Glavour's eyes rested on the slim lithesome figure of the Earth-girl. She was just emerging from the grace of girlhood into the full dignity of young womanhood and the soft clinging garb she wore accentuated rather than concealed the curves of her body. As Glavour's gaze fell on her, she cast down her eyes and a flush crept slowly over her pretty face to the mass of coppery gold hair which crowned her head. An expression of brutal lust came into the Viceroy's eyes.
"Daughter of Man," he said slowly, "how are you named and what is your family?"
"My name is Lura, Your Excellency," she faltered, "and I am the daughter of Turgan, the Kildare of this province."
"You please me, girl," said the Viceroy. "Dismiss your chariot and join me in mine. There is room in my seraglio for you."
Lura stared with horror at the huge Jovian and shrank back from his sensual gaze. Glavour gazed at her in astonishment and a deep scowl spread over his face.
"The prospect does not seem to please you, Daughter of Man," he said slowly. "Perhaps the company of the Viceroy of Tubain, Ruler of the Universe, is too lowly to please you and you desire more exalted company. Be careful that I do not have you stripped and given to the palace guards for their sport. Join me in my chariot."
He half rose and leaned forward to clasp her. Lura gave a cry of horror and sprang from her chariot to the ground on the side farthest from the vehicle of the Viceroy. Glavour leaped to his feet with a roar of rage and lunged after her. Before he had left his chariot, the hand of his equerry fell restrainingly on his shoulder. The Viceroy turned a rage-maddened face toward his minion.
"Seize that maiden, Havenner!" he cried. "As I live, she shall be sacrificed at the next games."
The equerry made no move to obey his superior's orders and Glavour's face grew purple with rage.
"Obey my orders or you shall join her as a sacrifice!" he roared.
The equerry's face paled slightly and grew grim at the Viceroy's words but no trace of fear appeared on his heavy countenance.
"Save your breath, Glavour," he said shortly, but in so quiet a voice that no one but the Viceroy heard him. "You may be head of the Sons of God on this planet but your power does not extend to life and death over me, who am of the same blood that you are. I have the right to appeal to Tubain from such a sentence. Before you strive to haul that girl away to your already crowded seraglio against her will, listen to me. Do you realize who she is?"
The Viceroy's face was a study. For a moment rage predominated and he raised a mighty fist to strike Havenner down, but the equerry looked him fearlessly in the eye. Slowly the hot rage faded and a deadly ferocity took its place.
"You try me far, Havenner," he said in a quiet voice, yet with a hint of steel in his tones, "yet your loyalty is above suspicion. Heard you not the girl say she was the daughter of the Kildare of this province?"
"I heard, Your Excellency," replied the equerry, "but beyond that, she is someone else. She is the affianced bride of Damis, the son of Hortan, who was Viceroy before you."
"A Nepthalim!" exclaimed the Viceroy scornfully. "What matters that? Are the desires of a half-breed bastard to stand above the wishes of the ruler of the planet?"
"It is true that the mother of Damis was a Daughter of Man," said the equerry quietly, "yet Hortan married her in honor. Damis is a man of great influence and it would be well to reflect before you rob him of his chosen bride. There is wide discontent with our rule which needs only a leader to flare up. Remember that we are few and Jupiter is far away."
"Havenner, you talk like a frightened woman," sneered the Viceroy. "Let him join the ranks of the malcontents. For my part, I hope they revolt. They need to be taught a lesson. Stand aside while I seize the maiden."
The equerry stood aside with a shrug of his shoulders and the Viceroy sprang to the ground. The girl had run as rapidly as her clinging robes would allow toward one of the beautiful buildings which lined the thoroughfare. She had almost reached the doorway before Glavour reached the ground and raced after her. His Jovian muscles carried his body forward at a pace which no Terrestrial could equal. It was evident to the watchers that he would seize Lura before she could reach the sanctuary she sought.
