Once the vessel safely reaches port , the charted course can be cleared and the map can be reclaimed by any officer. To set sail to Atlantis, all pirates aboard must either hold a bravery badge or be subscribed. On the Dark Seas , a badge is not required to participate. Upon entering the sea battle board, a vessel will start in an entrance zone to the top-right or bottom-left of the board.
Treasure Haul sites can be found on the Atlantean Attack board, marked by the masts of sunken ships. The puzzle is played as normal, except for the addition of a 2x2 chest. If the chest piece is cleared to the top of the Treasure Haul board, a treasure chest is transferred to the Booty and its contents will be distributed to the players during booty division. The chests have either one, two, or three padlocks, with 3-lock chests called Antediluvian chests providing the best booty.
At any time in an Atlantis outpost battle, Atlantean dragoons may board a player's ship. The rate at which dragoons board the ship is increasing with its size and by not using movement tokens. These dragoons will challenge players aboard to a swordfight , which will include a new piece, the aqua trident. If the players win, the dragoon will exit the ship. However, if the player loses, the dragoon will remain aboard and attempt to take over the vessel. Additional dragoons will board over time, up to the number of players aboard the ship.
If the number of Dragoons equals or exceeds the number of players aboard the ship, everyone on board receives a message reading: "Arr! Those pesky Dragoons be wanting yer ship! All hands join the fight to save the vessel! If the players win, the Dragoons leave. However, if the Dragoons win, they take over the ship and throw the players overboard. All effects take place as if the vessel had been sunk. Another challenge of Atlantis is to sink or avoid the sea monsters which spawn throughout the board.
They will attempt to sink or trap player ships, preventing the players from hauling treasure or defend against dragoons. A trike board is an Atlantis board where the dominant monster battled is a triketos. Atlantean command citadels will sometimes rise from beneath the surface to coordinate an attack. If no ships enter the citadel within 25 turns of it rising, it will dive beneath the surface again. If a ship is navigated into the U shaped building, it will be protected from attacks from outside, and will be thrown into a ship wide swordfight fray which also uses the new trident piece.
If the citadel is defeated, treasure chests of varying quality are awarded to the ship and the citadel dives beneath the surface leaving the ship to defend itself against the waiting sea monsters. If the ship loses the citadel simply dives without giving any reward.
Upon entering the Citadel, all players aboard the ship get a message saying, " All hands join in the fight to defeat the strangers and loot their treasure. Certain clothing items , trinkets , furniture items , and injuries can only be obtained during a Sea Monster Hunt in Atlantis. On rare occasions, pets and familiars are awarded. Some of these items are given out in the hauled treasure chests and some are given upon the ship sinking.
In addition to being able to obtain numerous standard clothing items in the Atlantis-exclusive color Atlantean, Atlantean helmets in both male and female are given out as prize items from the hauled treasure chests. These are just a few examples. It is also possible to win an atlantean chroma , which may be used to change a single color on a single item of clothing to atlantean. As of release , pirates could receive an Atlantean species of familiar called " Ippolito ".
This familiar is only found in Atlantis, and pirates may receive one during booty division of treasure chests. They are available in seven known colors: aqua, atlantean, black, blue, light blue, navy and white. Atlantean octopus statue. As of release , a new injury exclusive to Atlantis became available upon sinking while on a Sea Monster Hunt: a starfish clinging to the pirate's face.
This "injury" is available for use in portraits and may be removed by a potion from the apothecary. As of release , pirates could receive an Atlantean species of crab called " Karkinos ". This pet is only found in Atlantis, and pirates may receive one during booty division of Treasure chests. They can come in any of the four shades of blue, with gold, silver or bronze filigree.
Atlantean-themed trinkets and standard trinkets in the Atlantean color palette are available from treasure chests. Personal tools Log in. Views Page Discuss this page View source History. Atlantis From YPPedia. Atlantis league point. What is that? A strange booming sound was coming across the wilderness of swamp and rock.
It was like the beating of a drum and the blowing of horns, and it seemed to be here, there, and everywhere at once. It rose and fell on the heavy air; it seemed to be above, below, around. It sounded inside the queer old hulks; it sounded as though it were underneath them; it seemed to rise out of the very weed. But Ray and Peter saw that their enemies heard and recognized the noise, and that it instilled fear into their hearts; for signs of uneasiness began to show amongst them. A few moments later, and the "executioners" flung down their swords and dashed away towards their boats; and then began a rush on the part of the rest of the soldiers which quickly developed, despite the efforts of their officers, into a mad, unreasoning panic.
THE panic-stricken stampede of their enemies was viewed by Ray with astonishment, which increased as the minutes went on and he still saw nothing to account for it. More surprising still, however, was it to see some of those who had made for the boats in such reckless fashion, turn suddenly back before they had reached them, and attempt to fly in another direction.
Two streams of fugitives, thus meeting, became jammed together, and began fighting with each other to get a clear road. Can you distinguish what it is? Don't you think we might take advantage of their panic to cut across yonder and set our friends at liberty? It may turn out to be a false alarm, and then they will swarm back upon us again! The boats—our boats—are turning back again! They have seen that something has happened! Let us make an effort to loose our friends and stand by them till help comes. They quietly gained the deck, and stole cautiously but quickly forward in the direction of the vessel upon which their friends were still lying tightly bound in the place where their enemies had left them.
They sped across the ship they were on, scrambled on to the next without attracting attention, and managed to negotiate a third in a like manner without mishap. There was then but one more between them and the point they were making for. Upon that one, however, Dyossa was engaged with some others in the rear of his flying men, vainly endeavouring to rally them. He happened to turn and catch sight of the two lads just as they were stealing past, some forty yards or so behind him. With a loud yell of rage, and calling upon those nearest to him to follow, he sprang after them.
