A few days later we advanced on the town Huarina, a great host of us, and outside of it met the yet greater host of Urco in a mighty battle that endured for a day and a night, and yet, like that of the Field of Blood, remained neither lost nor won. When the thousands of the dead had been buried and the wounded sent back to Cuzco, we attacked the city of Huarina, I leading the van with my Chancas, and stormed the place, driving Urco and his forces out on the farther side.
They retreated to the mountains and there followed a long and tedious war without great battles. At length, although the Inca's armies had suffered sorely, we forced those of Urco to the shores of the Lake Titicaca, where most of them melted away into the swamps and certain tree-clad, low-lying valleys. Urco himself, however, with a number of followers, escaped in boats to the holy island in the lake.
We built a fleet of balsas with reeds and blown-out sheepskins, and followed him. Landing on the isle we stormed the city of temples which were more wondrous and even fuller of gold and precious things than those of Cuzco. Here the men of Urco fought desperately, but driving them from street to street, at length we penned them in one of the largest of the temples of which by some mischance a reed roof was set on fire, so that there they perished miserably. It was a dreadful scene such as I never wish to behold again. Also, after all Urco and some of his captains, breaking out of the burning temple under cover of the smoke escaped, either in balsas or, as many declare, by swimming the lake. At least they were gone nor search as we might on the mainland could they be found.
So all being finished, except for the escape of Urco, we returned to Cuzco which Kari entered in triumph, I marching at his side, wearied out with war and bloodshed.
THE HOUSE OF DEATH
Now at one time during this long war against Urco victory smiled upon him, though afterwards the scale went down against him. Kari was defeated in a pitched battle and I who commanded another army was almost surrounded in a valley. When everything seemed lost, afterwards I escaped by leading my soldiers round up the slope of a mountain and surprising Urco in the rear, but as it ended well for us I need not speak of that matter.
It was while all was at its blackest for us that a certain officer was brought to me who was captured while striving to desert, or at least to pass our outposts. As it happened I knew this man again having, unseen myself, noted him on the previous day talking earnestly to the high-priest Larico, who, with other priests, accompanied my army, perhaps to keep a watch on me. I took this captain apart and questioned him alone, threatening him with death by torment if he did not reveal his errand to me.
In the end, being very much afraid, he spoke. From him I learned that he was a messenger from Larico to Urco. Believing that our defeat was almost certain, Larico had sent him to make his peace with Urco by betraying all Kari's and my own plans to him and revealing how he might most easily destroy us. He said also that he, Larico, had only joined the party of Upanqui, and of Kari after him, under threats of death and that always in his heart he had been true to Urco, whom he acknowledged as his Lord and as the rightful Inca whom he would help to restore to the Throne with all the power of the Priesthood of the Sun. Further, he sent by this spy a secret message by means of little cords cunningly knotted, which knots served these people as writing, since they could read them as we read a book.
Now, being always desirous of knowledge, I had caused myself to be instructed in the plan of this knot-writing which by this time I could read well enough. Therefore I was able to spell out this message. It said shortly but plainly, that knowing he still desired her, he, Larico, as high-priest would hand over to Urco the lady Quilla, daughter to the King of the Chancas who unlawfully had been hidden away among the Virgins of the Sun, also that he would betray me, the White-God-from-the-Sea who sought to steal her away, into Urco's hands, that he might kill me if he could.
When I had mastered all this I was filled with rage and bethought me that I would cause Larico to be taken and suffer the fate of traitors. Soon, however, I changed this mind of mine and placing the spy in close keeping where none could come at him, I set a watch on Larico but said nothing to him or to Kari of all that I had learned.
A few days later our fortunes changed and Urco, defeated, was in full flight to the shores of Lake Titicaca. After this I knew we had nothing more to fear from this fox-hearted high-priest who above everything desired to be on the winning side and to continue in his place and power. So knowing that I held him fast I bided my time, because through him alone I could hope to come at Quilla. That time came after the war was over and we had returned to Cuzco in triumph. As soon as the rejoicings were over and Kari was firmly seated on his throne, I sent for Larico, which, as the greatest man in the kingdom after the Inca, I was able to do.
He appeared in answer to my summons and we bowed to each other, after which he began to praise me for my generalship, saying that had it not been for me, Urco would have won the war and that the Inca had done well to name me his Brother before the people and to say that to me he owed his throne.
"Yes, that is true," I answered, "and now, since through me, you, Larico, are the third greatest man in the kingdom and remain High-Priest of the Sun and Whisperer in the Inca's ear, I would put you in mind of a certain bargain that we made when I promised you all these things, Larico."
"What bargain, Lord-of-the-Sea."
"That you would bring me and a Virgin of the Sun, who while she was of the earth was named Quilla, together, Larico, and enable her to return from those of the Sun to my arms, Larico."
Now his face grew troubled and he answered:
"Lord, I have thought much of this matter, desiring above all things to fulfil my word and I grieve to tell you that it is impossible."
"Because I find that the law of my faith is against it, Lord."
"Is that all, Larico?" I asked with a smile.
"No, Lord. Because I find that the Inca would not suffer it and swears to kill all who attempt to touch the lady Quilla."
"Is that all, Larico?"
"No, Lord. Because I find that a woman who has been betrothed to one of the royal blood may never pass to another man."
"Now perhaps we come nearer to it, Larico. You mean that if this happened and perchance after all Urco should come to the throne, as he might do if Kari his brother died—as any man may die—he would hold you to account."
"Yes, Lord, if that chanced, as chance it may, since Urco still lives and I hear is gathering new armies among the mountains, certainly he would hold me to account for I have heard as much. Also our father the Sun would hold me to account and so would the Inca who wields his sceptre upon earth."
I asked him why he did not think of all these things before when he had much to gain instead of now when he had gained them through me, and he answered because he had not considered them enough. Then I pretended to grow angry and exclaimed:
"You are a rogue, Larico! You promise and take your pay and you do not perform. Henceforth I am your enemy and one to whom the Inca hearkens."
"He hearkens still more to this god the Sun and to me who am the voice of God, White Man," he answered, adding insolently, "You would strike too late; your power over me and my fortunes is gone, White Man."
"I fear it is so," I replied, pretending to be frightened, "so let us say no more of the matter. After all, there are other women in Cuzco besides this fair bride of the Sun. Now before you go, High-Priest, will you who are so learned help me who am ignorant? I have been striving to master your method of conveying thoughts by means of knots. Here I have a bundle of strings which I cannot altogether understand. Be pleased to interpret them to me, O most holy and upright High-Priest."
Then from my robe I drew out those knotted fibres that I had taken from his messenger and held them before Larico's eyes.
He stared at them and turned pale. His hand groped for his dagger till he saw that mine was on the hilt of Wave-Flame, whereon he let it fall. Next the thought took him that in truth I could not read the knots which he began to interpret falsely.
