At the Earth's Core

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 40

killed a Sagoth
of the detachment that had pursued and overtaken them.

At the intelligence my heart sprang to my throat, for I was sure that
the two were of those who escaped in the dark grotto with Hooja the Sly
One, and that Dian must be the woman. Ghak thought so too, as did
Perry.

"Is there naught that we may do to save her?" I asked Ghak.

"Naught," he replied.

Along the crowded avenue we marched, the guards showing unusual cruelty
toward us, as though we, too, had been implicated in the murder of
their fellow. The occasion was to serve as an object-lesson to all
other slaves of the danger and futility of attempted escape, and the
fatal consequences of taking the life of a superior being, and so I
imagine that Sagoths felt amply justified in making the entire
proceeding as uncomfortable and painful to us as possible.

They jabbed us with their spears and struck at us with the hatchets at
the least provocation, and at no provocation at all. It was a most
uncomfortable half-hour that we spent before we were finally herded
through a low entrance into a huge building the center of which was
given up to a good-sized arena. Benches surrounded this open space
upon three sides, and along the fourth were heaped huge bowlders which
rose in receding tiers toward the roof.

At first I couldn't make out the purpose of this mighty pile of rock,
unless it were intended as a rough and picturesque background for the
scenes which were enacted in the arena before it, but presently, after
the wooden benches had been pretty well filled by slaves and Sagoths, I
discovered the purpose of the bowlders, for then the Mahars began to
file into the enclosure.

They marched directly across the arena toward the rocks upon the
opposite side, where, spreading their bat-like wings, they rose above
the high wall of the pit, settling down upon the bowlders above. These
were the reserved seats, the boxes of the elect.

Reptiles that they are, the rough surface of a great stone is to them
as plush as upholstery to us. Here they lolled, blinking their hideous
eyes, and doubtless conversing with one another in their
sixth-sense-fourth-dimension language.

For the first time I beheld their queen. She differed from the others
in no feature that was appreciable to my earthly eyes, in fact all
Mahars look alike to me: but when she crossed the arena after the
balance of her female subjects had found their bowlders, she was
preceded by a score

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