There is a long score to be settled between us; but still the fault will be his own if he compels a settlement now. For a moment, Dyossa stopped and glared upon Peter, who kept him covered with his revolver. Then, finding that two of his officers were at his side in support, he rushed madly forward, his naked sword in his hand, and murder in his eye. Three shots rang out—for Ray had remained to support his friend—and the three reckless assailants fell upon the deck. At once those who had been trying to stay the retreat gave up the attempt and joined in the rout, and as they pressed upon the rear of the fugitives, the two lads were left alone with the three fallen leaders.
Peter, walking up to Dyossa, whom he had wounded in the shoulder, looked down, and addressed him in his own tongue:. The account between us stands upon somewhat fairer terms from to-day! Wert thou in my place thou wouldst spit upon me and spurn me! As things are, I shall merely take from thee what I know thou prizest most. I want a sword and dagger badly; henceforth I shall have thine to remind me of thee!
To Ray he said: "The spoils to the victor! I take these things, not because they are jewelled and valuable, but because it is considered a great disgrace amongst these gentry to be deprived of their side-arms. He would far rather I should kill him. I prefer to let him live—in disgrace. Now let us hurry on. He buckled Dyossa's costly belt round his own waist, and hung upon it the sword and dagger. Two or three minutes afterwards they were bending over their friends, cutting their bonds, and helping to rub their stiffened limbs and assist them on to their feet. There was no time for explanation.
Among the other vessels of the group a great uproar was now going on which told that a battle of the fiercest character was raging upon the decks and round their sides. Yells, cries, shouts, mingled now and again with a sort of war-whoop—or rather war-shriek—of an absolutely blood-curdling character, that told that there were now other parties engaged in the proceedings besides their late assailants.
Ray and his companions mounted the high poop of the vessel they were on, and the two lads climbed higher still, upon some spars, to obtain a view, and from their perches looked down upon a scene of so wild, so extraordinary a character, that they were almost inclined to believe they were the victims of some nightmarish hallucination.
Swarming around the old hulks were large numbers of fantastic, queer-looking creatures, of whom it was virtually impossible to say to what classification in natural history they belonged. Their bodies were covered with a thick, seal-like fur, which, upon the head, and in places such as the elbows and thighs, grew into long, shaggy tufts or tresses. From the waist upwards their bodies were small, with very long arms; but below the waist the limbs developed enormously, resembling more the legs of frogs or kangaroos than those of human beings, or even apes.
The feet were long, thin, flat and—as was afterwards seen—webbed. As a consequence of this curious formation, these odd beings were most at home in the water or on the surface of the weed and floating vegetation. Upon the latter they could progress at a marvellous rate by a series of flying leaps from one mass of floating weed to another; while in the water they appeared to be veritable man-frogs, diving, swimming, sporting in it as only frogs or fish could do. Ray and his companion gazed upon these weird creatures in amazement, which had in it some touch of awe.
They felt considerable alarm, too, as to what was to happen if they should turn their attention to themselves, as presently no doubt they would. For the time, however, they seemed disposed to confine their hostility to the soldiers who had been attacking the party from the yacht. Of these, there had been originally, perhaps, nearly a hundred, which number had been reduced by something like a dozen in the encounters which had taken place, so that there were still about eighty left to deal with the new arrivals.
But the whole body had given way to utter panic and had lost their discipline, and now that their chief officers had been placed hors de combat they were a mere mob of armed men. Even so, however, they were—or might have been—a formidable force for another mob of creatures to attack armed only with what seemed to be long fish-spears. But the uncanny assailants made up in agility and ferocity, in dexterity and lightning-like quickness—not to speak of their numbers, which must have been many hundreds—for what they lacked in other ways; and it was soon evident that the armed men were getting the worst of it.
Some of them tried to escape in their boats, but new enemies arose out of the weed on all sides, leaped recklessly into the vessels and capsized them; and, once in the water, the soldiers had small chance indeed against their amphibious adversaries. New enemies arose out of the weed on every side, and the soldiers had small chance against their amphibious assailants. All this, Ray and Peter, as has been said, watched with amazement. Where these creatures had sprung from was a question which puzzled them not a little.
They saw, however, that each one carried, in addition to a long spear, a curiously-shaped sea- shell, which they would put to their mouths at intervals, and with it produce those weird, booming sounds, which had so surprised the two youths, and so alarmed their attackers. It now became apparent that these sounds were made for various distinct purposes and objects. Some were like words of command, and directed and governed all their combined movements; others were emitted by individual combatants, as might be cries of encouragement, or like the sound of trumpets or the skirl of the pipes, to inspirit the fighters.
Beyond all this, however, the attention of the onlookers was attracted to one strange figure—evidently a human being, and a big, stalwart one at that—who seemed to be the lord, or, at least, the supreme controller and director, of this extraordinary host. Clad in a most fantastic garb, which looked something like such a dress as a madman might evolve out of seaweed, shells, and similar marine productions, he was a most grotesque and, in some respects, outlandish figure.
Yet, as he stood on the high stern of one of the hulks, directing, with a long stick, or wand, the movements of his strange host, there was in his actions a curious suggestion of mingled dignity and power. He did not shout, but made his commands known either by signs, or by the sound of his shell horn, which had so deep a note that its booming could be plainly heard above all the others.
The name signifies 'Wolves of the Weed. Who he is I cannot tell you exactly; but his very name is dreaded throughout the whole country; though, to tell you the truth, I have always regarded him as more or less of a myth—as one might William Tell, or King Arthur. If this is he, however, it is evident that he is very much alive. He and his friends seem to have about settled our enemies for us; they've captured or killed every mother's son of 'em, so far as I can see! I fancy that Father Neptune yonder—he looks very like some of the old pictures of the sea-god—has sense enough to distinguish between us and those who were our enemies as much as his.
Besides, the boats are creeping up, and will be alongside in a few minutes. Sure enough, the boats were now almost within hail, and Captain Warren was signalling to them to hurry. He is making signs—friendly ones, if I read them aright! Now, at last, I suppose, I shall learn something certain about this wonderful Rulonda, of whom I have heard legends and tales during the whole time I have lived in this country.
