it was
pinioned from beneath, Kirby had torn
at it with bare hands. But that had
been hopeless. Then he had begun to
fight again. But that had been hopeless
also. With howls and screams they
started to retreat, and it had not taken
Kirby long to find out that every part
of their raid had been carefully
planned, even to this retreat under fire.
Straight into the damp black tunnel
which led away from the corridor behind
the altar, the ape-men had leaped.
And Kirby, in hot pursuit, had heard
the Duca’s voice driving them on. Too
much the soldier to follow in that
darkness where the Duca knew every
foot of the way, and he knew nothing,
Kirby had seen that he must go back
to the girls and take stock.
Now he looked at the strewn ape
corpses, smelled the corrosive reek of
burned powder, and tried to put aside
“The Duca,” he said at last, “must
have been planning this with the apes
ever since the first morning in the
Ivana, Naida’s sister, nodded.
“The Duca brought the ape-people
here, kept them in the tunnel, and then
herded them back when their work was
done. I suppose it was one of the
caciques who opened the door when the
time was right.”
“Does anyone think we ought to try
the tunnels now?” Kirby asked.
Several girls shook their heads.
He knew that already they felt he
had been wise in giving up the pursuit.
“If the Duca and his horde stay underground,
we shouldn’t have a chance
against them. And if they don’t, we’re
Kirby shot a searching glance at her,
somehow sure that her thoughts were
running parallel with his.
“You don’t think they’re going to
stay here, do you?”
“No, and you don’t either,” Ivana answered.
“It seems to me that they will retreat
into the Rorroh as fast as they can,”
Kirby then observed.
“And do you think the Duca and all
the caciques will go with the apes?”
This time it was Nini who spoke, and
with the council so well launched,
Kirby began to feel better.
“I think,” he answered Nini, “that
the Duca has gone over to Xlotli altogether.
We fooled him to-day. Instead
of killing or capturing us all, he—he
only got Naida. But he won’t give
up. I think he is taking the apes off
to some place from which he can launch
a new attack. And we’ve got to stop
him before he is ready to deliver another
“What do you mean?” Ivana now
“Do you know where the villages of
the ape-people are?”
“Yes. None of us has been very far
into the Rorroh, but I could guess
where some of the villages may stand.”
Silence fell after that, but Kirby
knew from the glint in Ivana’s
eyes, and the quick breaths which other
girls drew, that they understood.
“Ivana,” he said suddenly, “will you
go with me into the Rorroh jungle, and
stay with me, facing down every
danger it may conceal, until we have
found Naida and brought her back?”
A flush of life crept into Ivana’s
Kirby faced the other girls, all of
them keyed up now.
“Nini, will you go?”
Nini, bronze-haired, dainty nymph of
a girl, who had yet the stamina of a
man, looked at him with brave eyes.
Then her hands tightened on her rifle,
and she stepped forward.
“When will you have us start?” Ivana
asked in a low voice.
“Now!” Kirby answered, and, taking
up the rifle which lay beside him—the
same with which Naida had fought—he
looked at the other girls.
“There is not one of you,” he said
slowly, “who would not go willingly
on this quest. But the pursuit party
must be small and mobile. And there
is another duty. To all of you I leave
the care of the castle and the plateau.
Take the three rifles I shall leave behind,
do what you can to reassure the
old people, and hold the plateau safe
until we return.”
A murmur of girls’ voices sounded in
the temple. Kirby motioned to Nini
and Ivana, and followed by a low
cheer, they moved off together.
The night was on them, where
they crouched in a cave above a
swiftly flowing river. Kirby, rifle
across his knees, sat peering out across
the black, invisible stretches of the
forest. His nostrils quivered to this
mingled smells of fresh growth and
fetid decay of the grotesque land. In
his ears shrilled the creaking and
scraping of insects, the flap of unseen
wings, the distant bellowing grunt of
some unseen, unknown animal.
“I cannot sleep,” Ivana said presently,
from back in the cave.
“Hush,” he whispered, “you will
“But I am already awake!” came her
answer. “I—I cannot forget the white
snakes which slid from that tree when
you tried to cut firewood.”
“Hush,” Kirby murmured again.
“Presently the moon will rise on the
earth above, and light will come here.
Even if the jungle is terrible, were you
not born with courage? Go to sleep
now, both of you, because you must
relieve me soon.”
As silence fell again, he knew that
the real thing behind their nervousness
was their ghastly doubt about what the
night was bringing to Naida. But none
of them spoke of Naida. So sickening
were the possibilities that Kirby would
not permit conjecture to occupy even
his mind when, at length, the sound of
even breathing told him that Nini and
After dreary passing of an hour, a
faint light grew over the jungle, silver
and clear, and Kirby let his mind run
back to the two deserted ape-men communities
which they had found and
searched before dusk sent them to the
cave. From the signs of hasty departure,
it looked as though a far-reaching
order had taken the brutes
away from their dwellings, and sent
That somewhere seemed likely to be
the great central community which
Ivana said was rumored to exist in the
far reaches of the Rorroh. The problem
was how to locate the community
through the hideous country. But
Kirby presently drove the question
from his head. To-morrow’s evils could
best be faced when morrow dawned.
Enough light had grown now so
that the swirling bosom of the
river, and a strip of sand directly below
the cliff in which their cave was
set, were visible. As Kirby let his eyes
wander to the lush growth beyond the
sand, he heard something which made
him stir uneasily. Some creature which
suggested power and hugeness immeasurable
was moving there.
The brush parted, and he saw plainly
an animal with the bulk of a two-story
house. On two feet the nightmare thing
stood, as lightly as a cat, and then came
down on all four feet as it ambled out
on the sand and extended into the lapping
river a tremendous beak studded
with teeth. A smell of crushed weeds
and the musty odor like that of a lion
house filled the night. The tyranosaur—it
was more like a tyranosaur than
anything else—breathed heavily and
guzzled in great mouthfuls of water.
Kirby sat perfectly still. He hoped
the thing would go away. But the
tyranosaur did not go away. All at
once it hissed loudly and stood up, its
eyes glowing green and baleful, and
Kirby leaned forward.