"Have done, Traitor," I laughed, "for I know them all. So Urco may wed Quilla and I may not. Also cease to fret as to that messenger of yours for whom you seek far and near, since he is safe in my keeping. To-morrow I take him to deliver his message not to Urco, but to Kari—and then, Traitor?"
Now Larico who, notwithstanding his stern face and proud manner, was a coward at heart, fell upon his knees before me trembling and prayed me to spare his life which lay in my hand. Well he knew that if once it came to Kari's ears, even a high priest of the Sun could not hope to escape the reward of such treachery as his.
"If I pardon you, what will you give me?" I asked.
"The only thing that you will take, Lord—the lady Quilla herself. Hearken, Lord. Outside the city is the palace of Upanqui whom Urco slew. There in the great hall the divine Inca sits embalmed and into that holy presence none dare enter save the Virgins of the Sun whose office it is to wait upon the mighty dead. To-morrow one hour before the dawn, when all men sleep, I will lead you to this hall disguised in the robes of a priest of the Sun, so that on the way thither none can know you. There you will find but one Virgin of the Sun, the lady whom you seek. Take her and begone. The rest I leave to you."
"How do I know that you will not set some trap for me, Larico?"
"Thus, Lord, that I shall be with you and share your sacrilege. Also my life will be in your hand."
"Aye, Larico," I answered grimly, "and if aught of ill befalls me, remember that this," and I touched the knotted cords, "will find its way to Kari, and with it the man who was your messenger."
He nodded and answered:
"Be sure that I have but one desire, to know you, Lord, and this woman whom, being mad, you seek so madly, far from Cuzco and never to look upon your face again."
Then we made our plans as to when and where we should meet and other matters, after which he departed, bowing himself away with many smiles.
I thought to myself that there went as big a rogue as I had ever known, in London or elsewhere, and fell to wondering what snare he would set for me, since that he planned some snare I was sure. Why, then, did I prepare to fall into it? I asked myself. The answer was, for a double reason. First, although my whole heart was sick with longing for the sight of her, now, after months of seeking, I was no nearer to Quilla than when we had parted in the city of the Chancas, nor ever should be without Larico's aid. Secondly, some voice within me told me to go forward taking all hazards, since if I did not, our parting would be for always in this world. Yes, the voice warned me that unless I saved her soon, Quilla would be no more. As Huaracha had said, there was more poison in Cuzco, and murderers were not far to seek. Or despair might do its work with her. Or she might kill herself as once she had proposed to do. So I would go forward even though the path I walked should lead me to my doom.
That day I did many things. Now, being so great a general and man—or god—among these people, I had those about me who were sworn to my service and whom I could trust. For one of these, a prince of the Inca blood, of the House of Kari's mother, I sent and gave to him those knotted cords that were the proof of Larico's treachery, bidding him if aught of evil overtook me, or if I could not be found, to deliver them to the Inca on my behalf and with them the prisoned messenger who was in his keeping, but meanwhile to show them to no man. He bowed and swore by the Sun to do my bidding, thinking doubtless that, my work finished in this land, I purposed to return into the sea out of which I had risen, as doubtless a god could do.
Next I summoned the captains of the Chancas who had fought under me throughout the civil war, of whom about half remained alive, and bade them gather their men upon the ridge where I had stood at the beginning of the battle of the Field of Blood, and wait until I joined them there. If it chanced, however, that I did not appear within six days I commanded that they should march back to their own country and make report to King Huaracha that I had "returned into the sea" for reasons that he would guess. Also I commanded that eight famous warriors whom I named, men of my own bodyguard who had fought with me in all our battles and would have followed me through fire or water or the gates of Hell themselves, should come to the courtyard of my palace after nightfall, bringing a litter and disguised as its bearers, but having their arms hidden beneath their cloaks.
These matters settled, I waited upon the Inca Kari and craved of him leave to take a journey. I told him that I was weary with so much fighting and desired to rest amidst my friends the Chancas.
He gazed at me awhile, then stretched out his sceptre to me in token that my request was granted, and said in a sad voice:
"So you would leave me, my brother, because I cannot give you that which you desire. Bethink you. You will be no nearer to the Moon (by which he meant Quilla) at Chanca than you are at Cuzco and here, next to the Inca, you are the greatest in the Empire who by decree are named his brother and the general of his armies."
Now, though my gorge rose at it, I lied to him, saying:
"The Moon is set for me, so let her sleep whom I shall see no more. For the rest, learn, O Kari, that Huaracha has sworn to me that I shall be, not his brother but his son, and Huaracha is sick—they say to death."
"You mean that you would choose to be King over the Chancas rather than stand next to the throne among the Quichuas?" he said, scanning me sharply.
"Aye, Kari," I replied, still lying. "Since I must dwell in this strange land, I would do so as a king—no less."
"To that you have a right, Brother, who are far above us all. But when you are a king, what is your plan? Do you purpose to strive to conquer me and rule over Tavantinsuyu, as perchance you could do?"
"Nay, I shall never make war upon you, Kari, unless you break your treaty with the Chancas and strive to subdue them."
"Which I shall never do, Brother."
Then he paused awhile and spoke again with more passion that I had ever known in him, saying:
"Would that this woman who comes between us were dead. Would that she had never been born. In truth, I am minded to pray to my father, the Sun, that he will be pleased to take her to himself, for then perchance we two might be as we were in the old time yonder in your England, and when we faced perils side by side upon the ocean and in the forests. A curse on Woman the Divider, and all the curses of all the gods upon this woman whom I may not give to you. Had she been of my Household I would have bidden you to take her, yes, even if she were my wife, but she is the wife of the god and therefore I may not—alas! I may not," and he hid his face in his robe and groaned.
Now when I heard these words I grew afraid who knew well that she of whom the Inca prays the Sun that she may die, does die, and swiftly.
"Do not add to this lady's wrongs by robbing her of life as well as of sight and liberty, Kari," I said.
"Have no fear, Brother," he answered, "she is safe from me. No word shall pass my lips though it is true that in my heart I wish that she would die. Go your ways, Brother and Friend, and when you grow weary of kingship if it comes to you, as to tell truth already I grow weary, return to me. Perchance, forgetting that we had been kings, we might journey hence together over the world's edge."
Then he stood up on his throne and bowed towards me, kissing the air as though to a god, and taking the royal chain that every Inca wore from about his neck, set it upon mine. This done, turning, he left me without another word.
With a heavy heart I returned to my palace where I dwelt. At sundown I ate according to my custom, and dismissed those who waited upon me to the servants' quarters. There were but two of them for my private life was simple. Then I slept till past midnight and rising, went into the courtyard where I found the eight Chanca captains disguised as litter-bearers and with them the litter. I led them to an empty guard-house and bade them stay there in silence. After this I returned to my chamber and waited.