A mingled chorus of cries of rage and hisses came from the Earthmen who witnessed the scene. The Jovian guards strove to suppress the outcries until a word from Havenner made them cease their efforts and close in around the Viceregal chariot. The cries rose to a tumult but as yet none of the Earthmen dared to raise a hand against the person of the representative of Tubain, the far-off Jovian whom they had been forced to acknowledge as God, and whom many of the ignorant believed was God.
The Viceroy rapidly overtook his victim and his hand was outstretched to grasp her when there came an interruption. From the doorway which the girl had been striving to reach, a man burst forth and leaped between her and her pursuer. Glavour stopped and glowered at the new obstacle in the path of his sensuality.
The newcomer stood five inches over six feet in his flat sandals but it was only in his unusual height and his enormous strength that he showed the blood of his Jovian father. His feet were small and shapely with a high-arched instep and his whole form was graceful and symmetrical. Crisply curling yellow hair surmounted a head which Praxiteles would have reveled in as a model for his youthful Hermes. As he faced the Viceroy, his usual pleasant smile was gone and his face was set in grim lines, his clear blue eyes as cold as the ice brought from the polar regions to cool the Viceroy's drink.
The two stood and stared at one another, the black eyes of the Jovian burning like fire in strange contrast to the cold glare of the blue ones. Then tension in the street grew taut. The Earthmen gradually closed in about them. At a word from Havenner, the Jovian guards closed up and drew from their garments long black tubes. Presently Glavour broke the silence.
"Make way, son of Hortan, for the Viceroy of God," he rumbled in his deep-toned voice.
Damis made no reply, nor did he move a muscle. The rage deepened on the Viceroy's face and he strode forward, his hand raised to strike down this puny assailant who had interposed his slight form between the massive limbs of the Jovian and the object of his desires. With a cry of rage he brought down his huge hand and then Damis moved. So swiftly that the eye could hardly follow his movements, he leaped to one side and his own hand shot up. Fingers of steel circled the hairy wrist of the Viceroy and stopped his hand in mid-air. For a moment Glavour was too astonished at the idea of physical resistance to move. Damis, with an almost contemptuous air, tossed aside the hand he held and made as if to turn his back. With an inarticulate roar of rage, the Jovian charged.
Again Damis sprang to one side and his hand moved. In a long arc his clenched fist shot up and caught Glavour on the chin and rocked the four hundred pounds of bone and muscle that made up the Viceroy. For a moment Glavour staggered and then his hand fell on Damis' shoulder. Exerting all of his huge strength, he pulled his opponent toward him and threw his massive arms about him. Damis made no attempt to wriggle out of the bone-crushing grip, but, instead, threw his arms about the Jovian and matched muscle against muscle. The Jovian guards, who had witnessed the feats of strength which were the Viceroy's boast, expected only one outcome, but to Havenner, who recalled that Hortan, the father of Damis, had been one of the mightiest men of Jupiter, the issue was not a foregone conclusion. Stealthily as a cat he crept forward, a long black tube clenched in his hand.
Mightily the two strove. The face of the Jovian grew dark red and then almost purple as he put forth his last ounce of strength to crush the opponent whom he topped a good eighteen inches. For all of his effort, not an inch did Damis yield. His face grew as pale as the Jovian's grew red and his breath came whistling through his lips, but the strength he had inherited from his mighty sire stood him in good stead. Inch by inch he bent the huge form of his opponent backward. With a sudden effort, the Jovian raised one of his huge misshapen feet and strove to bring his mighty thighs to aid him in thrusting away his enemy. Damis' knee came up and the Jovian dropped his foot with a howl of pain. His breath came in gasps and he stared into the implacable blue eyes before him with a sudden spasm of fear. At last Glavour had met his match.