From the water was slithering another
creature with a gigantic, quivering,
jelly body. Kirby saw to his horror
that, in addition to four short legs
with webbed, claw-tipped feet, there
sprouted from the body a number of
octopus tentacles. From the scabrous
mottle of the head, cruel, unintelligent,
bestial eyes glared at the rearing
One of the serpentine tentacles
whipped out, slapped against the
tyranosaur’s fore-shoulder to call forth
a hiss and a short bellow. Then other
tentacles waved in the moonlight, and
in a flash the tyranosaur was enmeshed
as by a score of slimy cables. He was
not altogether helpless. Suddenly the
steam shovel of a beak buried itself in
the jelly body of the water animal, and
there spurted out a flood of inky liquid.
The water animal emitted a sickening
gurgle. But the tyranosaur’s advantage
was only temporary. Closer and closer
drew the ugly, scabrous tentacles. The
tyranosaur never had a chance. Its
green eyes flared, the shovel beak
plunged and slashed, but never for a
second did the tentacles relax. As
Kirby stared, he saw the water animal
begin to back up, dragging its gigantic
enemy with it. For a second the whole
night was hideous with the sound of
hisses, gurgles, dashing water. Then
the river boiled once and for all, and
both animals sank in its depths.
Kirby chafed cold hands together and
shivered a little, then turned to see if
Nini and Ivana had heard the struggle.
Fortunately, however, they still slept.
And as if this peace which was upon
them were an omen of good, the jungle
continued quiet for the next hour.
Kirby wakened them at last, and after
a snatched nap, was in turn awakened.
The three of them started again when
the first glimmerings of dawn came to
the forest. Of food there was plenty—fruits
which grew in profusion, and
some roots which Nini grubbed out of
the earth. Having started along the
first trail which they encountered beside
the river bank, they ate as they
Kirby judged they had kept their
steady gait for more than two
hours before a slight widening of the
trail roused him from the preoccupation
into which he had fallen.
“See there,” he exclaimed to both
girls, and pointed at a grove of trees
with fanlike leaves which towered up
to the right of the trail. “What are
those big bundles fastened to the lower
Ivana glanced at Nini, who nodded as
if in answer to a question.
“This must be one of the places
where the ape-people leave their dead,”
Nini answered. “The bundles—But
come over to them.”
Kirby forced his way ahead until he
stood beneath a huge, unsavory bundle
wrapped in roughly woven brown fibre,
and wedged in a fork between two
limbs. Judging from the ugly odor
which overhung the grove, there could
be no question about what the bundle
contained. Nini and Ivana, glancing at
the scores of similar bundles which
burdened the trees of the whole grove,
made wry faces. Kirby slung his rifle
in the crook of his arm, and nodded
toward the trail.
“There must be a village somewhere
near,” he said.
A mile farther on they found what
they were seeking, a colony of seventy
or eighty conical dwellings of mud and
thatch, which were ranged in a double
circle about a central common of bare,
well-trodden earth. It took no long
reconnaissance to discover that the
town was deserted completely of all
Ivana beckoned and darted to one of
the nearest huts, and Kirby, following
her, found lying on the uneven earth
floor within, a half-skinned animal
which resembled a small antelope. An
obsidion knife beside the carcass, the
disordered condition of a couch of
grass, the sour odor of recent animal
occupancy, all told their story.
“The owner left in a hurry,” Kirby
Nini, who had gone beyond, to a
larger hut which might have belonged
to a king ape, called out excitedly to
“A great number of apes have eaten
a hurried meal here!”
Kirby entered the shadowed, foul-smelling
interior of the central
hut to find her statement true. Broken
meats, some raw, some cooked, lay on
the dirt floor, and scattered bits of fruit
were mingled with them. The ashes of
a burned out fire at the hut entrance
were cold, but had not been for long.
“Do you think—” Ivana began.
“I think the whole of the Duca’s
horde came this way, fed, and went on,
taking everyone with them,” Kirby
“But which direction did they take?”
asked Nini, who was standing at the
door of the big hut and had already begun
to examine the crowding, green,
inscrutable walls of jungle which
foamed up to the clearing on all sides.
No less than seven trails wound away
into the dark country beyond, and
Kirby saw that the question would not
be an easy one.
Having hastily circled the clearing
and peered down one trail after another
without finding a clue, he knew that it
was the Duca’s intelligence which had
made the ape-people depart without
leaving even tracks behind them. He
did not like the situation.
“Well,” he rumbled to his companions,
“we may as well take our
choice. One chance in seven of coming
But the words were hardly out of his
mouth before he pulled himself up
with a jerk, and cursed himself for having
“Ivana! Nini!” Sharpness, a sudden
ring of hope edged his voice. “Am
I seeing things, or is that—”
As he pointed to a huge aloe bush
down one of the trails to their
left, they started to run. Then Kirby
knew that he was not seeing things.
What his first inspection of the trails
had failed to show, he saw plainly
Tied loosely to one branch of the aloe
bush, almost concealed amidst the deep
green of foliage, was a bit of white
cloth! In a second Kirby was holding
out to his companions a tiny strip of
Naida’s wedding gown.
“She knew we would come!” He
stared down the trail with narrowed,
How Naida had contrived to leave
her signal was more than they knew.
The fact that she had done so, sent
all three of them down the trail at driving
An hour passed, then another, and
the morning which had been barely
born when they first took the trail,
wore on to the sultriness and vast,
colored light of a tropical noon. Twice
the main trail forked, and twice they
found an unobtrusive bit of cloth to
guide them beyond the works. When
the hands of Kirby’s still useful watch
pointed to twelve, they paused to eat
and rest. Then they pushed on.
Meanwhile, the country through
which they passed left Kirby with a
clear understanding of why Naida and
her people had shunned the Rorroh
forest down the centuries of time.
Just one thing which stuck in his
head was the sight of a small creature
like a marmoset, sticking an inquisitive
nose into the heart of a sickly-sweet
plant which resembled a terrestrial
nepenthe. No sooner had the little pink
snout touched the green and maroon
splotched petals, than the plant
writhed, closed its leaves, and swallowed
the monkey whole. Little
squeaks of agony and terror sounded
for a moment, and ceased.