Shall I go? I suppose I had better be the one to beard this oyster in his shell, as I know the language—". This met with objection from both Warren and the doctor, but after a brief discussion, Ray got his own way, and the two started once more across the interlocked vessels, just as two boats from the yacht drew up alongside the first one. They passed, on their way, the place where the three officers had fallen, and noted that they were no longer there. We must inquire into that, by and by, though"—he added bitterly—"if the positions had been reversed, we should have been left to die and rot without a second thought.
As they approached the spot where the strange being was awaiting them, they passed numbers of his followers, whom the lads looked at with the liveliest curiosity. They were standing about in groups, some in charge of gangs of prisoners—all bound, by the way, with thongs that bore a striking resemblance to dried or tanned sea-weed—or leaning idly on the bulwarks. They returned the curious looks the youths cast at them, but otherwise made no sign. For a minute or two intervening obstacles hid the leader from the lads' view, and when finally they scrambled up on to the high, crumbling deck from which he had directed the operations, they paused in surprise.
No grotesque burlesque of a sea-god was there, but a fine, handsome-looking man, over six feet in height, clad in plain, armour, not jewelled or inlaid, like that of Dyossa and the others, but very serviceable and business-like withal. His figure was powerfully built, almost that of a giant in its proportions, his hair and beard were iron-grey, his eyes keen and alert as those of an eagle, his face changeful in expression, one moment seeming stern and hard, the next altering to most winning kindliness.
The two young ambassadors stood and stared at this unexpected apparition in astonishment, which was not by any means lessened when the stranger addressed them in English. Peter started to hear himself thus spoken to, and he stared hard at the speaker, trying to make out whether he had ever seen him before, but failing to recognize his features.
Peter once more looked hard at his questioner before answering. The face was rugged and seamed, and it bore traces, he thought, of suffering; it was full, too, of a certain king-like dignity and pride; but over and above all these traits the lad seemed to detect something that won at once his respect and his confidence, and he returned softly:.
So you two lads are on a quixotic expedition with a cockle-shell like yonder boat, to rescue your brother out of the power of the priests of the Temple of Fire, eh? A whole nation—small, no doubt, and lacking in firearms, but otherwise well armed and disciplined, boasting of fanatical courage and devotion to their leaders and their gods, ruthless and merciless if you fail and become their captives!
Peter looked at him doubtfully, scarcely knowing how to take this strange being, who knew so much and yet revealed nothing about himself. But as he looked into his face, and saw there again that indefinable expression which had won his confidence at the first glance, a sudden impulse seized him.
He clasped his hands, and exclaimed, in a broken voice:. But, sir, you surely can advise, can help us? Will you aid me? Will you tell me if you know of any way in which it may be possible to rescue my brother, and will you show me that way if you know of one? Do not keep me in suspense, I pray of you, but tell me whether, in your view, it is possible or impossible!
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The tears were in Peter's eyes, and sobs in his voice, and he hardly dared to look in the face of the stranger, fearing to read there the refusal he dreaded. But we must act promptly, for the time is short. This day month is the great festival of the Priests of the Temple of Fire, at which there will be many captives sacrificed to their gods—and in particular to the great monster they call the Sacred Salamander.
A month did you say? Only one month? What, alas! A large number of trustworthy men, filled with hatred and disgust against the wicked, bloodthirsty rule of this hierarchy who have usurped the power and position of the rightful ruler of the land, have banded themselves together and only await my signal to turn on their oppressors. But we want stronger help—the assistance, I mean, of a force used to carry firearms, and such a force you have here in the 'Kestrel'—that is, Mr.
Ray, if Mr. Lonsdale, your father, has given permission or authority—". From the manner in which you bore yourself to-day, under very trying circumstances, I am sure you are worthy to be the son of one I know to be brave and loyal, and whom I greatly respect. I saw the whole affair to- day—watched the approach of the yacht and recognized her. I also saw the ambuscade that was planned; but I could then only send out messengers to my faithful friends, whom you now see around me.
Unseen by you or by your lurking enemies, my messengers went forth on every side, and brought in their fellows, for they can travel through the weed like veritable eels, showing no sign upon the surface to any but one accustomed to their movements. We shall have their assistance in our further plans; and I may here tell you that as scouts and auxiliaries, wherever there is water, they will be invaluable. Thus, with their aid added to that of those I first spoke of, and the co- operation of the yacht and her crew, I do not think we need despair of overthrowing the atrocious gang who are at present the ruling power in this ancient, but now unfortunate, country!
But she now travelled more quickly, for she was steered by the mysterious stranger who had interposed in so timely and effectual a fashion between the adventurers and their crafty enemies. His evident familiarity with the channels, and the energy he displayed in making and carrying out his plans, inspired all those on the yacht with confidence and hopefulness, even though it might be the case that one or two—Captain Warren in particular, who, like all skippers, desired always to be "first fiddle" on the vessel he commanded—were inclined to resent his masterful manner. But, if so inclined, they nevertheless thought better of it, and kept it to themselves, for there was that about this stranger which spread abroad the idea that he was not to be lightly crossed.
In tow of the yacht was a string of boats—or barges, to speak more exactly—those, namely, which had been captured from the enemy. In these the prisoners were placed, all securely bound, and guarded by squads of the uncanny-looking "Wolves of the Weed. Numbers of these amphibious beings accompanied the progress of the yacht, swarming about her on every side like a lot of gigantic frogs, leaping from tuft to tuft of the weed, or swimming, diving, and sporting in the water, easily keeping up with her, though she was now going at a good speed.
