Part 6 out of 8
"Of course. I accept anything." Then, addressing the prince: "One
word, O Senestro."
"Speak up, Sir Phantom!"
"Bar Senestro--what have you done with the Jarados?"
An instant's stunned silence greeted this stab. It was broken by
"The Jarados!" His voice was unruffled. "What know I of the
"Take care! You have seen him--you know his power!"
"You have a courageous sort of impertinence!"
"I have determination and knowledge! Bar Senestro, I have come for
the Jarados!" Chick paused for effect. "Now what think you? Am I
of the chosen?"
He had meant it as a deliberate taunt, and so it was taken. The
Bar shot to his feet. Not that he was angered; his straight,
handsome form was kingly, and for all his impulsiveness there was
a certain real majesty about his every pose.
"You are of the chosen. It is well; you have given spice to the
taunt! I would not have it otherwise. Forget not your courage on
the Day of the Prophet!"
With that he stepped gracefully, superbly from the dais beneath
his throne. He bowed to the Aradna, to Geos, to Chick and to the
assembly--and was gone. The blue guard followed in silence.
The rest of the ordeal was soon done. Nothing more was said about
the Jarados, nor of what the Bar Senestro had brought up. There
were a few questions about the world he had quit, questions which
put no strain upon his imagination to answer. He was out of the
deep water for the present.
When the assembly dissolved Chick was conducted back to the
apartments upstairs. Not to his old room, however, but to an
adjoining suite, a magnificent place--that would have done honour
to a prince. But Chick scarcely noted the beauty of the place. His
attention flew at once to something for which he longed--an
Chick spun it around eagerly upon its axis. The first thing that
he looked for was San Francisco--or, rather, North America. If he
was on the earth he wanted to know it! Surely the oceans and
continents would not change.
But he was doomed to disappointment. There was not a familiar
detail. Outside of a network of curved lines indicating latitude
and longitude, and the accustomed tilt of the polar axis, the
globe was totally strange! So strange that Chick could not decide
which was water and which land.
After a bit of puzzling Chick ran across a yellow patch marked
with some strange characters which, upon examination, were
translated in some unknown manner within his subconscious mind, to
"D'Hartia." Another was lettered "Kospia."
Assuming that these were land--and there were a few other, smaller
ones, of the same shade--then the land area covered approximately
three-fifths of the globe. Inferentially the green remainder, or
two-fifths, was the water or ocean covered area. Such a proportion
was nearly the precise reverse of that obtaining on the earth.
Chick puzzled over other strange names--H'Alara, Mal Somnal,
Bloudou San, and the like. Not one name or outline that he could
How could he make his discovery fit with the words of Dr. Holcomb,
and with what philosophy he knew? Somehow there was too much life,
too much reality, to fit in with any spiritistic hypothesis. He
was surrounded by real matter, atomic, molecular, cellular. He was
certain that if he were put to it he could prove right here every
law from those put forth by Newton to the present.
It was still the material universe; that was certain. Therefor it
was equally certain that the doctor had made a most prodigious
discovery. But--what was it? What was the law that had fallen out
of the Blind Spot?
He gave it up, and stepped to one of the suite's numerous windows.
They were all provided with clear glass. Now was his opportunity
for an uninterrupted, leisurely survey of the world about him.
As before, he noted the maze of splendid, dazzling opalescence,
all the colours of the spectrum blending, weaving, vibrant, like a
vast plain of smooth, Gargantuan jewels. Then he made out
innumerable round domes, spread out in rows and in curves, without
seeming order or system; BUILDINGS, every roof a perfect gleaming
dome, its surface fairly alive with the reflected light of that
amazing sun. Of such was the landscape made.
As before, he could hear the incessant undertone of vague music,
of rhythmical, shimmering and whispering sound. And the whole air
was laden with the hint of sweet scents; tinged with the perfume
of attar and myrrh--of a most delicate ambrosia.
He opened the window.
For a moment he stood still, the air bathing his face, the unknown
fragrance filling his nostrils. The whole world seemed thrumming
with that hitherto faint quiver of sound. Now it was resonant and
strong, though still only an undertone. He looked below him; as he
did so, something dropped from the side of the window opening--a
long, delicate tendril, sinuous and alive. It touched his face,
and then--It drooped, drooped like a wounded thing. He reached out
his hand and plucked it, wondering. And he found, at its tip, a
floating crimson blossom as delicate as the frailest cobweb, so
inconceivably delicate that it wilted and crumbled at the
Chick thrust his head out of the window. The whole building, from
ground to dome, was covered--waving, moving, tenuous, a maze of
He had never dreamed of anything so beautiful, or so splendid.
Everywhere these orchids; to give them the name nearest to the
unknown one. As far as he could see, living beauty!
And then he noticed something stranger still.
From the petals and the foliage about him, little clouds of colour
wafted up, like mists of perfume, forever rising and
intermittently settling. It was mysteriously harmonious,
continuous--like life itself. Chick looked closer, and listened.
And then he knew.
These mists were clouds of tiny, multi-coloured insects.
He looked down farther, into the streets. They were teeming with
life, with motion. He was in a city whose size made it a true
metropolis. All the buildings were large, and, although of
unfamiliar architecture, undeniably of a refined, advanced art.
Without exception, their roofs were domed. Hence the effect of a
sea of bubbles.
Directly below, straight down from his window, was a very broad
street. From it at varying angles ran a number of intersecting
avenues. The height of his window was great--he looked very
closely, and made out two lines of colour lining and outlining the
street surrounding the apartments.
On the one side the line was blue, on the other crimson; they were
guards. And where the various avenues intersected cables must have
been stretched; for these streets were packed and jammed with a
surging multitude, which the guards seemed engaged in holding
back. As far up the avenues as Chick could see, the seething mass
of fellow creatures extended, a gently pulsing vari-coloured
As he looked one of the packed streets broke into confusion. He
could see the guards wheeling and running into formation; from
behind, other platoons rushed up reinforcements. The great crowd
was rolling forward, breaking on the edge of the spear-armed
guards like the surf of a rolling sea.
Chick had a sudden thought. Were they not looking up at his
window? He could glimpse arms uplifted and hands pointed. Even the
guards, those held in reserve, looked up. Then--such was the
distance--the rumble of the mob reached his ears; at the same
time, spreading like a grass fire, the commotion broke out in
another street, to another and another, until the air was filled
with the new undertone of countless human tongues.
Chick was fascinated. The thing was over-strange. While he looked
and listened the whole scene turned to conflict; the voice of the
throng became ominous. The guards still held the cables, still
beat back the populace. Could they hold out, wondered Chick idly;
and what was it all about?
Something touched his shoulder. He wheeled. One of the tall, red-
uniformed guards was standing beside him. Watson instinctively
drew back, and as he did so the other stepped forward, touched the
snap, and closed the window.
"What's the idea? I was just getting interested!"
The soldier nodded pleasantly, respectfully--reverently.
"Orders from below, my lord. Were you to remain at that window it
would take all the guards in the Mahovisal to keep back the
"Why?" Chick was astonished.
"There are a million pilgrims in the city, my lord, who have
waited months for just one glimpse of you."
Watson considered. This was a new and a dazing aspect of the
affair. Evidently the expression on his face told the soldier that
some explanation would not be amiss.
"The pilgrims are almost innumerable, my lord. They are all of the
one great faith. They are, my lord, the true believers, the
believers in the Day."
The Day! Instantly Watson recalled Senestro's use of the
expression. He sensed a valuable clue. He caught and held the
"Tell me," commanded Chick. "What is this Day of which you speak!"
AN ALLY, AND SOLID GROUND
The soldier replied unhesitatingly: "It is the Day of Life, my
lord. Others call it the 'first of the Sixteen Days.' Still
others, simply the Day of the Prophet, or Jarados."
"When will it be?"
"Soon. It is but two days hence. And with the going down of the
sun on that day the Fulfilment is to begin, and the Life is to
come. Hence the crowd below, my lord; yet they are nothing
compared with the crowds that today are pressing their way from
all D'Hartia and Kospia towards the Mahovisal."
"All because of the Day?"
"And to see YOU, my lord."
"All believers in the Jarados?"
"All truly; but they do not all believe in your lordship. There
are many sects, including the Bars, that consider you an imposter;
but the rest--perhaps the most--believe you the Herald of the Day.
All want to see you, for whatever motive."
"These Bars; who are they?"
"The military priesthood, my lord. As priests they teach a literal
interpretation of the prophecy; as soldiers they maintain their
own aggrandisement. To be more specific, my lord, it is they who
accuse you of being one of the false ones."
"Because it is written in the prophecy, my lord, that we may
expect impostors, and that we are to slay them."
"Then this coming contest with the Senestro--" beginning to sense
the drift of things.
"Yes, my lord; it will be a physical contest, in which the best
man destroys the other!"