At midafternoon they paused in a
spot where a forest of trees with
whorled tops were slowly being
strangled to death by immense orchids
of every conceivable shape and color,
and by a kind of creeping mistletoe
which grew almost as they watched.
Here also, the ground was covered with
fluffy, grey-green moss which seethed
constantly as if it were a carpet of
maggots. Both Ivana and Nini warned
Kirby on his life not to touch or go
near the moss, and a moment later he
From the forest came the flash of a
small, five-toed horse being pursued by
some animal with a hyena head that
barked. At the edge of the mossy
glade the hyena swerved aside, but the
terrified horse plunged straight out on
the carpet of moss. Instantly the air
was filled with the sound of animal
screams, and a series of tiny, muffled
explosions. A cloud of greenish-red
mist swirled about the horse. Quivering,
still screaming, the animal went
down on its knees, and as the reddish
green smoke fell on him and settled,
it became a mass of growing moss
Before Kirby’s eyes, the pitiful animal
was covered by a shroud of green
that spread over him and cloaked him,
licking over all with tiny sounds like
far off muffled drums as fresh spore
cases developed and burst. The screams
died. Even as Kirby drew the girls to
him and they passed on, the horse’s
nostrils, eyes, mouth were filled with
choking green moss; and he lay still.
On and on, deeper into the jungle
Kirby pushed, and never for a
moment did his companions falter. But
the way was not so easy now, for nerves
were jaded, muscles sore, and no human
will could have been powerful
enough to cast aside the growing fear
Fear came finally to a head when, toward
dusk, Kirby sighted a fork ahead
of them, approached it confidently to
look for Naida’s sign, and found
“Oh Lord!” he muttered, and realized
that it was the first time any of them
had spoken for long.
“There must be something to guide
us!” Ivana exclaimed as she searched
with questing eyes through the swiftly
deepening gloom of evening.
Nini, making an effort to keep up
hope in spite of the paleness which
came to her lovely face, darted down
both paths, glancing as she went at
every bush and shrub. But she returned
in a moment, and as she shook
her head, her great eyes were somber.
Kirby grunted, scratched behind his
ear. Then, however, he stifled an exclamation,
and clutched at the hands of
On one of the two trails appeared
suddenly in the dusk an ape-creature.
Kirby saw at once that the thing was
small—a female undoubtedly—and that
it had spied them and was moving toward
them with all speed. And borne
in upon him most certainly was the
fact that the ape-woman was making
signals of peace. In her outstretched
hand flickered through the gloom a
strip of cloth that was gauzy and white.
Again—a strip of Naida’s gown.
“If you know any words of her
tongue, call to her,” Kirby said sharply.
Ivana obeyed. All three of them
started forward. The ape-woman,
after returning the hail in creaking
gutturals, came up to them, and with an
unexpected look of pathos and entreaty
in her face, began to address the girls
with a flood of talk.
Word after creaking word she poured
out while Nini and Ivana listened in
silence. Finally Kirby could stand the
suspense no longer.
“What is it, Ivana? What does she
say? Your eyes are lighting up with
hope! Tell me—”
Ivana smiled and turned toward him,
while the ape-woman still looked her
“She says,” Ivana announced bluntly,
“that she and the other women amongst
their people, do not want any of the
girls of our race to be taken by their
males. Already the men are quarreling
about Naida. They will not look at
their own women. Naida told this
woman that we would be following,
and sent her to lead us to the place
where the ape-people are assembling!”
Kirby felt his lips tightening in a
grim smile at the thought that jealousy
was not unknown even to the semi-human
creatures of this neither world.
He looked at Nini and Ivana during a
stretched out second. Then he moved.
“Good,” he snapped. “We go on at
That was his only recognition of
what was surely one of the important
happenings of a lifetime. But for all
that, his tired brain, which so lately
had felt the chill of black depression,
was suddenly set on fire with triumph
As they marched rapidly, the ape-woman,
who called herself Gori,
succeeded in making them understand
that most of the ape-tribes, commanded
by the Duca and his caciques, were assembled
in the central community toward
which they were heading, that
grave danger of some sort threatened
Naida, and that the need for haste was
great. But what the danger was, the
two girls could not understand.
“We can’t make out what is going
to happen—what they plan to do to-night,”
Ivana whispered at last to
Kirby. “All Gori says is that we must
rescue Naida and take her away, and
must take the Duca away so that he
cannot influence the men any more.
And she keeps repeating that we must
“And you can’t find out what we
must rescue Naida from?”
Ivana shook her head.
“I’m afraid we’re facing something
of an appalling nature, as dangerous to
ourselves as to Naida. But I know
By the time the silver glow which
corresponded to moonlight flooded the
jungle, Gori had left the open trail,
and was leading them across country
which humans could not have negotiated
without the guidance she offered.
Advancing cautiously always, she stopped
for long seconds at a time to
reconnoitre, shifting her huge ears
about and changing their shape, twitching
her nostrils, and glancing hither
and thither with bright little eyes.
Sometimes they passed immense spike-tipped
flowers ten feet in diameter,
with fleshy yellow leaves which gave
out a nauseating stench. Vines with
long, recurved thorns and blossoms of
deep scarlet, laced the undergrowth together
and made passing dangerous.
Fire-flies drifted past, and all above and
about them flapped moths as big as
Kirby, his clothes almost torn from
his body, sweat pouring from every
pore, heard the labored breathing of
the girls, and wondered how they could
hang on. But they did, and after a
long time, Gori, halting in the midst
of a slight clearing, held up a warning
A queer sensation came over
Kirby. As he stared and listened,
he realized that the twinkles he saw
far ahead were not fire-flies, as he
had thought, but lights. In the frosted
moon glow, Nini and Ivana drew close,
and Kirby clasped their hands and
pressed them for a second. Too tired
to exult further he was, even though
they seemed close to their goal of
Gori swung her hairy arm in a
signal, and with rifles clasped carefully,
they began to advance. When, five
minutes later, they stood in the heart
of a rank glade beyond which they
could see nothing, Gori spoke to the
two girls in her creaking whisper, and
Nini laid a restraining hand on Kirby’s.