Many more, it was understood, had gone on far ahead to patrol the whole channel till open water was reached, and to give timely notice if any danger should threaten. During the passage of this channel Rulonda—so it appeared the stranger was named, as Peter had divined—gave to the others a brief outline of his plans, and of the present position of affairs in the country. The whole country, he averred, was, in very truth, what was left above water of the lost Island of Atlantis. That great island—or the greater part of it—had sunk beneath the waves thousands of years ago, and the rocks and shallows, but a few feet below the surface, upon which the vast expanse of weed was rooted, were nothing more or less than what had formerly been dry land—a land smiling with fertility and abundance.
When the general subsidence had taken place the mountain tops of the central portion alone remained above water, forming, as it were, a group of islands which to-day were still there, though the extraordinary growth of weed on all sides had shut them in, and caused their very existence to be unknown to the outside world. Again, the vast island—or continent—called Atlantis had been inhabited, at the time of this subsidence, not by one nation, but by several different peoples, living together in a commonwealth.
Hence, to-day, the descendants of those who survived the great catastrophe were still divided into three or four nations, and these did not dwell together, but inhabited between them several islands known by different names. Of these one island was still called Atlantis, and its people were supposed to be the true descendants of the ancient Atlantians. Another was named Cashia; and the people of this country had invaded and conquered Atlantis, and were now holding its inhabitants in bondage, under the tyrannous yoke of a confederacy of priests; a sect of fire-worshippers, whose chief place of worship was a hollow mountain in the Island of Cashia known as the "Mountain of Fire" The real rulers of the whole region, therefore, were the Cashians and their priests; and these were the people who had been making piratical raids and capturing stray vessels, in search partly of captives to sacrifice to their gods, and partly of firearms, which, as a means of overawing those they were oppressing, they greatly valued.
These raids had only been rendered possible by the opening during the last few years of two main channels through the weed, one to the north and the other to the south-west The piratical expeditions always used the latter; and the northern channel—the one the yacht was then in—was at present almost entirely unused, though there had been some talk of building artificial obstructions across it, as a defence against possible incursions from the outer world.
That is, if you have the courage to run the danger of going with me, in a disguise which I can procure, to the Temple of Fire, and mingling with the concourse of people there. It is said that they are the descendants of escaped slaves who, in former days—how many hundreds or thousands of years ago none can say—escaped from their masters and lived a precarious life amongst inaccessible swamps and morasses. Then their physical development must have changed and become more suitable to the life they were leading, until they were what you now see them.
Yet, as you perceive, I have found them amenable to kindness; and towards myself, once they gained confidence, they have always proved most faithful, devoted, dog-like friends. As the afternoon wore on the yacht neared the end of the channel, and then a halt was made until darkness had fallen. From the place where the pause was made, the end of the channel could be seen, and, beyond it, a wide space of open water with hazy outlines of high lying land in the distance. Then, when night had closed in, she stole out of the region of weed into the open water, and made her way across it without showing any lights, till within easy distance of the opposite shore, where another and longer halt was made.
A boat took the two lads—for Ray had begged to be allowed to join in the adventure—to shore in charge of the stranger; and they first visited a fisherman's hut where certain disguises were, as it appeared, kept in readiness. Rulonda put on a loose fisherman's costume, and then assisted to dress his young friends in similar dress, and instructed them in their behaviour; after which the three set out, accompanied by the fisherman himself— quite a young fellow, named Kubis—upon their dangerous mission.
An hour and a half's walking over rough ground brought them to the base of the mountain they were seeking, and after some further climbing, they reached a cave rather more than half way up. Here, for the first time, they met with two human beings; for so far they had encountered no one. At a word from Kubis the two men, who appeared to be sentinels or watchmen, opened an iron gate, and the four passed through into an underground passage, which they traversed by the aid of a lantern carried by the fisherman.
Other gates were passed, and other galleries traversed until, quite suddenly and unexpectedly, the party emerged from the last one on to a terrace, where there burst upon their view a marvellous scene. THEY looked down upon a vast domed enclosure or theatre-like interior. It was, in fact, as Rulonda had explained beforehand, the inside of a great hollow mountain, but its resemblance to a colossal theatre was remarkable. Below them numbers of gaily-dressed people were walking to and fro, or engaged in talk or various amusements.
Then there was a clear space that separated these throngs from what was not unlike a spacious stage raised a few feet above the rest of the enclosure—but in reality a platform of solid rock. At the back of this descended with a deafening roar what appeared to be a cascade of living fire, flashing, sparkling, scintillating, coruscating in millions of points of light.
In the centre of the belt dividing the platform from the side where the promenaders were was a large basin covered with a sort of cage, the bars of which appeared to be of gold, and were placed two or three feet apart. From out of this basin, through the bars, leaped upwards a fountain of fire, which rose and fell, reaching at times a height of thirty or forty feet, then falling to no more than ten feet, and anon rising suddenly again to twenty or thirty.
On either side of the main fiery cascade at the back other smaller ones fell, scattering brilliant particles in all directions, while across the whole scene floated soft clouds of white or ruddy-tinted smoke or haze, which gave to the whole a very weird and almost unearthly effect. What, however, seemed most surprising in tins strange scene, was that, upon the platform, white robed figures were seen, evidently priests, who walked to and fro in the midst of the cataracts of falling fire, seemingly none the worse for the fiery avalanche which fell upon and around them.
Suddenly, through the golden bars of the central basin a long, slender, wriggling, serpent-like shape was seen, swaying and twisting and turning this way and that, as though hungrily seeking for prey. Then a second similar shape appeared upon the opposite side, and between them a third, all pendulous, and swaying and playing about with a sinuous motion horrible to look upon; while all the time the fiery fountain rose and fell, and the sparkling drops tumbled about, some of them falling upon the twisting, snaky coils, glistening on them for an instant, and then slipping from them on to the rocky floor, whence they trickled in little shimmering streams into a rushing river, which disappeared into the rocky wall at the side.
