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The Wealth of Echindul   By: (1905-1969)

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Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from Planet Stories July 1952. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.



Though he carried with him the loot of the ages, who in The Pass that legalized city of vice and corruption would dare risk his neck to help Russell, the Hard Luck Man of the Swamps?

He came up out of the Great Sea Swamp of Venus like old Father Neptune. He was covered with mud and slime. Seaweed hung from his cheap diving suit. Brine dripped from his arms that hung limp and weary; it ran from his torso and made a dark trail in the sand.

[Illustration: A flash of intuition hit Russell. He knew now how to win this fight. ]

Without even looking back, he stood for a moment as if fighting to keep on his feet, while the brine made a small puddle in the green sand. Finally he unscrewed the helmet and took it off. He turned around slowly and looked back across the two hundred miles of deadly swamp, at the flaming craters of the Red Lava Range from which he had come.

With fingers that would hardly function from weariness he took off his diving suit and straightened up. His stooping shoulders were free of that weight for the first time in forty days. He was a small man, hardly over four feet tall, and not well formed. It seemed incredible that he had crossed the Great Sea Swamp on foot.

And as he looked back at the distant rim of green fire that marked the mountains it seemed incredible to him too. A great sigh of relief and gratefulness shook his unsymmetrical body, and all the nerve and colossal will power that had carried him for six months, suddenly flowed out of him in a single wave and left him empty. He forgot about the ordeal that still lay ahead. He forgot everything. He pitched forward on his face in the sand, and slept.

Some hours later a whistling noise awoke him. He rolled over, awake instantly, for in past months his ears had saved his life as often as had his eyes. High in the sky he picked out a cannibal fish from the Acid Sea. It had set its great wings in a dive.

He raised his heat gun, fired once, saw the feathers burst into blue flame, saw it falling; then he rolled over and went back to sleep. Not even the thud of its heavy body on the sand disturbed him, but an hour later he heard another warning a rasping sound and through the stench of the ancient swamp he smelled a fetidness that meant danger.

This time as he turned he rolled to his feet. He saw the huge coils of the Venusian water constrictor. One lidless phosphorescent eye gleamed evilly at him, but its great jaws were spread and the dead fish was half way down its bone plated throat.

Grant Russell relaxed. Ordinarily he would have been scared to death to be within miles of the big saurian. But now for a few hours, with the fish in its throat it would be comparatively harmless.

Grant rubbed his eyes and stretched. How wonderful sleep could be! For six weeks he had been in the swamp where he never had dared to take off his diving suit even when he was resting on a clump of floating grass, for fear it would suddenly sink and drop him into a hundred feet of brown water; six weeks walking through mud sometimes over his head, with the brown, infested water above that; six weeks pitting all his swamp lore against sudden death in a thousand forms, with only the light gravity of Venus to aid him, and his indomitable determination to keep him going. But now he felt like a million.

No man had ever crossed the Great Swamp alone on foot before. Few had crossed it in any fashion. Few would have tried it but Grant Russell because few wanted to do it as much as he did. In spite of his small size and his scrawny muscles, in spite of Venus which catered to big men and strong men, he had done it... Continue reading book >>

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