“We have gone as far as Gori dares!
She says we must climb a tree here,
and watch what will go on in a clearing
just beyond this thicket.”
“And we still don’t know what we’re
getting into,” Kirby muttered.
But at any rate they had reached the
end of their march.
Exultation did come to Kirby now,
but still he was too completely fagged,
as were both girls, to give much sign.
Gori pointed to a tree some fifty feet
away, which shot up to a great, foliage-crowned
height. They moved toward
it, and in a moment were climbing,
Gori first, the girls after her, and Kirby
“Here we are,” Ivana presently whispered,
at the same time drawing herself
out on a limb just beneath one on
which Gori and Nini had crawled.
Kirby found himself hedged in by
tasselated leaves through which he
could not see. The foliage thinned,
however, and soon Ivana halted,
perched herself in a comfortable position.
Kirby, making himself at ease
beside her, and seeing that Nini and
Gori were in place, turned his eyes
slowly, expectantly downward.
At first, all that he saw from his
bird’s-eye perch, was a circular
clearing two hundred yards across,
which was surrounded on all sides by
lowering jungle. In the exact center
of the circle, like a splotch of ink on
gray paper, there gaped a deep hole
which might have measured six feet
in diameter. Around this hole, eight
poles as tall and stout as telephone
poles stood up in bristling array. The
moonlight showed that the whitish
earth of the clearing was tamped
smooth as though thousands of creatures
had danced or walked about there
for centuries. But not a living form
A grunt of disappointment escaped
Kirby after that one look. When he
looked beyond the clearing, however,
a change came to his feelings.
A quarter of a mile away, lights were
twinkling—the same ones which had
been visible on the last stretch of the
journey. And the moonlight touched
the little conical roofs of fully two
hundred huts of the ape-people. No
sound was audible save the soughing
of night wind in the trees, the shrilling
of insects. Nevertheless, there stole
over Kirby all at once a feeling that
the great ape-village was crowded to
overflowing. What was more, he felt
himself touched by an eery sensation—familiar
these days—of evil to come.
Ivana, seated with her rifle across her
knees, stirred on the limb beside him.
“Oh,” she whispered suddenly, “I
am afraid of this place!”
Kirby took her hand.
“I know. Maybe it is the sensation
of all the legions of the apes herded
together so silently in their village. I
wish we knew what to expect from
them. I wish—”
But he broke off, and called softly
to Nini on the limb above. She
looked down with a drawn expression
about her mouth.
“Are you all right?” Kirby whispered.
“Yes. But—Well, are both of you
all right? Gori says we have reached
here in time, but I—” A gasp of uneasiness
escaped her, and Kirby heard
Ivana echo it. “There is something
about that black, silent hole out there
in the clearing, and about those poles
sticking up like fangs, that makes me
terribly, terribly afraid. Oh, what are
they planning? Where is Naida?
What are they going to do to her?”
Kirby whistled in a low key. He
had not thought about the black hole
in the clearing.
“Hum,” he muttered, “that’s interesting.
Ivana, Nini, what do you suppose—”
But he got no answer. Gori’s twitching
lips grimaced them to silence.
The next instant, the stillness of the
night was hurled aside by a howling,
gurgling shout from a hundred, a thousand
hysterically distended ape throats.
With the sickening sound came from
the village the sullen roaring of drums.
Ten minutes later, a Kirby who
was cold with apprehension and
wonder looked down from his leaf-crowned
height at such a spectacle as
he knew human eyes had never before
seen. The shouting had died away, the
drums were silenced. Crammed into
the clearing, their foul, hairy bodies
packed close together, the silver light
glinting against rolling red eyes and
grinning white teeth, stood fully a
Once the first tumult of shouting in
the village had died, they had come on
in silence, and in orderly procession.
Those who bore the drums—huge
gourds with heads of stretched skin—had
formed a line entirely around the
outer diameter of the circular clearing.
Then others, lugging vats of a dark,
heady-smelling liquor, had deposited
their burden beside the drums, and
formed a second circle. The balance
of the thousand had crowded itself together
as best it might, leaving bare
the center of the clearing with its
black hole and fangs of poles. Kirby,
looking down at these legions, did not wonder
that cold sweat wetted his back.
Capable of thinking about only one
thing—Naida—he was trying with all
his strength not to think. Ivana, her
face blanched in the light which filtered
their camouflage of leaves, sat
rigid, her hands locked about her cold
rifle. On the branch above, Nini and
Gori were as still as mummies. No one
had spoken since the vanguard of apes
But at last Nini leaned close to
“Have you any idea of what all this
A draught of hot night air carried
up a stench of drunkenness, and the
goaty odor of massed animal bodies.
“No,” Kirby whispered. “I suppose,
from Gori’s having brought us here,
that Naida is going to appear somehow.
We’ve simply got to trust that
Gori knows what she is about.”
“But listen—” Ivana suppressed a
shudder. “Suppose they should bring
Naida here presently to force her to
take part in some ceremony at which
we can only guess. Gori, who thinks
we can work miracles, supposes we can
rescue Naida. But I—I’m not so certain.
Is there anything we can do?”
It was exactly that question which
had made Kirby fight to keep himself
from thinking. His face turned
gray before he answered. But answer
he did, finally.
“Yes, there is one thing we can do,
Ivana. We’ve got to be frank with
each other, and so far, this is the only
thing I’ve been able to figure out. If
Naida is brought here, and they make
any move to harm her or torture her,
we can, and we will, shoot her quickly,
before harm or pain comes.”
A grim silence settled once more.
During the last miles of march in the
jungle, there had persisted in Kirby’s
heart the hope that there would be at
least something favorable in whatever
situation they might encounter. His
spirits were so low now that he dared
not speak again.
Amongst the noiseless sea of ape-men
below them came, every now and
again, a little ripple of motion as some
anthropoid shadow fell out of his place,
approached the liquor vats, and swilled
down the black brew, a quart at a gulp.
But mostly there was little commotion.
Ivana drew a sibilant breath and
said that she wished something would
“I wish,” Kirby answered tensely,
“that we knew what is going to happen.”