About two hours before the dawn Larico came, knocking on the side-door as we had planned. I opened to him and he entered disguised in a hooded cloak of sheep's wool which covered his robes and his face, such as priests wear when the weather is cold. He gave to me the garments of a priest of the Sun which he had brought with him in a cloth. I clothed myself in them though because of the fashion of them to do this I must be rid of my armour which would have betrayed me. Larico desired that I should take off the sword Wave-Flame also, but, mistrusting him, this I would not do, but made shift to hide it and my dagger beneath the priest's cloak. The armour I wrapped in a bundle and took with me.
Presently we went out, having spoken few words since the time for speech had gone by and peril or some fear of what might befall weighed upon our tongues. In the guard-house I found the Chancas at whom Larico looked curiously but said nothing. To them I gave the bundle of armour to be hidden in the litter and with it my long bow, having first revealed myself to them by lifting the hood of my cloak. Then I bade them follow me.
Larico and I walked in front and after us came the eight men, four of them bearing the empty litter, and the other four marching behind. This was well planned since if any saw us or if we met guards as once or twice we did, these thought that we were priests taking one who was sick or dead to be tended or to be made ready for burial. Once, however, we were challenged, but Larico spoke some word and we passed on without question.
At length in the darkness before the dawn we came to the private palace of dead Upanqui. At its garden gate Larico would have had me leave the litter with the eight Chanca warriors disguised as bearers. I refused, saying that they must come to the doors of the palace, and when he grew urgent, tapped my sword, whispering to him fiercely that he had best beware lest it should be he who stayed at the gate. Then he gave way and we advanced all of us across the garden to the door of the palace. Larico unlocked the door with a key and we entered, he and I alone, for here I bade the Chancas await my return.
We crept down a short passage that was curtained at its end. Passing the curtains I found myself in Upanqui's banqueting-hall. This hall was dimly lit with one hanging golden lamp. By its light I saw something more wondrous and of its sort more awful than ever I had seen in that strange land.
There, on a dais, in his chair of gold, sat dead Upanqui arrayed in all his gorgeous Inca robes and so marvellously preserved that he might have been a man asleep. With arms crossed and his sceptre at his side, he sat staring down the hall with fixed and empty eyes, a dreadful figure of life in death. About him and around the dais were set all his riches, vases and furniture of gold, and jewels piled in heaps, there to remain till the roof fell in and buried them, since on this hallowed wealth the boldest dared not lay a hand. In the centre of the hall, also, was a table prepared as though for feasters, for amid jewelled cups and platters stood the meats and wines which day by day were brought afresh by the Virgins of the Sun. Doubtless there were more wonders, but these I could not see because the light did not reach them, or to the doorways of the chambers that opened from the hall. Moreover, there was something else which caught my eye.
At the foot of the dais crouched a figure which at first I took to be that of some dead one also embalmed, perhaps a wife or daughter of the dead Inca who had been set with him in this place. While I stared at it the figure stirred, having heard our footsteps, rose and turned, standing so that the light from the hanging lamp fell full upon it. It was Quilla clad in white and purple with a golden likeness of the Sun blazoned upon her breast!
So beauteous did she look searching the darkness with great blind eyes and her rich flowing hair flowing from beneath her jewelled headdress, a diadem fashioned to resemble the Sun's rays, that my breath failed me and my heart stood still.
"There stands she whom you seek," muttered Larico in a mocking whisper, for here even he did not seem to dare to talk aloud. "Go take her, you whom men call a god, but I call a drunken fool ready to risk all for a woman's lips. Go take her and ask the blessing upon your kisses of yonder dead king whose holy rest you break."
"Be silent," I whispered back and passed round the table till I came face to face with Quilla. Then a strange dumbness fell upon me like a spell or dead Upanqui's curse, so that I could not speak.
I stood there staring at those beautiful blind eyes and the blind eyes stared back at me. Presently a look of understanding gathered on the face and Quilla spoke, or rather murmured to herself.
"Strange—but I could have sworn! Strange, but I seemed to feel! Oh! I slept in my vigils upon that dead old man who in life was so foolish and in death appears to have become so wise, and sleeping I dreamed. I dreamed I heard a step I shall never hear again. I dreamed one was near me whom I shall never touch again. I will sleep once more, for in my darkness what are left to me save sleep and—death?"
Then at last I found my tongue and said hoarsely,
"Love is left, Quilla, and—life."
She heard and straightened herself. Her whole body seemed to become rigid as though with an agony of joy. Her blind eyes flashed, her lips quivered. She stretched out her hand, feeling at the darkness. Her fingers touched my forehead, and thence she ran them swiftly over my face.
"It is—dead or living—it is——" and she opened her arms.
Oh! was there ever anything more beautiful on the earth than this sight of the blind Quilla thus opening her arms to me there in the gorgeous house of death?
We clung and kissed. Then I thrust her away, saying:
"Come swiftly from this ill-omened place. All is ready. The Chancas wait."
She slipped her hand into mine and I turned to lead her away.
Then it was that I heard a low, mocking laugh, Larico's, I thought, heard also a sound of creeping footsteps around me. I looked. Out of the darkness that hid the doors of the chamber on the right appeared a giant form which I knew for that of Urco, and behind him others. I looked to the left and there were more of them, while in front beyond the gold-laid board stood the traitor, Larico, laughing.
"You have the first fruits, but it seems that another will reap the harvest, Lord-from-the-Sea," he jeered.
"Seize her," cried Urco in his guttural voice, pointing to Quilla with his mace, "and brain that white thief."
I drew Wave-Flame and strove to get at him, but from both sides men rushed in on me. One I cut down, but the others snatched Quilla away. I was surrounded, with no room to wield my sword, and already weapons flashed over me. A thought came to me. The Chancas were at the door. I must reach them, for perhaps so Quilla might be saved. In front was the table spread for the death feast. With a bound I leapt on to it, shouting aloud and scattering its golden furnishings this way and that. Beyond stood the traitor, Larico, who had trapped me—I sprang at him and lifting Wave-Flame with both hands I smote with all my strength. He fell, as it seemed to me, cloven to the middle. Then some spear cast at me struck the lamp.
It shattered and went out!
THE FIGHT TO THE DEATH
There was tumult in the hall; shoutings, groans from him whom I had first struck down, the sound of vases and vessels overthrown, and above all those of a woman's shrieks echoing from the walls and roof, so that I could not tell whence they came.
Through the gross darkness I went on towards the curtains, or so I hoped. Presently they were torn open, and by the faint light of the breaking dawn I saw my eight Chancas rushing towards me.
"Follow!" I cried, and at the head of them groped my way back up the hall, seeking for Quilla. I stumbled over the dead body of Larico and felt a path round the table. Then suddenly a door at the back of the hall was thrown open and by the grey light which came through the doorway I perceived the last of the ravishers departing. We scrambled across the dais where the golden chair was overthrown and the embalmed Upanqui lay, a stiff and huddled heap upon his back, staring at me with jewelled eyes.