The guard was a tall, finely made and truly handsome chap of
perhaps thirty-five. Watson liked the clear blue of his eyes and
the openness of his manner. At the same time he felt that he was
being weighed and balanced.
"My lord is not afraid?"
"Not at all! I was just thinking--when does this kill take place?"
"Two days hence, my lord; on the first of the Sixteen Sacred
And thus Chick found a staunch friend. The soldier's name, he
learned, was "the Jan Lucar." He was supreme in command of the
royal guards; and Chick soon came to feel that the man would as
cheerfully lay down his life for him, Watson, as for the queen
herself. All told, Chick was able to store away in his memory a
few very important facts:
First, that the Aradna did not like the Senestro.
Second, that the Jan Lucar hated the great Bar because of the
prince's ambition to wed the queen and her cousin, the Nervina;
also because of his selfish, autocratic ways.
Next, that were the Nervina on hand she would thwart the Senestro;
for she was a very learned woman, as advanced as the Rhamda Avec
himself. But that she was a queen first and a scholar afterwards;
her motive in going through the Blind Spot was to take care of the
political welfare of her people, her purposes were as high as
Rhamda Avec's, but partook of statesmanship rather than
Finally, that the Rhamdas were perfectly willing for the coming
contest to take place, on the evening of the Day of the Prophet,
in the Temple of the Bell and Leaf.
"Jan Lucar," Watson felt prompted to say, "you need have no fear
as to the outcome of the ordeal, whatever it may be. With your
faith in me, I cannot fail. For the present, I need books, papers,
scientific data. Moreover, I want to see the outside of this
The guardsman bowed. "The data is possible, my lord, but as to
leaving the building--I must consult the queen and the Rhamda Geos
"But I said MUST" Watson dared to say. "I must go out into your
world, see your cities, your lands, rivers, mountains, before I do
aught else. I must be sure!"
The other bowed again. He was visibly impressed.
"What you ask, my lord, is full of danger. You must not be seen in
the streets--yet. Untold bloodshed would ensue inevitably. To half
the Thomahlians you are sacred, and to the other half an impostor.
I repeat, my lord, that I must see the Geos and the queen."
Another bow and the Jan disappeared, to return in a few moments
with the Geos.
"The Jan has told me, my lord, that you would go out."
"If possible. I want to see your world."
"I think it can be arranged. Is your lordship ready to go?"
"Presently." Watson laid a hand on the big globe he had already
puzzled over. "This represents the Thomahlia?"
"Yes, my lord."
"How long is your day, Geos?"
"I mean, how many revolutions in one circuit of the sun, in one
As he uttered the question Chick held his breath. It had suddenly
struck him that he had touched an extremely definite point. The
answer might PLACE him!
"You mean, my lord, how long is a circle in term of days?"
"Three hundred and sixty-five and a fraction, my lord."
Watson was dumbfounded. Could there be, in all the universe,
another world with precisely the same revolution period? But he
could not afford to show his concern. He said:
"Tell me, have you a moon?"
"Yes; it has a cycle of about twenty-eight days."
Watson drew a deep breath. Inconceivable though it appeared, he
was still on his own earth. For a moment he pondered, wondering if
he had been caught up in tangle of time-displacement. Could it be
that, instead of living in the present, he had somehow become
entangled in the past or in the future?
If so--and by now he was so accustomed to the unusual that he
considered this staggering possibility with equanimity--if the
time coefficient was at fault, then how to account for the picture
of the professor, in that leaf? Had they both been the victims of
a ghastly cosmic joke?
There was but one way to find out.
"Come! Lead the way, Geos; let us take a look at your world!"
Presently the three men were standing at the door of a vast room,
one entire side of which was wide open to the outer air. It was
filled by a number of queer, shining objects. At first glance
Chick took them to be immense beetles.
The Jan Lucar spoke to the Geos:
"We had best take the June Bug of the Rhamda Avec."
Watson thought it best to say nothing, show nothing. The Jan ran
up to one of the glistening affairs, and without the slightest
noise he spun it gracefully around, running it out into the centre
of the mosaic floor.
"I presume," apologised the Geos, "that you have much finer
aircraft in your world."
Aircraft! Watson was all eagerness. He saw that the June Bug was
about ten feet high, with a bunchy, buglike body. On closer
scrutiny he could make out the outlines of wings folded tight
against the sides. As for the material, it must have been metal,
to use a term which does not explain very much, after all. In
every respect the machine was a duplicate of some great insect,
except that instead of legs it had well-braced rollers.
"How does it operate?" Watson wanted to know. "That is, what power
do you use, and how do you apply it?"
The Jan Lucar threw back a plate. Watson looked inside, and saw a
mass of fine spider-web threads, softer than the tips of rabbit's
hair, all radiating from a central grey object about the size of a
pea. Chick reached out to touch this thing with his finger.
But the Geos, like a flash, caught him by the shoulder and pulled
"Pardon me, my lord!" he exclaimed. "But you must not touch it!
You--even you, would be annihilated!" Then to the Lucar: "Very
Whereupon the other did something in front of the craft; touched a
lever, perhaps. Instantly the grey, spidery hairs turned to a dull
"Now you may touch it," said the Geos.
But Chick's desire had vanished. Instead he ventured a question:
"All very interesting, but where is your machinery?"
The Rhamda was slightly amused. He smiled a little. "You must give
us a little credit, my lord. We must seem backward to you, but we
have passed beyond reliance upon simple machines. That little grey
pellet is, of course, our motive force; it is a highly refined
mineral, which we mine in vast quantity. It has been in use for
centuries. As for the hair-like web, that is our idea of a
Watson hoped that he did not look as uncomprehending as he felt.
The other continued:
"In aerial locomotion we are content to imitate life as much as
possible. We long ago discarded engines and propellers, and
instead tried to duplicate the muscular and nervous systems of the
birds and insects. We fly exactly as they do; our motive force is
intrinsic. In some respects, we have improved upon life."
"But it is still only a machine, Geos."
"To be sure, my lord; only a machine. Anything without the life
principle must remain so."
The Jan Lucar pressed another catch, allowing another plate to
lower and thereby disclose a glazed door, which opened into a cosy
apartment fitted with wicker chairs, and large enough for four
persons. There was some sort of control gear, which the Jan Lucar
explained was not connected directly with the flying and steering
members, but indirectly through the membranes of the web-like
system. It was uncannily similar to the nervous connections of the
cerebellum with the various parts of the anatomy of an insect.
"Does it travel very fast?"
"We think so, my lord. This is the private machine of the Rhamda
Avec. It is rather small, but the swiftest machine in the
They entered the compartment, Watson took his seat beside the
Geos, while the soldier sat forward next to the control elements.
He laid his hands on certain levers; next instant, the machine was
gliding noiselessly over the mosaic, on to a short incline and
thence, with ever increasing speed, toward and through the open
side of the room.
The slides had all been thrown back; the compartment was enclosed
only in glass. Watson could get a clear view, and he was amazed at
the speed of the craft. Before he could think they were out in
mid-air and ascending skyward. Travelling on a steep slant, there
was no vibration, no mechanical noise; scarcely the suggestion of
movement, except for the muffled swish of the air.
Were it not for the receding city below him, Chick could have
imagined himself sitting in a house while a windstorm tore by. He
felt no change in temperature or any other ill effects; the cabin
was fully enclosed, and heated by some invisible means. In short,
ideal flight: for instance, the seats were swung on gimbals, so
that no matter at what angle the craft might fly, the passengers
would maintain level positions.
Below stretched the Mahovisal--a mighty city of domes and plazas,
and, widely scattered, a few minarets. At the southern end there
was a vast, square plaza, covering thousands of acres. Toward it,
on two sides, converged scores of streets; they stretched away
from it like the ribs of a giant fan. On the remaining two sides
there was a tremendously large building with a V-shaped front,
opening on the square. The play of opal light on its many-bubbled
roof resembled the glimmer from a vast pearl.
In the air above the city an uncountable number of very small
objects darted hither and thither like sparkling fireflies. It was
difficult to realise that they, too, were aircraft.
To the west lay an immense expanse of silver, melting smoothly
into the horizon. Watson took it to be the Thomahlian ocean. Then
he looked up at the sky directly above him, and breathed a quick
It was a single, small object, perfectly white, dropping out of
the amethyst. Tiny at first, amost instantly it assumed a
proportion nearly colossal--a great bird, white as the breast of
the snowdrift, swooping with the grace of the eagle and the speed
of the wind. It was so very large that it seemed, to Chick, that
if all the other birds he had ever known were gathered together
into one they would still be as the swallow. Down, down it came in
a tremendous spiral, until it gracefully alighted in a splash of
molten colour on the bosom of the silver sea. For a moment it was
lost in a shower of water jewels--and then lay still, a swan upon
"What is it, Geos?"
"The Kospian Limited, my lord. One of our great airships--a fast
one, we consider it."
"It must accommodate a good many people, Rhamda."