But the nightmare waiting was not
to go on forever. Kirby leaned forward
It was only instinct that had made
him know action must come. For a second,
no change in the expression of
the ape-men, no movement in their
crammed ranks, was visible. Then,
however, a queer, subdued grunting
rumbled deep down in many throats,
and those who had faced the hundred-foot
space in the center of the clearing
squatted down on their hams.
In the back of the crowd necks were
craned. The stronger shoved the
weaker in an effort to get a better view
of the cleared stage, and a few ape-men
who had been drinking hurried
on unsteady legs to their places.
“The drums!” Kirby whispered then.
With almost military precision,
the scores of leather-faced creatures
who had led the procession into
the clearing, clasped the skin-headed
gourds to their shaggy bellies, and
stood with free arm raised as though
awaiting a signal. Nini moved in her
position, and Kirby felt Ivana shiver
and edge close to him.
From the front rank of the crowd,
there sprang up a great male creature
with the face of a gargoyle and the
body of a jungle giant. Just once he
reeled on his feet, as though black alcohol
had befuddled him, then he steadied
himself, flung both arms above his
head, and rolled out a command which
burst upon Kirby’s ears like thunder.
It was as if the whole cavern of the
lower world, and the whole of the
round earth itself, had been rocked
uneasily, dreadfully by the bellowing,
crashing explosion of the drums. Maddened
by the turmoil he had let loose,
the gargoyle-faced giant ape-man
leered about him with blood-shot,
drunken eyes, and beat on his cicatrized
chest with massive fists. Suddenly
he let out a bellow. Straight
up into the air he sprang in a wild
leap. When he came down, he was
dancing, and the portentious, the sickeningly
mysterious ceremony for which
such solemn preparation had been
made, was begun.
Kirby drew a rasping breath. Knowing
that there must be some definite
reason for the dance having begun just
when and as it had, he looked beyond
the solitary dancing giant, on beyond
the crowded legions of the apes, toward
the village. There, where the
main trail from the community approached
the clearing, he saw precisely
the thing which he had both hoped
desperately and dreaded terribly to
Headed directly toward the
clearing, moving down the trail
with slow, majestic pace, came a procession
headed by a bodyguard of ape-men
and augmented by other men
whose nakedness was covered by unmistakable,
unforgetable priestly robes
All at once the ape-people in the
clearing began to scuffle apart, opening
a lane down which the procession
might pass to the central stage with
its dancer, its ink spot orifice, and its
fangs of tall poles. Kirby, watching
the congregation, watching the majestic
approach of gray robes through the
night, wiped away from his forehead
a sweat of fear.
“I think,” Nini called in a voice
pitched high to outsound the drums,
“that the—the Duca is with them!”
“Yes.” Kirby pointed jerkily. “In
the middle of the procession, there,
surrounded by his caciques!”
Yet his approach did not hold Kirby.
Directly behind the priests were
emerging now from the jungle a new
company of ape-men. Squinting his
eyes, Kirby saw that two of them were
lugging on a pole across their shoulders
a curious burden—a sort of monstrous
bird cage of barked withes.
Crouched on the floor of the cage in a
little motionless, white heap—
But Kirby closed his eyes. Ivana,
cowering against him, gulped as
though she were going to be sick. Nini
leaned down from above and looked
at them with dilated eyes. Although
none of them spoke, all knew that they
had found Naida at last.
Kirby was the first to pull himself
up. Opening his eyes, he stared long
at the white gowned, motionless shape
within the cage. Next summing up
the whole situation—the cage surrounded
by an armed band, the clearing
crammed with a thousand ape-men—he
shook his head. Afterward, he
made a quick movement with his hands.
Ivana, seeing that movement, seeing
the expression on his face, started out
of her daze.
“No! No! Oh, there must be some
other way out for her! There must—”
Her cry, half a shriek, did not
change Kirby’s look. What he
had done with his hands was to throw
a shell into the chamber of his rifle.
Now he held the rifle grimly, ready to
carry it to his shoulder.
The procession with the bodyguard
of ape-men at its head, the renegade
Duca and his caciques following next,
and the cage bringing up the rear, advanced
relentlessly down the lane to
the central stage. The gargoyle-faced
ape-man who held the stage alone
danced with increasing wildness,
writhing, twisting, with weird suppleness.
Upon the dancing giant the procession
bore down, and before him it
The halt left the Duca and the king
ape facing each other, and the ape
ended his dance. After each had given
a salute made by raising their arms,
both Duca and the king ape turned to
face the creatures who were standing
with the cage slung across their shoulders.
Whereupon the bearers of the
cage advanced with it until they stood
between two of the tall poles. There,
facing the ominous hole in the center
of the clearing, with a pole on either
side of them, the ape-men lowered the
cage to the ground.
Kirby felt his last hope and courage
ebbing. Now he noticed that each pole
was equipped with a rope which passed
through a hole near its top, like a
thread through the eye of a needle.
And while he stared at the dangling
ropes, the ape-men made one end of
each fast to a ring in the top of the
cage. The next instant they leaped
back, and began to heave at the other
end of the lines.
From the drums came a quicker
pounding, a more head-splitting volume
of thunder. Over all the ape-people
who watched the show, passed
a shiver of what seemed to be whole-souled,
ecstatic satisfaction. Slowly,
as the two ape-men heaved hard, the
cage swung off the ground, and slowly
rose higher and higher into the moonlit
When finally the thing hung
high above the heads of the
multitude, swaying midway between
its tall supports, the ape-men who had
done the hoisting fastened their lines
to cleats on the poles. Then they
turned to the Duca and the giant king
who stood behind them, executed a
queer, lumbering bow, and fell back to
The next moment it seemed as
though every creature in the clearing—men
and those who were only half
men—had gone crazy. The king flung
himself into the air as if he were a
mass of bounding rubber. Following
his lead, the whole assembly let out
howls that drowned even the drums,
and then began to sway, to squirm, to
leap, even as their king was doing before
The caciques and the Duca joined
in the madness of foul dancing as
heartily as any there. Their eyes were
flaming, their long robes flapping, their
On his perch in the tree Kirby muttered
an oath which was lost, swept
away like a breath, in the shrieking
turmoil of sound. Then he turned to
“They’ve brought Naida here to sacrifice
“But why?” Ivana’s sweet face was
frozen in lines of horror. “I’ve been
able to guess what was going to happen
to her. But—sacrifice. Why will it
“Don’t you see?” Looking up to include
Nini, Kirby found his hands
quivering against his rifle. “It is easy
to understand. In the temple yesterday,
what the Duca hoped to do was
to kidnap most, or all, of the girls for
the ape-people. But he was able to get
only Naida. The first result was that
the ape-men started to quarrel over the
one girl. From what Gori says, trouble
started on all sides at once. It became
inadvisable to let Naida live. So the
Duca, in his shrewdness, planned a sacrifice.