We gained the door which, happily, none had remembered to close, and passed out into the parklike grounds beyond. A hundred paces or more ahead of us, by the glowing light, I saw a litter passing between the trees surrounded by armed men, and knew that in it was Quilla being borne to captivity and shame.
After it we sped. It passed the gate of the park wall, but when we reached that gate it was shut and barred and we must waste time breaking it down, which we did by help of a felled tree that lay at hand. We were through it, and now the rim of the sun had appeared so that through the morning mist, which clung to the hillside beyond the town, we could see the litter, the full half of a mile away. On we went up the hill, gaining as we ran, for we had no litter to bear, nor aught else save the sack of armour which one of the Chancas had thought to bring with him when he rushed into the hall, and with it my long bow and shaft.
Now, at a certain place between this hill and another there was a gorge such as are common in that country, a gorge so deep and narrow that in places the light of day scarcely struggles to the pathways at its bottom. Into this tunnel the litter vanished and when we drew near I saw that its mouth was held by armed men, six of them or more. Taking my bow from the Chanca I strung it and shot swiftly. The man at whom I aimed went down. Again I shot and another fell, whereon the rest of them took cover behind stones.
Throwing back the bow to the Chanca, for now it was useless, we charged. That business was soon over, for presently all those of Urco's men who remained there were dead, save one who, being cut off, fled down hill towards the city, taking with him the news of what had passed in the palace of dead Upanqui.
We entered the mouth of the gorge, plunging towards the gloom, though as it chanced this place faced towards the east, so that the low sun, which now was fully up, shone down it and gave us light that later would have been lacking.
I, who was very swift of foot and to whom rage and fear gave wings, outran my companions. Swinging myself round a rock which lay in the pathway, I saw the litter again not a hundred yards ahead. It halted because, as it seemed to me, one or more of the bearers stumbled and fell among the stones. I rushed at them, roaring. Perhaps it had been wiser to wait for my companions, but I was mad and feared nothing. They saw me and a cry went up of:
"The White God! The terrible White God!"
Then fear took hold of them and they fled, leaving the litter on the ground. Yes, all of them fled save one, Urco himself.
He stood there rolling his eyes and gnashing his teeth, looking huge and awful in those shadows, looking like a devil from hell. Suddenly a thought seemed to take him, and leaping at the litter he tore aside its curtains and dragged out Quilla, who fell prone upon the ground.
"If I may not have her, you shall not, White Thief. See! I give back his bride to the Sun," he shouted, and lifted his copper sword to pierce her through.
Now I was still ten paces or so away and saw that before I could reach him that sword would be in her heart. What could I do? Oh! St. Hubert must have helped me then for I knew in an instant. In my hand was Wave-Flame and with all my strength I hurled it at his head.
The great blade hurtled hissing through the air. I saw the sunlight shine on it. He strove to leap clear, but too late, for it caught him on the hand that he had lifted to protect his head, and shore off two of his fingers so that he dropped his sword. Next instant, still roaring, as doubtless old Thorgrimmer, my forefather, used to do when he fought to the death, for blood is very strong, I leapt on the giant, who like myself was swordless. There in the gulf we wrestled. He was a mighty man, but now my strength was as that of ten. I threw him to the ground by a Sussex trick I knew and there we rolled over and over each other. Once he had me undermost and I think would have choked me, had it not been that his right hand lacked two fingers.
With a mighty heave I lifted him so that now we lay side by side. He was groping for a knife—I did not see, but knew it. Near his head a sharp-edged stone rose in the path to the height of a man's hand or more. I saw it and bethought me what to do if I could. Again I heaved and as at length he found the knife and stabbed at me, scratching my face, I got his bull's neck upon that stone. Then I loosed my hand and caught him by the hair. Back I pressed his great head, back and back with all my might till something snapped.
Urco's neck was broken. Urco quivered and was dead!
I lay by his side, panting. A voice came from the white heap upon the ground by whom and for whom this dreadful combat had been fought, the voice of Quilla.
"One died, but who lives?" asked the voice.
I could not answer because I had no breath. All my strength was gone. Still I sat up, supporting myself with my hand and hoping that it would come back. Quilla turned her face towards me, or rather towards the sound that I had made in moving, and I thought to myself how sad it was that she should be blind. Presently she spoke again and now her voice quavered:
"I see who it is that lives," she said. "Something has broken in my eyes and, Lord and Love, I see that it is you who live. You, you, and oh! you bleed."
Then the Chancas came bounding down the gorge and found us.
They looked at the dead giant and saw how he had died, killed by strength, not by the sword; they looked and bent the knee and praised me, saying that I was indeed a god, since no man could have done this deed, killing the huge Urco with his naked hands. Then they placed Quilla back in her litter and six of them bore her down that black gorge. The two who remained, for in that fight none of them had been hurt, supported me till my strength came back, for the cut in the face that I had received from Urco's dagger was but slight. We reached the mouth of the gorge and took counsel.
To return to Cuzco after what I had done, would be to seek death. So we bore away to the right and, making a round, came about ten o'clock of the morning unmolested by any, to that ridge on which I had stood at the beginning of the battle of the Field of Blood. There I found the Chancas encamped, some three thousand of them, as I had commanded. When they saw me, living and but little hurt, they shouted for joy, and when they learned who was in that litter they went well-nigh mad.
Then the eight warriors with me told them all the tale of the saving of Quilla and the death of the giant Urco at my hands, whereon their captains came and kissed my feet, saying that I was in truth a god, though heretofore some of them had held me to be but a man.
"God or man," I answered, "I must rest. Let the women tend to lady Quilla, and give me food and drink, after which I will sleep. At sunset we march home to Huaracha, your king and mine, to give him back his daughter. Till then there is naught to fear, since Kari has no troops at hand with which to attack us. Still, set outposts."
So I ate and drank, but little of the former and much of the latter, I fear, and after that I slept as soundly as one who is dead, for I was outworn.
When the sun was within an hour of setting, captains awakened me and said that an embassy from Cuzco, ten men only, waited outside our lines, seeking speech with me. So I rose, and my face and wound having been dressed, caused water to be poured over my body, and was rubbed with oil; after which, clothed in the robes of a Chanca noble, but wearing no armour, I went out with nine Chanca captains to receive the embassy on the plain at the foot of the hill, at that very spot where first I had fought with Urco.
When we drew near, from out of the group of nobles advanced one man. I looked and saw that he was Kari, yes, the Inca himself.
I went forward to meet him and we spoke together just out of earshot of our followers.
"My brother," said Kari, "I have learned all that has passed and I give you praise who are the most daring among men and the first among warriors; you who slew the giant Urco with your naked hands."
"And thus made your throne safe for you, Kari."
"And thus made my throne safe for me. You also who clove Larico to the breast in the death-house of Upanqui, my father——"
"And thus delivered you from a traitor, Kari."
"And thus delivered me from a traitor, as I have learned also from your messenger who handed to me the knotted cord, and from the spy whom you had in your keeping. I repeat that you are the most daring among men and the first among warriors; almost a god as my people name you."