The victims destined for sacrifice are driven within its reach, and it drags them through the bars and devours them within. Can it be possible? It seems to me—". But here further talk was interrupted, for their attention was called to a commotion below. It was caused by the entrance of the prisoners themselves—the victims destined to be given to the horrible monster in the great cage—who were dressed in white, with flowers wreathed round their heads and bodies, after the custom, as it seemed, that obtained in ancient Mexico in the case of victims similarly doomed.
Ray gazed with interest and sympathy at the flower-decked figures of the unhappy prisoners destined to be the victims of the cruel rites of the priestly rulers of the place. He had no difficulty in picking out Peter's brother, for there was a striking likeness between the two. Oliver was, indeed, in many respects but a smaller edition, so to speak, of his elder brother; but his face was wanting in the strong character and determination that marked Peter's lineaments. Instead, there was a look of boyish innocents which, in the circumstances in which the poor lad was placed, was singularly pathetic and touching.
Ray was full of distress as he looked from one brother to the other, and he gave Peter's hand a friendly grasp as he whispered:. You can count on me to the very last! I don't wonder now that you risked everything to come back to try and save him from such fiends! Peter said nothing, but only returned the kindly pressing of the hand.
But he breathed hard and his face was set and very white. Rulonda, too, gazed down with a hard, grim look upon his fine features. He pointed to three of the white-robed priests who stood and conversed apart from the rest, and in a low tone that sounded, Ray thought, not unlike the half-suppressed growl of an angry lion, said:. Even the terrible creature in the great cage should be less repulsive, less hateful in the sight of ordinary human beings than those three—for it does but kill, after its own fashion, to satisfy its natural hunger; whereas these three atrocious wretches seem to commit their abominable misdeeds merely to gratify an unnatural appetite for cruelty!
Ha, my friends, you have had your day! But the hour of your punishment is approaching; and when it comes I know I shall be here to witness it! His look had become fixed, and had a dreamy, far-away expression in it that made him appear almost like an inspired prophet denouncing the wickedness and predicting the fate of the wicked ones whom Heaven had doomed.
Then, seeming to suddenly rouse himself, he made signs to his companions to follow him, and led the way from the terrace back to the galleries through which they had come. They traversed many more passages, and descended several flights of steps, meeting no one on their way, till they emerged again into the open air. Ray noticed that the door through which they finally came out was most cunningly made to resemble the rock with which it was surrounded. As they passed through it, someone inside, whom he had not seen, pulled it to, and then it was almost impossible to find it again.
In fact, he occupied himself, while Rulonda was talking in an undertone with his young fisherman friend, in trying to make out exactly where the door was, and utterly tailed to find the slightest trace of it. After an interval of a minute or two, Rulonda turned to Ray. But, as you can understand, it is a proceeding attended with grave danger. If we are discovered we shall find ourselves in a very tight place, and either be torn to pieces on the spot or added to the number of the priests' prospective victims. It is not necessary for our plans that you should run this risk; you can return with our young friend Kubis, while Peter and I go on.
What say you, my lad? But Ray would not hear of going back. Wherever Peter ventured there he meant to go too, he declared; and so, after a few more words of warning and instruction as to their behaviour, they parted from the friendly fisherman, and set out upon their hazardous mission. They skirted the base of the mountain, and soon came to signs of the district they entered being inhabited. First there were huts and cottages, then larger dwellings, and shortly a glow in the sky and a low hum, which grew louder as they advanced, indicating that they were approaching a populous city—the city called Cashia, Rulonda said.
Presently they found themselves passing along broad and well- lighted streets, and the buildings became larger and finer till, quite suddenly, as it seemed, they turned a corner, and reached the waterside. Here Ray gazed about him in amaze. They stood upon what seemed to be the seashore. In front of them, the calm and still, extended for a great distance, till it was lost in the darkness beyond.
To right and to left a broad promenade stretched along the shore with a bold sweep, and behind this, again, rose noble palaces of gleaming white marble, surrounded by beautiful gardens, where glistening fountains could be seen playing amidst flowers and foliage. Graceful, waving palms stood out, here and there, amidst clumps of smaller trees; terraces and flights of steps rose, one behind the other, many lighted by braziers, from which dancing flames leaped upwards into the flower-scented air.
Ray would fain have stayed awhile to look upon the marvellous scene, but Rulonda, with a significant pressure of his hand upon his shoulder, led him on. It was indeed evident that the inhabitants were all making their way in one direction, and to have stood still or gone another way would have attracted attention. Everyone seemed bent upon the same thing; richly dressed nobles, officers, and soldiers in shining armour, poor fisher-folk, slaves—all mingled in a crowd that moved along the sea-front to some fixed destination, leaving empty and untenanted alike the gardens on the shore and the great gilded pleasure-barges and other vessels which were scattered about upon the water.
Soon Ray saw what it was they were all making for. They turned from the shore into a wide road, or rather grove, which ran at right angles from the sea in a straight line, rising all the way, to the massive base of the Mountain of Fire, which could now be seen rising, dim and mysterious, into the upper air. The towering mass was curiously illumined by strange flashes of lurid light which came and went and flickered about first in one place then in another, now high amongst the clouds, a moment later flitting amongst the trees which covered the base.
In the centre—that is to say, at the end of the long vista of road—rose two colossal gates flanked on either side by columns of luminous smoke or vapour, which soared up the face of the mountain, and from which the constant lurid flashes seemed to proceed. Rulonda hurried his companions along still faster, and they pressed forward amongst the crowd, which seemed to get denser the farther they went. When they arrived at the great gates they were jostled amongst a crush of people who pressed round the stalls of flower-sellers just within the entrance.
Here everyone purchased some floral device and carried it with him into the temple. Ray felt very much as though he were in a dream. There was a nightmarish feeling about the whole affair, so utterly different had everything turned out from what he had expected.