By sacrificing Naida, he rids
himself of a source of contention
amongst the ape-men. He also hopes
his act will win favor from his Gods,
and make them help him when he is
ready to launch a new attempt to capture
all the girls.”
Ivana and Nini looked at each
other, then at Kirby, and horror
was etched deeper into their faces.
“I think,” gulped Ivana, “that you—are
right. I—begin to understand.”
Nini leaned close to them.
“Tell us, then, how this sacrifice is
to be made.”
Silent at that, Kirby presently made
a heavy gesture toward the maelstrom
of howling, leaping animals below
“I couldn’t guess at first. Now I
think I can. They have placed her in
that cage and swung it high above the
black hole you were afraid of. What
can that mean except that she is to be
It was a monstrous theory which had
stunned his hope and courage, and to
voice the thing in words was too gruesome.
His bare suggestion, however, made
Ivana pass a hand limply over her forehead
and look at him with blank,
stricken eyes. Nini tottered so uncertainly
that Gori, who had remained
motionless and silent throughout, had
to steady her with muscular arms. If
it was impossible for Kirby to utter
his fears aloud, he had no need to speak
to make them understood.
“And—and we can do nothing?”
Nini choked at last.
“You can see for yourself how she
is surrounded. If we had been able to
get here sooner, we might have done
Kirby’s voice trailed off, and he gave
an agonized look at his rifle.
The terrific dance in the clearing
was going forward with madness
which increased second by second. It
had been a general debauch at first,
with the whole thousand of the apes
bellowing and squirming. Now a
change was becoming apparent. Red
eyes which had caught the glare of
ultimate madness, focused upon the
caciques, the Duca, and the great king,
all of whom were swaying together
on the central stage. As they looked,
the horde of ape-men broke loose with
a heightened frenzy of noise and movement
too overwhelming for Kirby to
follow. He leaned forward, making an
effort to see what actions of Duca and
king could be so influencing the congregation.
And then he saw.
Both of those central figures, the
one with hair-covered giant’s body and
evilly grimacing face, the other with
white robes and whipping silver hair,
were definitely emulating the motions
of a serpent!
It was as if the angles and joints
had disappeared from their bodies.
They were become gliding lengths of
muscle as swift, as loathsome in their
supple dartings and coilings as any
snake lashing across the expanses of
primeval jungle. Lost in what they
did, unconscious of the nightmare,
demoniac legion before which they
danced, they had eyes only for the
empty, ominous hole beneath Naida’s
cage. As they circled the hole, drawing
ever and ever closer to it, they
opened and closed their arms with the
motion of great serpent jaws biting
“God in Heaven!” Kirby cried in a
voice which shrilled with horror and
It was not alone the Duca’s dance
which had wrung the shout from him.
As Nina and Ivana shrieked and cowered,
as Gori twitched, gasped, buried
her head in trembling arms, Kirby
knew that Naida was fully aware of
what was going on—had been, perhaps,
from the beginning.
Slowly, numbly she raised herself
from her huddled position, rose to her
knees, and clutching with despairing
hands at the sides of her cage, looked
out from between the bars.
The king and Duca edged closer
to the hole until they were dancing
upon its very brink. From that
position, they stared down into the
depths, their faces tense and strained.
And then their look became radiant,
exalted, joyous. Suddenly the Duca
leaped back. He shrieked something
at the gargoyle ape, and they flung
their arms high in a commanding,
mighty signal which was directed
across the nightmare legion of ape-men,
to the drums.
As Kirby winced in expectancy, the
drums ceased to roar. Over the night
smashed a hideous concussion of silence,
deafening, absolute. And the
ape-men—all of them—and the Duca,
his caciques, and the king, ceased to
dance. As if a whirlwind had hurled
them, the caciques scattered in all directions.
The Duca, having already
leaped back from the gaping orifice,
suddenly turned and ran with blurred
speed over to the slobbering, deadly
still front rank of the congregation.
An instant later the king crouched
down beside him, and the whole stage
was left bare and deserted.
Kirby gave one look at Naida, found
her staring down, deeper and deeper
down, into the hole which yawned beneath
her so blackly. Then Kirby lowered
his eyes until he, too, stared at
Amidst the pressing silence there
stole from the earth an uneasy sound
as of some immense thing waking and
stirring. Came a hissing note as of
escaping steam. The tribes of the ape-men
waited in silent rapture. Kirby
saw Naida still looking down, and felt
Ivana crouch against him, fainting.
He held his rifle tighter, and continued
Something red, like two small flames,
licked up above the edge of the pit.
Then Kirby gasped and all but went
limp. Up and out into the moonlight
slid a glistening white lump that
moved from side to side and licked at
the night with flickering black and red
tipped forked tongue.
The glistening white lump was the
head of Quetzalcoatl, buried God of
the People of the Temple. It was
wider and bigger than an elephant’s,
and the round snake body could not
have been encircled by a man’s two
arms. Kirby guessed at the probable
length of the Serpent in terms of hundreds
Sick, numb, he glanced at Naida,
who was still staring silently, and
hitched his rifle half up to his shoulder.
But he did not look down the
sights yet. Although it was time, and
more than time, that he fired, he would
not do it until the last possible second,
when nothing else remained.