I bowed, and after a little silence he went on:
"Would that this were all that I have to say. But alas! it is not. You have committed the great sacrilege against the Sun, my father, of which I warned you, having robbed him of his bride, and, my brother, you have lied to me, who told me but yesterday that you had put all thought of her from your mind."
"To me that was no sacrilege, Kari, but rather a righteous deed, to free one from the bonds of a faith in which neither she nor I believe, and to lead her from a living tomb back to life and love."
"And was the lie righteous also, Brother?"
"Aye," I answered boldly, "if ever a lie can be. Bethink you. You prayed that this lady might die because she came between you and me, and those that kings pray may die, do die, if not with their knowledge or by their express command. Therefore I said that I had put her from my mind in order that she might go on living."
"To cherish you in her arms, Brother. Now hearken. Because of this deed of yours, we who were more than friends have become more than foes. You have declared war upon my god and me; therefore I declare war upon you. Yet hearken again. I do not wish that thousands of men should perish because of our quarrel. Therefore I make an offer to you. It is that you should fight me here and now, man to man, and let the Sun, or Pachacamac beyond the Sun, decide the matter as may be decreed."
"Fight you! Fight you Kari, the Inca," I gasped.
"Aye, fight me to the death, since between us all is over and done. In England you nurtured me. Here in the land of Tavantinsuyu, which I rule to-day, I have nurtured you, and in my shadow you have grown great, though it is true that had it not been for your generalship, perchance I should no longer be here to throw the shadow. Let us therefore set the one thing against the other and, forgetting all between us that is past, stand face to face as foes. Mayhap you will conquer me, being so mighty a man of war. Mayhap, also, if that chances, my people who look upon you as half a god will raise you up to be Inca after me, should such be your desire."
"It is not," I broke in.
"I believe you," he answered, bowing his head, "but will it not be the desire of that fair-faced harlot who has betrayed our Lord the Sun?"
At this word I started and bit my lip.
"Ah! that stings you," he went on, "as the truth always stings, and it is well. Understand, White Lord who were once my brother, that either you must fight me to the death, or I declare war upon you and upon the Chanca people, which war I will wage from month to month and from year to year until you are all destroyed, as destroyed you shall be. But should you fight and should the Sun give me the victory, then justice will be accomplished and I will keep the peace that I have sworn with the Chanca people. Further, should you conquer me, in the name of my people I swear that there shall still be peace between them and the Chancas, since I shall have atoned your sacrilege with my blood. Now summon those lords of yours and I will summon mine, and set out the matter to them."
So I turned and beckoned to my captains, and Kari beckoned to his. They came, and in the hearing of all, very clearly and quietly as was his fashion, he repeated every word that he had said to me, adding to them others of like meaning. While he spoke I thought, not listening over-much.
This thing was hateful to me, yet I was in a snare, since according to the customs of all these peoples I could not refuse such a challenge and remain unshamed. Moreover, it was to the advantage of the Chancas, aye, and of the Quichuas also, that I should not refuse it seeing that whether I lived or died, peace would then reign between them who otherwise must both be destroyed by war. I remembered how once Quilla had sacrificed herself to prevent such a war, though in the end that war had come; and what Quilla had done, should I not do also? Weary though I was I did not fear Kari, brave and swift as he might be, indeed I thought that I could kill him and perhaps take his throne, since the Quichuas worshipped me, who so often had led their armies to triumph, almost as much as did the Chancas. But—I could not kill Kari. As soon would I kill one born of my own mother. Was there then no escape?
The answer rose in my mind. There was an escape. I could suffer Kari to kill me. Only if I did this, what of Quilla! After all that had come and gone, must I lose Quilla thus, and must Quilla lose me? Surely she would break her heart and die. My plight was desperate. I knew not what to do. Then of a sudden, while I wavered, some voice seemed to whisper in my ear; I thought it must be that of St. Hubert. It seemed to say to me, "Kari trusts to his god, cannot you trust to yours, Hubert of Hastings, you who are a Christian man? Go forward, and trust to yours, Hubert of Hastings."
Kari's gentle voice died away; he had finished his speech and all men looked at me.
"What word?" I said roughly to my captains.
"Only this, Lord," answered their spokesman, "Fight you must, of that there can be no doubt, but we would fight with you, the ten of the Chancas against the ten of the Quichuas."
"Aye, that is good," replied the first of Kari's nobles. "This business is too great to set upon one man's skill and strength."
"Have done!" I said. "It lies between the Inca and myself," while Kari nodded, and repeated "Have done!" after me.
Then I sent one of the captains back to the camp for my sword and Kari commanded that his should be brought to him, since according to the custom of these people when ambassadors meet, neither of us was armed. Presently, the captain holding my sword returned, and with him servants who brought my armour. Also after them streamed all the army of the Chancas among whom the news had spread like wind-driven fire, and lined themselves upon the ridge to watch. As he came, too, I noticed that this captain sharpened Wave-Flame with a certain kind of stone that was used to give a keen edge to weapons.
He brought the ancient weapon and handed it to me on his knee. The Inca's man also brought his sword and handed it to him, as he did so, bowing his forehead to the dust. Well I knew that weapon, since once before I had faced it in desperate battle for my life. It was the ivory-handled sword of the lord Deleroy which Kari had taken from his dead hand after I slew him in the Solar of my house in the Cheap at London. Then the servant came to me with the armour, but I sent him away, saying that as the Inca had none, I would not wear it, at which my people murmured.
Kari saw and heard.
"Noble as ever," he said aloud. "Oh! that such bright honour should have been tarnished by a woman's breath."
Our lords discussed the manner of our fighting, but to them I paid little heed.
At length all was ready and we stepped forward to face each other at a given word, clad much alike. I had thrown off my outer garment and stood bareheaded in a jerkin of soft sheepskin. Kari, too, was stripped of his splendid dress and clad in a tunic of sheepskin. Also, that we might be quite equal, he had taken off his turban-like headgear and even the royal Fringe, whereat his lords stared at each other for they thought this a bad omen.
It was just then I heard a sound behind me, and turning my head I saw Quilla stumbling towards us down the stony slope as best her half-blind eyes would let her, and crying as she came:
"Oh! my Lord, fight not. Inca, I will return to the House of the Sun!"
"Silence, accursed woman!" said Kari, frowning. "Does the Sun take back such as you? Silence until the woe that you have wrought is finished, and then wail on forever."
She shrank back at his bitter, unjust words, and guided by the women who had followed her, sank upon a stone, where she sat still as a statue or as dead Upanqui in his hall.
Now one called aloud the pledges of the fight which were as Kari had spoken them. He listened and added:
"Be it known, also, that this battle is to the death of one or both of us, since if we live I take back my oaths and I will burn yonder witch as a sacrifice to the Sun whom she has betrayed, and destroy her people and her city according to the ancient law of Vengeance on the House of those who have deceived the Sun."