"About nine thousand."
"You say it comes from Kospia. How far away is that?"
"About six thousand miles. It is an eight-hour run, with one stop.
Just now the service is every fifteen minutes. They are coming, of
course, for the Day of the Prophet."
Watson continued to watch the great airship, noting the swarm of
smaller craft that came out from the Mahovisal to greet it, until
the Jan Lucar suddenly altered the course. They stopped climbing,
and struck out on a horizontal level. It left the Mahovisal behind
them, a shimmering spot of fire beside the gleaming sea. They were
travelling eastwards. The landscape below was level and unvaried,
of a greenish hue, and much like that of Chick's own earth in the
early spring-time--a vast expanse, level and sometimes dotted with
opalescent towns and cities. Ribbons of silver cut through the
plain at intervals, crookedly lazy and winding, indicating a
drainage from north to south or vice versa. Looking back to the
west, he could see the great, golden sun, poised as he had seen it
that morning, a huge amber plate on the rim of the world. It was
Then Chick looked straight ahead. Far in the distance a great wall
loomed skyward to a terrific height. So vast was it and so remote,
at first it had escaped the eye altogether. An incredibly high
range of mountains, glowing with a faint rose blush under the
touch of the setting sun. Against the sky were many peaks, each of
them tipped with curious and sparkling diamond-like corruscations.
As Chick continued to gaze the rose began to purple.
The Jan Lucar put the craft to another upward climb. So high were
they now that the Thomahlia below was totally lost from view; it
was but a maze of lurking shadows. The sun was only a gash of
amber--it was twilight down on the ground. And Watson watched the
black line of the Thomahlian shadow climb the purple heights
before him until only the highest crests and the jewelled crags
flashed in the sun's last rays. Then, one by one, they flickered
out; and all was darkness.
Still they ascended. Watson became uneasy, sitting there in the
"Where are we going?"
"To the Carbon Regions, my lord. It is one of the sights of the
"On top of those mountains?"
"Beyond, my lord."
Whereupon, to Chick's growing amazement, the Geos went on to state
that carbon of all sorts was extremely common throughout their
world. The same forces that had formed coal so generously upon the
earth had thrown up, almost as lavishly, huge quantities of pure
diamond. The material was of all colours, as diamonds run, and
considered of small value; for every day purposes they preferred
substances of more sombre hues. They used it, it seemed, to build
"But how do they cut it?"
"Very easily. The material which drives this craft--Ilodium--will
cut it like butter."
Later, Watson understood. He watched as the craft continued to
climb; the Jan Lucar was steering without the aid of any outside
lights whatever, there being only a small light illuminating his
instruments. Chick presently turned his gaze outside again;
whereupon he got another jolt.
He saw a NEGATIVE sky!
At first he thought his eyes the victims of an illusion; then he
looked closer. And he saw that it was true; instead of the
familiar starry points of light against a velvet background, the
arrangement was just the reverse. Every constellation was in its
place, just as Chick remembered it from the earth; but instead of
stars there were jet-black spots upon a faint, grey background.
The whole sky was one huge Milky Way, except for the black spots.
And from it all there shone just about as much total light as from
the heavens he had known.
Of all he experienced, this was the most disturbing. It seemed
totally against all reason; for he knew the stars to be great
incandescent globes in space. How explain that they were here
represented in reverse, their brilliance scattered and diffused
over the surrounding sky, leaving points of blackness instead?
Afterward he learned that the peculiar chemical constituency of
the atmosphere was solely responsible for the inversion of the
usual order of things.
All of a sudden the Jan Lucar switched the craft to a level. He
held up one hand and pointed.
"Look, my lord, and the Rhamda! Look!"
Both men rose from their seats, the better to stare past the
soldier. Straight ahead, where had been one of the corruscating
peaks, a streak of blue fire shot skyward, a column of light miles
high, differing from the beams of a searchlight in that the rays
were WAVY, serpentine, instead of straight. It was weirdly
beautiful. Geos caught his breath; he leaned forward and touched
the Jan Lucar.
"Wait," he said in an awed tone. "Wait a moment. It has never come
before, but we can expect it now." And even as he spoke, something
From the base of the column two other streaks, one red and the
other bright green, cut out through the blackness on either side.
The three streams started from the same point; they made a sort of
trident, red, green, and blue--twisting, alive--strangely
impressive, suggestive of grandeur and omnipotence--holy.
Again the Rhamda spoke. "Wait!" said he. "Wait!"
They were barely moving now. Watson watched and wondered. The
three streams of light ran up and up, as though they would pierce
the heavens; the eye could not follow their ends. All in utter
silence, nothing but those beams of glorified light, their reality
a hint of power, of life and wisdom--of the certainty of things.
Plainly it had a tremendous significance in the minds of the Geos
and the Lucar.
Then came the climax. Slowly, but somehow inexorably, like the
laws of life itself, and somewhere at a prodigious height above
the earth, the three outer ends of the red and the green and the
blue spread out and flared back upon themselves and one another,
until their combined brilliance bridged a great rainbow across the
sky. Blending into all the colours of the prism, the bow became--
for a moment--pregnant with an overpowering beauty, symbolical,
portentous of something stupendous about to come out of the
unknown to the Thomahlians. And next--
The bow began to move, to swirl, and to change in shape and
colour. The three great rivers of light billowed and expanded and
rounded into a new form. Then they burst--into a vast, three-
leafed clover--blue and red and green!
And Watson caught the startled words of the Geos:
"The Sign of the Jarados!"
THE VOICE FROM THE VOID
Even while that inexplicable heavenly pageant still burned against
the heavens, something else took place, a thing of much greater
importance to Chick. And, it happened right before his eyes.
In the front of the car was a dial, slightly raised above the
level of the various controlling instruments. And all of a sudden
this dial, a small affair about six inches across, broke into
light and life.
First, there was a white blaze that covered the whole disc; then
the whiteness abruptly gave way to a flood of colour, which
resolved itself into a perfect miniature of the tri-coloured
cloverleaf in the sky ahead. Chick saw, however that the positions
of the red and green were just the obverse of what glowed in the
distance; and then he heard the voice, strong and distinct,
speaking with a slight metallic twang as from a microphone hidden
in that little, blazing, coloured leaf:
"Listen, ye who have ears to listen!"
It was said in the Thomahlian tongue. The Geos breathed:
"The voice of the Prophet Jarados!"
But the next moment the unseen speaker began in another language--
clear, silver, musical--in English, and in a voice that Chick
"Chick! You have done well, my boy. Your courage and your
intuition may lead us out. Follow the prophecy to the letter,
Chick; it MUST come to pass, exactly as it is written! Don't fail
to read it, there on the walls of the Temple of the Bell, when you
encounter the Bar Senestro on the Day of the Prophet!
"I have discovered many things, my boy, but I am not omnipotent.
Your coming has made possible my last hope that I may return to my
own kind, and take with me the secrets of life. You have done
right to trust your instinct; have no fear, yet remember that if
you--if we--make one false step we are lost.
"Finally, if you should succeed in your contest with the Senestro,
I shall send for you; but if you fail, I know how to die.
"Return at once to the Mahovisal. Don't cross into the Region of
Carbon. Take care how you go back; the Bars are waiting. But you
can put full confidence in the Rhamdas."
Then the speaker dropped the language of the earth and used the
Thomahlian tongue again: "It is I who speak--I, the Prophet; the
All in the voice of Dr. Holcomb.
The blazing leaf faded into blackness, and the talking ceased.
Chick was glad of the darkness; the whole thing was like magic,
and too good to believe. The first actual words from the missing
professor! Each syllable was frozen into Watson's memory.
The Geos was clutching his arm.
"Did you understand, my lord? We heard the voice of the prophet!
What did he say?"
"Yes, I understand. He used his own language--my language. And he
said"--taking the reins firmly into his hands--"he said that we
must return to the Thomahlia. And we must beware of the Bars."
There was no thought of questioning him. Without waiting the Geos'
command, the Jan Lucar began putting the craft about. Watson
glanced at the sky; the great spectacle was gone; and he demanded
of the soldier:
"How can we get back? How do we find our way?"
For there was no visible light save the strange, fitful glow from
that uncanny sky to guide them; no lights from the inky carpet of
the Thomahlia, lights such as one would expect for the benefit of
fliers. But the soldier touched a button, and instantly another
and larger dial was illumined above the instruments.
It revealed a map or chart of a vast portion of the Thomahlia. On
the farther edge there appeared an area coloured to represent
water, and adjoining this area was a square spot labeled "The
Mahovisal." And about midway from this point to the near edge of
the dial a red dot hung, moving slowly over the chart.
"The red dot, my lord, indicates our position," explained the Jan.
"In that manner we know at all times where we are located, and
which way we are flying. We shall arrive in the Mahovisal
As he spoke the craft was gaining speed, and soon was travelling
at an even greater rate than before. The red dot began to crawl at
an astonishing speed. Of course, they had the benefit of the pull
of gravity, now; apparently they would make the journey in a few
minutes. But incredible though the speed might be, there was
nothing but the red dot to show it.
