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.