He opened his lips to call to his guards for help but shame held back the cry. Once he admitted defeat, the fear in which the Earthmen held him would be shaken. With an effort he bent forward his head and buried his huge fangs in Damis' shoulder. There was a cry from the watching Earthmen as they surged forward. The Jovian guards ran to their ruler's assistance but they were too far away. Havenner was close and he sprang forward, thrusting the black tube which he carried, toward Damis.
A cry advised Damis of his danger. With a herculean effort he lifted the huge Jovian from his feet and swung him around until the massive body was between him and the threatening weapon of the equerry. As swiftly as striking snakes his arms uncoiled from around Glavour's body and grasped him by the shoulders. With one mighty heave he tore the Jovian's mouth from his shoulder although the flesh was torn and lacerated by the action. One arm went under Glavour's arm and back around until the hand rested on the back of his neck. The other arm caught the Viceroy's arm and twisted it behind his back. Glavour gave a cry of pain as the punishing hold was applied. Holding his captive before him, Damis turned to the equerry.
"Put up your tube," he said. "One hostile move and your ruler dies."
"Disintegrate him, Havenner!" gasped the Viceroy.
The equerry hesitated a moment but aid was at hand. The Jovian guards had come up to the scene of the struggle and surrounded the pair, black tubes in their hands. The sight of reinforcements roused the Viceroy's lagging courage.
"Capture him alive!" he gasped. "He will be sacrificed at the next games!"
With a roar the guards closed in on the struggling pair. As hairy hands grasped his shoulders, Damis lunged back with all his strength. There was the crack of a breaking bone and the Viceroy's arm hung dangling and useless. Damis whirled on the guards, shaking himself loose for a moment from their grasp, and his fists flew out. Two of the giants went down before well-aimed blows but no one man, no matter what his might, could fight against a score of the huge Jovians and Damis was borne to the ground. Even as he fell, a roar went up from the watching Terrestrials and with one accord they closed in to attack.
The Jovian guards who were nearest whirled about and raised the black tubes threateningly. For a moment the Earthmen hesitated and then came on with a rush. From the tubes came rays of intensely violet light. As they fell on the front ranks of the charging Terrestrials, the form, on which the rays impinged grew suddenly tenuous. The sunlight penetrated through the bodies for a moment and then there was nothing but a group of dancing motes of light to mark where they had stood.
Undaunted by the fate of their leaders, the balance of the mob surged forward uttering cries of hate and rage. From all the doorways, fresh hordes of Earthmen came rushing to join the fray. Again and again the terrible rays of the Jovian guards blasted scores of their assailants into nothingness but more came. Presently the tubes of the Jovians began to lose their power and the violet light became lighter in shade. With a roar the Earthmen swept forward and the huge guards went down under the onrushing waves of humanity. Half a dozen of them were dragged down and hurled back into the milling crowd where they were torn limb from limb. The balance of the guards, guided by Havenner's stentorian shouts, closed in around Glavour and the prisoner and battered their way by sheer brute force toward the Viceregal chariot. They had reached in and climbed in when a feminine shout pierced the din of conflict.
"Damis! They have Damis prisoner! Rescue him!"
With a roar, the mob charged again. Mightily the Jovians strove but they were outnumbered by hundreds to one. One after another was torn from the chariot until Damis freed himself by a mighty effort and leaped to the ground. As he did so, the driver's hand found the controlling lever and the chariot shot forward, crushing under its wheels several luckless Earthmen who stood in its path. A roar of triumph rose from the crowd and Damis was hastily lifted to their shoulders. He looked down on his rescuers with an anguished face.
"Lura!" he gasped. "Is she safe?"
One of the Terrestrials shouted something unintelligible and pointed up. Damis' gaze followed the direction in which he pointed. From an upper window of the building into which she had fled, Lura's face, wreathed with smiles, looked down on him. He smiled and waved in triumph to her. There was a stir on the outskirts of the crowd and an elderly man, tall for an Earthman and with dignity and authority written large on his countenance, made his way through the crowd. At a word from him, Damis was lowered to his feet to face the newcomer.