I heard but made no answer, who did not wish to waste my breath in bandying words with a great man, whose brain had been turned by bigotry and woman-hatred.
A moment later the signal was given and we were at it. Kari leapt at me like the tree-lion of his own forests, but I avoided and parried. Thrice he leapt and thrice I did this; yes, even when I saw an opening and might have cut him down. Almost I struck, then could not. The Chancas watched me, wondering what game I played who was not wont to fight in this fashion, and I also wondered, who still knew not what to do. Something I must do, or presently I should be slain, since soon my guard would fail and Deleroy's sword get home at last.
I think that Kari grew perplexed at this patient defence of mine, and never a blow struck back. At least he withdraw a little, then came for me with a rush, holding his sword high above his head with the purpose of striking me above that guard, or so I supposed. Then, of a sudden, I knew what to do. Wheeling Wave-Flame with all my strength in both hands, I smote, not at Kari but at the ivory handle of his sword. The keen and ancient steel that might well have been some of that which, as legend told, was forged by the dwarfs in Norseland, fell upon the ivory between his hand-grip and the cross-piece and shore through it as I had hoped that it would do, so that the blade of Kari's sword, severed just above the hilt, fell to the ground and the hilt itself was jarred from his hand.
His nobles saw and groaned while the Chancas shouted with joy, for now Kari was defenceless and save for the death itself, this fight to the death was ended.
Kari folded his arms upon his breast and bent his head.
"It is the decree of my god," he said, "and I did ill to trust to the sword of a villain whom you slew. Strike, Conqueror, and make an end."
I rested myself upon Wave-Flame and answered:
"If I strike not, O Inca, will you take back your words and let peace reign between your people and the Chancas?"
"Nay," he answered. "What I have said, I have said. If yonder false woman is given up to suffer the fate of those who have betrayed the Sun, then there shall be peace between the peoples, but not otherwise, since while I live I will wage war upon her and you, and upon the Chancas who shelter both of you."
Now rage took hold of me, who remembered that while this woman-hater lived blood must flow in streams, but that if he died there would be peace and Quilla would be safe. So I lifted my sword a little, and as I did so Quilla rose from her stone and stumbled forward, crying:
"O Lord, shed not the Inca's holy blood for me. Let me be given up! Let me be given up!"
Then some spirit entered into me and I spoke, saying:
"Lady, half of your prayer I grant and half I deny. I will not shed the Inca's blood; as soon would I shed yours. Nor will I suffer you to be given up who have done no wrong, since it was I who took you away by force, as Urco would have done. Kari, hearken to me. Not once only when we were in danger together in past days have you said to me that we must put our faith in the gods we worship, and thus we did. Now again I hearken to that counsel of yours and put my faith in the God I worship. You threaten to gather all the strength of your mighty empire, and because of what I hold to be your superstitions, to destroy the Chanca people to the last babe and to level their city to the last stone. I do not believe that the God I worship will suffer this to come about, though how he will stay your vengeance I do not know. Kari, great Inca of Tavantinsuyu, Lord of all this strange new world, I, the White Wanderer-from-the-Sea, give you your life and save you as once before I saved you in a far land, and with your life I give you my blessing in all matters but this one alone. Kari, my brother, look your last on me and go in peace."
The Inca heard, and raising his head, stared at me with his fine, melancholy eyes. Then suddenly from those eyes there came a gush of tears. More, he knelt before me and kissed the ground, as the humblest of his slaves might do before his own majesty.
"Most noble of men," he said, lifting himself up again, "I worship you. Yes, I, the Inca, worship you. Would that I might take back my oath, but this I cannot do because my god hardens my heart and then would decree destruction on my people. Mayhap he whom you serve will bring things to pass as you foretell, as it would seem he has brought it to pass that I should eat the dust before you. I hope that it may be so who love not the sight of blood, but who like the shot arrow must yet follow my course, driven by the strength that loosed me. Brother, honoured and beloved, fare you well! May happiness be yours in life and death, and there in death may we meet again and once more be brothers where no women come to part us."
Then Kari turned and went with bowed head, together with his nobles, who followed him as sadly as those who surround a corpse, but not until they had given to me that royal salute which is only rendered to the Inca in his glory.
THE KISS OF QUILLA
Her women bore Quilla swooning from that ill-fated field, and sick and sad she remained until once more we saw the City of the Chancas. Yet all this while strength and sight were returning to her eyes, so that in the end she could see as well as ever she had done, for which I thanked Heaven.
Messengers had gone before us, so that when we drew near all the people of the Chancas came out to meet us, a mighty multitude, who spread flowers before us and sang songs of joy. On the same evening I was summoned by Huaracha and found him dying. There in the presence of his chief captains Quilla and I told him all our story, to which he listened, answering nothing. When it was finished he said:
"I thank you, Lord-from-the-Sea, who through great perils have saved my daughter and brought her home to bid farewell to me, untarnished as she went. I understand now that it was an evil policy which led me to promise her in marriage to the prince Urco. Through your valour it has come to naught and I am glad. Great dangers still lie ahead of you and of my people. Deal with them as you will and can, for henceforward, Lord-from-the-Sea, they are your people, yours and my daughter's together, since it is my desire and command that you two should wed so soon as I am laid with my fathers. Perchance it had been better if you had slain the Inca when he was in your hand, but man goes where his spirit leads him. My blessing and the blessing of my gods be on you both and on your children. Leave me, for I can say no more."
That night King Huaracha died.
Three days later he was buried with great pomp beneath the floor of the Temple of the Moon, not being preserved and kept above ground after the fashion of the Incas.
On the last day of the mourning a council was summoned of all the great ones in the country to the number of several hundreds, to which I was bidden. This was done in the name of Quilla, who was now named by a title which meant, "High Lady," or "Queen." I went to it eagerly enough who had seen nothing of her since that night of her father's death, for, according to the custom of this people, she had spent the time of mourning alone with her women.
To my surprise I was led by an officer, not into the great hall where I knew the notables were assembling, but to that same little chamber where first I had talked with Huaracha, Quilla's father. Here the officer left me wondering. Presently I heard a sound and looking up, saw Quilla herself standing between the curtains, like to a picture in its frame. She was royally arrayed and wore upon her brow and breast the emblem of the moon, so that she seemed to glitter in that dusky place, though nothing about her shone with such a light as did her large and doe-like eyes.
"Greeting, my Lord," she said in her soft voice, curtseying to me as she spoke. "Has my Lord aught to say to me? If so, it must be quick, since the Great Council waits."
Now I grew foolish and tongue-tied, but at length stammered out:
"Nothing, except what I have said before—that I love you."
She smiled a little in her slow fashion, then asked:
"Is there naught to add?"
"What can there be to add to love, Quilla?"
"I know not," she answered, still smiling. "Yet in what does the love of man and woman end?"