The Geos felt like talking. "My lord, the sign is conclusive. It
is a marvel, such as only the prophet could possibly have
produced; with all our science we could not duplicate such
splendour. Only once before has the Thomahlia seen it."
Already they were near enough to the surface to make out the
clustered, blinking lights of the towns on the plain below. Ahead
of them queer streamers of pale rays thrust through the darkness.
Watson recognised them as the beams of the far-distant
searchlights; and then and there he gave thanks for one thing, at
least, in which the Thomahlians had seemingly progressed no
further than the people of the earth.
Coming a little nearer, Chick made out a number of bright,
glittering, insect-like objects, revealed by these searchlights.
The Jan Lucar said:
"The Bars, my lord. They are waiting; and they will head us off if
"The work of Senestro, I suppose. I thought he claimed to some
"It is not the prince's work, my lord," replied the soldier. "His
D'Hartian and Kospian followers, some of them, have no scruples as
to how they might slay the 'false one', as they think you."
"Suppose," hazarded Watson, "suppose I WERE the false one?"
Both the Geos and the Jan smiled. But the Rhamda's voice was very
sure as he replied:
"If you were false, my lord, I would slay you myself."
They were very near the Mahovisal now. Below was the unmistakable
opalescence, somehow produced by powerful illumination, as intense
as sunlight itself. The red dot was almost above the black square
on the lighted chart. And directly ahead, the air was becoming
alive with the beam-revealed aircraft. How could they get by in
But Chick did not know the Jan Lucar. The soldier said:
"My lord is not uneasy?"
"Of course not," with unconcern. "Why?"
"Because I propose something daring. I am free to admit, my lord,
that were the Geos and I alone, I should not attempt it. But not
even the Bars," with magnificent confidence, "can stand before us
now! We have had the proof of the Jarados, and we know that no
matter what the odds, he will carry us through."
"What are you going to do?"
"I propose to shoot it, my lord." And without explaining the Jan
asked the Geos: "Are you agreeable? The June Bug will hold; the
prophet will protect us."
"Surely," returned the Rhamda. "There is nothing to fear, now, for
those who are in the company of the chosen."
Watson wondering watched the Jan as he tilted the nose of the June
Bug and began to climb at an all but perpendicular angle straight
into the heavens. Mile after mile, in less than as many minutes,
they hurtled towards the zenith, so that the lights of the city
dimmed until only the searching shafts could be seen. Chick began
to guess what they were going to do; that the Jan Lucar was nearly
as reckless as he was handsome.
At last the soldier brought the craft to a level. They soared
along horizontally for a while; the Jan kept his eye fixed on the
red dot. And when it was directly above the black square he
"It is considered a perilous feat, my lord. We are going to drop.
If we make it from this height, not only will we break all
records, but will have proved the June Bug the superior in this
respect, as she is in speed. It is our only chance in any
circumstances, but with the Jarados at our side, we need not fear
that the craft will stand the strain. We shall go through them
like stone; before they know it we shall be in the drome--in less
than a minute."
"From this height?" Chick concealed a shudder behind a fair show
of scepticism. "A minute is not much time."
"Does my lord fear the drop?"
"Why should I? I have in mind the June Bug; she might be set afire
through friction, in dropping so quickly through the air." Watson
had a vivid picture of a blazing meteorite, containing the charred
bodies of three men, dropping out of--
"My lord need not be concerned with that," the Jan assured him.
"The shell of the car is provided with a number of tiny pores,
through which a heat-resisting fluid will be pumped during the
manoeuvre. The temperature may be raised a little, but no more.
"You see this plug," touching a hitherto unused knob among the
instruments. "By pulling that out, the mechanism of the craft is
automatically adjusted to care for every phase of the descent.
Nothing else remains to be done, after removing that plug, save to
watch the red dot and prepare to step out upon the floor of our
"Has the thing ever been done before?" Watson was sparring for
time while he gathered his nerve.
"I myself have seen it, my lord. The June Bug has been sent up
many times, weighted with ballast; the plug was abstracted by
clockwork; and in fifty-eight seconds she returned through the
open end of the drone, without a hitch. It was beautiful. I have
always envied her that plunge. And now I shall have the chance,
with the hand of the Jarados as my guide and protector!"
Chick had just time to reflect that, if by any chance he got
through with this, he ought to be able to pass any test
conceivable. He ought to be able to get away with anything. He
started to murmur a prayer; but before he could finish, the Jan
Lucar leaned over the dial-map for the last time, saw that the red
dot was now exactly central over the square that represented the
city, and unhesitatingly jerked out the plug.
Of what happened next Watson remembered but little. The bottom
seemed to have dropped out of the universe. He was conscious of a
crushing blur of immensity, of a silent thundering within him--
then mental chaos and a stunned oblivion.
WHO IS THE JARADOS?
It was all over. Chick opened his eyes to see the Jan throwing
open the plate on the side of the compartment. Neither the soldier
nor the Rhamda seemed to have noted Chick's daze. As for the Jan,
his blue eyes were dancing with dare-devilry.
"That's what I call living!" he grinned. "They can keep on looking
for the June Bug all night!"
Chick looked out. They were inside the great room from which they
had started; the trip was over; the plunge had been made in
safety. Chick took a long breath, and held out a hand.
"A man after my own heart, Jan Lucar. I foresee that we may have
great sport with the Senestro."
"Aye, my lord," cheerfully. "The presumptuous usurper! I only wish
I could kill him, instead of you."
"You are not the only one," commented the Rhamda. "Half of the
Rhamdas would cheerfully act as the chosen one's proxy."
And so ended the events of Chick Watson's first day beyond the
Blind Spot, his first day on the Thomahlia; that is, disregarding
the previous months of unconsciousness. He had good reason to pass
a sleepless night in legitimate worry for the outcome of it all;
but instead he slept the sound sleep of exhaustion, awakening the
next morning much refreshed.
He reminded himself, first of all, that today was the one
immediately preceding that of his test--the Day of the Prophet. He
had only a little more than twenty-four hours to prepare. What was
the best and wisest proceeding?
He called for the Geos. He told him what data he wanted. The
Rhamda said that he could find everything in a library in that
building, and inside a half-hour he returned with a pile of
Left to himself, Chick found that he now had data relating to all
the sciences, to religion, to education and political history and
the law. The chronology of the Thomahlians, Chick found, dates
back no less than fifteen thousand years. An abiding civilisation
of that antiquity, it need not be said, presented somewhat
different aspects from what is known on the earth.
It seemed that the Jarados had come miraculously. That is, he had
come out of the unknown, through a channel which he himself later
termed the Spot of Life.
He had taught a religion of enlightenment, embracing intelligence,
love, virtue, and the higher ethics such as are inherent in all
great philosophies. But he did not call himself a religionist.
That was the queer point. He said that he had come to teach an
advanced philosophy of life; and he expressly stated that his
teachings were absolute only to a limited extent.
"Man must seek and find," was one of his epigrams; "and if he find
no more truths, then he will find lies." Which was merely a
negative way of saying that some of his philosophy was only
But on some points he was adamant. He had arrived at a time when
the unthinking, self-glorifying Thomahlians had all but
exterminated the lower orders of creation. The Jarados sought to
remove the handicap which the people had set upon themselves, and
gave them, in the place of kindness which they had forgotten, how
to use, a burning desire for a positive knowledge, where before
had been only blind faith. Also, he taught good-fellowship, as a
means to this end. He taught beauty, love, and laughter, the three
great cleansers of humanity. And yet, through it all--
The Jarados was a mystic.
He studied life after a manner of his own. He was a stickler for
getting down to the very heart of things, for prodding around
among causes until he found the cause itself. And thus he learned
the secret of the occult.
For so he taught. And presently the Jarados was recognized as an
authority on what the Thomahlia called "the next world." Only he
showed that death, instead of being an ushering into a void, was
merely a translation onto another plane of life, a higher plane
and a more glorious one. In short, a thing to be desired and
attained, not to be avoided.
This put the Spot of Life on an entirely different basis. No
longer was it a fearsome thing. The Jarados elevated death to the
plane of motherhood--something to glory in. And Chick gathered
that his famous prophecy--which he had yet to read, where it hung
on the wall of the temple--gave every detail of the Jarados'
profound convictions and teachings regarding the mystery of the
And now comes a curious thing. As Chick read these details, he
became more and more conscious of--what shall it be called?--the
presence of someone or something beside him, above and all about
him, watching his every movement. He could not get away from the
feeling, although it was broad daylight, and he was seemingly
quite alone in the room. Chick was not frightened; but he could
have sworn that a very real personality was enveloping his own as
Every word, somehow, reminded him of the miraculous sequence of
facts as he knew them; the unerring accuracy with which he, quite
unthinkingly and almost without volition, had solved problem after
problem, although the chances were totally against him. He became
more and more convinced that he himself had practically no control
over his affairs; that he was in the hands of an irresistible
Fate; and that--he could not help it--his good angel was none
other than the prophet who, almost ninety centuries ago, had lived
and taught upon the Thomahlia, and in the end had returned to the
But how could such a thing be? Watson did not even know where he
was! Small wonder that, again and again, he felt the need of
assurance. He asked for the Jan Lucar.
