When Maturin and Duvall landed on Richontor, They were being watched by unseen companions. They knew this was true, but it did not concern them. In fact, their only wish was to reach the point from which the watchers were observing their approach. When the two men had covered a distance of five hundred yards, and were nearing the fringe of the forest, they were stopped in their tracks by a voice which cried out “Williams. Johnson. Smith. Fire.”
Duvall had been ready for this, and he immediately replied with the proper answer. “Hold. Duvall. Friend. Maturin.”
The voice replied with nothing more than the one word. “Hold.”
Hearing this, Duvall turned to Maturin and said “We are safe now. These men are in my watch on board Captain John Horner’s vessel. They will give the same question when McNeal arrives. He has no hope of getting past them.”
The ex-prisoners of McNeal continued on past the sentries. A short time later, they came to a clearing which contained four or five one man huts built in a circle around a large firepit in the center of the space. Only steps away from the firepit, there was a circular, shield-like cover large enough for a man to fit through.
When one lifts this cover and moves it, one discovers a tunnel leading straight down, equipped with a rope ladder hanging down the side, in the manner of a ship’s hatchway. When one descends down the ladder through the shaft, one finds oneself in a large cavern, which is clearly large enough to hold five men in relative comfort in addition to the vast amount of supplies which were required to keep the men in health and safety.
As the two fugitives stood in the center of this cavern, Duvall remarked to his companion “I was the first leader of this band. I was Captain’s Horner’s most trusted officer. That is why I know where the treasure is hidden. McNeal is Captain Horner’s greatest enemy. No other man has a chance against him. I was sent aboard McNeal’s ship to convince him to do exactly what he has done; sail to Richontor in pursuit of the treasure. I did not plan to be a passenger on the Centaur any more than you did. McNeal showed why Horner fears him, when he caught the slip in my offer. “Nobody’s ever come back alive” I said. And it’s true. This island is white with the bones of less perceptive captains who accepted the offer just as I repeated it to McNeal. I did know, and I am still sure, that Captain Horner goes through ‘most trusted officers’ the way another man goes through boots. In other words, he gets a new one every year. The last thing I can tell you now is that Captain Horner returns to this island once a year, on the third night of the sixth full moon of the year.”
At the same moment that Duvall was telling Maturin all these things, McNeal was making plans aboard his ship. Half an hour since, a member of the watch had run into the cabin and said “Captain, you told us you wished to be informed shortly after the prisoners jumped ship. They just did so not half an hour ago.”
After sending the man away with the smallest of compliments in return for the message, McNeal sat down at his desk and began to lay out a scheme with which he planned to recapture Duvall, force him to reveal the treasure, and then take it all for himself. The only sticking point was the first question: How was he to go about capturing Duvall?