I shook my head and answered:
"In many things, all of them different. In hell sometimes, and more rarely in heaven."
"And on earth which lies between the two, should those who love escape death and separation?"
"Well, on earth—in marriage."
She looked at me again and this time a new light shone in her eyes which I could not misinterpret.
"Do you mean that you will marry me, Quilla?" I muttered.
"Such was my father's wish, Lord, but what is yours? Oh! have done," she went on in a changed voice. "For what have we suffered all these things and gone through such long partings and dangers so dreadful? Was it not that if Fate should spare us we might come together at last? And has not Fate spared us—for a while? What said the prophecy of me in the Temple of Rimac? Was it not that the Sun should be my refuge and—I forget the rest."
"I remember it," I said. "That in the beloved arms you should sleep at last."
"Yes," she went on, the blood mounting to her cheeks, "that in the beloved arms I should sleep at last. So, the first part of the prophecy has come true."
"As the rest shall come true," I broke in, awaking, and swept her to my breast.
"Are you sure," she murmured presently, "that you love me, a woman whom you think savage, well enough to wed me?"
"Aye, more than sure," I answered.
"Hearken, Lord. I knew it always, but being woman I desired to hear it from your own lips. Of this be certain: that though I am but what I am, a maiden, wild-hearted and untaught, no man shall ever have a truer and more loving wife. It is my hope, even that my love will be such that in it at last you may learn to forget that other lady far away who once was yours, if only for an hour."
Now I shrank as from a sword prick, since first loves, whatever the tale of them, as Quilla guessed or Nature taught her, are not easily forgot, and even when they are dead their ghosts will rise and haunt us.
"And my hope, most dear, is that you will be mine, not for an hour but for all our life's days," I answered.
"Aye," she said, sighing, "but who knows how many these will be? Therefore let us pluck the flowers before they wither. I hear steps. The lords come to summon us. Be pleased to enter the Council at my side and holding me by the hand. There I have somewhat to say to the people. The shadow of the Inca Kari, whom you spared, still lies cold upon us and them."
Before I could ask her meaning the lords entered, three of them, and glancing at us curiously, said that all were gathered. Then they turned and went before us to the great hall where every place was filled. Hand in hand we mounted the dais, and as we came all the audience rose and greeted us with a roar of welcome.
Quilla seated herself upon a throne and motioned to me to take my place upon another throne at her side, which I noted stood a little higher than that on which she sat, and this, as I learned afterwards, not by chance. It was planned so to tell the people, of the Chancas that henceforth I was their king while she was but my wife.
When the shouting had died away Quilla rose from her throne and began to speak, which like many of the higher class of this people she could do well enough.
"Lords and Captains of the Chanca nation," she said, "my father, the king Huaracha, being dead, leaving no lawful son, I have succeeded to his dignities, and summoned you here to take counsel with me.
"First, learn this, that I, your Queen and Lady, have been chosen as wife by him who sits at my side."
Here the company shouted again, thus announcing that this tidings pleased them. For though by now only the common people still believed me to be a god risen from the sea, all held that I was a great general and a great man, one who knew much that they did not know, and who could both lead and fight better than the best of them. Indeed, since I had slain Urco with my hands and overcome Kari, who as Inca was believed to be clothed with the strength of the Sun and therefore unconquerable, I was held to be unmatched throughout Tavantinsuyu. Moreover, the army that had fought under my command loved me as though I were their father as well as their general. Therefore all greeted this tidings well enough without astonishment, for they knew it was their dead king's wish that I should wed his daughter and that to win her I had gone through much.
In answer to their shoutings I, too, rose from my seat, and drawing the sword Wave-Flame, which I wore girt about my dinted armour, with it I saluted first Quilla and then the gathered nobles, saying:
"Lords of the Chancas, when on an island in the sea, my eyes fell upon this lady who to-day is your queen, I loved her and swore that I would wed her if I might. Between that day and this much has befallen. She was snatched away to be made the wife of Urco, heir to the Inca throne, and afterwards, to escape him whom she hated, she took refuge in the House of the Inca god. Then, people of the Chancas, came the great war which we shared together, and in the end I rescued her from that house of bondage, and slew Urco while he strove to steal or stab her. This done, I conquered Kari the Inca, who was as my brother, yet because I saved your lady from his god the Sun, became my enemy, and together she and I returned to this, her land. Now it is her will to wed me, as it has always been mine to wed her, and here in front of all of you I take her to wife, as she takes me to husband, hoping that for many years it may be given to us to rule over you, and to our children after us. Yet I warn you that although in the great war that has been, if with much loss, we have held our own against all the hosts of Cuzco and won an honourable peace, by this marriage of ours, which robs the Inca god of one of a thousand brides, that peace is broken. Therefore in the future, as in the past, there will be war between the Quichua and the Chanca peoples."
"We know it," shouted the nobles. "War is decreed, let war come!"
"What would you have had me do?" I went on. "Leave your queen to languish in the House of the Sun, wed to nothingness, or suffer her to be dragged away to be one of Urco's women, or hand her back to Kari to be slain as a sacrifice to a god whom you do not accept?"
"Nay!" they cried. "We would have her wed you, White Lord-from-the-Sea, that she may become a mother of kings."
"So I thought, Chancas. Yet I warn you that there is trouble near. The storm gathers and soon it will burst, since Kari is not one who breaks his oaths."
"Why did you not kill him when he was in your hand, and take his throne?" asked one.
"Because I could not. Because it would not have been pleasing to Heaven that I should slay a man who for years had been as my brother. Because in this way or in that the deed would have fallen back upon my head, upon the head of the lady Quilla, and upon your heads also, O people of the Chancas, because——"
At this moment there was disturbance at the end of the hall, and a herald cried:
"An embassy! An embassy from Kari, the Inca."
"Let it be admitted," said Quilla.
Presently up the central passage marched the embassy with pomp, great lords and "earmen," every man of them, and bowed before us.
"Your words?" said Quilla quietly.
"They are these, Lady," answered the spokesman of the party. "For the last time the Inca demands that you should surrender yourself to be sacrificed as one who has betrayed the Sun. He asks it of you since he has learned that your father Huaracha is no more."
"And if I refuse to surrender myself, what then, O Ambassador?"
"Then in the name of the Empire and in his own name the Inca declares war upon you, war to the end, until not one of Chanca blood is left living beneath the sun and not one stone marks where your city stood. It may be that a while will pass before this sword of war falls upon your head, since the Inca must gather his armies and give a breathing space to his peoples after all the troubles that have been. Yet if not this year, then next year, and if not next year, then the year after, that sword shall fall."
Quilla listened and turned pale, though more, I think, with wrath than fear. Then she said:
"You have heard, Chancas, and know how stands this case. If I surrender myself to be sacrificed, the Inca in his mercy will spare you; if I do not surrender myself, soon or late he will destroy you—if he can. Say, then, shall I surrender myself?"