"Damis," said the elderly man, "I never thought to grasp the hand of a Nepthalim or of anyone with Jovian blood in his veins in friendship, yet I can do no less than offer my hand. It is the thanks of a father to the saviour of his daughter."
Damis met the outstretched hand with a grip that made the elderly man wince.
"It is an honor and a pleasure to grasp in friendship the hand of Turgan, the Kildare of this province," he said, "the hand of one who was born to be ruler in fact, instead of an underling under a Jovian master."
"It is true that my father was king of this country before the Jovians came, forty years ago," said Turgan gravely, "yet now there is no honor or merit in it. Even the rank of Kildare, which is but that of a slave ruling other more unfortunate slaves, could not have prevented my only daughter from being dragged away to the seraglio of that monster. To such a pass has one been brought whose birth made him the peer of any. But now we must plan and plan swiftly, else are we undone. Glavour will return with his minions. Safety will be found only in flight, for mere numbers cannot oppose the weapons they will turn against us. Damis, so far you have been one with our Jovian masters, as have all of the Nepthalim. Now it is war to the death between them and us. On which side do you stand?"
Damis hesitated as the Kildare's keen gray eyes bored into his own.
"My father was Viceroy of the Earth in the days gone by," he said slowly, "and he planned that I should take his place. His dream was a peaceful union of the strength and science of Jupiter with the beauty and humanity of the Earth. True to his dream, I have cleaved to his people and striven to bring it about, but I can see now the folly of his ambition. In stature and mental power he was a Jovian, in all else he was a Terrestrial. Since his death I have seen you stripped bit by bit of what he left you until now you are lower than the slaves on Jupiter, who can appeal to Tubain against a cruel master. Even I, a Nepthalim, the son of a Viceroy, am forced to revolt to save the maiden I love. Henceforth, I give up my father's dream of peace and do what my heart tells me is right. It is war to the death between the Sons of God and the Sons of Man, and I, who am descended from a Son of God and a Daughter of Man, cleave to my mother's people."
A shout of joy came from all who heard his ringing voice announce his new allegiance. Damis had ever a reputation as a humane man and he was guilty of none of the brutalities which made the Jovians so detested and which were bettered by those of the Nepthalim who had the power. It was only the influence which Damis had wielded with the Earthmen which had prevented many an outbreak which would have been ruthlessly crushed by the Jovian overlords. To know that the son of a Viceroy, reputed one of the most brilliant as well as one of the strongest of Jovian blood, was one with them, made them hope that they might make some headway against their oppressors and wring from them some small measure of liberty. Turgan's face was wreathed with smiles.
"Again I offer you my hand, Damis," he said. "Before it was as a father thanking you for the rescue of his daughter. Now it is a father welcoming the son he has always longed for and whom he feared he would never have. My consent to your union with Lura which was grudgingly given only to save her from the dishonor of being dragged a slave to Glavour's seraglio, is withdrawn, and in its place I give you a happy father's joyous consent to the marriage."
There were tears in the old Kildare's eyes as he grasped the hand of the young blond giant. For a moment they stood with clasped hands, two strong men taking the measure of one another and each found the other good. The Kildare dropped Damis' hand and turned to the crowd.
"To your homes!" he cried sharply. "The Sons of God will return with new weapons and it is my wish that none be found to oppose them. All within sound of my voice who are members of the inner council will join me in the palace. Damis, come with me."
Followed by Damis and a score of Earthmen, the Kildare led the way into a building. As they entered, Damis cast a swift glance around and looked questioningly at Turgan.
"Lura--?" he asked hesitantly.
"Will join us in the council room," said Turgan with a smile.