"In the first place," began Chick without preamble, "you accept
me, Jan Lucar; do you not?"
"Absolutely, my lord."
"You conceive me to be out of the spiritual world, and yet flesh
and blood like yourself?"
"Of course," with flat conviction.
That settled it. Watson decided to find out something he had not
had time to locate in the library.
"The Rhamda may have told you, Jan Lucar, that I am here to seek
the Jarados. Now, I suspect the Senestro. Can you imagine what he
has done to the prophet?"
"My lord," remonstrated the other, "daring as the Bar might be, he
could do nothing to the Jarados. He would not dare."
"Then he is afraid to run counter to the prophecy?"
"Yes, my lord; that is, its literal interpretation. He is opposed
only to the broader version as held by such liberals as the Rhamda
Avec. The Bars are always warning the people against the false
"And the Senestro is at their head," mused Chick aloud. "This
brother of his who died--usually there are two such princes and
"Yes, my lord."
"And the Senestro plans to marry both queens, according to the
"My lord"--and the Jan suddenly snapped erect--"the Bar will do
exceedingly well if he succeeds in marrying one of them! Certainly
he shall never have the Aradna--not while I live and can fight!"
"Good! How about the Nervina?"
"He'll do well to find her first!"
"True enough. What would you say was his code of honour?"
"My lord, the Senestro actually has no code. He believes in
nothing. He is so constituted, mentally and morally, that he cares
for and trusts in none but himself. He is a sceptic pure and
simple; he cares nothing for the Jarados and his teachings. He is
an opportunist seeking for power, wicked, lustful, cruel--"
"But a good sportsman!"
"In what way, my lord?"
"Didn't he allow me the choice of combat?"
The Jan laughed, but his handsome face could not hide his
"It is ever so with a champion, my lord. He has never been
defeated in a matter of physical prowess. It would be far more to
his glory to overcome you in combat of your own selection. It will
be spectacular--he knows the value of dramatic climax--and he
would kill you in a moment, before a million Thomahlians."
"It's a nice way to die," said Watson. "You must grant that much."
"I don't know of any nice way to die, my lord. But it is a good
way of living--to kill the Bar Senestro. I would that I could have
"How does it come that the Rhamdas, superintellectual as they are,
can consent to such a contest? Is it not degrading, to their way
of thinking? It smacks of barbarism."
"They do not look upon it in that light, my lord. Our civilisation
has passed beyond snobbery. Of course there was a time, centuries
ago when we were taught that any physical contest was brutal. But
that was before we knew better."
"You don't believe it now?"
"By no means, my lord. The most wonderful physical thing in the
Thomahlia is the human body. We do not hide it. We admire beauty,
strength, prowess. The live body is above all art; it is the work
of God himself; art is but an imitation. And there is nothing so
splendid as a physical contest--the lightning correlation of mind
and body. It is a picture of life."
"Do the Rhamdas think this?"
"Most assuredly. A Rhamda is always first an athlete."
"Perfection, my lord. A perfect mind does not always dwell in a
perfect body, but they strive for it as much as possible. The
first test of a Rhamda is his body. After he passes that he must
take the mental test."
"Moral first. The most rigid, perhaps of all; he must be a man
above suspicion. The honour of a Rhamda must never be questioned.
He must be upright and absolutely unselfish. He must be broad-
minded, human, lovable, and a leader of men. After that, my lord,
comes the intellectual test."
"He must be a learned man?"
"Not exactly, your lordship. There are many very learned men who
could not be Rhamdas; and there are many who have had no learning
at all who eventually were admitted. The qualifications are
intellectual, not educational; the mind is put to a rigid test. It
is examined for alertness, perception, memory, reason, emotion,
and control. There is no greater honour in all the Thomahlia."
"And they are all athletes?"
"Every one, my lord. In all the world there is no finer body of
men, I myself would hesitate before entering a match with even the
old Rhamda Geos."
"How about the Rhamda Avec?"
"Nor he, either; in the gymnasium he was always the superior, just
as he topped all others morally and mentally."
Did this explain the Avec's physical prowess, on the one hand, and
the fact that he would not stoop to take that ring by force, on
"Just one more thing, Jan Lucar. You have absolutely no fear that
I may fail tomorrow?"
"Not the slightest, my lord. You cannot fail!"
"I have already said--because you are from the Jarados."
And Chick, facing the greatest experience of his life, submerged
in a sea wherein only a few islands of fact were visible, had to
be content with this: his only friends were those who were firmly
convinced of something which, he knew only too well, was a flat
fraud! All this backing was based upon a misled faith.
No, not quite. Was there not that strange feeling that the Jarados
himself was at his back? And had he not found that the prophet had
been real? Did he not feel, as positively as he felt anything,
that the Jarados was still a reality?
Chick went to bed that night with a light heart.
THE TEMPLE OF THE BELL
It was hard for Chick to remember all the details of that great
day. Throughout all the morning and afternoon he remained in his
apartments. Breakfast over, the Rhamdas told him his part in
certain ceremonies, such as need not be detailed here. They were
very solicitous as to his food and comfort, and as to his feelings
and anticipations. His nonchalance pleased them greatly. Afterward
he had a bath and rub-down.
A combat to the death, was it to be? Suits me, thought Watson. He
was never in finer form.
The Jan Lucar was particularly interested. He pinched and stroked
Chick's muscles with the caressing pride of a connoisseur. Watson
stepped out of the fountain bath in all the vigour of health. He
playfully reached out for the Lucar and tripped him up. He sought
to learn just what the Thomahlians knew in the art of self-
The brief struggle that ensued taught him that he need expect no
easy conquest. The Jan was quick, active and the possessor of a
science peculiarly effective. The Thomahlians did not box in the
manner of the Anglo-Saxons; their mode was peculiar. Chick foresaw
that he would be compelled to combine the methods of three kinds
of combat: boxing, ju-jitsu, and the good old catch-as-catch-can
wrestling. If the Senestro were superior to the Jan, he would have
a time indeed. Though Watson conquered, he could not but concede
that the Jan was not only clever but scientific to an oily,
bewildering degree. The Lucar paused.
"Enough, my lord! You are a man indeed. Do not overdo; save
yourself for the Senestro."
Clothes were brought, and Chick taken back to his apartment. The
time passed with Rhamdas constantly at his side.
The Geos was not present, nor the little queen. Chick sought
permission to sit by the window--permission that was granted after
the guards had placed screens that would withhold any view from
outside, yet permit Chick to look out.
As far as he could see, the avenues were packed with people. Only,
this time the centres of the streets were clear; on the curbs he
could see the opposing lines of the blue and crimson, holding back
the waiting thousands. In the distance he could hear chimes, faint
but distinct, like silver bells tinkling over water.
At intervals rose strange choruses of weird, holy music. The full
sweep of the city's domes and minarets was spread out before him.
From eaves to basements the rolling luxuriance of orchidian
beauty; banners, music, parade; a day of pageant, pomp, and
He could catch the excitement in the air, the strange, laden
undercurrent of spiritual salvation-something esoteric,
undefinable, the ecstasy of a million souls pulsing to the throb
of a supreme moment. He drew back, someone had touched him.
"What is it?"
It was one of the Rhamdas. He had in his hand a small metal
clover, of the design of the Jarados.
"What do I do?" asked Watson.
"This," said the Rhamda, "was sent to you by one of the Bars."
"By a Bar! What does it mean?"
The other shook his head. "It was sent to you by one who wished it
to be known by us that he is your friend, even though a Bar."
Just then Watson noted something sticking out of the edge of one
of the clover leaves. He pulled it out. It was a piece of paper.
On it were scrawled words IN ENGLISH.
The writing was pencil script, done in a poor hand and ill-spelled,
but still English. Chick read:
"Be of good cheer; there ain't a one in this world that can top a
lad from Frisco. And it's Pat MacPherson that says it. Yer the
finest laddie that ever got beyond the old Witch of Endor. You and
me, if we hold on, is just about goin' to play hell with the
haythen. Hold on and fight like the divil! Remember that Pat is
"We're both spooks.
Said Watson: "Who gave you this? Did you see the man?"
"It was sent up my lord. The man was a high Bar in the Senestro's
Watson could not understand this. Was it possible that there were
others in this mysterious region besides himself? At any rate, he
wasn't wholly alone. He felt that he could count upon the
Irishman--or was this fellow Scotch? Anyhow, such a man would find
the quick means of wit at a crucial moment.
