“So be it,” said the prince; “the game can be tried, and if it fails, why we lose nothing, whereas if it succeeds we gain Hokosa, which is much; for with you I think that our arms will never prosper while that accursed wizard sits yonder weaving his spells against us, and bringing our men to death by hundreds and by thousands.”
Then he gave his orders, and presently, when a cloud passed over the face of the moon, six chosen men crept forward under the lee of the flat rock and threw themselves down here and there amongst the dead.
Soon the cloud passed, and the herald advanced across the open space blowing a horn, and waving a branch in his hand to show that he came upon a mission of peace.
HOKOSA IS LIFTED UP
“What would you?” asked Hokosa of the herald as he halted a short spear-cast from the wall.
“My master, the Prince Hafela, desires to treat with your master, Nodwengo. Many men have fallen on either side, and if this war goes on, though victory must be his at last, many more will fall. Therefore, if any plan can be found, he desires to spare their lives.”
Now Hokosa spoke with the king, and answered:—
“Then let Hafela come beneath the wall and we will talk with him.”
“Not so,” answered the herald. “Does a buck walk into an open pit? Were the prince to come here it might chance that your spears would talk with him. Let Nodwengo follow me to the camp yonder, where we promise him safe conduct.”
“Not so,” answered Hokosa. “‘Does a buck walk into an open pit?’ Set out your message, and we will consider it.”
“Nay, I am but a common man without authority; but I am charged to make you another offer, and if you will not hear it then there is an end. Let Hokosa advance alone to that flat rock you see yonder, and there he shall be met, also alone, by one having power to talk with him, namely, by the Lady Noma, who was once his wife. Thus they can confer together midway between the camps and in full sight of both of them, nor, no man being near, can he find cause to be afraid of an unarmed girl. What say you?”
Hokosa turned and talked with the king.
“I think it well that you should not go,” said Nodwengo. “The offer seems fair, and the stone is out of reach of their spears; still, behind it may lurk a scheme to kill or capture you, for Hafela is very cunning.”
“It may be so, King,” answered Hokosa; “still, my heart tells me it is wisest that I should do this thing, for our case is desperate, and if I do it not, that may be the cause of the death of all of us to-morrow. At the worst, I am but one man, and it matters little what may chance to me; nor shall I come to any harm unless it is the will of Heaven that it should be so; and be sure of this, that out of the harm will arise good, for where I go there the spirit of the Messenger goes with me.