Turgan's Plan Content with the Kildare's answer, Damis followed him down a corridor and into a large room set around with benches. The Kildare did not pause but moved to the far end of the room and manipulated a hidden switch. A portion of the paneled wall swung inward and through the doorway thus opened, Turgan led the way. The corridor in which they found themselves was dimly lighted by radium bulbs which Damis shrewdly suspected had been stolen from the palace of the Viceroy by Earthmen employed there. It sloped steeply downward and Damis estimated that they were fifty feet below the level of the ground before another door opened to Turgan's manipulation of hidden catches and admitted them to a large room equipped with tables and chairs and well lighted by other radium bulbs. Damis turned to the Kildare.
"For years there have been rumors among the Sons of God of the existence of this place," he exclaimed, "yet every effort to find it has been futile. Glavour and his council have at last decided that it is merely a myth and that the underground council chamber does not exist. You have kept your secret well, for never has a breath of suspicion reached him that Turgan was one of the conspirators who plotted to overthrow the reign of the Sons of God."
"Let that, Damis, be a sample of the earnestness and loyalty of your new brethren," said the Kildare. "There are hundreds of Earthmen who know where this place is and what secrets it holds, yet none has ever betrayed it. Scores have gone to torture and to the sacrifice of the games without unsealing their lips. Would a Jovian have done likewise?"
"To give them due credit, I think they would have," replied Damis thoughtfully, "yet their motive would not have been loyalty, but stubbornness and a refusal to subordinate their will to another's. I thought you said that Lura would join us here?"
As Damis spoke a door on the far side of the chamber opened and a half dozen women entered. Lura was among them and with a cry of joy, she ran lightly forward and threw herself into Damis' outstretched arms. Turgan smiled paternally at them for a moment and then touched his daughter lightly on the shoulder.
"I have freely and gladly given my blessing to your union with Damis," he said. "He is now one with us. His presence makes victory possible and enables us to act at once instead of planning for years. Damis, you can operate a space flyer, can you not?"
"Certainly. That is knowledge which all Nepthalim possess."
A suppressed cheer greeted his words and the Earthmen crowded around him, vibrant with excitement.
"The time is at hand!" cried a stern-faced man in the crimson robe which marked him an Akildare, an under-officer of the Earthmen.
"Before I can operate a space flyer, I will have to have one to operate," objected Damis.
"That will be supplied," cried a dozen voices. Turgan's voice rose above the hubbub of sound.
"Let us proceed in orderly fashion," he cried.
The noise died down to silence and at a gesture from their ruler, the Earthmen took seats. Turgan stood beside Damis.
"For the enlightenment of our new-found brother, I will recite what has happened and what we have done, although most of you know it and many of you have done your part in bringing it about.
"Forty years ago, the Earth was prosperous, peopled with free men, and happy. While we knew little of science and lived in mere huts, yet we worshipped beauty and Him who ruled all and loved his children. It was to such a world that the Jovians came.
"When the first space flyer with a load of these inhuman monsters arrived on the earth, we foolishly took them for the angels whom we had been taught to believe spent eternity in glorifying Him. We welcomed them with our best and humbly obeyed when they spoke. This illusion was fostered by the name the Jovians gave themselves, the 'Sons of God.' Hortan, their leader and the father of our new brother, was a just and kindly man and he ruled the earth wisely and well. We learned from them and they learned from us. That was the golden age. And the Sons of God saw that the Daughters of Man were fair, and they took of them wives, such as they chose. And sons were born to them, the Nepthalim, the mighty men of the Earth.
"In time other flyers came from the heavens above and brought more of the Sons of God to rule over us. Then Hortan, the Viceroy, died, and Damis, know you how he died? You were a babe at the time and you know nothing. Your father and your mother, who was my distant kinswoman, died under the knives of assassins. It was given out that they had gone to Jupiter, yet there were some who knew the truth. You, the killers sought, but one of the Earthmen whose heart bled for your dead mother, spirited you away. When you had grown to boyhood, he announced your name and lineage, although his life paid for his indiscretion. The same hand which struck down your father and your mother struck at him and struck not unavailingly. You, since all knew your name and lineage, he dared not strike, lest those who love him not, would appeal to Tubain. Know you the name of the monster, the traitor to his ruler and the murderer of your parents?"