Suddenly Watson noted a queer feeling of emptiness. He looked out
of the window. The music had ceased, and the incessant hum of the
throngs had deadened to silence. It was suspended, awesome,
threatening. At the same time, the Jan Lucar came to attention, at
the opposite door stood the Rhamda Geos, black clad, surrounded by
a group of his fellows.
"Come, my lord," he said.
The crimson guard fell in behind Watson, the black-gowned took
their places ahead, and the Jan Lucar and the Geos walked on
either side. They stepped out into the corridor. By the indicator
of a vertical clock, Chick noted that it was nine. He did not know
the day of the year other than from the Thomahlian calendar; but
he knew that it was close to sunset. He did not ask where they
were going; there was no need. The very solemnity of his
companions told him more than their answers would have. In a
moment they were in the streets.
Watson had thought that they would be taken by aircraft, or that
they would pass through the building. He did not know that it was
a concession to the Bar Senestro; that the Senestro was but
playing a bit of psychology that is often practised by lesser
champions. If Watson's nerve was not broken it was simply because
of the iron indifference of confident health. Chick had never been
defeated. He had no fear. He was far more curious as to the scenes
and events about him than he was of the outcome. He was hoping for
some incident that would link itself up into explanation.
At the door a curious car of graceful lines was waiting, an odd
affair that might be classed as a cross between a bird and a
gondola, streaming with colours and of magnificent workmanship and
design. On the deck of this the three men took their places; on
the one side the Rhamda Geos, tall, sombre, immaculate; on the
other, the magnificent Jan Lucar in the gorgeous crimson uniform,
gold-braided and studded with jewels; on his head he wore the
shako of purple down, and by his side a peculiar black weapon
which he wore much in the manner of a sword.
In the centre, Watson--bareheaded, his torso bare and his arms
naked. He had been given a pair of soft sandals, and a short suit,
whose one redeeming feature in his eyes was a pocket into which he
had thrust the automatic that he valued so much. It was more like
a picture of Rome than anything else. Whatever the civilisation of
the Thomahlians, their ritual in Watson's eyes smacked still of
But he was intensely interested in all about him. The avenues were
large. On either side the guards were drawn up eight deep, holding
back the multitude that pressed and jostled with the insistence of
curiosity. He looked into the myriad faces; about him, splendid
features, of intelligent man and women.
Not one face suggested the hideous; the women were especially
beautiful, and, from what he could see, finely formed and
graceful. Many of them smiled; he could hear the curious buzz of
conjecturing whispers. Some were indifferent, while others, from
the expression of their faces, were openly hostile.
Chick was in the middle of a procession, the Rhamdas marching
before and the crimson guard bringing up the rear. A special
guard: the inner one, Rhamdas, the outer one of crimson
surrounding them all.
The car started. There was no trace of friction; it was noiseless,
automatic. Chick could only conjecture as to its mechanism. The
black column of Rhamdas moved ahead rhythmically, with the swing
of solemn grandeur. For some minutes they marched through the
streets of the Mahovisal. There was no cheering; it was a holy,
awesome occasion. Chick could sense the undercurrent of the
staring thousands, the reverence and the piety. It was the Day of
the Prophet. They were staring at a miracle.
The column turned a corner. For the first time Watson was
staggered by sheer immensity; for the first time he felt what it
might be to see with the eyes of an insect. Had he been an ant
looking up at the columns of Karnak, he would still have been out
of proportion. It was immense, colossal, beyond man. It was of the
omnipotent--the pillared portal of the Temple of the Bell.
Such a building a genius might dream of, in a moment of
unhampered, inspired imagination. It was stupendous. The pillars
were hexagonal in shape, and in diameter each of about the size of
an ordinary house. Dropping from an immense height, it seemed as
if they had originally poured out in the form of molten metal from
immense bell-like flares that fell from the vaulted architrave.
Such was the design.
Chick got the impression that the top of the structure, somehow,
was not supported by the foundation, but rather the reverse--the
floor was suspended from the ceiling. It was the work of the
Titans--so high and stupendous that at the first instant Watson
felt numb with insignificance. What chance had he against men of
such colossal conception.
How large the building was he could not see. The Gargantuan facade
itself was enough to smother comprehension. It was laid out in the
form of a triangle, one end of which was open towards the city;
the two sections of the facade met under a huge, arched opening--
the door itself. Watson recognised the structure as the one he had
seen from the June Bug on the outskirts of the Mahovisal. The
enormous plaza was packed with people, leaving only a narrow lane
for the procession; and as far back as Chick could see crowds in
the streets converged towards this vast space. Their numbers were
The car stopped. The guards, both crimson and blue, formed a
twenty-fold cordon. Watson could feel the suspended breath of the
waiting multitude. The three men stepped out--the Geos first, then
the Jan Lucar, and Watson last. Chick caught the Lucar's eye; it
was confident; the man was springing with vigour, jovial in spite
of the moment.
They passed between two of the huge pillars, and under the giant
arch. For a few minutes they walked through what seemed, to Chick,
a perfect maze of those titanic columns. And every foot was marked
by the lines of crimson and blue, flanking either side.
An immense sea of people rose high into the forest of pillars as
far as his eye could reach. He had never been in such a concourse
They passed through an inner arch, a smaller and lower one, into
what Chick guessed was the temple proper. And if Chick had thought
the anteroom stupendous, he saw that a new word, one which went
beyond all previous experience, was needed to describe what he now
It was almost too immense to be grasped in its entirety. Gone was
the maze of columns; instead, far, far away to the right and to
the left, stood single rows of herculean pillars. There were but
seven on a side, separated by great distances; and between them
stretched a space so immense, so incredibly vast, that a small
city could have been housed within it. And over it all was not the
open sky, but a ceiling of such terrific grandeur that Chick
almost halted the procession while he gazed.
For that ceiling was the under side of a cloud, a grey-black,
forbidding thundercloud. And the fourteen pillars, seven on either
side, were prodigious waterspouts, monster spirals of the hue of
storm, with flaring sweeps at top and bottom that welded roof and
floor into one terrific whole. Sheer from side to side stretched
that portentous level cloud; it was a span of an epoch; and on
either side it was rooted in those awful columns, seemingly alive,
as though ready at any instant to suck up the earth into the
By downright will-power Watson tore his attention away and
directed it upon the other features of that unprecedented
interior. It was lighted, apparently, by great windows behind the
fourteen pillars; windows too far to be distinguishable. And the
light revealed, directly ahead something that Chick at first
thought to be a cascade of black water. It leaped out of the rear
wall of the temple, and at its crest it was bordered with walls of
solid silver, cut across and designed with scrolls of gold and gem
work; walls that swooped down and ended with two huge green
columns at the base of that fantastic fall.
As they approached a swarm of tiny bronze objects, silver winged,
fluttered out through the temple--tiny birds, smaller than
swallows, beautiful and swift-winged, elusive. They were without
number; in a moment the air of the temple was alive with flitting,
darting spots of glinting colour.
Then Chick saw that there were two people sitting high on the
crest of that cascade. Wondering, Chick and the rest marched on
through the silent crowd; all standing with bared heads and bated
breaths. The worshipping Thomahlians filled every inch of that
enormous place. Only a narrow lane permitted the procession to
pass towards that puzzling, silent, black waterfall.
They were almost at its base when Chick saw the vanguard of the
Rhamdas unhesitatingly stride straight against the torrent, and
then mount upon it. Up they marched; and Chick knew that the black
water was black jade, and that the two people at its crest were
seated upon a landing at the top of the grandest stairway he had
Up went the Rhamdas deploying to right and left against the silver
walls. The crimson and blue uniformed guards remained behind,
lining the lane through the throng. At the foot of the steps Chick
stopped and looked around, and again he felt numb at the sheer
vastness of it all.
For he was looking back now at the portal through which the
procession had marched; a portal now closed; and above it,
covering a great expanse of that wall and extending up almost into
the brooding cloud above, was spread a mighty replica of the tri-
coloured Sign of the Jarados.
For the first time Chick felt the full significance of symbolism.
Whereas before it had been but an incident of adventure, now it
was the symbol of mystic revelation. It was not only the motif for
all other decoration upon the walls and minor elements of the
temple; it was the emblem of the trinity, deep, holy, significant
of the mystery of the universe and the hereafter. There was
something deeper than mere fatalism; behind all was the fact-
rooted faith of a civilisation.
But at that moment, as Chick paused with one foot on the bottom
step of the flight, something happened that sent quivers of joy
and confidence all through him. Someone was talking--talking in
Chick looked. The speaker was a man in the blue garb of the
Senestro's guard. He was standing at the end of the line nearest
the stair, and slightly in front of his fellows. Like the rest, he
was holding his weapon, a black, needled-pointed sword, at the
salute. Chick gave him only a glance, then had the presence of
mind to look elsewhere as a man said, in a low, guarded voice:
"Y' air right, me lad; don't look at me. I know what ye're
thinkin'. But she ain't as bad as she looks! Keep yer heart clear;
never fear. You an' me can lick all Thomahlia! Go straight up them
stairs, an' stand that blackguard Senestro on his 'ead, just like
y'd do in Frisco!"