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He was borne along with the rest and found himself beside a sort of counter at a flower-stall, whereon were all sorts of quaint devices and designs made up out of flowers of the greatest beauty and fragrance. Rulonda purchased some of these and distributed part of them among his two companions, after which they pressed on through inner chambers and another pair of massive gates till they reached the great central hall upon which they had already looked down from the terrace above.
Here the scene was very much as they had seen it before—the fiery cascades fell with a continuous roar sending glittering particles flying about on all sides, the central fountain spurted its gleaming, feathery streams into the air, the seething river rushed past, tumbling and foaming in its bed and reflecting the light around. The long, twisting, snake- like tentacles shot out through the bars of the golden cage at irregular intervals, with the same hungry seeking prey; the miserable captives, doomed to be its helpless victims, standing about in groups in the enclosure between what may be termed the auditorium or great body of the hall, and the platform of rock that stretched across in front of the shining cataracts.
Rulonda, followed by his companions, made his way which through the throng till the three stood beside the railings which shut off the prisoners' enclosure. These railings were high and close, spiked at the top, and very strong and solid, yet apparently were of gold. Through the bars the crowd outside stared at the captives as they were marched to and fro under the charge of gaolers, much, as people at home stare at rare animals in a menagerie.
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Instead of offering them cakes or biscuits, however, they here proffered flowers, which some of the prisoners took and added to those they already had, or handed them over to their attendants. Many, however, fell unheeded upon the ground, which became strewed with them. Some of the doomed prisoners, of whom there were now fully half a hundred assembled within the enclosure, behaved as though the contemplation of the terrible fate in store for them had driven them crazy, and they laughed and danced and sang in boisterous fashion.
Frequently the spectators offered them drinks and fruit as well as flowers. Others of the unfortunates seemed stunned, and sat about by themselves, staring straight in front of them as if in a kind of trance. Others, again, moved quietly about in groups of two or three engaged in conversation and doing their best to cheer each other. Amongst these last Peter's brother could be seen, He was walking beside Warren's friend Keene, and was listening in somewhat listless fashion to his companion, but his drooping head and haggard looks indicated that his thoughts were not following very intently the subject of their talk.
He was, indeed, just then thinking of his brother, and wondering if the news that had reached him could be true. Only an hour or two before a slave who had been with the party which had attacked the yacht had been telling Oliver of Peter's escape from the galley, without, however, being able to say whether he had finally got clear away or been drowned in the attempt. A wreath fell at Oliver's feet; but he scarcely noticed it, and was about to push it aside with his foot out of his path, when Keene stayed the movement and, stooping, picked it up. His quick eye had caught the flutter of a bit of white paper tied amongst the flowers.
Surprised that he should take so much trouble about what was so common an occurrence—for every night flowers were thrown into the enclosure, until at times the captives could scarcely walk about for them—Oliver raised his eyes and met his brother's burning gaze fixed upon him. So unexpected was this re-encounter that Oliver fancied for a moment it must be a hallucination; or, he asked himself, had Peter indeed been drowned, and was this his spirit come back to—. The lad's head swam; he felt sick and dizzy, and he might have fallen had not Keene's strong arm been just then put through his.
How he got here and why he has come I can't imagine; but there is a note amongst these flowers which will probably explain. Pick up another thingumybob and pull the flowers off, as I am doing with this, and do not pause in your walk or look round. Thus admonished and advised, Oliver recovered his presence of mind, and the two continued their walk for a while, never daring even to glance at the place where Peter had been standing.
Nor could Keene get a chance to read the note which he had taken from the wreath while apparently engaged in idly picking off the flowers and throwing them about, just as Oliver was now doing with another floral device.
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Gradually the two drew near to the rails, but at a point some distance from the spot where Peter had been. Then, still toying with the flowers, and not daring to trust himself to look round, Oliver stood with his back to the rails apparently interested in his talk with his companion. He expected that Peter would saunter up and watch for an opportunity of speaking; and in this he was not disappointed, for he presently heard his voice just behind him.
We have a well-armed yacht and stout friends to help us. So keep up your courage. We mean to rescue you or die with you, and—". The rest of the message was drowned in a noise which had arisen in another part of the hall. There were cries and shouts, and they sounded of an angry, vengeful character.
The commotion grew, and a small group rushed from somewhere upon the platform. In their midst was Dyossa, the officer Peter had wounded. He looked first this way and then that, his eyes blazing with rage and fury, till at last he caught sight of Rulonda and his two young companions, and pointed them out. And with a perfect howl of frenzied passion he led the rush of shouting people who darted forward to carry out his words. Not that resistance could possibly have been of any use in the face of the odds they had against them.
It afterwards appeared that some soldiers had been watching their movements suspiciously, and at the very first suggestion of something being wrong these worthies had thrown themselves upon the strangers and prevented them from drawing their arms. After the first struggle—for there was a short, sharp tussle—it is not in human nature to yield, even to overwhelming force, without some sort of a struggle—a great cry of surprise and triumph went up from the captors of the three. Their exultation was not due to the recapture of Peter—that was rather a sort of private affair apparently affecting Dyossa chiefly—nor was it the seizure of a young stranger like Ray; it was inspired by the discovery that one of their prisoners was Rulonda.
Immediately the cry went up, "Rulonda! We have taken Rulonda! It was a pause which happened fortunately at the moment, for otherwise it seemed pretty certain, from the demeanour of Dyossa and his immediate followers, that they intended literally to carry out his orders, and tear their helpless prisoners limb from limb.
But on hearing the cry, "We have taken Rulonda! As his tall form pushed its way amongst them, the uplifted arm commanded silence, a great hush fell upon the assemblage. Bring them this way! And as he spoke there was an evil light in his flashing eyes, a triumphant smile on the cruel mouth which boded no good for the prisoners. Rulonda stood up and faced him. He was tightly bound; yet, even so, there was a dignity in his bearing which struck Ray, who still looked upon the scene with the feeling that it was, somehow, all part of a dream, as forming a striking contrast to the arrogant and sneering demeanour of the priest.