Slowly from the hole slid a fifteen
or twenty-foot column of the body,
and Quetzalcoatl, thus reared, looked
about him with a pair of eyes immense
and not like snake’s eyes, but heavily
lidded and lashed; eyes that stared in
a wise, evil way; eyes glittering and
round and black as ink. After a time
the mouth opened in a silent snarl,
showing great white fangs and recurved
simitars of teeth. The head was
snow white, leperous in its scabby,
scaly roughness, with here and there
a patch of what looked like greenish
fungus. From the rounded body trailed
a short, unnatural, sickening growth
of—feathers. Old and evil and very
wise the Feathered Serpent seemed as
his forked tongue flickered in and out
and he stared at the ape horde, who
stared back silently.
He seemed in no hurry to devote his
attention to the cage set forth for his
delectation. The black eyes rolled beneath
their lashes, staring now at the
Duca in his robes, and again at the
huddled ape-people. But after ghastly
seconds, Quetzalcoatl at last had seen
Again the moonlight glinted against
simitar teeth as the great, white, puffy
mouth yawned in its silent snarl.
Quetzalcoatl reared his head a little
higher, slid further from his hole, and
then looked up at the dangling cage
of barked withes.
In Kirby’s mind stirred cloudily a
remembrance of moments in the past:
the feel of Naida’s first kiss, her look
as they advanced to the altar in the
temple. Then he saw things as they
were now, with Naida surrounded by
all the tribes of the apes, and with
Quetzalcoatl staring from beneath
heavily lidded lashes at the whiteness
Suddenly Kirby stirred to free his
shoulder of Ivana’s supine weight
against it, and he made himself look
down his rifle. He let the breath half
out of his lungs, and nursed the trigger.
But he did not fire.
All at once he started so violently
that he almost hurtled from the
tree. Suddenly, trembling, he lowered
“Oh, thank God!” he yelped in the
silence of the night.
The idea which had transformed him
was perhaps the conception of a lunatic.
But it was still an idea, and offered
Again Kirby peered down his rifle.
But he no longer aimed at Naida. As
Quetzalcoatl lifted white fangs, Kirby
aimed deliberately at him, and turned
loose his fire.
With the first shot, the Serpent
lurched back from the cage, snapped
his jaws, and closed evil, black eyes.
From one lidded socket squirted dark
blood. As a second and third shot
crashed into the cavernous fanged
mouth, and others ripped into the flat
skull, Quetzalcoatl seemed dazed. His
head wavered back and forth and his
hiss filled the night, but he did nothing.
But all at once Kirby felt that he
was going to do something in a second,
and a great calm came upon him.
He quickly jammed home a fresh clip
“Nini! Ivana! Fire at the Serpent.
Give him everything you’ve got! Do
you understand? Fire! He thinks that
the ape-people have hurt him, and he
will be after them in a second. If we
have any luck, he will do to them what
we never could have done, and maybe
destroy himself at the same time! Me,
I’m going down there and get Naida
No sooner did Kirby see comprehension
in the girls’ faces than
he swung around and let go of his
perch. As he crashed, caught the next
limb below him, and let go to crash
to another, he had all he could do to
suppress a yelp of joy. For all at once
every voice in the ape congregation
was raised in howls and screams of
He did not care how he got down
from the tree. Seconds and half seconds
were what counted. From the
last limb above the ground he swung
into space, and a split second later
staggered to his feet, clutched his rifle,
and started for the clearing. His lungs
seemed collapsed and both ankles shattered.
He did not care. Not when the
ape screams were growing louder with
every step he took. Not when he heard
Nini and Ivana pouring down from
their tree a continuation of the scorching
fire he had started.
Panting, his breath only half regained,
but steeled to make the fight
of his life, he tore from the jungle
into the clearing just in time to see a
twisting, pain-convulsed seventy-foot
coil of white muscle lash up and strike
Naida’s cage a blow which knocked it
like a ball in the air. Naida screamed
and hung to the bars.
But she was all right. It was not
against her that Quetzalcoatl was venting
his wrath: the blow had been blind
accident. As Kirby stood at the clearing’s
edge, he knew to a certainty that
Quetzalcoatl’s reaction to sudden pain
had been all he had dared hope.
In front of him forty or fifty ape-bodies
lay in a crushed heap. While
yard after yard of the Serpent’s
bleached length streamed out of the
hole, the hundreds of feet of coils already
in the clearing suddenly whipped
about a whole squadron of ape-men,
and with a few constrictions annihilated
them as if they had been ants.
Across the clearing, the leperous head
reared up as high as the trees and
swooped down, fangs gleaming. The
howls of the ape-men trying to flee,
the screams of those who had been
caught, rose until they became all one
But Kirby had not left the safety
of the tree merely to get a ringside
view of carnage. He faced his
next, his final task unhesitatingly.
Straight out he leaped from the shadows
of the jungle into the clearing,
out into the presence of the beleagured,
screaming ape-men. Well enough
he knew that those creatures, despite
their frenzy, might sight him and fall
upon him at any second; well enough
he knew that a single flick of the white
coils all over the clearing could crush
him instantly. But the time to worry
about those hazards would be when
they beset him. With a yell as piercing
as any in the whole bedlam, Kirby
High up in the moonlit vault of the
night, swaying between the two poles
which supported it, hung the white
cage which was Naida’s prison. By
the time Kirby had sprinted fifty
yards, he knew that his yells had
reached Naida. For she staggered to
her knees and looked straight at him.
A second later, though, he realized that
the almost inevitable recognition of
him by ape-men had come to pass.
Eight or ten of the creatures, left
unmolested for a second by the Serpent,
halted in the mad run they were
making for the sheltering jungle, and
while one pointed with hairy arm, the
others let out shrieks. Kirby gritted
his teeth in something like despair.
Then he realized that the worst danger—Quetzalcoatl’s
blurred coils—was not
threatening him so far. And he went
on, straight toward the ape-men.
He did not look where, how, or at
whom he struck. All he knew was that
his rifle blazed, and as he clubbed at
soft flesh with the butt, blood spurted,
and new screams filled the night. He
felt and half saw big, stinking bodies
going down, and clawed his way forward,
around them, over them. Then
he felt no more bodies, and knew that
he was through. A little farther he
ran over the trampled earth, and
stopped and looked up.