"Who are you?" asked Watson, intent upon the great three-leafed
clover. He used the same low, cautious tone the other had
employed. "Who are you, friend?"
"Pat MacPherson, of course," was the answer. "An' Oi've said a
plenty. Now, go aboot your business."
Watson did not quibble. There was no time to learn more. He did
not wish it to be noticed; yet he could not hide it from the Jan
Lucar and the Rhamda Geos, who were still at his side. They had
heard that tongue before. The looks they exchanged told, however,
that they were gratified rather than displeased by the
interruption. Certainly all feelings of depression left Chick, and
he ascended the stairs with a glad heart and a resilient stride
that could not but be noticed.
He was ready for the Senestro.
Reaching the top of the jade steps, Chick found the landing to be
a great dais, nearly a hundred feet across. On the right and left
this dais was hedged in by the silver walls, on each of which was
hung a huge, golden scrollwork. These scrolls bore legends, which
for the moment Chick ignored. At the rear of the dais was a large
object like a bronze bell.
The floor was of the usual mosaic, except in the centre, where
there was a plain, circular design. Chick took careful note of
this, a circle about twenty feet across, as white and unbroken as
a bed of frozen snow. Whether it was stone or not he could not
determine. All around its edge was a gap that separated it from
the dais, a gap several inches across. Chick turned to Geos:
"The Spot of Life?"
"Even so. It is the strangest thing in all the Thomahlia, my lord.
Can you feel it?"
For Watson had reached out with his toe and touched the white
surface. He drew it back suddenly.
"It has a feeling," he replied, "that I cannot describe. It is
cold, and yet it is not. Perhaps it is my own magnetism."
"Ah! It is well, my lord!"
What the Rhamda meant by that Chick could not tell. He was
interested in the odd white substance. It was as smooth as glass,
although at intervals there were faint, almost imperceptible, dark
lines, like the finest scratches in old ivory. Yet the whiteness
was not dazzling. Again Watson touched it with his foot, and noted
the inexplicable feeling of exhilaration. In the moment of
absorption he quite forgot the concourse about him. He knew that
he was now standing on the crux of the Blind Spot.
But in a minute he turned. The dais was a sort of nave, with one
end open to the stairway. Seated on his left was the frail Aradna,
occupying a small throne-like chair of some translucent green
material. On the right sat the Bar Senestro, in a chair differing
only in that its colour was a bright blue. In the centre of the
dais stood a third chair--a crimson one--empty.
The Senestro stood up. He was royally clad, his breast gleaming
with jewels. He was certainly handsome; he had the carriage of
confident royalty. There was no fear in this man, no uncertainty,
no weakness. If confidence were a thing of strength, the Senestro
was already the victor. In his heart Chick secretly admired him.
But just then the Aradna stood up, She made an indication to
Watson. He stepped over to the queen. She sat down again.
"I want to give you my benediction, stranger lord. Are you sure of
yourself? Can you overcome the Senestro?"
"I am certain," spoke Watson. "It is for the queen, O Aradna. I
know nothing of the prophecy; but I will fight for you!"
She blushed and cast a furtive look in the direction of the
"It is well," she spoke. "The outcome will have a double
interpretation--the spiritual one of the prophecy, and the
earthly, material one that concerns myself. If you conquer, my
lord, I am freed. I would not marry the Senestro; I love him not.
I would abide by the prophet, and await the chosen." She
hesitated. "What do you know of the chosen, my lord?"
"Nothing, O Aradna."
"Has not the Rhamda Geos told you?"
"Partly, but not fully. There is something that he is
"Very likely. And now--will you kneel, my lord?"
Watson knelt. The queen held out her hand. Behind him Chick could
hear a deep murmur from the assembled multitudes. Just what was
the significance of that sound he did not know; nor did he care.
It was enough for him that he was to fight for this delicately
beautiful maiden. He would let the prophecy take care of itself.
Besides these three on the dais there were only the Rhamda Geos
and the Jan Lucar. These two remained on the edge nearest the body
of the temple, the edge at the crest of the stair. The empty chair
Suddenly Chick remembered the warning of Dr. Holcomb: "Read the
words of the Prophet." And he took advantage of the breathing-
spell to peruse the legends on the great golden scrolls:
THE PROPHECY OF THE JARADOS
Behold! When the day is at hand, prepare ye!
For, when that day cometh, ye shall have signs and portents from
the world beyond. Wisdom cometh out of life, and life walketh out
of wisdom. Yea, in the manner of life and of spirit ye shall have
them, and of substance even like unto you yourselves.
And it shall come to pass in the last days, that we shall be on
guard. By these signs ye shall know them; even by the truths I
have taught thee. The way of life is an open door; wisdom and
virtue are its keys. And when the intelligence shall be lifted to
the plane above--then shalt thou know!
Mark ye well the Spot of Life! He that openeth it is the precursor
of judgment. Mark him well!
And thus shall the last days come to pass. See that ye are worthy,
O wise ones! For behold in those last days there shall come among
The chosen of a line of kings. First there shall be one, and then
there shall be two; and the two shall stay but the one shall
The false ones. Them ye shall slay!
The four footed: The call to humility, sacrifice and devotion,
whom ye shall hold in reverence even as you hold me, the Jarados.
And on the last day of all--I, the Jarados!
Beware ye of sacrilege! Lest I take from ye all that I have given
ye, and the day be postponed--beware ye of sacrilege!
And if the false ones cometh not, ye shall know that I have held
them. Know ye the day!
Sixteen days from the day of the prophet, shall come the day of
the judgment; and the way shall be opened, on the last day, the
sixteenth day of the Jarados.
Hearken to the words of the Jarados, the prophet and mouthpiece of
the infinite intelligence, ruler of justice, peace, and love! So
be it forever!
Chick read it a second time. Like all prophecies, it was somewhat
Delphic; but he could get the general drift. In that golden script
he was looking into the heart of all Thomahlia--into its
greatness, its culture, its civilisation itself. It was the soul
of the Blind Spot, the reason and the wherefore of all about him.
He heard someone step up behind him, and he turned. It was the
Senestro, going over the words of the prophecy.
"Can you read it, Sir Phantom?" asked the handsome Bar. His black
eyes were twinkling with delight. "Have you read it all?"
He put a hand on Chick's shoulder. It was a careless act, almost
friendly. Either he had the heart of a devil or the chivalry of a
paladin. He pointed to a line:
"'The false ones. Them ye shall slay.'"
"And if I were the false one, you would slay me?" asked Watson.
"Aye, truly!" answered the splendid prince. "You are well made and
good to look upon. I shall hold you in my arms; I shall hear your
bones crack; it shall be sweeter music than that of the temple
pheasants, who never sing but for the Jarados. I shall slay you
upon the Spot, Sir Phantom!"
Watson turned on his heel. The ethics of the Senestro were not of
his own code. He was not afraid; he stood beside the Jan Lucar and
gazed out into the body of the temple. As far as he could see,
under and past the fourteen great pillars and right up to the far
wall, the floor was a vast carpet of humanity.
It was become dark. Presently a new kind of light began to glow
far overhead, gradually increasing in strength until the whole
place was suffused with a sun-like illumination. The Rhamda Geos
began to speak.
"In the last day, in the Day of Life. We have the substance of
ourselves, and the words of the prophet. The Jarados has written
his prophecy in letters of gold, for all to see. 'The false ones.
Them ye shall slay.' It is the will of the Rhamdas that the great
Bar Senestro shall try the proof of the occult. On this, the first
of the Sixteen Days, the test shall be--on the Spot of Life!"
He turned away. The Bar Senestro stripped off his jewels, his
semi-armour, and stood clad in the manner of Watson. They advanced
and met in the centre of the dais, two athletes, lithe, strong,
handsome, their muscles aquiver with vitality and their skins
silken with health. Champions of two worlds, to wrestle for truth!
A low murmur arose, increasing until it filled the whole coliseum.
The silver-bronze pheasants flitted above the heads of all,
flashing like fragments of the spirit of light. And all of a
One of them fluttered down and lit on Watson's shoulder.
The murmur of the throng dropped to a dead silence. Next moment a
stranger thing happened. The little creature broke forth in full-
Watson instantly remembered the words of the Bar Senestro: "They
sing but for the Jarados." He quietly reached up and caught the
songster in his hand, and he held it up to the astonished crowd.
Still the song continued. Chick held him an instant longer, and
then gave him a toss high into the air. He shot across the temple,
a streak of melody, silver, dulcet, to the far corner of the giant
But the thing did not jar the Senestro.