Of the colloquy which followed Ray understood nothing, since it was conducted in the language of the country. But there was very little opportunity for speech; the excitement of the crowd was evidently at fever-heat, and not even the authority of the priests could check it after the first few moments. From all sides resounded howls and shouts, and the impatience of those around increased with every moment.
Well, we can die but once; and, since it must be so, I am content that I should lose my life in trying to save my brother. But with you it is different. It was I who persuaded you into this adventure, and—". Only they stipulate it must he done here, now, at once; none of your crafty promises of a grand festival 'battue' next week. They are greedy to see the sight forthwith—and forthwith it's going to be.
Peter's further speech was stopped by Dyossa, who came up to him, and striking him brutally on the face, demanded of him what he had done with his sword and dagger; and finding that no answer was forthcoming, ordered the soldiers who were in charge of him to search him and find them. But Peter had not brought them with him upon this risky expedition, and so the search would have proved a vain one had it been carried out; but the people howled again with such impatience that Belfendi gave the signal to drag the prisoners up on to the platform of rock, where was the cage which held the waiting "Sacred Salamander.
The order was carried out at once. The three were placed upon a spot well beyond the reach of the restless, writhing arms or tentacles of the horrible creature, their legs were unbound, and then tied again just sufficiently to admit of only a short, shuffling step.
And then they were left together, their arms still tightly tied up, and their guards hurriedly retreated. A moment or two later an encircling ring of metal network began to close in upon the doomed three on all sides, save that shut off by the river. There was no need, it was considered, for the netting, since the shackling of the victims prevented their attempting to escape by swimming.
By the crowd the glittering cascades were believed to be living fire, but Ray had already learned during their walk to the place they were only water, and that their fiery appearance was due to a remarkably high amount of phosphorus in the water. They came, Rulonda explained, from an underground lake high up on the mountain, the water of which was so highly charged with phosphorus that wherever it fell, when in motion, it seemed to burst into flame. The existence of the lake was a secret known only to the priests, who for countless generations had concealed the fact from the people and pretended that the glittering water was really a river of living fire, and that they themselves were able to go in and out amongst it unscathed, because they were the high priests of the god of fire.
The allusion was heightened by clouds of smoke or vapour which were to be constantly seen ascending both inside and outside the temple. This vapour, however, came from hidden fires which were never allowed to go out from year's end to year's end. Slowly the encircling network closed in upon the helpless victims, sweeping them onwards and causing them to shuffle closer and closer to those restless, hungry-looking "arms.
For the first time the full terror of his position took hold of the lad, and he became possessed by an overmastering horror. The howling and yelling of the bloodthirsty crowd, the irritating, triumphant, sneering smiles of Dyossa and the priests—these and all other incidental sights and sounds were forgotten, obliterated by the fascination that lay in the watchful stare of those baleful eyes. Ray felt himself swaying as though he were about to sink to the ground. A deadly feeling of nausea came over him, and a strong impulse seized upon him to rush forward to meet those waiting, snaky coils, and to end the intolerable horror of the thing.
But at that critical moment an unexpected diversion occurred. Out of the seething, glistening stream in which the reflection of the shining cascades looked almost like molten gold bubbling in a giant cauldron, there rose six figures—figures so weird and uncanny-looking that even the shouting throng became silent, and gazed at them in wondering astonishment. Little time was allowed them to recover from their first surprise.
Ere anyone there could move a hand to prevent it, these strange figures had rushed upon the intended victims, seized them, two to each shackled captive, carried them to the stream, and leaped with their burdens back into it, disappearing entirely from sight in what looked not unlike a shower of fireworks. Many of the onlookers rubbed their eyes and stared round in bewilderment, as though asking one another whether it was all true.
A minute ago the three helpless "sacrifices" had been standing on yonder rock, within a foot or so of the outstretched arms of the caged monster. It had certainly then seemed that no earthly power could save them. Few would have ventured close enough to those terrible, twisting coils to rescue them, even had the priests suddenly relented and ordered their minions to snatch them from their impending fate.
And yet—now—they were gone! They had vanished, and that so suddenly, so completely, that the spectators could scarcely trust themselves to say how the miracle had been accomplished. But a minute or two later a new uproar broke out. Screams of rage, and cries for vengeance on some one—any one, as it seemed— came from the disappointed mob.
Amidst cries of "Mecanoes! Belfendi, however, was in no mood to have his arrangements for the approaching great festival interfered with by a premature sacrifice of the prisoners he had collected and saved up for the occasion. So he took his measures promptly; they were all marched out of sight before the angry mob could scale the railings which shut them off.
Thus, for the time, they were saved, and the "Sacred Salamander" was left disappointed and hungry. Oliver and his friend in misfortune, Keene, marched away with glad, thankful hearts. What the scene had meant to the lad, who had been compelled to stand by and see his brother in such peril, can be better imagined than described. Now the poor boy forgot, for a time, the position in which he himself still remained, in his joy at Peter's escape.
For that the three had escaped none, either of the priests, or their followers, doubted. How it should have come about that those creatures which they hated and despised, yet feared—the fierce "Wolves of the Weed"—should appear thus as the friends and rescuers of their intended victims, they could by no manner of means understand.
But that the affair had meant a rescue they were fully convinced; and they all went back to their dwellings that night, in a tempest of impotent rage and disappointed fury.
WHEN the three helpless prisoners were seized upon by their strange rescuers, Ray, as has been said, had felt faint and sick from the feeling of horror engendered by the close contemplation of the horrible monster which he could see so plainly within its great cage. But the shock of the cool water, when he was plunged into the rushing river, quickly dissipated all such sensations, and recalled his wandering senses. He learned now to appreciate better than he had before the marvellous swimming powers of their amphibious friends.