Damis' face had paled during the recital and when the old Kildare turned to him, he silently shook his head.
"It was the monster who now rules over us as Viceroy and who profanes the name of God by conferring it on his master and who would, if he dared, assume the name for himself. It was Glavour, Viceroy of the Earth."
The blood surged back into Damis' face and he raised a hand in a dramatic gesture.
"Now I vow that I will never rest until he lies low in death and this be the hand that brings him there!"
A murmur of applause greeted Damis' announcement and Turgan went on with his tale.
"With the kind and just Hortan dead, Glavour assumed the throne of power, for none dared oppose him. Once secure, he gave way to every brutal lust and vice. Your mother was Hortan's only wife and he honored her as such, and meant that the Nepthalim should in time rule the Earth, but Glavour had no such ideas. To him, the Daughters of Man were playthings to satisfy his brutal lusts. By dozens and by scores he swept the fairest of them into his seraglio, heeding not the bonds of matrimony nor the wishes of his victims. Only the fact that my daughter has been kept from his sight until to-day has spared her.
"The Earthmen who had been content to live under Hortan's rule, rebelled against Glavour but the rebellion was crushed in blood. Time and again they rose, but each time the mighty weapons of the Jovians stamped out resistance. At last we realized that craft and not force must win the battle. This chamber had been built when Hortan erected his new capital and none of the Jovians knew of its location, so it was chosen as our meeting place. To-day, Damis, I have twenty thousand men sworn to do my bidding and to rise when I give the word. Many thousands more will rise when they see others in arms and know that again the Sons of Man stand in arms against the Sons of God."
"There are less than a thousand Jovians and perhaps twice that number of Nepthalim on the Earth, yet that handful would stand victorious against all the Earthmen living," said Damis thoughtfully. "Even I, and I am a Nepthalim, do not know the secret weapons in the arsenal of Glavour, but I know that they are more powerful than anything we have ever seen. Forget not, too, that a radio message to Jupiter will bring down ships with hundreds, nay, thousands, of her fighting men with weapons to overwhelm all opposition."
"Such was the case but it is so no longer since we number you among us," replied the Kildare. "Earthmen are employed in the communications net which the Jovians have thrown around the Earth and it is but a step from those machines to the huge one with which they talk to their mother planet. My spies have been busy for years and our plans are all laid. There is one planet which all the forces of Jupiter have never been able to conquer; from which their ships have ever retreated in defeat."
"Mars!" exclaimed Damis.
"Exactly," replied Turgan. "The Martians are a peaceful and justice-loving people, yet they know that peace is given only to those who are ready and able to fight for it. Ages ago they perfected weapons before which the Jovians fly, if they are not destroyed. I have communicated with the Grand Mognac of Mars and laid our plight before him. He has pledged his aid and has promised us enough of his weapons to not only destroy the Jovians and the Nepthalim on the Earth, but also to prevent other Jovian ships from ever landing. The only problem has been how to get them here. The Martians, not desiring conquest and content with their own planet, have never perfected space flyers. They have promised us the weapons, but we must go to Mars and bring them here. Enough can be transported on one of the Jovian ships."
"How will we get a ship?" asked Damis.
"That also has been solved. There are two Jovian ships kept on the Earth, ready for instant flight to Jupiter. They are loosely guarded for the Sons of God believe that we have no idea of how to operate them. We can capture one of them whenever we desire, but so far such action would have been useless. Little by little we have gathered bits of information about the flyers, but we had expected to wait for years before our venture would have a chance of success. We dared not try prematurely, for one attempt will be all that we will ever get. Now we are ready to strike. You can fly the ship to Mars and back and with the Martian weapons, we can sweep the Jovians from the Earth."