"Well done, Sir Phantom! Anyhow, 'tis your last play! I would not
have it otherwise. I hope you can die as prettily! Are you ready?"
"Ready? What for?" retorted Watson. "Why, should I trouble myself
But the Rhamda Geos had now come to his side.
"Do your best, my lord. I regret only that it must be to the
death. It is the first death contest in the Thomahlia for a
thousand circles (years). But the Senestro has challenged the
prophecy. Prove that you are not a false one! My heart is with
It was a good word at a needed moment. Watson stepped over onto
the circular Spot of Life.
They were both barefooted. Evidently the Thomahlians fought in the
old, classic manner. The stone under Watson's feet was cool and
invigorating. He could sense anew that quiver of magnetism and
strength. It sent a thrill through his whole body, like the subtle
quickening of life. He felt vital, joyous, confident.
The Senestro was smiling, his eyes flashing with anticipation. His
muscled body was a network of soft movement. His step was catlike.
"What will it be?" inquired Watson. "Name your choice of
But the Bar shook his head.
"Not so, Sir Phantom. You shall choose the manner of your death,
not I. Particular I am not, nor selfish."
"Make it wrestling, then," in his most off-hand manner. He was a
good wrestler, and scientific.
"Good. Are you ready?"
"Very well, Sir Phantom. I shall walk to the edge of the Spot and
turn around. I would take no unfair advantage. Now!"
Chick turned at the same moment and strode to his edge. He turned,
and it happened; just what, Chick never knew. He remembered seeing
his opponent turn slowly about, and in the next split second he
was spinning in the clutch of a tiger. Even before they struck the
stone, Chick could feel the Senestro reaching for a death-hold.
And in that one second Watson knew that he was in the grip of his
His mind functioned like lightning. His legs and arms flashed for
the counterhold that would save him. They struck the Spot and
rolled over and over. Chick caught his hold, but the Senestro
broke it almost instantly. Yet it had saved him; for a minute they
spun around like a pair of whirligigs. Watson kept on the
defensive. He had not the speed and skill of the other. It was no
mere test to touch his shoulders; it was a fight to the death; he
was at a disadvantage. He worked desperately.
When a man fights for his life he becomes superhuman. Watson was
put to something more than his skill; the sheer spirit of the Bar
broke hold after hold; he was like lightning, panther-like,
subtle, vicious. Time after time he spun Chick out of his defense
and bore him down into a hold of death. And each time Chick
somehow wriggled out, and saved himself by a new hold. The
struggle became a blur--muscle, legs, the lust for killing--and
hatred. Twice Watson essayed the offensive; first he got a hammer
lock, and then a half-Nelson. The Bar broke both holds
Whatever Chick knew of wrestling, the Senestro knew just a bit
more. It was a whirling mass of legs and bodies in continuous
convulsion, silent except for the terrible panting of the men, and
the low, stifled exclamations of the onlookers.
Watson grew weak. He tried once more. They spun to their feet. But
before he could act the Senestro had caught him in the same flying
rush as in the beginning, and had whirled him off his feet. And
when he came down the Bar had an unbreakable hold.
Chick struggled in vain. The Bar tightened his grip. A spasm of
pain shot through Chick's torso; he could feel his bones giving
way. His strength was gone; he could see death. Another moment
would have been the end.
But something happened. The Senestro miraculously let go his hold.
Chick felt something soft brush against his cheek. He heard a
queer snapping, and shouts of wonder, and a dreadful choking sound
from the Bar. He raised dizzily on one arm. His eyes cleared a
The great Bar was on his back; and at his throat was a snarling
thing--the creature that Chick had seen in the clover leaf of the
It was a living dog.
PAT MACPHERSON'S STORY
To Watson it was all a blur. He was too weak and too broken to
remember distinctly. He was conscious only of an uproar, of a
torrent of multitudinous sound. And then--the deep, enveloping
tone of a bell.
Some time, somewhere, Chick had heard that bell before. In his
present condition his memory refused to serve him. He was covered
with blood; he tried to rise, to crawl to this snarling animal
that was throttling the Senestro. But something seemed to snap
within him, and all went black.
When he opened his eyes again all had changed. He was lying on a
couch with a number of people about. It was a minute before he
recognized the Jan Lucar, then the Geos, and lastly the nurse whom
he had first seen when he awoke in the Blind Spot. Evidently he
was in the hands of his friends, although there was a new one, a
red-headed man, clad in the blue uniform of a high Bar.
He sat up. The nurse held a goblet of the green liquid to his
lips. The Bar in blue turned.
"Aye," he said. "Give him some of the liquor; it will do him good.
It will put the old energy back in his bones."
The voice rang oddly familiar in Watson's ears. The words were
Thomahlian; not until Chick had drained his glass did he
comprehend their significance.
"Who are you?" he asked.
The Bar with the red hair grinned.
"Whist, me lad," using Chick's own tongue. "Get rid of these
Thomahlians. 'Tis a square game we're playin', but we're takin' no
chances. Get 'em out of the way so we kin talk."
Watson turned to the others. He made the request in his adopted
tongue. They bowed, reverently, and withdrew.
"Who are you?" Chick asked again.
"Oi'm Pat MacPherson."
"How did you get here?"
The other sat on the edge of the bed. "Faith, how kin Oi tell ye?
'Twas a drink, sor; a new kind av a high-ball, th' trickery av a
friend an' th' ould Witch av Endor put togither."
Obviously Watson did not understand. The stranger continued:
"Faith, sor, an' no more do Oi. There's no one as does, 'cept th'
ould doc hisself."
"The old doc! You mean Dr. Holcomb?"
Watson sat up in his bed. "Where is he?"
"In a safe place, me lad. Dinna fear for th' doctor. 'Twas him as
saved ye--him an' your humble sarvant, Pat MacPherson, bedad."
"He--and you--saved me?"
"Aye--there on th' Spot of Life. A bit of a thrick as th' ould doc
dug oot o' his wisdom. Sure, she dinna work jist loike he said it,
but 'twas a plenty t' oopset th' pretty Senestro!"
Watson asked, "What became of the Senestro?"
"Sure, they pulled him oot. Th' wee doggie jist aboot had him done
for. Bedad, she's a good pup!"
"What kind of a dog?"
"A foine wan, sor, wit a bit stub av a tail. An' she's that
intelligent, she kin jist about talk Frinch. Th' Thomahlians all
called her th' Four-footed, an' if they kape on, they'll jist
aboot make her th' Pope."
Watson was still thick headed. "I don't understand!"
"Nor I laddie. But th' ould doc does. He's got a foine head for
figgers; and' he's that scientific, he kin make iron oot o'
"Iron out of--what?"
"Rainbows, sor. Faith, 'tis meself thot's seen it. And he's been
watchin' over ye ever since ye came. 'Twas hisself, lad, that put
it into your head t' call him th' Jarados."
"You don't mean to say that the professor put those impulses into
"Aye, laddie; you said it. He kin build up a man's thoughts just
like you or me kin pile oop lumber. 'Tis that deep he is wit' th'
Watson tried to think. There was just one superlative question
now. He put it.
"I dinna know if he's th' Jarados," was the reply. "But if so be
not, then he's his twin brother, sure enough."
"Is he a prisoner?"
"I wouldna say that, though there's them as think so. But if it be
anybody as is holdin' him, 'tis the Senestro an' his gang o'
Watson looked at the other's uniform, at the purple shako on his
head, the jewelled weapon at his side, and the Jaradic leaf on his
shoulder--insignia of a Bar of the highest rank.
"How does it come that you're a Bar, and a high one at that?"
The other grinned again. He took off his shako and ran his hand
through his mop of red hair.
"'Tis aither th' luck of th' Irish, me lad, or of th' Scotch. Oi
don't ken which--Oi'm haff each--but mostly 'tis th' virtoo av me
bonny red hair."
"Because, leastways, in th' Thomahlia, there's always a dhrop av
royalty in th' red-headed. Me bonnie top-knot has made me a
fortune. Ye see, 'tis th' mark av th' royal Bars themselves; no
ithers have it."
Watson said: "If you have come from Dr. Holcomb, then you must
have a message from him to me."
"Ye've said it; you an' me, an' a few Rhamdas, an' mebbe th' wee
queen is goin' t' take a flight in th' June Bug. We're goin'
afther th' ould doc; an' ye kin bet there'll be as pretty a scrap
as ever ye looked on. An' afther thot's all over, we're goin' t'
take anither kind of a flight--into good old Frisco."
Chick instantly asked Pat if he knew where San Francisco might be.
"Faith, 'tis only th' ould doc knows, laddie. But when we git
there, 'tis Pat MacPherson that's a goin' for Toddy Maloney."
"I don't know that name."
"Bedad, I do. Him it was thot give me th' dhrink."
Th' dhrink thot done it. Twas a new kind av cocktail. Ye see, I'd
jist got back from Melbourne, an' I was takin' in th' lights that