Now every man in that great hall leapt up and from every throat there arose a shout of,
When it had died away an aged chief and councillor, an uncle of Huaracha, the dead King, came forward and stared at the envoys with his horny eyes.
"Go back to the Inca," he said, "and tell him that the threats of the mouth are one thing and the deeds of the hand are another. In the late war that has been he has learned something of our quality, both as foes and friends, and perchance more remains for him to learn. Yonder is one"—and he pointed to myself—"who is about to become our King and the husband of our Queen. By the help of that one and of some of us the Inca won his throne. From the mercy of that one, also, but a little while ago the Inca won his life. Let him be careful lest through the might of that one, behind whom stands every Chanca that breathes, the Inca Kari Upanqui should yet lose both throne and life, and with them the ancient empire of the Sun. Thus say we all."
"Thus say we all!" repeated the great company with a roar that shook the walls.
In the silence that followed Quilla asked:
"Have you aught to add, O Ambassadors?"
"Ay, this," said the first of them.
"The Chanca tree is about to be cut down, but the Inca still offers a refuge to the Lion that hides among its branches because he has loved that Lion from of old. Let the White Lord-from-the-Sea over whom you have cast the net of your witcheries return with us and he shall be saved and given place and power, and with them a brother's love."
Now Quilla looked at me, and I rose to speak but could not, since all that came from my lips was laughter. At length I said:
"But the other day when I gave him his life, the Inca named me noble. What would he think of me if I said yes to this offer? Would he call me noble then and the Lion that dwells in the Chanca tree? Or, whatever his lips might speak, would not his heart name me the basest of slaves and no lion of the tree, but rather a snake that creeps at its roots? Get you gone, my lords, and say that here I bide happy with her whom I have won, and that the ancient sword Wave-Flame, on which Kari has looked of late, is still sharp and the arm that wields it is still strong, and that he will do well now that it has served his turn, to look on it no more," and again I drew the great blade and flashed it before their eyes there in that dusky hall.
Then, bowing courteously, for every man of them knew me and some of them loved me well, they turned and went. That was the last that ever I, Hubert of Hastings, saw of nobles of the Inca blood, though perchance, ere long, I shall meet them again in war.
"Let them be escorted safely from the city," commanded Quilla, and soldiers went to do her bidding.
When they had gone she issued another order, that the door should be closed and watchmen set about the hall, so that none could approach it unseen. Then after a pause she rose and spoke:
"My Lord," she said, "who soon, as I trust, will be my husband and my king, and you, the chosen of my people, hearken to me for I have a matter to lay before you. You have heard the Inca's message and you know that his words are not vain. He who is great in many ways, in one is small and narrow. He sets his god before his honour, and to satisfy his god, whom he thinks that I have outraged, is prepared to sacrifice his honour, and even to kill one to whom he owes all," and she touched me with her hand. "Moreover, these things he can do, not at once but in time to come, because for every man of ours he is able to gather ten. Therefore we stand thus; death and destruction stare us in the face."
She paused, and that old chief of whom I have spoken, asked in the midst of a silence, as I think was planned that he should ask:
"You have set our teeth in the bitter rind of truth. Is there no sweet fruit within? Can you not show us a way of escape, O Quilla, Daughter of the Moon, whose heart is fed with the wisdom of the Moon?"
"I believe that I can show you such a way," she answered. "You know the legend of our people—that in the old days, a thousand years ago—we came to this country out of the forests.
"You know, too, the legend tells that once far away, beyond the forest, there was a mighty empire of which the king sat in a City of Gold hidden within a ring of mountains. That king, it is said, had two sons, and when he died these sons made war upon each other, and one of them, my forefather, was defeated and driven away into the forests by those who clung to him. By boats he descended the river that runs through the forest, and at length with those who remained to him came to this land and there once more grew to be a king. Is it not so?"
"It is so," answered the aged chief. "The tale has come down to me through ten generations, and with it the prophecy that in a day to come the Chancas would return to that City of Gold whence they came and be welcomed of its people."
"I have heard that prophecy," said Quilla. "Moreover, of it I have something to tell you. While I sat in despair and blindness in the Convent of the Sun at Cuzco it came into my mind and I brooded upon it much, who was always sure that the war between the Chancas and the armies of the Incas was but begun. In my darkness I prayed to my Mother, the Moon, for light and help. Long and often I prayed, and at length an answer came. One night the Spirit of the Moon appeared to my soul as a beautiful and shining goddess, and spoke to me.
"'Be brave, Daughter,' she said, 'for all that seems to be lost shall yet be found again, and the light of a certain flashing sword shall pierce the blackness and give back vision to your eyes.' This, indeed, happened, my people, since it was when the sword of my Lord saved me from death at the hands of Urco that the first gleam of light returned to my darkened eyes.
"'Be not afraid, moreover, for the Children of the Chancas who bow to me,' went on the shining Spirit of the Moon, 'since in the day of their danger I will show them a path towards my place of resting in the west. Yea, I will lead them far from wars and tyrannies back to that ancient city whence they came, and there they shall sleep in peace till all things are accomplished. Moreover, you shall be their ruler during your appointed days, you and another whom I led to you out of the deeps of the sea and showed to you sleeping in my beams.'
"Thus that Spirit spoke to me, Councillors, though at the time I did not know whether the vision were more than a happy dream. But now I do know that it was no dream, but the truth.
"For did not my sight begin to return to me in the flashing of the sword that is named Flame-of-the-Wave? And if this were true, why should not the rest be true also? People of the Chancas, I am your Queen to-day and my counsel to you is that we flee from this land before the Inca's net closes round us and the Inca's spears pierce our heart, to seek our ancient home far in the depths of the western forest where, as I trust, his armies cannot come. Is that your will, O my People? If so, by the tongues of your Lords and Captains declare it here and now before it be too late."
Back thundered the answer:
"It is our will, O Daughter of the Moon!"
When its echoes had died away Quilla turned to me, lovely to look on as the evening star and with eyes that shone like stars, and asked:
"Is it your will also, O Lord-from-the-Sea?"
"Your will is my will, Quilla," I answered, "and your heart is my home. Lead on; where you go I follow, even to the edge of the world and beyond the world."
"So be it!" she cried in a triumphant voice. "Now the evil past is finished with its fears and battles and before our feet, lit by moonbeams, stretches the Future's shining road leading us to the mystery in which all roads begin and for an hour are lost again. Now, too, our separations end in a perfect unity that perchance we have known before and shall know again in ages to be born and lands revisited. Now, Lord-from-the-Sea, at whose coming my sleeping heart awoke to love and whose sword saved me from shame and death, giving me back to life and light, here, before this company of our people, I, the Daughter of the Moon, defying the Sun who held me captive, and all his servants, take you to husband with this kiss," and leaning forward Quilla pressed her lips upon my own. . . .
The remaining parchment sheets of the ancient Manuscript are rotted with the damp of the tomb in which it lay for centuries and quite undecipherable. Editor.