The howls of the living, the shrieks
of the dying deafened him. Renewed
shots from the rifles in the tree, made
the Serpent lash about in a dazzling
white blur, smashing trees, apes, everything
in its path. But Kirby, finding
himself still safe, scarcely heard or
saw. His eyes, turned upward, saw
one thing only.
She had snapped two of the withes
of the cage and was leaning forward
through the opening. Her face
was livid with horror and exhaustion,
but she was able to look at him with
eyes that glowed.
“You—you came!” she gasped. “You
came to me!”
In a flash Kirby jumped over to the
poles and began to cast off one of the
lines which held the cage aloft.
“Get ready for a bump!” he shouted,
as he lowered away, arms straining.
Paying out the one line left the cage
suspended from the second, but let it
sweep from its position between the
poles, down toward one pole. As the
thing struck the tall support, Kirby
bounded over to stand beneath it, only
too sharply aware of the death waiting
for him on every side, but ignoring
it. Naida still hung suspended a
good twenty feet above him, but there
was no time to let go the other line.
He braced himself and held up his
“Jump!” he yelled.
Then he saw the white gown sweeping
down toward him, felt the crash of
a soft body against his, and staggered
back. Recovered in a tenth of a second,
he drew a deep breath, and looked
at Naida beside him, tall and brave,
“Are you able to run?” he snapped,
and then, the moment she nodded, motioned
toward the jungle.
Behind them, in front, on all sides,
rose screams so horrible that he wondered
even then if he would ever forget.
As he started to run, he realized
that when Naida had finally landed in
his arms, the nearest squirming loop
of the Serpent had been no more than
four yards away, and that, right now,
if their luck failed, a single unfortunate
twist of the incredible hundreds
of feet of white muscle could still end
things for them.
But luck was not going to fail.
Somehow Kirby knew it as they
sprinted side by side, and the sheltering
jungle loomed closer every second.
And a moment later, something
beside his own inner faith made him
know it, too.
“Look, Naida! Look!” he screeched
all at once.
At the upper end of the clearing,
where an unthinkable slaughter was
going on, there leaped out from
amongst a surging mass of apes, leaped
out from almost directly beneath a
downward smashing blur of white
snake folds, a figure which Kirby had
not seen or thought about for many
The Duca’s robe hung in tatters from
his body. Blood had smeared his white
hair. His eyes were those of a man
gone mad from fear. And as he escaped
the tons of muscle which so nearly had
engulfed him, he began to run even as
Kirby felt himself running.
Straight toward him and Naida,
Kirby saw the man spurt, but whether
the mad eyes recognized them or not,
he could not tell, nor did he care. All
at once his feeling that they would
escape the clearing, became conviction.
For suddenly the same single twitch
of Quetzalcoatl’s vast folds which
might have finished them, if luck had
not held, put an end to the Duca’s retreat.
At one moment the man’s path
was clear. The next—
Kirby, running for dear life, gasped,
and heard Naida cry out beside him.
The great loops flashed, twisted, and
where had been an open way for the
Duca, loomed a wall of scaly white
flesh. The living wall twitched, closed
in; and as the Duca dodged and leaped
to no avail, a cry shrilled across the
night—a cry that cut like a knife.
Kirby saw no more. But it was
likely that most, if not all, of the
caciques had gone with the Duca.
Somehow, anyhow, in but a few seconds
more, Kirby dove into the spot
from which he had left the jungle to
enter the clearing. As Naida pressed
against him, winded but still strong,
he found his best hopes for immediate
retreat realized, for Gori, Nini, and
Ivana, down from their tree, ran toward
“She is all right,” he said with a gesture
which cut short the outbursts
ready to come. “But we’ve got to keep
going. Ivana, tell Gori that her people
are gone, wiped out, but that if she
will cast her lot with us, we will not
forget what she has done. Come on!”
With Gori leading them they ran,
stumbling, recovering themselves,
stumbling again. To breathe became
an agony. But not until many minutes
later, when they plowed into the cover
of a fern belt whose blackness not even
the moonlight had pierced, did Kirby
call a halt.
Here he swept a final glance behind
him, listened long for sounds of pursuit,
and relaxed a little only when
none came to disturb the night stillness.
However, that relaxation, now
that he permitted it at last, meant
The complete silence gave him final
conviction that what he had said about
the whole ape-people being destroyed
was true. As for the Serpent—well,
perhaps he was destroyed even as they
were. Perhaps not. In any case the
grip which Quetzalcoatl held upon the
imagination of the People of the Temple
had been destroyed by this night’s
work, and that was what counted most.
The Serpent would be worshipped no
Kirby reached out in the darkness
and found Naida’s hand.
“Come along,” he said to all of the
party. “I think the past is—the past.
And with Gori to guide us out of the
jungle, and our own brains to guide
us through the jungle of self-government
after that, I think the future
ought to be bright enough.”
Ivana and Nini both chuckled as
they moved again, and Gori, hearing
her name spoken in a kindly voice,
twitched her ears appreciatively. Naida
drew very close to Kirby.
“What are you thinking about?” she
“The—temple,” he answered.
“About the crown which probably is
still lying on the altar there?”
Kirby looked up in surprise.
“Why, I had forgotten about that!”
“What was it, then?”
“But what could I have been thinking
about except how you looked when
we came together in that gloomy place,
and walked forward, side by side?
Now have I told you enough?”
“There is so much to be done!”
Kirby exclaimed then. “As soon as
possible, we must climb to the Valley
of the Geyser, go on into the outer
world, and there seek carefully for
men who are willing, and fit, to come
here. And that is only one task.
Others come crowding to me every second.
“What?” Naida asked softly.
“The temple. Naida, we will reach
the plateau sometime to-morrow. All
of the girls who kept watch there will
be waiting for us, and it will be a time
of happiness. May we not, then, go to
the temple? There will be no priests.
But we will make our pledges without
them. Tell me, may I hope that it will
Naida did not answer at once. She
did not even nod. But presently her
shoulder, still fragrant with faint perfume,
brushed his. She clasped his
hand then, and as they walked on in
silence, Kirby knew.