Scarcely had they plunged into the boiling flood when he felt them, even while they were diving lower and yet lower, busily endeavouring to loosen his bonds; and, indeed, before they rose again he knew that he was free. But when they came to the surface all was darkness. He could see no glimmer of light to guide him or to afford an idea as to where they were or whither they were hurrying; for that they were speeding along at a great rate there could be no doubt.
He could hear the swishing of the racing current as it dashed against the rocks in its progress, and he guessed that they were now in an underground river running in a rocky bed, and doubtless with many great boulders in the channel. There were no phosphorescent gleams in this water to help them, and had he felt less confidence in his trusty guides he would have shrunk from the idea of threading such a channel in absolute darkness, and been in momentary expectation of having his brains dashed out against some stony obstacle.
But there was something in the mere touch of these strange friends, as they held him up in the surging flood, which instinctively gave him to understand that there was nothing to fear. Whether they were like cats, and could see in the dark, or how, if they could not, they were guiding their course, he did not stop to consider. He made no attempt at swimming himself; that, he instinctively felt, would be useless. The touch of his rescuers said to him as plainly as though they had spoken in words, "Trust everything to us and we will take care of you; but if you struggle or try to swim we can do nothing.
The voyage, however, was not a very long one. The race, already fast, soon became furious, the noises in the ears more deafening; there was a great, swinging heave, during which the grip of his unseen companions tightened in a manner that seemed intended to warn him to prepare for some critical ordeal, and just as, profiting by the hint, he drew in a great breath, and then closed his mouth, there was a wild, downward sweep, and they sank again deep into the swirling flood.
He knew that they were plunging down a waterfall. It was a long dive this time; so long that, for the first time since he had started on this queer journey, Ray began to have some misgiving. He did not doubt his guides, either as to their skill or their intentions; but it did suddenly occur to him that they might miscalculate the time during which he could hold his breath. Undoubtedly, they could keep under water much longer than he could, and therefore might quite conceivably think nothing of a dive that would be long enough to drown him out and out.
But even as he began to feel he could hold his breath no longer, he found himself in the open air. His companions had suddenly released their hold, and he had risen high up above the surface of the water, falling back into it like a leaping fish. Then he struck out for himself, and took a look round.
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The water about him was almost calm. High above, in a clear sky, sailed a bright, silvery moon. A few hundred yards away was a dark rock, which towered up, gloomy and frowning, for some hundreds of feet, almost perpendicularly. From a cavern in the face of this precipice a river rushed and fell, in the form of a cascade, to the level of the water in which he was then swimming. Ray comprehended that this must be the stream they had followed. He looked about now for his late companions who had brought him so faithfully and successfully through this subterranean torrent; but, to his surprise, no trace of them could be seen.
They had vanished so completely that he gazed around in astonishment, which increased as time passed, and they failed to reappear. Suddenly, a few yards away, something shot up in the air in similar fashion to the way he had done a few moments before, falling back with a splash, as might a great salmon which had sprung up after a particularly toothsome tit-bit in the shape of a fly.
Scarcely had he time to assure himself that this new arrival was Peter, when there came another splash which heralded the appearance of Rulonda. The latter caught sight of the others at once, and called out:. And, without further remark or explanation, he began swimming vigorously towards a point on the nearest shore, which Ray now perceived was scarcely two hundred yards away.
But did all go well? You seem to have got here first; and therefore, I suppose, came through without a hitch; but we were hung up for a minute or two. Why, see! The beast has come through, and is floating dead yonder. Do you see him? They grow to the size of veritable sea-serpents about here, and are at times quite as savage and dangerous to swimmers. But where are our froggy friends? They let go of me, and I've not seen them since. One would almost think, if we were not here in the water, that the whole affair had been a dream!
I say, how those priests and all the other johnnies stared when we left them so unceremoniously, without even throwing them a kiss or murmuring one sweet good-bye! I've been laughing almost ever since at the last look I got of their faces, with those blank, disgusted looks! The reaction that had followed upon their fortunate and unexpected escape, and the excitement of their rapid transit along the rushing, roaring torrent, had acted like an exhilarating draught upon the two lads, and so raised their spirits that they were both now ready to laugh and joke about what had been so terrible while it lasted.
These exclamations were called up by a sudden commotion in the water a little way off. Before either of them had time to understand what had happened, something made a rush and seized Ray in its great mouth. It was the big conger, which had evidently not been dead, as had been supposed, and had now suddenly become active. Rulonda turned back, and he and Peter hastened to their friend's assistance; but the lashing tail of the creature struck the latter a blow on the head, which nearly stunned him, and rendered him for a while incapable of rendering any aid. Rulonda gained the other side of the beast just as it was on the point of diving with its prey.
He had in his hand a long, naked dagger, which he buried to its hilt in the serpent-like neck, at the same time uttering a peculiar, long, piercing cry. Then all three disappeared from view; for Rulonda had hold of Ray with one hand and of the handle of the dagger with the other, and, as he would not let go, he was carried down as the great eel dived. Peter, recovering from the blow he had received, looked in helpless distress at the place where his two friends had disappeared. He felt in his belt for his knife, and drew it out in readiness to use it if a chance should offer.
Ere, however, he had time even to consider what he could possibly do, there was another swirling eddy in the water a few yards off, and three or four "wolves" appeared, bearing between them Ray's almost unconscious form, which they proceeded to carry towards the shore. A moment or two afterwards Rulonda reappeared, looked round, and caught sight of Peter. You can follow us to land in peace now. Our friends yonder heard my call, and closed round and killed the enemy even before I could get my blade free for a second blow.
Where on earth did they spring from? Where were they hiding? They can rest just under the surface of the water, so cunningly, that you would never see them unless you knew exactly where to look. A few seconds more and they were on shore, and Rulonda was bending over Ray and supporting his head as he lay on the sand. The plucky lad was already trying to assure his friends that he was not hurt, though he could as yet only speak in gasps. By degrees he came round, and ere long was able to stand.